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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Prediction: Eve Online will Come to a Tablet Near You "Soon"

On Monday Poetic Stanziel made a post concerning CCP Unifex's lateral transfer to lead CCP's mobile initiative. Poetic's post was a bit disingenuous as it only really ran down CCP Unifex's PI comments. I'm still not sure if the post said anything substantial about possible CCP mobile applications, or was just a thinly veiled slam of "boring" game play. Since this topic was already in my hopper, I will now properly discuss how I think CCP is and might leverage mobile technology in the short, medium and long term.

The short term, and by that I mean within months, is easy. It has been in the works for some time now. CCP's mobile strategy has sort of always been there in the background. They've done in a limited way what Apple started with the original iPhone. They allow third party developers to use their platform to enhance the product. This is what the Eve Online API is all about.

And there is a new API standard on the horizon. It is called CREST. CREST will allow not only reading content from CCP servers as is currently allowed, but will also allow limited write access to the servers as well. According to Chribba it is still mostly Dust 514 oriented, but will have plenty of Eve related stuff when it goes live for us.

What I see looking at the Eve Wiki page for CREST is it currently supports contact management. From that it's not hard to imagine an Eve-mail client that will allow pull/push access to Eve-mail in real time. This alone would open up new and very welcomed channels of communications to players of Eve Online. My current alliance relies on Alliance Eve-mail (which members probably won't see until login) and text messages. The text messages are good at getting out a CTA, but they fairly well suck for anything else. And there is the added issue of having to give out your telephone number to relative strangers. I made a mistake when sending mine to our Alliance leader and inadvertently sent it to the entire alliance. At that point, Pell had to admonish everyone not to abuse my number. Because of such issues, some players just won't give out their personal cell number. I can't blame them. What if their only cell is the one their job provides? Keeping all communications within the realm of their character and keeping that firewall between RL and Eve would make many players happy even if that was the only thing they got.

But that is not the only thing they'll get. In the medium term, and by this I mean six to 12 months, I hope CCP enacts a slew of industry and trade related API calls. For a very, very long time the Industrial Community of Eve Online has wanted the ability to control their production outside the client. A sufficiently robust CREST API can allow this. I believe we will see the ability to control station jobs from a light mobile client running on Android and maybe even iOS. This light client would allow manufacturing, BPO research and BPO copy interaction. Initially I think we will see this enabled in NPC stations and eventually it will roll down to player owned stations.

Before they can get it to the POS level though, I think they are going to have to separate POS defense from POS everything else. The POS link to the combat system is a hinderance here and a possible exploit channel. The one thing the API cannot allow is combat access. A full client is needed for that. But these first steps at POS redesign in Odyssey is likely oriented toward the goal of isolating POS everything else. It's not just because CCP want's to make using a POS easier. Whatever they invest manhours in must have a better payoff than that. It has to advance the game. Allowing industrialists to run their businesses outside the main client will free up their actual play time for more engaging activities - pun intended. I could take care of business during my work breaks and reserve my limited evening playtime to actually playing with other people.

There is also a corollary to this approach. It will allow those who never wish to shoot at another player an opportunity to play Eve Online they way they want. One solution to the wolf in the sheep pen issue is to simply put the sheep in the barn. Right? Adding buy and sell order management to the CREST API, as industrialists also very much want, would create a new avenue for casual play. It might not make mining possible, but it would provide alternatives and could be a mini-game unto itself.

These short and medium term goals will run on all sorts of platforms. Applications (Eve Online mini-games if you like) for PCs, consoles, tablets and smartphones will abound once the CREST API is fully realized. In the long term though, the Eve Online client must be playable on tablet devices. A console client would be good, but consoles are just a dedicated computing device. Not everyone can have a console. If Google get's it's way, everyone will have a smartphone or tablet in the next two years. Read Mr. Schmidt's statement if you don't believe it.

You see, a lot has been made recently over the precipitous decline in PC sales worldwide. ZDNet and it's affiliated sites have run many, many articles about it.

Interpretations of the data abound. They run the typical gamut from the Chicken Little scenario to all is well. However, the one thing all they pundits agree on is the growth sector is no longer the PC. It is the mobile device, and at the top of that list is the tablet.

What CCP needs in the long term, and by long I mean within the next year or two at the most, is an Eve Online client that will run on a tablet platform. There is already much interest on the forums asking about it. CCP has been remarkably, or perhaps not remarkably, tight lipped about it. It's a tall order after all, especially when we don't even know if the graphics hardware on future tablets will support a game like Eve Online. There are certainly enough nay sayers.

But that's the growth market folks. That's what CCP has to do. CCP Unifex's transfer was not a demotion as some have speculated. It was not a lateral move either. It was a promotion into a job the scope and description of which hasn't even been invented yet. But it's exciting to contemplate what Mr. Lander could do there. Everyone thinks he did an excellent job with turning things around after Incarna. It's natural to believe (hope?) he can do similar great work with mobile platforms. And when Eve Online does come to the mobile platform, it will include everything that Eve Online is, not just PI as a game (though that may still happen.) I firmly believe the hardware will get there. I also think that CCP will get there. The only thing that remains to be seen is how quickly. With Mr. Lander at the helm, I have a feeling it will be quicker than otherwise.

Fly Careful

PS: The title is a bit of a troll so don't get too wrapped up in it. Okay?

1 comment:

  1. What Poe said was boring would be if PI were ripped straight from EVE and put into a mobile app. Poe then went on to describe a way in which the existing experience could be enhanced to be more fun and engaging.

    There is no reason EVE on a tablet cannot be a reality: any tablet running Windows 8 should be able to run EVE. I do not see the EVE client coming to ARM-powered devices any time soon though. I do like your thoughts about mini-games powered by CREST, but I would also like to see CCP expand the EVE universe beyond DUST: add more gameplay options for those who choose to pursue them.

    I do not know if CREST will allow for things like purchasing and fitting ships or creating and saving load-outs for your DUST merc, but those would also be useful applications for letting me spend more time shooting people in the spaceship.

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