EVE Evolved: Should CCP start developing Walking in Stations again?

In all the time that I’ve been writing about EVE Online, one of the most common recurring comments is that the game badly needs some compelling avatar-based gameplay. Many people have been compelled to try EVE over the years after hearing some crazy story of a record-breaking heist or massive ship battle only to be put off that you spend all of your time trapped inside a spaceship (or an escape pod if you run into trouble). CCP has even been teasing us with the idea of getting out of our ships and walking around inside stations since as far back as Fanfest 2006, but the feature never fully materialised.

Originally called Ambulation and later renamed to Walking in Stations, EVE‘s avatar gameplay represented a massive technical challenge of a scale that the studio had never tackled before. The feature was reportedly partially developed and then scrapped several times over the years, with grand plans periodically emerging for things like player-owned social bars, gambling minigames, and holographic war rooms. When the feature finally landed in 2011’s Incarna expansion, it didn’t live up to expectations, and the backlash from its ludicrous microtransaction prices and the perception of wasted developer time had serious repercussions for CCP’s bottom line. Development on avatar-based gameplay ceased at that point, but nearly five years on I’m beginning to think that now would be the perfect time to revisit it.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at the reasons that avatar gameplay failed in EVE the first time and why I think now may be a good time to pick it back up again.

monocleIncarna and the Summer of Rage

If you were following the EVE Online news back in 2011, you’ll probably remember the events that came to be known as the Summer of Rage or Monoclegate. It all kicked off with the release of the Incarna expansion, which added the long-awaited walking in stations feature. The feature was initially limited to letting players walk about inside a private captain’s quarters environment and buy clothing from a new cash shop, with promises of multiplayer environments to follow. Unfortunately, many players’ computers struggled to smoothly render the single character inside a single room.

Complaints over technical problems and the exorbitant pricing of cosmetic items soon reached boiling point as players discovered many items of virtual clothing cost more than their real-life equivalents. The leak of an internal company newsletter and memos from the CEO compounded the drama by showing that CCP was planning to pursue an aggressive microtransaction strategy that wasn’t limited to cosmetic items. Players raged against CCP and Incarna, and in the end they got their wish — CCP did a complete 180 degree turn and promised to focus only on cosmetic microtransactions and in-space gameplay ever since.

side1Allocation of available resources

When players raged against Incarna‘s perceived cash grab, it unfortunately signed the death warrant of Walking in Stations as a feature. When I chat to developers at Fanfest each year, I still get the impression that they worry players might try to burn the house down again if CCP ever revisits the idea. But the truth is that the Summer of Rage was precipitated by years of systemic neglect on EVE‘s in-space features. Developers moved from one huge expansion feature to the next without fixing emerging gameplay problems, bugs and quality of life issues.

CCP had already revealed that a lot of dev time and resources were being funnelled into the development of Incarna, and players saw this as being to the detriment of the rest of the game. The expansions that followed Incarna went back and cleaned up practically every part of the game that had been left broken, even replacing old legacy code that had been labelled as “untouchable” previously. The Crucible, Inferno, and Rubicon expansions were extremely well-received by players, and EVE hit an all-time peak in player activity after the deployment of Retribution and Odyssey. My point is that today’s EVE is no longer the neglected game it was back in 2011, so CCP shouldn’t fear the same backlash if it decides to revisit walking in stations as a feature. EVE players never had an irrational hatred of bipedal avatars or gameplay taking place inside space stations; they just wanted their broken game to be fixed.

structuresHas Incarna‘s time finally come?

I recall excitedly booting up EVE after Incarna‘s release in 2011 and getting into the captain’s quarters for the first time, only to find my GPU running at 100% and my system bluescreening after just a few minutes. The average computer back in 2011 would never have handled the load of a multiplayer environment with multiple characters and huge space station environments, but it’s been almost five years now. The phone in my pocket is probably more powerful than the computer I had back then, and that’s saying something because it’s a bloody Windows phone. EVE‘s servers are getting a sizeable upgrade too, and elastic cloud computing has become a realistic option for scalable game servers.

On the gameplay side, EVE is also now genuinely at risk of being overshadowed by the avatar gameplay in Star Citizen. This isn’t just theoretical any more, either; you can already get out of your ship and explore damaged stations in the latest SC alpha build. EVE Online inspired us back in 2012 with an amazing cinematic trailer showing a team of space archeologists docking at a Sleeper structure and exploring inside the ruins on foot, but Star Citizen could literally have this kind of mission playable in-game. EVE being a huge single-shard sandbox game does lend itself more naturally to social interaction and real exploration gameplay, so it could be to EVE‘s advantage to have some compelling avatar gameplay when SC launches and future plans to expand it.

avatars

Walking in stations was a feature far ahead of its time, first considered back in 2006 when it was frankly infeasible and finally landing in a limited form in 2011 when gaming computers could barely handle it. EVE‘s body-sculpting character creator was similarly way ahead of its time and is only now being overtaken by amazing editors in games like Black Desert. With EVE in a good development state and gaming PCs being a lot more powerful now, it feels like this ambitious feature’s time has finally come.

Perhaps once player-owned citadels have been released and Valkyrie has shipped, EVE might once again turn its attention to what’s going on inside stations. We could get shared social spaces, corp offices, and war rooms inside citadels, black markets and dodgy agents accessible only through station environments, and maybe even exploration missions to enter abandoned structures. There’s a lot of potential locked up in EVE‘s half-implemented station gameplay and a growing audience who may be drawn in by it, but it’s possible that CCP will never want to revisit the dark chapter of its company history that was Incarna.

EVE Online expert Brendan ‘Nyphur’ Drain has been playing EVE for over a decade and writing the regular EVE Evolved column since 2008. The column covers everything from in-depth EVE guides and news breakdowns to game design discussions and opinion pieces. If there’s a topic you’d love to see covered, drop him a comment or send mail to brendan@massivelyop.com!
SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Code of Conduct | Edit Your Profile | Commenting FAQ | Badge Reclamation | Badge Key

LEAVE A COMMENT

75 Comments on "EVE Evolved: Should CCP start developing Walking in Stations again?"

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Fantastico
Guest
Fantastico

Without a doubt. Bittervets don’t like it but honestly nobody cares about them.

VasDrakken
Guest
VasDrakken

It really boils down to tatical sim verse physics based sim. Star citizen is working with one human body and seven variations of gear so far… three out law suits and four marine suit the persistence universe is a different marine gear. Even has the gear from the playstation game… and mostly likely the issue is the amount of draw calls needed to get it work at the pc level. Every asset for a a playstation of microsoft game has to fit one a single bluray disk (sony) or hd-dvd disk (microsoft). 

Eve you can play as soon as you download the client star citizen you test the future toys… kinda like visiting a reverse museum… parts of the whole before they happen. Even when they go live in eve you are flying through space the captain on the bridge controlling the action. Star citizen your driving the action. 

For perspective you have a battle ship or what ever in eve and you point in some direction and go that direction while circling or changing course but still it is more like sailing a ship of the line and firing a broadside then flying a fighter jet around the enemy and trying to run and gun the mob while maintaining position in dozen angles of attack at once. It is fun but tiring just like the real thing, there is a reason that you are only allowed so many hours in the hot seat doing it for the us military. most militaries that exceed ten hours find their pilots on the ground more often than not. Eve kinda expects three to hour blocks per mission once you get higher up in the standings… which means that those standing drop back down fast. star citizen has you go through a course of flying at that took a couple hours then you hear what sounds like the line from top gun about buying you a beer.

I’d love to walk around space stations in eve and see possible outposts and cities on the ground but I want the tier four or five version of the legion with drifter lasers on it… tier four I think would have been battleship first since that is how they went before but with them changing certain battleships to battle cruisers in game who knows what tier four and five ships will be before they hit the test servers.

Hummm maybe we can even talk the devs into letting us put really big looking guns on our ships… I have glitched crusier with three large guns that only actually fire one focusing crystal…

EcrirTwyLar
Guest
EcrirTwyLar

You have walking in station.  Just start a go fund me account to raise money for CCP to code an invite system so you can invite your friends to your captain’s quarters.  Then you can role play to your hearts content.

kgptzac
Guest
kgptzac

I think it’s pretty obvious WiS has become a taboo within CCP. Best hope is to spin the avatar gameplay to a separate game like Valkyrie… which is what the DUST pc port supposed to fill in the spot.

DaGhostDS
Guest
DaGhostDS

EVE Valkyrie would be so much better if it was implemented in the main game instead of being a stand alone game, that’s the only reason i would play EVE.

TheGremmel
Guest
TheGremmel

theeknighthood Makes no sense. A shop for what? You wanna delete the market system? It would be like removing raids from WOW, it makes no logical sense.
Rent for RP meetings? Why? Seriusly why? You can ask for anything but to implement stuff you have to be realistic.
Maybe rooms with gambling. Sure that’s the one thing people would probably actually use in game, but the scope of what you’re asking for for a simple chat room with a card game functionality (like all gambling sites) is completely ludicrous. 
Or are you just asking for it because you think it’d be cool to have the scope of a game like Destiny inside of EVE? Because yeah that’d be cool but unless you have 200 million lying around and a team of skilled developers to do it even close to justice, asking for it makes no logical sense. CCP have proven over and over again they don’t have the expertise to do anything longterm and with a big scope with more cancelled projects than any other game studio I can think of.

dorn2
Guest
dorn2

It’s a waste of time. EvE is extremely niche.  It has several features that will never be acceptable to a broad crowd.  Walking in stations actually requires a broad crowd though.  It’s too expensive to properly support otherwise.

Oleg Chebeneev
Guest
Oleg Chebeneev

Definetly NOT. Incarna failed so hard, that after mass unsubs, director had to publish open apologize letter and give promises that it wont happen again. And that they will expand sandbox instead of adding stations fluff. Walking on stations is not what EVE community wants. And its not what CCP has resources to do right. They cant compete with Star Citizen in this regard, so why bother? Better improve strong points of the game

theeknighthood
Guest
theeknighthood

Peregrine_Falcon Xijit I don’t know about you guys, but I intend to play both, does that mean I am breaking down the walls of reality and soon the world will end?

c71clark
Guest
c71clark

DavidBrown2 As a dabbler myself (haven’t played in a few years though), I also hated losing ships. For me it wasn’t even the cost or time I put into it. I just don’t like getting blown up. Even in regular MMO’s where the only penalty to dying is a few gold pieces to repair your armor I hate it. I ventured into low-sec and null for maybe 10 minutes in total, en-route to somewhere else, and in a fast shuttle. I’ve never been in a wormhole.

Even is an e-thug paradise, and I’m just not interested enough to stay there. As many have already said, back then, Eve was basically it for space games. Now we have an embarrassment of riches to choose from. Eve is geriatric, and will decline below it’s already-niche population soon. Too bad too, because the game does have some interesting features!