EVE Online grows up fast with Crucible

I’ve been playing EVE Online since the summer of 2008, and have kept aclose eye on the state of things from time to time. CCP releases a free “expansion” every six months with lots of goodies in them. The latest, Crucible, is the first that I can remember to be a pure refinement-of-existing-concepts release.

There’s a great short list of the major points on the Crucible features page, and a much longer, blow-by-blow changelog that drills down into individual changes.

What makes Crucible so tasty?

CCP took a step back, listened to player feedback, and delivered… bigtime. This release was almost entirely devoted to addressing design warps, imbalances, and player-requested things. A few of my favorite hilights:

  • Tier 3 Battlecruisers. These things are very cool. Battleship weapons on a Battlecruiser.
  • Extensive UI tweaks, and a new font that makes some characters more distinguishable. Too many tweaks here to even get into. “Rubber band selection” is one of my favorite changes, though.
  • Hybrid Weapons Re-balanced to be a lot more useful.
  • Destroyers were buffed.
  • Supercaps were hugely nerfed. Hooray, we’ll see diversity in cap battles again (hopefully).
  • Titans were pretty majorly nerfed as well. No more drones, or shooting sub-caps. HP reduction, too.
  • Reduction of session timer. This was a huge pet peeve for me at the previous 30 seconds. It’s now 10, and I think you can almost instantly change ships in hangars now.
  • Corporation bookmarks. Yay!
  • Lots and lots of graphics tweaks and re-touches. There were too many to list on my little blog, but the game is looking better than ever.

Let’s hope this trend continues

The last handful of expansions were feature-heavy, and weren’t necessarily aiming at things that the players were requesting. Captain’s Quarters were notoriously half-baked and badly received. They’re a glorified tech demo. New nullsec sovereignty mechanics were just as bad as the old ones, arguably worse. Wormholes were dropped in and mostly not iterated on at all.

With this expansion, rather than add more half-baked garbage, CCP did the best thing and went back to iterate on things that needed some polish.

Lessons to apply to software development

The major points to keep in mind for your own software development, after watching CCP really stumble through the last few years:

  1. Listen to your customers! EVE saw some pretty severe reductions in subscriber base as it kept pushing to expand the feature list.
  2. Don’t keep pushing to expand your feature list without re-visiting existing things that need further iteration.
  3. Most importantly, don’t leave a trail of badly designed, or half-broken systems behind you as you march towards more features.

Let’s hope that future expansions strike a good balance between iterating existing things and adding the new. This expansion certainly fits the bill.