I have a love-hate relationship with massively multiplayer online games (MMOs). I love playing them, but I hate the fact that I never have the time to really get into them. Over the years I've been fortunate enough to play most of them, not for long, but I've always had a good time. Because I have all these abandoned accounts, I occasionally get invited back into the games with a free week to see what has changed.
A few weeks ago I got an invite to return to a game that I'd not been near since mid-2005, Eve Online. Last week I accepted the invite and took it out for a spin. If you've never heard of Eve Online, then you've been missing out on one of the richest video games ever made. Take a bit of World of Warcraft, add a vast sci-fi setting, a Bachelor of Commerce and a Doctorate in Astrophysics and you end up with Eve Online. A torturously steep learning curve with squillions of different skills, ship mods and bits 'n' bobs make the game a bit eye-watering for a newbie.
Picking up a game after a six year absence is like trying to recover from amnesia. My old ship was docked at the space-station where I left it, kitted out and with a full cargo ready to depart for who-knows-where. Across the galaxy I'd also scattered items for some purpose or other, now lost to me.
It is perhaps no coincidence that publishers, CCP, chose to invite me back into the game right now... there's change afoot. Firstly, Eve Online's game engine is undergoing a transformation. The meat of the game is still the facts, stats and figures but in order to make the game less daunting for newcomers, from the 21 June Incarna update players will finally be able to leave their spacecraft and walk around; characters will no longer simply be little avatars in the corner of the screen.
The first phase will enable characters to walk around and interact in their personal captain's quarters. Later in the year, traversable areas will be extended to enable characters to meet face to face for the first time.
If MMOs are not your thing, CCP would still like you to experience its vast universe. Eve is coming to the PS3 with a unique take on the first person shooter genre called Dust 514. On the surface, the game looks to be in the same vein as Halo but the ground combat is actually linked directly into the universe of Eve Online. In orbit above the PS3 gamers, spacecraft controlled by PC and Mac gamers playing Eve Online, will enter the fray. Players from one game will be able to interact, trade and deal with the players in the other. The actions of players in one will affect the experience of the other.
This sort of cross-platform integration is something that we've been waiting a long time for.