Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Project Nova Is Dead.

The Pearl Abyss Q4 investors call brought out a little tidbit of information I wasn't expecting. I received a tweet informing me of news about Project Nova.
Yes, the screen grab shows CCP Rattati of Project Nova fame letting everyone know about the future of Project Nova. Basically, that the concept of an FPS game set in a sci-fi universe had morphed into a third person shooter/MMO. I've transcribed the words from the image, which I believe are snippets from a Discord conversation, below.

Greetings Dear Friends,

I want to tell you some news before they break, later today probably. We are evolving the scope of Nova beyond our previous plans for early access, and the development will continue in our London studio. I am personally optimistic about this, but also wistful. That also means that the Project Nova codename is retired and the London team will find a new one.

Since this was decided, I have been appointed a major stakeholder in the process so I retain the opportunity to shape the development.

I will be here and try to answer your questions to the best of my ability. This is the update that will be given at the Pearl Abyss earnings call today, and will probably make the rounds soon enough.

Third person perspective can be attributed many design choices. PUBG supports both but MMOs traditionally use 3rd. It gives a better visual of your character, which is more satisfying in a progression based game, hence 3rd person in the Mercenary Quarters. But these are all design options, so good to have experience on the team.

This is not a fiscal decision, the London team had been working on very interesting ideas and concepts, and adding them to a shooter sounds very promising (to me).

We want to show rather than tell and we are not ready to show anything yet.
Yes, I use a mod to get the old Twitter look


According to CCP Rattati's Twitter profile, he is now the lead producer in charge of the EVE Ecosystem. According to what I read in the DUST 514 Veterans Discord server, that means he is responsible for "all balance, resources and industry, and economy."

I didn't include the tweet in last week's post about the investor's call because the subject never came up. Since the subject never came up, the possibility existed that the tweet contained some sort of hoax. But I did some thinking about the subject over the weekend and decided to look back on the project.

The effort to create a first person shooter set in the EVE universe for the PC was announced at Fanfest 2014. I decided to skip that presentation, which announced the creation of Project Legion and became known as the infamous Rouge Wedding. While I wasn't in the room, I remember that the presentation covering DUST 514 was much shorter than advertised. At night I ran into a couple of DUST players. Imagine flying all the way to Iceland only to find out the developer planned to shut down your favorite game.

At Fanfest 2016, Hilmar announced Project Nova, the successor of Project Legion. Looking back, the announcement didn't make enough of an impression on me to note in my coverage of the event. Not surprising as I do not play first person shooters.

The next event of note was EVE Vegas 2018. I wrote back then:
Perhaps the biggest news from CCP Presents was the news that the invite-only alpha for Project Nova will launch in November, with an alpha build available for EVE Vegas attendees to play on Saturday and Sunday. The game has two modes. The first, Onslaught, mimics New Eden as players battle the forces of Sansha's Nation during incursions in an attempt to save the population from a fate worse than death. The other mode, Hijack, involved an attacker trying to install their own pilot in the cockpit of a ship and defenders trying to eliminate the breach. While no launch date was given, I expect a finished product sometime in 2020.
I don't play first-person shooters, but I did watch on the monitors over the stations. The majority opinion I heard from those who played the Project Nova was that the game wasn't very good. At the end of November 2018, CCP announced the cancellation of the closed alpha.
At EVE Vegas, we showed you the most recent iteration of our vision to provide an engaging and unique FPS experience to enrich the EVE Universe. Our goal for this was always to reinforce the ‘One Universe // One War’ gameplay and create a worthy spiritual successor to DUST 514 that has the potential to captivate not only existing Mercenaries and Capsuleers, but also to attract new adventurers into the ever-evolving world of New Eden.

Over the course of Project Nova’s development, we conducted a number of player research sessions with external partners, tirelessly playtested the game internally and brought community stalwarts in to help us evaluate the project. Now, after taking all this research and feedback into account, we see that the gameplay experience in its current form does not live up to our original vision and would not achieve our ambitious goals for this project. As a result, we will not be moving forward with the upcoming invite-only Alpha until further notice.
At the time, CCP still gave out hope a first person shooter would emerge out of Reykjavik.
Project Nova continues to evolve and we remain committed to delivering a high-quality team-based shooter experience to EVE Online fans, while exploring new and exciting opportunities to integrate the two games. CCP is in no rush to release Project Nova until we’re satisfied it provides a rock-solid gameplay experience and visuals to match.
As late as Evesterdam in March 2019, CCP made the progress on Project Nova sound like the game was close to a closed alpha launch. Rob Keyes, writing for Screen Rant, spoke to CCP Falcon who said, “Nova’s in the incubator. We’ve learned some exciting things with it. It’s super cool. We’re just seeing where to go from there, basically.” And when asked if Project Nova would change much from what was shown at EVE Vegas the previous October, the former head of the EVE community team replied, “I don’t think so. The core gunplay is there, but it's about figuring out what is the wider purpose?”

Which brings us to the current time. Yesterday, CCP's head of public relations George Kelion (aka CCP Grendel) posted a response to the spreading news on a Reddit thread responding to an article published on MassivelyOP.
We're continuing to develop our sci-fi multiplayer shooter game concept, actively evolving it beyond the original scope for what was formerly codenamed Project Nova. Development efforts on this concept are now the full focus of CCP’s London studio. Project Nova team members based in Iceland have been moved onto other projects at our Reykjavík studio.

This decision was taken because Project Nova’s gameplay experience as presented at EVE Vegas '18 would not have achieved our ambitious goals for this concept. Moreover, it is very common for games in active development to evolve over time, often substantially. We remain committed to offering a rock-solid, action-oriented gameplay experience with stellar visuals, but due to significant changes in the scope and direction of our sci-fi multiplayer shooter game concept, it also made sense to update how we refer to this project internally. So, we are no longer using the codename Project Nova for this ame concept.

Furthermore, we are moving away from publicly announcing our internal project codenames and will wait until we’re ready for a full reveal. We want to show you rather than tell you how we have evolved this concept and we’re looking forward to doing so when the time comes to present this concept as a fully-fledged game. [emphasis mine]
I understand why CCP would want to keep development of new games under wraps as much as possible. Pearl Abyss is a publicly owned company and I'm sure all the C-suite executives on the call don't want to answer analysts' questions on every earnings call. I get that impression now on the games they announced at GStar. Plus, any setbacks could affect the company's stock price.

CCP Grendel's statement did raise some questions, however. I managed to get a reply on Twitter.

I'm not sure how a first person shooter merges into CCP's new unnamed action MMORPG under development, also in CCP's London studio, according to the current job listings.

As seen on 19 February 2020
But after six years of development and a game that didn't make it to a planned closed alpha, I'm calling the concept of a first-person shooter in the EVE universe dead. Even if the game eventually launches, I expect the game to emerge as a third person shooter, perhaps similar to Defiance. I also expect the current iteration will not make it to market before 2023 at the earliest. Then again, Blizzard did scrap Titan and used the pieces to create Overwatch, so maybe I'm wrong. But I don't expect to find out anytime soon.

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