EVE Evolved: A sneak peak at EVE Gate

Some time ago, CCP announced their unusual plans to develop their own EVE Online social networking website. Their plan was to tie it into the game, giving players a site they could visit to stay in touch with their EVE contacts and corporation while not logged in. It was expected to be ready by Winter 2009 but never materialised when the Dominion expansion was released. Now named EVE Gate, the website has been rescheduled for the upcoming Tyrannis expansion on May 18th. Recently, CCP released an early alpha version of the EVE Gate website and have begun the slow process of adding features and working out bugs. Some of the features are not active and the site is not yet tied into the active EVE server. Nevertheless, the current alpha build shows what we can expect from the site when it launches.

In this article, I give a run-down of what features we can expect from EVE Gate at launch and what we can expect from it in future iterations.
Main screen:

On logging into the EVE Gate website, you're presented with a familiar character select screen. As with logging into the game, this screen shows information on your characters such as location, current ship, wallet balance and whether or not you have an active skill training. The latest EVE news sits on the right hand side of the screen, just like the in-game login screen. Basing this screen on the in-game login process goes a long way to making EVE Gate feel more connected to the game. The main screen doubles as a hub for all the web-pages EVE players will find important. Links to the devblogs, EVElopedia and the official forums are neatly presented as buttons along the top of the screen.

Managing contacts:
After selecting your character, additional buttons appear on the link bar at the top of the screen. From here you can enter the Profile, Contacts, Mail and Calendar screens. The Profile screen is a handy way to view and edit information on your character. From here you can look up your employment history, edit your in-game bio and access your skill sheet. This is a handy screen for checking your skill queue and although you can't set skills training through the interface, that feature is planned for a future update to EVE Gate. The Contacts screen acts as both your friends list for EVE Gate and way to manage your in-game standings and contacts.

Organisation tools:
Perhaps the most useful pages on the entire site are the Mail and Calendar screens. Having full access to your EVEMail outside of EVE is going to be incredibly useful. You'll be able to read your personal, corp and alliance mails through the website as soon as you receive them in-game and even respond as easily as if you were logged in. The Calendar is a new feature that we'll see coming in Tyrannis and its integration with EVE Gate will be exciting to any corporate directors.

The CEO of a player-run corporation will be able to organise events such as mining ops, PvP gangs or mission fleets and slot them into the calendar. Members of the corp will then see notifications of upcoming events when they log into EVE Gate or go to the Calendar section of the site. Many corps currently rely on scheduling events weeks in advance through corp mail or the topic of a chat channel to ensure everyone receives sufficient notification. With EVE Gate, the ability for corps to organise events at the drop of a hat will be greatly increased.

The future soon:
While EVE Gate has run over its original time estimates, the extra polish CCP's web design team have been able to add is really visible. Although it's missing some key features, the site looks to be a very solid foundation for future updates and it's definitely something I'd use at launch. One of the most anticipated post-launch features is the ability to alter your skill training queue rather than just reading it. That's not all that could be done with the site, however. Since it uses your EVE username and password to log in, the door is open for unprecedented integration of a website into the game. On the drawing board are features such as the ability to access contracts, manage market orders and even join in-game voice channels.

There's an app for that:
The only real downside to EVE Gate as it currently stands is the limited potential for players to make apps and tools for the site. While CCP's development in external tools is always appreciated, the past several years have shown that players are perpetually one step ahead of CCP in that field. Player-made applications like the EVEMon skill planner, EVE Fitting Tool, EVEHQ and the many killboards available provide us with invaluable tools that are considered essential to playing the game. All of these tools currently rely on you supplying your EVE API key but since EVE Gate uses your EVE login details, the site should be able to grant apps access to your API key just as easily. It would be the perfect place to publish EVE apps but as yet that capability doesn't exist.

It should be noted that before the EVE API key was created, apps used a variety of other methods to get your information. Before the API, the method of choice for obtaining a list of your skills was an XML export from the game. Before that, EVEMon would open a web-browser and ask you to navigate to the character info page of the EVE website. It would parse the web page to get the displayed data, something that could also be done with any page on EVE Gate. If CCP's web-developers don't create a way to integrate apps into EVE Gate, they may soon find EVE Gate is being integrated into apps.

While the current alpha build of the website is light on features, EVE Gate's design is solid and makes a great deal of good sense. It acts as a hub for all the useful social parts of the EVE website and provides some much needed organisation tools. EVE Gate acts a solid foundation that can be built on and what it doesn't bring us at launch, it brings as a potential future update. We can only hope that they decide to focus on helping players integrate apps into the site as quickly as possible. The sheer potential of apps tied into EVE Gate is tremendous and with the number of programmers and web-developers in the EVE community, we'd be sure to see some incredible tools being published.

Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at massively.com. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you want to message him, send him an e-mail at brendan.drain AT weblogsinc DOT com.
This article was originally published on Massively.