People sometimes ask me why certain games are mentioned on The Escapist more than others, and I always answer the same: Some games work hard at being noticed, some games work hard at doing great things and some games work very hard at both. Those are the ones we like to talk about. Hell, if you want to know what I mean, check their site - "We care more, we work harder." Empirical data suggests that this claim is nothing but the truth, and it's extremely reassuring.
Today, I went to check up on EVE Online, CCP's flagship title. Admittedly, I was unprepared - no appointment, no forward notice - just a notepad and an eager desire to see what new things were in store for my favorite MMOG. Not a problem. Moments after introducing myself, I was ushered into a private demo room, where Magnus Bergsson walked me through some of the new things in store for EVE.
First, I should mention that most people consider EVE a beautiful game and they're right. Nevertheless, CCP decided that 'good' isn't 'great', and that sitting on their hands as other games push graphical boundaries wasn't the ballgame they wanted to play. So each of several hundred ships are currently undergoing mesh and texture upgrades - and man, they look great. Being a Gallente pilot, I asked to see the Megathron (Main battleship of that race), and was suitably floored. Whereas before each ship looked 'well designed for a space game', now each ship looks 'well designed for space'. Every nuance now suggests that the ships in EVE are built to maneuver and be operated in space, hold large crews and dish out apocalyptic firepower.
And it's not just the racial ships getting facelifts. Every faction ship, NPC ship and CONCORD ship is getting a full-feature visual upgrade. New specular maps, new bump maps, new high resolution textures, much-improved polycount models and a brand new rendering engine.
But that's not all.
CCP is also working on new ways to organize large scale operations with a revamped Gang system, which can break down into more effective sub-categories (Such as squads). Managing even a small Op can drive a fleet commander to drink, and CCP knows this quite well. Along with the Gang revamp, CCP has chosen to accept the burden of responsibility and find their own solution for managing voice communications.
To do this, they've called upon the expertise of Vivox, a full-service VoIP communications firm specializing in large-scale communication solutions. Speaking with Monty Sharma, he gave me the low-down on why Vivox was the right choice for CCP, "A lot of game companies throw in VoIP as a bullet-point feature to add to their marketing brochures, but people still use Teamspeak and Ventrilo anyway, because those companies are focusing on the game itself, the voice chat is an afterthought - and it shows. Vivox is dedicated completely to users communicating with other users, and we like to think that shows as well."
And it really did. The voices on the headset came through crystal clear with absolutely no distortion. Admittedly we were using top quality headsets, but the signal itself was travelling to the same dedicated voice server that everyone else's will when the update goes live. Vivox has also been working closely with CCP to integrate the service seamlessly in-game. Simply right-click a name in chat (that's tagged as voice-capable) and use the context menu to invite them to a voice channel. Or, if you've decided to run a large scale Operation, you can set up and administrate your own Gang-specific voice channel - with the ability to subcategorize, mute, kick and ban as needed. It was really quite something.
CCP's goal to put the game even more into the hands of the playerbase is something worth noting, and absolutely something worth supporting. Ideally more groups will follow their lead and develop games with ears firmly to the ground, feeling the needs of their players and addressing them.
I hope they continue along this path, and I'll be looking forward to the patch in the days to come.
PS. No, I didn't ask about Sovereignty :)