With Incursion giving us glimpses of what Incarna will have to offer (the the Character Creator), this month's topic, by @Minerpewpew, comes just at the right time. He asks "What are your thoughts on how Incarna will effect the current EVE Online social dynamic?" I'd like to see this questioning go a bit further. How will this affect EVE's player base? Who will Incarna attract? New players to the genre? Seduce old players back into the game? Will we see new players come in that will never leave their station? Please explore to the best of your abilities!There is always talk of Incarna in the Forums, which are littered with the bleats of 'CCP will ruin internet spaceships if they implement this!'. People will always battle change as it comes there way. And once it is here, they will continue to complain until the next change looms over them and only then will their focus shift. CCP, however, need to move forward. They're long-term goal is to amalgamate DUST 514 and New Eden, and (character-wise) Incarna will allow us to better connect with our toons in the game by bringing them to life. I applaud this notion - DUST or no DUST.
However, I recognise that this change is genuinely not important to everyone. For some people, flying space-ships is what makes them kick off their pants. So, from certain stand-points, the expansion is pointless even if they do play in-character. Others that have several accounts might be distanced from the idea of navigating several toons around a station, which could be a pain. Players (like myself) who do have a focused toon are offered a better connection with our space-fairing alter-ego. Being able to have a much more 'alive' character who can wander stations and interact with other pilots physically (as far as sprites go) will improve the experience a great deal more. So this is one of the best steps CCP can take for role-players.
As long as pilots can still function as if the expansion wasn't there, I can't see it being a problem in any respect. And by that I mean trading, selecting missions, creating contracts, etc. If pilots had to 'physically' leave their pod, wander off into the station and track down a seedy figure in a bar to acquire 'Damsel in Distress' everytime, then I can see a lot of subscriptions getting cancelled. However, I am confident in saying that CCP will not do this. Although, it would be nice to have the option to. It would also be nice if agents, etc, would actually talk. I'm sure this would be a short-lived novelty as people would get sick of hearing the same voices say the same things over and over again but, as before, it would be nice to have the option.
So what else would I like to see? How about in-station first-person missions? Why not have the option to 'Stop the Thief' before he even gets away with those stolen reports? And if you don't manage to chase him down through the crowds of fellow pilots before he gets to his ship, then you just have to hop into your Battlecruiser and take him out the old-fashioned way. If the in-station missions were broad enough, then that alone could attract a whole new world of subscribers. Sure, it may drag some pilots out of their ships and reduce the number of folks in space for a while, but that would undoubtedly be off-set by the new first-person subscribers giving 'life in a space-ship' a whirl. The levels of 1-5 will still remain, security status will continue to rise or fall as in 'normal' missions and skills would still be trained (Hand-to-Hand Combat Level-5, anyone?).
So, I guess I'm saying that the mission mechanics in a station would be the same as in space (even 'fleeting up' with other players), but it would be so visually different that it could work. And don't forget with first-person missions - it wouldn't be a case of standing in the middle of the room and tanking the weapon fire, tactics and cover would need to be used here.
In-station missions could also lead into the manufacturing and inter-system trade of skills, medical supplies, drugs, fire-arms and ammunitions being sold in player-owned 'shops'. Yet another commodity to introduce which will please traders, manufacturers, researchers and pew-pewers all in one hit. And while you're waiting for your flame-thrower and it's ammo to be delivered why not stand at a real-time view port overlooking the docking-tunnel of Jita. We could witness the constant flow of ships along with the flashes of turret fire as pirates bring down juicy freighters. All this would surely make activity in station rich and interesting.
Bounty hunters can still attempt to gun down those wanted pirates on foot. It wouldn't be EvE if pilots couldn't shoot or brawl or 'stealth-attack' other pilots - in or out of ships. How about thieves stealing that prized laser-pistol from your very own utility belt? How about 'awareness' skills to reduce the risk of someone successfully depriving you of your treasures? A personal drone hovering over you emitting a protective shield? And, or course, CONCORD would still be present as security guards. NPC characters could offer a lot, too - whether just as background to 'fill' the stations or talking to them to find bonus missions, story-lines, secret locations, black-market sellers, bonus items/ships or even just juicy targets to thieve or gun-down and loot before CONCORD realise what you've done. As always, putting richer rewards in (or rewards that are only exclusive to) Low-Sec might draw more people out there.
But regardless of what it will offer, Incarna won't please everyone. What expansion does? In fact, forget the game for a minute and lets look at real life. What single decision pleases everyone when it is addressed to a large group of people? I'm talking about realistic decisions here. But thinking about it I'm sure even Empire gankers will have a great time popping macro-runners while the 'active' player-base swarms to stations to try out all the shiny new things on the release. So the players that are worried about people dwelling or hiding in stations, don' be just yet - give it a chance. And even if players do take to 'hiding in stations' then so what? After all, this game is for EVERYONE and if there are players who like to immerse themselves into a station-dwelling story rather than being potential pew-pew fodder then let them. However, I trust that griefers will always find a way to break through if such barriers were put up. After all, no-one is safe in EvE, right?
In one of the previous blog-banters CK put forward the question asking why there is a lack of female players in EvE, and (from what I read) it was largely down to the inability to customise ones appearance. MOST women like to decorate their appearance (well, that's no secret) and EvE's lack of this function deterred them from signing up. It will be a good test to see if Incarna does increase the female player-base. And for people who perhaps left EvE due to the void created by the lack of a 'physical character' and story-line to role-play with might now return.
And with regards to it's release, yes CCP probably announced the expansion far too early as we've been waiting a long time for it, but if they get it right and release it bug free then I'm happy to wait for a long time yet. I can enjoy the game as it currently is, and any expansion is nothing more than a bonus.