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