In American business, we have a phrase: "This is basic blocking and tackling." It's a reference to American football, where blocking and tackling are the most basic single-player defensive and offensive tactics there are, respectively. The phrase is used when pointing out that something that needs to be done shouldn't be very complicated. However, from time to time, the phrase is used in a somewhat different context: "We need to go back to basic blocking and tackling." In this form, the phrase means that a team needs to refocus on fundamentals for a while before it can do anything more complicated.
And if you can read between the lines, that's the situation that EVE faces for the next little while. I'm tempted to call this time frame :18months:, in fact, but I won't. Much.
At the EVE Online keynote on Friday, CCP Seagull announced that instead of twice per year expansions, EVE development will now take place in mini-expansions every six weeks or so. She reaffirmed her vision of "capsuleers taking control of space" with player-built stargates as a centerpiece for that vision. She then laid out the blueprint for how EVE development is going to go during this nebulous future time period in the chart above. There are six arrows on this chart representing six major systems that have to be updated -- and likely rebuilt -- in EVE's code. One of the six is now done, or close to it: the upper left arrow "Industry, science, teams". That single arrow is the focus of a six month expansion.
There are five arrows left to go, three of which are dependencies for and therefore have to be completed before CCP can even begin the "Stargate construction & control" arrow. Each of those arrows represents a major structure underpinning EVE Online.
Did Seagull make any promises about how long each additional arrow would take to complete? She did not. She only laid them out in order:
- Corps & Alliances first; then,
- Stations, outposts, and starbases; then,
- Sovereignty & warfare; before finally,
- Stargate construction & control.
Therefore, the other unspoken implication is also clear enough: Seagull doesn't want this to take anywhere near this amount of time. She will expect these features to be deliverable on an accelerated schedule thanks to the new mini-expansion methodology. It's an aggressive strategy! Will it work? We now all have front-row seats to see.
All that said, it would be a major mistake to think that these four arrows are all that is going to be worked on during this time period. As I've said many times, CCP can walk and chew gum at the same time. There are a zillion and ninety-three smaller features that the game designers and devs will want to insert into the next ten expansions and they're going to work like crazy to implement a zillion and seventy-six of them. So don't get the impression that I'm thinking that these four things are all we have to look forward to because I don't think that at all.
Finally, one more note on this topic. It's a good thing that I have a lot of respect for CCP Pokethulu, CCP's Chief Marketing Officer because he has a very tricky job during this :18months:. EVE's marketing has forever been tied to the six month expansion cycle and the need to get players and the gaming press excited about these major expansions. As I've written several times, this causes a "feast or famine" cycle in EVE's subscriptions and PCU count. In theory, the shorter expansion cycles should mitigate some of that and encourage EVE players to stay subscribed over longer periods. If it works, that's good for CCP.
But it still puts Pokethulu in a tricky spot: he has to promote EVE Online... whose expansions are going to be individually less ambitious and therefore harder to sell... while at the same time dealing with the fact that the major development efforts are going to be focused on basic blocking and tackling items. These items -- while exciting for existing players -- will probably be really tough sells for new players. Again though, he'll have smaller achievements to sell too.
So, interesting times ahead! Discuss.