EVE Online's latest expansion, The Empyrean Age. has largely been a success, both from the standpoint of a number of EVE's players and what it will allow the game to evolve into from the perspective of CCP Games. EVE developer CCP RyanD's recent dev blog confirms that CCP is excited about the directions the game will now be able to take in the future.
He writes that throughout EVE Online's five year history, there was a rift between developer-created storytelling and player-driven roleplaying. There were a few prominent storyline events run in tandem by the devs and volunteers in ISD, but while such events succeeded in some respects, they failed in others. The mixed response to the events made them a rarity in the game. But those initial faltering steps have given way to greater storyline interaction in Empyrean Age, as player created content and efforts begin to mesh with the developing story of EVE. CCP RyanD writes, "The path we are on now is really unprecedented."
The fiction element of EVE Online has now grown into a full novel. If the playerbase opts to read it, the novel will provide more background as to why many of these events that players find themselves caught up in are happening. In some respects, this is like having the hindsight on a conflict that generally only history can provide after the fact.
In-game news articles leading up to Empyrean Age gave players a sense that things were changing in New Eden and that trouble was on the horizon. The news reports also conveyed that a peace conference was scheduled to help quell the tensions between races and avert a possible crisis. Once that tone was set, CCP introduced video news footage, depicting a war-sparking suicide attack on that same peace conference. In-game, it's possible to "travel to the site of the disaster and see the massive damage caused to the station, linking fiction, multimedia, and game assets together to create a total experience for the players," CCP RyanD says.
All of this is just the beginning, he states. CCP is observing a number of factors in how the game changes through factional warfare and how the player experience evolves over time. They are looking at the economic impact of the war as well as social interaction among the players. "We have big plans to continue to mix all forms of storytelling together to make a richer and more meaningful experience for the players. Factional warfare gives us some of those tools...," he says. What they learn will allow them to change the EVE environment over time to better reflect what the playerbase wants.
The factional warfare already realized in the game is the first of several ideas CCP has in mind for the evolution of the game. Their goal is to bring player storylines and CCP storylines together, creating a far more immersive experience for gamers. But he stated the challenge that this ideal poses to the developers: "We have to carefully navigate the integration of our story threads with the adventures arising naturally out of the decisions of hundreds of thousands of players. We want to tell stories with the EVE community, not to the EVE community."
The Empyrean Age is just the beginning, CCP RyanD stresses. Unexplored territory. "We're going to be doing things with narrative structure, feedback, game design and virtual reality that we have never tried before at this level of complexity. Our strategy is to go slow. We're going to add features carefully, watch the results, adjust our plans, and generate a lot of feedback and commentary. Empyrean Age is the first step on this path, but we are convinced it leads to a wonderful destination."
Do you agree with CCP RyanD, that Empyrean Age has put CCP Games on the right path? Are you optimistic about the future prospects for EVE Online?