It is an alien feeling to sit down and write about an EVE expansion in a positive way. Not positive in the ‘taking a stand to defend an awkward position’ sense, not positive in a careful, equivocal way, but actually 100% ‘holy crap, this expansion is going to own’ - the sort of unabashed goodwill that borders on being pollyannaish. Yet what is on SiSi speaks for itself: Crucible is a revolutionary upgrade to the fundamental gameplay of EVE.
It seems that the management of CCP, finally aware of their irrational exuberance in pursuing the ‘visions’ of Incarna and Tyrannis, has given CCP Soundwave - the lead designer of Flying in Space - a badge and asked him to save the game. From what we’re seeing on Sisi, Crucible does just that - it pulls EVE away from the precipice, reaffirming the core mantra that ‘Eve is about Spaceships, damn it’ and provides the first serious spaceship content we’ve had since Dominion in 2009. Since Dominion was mostly bad and Incursions, while amusing, was mostly fixes for Tyrannis - we have to go way back to Apocrypha - March 2009 - to find superlatives strewn about with similar enthusiasm.
The Sucking Chest Wounds (tm) of EVE are being addressed at long last. These top issues - lag, supercapital imbalance, hybrid weaponry, and POS Misery are all being attacked with vigor in Crucible. Bitter vets on Failheap are left confused and speechless, with little to say beyond ‘this should have been done years ago’ - true, of course. But these sour grapes are difficult to countenance in the face of Time Dilation, Doomsdays no longer impacting subcapitals, massive buffs to blasters and railguns, and a dramatic reduction in POS timers and the addition of fuel bricks.
In the aftermath of the Incarna disaster, almost all of the employees in Reykjavik and Atlanta have been put on Flying in Space features work. Quite aware that the future of the company is on the line, the devs have put in a massive amount of effort in a short time to create an ‘emergency expansion’, a last-minute course correction to steer CCP away from the iceberg of mass unsubscriptions. Crucible is not an expansion in the traditional sense, though it does add four new battlecruisers; it is a mega-patch, full of crucial tweaks and quality of life improvements. We do not hear players complaining about a lack of a grand narrative for Crucible; the lesson for the management of CCP is that major efforts to polish the existing content in the game are more attractive to customers than impressive-sounding new features that faceplant.
But singing uncritical hosannas about Crucible is wearying. Instead of cheerleading CCP for at last doing the right thing - other websites have that covered - let’s examine the winners and losers of Crucible, read the tea leaves, and try to part the hazy mists of the future.
Supercap Fetishists: Doubtless the biggest losers in Crucible are those who have based their alliance identity and gameplay around unsupported supercaps dominating everything. For years it’s been difficult to send even a small gang through a region like Syndicate without a cyno opening and supercaps dropping on the humblest handful of battlecruisers. Crucible attacks supercap abuse on a number of fronts. Most significantly, the logoff mechanics have been changed to prevent supercaps from simply disconnecting, secure in the knowledge that only a fleet could take them down before the fifteen minute aggro timer expires and they vanish. In Crucible, a small gang will be able to hold down and keep aggressed a logged-off supercap, making it less likely that supercaps will be dropped on small targets. Doomsdays will now only impact capital ships, and drones are being removed from both Titans and Supercarriers, which underlines the need for supercaps to be used as part of an integrated fleet with subcap support.
Uncreative Suicide Gankers: As a dedicated hisec ganker, even I thought it silly that one could receive an insurance payout after a suicide gank. Crucible removes this, which makes ganking for profit in larger hulls less viable. Ganking for sport is unaffected.
Drone Region Botters: There is a particular anomaly in the Drone Regions that has been exploited to vomit forth a ludicrous amount of isk. This has been fixed in Crucible, unleashing a deafening howling on the forums. This demonstrates the danger of allowing exploits to remain in the system for so long: players become attached to them, and a feeling of entitlement develops.
CSM Deniers: Most of the types who whine about the CSM being a toothless PR stunt have now, after seeing Crucible, switched to accusing the CSM of being too powerful - which is a novelty. The Crucible features list explicitly prioritizes CSM6’s agenda, and I’m pretty smug about it.
The Naive: The incremental nerfs to supercaps won’t end their stupidity. Mass groups of supercaps can still operate without support, using supercarriers with webs to slow down anything tackling a group of Titans, and letting Titan guns finish them off. Until supercapitals are given completely noncombat roles, mudflation will still rule the day in nullsec, and alliances will continue to churn out Titans as fast as they can. At a bare minimum, Titan gun tracking needs a significant nerf beyond Crucible, or prevent them from targeting subcaps altogether.
Similarly, there are a host of hisec dwellers who have convinced themselves that the reason gankers kill them is because of a profit motive, rather than the sheer joy of cruelty. In the run-up to Crucible there have been a host of self-congratulatory posts by the victims of the Interdiction Zone suggesting that the insurance nerf will end ganking. Yet after the patch they will discover that gankers kill not because of a desire to make isk, but for its own sake; a new Hulkageddon will begin after the patch, insurance be damned.
Logistics Ships: Unquestionably the biggest winners of Crucible. In addition to a warp speed bonus and a slot setup that renders the Oneiros, almost every major feature in Crucible conspires to make the lives of Space Priests easier. Time Dilation will make it easier to react during large battles. Doomsdays - which often targeted Logistics ships in major fights - will no longer destroy them, or the Command Ships which provide bonuses to remote repair. Those bonuses will themselves be boosted by the introduction of T2 Gang Links.
Dreadnoughts: Players have long called for the siege cycle to be reduced to match the triage cycle; at last Crucible brings it to five minutes. Dreadnaught DPS is also increasing with the introduction of a T2 Siege Module. Dreads have been mothballed during the heydey of Supercapitals Online, with the siege timer leaving them too vulnerable; expect to now see them undocking and looking for vengeance.
Organized Alliances: Time Dilation will provide a boost to alliances that have their logistics organized. In a situation where a laggy battle slows a node to a crawl, the faster an alliance can send reinforcements in proper ships into the dilated node, the more likely they are to win. Alliances which stock fitted ships on contracts will have an advantage over those that expect their pilots to buy and fit ships individually off the market.
Small Gangs: With the removal of subcapital Doomsdays and Supercarriers only able to field fighters instead of smaller drones, small gangs can get back to roaming without being obliterated whenever a cyno pops. This should help restore small-scale PvP across EVE, as roams will have to be countered by subcap defense fleets rather than ten unsupported Titans.
CCP: Not going bankrupt - and having some good press for a change - will shift CCP’s narrative from ‘hubris-glutted company crashes and burns due to a series of awful decisions’ to a feel-good redemptive tale where CCP learns the error of their ways and get ‘the girl’ back - where ‘the girl’ is their legions of irate, unsubbed customers.
Who are mostly boys.
My calls all turned out to be correct about the winners and losers; go me.
I miss the halcyon days of Crucible. What strikes me about the discourse surrounding Crucible is the "I want to believe" factor; everyone wanted desperately to believe that CCP had turned a corner and that now Things Were Different. Our cups ran over, and after so many years of crappy expansions the playerbase basically had no idea what to do or say.
As I write this in August 2012, we've had a lackluster Inferno follow-up to Crucible, with nothing particularly exciting on the horizon revealed in the CSM minutes besides a death march to the release of Dust 514.