CCP rolled out a pair of devblogs on Tuesday, which offer a look into their future plans for what amounts to "how things will be done." The first, from CCP Unifex (Executive Producer of Eve Online) delves into a general overview of their development strategy; the second serves to elaborate a bit on that strategy as well as introduce CCP Seagull, who has assumed the role of Senior Producer.
A Step Back for Two Steps Forward
CCP's plan going forward can really be summarized as a return to Apocrypha. It's an old idea, but it worked, so there's nothing wrong with that. For the newer players, Apocrypha was characterized by "a little bit of everything". There were new PvE and exploration opportunities in the forum of the Sleepers found in Wormholes, new industry opportunities in the form of Tech 3 ships (built from materials obtained in the wormholes), and... well, you see the theme: A bunch of stuff, connected with a theme. Done right, the result is not expansions where huge groups of players feel left out (highsec in the nullsec focused Dominion, nullsec in the more high and lowsec focused Inferno and Retribution, etc), there will be something for everyone. Given how popular Apocrypha was as an expansion, it's a good philosophy to use.
The Big Things
A fairly common reaction from players is "What about the big things?" The idea seems to be that if CCP does several small things, we'll never get big features again. To those players I'd simply point out that Apocrypha featured Wormholes as the theme that tied everything together. It's hard to classify wormholes as a small feature. CCP Seagull addresses it further in the comment thread for her blog.
We can still do big things and long term things that take more than one release, because we can have a single theme run across multiple releases - and ship the "big" thing in the second or third release on a theme - or just silently work on shipping preparation features for a bigger change, like how the refactoring of Crimewatch was done, before we made any real changes to the related features.
I think a "Jesus feature" means some single huge feature that is believed to be THE solution to either growing or fixing the game - and that's what we want to never do again. But we can still do big changes to the game - just with a clear idea of what we're trying to achieve with them, and a realistic set of expectations for what they will bring to the game.
More From Seagull
CCP Seagull has moved up into the role of "Senior Producer", which according to Unifex is "is about solidifying the product vision and short, medium and long term roadmap with the help of people from across CCP, our players and of course the CSM and making sure that it becomes a reality." To me, that reads as more of a creative oriented position; Seagull guides what gets done, while her counterpart, CCP Ripley, guides how it gets done. Seagull offers a peek at some of her plans for the near and distant future in her blog.
The first, and I think most interesting, is "Design for “Enablers” & “Instigators”". Part of that interest is a personal stake in the idea (I consider myself a member of both categories more than anything else these days), but most of it is because it's a peek at the larger strategy. It tells me that CCP isn't looking at the playerbase in terms of "highsec" or "lowsec" or "nullsec" anymore, which is a good thing. Instead, they're enablers or instigators, industrialists, PvPers (large scale, small scale and otherwise), and so on and so forth. Players in these categories may differ slightly in their concerns based on the area they identify with, but in general will have far more in common with each other than a nebulous blanket definition based on where one makes their home.
What else of interest? "What should I do now?" Unifex answered that in his own blog: "Whilst I never want to move completely away from caring for the game we already have and continue to update it as it grows more mature, I think it is time to be a little more ambitious." Seagull elaborating, confirming a general idea of adding more things to do. "We want to make EVE more accessible, but without making it casual, removing sophistication or dumbing it down." More content for more playstyles with bugfixes and iterations as necessary, less bugfixes and iterations wrapped up and packaged as expansions.
CCP responded to the CSM's "Eve Online Development Strategy" by taking it and running. The original document was a pretty solid piece of work, in my opinion, and even if CCP improved considerably on it. I do share many players' concerns regarding whether CCP can actually stick to it (along with the healthy dose of skepticism that it turns out well shared by most any bittervet) but I also think that it raises the odds of good things happening considerably. If it goes badly, it has the potential to go really badly... but personally, I think it will go well. Call it naive optimism if you like, but CCP has given us more reason to have it than not lately, in my opinion.
It won't take long to find out who's right. This is a clean slate for CCP, and they're applying it in the Summer 2013 expansion and onward. They'll start with developing the theme and then move from there, and Seagull promises updates on the process as they're available. Meanwhile, we're supposed to get a closer look into the details of the process itself from the CSM summit minutes, so stay tuned!