Daily Archives: June 3, 2014

Kronos – The Last Big EVE Online Expansion

In addition to WildStar’s official launch, today CCP is deploying the Kronos expansion for EVE Online.

EVE Online - Kronos

EVE Online – Kronos

This might be the final big, bi-annual expansion for EVE.  The game has a long standing tradition of putting out two free expansions every year… or so.  There is a long line of splash screens that document the march from 2003 forward. (Though changes to the launcher have made those splash screens a thing of the past, which is sort of a shame.)

As with such expansions, there is a laundry list of changes and updates with Kronos. (Plus some music!  I like it!)  EVE Online expansions can challenge your expectations as to what an MMO expansion can and should be.  If you mention an expansion in the context of EverQuest or World of Warcraft, you can probably take a stab at the content sight unseen and be pretty much on the mark in general.  More zones, more levels, another race or class, more raids, more dungeons, maybe some new trade skill or something like housing or such.  There is a pretty standard format to build from.

EVE Online expansions though can range far and wide.  Sure, more often than not “new ships” will be on the list along with some sort of rebalance.  But sometimes the big feature is just making old features work better.  I think Crucible was one of the more popular expansions just because it focused on a lot of nuts and bolts issues that made the game better over all.

So “fixing stuff” can be an expansion in New Eden.

You’d probably be pissed if you spent $40 on a “fixing stuff” expansion for EQ or WoW, but since EVE expansions are free, that can actually be a big deal.  Sometimes the small things are the best things.

So, on the big laundry list of features for Kronos, I am probably most interested in the changes to blockade runners and deep space transports.  Moving things around in EVE is always serious business.  And then some of the superficial things interest me.  The ongoing “death to asymmetry” campaign for Caldari ships continues as the Crow and the much maligned Moa hulls get sleek new models with Kronos.  The Moa especially has long been a sore spot for some, so it is nice to see it go from ugly duckling to Firefly-esque beauty.

And that is the joy of the big expansions.  It is like Christmas and there is something under the tree for everyone, even a goof like me who is more interested in pretty ships than freighter changes or drone rebalances or pirate faction ship updates and changes.

But going forward, the twice yearly package is going to be changed to more content drops spaced out more evenly over the course of the year.  CCP has a rationale written out for why they are making this change and how they expect it to work out, going from two expansions to ten every year.  And they have a graphic for the idea.

EVE Online Forever

EVE Online Forever

But I have to wonder how it will work out.  Those who follow the demographics of the game have pointed out that expansions tend to also be peaks in subscriptions as older players come back to see what is new.  Big expansions make for big events… even if they are not always what CCP expected. (Roll stock footage of shooting the monument after Incarna.)

Yet, big events also make for big expectations as well.  As Neville Smit points out, there is often some let-down… or a lot of let-down… after an expansion.  As at Christmas, new toys and don’t necessarily change the reality of your situation.  More releases with less content will mean that there will be both less to see and less to be disappointed by I suppose.  We will have to see how that balances out as we move forward into this new plan.

The CCP Train Schedule

The CCP Content Train Schedule

First up is Cruis, which is supposed to include the industry re-vamp that was originally slated for Kronos, but which turned out to be too controversial initially so ended up getting pulled out for a re-think.  That change, no matter how it ends up, will be a big deal for a lot of players.

But will it make as big a splash?  I’ve written about content pacing before.  I am going to bet there are a bunch of WoW players out there who, facing a long summer before Warlords of Draenor can be expected, might like smaller but more frequent releases.  But for all the faults of Blizzard’s long (for the industry) expansion cycle, it does make every expansion a big deal.

Is it better to hit (or fail to hit) a grand slam every couple years, or to get to just get on base more often?  You’ll say “get on base,” but nobody writes headlines about that.  We shall see.

But I still miss the splash screen for each new expansion.

WildStar Launches Today

Yes, there has been beta and open beta and a headstart for those who pre-purchased the game, but all that is in the past now.  Today is the official launch day for WildStar.  Today the game goes live for everybody and anybody can wander in off the street, buy a copy, and start playing.


Well, you can start playing is you can get into the game.  I thought I saw somebody mention a server queue time estimate of 3 days over the weekend.

But, if you’re going to have a problem, being too popular is one to have.  And the team at Carbine is trying to do what they can, even offering free realm transfers.

Granted, your options are from specific, high population realms to specific low population realms, but at least you have an option.  How often are realm transfers even a thing this early in a game’s lifecycle?  Sure, it was understandable back when EverQuest launched, but server transfers tend to be a post-launch item for most games, coming along when things start to go south.

Of course, the team at Carbine has had a lot of time to consider what ought to be in a game at launch, the founders having been made up of 17 former Blizzard employees who left the company back in 2005 to make their own MMO.  Fortunately… or maybe unfortunately from some points of view… they didn’t lock themselves away to develop their game, but paid attention to what has come to pass in the industry.  So along with the Blizzard polish, they have some other twists, like the combat system and the paths mechanic (which I think represents a misunderstanding of what Bartle meant by his types, but whatever) as well as some older ideas like their PLEX-like CREDD and the whole now very retro monthly subscription fee thing.

The question now is, will it work?

Lots of people seem happy with the launch, aside from the whole “help, I’m stuck in a queue!” issue.  Blog posts I have seen so far trend towards very favorable… but that tends to be the case for most launches, unless something is horribly wrong.

Even my pal Gaff, who has worn out his most recent return to WoW, is quite enthusiastic on the subject.  Some actual IMs from him:

wildstar is worth the money

already, in my experience of 3 hours or so, a seriously cool mmo

very polished, huge, great graphics, smooth

combat system awesome, more like diablo with just a few buttons

lots of depth

be ready for stupid queues right now though

I do have to take that with a grain of salt though.  He does get enthusiastic about games early on.  There is a history of him finding a new game, telling me all about it and at just the point where I plunk down the money and log in, he stops playing.

So his enthusiasm hasn’t lured me yet.  I am content with what I am playing now and don’t feel the need to drop $60 on a box to start up another $15 a month subscription.  As Forbes put it, that is asking for too much commitment, at least for now.

We shall see how things look a few months down the road when things have settled down and the first blush enthusiasm has been dampened by the realities of the game.  Will WildStar be able to hold on to its initial subscription base and maybe even grow over time?  Or are we past that even being a possibility these days?  Is holding on to enough subscribers to pay for the transition to free to play the only thing we can hope for in the long run of MMOs now?  Is the first wave of players more like the last round of financing?

[For those scoring my F2P attitudes at home, this post counts as a tie, as I both eschew the idea of paying $75 up front to play the game AND I complain about the idea of it going F2P.]