Eve Online has long offered two large expansions per year, free of charge for players. This has kept the game, and its visuals, fresh and evolving in response to player demand and interaction.
The latest expansion, called Kronos, will be released on June 3 and will turn this practice on its head. There will now be ten updates to the game per year, rather than two large updates.
It may seem like this will lead to smaller changes, but the company argues that they can now be more aggressive and ambitious with its development cycle.
"It’s going to change everything. It’s going to allow us to respond quicker. It’s going to allow us to actually take more risk in a good way," CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson told Polygon. They don't have to plan far in advance to launch and enable large features, now if something slips or needs more work, they'll merely move its release to the next update, which will only be six weeks away.
"When you have a six month lead cycle, everything has to be so preplanned, and if anything falls out, then you have to release it half a year later," he continued. "Now, it just goes into the next release slot. So, in an intuitive way, it allows us to respond quicker, but in an unintuitive way, it actually allows us to do more long leading efforts and do more fundamental changes."
Now if a feature doesn’t make it into a large update, they don’t have to wait six months to try again. Some updates, which will come around every six weeks, will be large, and others will be small, but this change will allow the team to continually update the game and the systems within it. There will now be more opportunities to push changes to players, and to react to their feedback.
"So, in effect we were almost naturally moving into this, but now we have made the investment in process and infrastructure knowledge, and almost eventually it will turn into a culture change to break some of the habits that form when you are in this mode of releasing twice a year and that’s all you mentally think about. So, in effect we were evolving to this thing but now we’ve made a very clear distinction."
There will now be a series of updates, both large and small, that will be continually worked on, refined and adjusted, and each feature will simply be placed into one of the 10 pre-planned and pre-named slots for a game update.
This means that each update won’t be as large an event as the previous strategy of two expansions per year, but it does mean changes or fixes will come at a faster pace, and the team will be able to react to changes in the game in a much quicker way. CCP promises that the more frequent updates makes larger expansions easier, and possibly more frequent, but this is a large disruption of the game's core model.