Are you eager to deliver some payback in your favorite spacefaring MMO? Executive Producer Jon Lander and Lead Game Designer Kristoffer Tuoborg take us through their packed winter 2012 expansion.
It’s fair to say that EVE Online is one of the longest running MMOs, with the game’s 10 year anniversary coming up next year. But, although Icelandic developers CCP have some “interesting moments” planned to mark the event, the team is very much focused on business as usual. For Executive Producer Jon Lander and Lead Game Designer Kristoffer Tuoborg, that means continuing to deliver regular updates.
EVE Online: Retribution, announced today at a fan meeting in central London, is the team’s 18th free expansion. Previous updates, such as Crucible and Inferno, focused on encouraging warfare, through either traditional space combat or trade warfare and infiltration. Retribution, due for release on December 4, continues this trend, following 12 months of player feedback.
As both Lander and Tuoborg explained, much of the update is a result of going back to the core systems of EVE Online and fixing the things that broke after nine years of continual development. The Bounty system has been radically overhauled, aggression mechanics have been streamlined and weapon safety systems have been added. Destroyers, Frigates and Cruisers are all being rebalanced, and new ships including racial Destroyers are being added. There’s also a whole host of added extras, including the start of a read/write API for third party developers, and improved NPC AI.
Becoming the Bounty Hunter
Being able to carve your own path is one of the main attractions of EVE Online. If you can do it in-game, it’s usually agreed that you can be as nefarious and dastardly as you like. For those on the receiving end of your actions, their options have been limited. While Lander and Tuoborg still want to allow players to pirate, steal and cheat their way to success, they also want to allow others to create consequences for those actions, even if they’re unable to deliver payback themselves.
Their solution was to completely overhaul the Bounty system, replacing something that was implemented shortly after launch. The old system had its weaknesses and loopholes: for example, you could claim your own bounty. It became an advertising system, with bounty boards becoming a way for scoundrels and rogues to self-promote, rather than a way for privateers to seek their fortune.
As Tuoborg explained, one of their key decisions was to remove restrictions on who bounties could be placed on. “We looked at the bounty system, and I think our definition of what a criminal is, is a little bit outdated. One thing we found out, when we looked at who was doing ‘bad’ things, was that essentially the worst criminals were really good at keeping their hands clean.” With Retribution, it will be as simple as clicking a button on their character page. “Eve is such a complex social game that we can’t really dictate who’s bad and who’s not.”
It will also be possible to place bounties on Corporations and Alliances, with the factional warfare payout system being used to ensure that players get paid. The team thinks that this will mean that newcomers to EVE Online won’t be completely at the mercy of older, richer players.
The team is also looking at making the interface more contextual; by informing players if someone nearby has a bounty that they can make money from. It’s also hoped that this will make for more interesting gameplay, by using players to hunt criminals instead of NPCs. And while pirates will still use the bounty boards as a high-score table, Lander also hopes that bounty hunting corporations will emerge. “If you want to get revenge on someone, who do you go to? Allow people to build careers out of some fairly open ended mechanics.”