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When Incarna rolled out, along with the subsequent neXt store, monocles, and intended future vision, it was clear the CCP had a plan.  And as far as “plans” go, it wasn’t all that bad in concept.

However, the execution.. well, not so much.

Incarna, Part One – The Explosive Flop

At the time, CCP was listening to analysts as well as the popular financial wisdom of the day, believing that to be competative they needed to look at new business models, such as cash shops or micro-transactions as they used to call them (funny, they don’t call them that anymore..).  Unfortunately for CCP, the analysts were just talking heads who didn’t really understand anything at all, despite all the graphs and market research they did.  The results of the implimentation of the Incarna expansion led to a revolt that had the potential of not only losing CCP’s flag ship product Eve, but also two other projects that were in development.

If that weren’t enough, Incarna also had problems with the main feature that was being released.  The engine used for the avatars, while cutting edge, was so sharp as to slice normal PC systems into pieces.  Instead of a new virtual world of exploration, meeting other players in the potential myriad of shops and in-station locations, we got one, solitary, spartan room and the ship gantry.  Let’s not add to this the fact that apparently capsuleer pilots are just too cool to actually RUN…

So, with all the drama, the space debris of hubris, the poor implimentation, the “OMG my PC is on fire” graphics problem, the “one room for all” motif, as well as the hundreds, no.. thousands of issues that plagued Eve Online up until that time, CCP wisely set the Incarna dream down and started working on making Eve more playable.

And they have thus far done a far better job than anyone who was at the release of Incarna could have ever imagined.  No one predicted that CCP would have turned things around as well as they have.  Hilmar, CCP’s CEO deserves kudos for getting the right people in the right places.  In addition, I think that CSM 6, most publically “The Mittani”, should also be recognized as having a central role in this situation.  Today, we have a CCP that is responsive, understanding, and intelligent in the way it handles player feedback and game design.  Of course, those same talking heads apparently don’t understand how it could be that CCP is still making money.  Apparently the concept that a good product can actually make money has been lost among the idiots who make up fancy pieces of paper, sign them, then hand them out to other idiots, otherwise known to each other as “experts”.  Perhaps the axiom that “Those who can’t do, teach.” has deeper ramifications than previously thought.

Incarna, Part Two – Re-Understanding

Now, I could just end there and this could just be a normal “Whew, we made it!” post, but the fact is.. CCP WAS RIGHT, at least in concept.  Remember, besides the overly complicated game mechanics (which mostly have been taken care of as of Retribution), the other big problem of getting new people to try CCP was that the game just didn’t feel “personal” to them.  They wanted to feel unique, to be seen, to have their own visible style.  Many Eve vets laughingly deride those players as wanting to play with “space barbies”, but every one of THOSE guys would jump at the chance of customizing their ship to look unique so their whining should approriately be ignored, with maybe a few kicks to their shins for good measure.

Initially, when CCP finally got back on an even keel, I thought that two expansions focused on game fixes and redevelopment of existing systems would probably placate the players of Eve.  Now, I think that it would take three.  The first reason being is that Tiercide has been such a huge success that it needs to be completed, the second is that with a game like Eve there were just soo many broken systems that it wasn’t until you pulled things apart did we all realize that quite a number of things need to be dealt with.  The third reason is that Inferno and Retribution has been resounding successes, both in concept of changes and updates but also in how CCP responded to bugs and problems that happened after their releases.  Because of that, CCP and how it is currently organized is in a great position to make another stellar “fix-it” expansion before moving on to developing wholly new content.

Incarna, Part Three – The Final Trilogy

The next expansion should definately deal with the following issues:

  • Ring Mining – This idea of getting moon materials from planetary rings that need to be found is a great concept in my mind and I know the rumors are fairly strong that this is getting a serious look.
  • Null-sec Sov mechanics – The last two expansions have done a lot of good with low-sec, high-sec, faction warfare, bounty hunting, mining, etc.  While these locations aren’t “done”, they have been given a good solid foundation for future changes.  Null-sec sov is still one of the important game features that is complex and needs serious re-adjustment.  Unfortunately, this is also the hardest area to make changes in as any mistake in this area could give one coalition or alliance too much of an inherit advantage.
  • Continuation and Completion of the Tiercide project – CCP Fozzie and his cohorts have done something that a couple years ago was thought impossible, they are making EVERY ship in Eve Online have value.  Real Value.  This needs to continue to its final end.  For me personally, I hope that this does include a shifting of supercaps so that they return to being powerful, but exceedingly rare beasts.
  • New POS system – What has been mentioned before has been awesome, so this.. this has to happen.
  • Smuggling – Oh, I wish I wish I WISH they would make smuggling a good profession in Eve Online.  This needs to happen for the same reasons as the Bounty Hunting fix needed to happen.
  • Customizable ship skins – Oh yeah… so long as you give me the option to turn them off so they don’t load on my system during a fight.

In my mind, this would get Eve back into a state of game superiority, of making the game that much better than anything else out there.  In many ways, the last two (and potentially the next one) is a lot like having to rebuild a foundation under a house.  It isn’t easy, you gotta cut into and break down the existing foundation before you can put that you earned back on it.  But after you do that hard work, you’ll know that the foundation will again last for years and years.

Incarna Part Four – The Return of the Concept

Yes, I did watch the Hobbit this weekend, and yes it was good.  Back to the point.  After the next expansion, I personally think that CCP will have done a stellar, if not amazing job of becoming part of the Eve Online community.  I also think that it will finally be time for CCP to start looking back at making the Walking In Stations concept work.  It has been mentioned that CCP, while it has reduced development teams working on WiS, it hasn’t been left off entirely.  It is now the time for CCP to start telling us what they have in store for when the next WiS expansion has in store, as well as a general plan about what this game play will accomplish and how they plan on releasing content for WiS.  For example, you could do the following:

Walking In Stations – Re-rollout

Phase 1 WiS Expansion – Intended Goals:  Ability to get groups of about 20 people in the same room.  Players can buy rooms and make them into three predetermined establishments: Bar, Store, or Office.  Some basic furnature will be available.  Avatar vendors will also be available.  Determination on how vendors will react with market will be finalized.

Phase 2 WiS Expansion – Intended Goals: Availability of better and permanent rooms available either in POS or Stations.  More cultural furnature options available.  BPOs for generic furnature will be seeded.  Rarer Faction Furnature will also seeded as loot.  Groups will be increased to 50.  Major trade hubs like Jita and Rens will have these options disabled.  Ability to bring others into your rooms.  Avatar only secret missions also being released.

Phase 3 WiS Expansion – Intended Goals:   More clothing options will be released.  BPOs for clothing will be seeded, as well as rarer clothes having the potential to be bought from various factions both Major nation and pirate faction.  Expansion of rooms available to POS owners.  First real-time display for industrial uses.

Giving us a plan like that would get us all excited about Incarna\WiS again.  Plus, at this point, even with a mediocre release, it won’t create the hatred that Incarna produced because it is one thing to say, “Hey we really wanna put X, Y, and Z in here, but were only able to complete X and Y because Z just wasn’t as good as we wanted it to be.”, than it is to say, “Here’s X, Y, Z, they are all broke but who cares?”, or worse yet, “I know we were going to do X, Y, and Z, but we decided to ignore you and send out A, B, C instead.. even though they are completely new to you.” And the fact that CCP has such a great crew now, I have little doubt that even if they mess up somewhat this time around, it won’t be a catastrophe and it won’t be blindsiding everyone.

Incarna WAS a great concept, it was only just a little too early for Eve.. but with Eve Online developing as it is, I think Walking in Stations soon will be a great addition to the Eve universe.