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Friday, September 28, 2012

Dust 514 is the Real Winter Expansion

Drackarn over on Sand, Cider and Spaceships had a thought provoking piece on the winter expansion, or namely the lack thereof. Please go over and read it if you haven't already. To summarize, he says most of the changes are number tweaks in the database and there really isn't anything to the winter expansion. From a certain point of view, the bitter rage-quit vet as he puts it, that is true. There is nothing in the expansion that's really compelling.

That's because the Winter Expansion really isn't about Eve Online. The winter expansion is Dust 514. Drackarn wonders what all the Eve Online developers are doing. Let's have a look at what they might be up to. I am going to use the interview with Richard Smith (Dust 514 vs EVE Online: when worlds collide) as the basis for what Eve Developers might be doing.

Orbital Bombardment - there will have to be an entire new mechanism in Eve Online to handle this. Richard Smith said, “You basically call in support by painting a target on the map, and then in the PC game of EVE Online, there will be a target on that planet that an EVE player will fire upon using Orbital Bombardment, which is basically this super weapon that is ten times the power of an Orbital Strike.” The emphasis is mine because this is something that an Eve Online developer must write. Mr. Smith does not specify how this target will show up. It will have to be a new Overview item I'm certain. I'd hope there is some visual feedback as well for not only aesthetic purposes (Eve is beautiful after all) but for immersion and continuity as well. If that really does come to be, there will need to be additions to the code that displays planets differently. Will the bombarding pilot have to go to a PI screen to see the target or will it just appear on the planet. Going to a PI type screen would be terrible. It would completely take you out of the tactical display your screen usually shows you. None of this has been discussed by CCP to my knowledge. Regardless, it is a major change to how things work now. Who's programming that? Yep, Eve Online developers.

Planetary Interaction - from what I've read, the idea behind Dust 514 and Eve Online interaction is to make planets contestable. Richard Smith had this to say about it,  “One [sic] you control property it will give your corporation benefits. If you control a particular installation on a planet – maybe a mining outpost – it will give you a particular type of resource, and when anyone fights over that territory in the future, its your infrastructure that’s at risk. So you will see that corporation sending Dust mercs down on the ground to defend it." Again, the emphasis is where I believe substantive developer time has to be dedicated in Eve Online to realize the vision. This description is nothing like the PI I do today. I just plop infrastructure down anywhere there is a resource I want. What's this "district" stuff he keeps talking about? In the Dust 514 "enhanced" version of PI, there will have to be code that delineates who holds a particular piece of infrastructure and what resource that provides. There is likely code already within Eve Online that could do this but someone must apply it to Planetary Interaction. I can't help but feel this has to be a major programming effort and the programmers have to be Eve Online programmers, not Dust 514 programmers. Smith also says, “One of the things you need in Dust are resource plants that give your corporation valuable produce, but you also need day to day things like power plants, waste processing, communication towers and this kind of stuff.” Perhaps this means that PI as we know it completely goes away in those areas where Dust 514 mercenaries operate. Dust mercenaries will just have those things as a trade item, et al. That might lessen any additional code needed in Eve Online, but those areas are still going to have to be treated differently than high-sec and worm hole space. That requires coding to implement. The bottom line is this, we have no idea how PI is really going to function when Dust 514 takes over but it will change drastically in factional warfare systems and all that change has to be programmed into Eve Online.

Corporation Management - Eve Online players and Dust 514 players will be in the same corporations. CCP confirmed this. This requires code to implement. It seems it is mostly done at this point, but someone had to write it. Someone is probably still working on it. That someone is an Eve Developer.

Contracting - Richard Smith also said this, "All of the levels take place on Dust 514 and in districts on planets within the EVE Online universe, so what you see in the Battlefinder are matches that have been put out by corporations who want to invite any mercenary – anyone can join in – to fight on their behalf.” And you thought the whole War Declaration change in Inferno was because of our long standing cries to fix it? How wonderfully naive. This code probably has more to do with the invites Mr. Smith speaks about than the Eve Online War Declaration system. The fact that it was gamed so quickly and completely meant even more Eve Online developer time had to go into it. And as the Dust 514 beta goes on, I am sure someone in the Eve Online development team continues to look at the code.

Market - "At the moment both marketplaces go through the same technical systems, but at the moment you can’t see EVE items on the Dust marketplace. What we plan to introduce is further integration in the future, and we’d like to see the ability for EVE and Dust players to trade items together, or for corporations to manufacture some of the weapons in the game," said Mr. Smith. So which technical system do you think he refers to in this quote? There may have been a framework market when Dust was in development on its own server, but to integrate it with Eve Online they will have to use the existing system. That is the Eve Online Market. Who has all the expertise with that system, the Dust developers or the Eve Online developers? Where does the economist work? Now you know who is working on the integration. The Eve Online developers have to do it. They wrote the system. They know the code best. Perhaps they get help from Shanghai, but they do have to be involved - intricately so.

Balance - Aside from the nuts and bolts of bringing the disparate computing systems of Eve Online and Dust 514 together, Smith also added this, “We have to be very careful when bringing EVE and Dust together to make sure that we don’t unbalance EVE. We have hundreds of thousands of EVE players who have invested years of their life into it and essentially creating what the EVE universe is today.” So what is the list presented by Through Newb Eyes entirely dedicated to in practical terms? That's right, keeping Eve Online balanced so we haven't wasted years of our lives making it into the community it is today. This has more to do with Dust 514 than anything that really needed done to Eve Online. In fact, there are other things capsuleers would rather have seen worked on I'm sure.

And then there was this yesterday. I wonder how long that was planned and by how many? It also doesn't appear to be the last one.

And furthermore, there was yesterday's mass test on Buckingham. What were they testing? Well, here's the blog post about it. This is what it says they were testing.
"What exactly is being tested?
  • Stressing the new district satellite system for DUST
  • Testing the district UI and planet graphics
  • Testing graphics for fake DUST battles and fake orbital strikes
  • Investigating grid not loading bug"
How much of this is not Dust 514 related programming? Arguably you could say the grid loading bug. But would that bug exist if it were not for Dust 514? No, it would not. How many developer hours did CCP invest in what was tested on Eve Online's test server? I have no idea and CCP is not saying. Suffice it to say it appeared to be a lot.

So as you can see, every major area in Eve Online is directly affected by the Dust 514 roll out. I've covered combat, trade, industry, corporation management, graphics and even in game events. What else is there to Eve Online other than these basic parts? And every single one of them have to be altered to one degree or another to allow Dust 514 to function. That's what most of the Eve Online developers are primarily focused on. Dare I say all? It's true from a certain point of view you know.

So, prior to contrary belief, the Jesus Feature was never eliminated by CCP. It was simply moved to a different gaming platform and we are not the direct beneficiaries of the effort. As withh all Jesus Features, this one requires the full attention of the Eve Online developers in Iceland to bring it together. I am not saying this is a terrible thing and shame on CCP for misleading us. Don't. Be. Ridiculous. CCP is a business first and this is an awesome, if somewhat risky, business move. If they pull it off, CCP gets to have their cake and eat it too. If it fails, well, we still have Eve Online. Right?

Fly Careful


  1. Actually, there's still a normal expansion (just like Crucible or Inferno) that has a a bunch of spaceship stuff that has nothing to do with Dust 514, including some content they haven't discussed yet (which is why everyone is bored in the meantime till the full lineup is announced).

    But yes, Dust will be cool too :) It's just being built by a whole bunch of people on the other side of the globe. The Iceland office is still very much working on improving the spaceship game in the meantime, contrary to popular belief. Theres only a few CCP staff working on the link, not the entire company like everyone assumes.

    1. Oh Hans, Hans, Hans - I am certain there will be. And I'll be sure to update my readers on how much of those yet to be announced updates are pure Eve Online or just Dust 514 prompted adjustments. You know, to make sure all us Eve Online players haven't wasted years of our lives. ;)

      Thanks for reading my blog!


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