Project Aurora – What, Why, Will it Succeed?Hopeful Turtle
Project Aurora looks to be a mobile based, multiplayer, empire building game set in the EVE universe. Let’s break that down.
Firstly, mobile based – it is going to be a mobile game, by all appearances. The key developers on it are PlayRaven, a Finnish company which explicitly creates mobile games. Whilst we cannot rule out the possibility of a port to the PC at a later date, I think it relatively safe to say that the product we are dealing with is, first and foremost, an app game for a smartphone.
Secondly, multiplayer – looking at some of the released images and the Vegas presentation on it, Aurora is clearly not going to be a single-player game in the vein of Stellaris or Sins of a Solar Empire. We can see this in the fact that it explicitly mentions fighting other players for control of outposts and systems. Moreover, the existence of formalised corps looks likely to be ported over as well, allowing for that particular speciality of EVE to flourish in this new game.
Lastly, empire building – this game is not going to consist of flying a single ship around, like an ersatz EVE. Instead, it seems likely that each player will take control of a small fleet and use it to both mine minerals from asteroids and defend their concerns from attack. Research also seems apparent, unlocking the ability to construct larger structures and useful ships, along with creating more advanced industrial processes; for example, moon mining operations.
No word yet has been given on whether the game will be single-shard in character or multisharded, but it seems plausible that it will at least be single-shard to begin with, in order to maximise the numbers of players online. This is encouraging for any corps which would like to set up programs in Aurora.
So, now that that has been answered, the next question is simple – why? Well, the glib answer would be that Hilmar took a look at app store sales and decided to have a piece of the pie. However, the addition of a mobile app to the EVE portfolio actually makes a great deal of sense along three key metrics – accessibility, casual play and greater integration.
It may also attract new people into EVE
Firstly, there is the matter of accessibility. CCP Falcon made it clear at the Vegas keynote that one of CCP’s objectives is to make the bar of entry into EVE lower and easier to pass into fully enjoying the game. This can be seen, for example, in the changes to Alpha clones – and the same concept applies when considering a mobile game. Some people may not have the time to regularly play EVE to any great extent; a mobile app is an easy replacement for this, and keeps them within the EVE ‘headspace’, making sure that if they do get free time, they can return to the game proper. It may also attract new people into EVE proper, as they may start by playing the cheap and easy mobile game and then get slowly sucked into the wider universe.
Aurora may be a prototype to see how well an EVE app works and sells
Secondly, there is the point that CCP has, for some time, now pursued a strategy of multi-platform integration with EVE. DUST 514, and the upcoming Project Nova, are clear examples of this; whilst the EVE Valkyrie roadmap most likely does (or did) contain plans to integrate Valkyrie combat into the wider EVE universe. Aurora may be a prototype to see how well an EVE app works and sells, a precursor to an app dedicated to a specific part of the EVE universe. One suggestion we have seen where a mobile app might be interesting is Planetary Interaction, and this would make a degree of sense.
Lastly, there is the simple fact that it allows even dedicated EVE players a chance to engage with the EVE universe away from their home computers. Whereas the only out of game EVE content available was /r/Eve, alliance communications, and various Eve news websites, an EVE app might give rise to casual play on the bus or waiting in queues, allowing greater involvement and engagement with CCP by the community.
Will it Succeed?
It’s hard to say whether Aurora will succeed or fail – it does appear to still be in the early stages of development, and it would be rather poor form to declare it successful or moribund based on the limited information we have at the moment.
It can be claimed that CCP doesn’t have a great record with spin-off games
It can be claimed that CCP doesn’t have a great record with spin-off games, a claim which does appear to be mostly true; Valkyrie appears to have crashed and burned, whilst DUST was deployed onto the wrong console. However, CCP devs are not, by all accounts, heavily involved with Aurora – rather PlayRaven is taking the lead, and it has a successful portfolio of mobile games to the extent that we might expect a degree of mechanical success.
I am not a professional game developer or marketer, but I feel that the key determinator for the success of Aurora is whether it can successfully engage non-EVE players. Some EVE players will play it; but not, I suspect, in a mass numbers. However, if a large number of non-EVE players can get involved, then not only will it provide some revenue to CCP, it could also be a highly effective pipeline of new players into EVE – especially since Aurora emphasises the nullsec style empire building over and above high-sec mission running.
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