The newest generation of smartphones has begun to deliver on the ideal of having continual access to your data on the go with persistent web connections. As such, the iPhone is becoming ubiquitous, helped no doubt by its ease of use and the ever-growing number of apps available to users. In the relatively short time the iPhone has existed, it's already begun to have an impact on the gaming world. Given how stat-centric massively multiplayer online titles are, it was inevitable that there would be some steps made towards a marriage between the iPhone and our games; some developers are creating iPhone apps that extend certain aspects of MMOs beyond the game client.
This can be especially useful with a game like EVE Online, where players typically have a number of things going on, even while they're not logged in to play. While the EVE iPhone apps don't act as game clients, players can, for instance, check in on the skill progression of their characters, check their wallet balances as market transactions and contract sales take place while away from the client, and in general keep tabs on their virtual involvements in New Eden.
Capsuleer 2.0 is one such iPhone and iPod touch app for EVE Online that aims to be a portal into New Eden for whenever players are away from their computers and on the go; in some respects, it's a persistent real-world analog to EVE's in-game Neocom used to keep tabs on your characters. Capsuleer 2.0 was approved by Apple just this week, so Massively caught up with its two creators to find out more about what they've been up to. Marcus Dickinson is known in EVE as Roc Wieler and is likely a familiar name to many players from his Roc's Ramblings blog. The other half of the Capsuleer duo is Chris Whiteford (PyjamaSam in EVE Online), and they were both kind enough to take some time out to speak with us about their work on Capsuleer as well as their plans for its future. Read on for Massively's Capsuleer interview and our impressions of the app in a brief visual tour.
What can Capsuleer 2.0 do and how does having an external way of monitoring your characters benefit players?
Roc: Capsuleer 2.0 is the next step forward in our application development. Our primary purpose with Capsuleer is "Research & Communication". v2.0 implements a more thorough skill monitoring system, including skill queues and a comprehensive skill library. We've also presented additional pilot details over what v1 has. Finally, we've incorporated a Headlines section, which leans to the communication side of our mandate, offering all the CCP news feeds, as well as the EVE Blog Pack.
Does it benefit players? We like to think so. By providing a medium outside of the game to keep up to date on everything EVE related, you can focus on whatever it is you do in EVE while ingame. To me, that makes for higher productivity.
Sam: Hmm. Now I know why I leave the marketing to Roc. Not much more I can add to that.
How did the idea for Capsuleer come about, and what's involved with creating an iPhone and iPod Touch app that ties into the EVE Online API?
Roc: Selfishly, I wanted an application like this for my iPhone and one didn't exist. After searching around the EVE forums, I ended up beta testing for Sam. The rest, as they say, is history. As for the API, we just finished writing an article for E-ON magazine on actually how easy it is to access the EVE API data; the challenge comes in what do you with it once you have it. Really an API is just another datasource. The fact that CCP offers it is incredible, and I thank them for it.
Sam: When the iPhone SDK came out I wanted to play with it. I love developing, and new platforms are always a fun challenge. I have been playing EVE for a long time and have built a suite of tools (called eveSuite) to help support my corp, so it seemed like a fun way to merge the two, iPhone and EVE. My initial version of Capsuleer (long before it was called Capsuleer) was - well how should I put this - kinda ugly, but that's where Roc came in. Using the API is straight forward enough, and the iPhone SDK provides nice access to using remote resources, so that part ended up being quite easy.
What kinds of difficulties have you run into in tying in your app with CCP Games' systems?
Roc: Well, there's a lot of things we dream of doing that CCP simply doesn't offer in its API: Eve Mail, ingame chat, and so on. Maybe one day. We'll see. The other hurdle is things on their end: skill queues not reporting times correctly, delays of data dump, and not showing the hard-wiring implants. Things change; we adapt as quickly as we can.
Sam: The API provides a ton of useful data, though like everything it has its ups and downs. The occasional bug, the occasional outage, but really it's an awesome system. There could be more documentation provided by CCP, but of course the interwebs to the rescue. The 3rd party devs have filled that gap with some amazing docs available at http://wiki.eve-id.net. I have been using the API since its inception, and I can say without a doubt that I keep "playing" (or should that read "paying"?) EVE because of it.
How has Capsuleer changed since its initial release?
Roc: Honestly, it's like night and day when I look at it objectively. We were really pleased with the initial release, design wise and functionality, but it didn't lend itself to a good platform to work from. After a complete rewrite, v2.0 gives us a solid foundation to quickly implement new functionality, which we've done. The new version maintains the same high standards of design, and outperforms the initial application in every way.
Sam: I think there isn't much of the original code base left in 2.0. It's a complete re-write from the ground up. It's expandable, and much more flexible. A lot of the controls you see on screen are written from scratch because the ones Apple provided just didn't cut the mustard. I have high standards when it comes to the performance of UIs. Slow ones drive me nuts. I put a lot of time into getting the UI to behave the way we wanted. Taking a quick look at the source code for 1.0 vs the source code for 2.0 we went from 52 files to 242 files. So yes, I guess everything has changed from its initial release.
I know that the first version of Capsuleer was free of charge. Are you altering the pricing with Capsuleer 2.0, or are there any plans to monetize Capsuleer?
Roc: Capsuleer will always be free, for two reasons on my end. 1. The EVE Online community has given so much to me. I want to give back to them. 2. CCP doesn't let us charge real money for our product. Having said that, we will be implementing advanced functionality to deal with more corporate level things, and at that point, we will be introducing a licensing structure to accommodate those areas specifically.
Sam: Roc hit the nail on the head there. Why charge the community for something like this? The community is what makes EVE so amazing. There are sadly costs involved with Capsuleer that we can't escape. Server/bandwidth costs, the time it takes to develop the application and as Roc said, with future releases we will be adding more advanced tools that take more resources on our end. Because of this we have started to take some steps to help with these costs. In 2.0 we have added an advertising engine and have partnered with E-ON to provide ads, as well we are looking at opening that up to the general community.
Any option though that we explore will be tied to ISK. Unless maybe CCP wants to buy the application [Laughs] A boy can dream.