The Ascension expansion – there’s so much in this update that it certainly deserves the title, compared to “update” – as been delayed by a week to November 15. From those who have been testing out some of the new features on Sisi, it sounds like there are still plenty of bugs to work out, but I’m not certain which yet.
So, alpha clones won’t hit for an extra week. An extra week for corporations to prepare, PLEX prices to rise, the injector market to get ready for a sudden increase in demand, and CCP marketing to fret over the level of success they can expect.
Will alpha clones cause an influx of players? Even two weeks before launch, I still can’t say. To read Reddit, a lot of players are intrigued by the possibilities. Will that translate into an actual increase of players in game? And if so, how many?
I’ve seen a number of screenshots of CCP trying its best to push players to Omega status at every possible opportunity, and I can imagine that will become tiresome after a while. How much of that will players endure before they start to feel annoyed? And, leaving alone the user interface issue, will single-race limited gameplay be engaging enough to keep people either logging in long term or making the jump to omega status?
At the same time, CCP is set to launch industrial citadels as well. That alone would be a huge sea-change for an expansion. At the moment, industrial citadels seem to leave the small-scale industrialist in a lurch, with the cost of the smallest citadel is going to be over five times the cost of a POS equivalent, and that represents a much larger risk.
I’ve often thought we need a deployable industrial option similar to a mobile depot for pop-up industrial options. Sure, put whatever limitations you’d like on them, but right now, a billion isk to set up an attackable asset for an industrial corp really isn’t a comparable option. I suspect we could see a whole industry develop around wardeccing industrial corps for their shiny citadel killmails.
Yet, something else strikes me. I wonder at the timing. We have alpha clones and industrial structures happening simultaneously, both of which will be hugely transformative to the game. Given their importance and the impact they’ll (likely) have on the game, less-than-two months’ advance warning really isn’t very much at all.
Why shove them both into the same expansion? On the one hand, maybe it’s simply a desire to provide something big and new (industrial arrays) to provide a reason for lapsed players to log back in – particularly something for non-PvPers after years of PvP-heavy content.
But what if it’s something more? CCP is working on replacing player activity with NPC mining fleets, effectively populating New Eden with surrogate players that other players can interact with. Alpha clones is a tacit recognition that having a player in the game for free is better than not logging in at all, due to the benefits to other, paying customers.
It’s pretty clear that CCP wants more activity in-game, and they want it NOW. If there’s a product strategy document being passed around CCP headquarters, “Increase concurrent logins” is high on their priority list.
Ascension is clearly meant to generate a lot of buzz and appeal to a wide audience, and it’s looking to be the biggest update for the past several months, at least since the launch of Citadel, and I’d argue even larger than that because of alpha clones. Rather than wait and split off industrial arrays, CCP is doing everything possible to load November 15 with as much meaningful content as possible.