Ask a hundred EVE Online players when the game was at its best and you’ll get a hundred different answers. For some older players that might be the first era of nullsec colonisation between 2005 and 2007, for others it could be the 2009-2011 years of unbounded wormhole exploration, and for some it could even be at its best right now thanks to the recent addition of the compelling singleplayer PvE in Abyssal Deadspace. EVE is a constantly evolving beast, and it’s been a lot of different things to different people in its storied 15-year history.
In this edition of EVE Evolved, I take stock of some of the major the development avenues CCP has taken over the years and ask where the game can and perhaps should go from here.
When it comes to the big visions that could get thousands of people truly excited for EVE again, there are two CCP has discussed in recent years that I think still have the capacity to absolutely knock it out of the park: Deep space exploration, and AI-driven NPC empires. Both of these were part of ex-Executive Producer Andie Nordgren‘s grand vision for the future of the game before she left CCP Games back in April, and there’s no guarantee that development will continue along those lines.
Exploration of completely uncharted star systems has been teased since 2013 and an expansion that does this feature justice has the potential to ignite the same passion as Apocrypha, the extremely highly rated expansion that added 2,500 hidden star systems accessible through a network of randomly shifting wormholes. Now that we have the first small player-built stargates, it’s easier to imagine players coming together to build and fight over something like the massive mega-stargate from EVE‘s 2014 Prophecy trailer. If CCP has to pick one major feature to deliver, deep space exploration gets my vote.
Throughout EVE‘s 15-year reign, CCP has explored several avenues for expanding EVE that didn’t exactly go to plan or didn’t meet expectations. Some of those could definitely be revisited for future developments, such as the atmospheric flight demo that was teased back in 2005 or 2006 but never made its way into the game. It would be interesting to have some new kind of PvE similar to Abyssal Deadspace but set in the atmosphere of a planet and limited to interceptors, for example.
Planetary Interaction also always felt like it could have been so much more, and I’d hate to think that’s all we’ll see of the planets of EVE. The teaser leading up to the Tyrannis expansion hinted at domination over the populations on planets and asked “Will you rule with benevolence or ruthless tyranny once all these worlds are yours?” but it ended up just being an industrial minigame with no population management or conflict. While this feature has improved since then with player owned customs offices and recent overhauls, I’d still welcome some new planet-based gameplay.
The most prominent case of abandoned plans in EVE‘s history (and possibly the game’s biggest development U-turn) has to be Incarna‘s Walking in Stations feature, which I still believe has a lot of promise and would be highly compelling to new players. It’s unlikely that CCP will want to re-tread this particular path, however, especially after it officially culled the Captain’s Quarters. Hilmar also confirmed at EVE Vegas 2018 that there are no plans for new avatar-based gameplay at this time, and yet part of me still thinks this is one of the killer features EVE eventually needs if it’s to survive beyond the second decade.
Putting the massive headline-grabbing features to one side for a moment, there are still plenty of smaller features and areas of the game that could stand improvement. CCP has done significant systems overhauls in the past with the industry revamp and the new fitting screen, both of which greatly improved the quality of players’ everyday game experiences.
Other features that could get similar overhauls significantly changing the game as part of an expansion might include the directional scanner, the overview, or agent missions — any parts of the game or UI that are starting to show their age. CCP already seems to be using this strategy, with tools such as The Agency and the new universal search bar helping to tie a lot of disparate parts of the game together.
A Corporation and Alliance overhaul is still badly needed too, and it formed one of the original prongs in former Executive Producer Andie “CCP Seagull” Nordgren’s future development timeline for EVE. In addition to a much more straight-forward and visual system for corp access and roles, I’d love to see new specialised corp types and new ways to share corp assets (to automate a ship replacement programme, for example). While it may not breathe new life into the game or attract new players the way a flashy feature might, it would help the dedicated power players of EVE to provide a home for others and that would make new players more likely to stick in the long term.
EVE Online has grown over the years from a hostile PvP bloodfest in an embryonic universe into a mature sandbox with many of its biggest potential avenues for expansion now explored. The past 15 years have seen the addition of everything from tiny interceptors to massive capital ships, and from the incredible addition of unstable wormholes and uncharted space to EVE‘s less-than-stellar usage of planet surfaces and station interiors.
Each new layer of gameplay has built on the last, so many of these expansion avenues may never be fundamentally revised and the scope for big blockbuster features has narrowed. Blockbuster features is exactly what I think we’ll need over the next set of years to hang future expansion efforts on, though, especially if EVE is to continue lighting a fire under players the way some of its best expansions have. So where can EVE Online go from here in the long term, and where should it? Should it descend onto surface of planets, explore the inside of stations and ships of New Eden, or maybe even launch into deep space?