EVE Evolved: New tools for the community

EVE Evolved title image
Earlier this week, CCP Games released a much-needed complete overhaul of the official EVE Online website. Having been in operation for nine long years, the old website had become a mismatch of marketing information aimed at new players and tools for the existing player community. The overhaul split the page into two awesome websites, with a new community site to cater to existing players and an impressive new main page to attract future players.

The main page uses HTML 5 to deliver incredible interactive views of the EVE Online galaxy and dozens of in-game ships right there on the website. The community website houses all of the news, devblogs, knowledgebase articles, fictional chronicles, and support tools that existing players use, but with a much neater layout than the old website. In web developer CCP Alice's recent In Development video, she revealed that the team would be working on new community tools following the launch of the new websites. With the community site completely de-cluttered, there's now room to incorporate a lot of the tools players want or currently use, opening up some interesting possibilities.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I discuss the new EVE Online website and community portal and speculate on awesome new community tools we might possibly see in the future.

EVE Evolved side imageNew marketing website

Whether the new marketing website will make a difference to EVE's subscription numbers remains to be seen, but seeing the ships and galaxy before you sign up is definitely a visual treat. With the new main webpage, prospective players can now get a feel for the vastness of New Eden and pick out their favourite ship designs before grabbing a free trial. This may help get the player invested in the game before he's even downloaded the client, and it will add some much-needed identity to the races.

Although EVE lets any player train for any race of ships, a friend of mine who tried the game as part of an experiment a few months ago felt like he didn't have a basis for initially choosing a race. Showing new players the ships before they select a race may make them less likely to regret that choice later when they see an awesome ship from a different race.

EVE Evolved side imageNew community tools

CCP Alice revealed in her video devblog that new community tools would be on the way, with the first of these tools being new corporation forums on the official forum. Most major corporations launch their own forums, and to have that included for free in the game is a massive bonus for the community. Anything that lowers the barrier to running a corporation will benefit the community, and with that in mind there are tons of other organisational tools that corporations use and CCP could potentially provide for free.

Most corps make use of voice chat, and while EVE Voice adds that service directly to the game, external services are used to chat with people who are inside the game from outside it and to stop client crashes cutting off comms. Perhaps the next set of tools we should get is the ability to join corp or alliance chat from the website or a standalone desktop app and the ability to join any voice channel (including fleets) from outside the game. People also tend to use instant messaging services as a call to arms to get friends online when something interesting happens, and with a web service or standalone app, that mechanic could be built in very easily.

EVE Evolved side imagePlayer-made tools

Over the years, EVE Online's playerbase has filled in the gaps in the game's development by producing some incredible tools. EVEMon lets players make skill plans, EVE Fitting Tool allows the creation of virtual ship setups, Dotlan provides tactical map tools with up to date stats, and killboards provide a way to track war campaigns and keep morale high. All of these could be built into the official website as a suite of corporation tools. EVE's third-party development community is something very special, and nobody wants to see that community harmed by competing tools developed internally at CCP, but that doesn't have to be the case.

Instead of developing competing tools, CCP need only come to an arrangement with the developers of those tools to have them integrated directly into the EVE website. Dotlan, ICSC jump planner and the countless other webtools the community has made are the very tools players already use, and it is these tools we need to see integrated with the website. Killboards are a little more complicated, as the source code that every current killboard is based on was released under an open source license years ago, so there really is no central service all players use. As the code is open source, however, there's nothing stopping CCP from creating its own basic service.

EVE Evolved side imageBringing it all together

The potential of EVE's new community website doesn't end with just embedding popular tools; working with the developers of those tools, CCP could do some awesome stuff that isn't currently possible. If CCP ran its own central killboard, for example, it would contain only API-verified kills that could be syndicated to related corp killboards automatically. Imagine the EVE Fitting tool embedded in the official EVE website, always automatically updated to the latest version and able to save your fittings server-side.

It could even integrate directly with your personal or corporation fittings in-game so that you could design a ship and then import it into the game in a single click. Imagine augmented market tools that could estimate the cost of a fitting you've designed or even let you instantly buy all of the modules from market orders and contracts in Jita and assemble it for you. While integration is technically very difficult, all that stands between us and tools like these is a commitment to make great community tools and lot of development effort.

EVE Evolved title image
I'm sure some of you would argue that tools like these would be a waste of resources that could be spent making shiny new ships or fixing bugs, but I would argue that the community is exactly the right place for CCP to be spending resources right now. EVE's massive community inhabiting a single shared universe is the game's main selling point and one of its biggest competitive advantages in a changing market. I've often said that the number one thing CCP can do to increase player retention is to help new players find a home in the world by making the advantages of joining a player corp clear. With that in mind, tools that enable new corporations and communities to form and work together are sure to greatly increase player retention.

We already have access to corp mail and calendar events out of game, but there's a lot more that could be done with new community web tools. Imagine an interactive corp map on which players can place markers and notes, planning corp activities or keeping track of enemies. A corporation's assets and offices could even be displayed on the map directly by pulling data from the API, and a similar map could be available in-game as Incarna's fabled war room. Imagine a realtime intel system through which scouts could mark enemy fleets on a map for the fleet commander to see or select strategists could track the movement of their own alliance's fleets in realtime. Now those would be tools worth having!

Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to brendan@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.