According to developer CCP, the Premium graphics version of its space MMO EVE Online is only half complete. The Premium version was introduced with the Trinity expansion late last year.
"EVE in a a state where, if you run the Premium graphics edition, half of it is done, you could say," CCP's chief technologist Halldor Fannar told a press conference on the first day of the EVE Online Fanfest in Reykjavik, Iceland today.
"The particle system really shows its age now if you're flying a Premium ship," he conceded. "The effects are like from another era."
In a detailed presentation, Fannar revealed that Trinity concentrated on ships, stations and jump gates because these were the most commonly viewed items. Now there's a push on improving particle effects, lighting and shadowing, and the way the game presents planets, asteroid belts and mining.
Planet surfaces will be generated procedurally, rather than with pixellated textures, and tens of thousands of asteroids will be rendered at once. Fannar even discussed the possibility of simulating gas giants in 3D with dense particle fields, and players being able to fly realistically through planetary rings.
Asked if the new features would be added progressively, or if there would be another monumental update like Trinity, Fannar replied that there would be "a big step" in the expansion after next, in the first half of next year. After that, graphics improvements would move to a much more rapid, progressive cycle.
Among other improvements discussed was a move to decrease EVE's load on processors and increase it on graphics cards, so players with good GPUs would see bigger performance improvements; and a push to make it more efficient to run several instances of the game at once.
"There's a pretty large portion of our player-base that plays more than one client, but EVE isn't really built for it," Fannar said, showing a photo of a CCP developer running the game in ten clients in parallel on one PC.
Fannar also demoed an "extreme widescreen mode" which ran a single display across two monitors. The display, some 5000 pixels across, ran at 200 frames per second on an Nvidia GTX 280 card.
It wasn't all about high-end hardware, however - Fannar said the goal was to eventually move the entire player-based onto the Premium version of the game by making it scale better to low-end machines. And he admitted that the upgrades in Trinity were curtailed by time as much as anything else.
"The limitation with Trinity was: ship the damn thing," he said.
We'll have more from EVE Fanfest tomorrow, including a look at the Walking In Stations expansion that will introduce interior environments and 3D avatars to the game for the first time.