As things stand right now we have to make mention of several unanswered questions that will impact the future course of events in Eve development. Where exactly does WiS stand? And when exactly will DUST514 hit the market?
Those two questions and the corresponding minutia of answers, inter-woven complexities, and fall-out will have a huge impact on what happens after the 2011 Winter Expansion. For the sake of this article I'm going to take control and tell you what I think should happen and see where those decisions lead us. This article isn't intended as a predictive model of the future as much as it is an outline of consequences.
When it comes to WiS I have a very clear vision of what I believe will happen in the Spring. WiS cannot be totally abandoned since it is integral to the support of DUST. It is also obvious that WiS expansion plans have been slowed down almost to a complete stand-still in pursuit of FiS solutions. It is easy to predict that our first establishment will be revealed sometime in the Spring. That establishment will be a sort of "Command Center" ( As hinted at in the future vision video we've all seen ) that will allow coordination between the Eve players and the DUST players. The exact nature of the relationship is starting to become clear and will mainly focus on planetary territorial engagements. To what exact benefit to either side remains dubious at the moment. But only because we don't know.
I would also think that some type of "Communal" room would also be introduced along with the Command Center. The likely hood of this depends greatly on the WiS issues being resolved and that is far from certain at this point. So we'll leave that idea to the maybe, possible, could be bin for now.
So coordination with DUST certainly seems to be the main driver for Spring/Summer plans. If this is the blueprint for future development cycles, it isn't a bad one. Spring/Summer Eve/Dust focus and Fall/Winter FiS focused. And just because Spring/Summer is DUST focused doesn't mean it doesn't include FiS elements, it will and it should. Ignoring the foundation of Eve is what brought us to this past Summer in the first place, I'd be hard pressed to believe CCP would do that again.
Corporations and Alliances are fighting over planetary territories for some benefit to the Eve Community. DUST is on the shelves and hopefully selling like hot-cakes. ( If you are a Eve player you want DUST to do well, believe me. ) So what else does 2012 hold in store?
There will be plenty to keep CCP busy during the next year. Further balancing, V3 deployments ( which means new models to stations, gates, ships, modules, etc.), T3 Frigates and further work on inter-space modifications to Null, Low and High-Sec. These are all exciting, needed and welcomed changes. But they simply aren't enough to generate the level of excitement, energy and public relations needed to seriously impact growth for Eve. But what could do that?
Next year's Winter Expansion will be monumental, will echo through-out the world and raise the stakes within New Eden to levels unheard of before. Why? Because this time next year the Jovians become a playable race and take their rightful place alongside the Caldari, Amarr, Minnie and Gal as the fifth race in New Eden. Jovian space is opened and a brand new world unfolds over a three month period of time, in a slow, deliberate and measured roll-out of new characters, ships, modules, space and time.
Why the Jovians? Well, you might as well ask, why not the Jovians? It is the empty corner, it is the big tease, the last remaining unknown, the new thing, the big deal. And here is the kicker, the Jovian ships will require not only new skills to fly, but skills from all four other races to fly. That's right, if you want to fly a Jovian ship - in most, but not all cases - you'll need skills from the other four races. While it will be possible to choose Jovian as your starting race, the true benefit of flying a Jovian ship will fall into the needy hands of the Bitter Vets alone.
This is for two main reasons. 1) It provides a new shiny to an increasingly older and extremely dedicated audience of subscribers, and 2) It provides the "aspirational" incentive that any large-scale universe requires, something to work towards, a goal, an objective beyond "this is cool" that can help drive players to achieve long-term subscriptions.
You can say all you want about the obvious challenges inherent in bringing the Jovian race into New Eden, and I'd be lying if I said there weren't some, but those can be overcome rather easily given the proper ground work. We've seen that type of ground work before from CCP when it came to the Sansha incursions, so the model for how it can happen has been tested.
The cool part? And this is just my own wishful thinking. ANY character can become Jovian if they wish. A bar would have to be set, say perhaps 100m skill-points, but it is well within the established ( with some minor tweaking ) to assume Jovian technology could achieve such an outcome. So come next Winter your 100m sp Caldari avatar can undergo a transformation (one that might even cost a PLEX or two) into a pure Jovian avatar.
In the end, whatever happens next year is going to be impacted greatly by what happens in less than two months. And then, again, by what happens in the Spring. To me the road seems more clearly defined than it was at this time last year, so progress has been made.
As for me, I'm looking forward to it. And to awesome new Jovian ships.
So what are you looking for next year, and what do you think of the Jovian expansion?