While EVE Online: Retribution concerns itself with justice and consequence and gavels, 2011's EVE Online: Incarna was all about your physical in-game avatar, that little packet of blood and bones piloting your ship. It introduced the ability to walk about inside your captain's quarters, checking out the marketplace and catching up on the latest news, but its greater ambition was to one day allow players to dock at stations and stroll around trading, /dancing and high-fiving one another. Sadly, Incarna never reached that stage of development. But why? CCP's Ned Coker explained what happened to EVE's perambulatory dreams.
So will Retribution bring with it any updates to Incarna - the expansion that introduced EVE's on-foot avatar experience?
"We don't have anything coming out with this expansion," explains Ned, "but we've had a team doing prototype work on the 'walking in stations' idea, that sort of Incarna gameplay. They're really looking at it from a base level upwards. So when we introduced the idea, we had grand visions of what it might be and we'd expressed that in various ways throughout the year. Then technology and complications became hard realities for us. We aimed pretty high and we met many of our goals, but not many of our gameplay goals. It really became more of a single player experience."
As with many elements of EVE's design and development, feedback from the CSM and the playerbase were critical in shaping how, or if, Incarna development would continue.
"As a platform it still works out really well for us, but based off player feedback we took a step back from our Incarna full development plans," says Ned. "We've had a team doing prototyping work on what Incarna gameplay might look like in the context of EVE's gameplay. They've done a couple of iterations on what that might be, with the 'EVE-ness' of it in mind. So you know, things like risk and reward, multiplayer action, stuff like that."
One of these prototypes involves players discovering wrecks in deep space, and having to leave their own ship to enter and explore these dangerous husks of dead ships, Ned explains.
"These are harsh environments where it's super dangerous. You're not offered a lot of protection and you have to co-operate with other players to make your way through these wrecks to retrieve cool new technology to bring back to your ship. The implementation of anything like that is going to be a ways off. Right now as a company it's not really feasible for us to put our full weight behind that."
Does this mean that Incarna's been mothballed? Ned says nope. "Incarna and avatar gameplay is definitely not shelved indefinitely, it's just not being worked on actively in full production right now."