As a longtime player of EVE Online, I have developed a set of expectations for CCP Games. I love their close relationship with their players, the fact that they tend to hire from their player base, and the fact that I can expect good – and free! – updates and expansions to EVE Online at regular intervals, among many other things. Yeah, I know; I complain about ships and balance issues and all a lot. Like any MMO player, I am going to complain about these things; frankly, some of the game changes CCP has made as of late in EVE Online make no sense, but yeah, fix the Jaguar and all that. That isn’t the purpose of this article. I will be the first to admit that, overall, they’ve got a lot more good points than bad points. However, I also cannot help but grow nervous anytime I hear they’re working on a new game, or concept… and frankly, CCP’s newest endeavor, Gunjack, is both.
First, a rundown of what it is… or what it should be, at any rate. Gunjack promises to be a new arcade style flight shooter set in the EVE universe, and it is being developed for the Samsung Gear VR… which is, itself, not even complete but is still in development, albeit in the final stages of said development. This is the second game CCP has announced which is being developed for play on new VR platforms, coming on the heels of the new EVE: Valkyrie flight simulator, which is supposed to be compatible with the Oculus Rift and other VR hardware. Gunjack is supposed to be a “shoot the ships as they fly toward you” sort of arcade-style shooter, unlike Valkyrie, which will be an actual flight simulator, where you take control of a fighter and fly it all around in space looking for stuff to shoot at. I like the idea of a simpler, lighthearted sort of game from CCP, and I think that extending that to a platform like the Samsung Gear is a great way to introduce a new audience to the world of New Eden, and maybe attract some new blood into our world. Neat.
Now, it will come as a surprise to no one that I rather enjoy flight simulators. I mean, I love EVE and EVE combat, but I would really enjoy flying my Wolf from a 1st person cockpit view with a joystick, for instance; I’m not so sure I want any sort of VR headset strapped to my face but hey, I’m also far from the majority here. I have some pretty serious problems with my vision, and any sort of VR headset won’t do me any favors; I still think it’s very cool that these sorts of games are on their way. I know I am not alone, and I think that these new VR thingies offer a great way to take this sort of game experience to a whole new level. I applaud CCP’s willingness to innovate, and I really hope that they are rewarded for their eagerness to take risks and produce games that aren’t the same old clones of old clones; their gambles have not always turned out so well thus far… and I gotta admit, this does look like a lot of fun.
There are some things that all of us with some connection to CCP and New Eden, the universe of EVE Online, have to keep in mind. EVE Online, CCP’s bread and butter for most of their existence, is growing old, and player numbers have fallen in the past year. That’s no real cause for alarm; MMOs in particular go through cycles like this, and MMOs which receive constant updates like EVE can stay running for a long, LONG time – for example, Furtopia has been running for nearly 20 years, and EVE’s playerbase is quite loyal. In spite of all of that, CCP Games is still a video game company and they are in business to make money. They understand that new product lines and innovation are very important to their long term well being, especially in the event that EVE does wither and die, which it will do sooner or later. Developing new games which take advantage of big changes in hardware is important. They must also keep well in mind, however, that they do not have the greatest track record with new “stuff”… and that’s it in a nutshell, really. My biggest worry is that, frankly, they will screw this up.
A few years ago, CCP trotted out their new character creator for EVE Online, which operated on the Carbon engine developed in-house by CCP for their then in production World Of Darkness MMO. We were promised that soon, our characters would be able to walk around and interact with one another inside station environments, and that more and more content would be released which took advantage of the amazing graphics that Carbon enabled. It was released, and yes, the graphics were mindblowing… and unfortunately, video card blowing. Following the release of the update which introduced the new character creator and Carbon engine – the update, by the way, was appropriately named “Ambulation” – the shine wore off, as people’s video cards began to be destroyed by the immense heat that they would produce while processing Carbon’s intense graphics. Fast-forward four years and World Of Darkness has been abandoned, any prospects of walking in stations outside the small “captain’s quarters” have been abandoned, and we are left with a wonderful, overly complex, and basically useless character creation engine. Don’t get me wrong, I love how amazing we can make our characters look, and I am happy that they still release new clothing items or tattoos or whatever for us, even if it’s only a handful of them here and there. I would just have loved it a whole lot more if: 1) I didn’t have to build a new machine to handle running it without catching fire, and 2) they’d actually allowed us to, you know, walk in stations and do things. A lot of time and money went into something we were all very excited about… and in the end, that thing flopped. However, I applaud them for doing it. They broke new ground.
DUST 514, CCP’s shooter for the Playstation 3, fared better but not by much. DUST has failed to attract the numbers of players that CCP had hoped. DUST was very groundbreaking; it was the first game to allow two completely different games (EVE Online and DUST) to interact with one another, and it was certainly the first game to enable two games to interact with each other when those games were both on very different platforms. As an EVE player, it’s very cool to be able to speak to DUST players in chat, and to be able to shoot at them from space as they fight over planetary control, way down there planetside. Once again, however, the game just hasn’t really lived up to anyone’s expectations. I have never played DUST as I do not own a PS3 and I do not really have any desire to buy one. It merits mention that another shooter is on the horizon for CCP Games and the EVE Online universe – this time for the PC, woo! – named Project Legion, which is being developed because DUST simply failed to meet expectations. Friends of mine who do play DUST 514 assure me that it’s good but that it has, once again, not lived up to the hype. Though DUST, unlike World of Darkness or flaming video cards, is at least making CCP money. And again, I applaud them for doing it… and again, they broke new ground.
If we include Project Legion, that makes at least three new games CCP has in production at once, two of which take advantage of very new technology, and a third which comes on the heel of an earlier game, modeled on a similar design, which has simply not done so well. Now, while three projects in development at once is not a large number, the fact that these are three rather risky projects should still keep everyone’s attention here. No one can ever say that CCP is afraid of taking risks, and while it might seem like I am seething with dissatisfaction with them, nothing could be farther from the truth. I love the world of New Eden and I have been a part of it now for almost eight years. I want to see more games developed which take place in this universe, which attract more people for me to interact with (read: shoot at) which will make CCP Games more money, which will in turn enable them to keep producing games which take place in this universe. Get it? I just fear that, like DUST and walking in stations, the new games will be a lot of hype and flash, but with very little substance.
CCP, I really, really want you to prove me wrong, ok? Don’t screw this up! Make sure you actually complete the development of these games and, you know, make sure they don’t cause video cards to burst into flames, or erase any critically important Windows startup files. Thanks. Oh, and buff the Jaguar already, sheesh. I want to kill people with it (in game).Related: CCP Games, Column, Gunjack, Shooter, The Final Frontier, Virtual Reality