Monday, October 31, 2016

Initial Takaways From EVE Vegas

Check-out time at the hotel is in a couple of hours, so now is a good time to take stock of what happened in the conference rooms in Planet Hollywood. 

Alpha clone state looks promising. CCP wants new players to view the free-to-play, alpha clone state as a viable long-term option. CCP Rise gave a presentation based on his experience running around Tranquility in a character with the alpha clone skillset. Not only did he maintain a 67% kill efficiency, but he could afford to lost 35 ships while doing so. Admittedly, he was a long time player before becoming a developer, so the question is: can a new player with no experience survive and thrive in New Eden? That depends on the New Player Experience (NPE).

The New Player Experience looks promising. CCP Ghost presented a compelling case that the new NPE is a much better experience than the current content. Most current and former players will say that is a low bar to clear. The former Icelandic criminal investigator explained the importance of story to human learning and stepped through the logic of one segment of the NPE. 

Admittedly, I have not run through the NPE on Singularity, opting to wait until Ascension launches on 15 November. I still have a concern about the reaction of new players to the end of the NPE. Will new players feel they are the subject of a bait-and-switch once the voice acting ends and the sandbox begins? I think CCP realizes they need more of a transition, but I doubt a planned part 2 is ready enough for deployment in two weeks. Then again, perhaps that is reason for the one week delay in deploying the expansion. Game companies only get to introduce a free-to-play/freemium option once, so hopefully new players will stick around.

New Eden is getting more populous (and more dangerous). CCP presented some additional information about the increasing capabilities of EVE's artificial intelligence. The mining operations will act as much like players as possible, including DPS anchoring on a fleet commander and logistics (yes, logi!) trying to keep the main NPC fleet between players and themselves. The composition of response fleets will depend on the level of the player threat to the mining fleet. Then again, a player with good standings to the NPC corporation running the mining operation may even receive aid in case of attack from another player.

For the foreseeable future, the old dumb NPCs will co-exist with groups using the improved AI. But I expect that eventually, the new code (which apparently uses less server resources) to squeeze out the older NPCs. 

The Star Citizen vulnerability window is closed. Throughout 2015, I looked at the state of EVE and thought that the launch of Star Citizen could entice a large portion of EVE's player-base away from the game. Originally scheduled to launch in November 2014, the game promised better graphics, a world filled with NPCs that fought like players, and an economy made more vibrant using the actions of NPCs.

EVE Vegas showed that CCP has closed the gap on all of these concerns. The level of art detail in EVE has now reached the level of improved explosions and prettier wrecks. Smart AI is no longer limited to special bad guys like Sansha incursions, Sleepers, and Drifters. Finally, the world, both in the form of NPCs and additional players, will feel more alive than ever. If anything, Star Citizen will suffer in comparison based on the limited number of people who can play together at any one time compared to the hundreds that EVE can currently support. EVE might suffer due to players wanting the space-fighter or FPS ground combat experience, but on most other levels CCP will have caught up to Chris Roberts' vision, as far as I can tell, by the time Star Citizen officially launches in 2018.

Those are just some quick thoughts on the information provided here on the ground in Las Vegas. Now I have to finish packing and check out of the hotel.

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