EVE Evolved: Making stories with friends in EVE Online

It's one of the more peculiar laws of the universe that when enough EVE Online players meet in the real world, they absolutely must swap stories. You can see it in action at meetups and events like EVE Fanfest and EVE Vegas, where players take a trip down memory lane with corpmates over a beer and regale whole groups of strangers with tales of wars, clever schemes, and treachery. It's like some tribal instinct takes over and we feel the need to pass on our virtual history or bask in glory days gone by like a couple of Klingons in a Ferengi bar.

We're all familiar with the biggest and most impactful stories that go down in the sandbox of New Eden because they tend to hit the gaming media like a brick in the face. When the largest war in gaming history goes down or hundreds of thousand of dollars worth of ships goes up in smoke, you're bound to hear about it. What you don't hear about is the hundreds of compelling little stories that take place every day within EVE, most of which are left untold. Several interesting stories are shared each day on the EVE subreddit and official forums, a few make their way into works of cinematography, and some have been immortalised in song or shoehorned into propaganda posters. These little stories are the everyday reality of what can happen in EVE, and part of the reason so many of us are hooked on the game.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I suggest that the true draw of EVE is in its capacity for making stories with friends, and share a few of my own little histories from days gone by.

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EVE Evolved: Five EVE video shows to watch in 2017

Over the past several years, the way in which we receive gaming news and the types of gaming media we follow has changed pretty fundamentally. Today's MMO gamers belong to dozens of micro-communities inside and outside their game, following multiple gaming channels and personalities on platforms such as YouTube and Twitch that have practically exploded in popularity.

Even a game as historically impenetrable as EVE Online has been swept up in this sea of change, with a huge number of video channels and livestreamers joining the game's rich media history of live radio, blogs, and podcasts. New shows start up and close down every year, but a few have gathered impressive audiences and really stood the test of time.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at five notable EVE Online YouTube shows and Twitch streamers you might want to keep an eye on going into 2017.

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EVE Evolved: 2016 EVE Online year in review

It's been another busy year for sci-fi MMO EVE Online, and an absolute roller coaster ride for both players and developer CCP Games. On the development side, we've had two major expansions with Citadel and Ascension and a significant business model change with the introduction of a free-to-play account option. Fan events EVE Fanfest 2016 and EVE Vegas 2016 brought us some fantastic insights into the future development, including a peek at some amazing work on future PvE gameplay and an all-new EVE FPS codenamed Project Nova.

Proving once again that the players in EVE are the most engaging content, this year brought us the political twists and turns of the now-infamous World War Bee, which became the largest PvP war ever to happen in an online game. We also delved into some absolutely crazy sandbox stories, including one player using $28,000 worth of skill injectors to create a max skill character as a publicity stunt, and the controversial banning of the gambling kingpins behind World War Bee.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look back over all the biggest EVE stories of the year, from the political shenanigans of World War Bee to the surprise free-to-play option and how expansions have changed the face of the game this year.

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EVE Evolved: The Siege of M-0EE8, the new largest battle in gaming history

In the political sandbox of EVE Online, colossal player-run military coalitions frequently war over territorial conflicts, in revenge for past transgressions or just for fun. Circle of Two alliance recently found itself the target of a massive war not long after it had built a colossal 300 billion ISK Keepstar citadel in the historically contested nullsec system of M-0EE8. Opposing alliances set up their own smaller citadels next to the Keepstar and used them as staging points in an all-out attack on the system. Following two intense battles over the Keepstar in which hundreds of billions of ISK was lost, the explosive final phase of the conflict took place last night in what has come to be known as The Siege of M-0EE8.

I arrived in M-0EE8 in a cloaked covert ops frigate at around 18:30 EVE time to watch the event unfold, and it wasn't long before a world-record-breaking 5,300 pilots had poured into the star system. A cluster of anchorable warp disruption field generators hung like bright lanterns in space, with great swarms of Scorpions and shoals of Machariels swirling inside. A constant stream of weapons fire flowed from these blinding death bubbles to the Keepstar, whittling down its immense structure like a swarm of insects nipping at a Tyrannosauros Rex.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I give a brief account of the Siege of M-0EE8, share some screenshots from the event, take a look at how the server coped with the enormous battle, and drill down into the battle stats to see just how record-breaking the siege was.

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EVE Evolved: Getting started with EVE's free-to-play

Just under two weeks ago, EVE Online launched its new free to play account option with the introduction of clone states. Subscribers are now given the new Omega clone state that allows access to everything the game has to offer just as before, while free players get a new Alpha clone state with a limited set of skills available and reduced skill training speed. The people this helps the most are new players, who previously had to get a 14-day free trial to check the game out but can now just sign up and take their time with it. The Ascension expansion also delivered a brand new fully voiced tutorial that developers hope will retain more players.

Thousands of new players have poured into EVE Online over the past two weeks, so many that last week's peak concurrent user numbers reached over 51,000 players for the first time since 2014. The Rookie Help channel is now regularly packed with 6,000 to 8,000 players every night, indicating that over 15% of the active playerbase is currently composed new players. I've been playing on a new alpha character this week to explore the new tutorial and see what I could do solo within the alpha clone restrictions, and it's been an extremely interesting experience.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at what new free-to-play players will experience in EVE, give my impressions of the new tutorial and alpha clone limitations, and deliver some important tips that should help all new players make the most of their time in EVE.

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EVE Online GMs removed at least 25 trillion ISK worth $400,000 from the game

If you've been reading the gaming news this week, you may have heard about the enormous amount of wealth that was recently removed from EVE Online's economy when the players behind EVE gambling website IWantISK were banned for real money trading. The figure was initially rumoured to be around 40 trillion ISK, but the only sources for this information at the time were one of the banned players himself and a third party using guesswork. With the release of CCP's latest monthly economic report, we now have a verified primary source to work from.

Digging into the CSV records attached to CCP Quant's October economic report, we were able to see that on the day of the ban (October 12th), total ISK supply dropped by 24.85 trillion ISK overnight. Accounting for the average upward movement of ISK over the previous month gives us a figure of around 25.77 trillion ISK that was likely part of the ban wave. This amount of ISK could currently buy you around 20,295 PLEX game time codes on the in-game market, which have a real world value of between $303,000 and $405,000 US depending on the price paid per unit.

Keep in mind that these figures account for only the liquid ISK in the banned players' accounts. The value of any assets frozen on those accounts could bring the total even higher, but the frozen assets can't be verified at this point. The bans came after intensive investigation of the accused players for real money trading offences, and happened on the same day that CCP announced that all third-party EVE gambling websites would have to shut down.

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EVE Vegas 2016: EVE Online is finally getting a real tutorial

One of EVE Online's developers once described the new player experience with the line "Welcome to EVE, here's a Rubik's cube, go f**k yourself," and he wasn't wrong. EVE has a well-earned reputation for being a difficult game with an incomprehensible user interface, and new players are just dropped into it at the deep end. CCP has tried to overhaul the new player experience several times over the years and even implemented an achievement-style Opportunities system, but 51% of new players still quit by around the two hour mark.

This was the monumental problem inherited by CCP Ghost, the weird chap who showed us all a scan of his brain at EVE Fanfest back in May. Ghost had some interesting ideas for revamping the tutorial using a story based approach, and this weekend at EVE Vegas 2016 we got to see the final result of this work in action along with details of how it was designed. Under the codename of Inception, the first stage of EVE's new fully voiced story tutorial will be going live with the Ascension expansion on November 15th. After seeing the Inception tutorial in action, I finally see what has been missing all this time and realise that EVE has never actually had a proper immersive tutorial before.

Read on to find out what makes EVE's upcoming Inception tutorial so different, how it was designed, and what the future may hold for EVE's new player experience.

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EVE Evolved: Alpha Clone economics, bragging rights, and restrictions

Yesterday at EVE Vegas 2016, developer CCP Rise held us spellbound with tales of his recent misadventures in EVE Online recently when pretending to be a newbie. With free alpha clone accounts on the way, the devs wanted to prove that a well-informed player in an alpha clone could engage in a wide range of activities and even see success in PvP, and CCP Rise naturally rose to the challenge. Starting with only the skills trainable by an alpha clone character and no ISK or assets, he quickly got on his feet and made enough ISK to start engaging in frigate and cruiser PvP and net some very nice solo kills against veterans.

Rise's success came as no surprise to me, as I've done similar experiments with small group PvP and I know just how effective cheap tech 1 cruisers can be. I recently showed how free users could be nearly as effective as well-trained subscribers in the same ships, and yet the myth that they will be simply cannon fodder for the elite pervades the comments sections in articles throughout the web. Developers have said that they intend for free play to be a viable long-term play style, and it should be possible to extend the system in the future. We may even some day get specific challenge clone states for those who want bragging rights or hardcore clones with permadeath.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I debunk the myth the alpha clone system is an endless trial, examine the potential impact of alphas on both EVE community culture and CCP's financials, and look at a few ways the clone state system could be expanded on.

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EVE Vegas 2016: Bridging the gap between PvE and PvP

While EVE Online is typically thought of as a cutthroat PvP game, players spend a substantial amount of time engaged in PvE activities such as missions, exploration, and farming nullsec anomalies. At last year's EVE Vegas event, we heard about CCP's ambitious long-term vision for PvE that included ideas such as procedural content and NPC ships flying around and acting like players. This weekend at EVE Vegas 2016, we learned that an impressive part of this vision will actually be going live in the Ascension expansion with the introduction of NPC mining operations.

Starting with the Ascension expansion on November 15th, several NPC corporations will begin mining in the asteroid belts throughout New Eden. These groups have been modeled on real player-run mining ops and will feature NPCs mining real ore and haulers collecting it, but they aren't just new NPCs to blow up. If you attack the mining ops or have low standings with the corporation or faction that owns them, they'll dispatch a combat wing to take you out. Critically, all of the ships in these groups (including the combat ships) will be flying actual EVE ships with real fittings modeled on player-made ship setups.

Read on for a brief breakdown of the new PvE feature, what it means for PvE, and how it bridges the gap between PvE and PvP.

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EVE Vegas 2016: Ascension expansion detailed, new trailer released

While the main event of the EVE Online social calendar is unmistakably the annual EVE Fanfest convention in Iceland, smaller gatherings are held throughout the year all over the world. Hundreds of players flock to Las Vegas every year for EVE Vegas, which started life as the largest player-run EVE event and is now officially endorsed and run by CCP Games. I'm on the ground at EVE Vegas this weekend to get some insight into the upcoming Ascension expansion, which is due to go live in just over two weeks on November 15th.

Ascension aims to turn EVE Online on its head by opening the doors to subscription-free users for the first time in the game's 13-year history. To prepare for opening the flood gates on a free-to-play EVE and get all of those new players over the game's infamous learning cliff, developers have produced a story-based tutorial system and overhauled the character sheet interface. Veterans can look forward to a dramatically improved ship fitting screen, new player-built industrial complexes, huge mining ship buffs, a new EVE mobile app for Android and iOS, and NPC mining ops using advanced AI.

Read on for a breakdown of some of the big things we learned at the EVE Vegas 2016 Keynote and to check out CCP's new expansion trailer and feature videos.

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EVE Evolved: Controversy over gambling bans and charities

It's been a crazy, drama-filled week in EVE Online, starting with a controversial change to the EULA that will ban all gambling sites using in-game currency or assets when the Ascension expansion arrives on November 8th. The move comes alongside the banning of high-profile gambling kingpins Lenny Kravitz2 and IronBank, the two players who famously funded World War Bee using the trillion-ISK profit fountains of a casino empire.

The gambling ban is expected to be a serious blow to player-run events, charitable organisations, and even some blogs, all of which have been funded in part by gambling sites for several years. With its main benefactor now banned, charitable organisation Care 4 Kids has come under renewed pressure from players questioning its profit-making activities and political motives. Over the past year, the group has erected a massive citadel structure, gained territory in nullsec, and even hired farming corps.

In this in-depth edition of EVE Evolved, I look at why the gambling ban was necessary, the impact that ISK from gambling has had on EVE, and the recent drama that's bubbled up around the Care 4 Kids charity.

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EVE Evolved: What else is coming to EVE Online in November?

Recently I've been looking at how EVE Online will be affected by the introduction of free-to-play "alpha clone" accounts in its upcoming November expansion, but there's a lot more coming in the update than just free accounts. New players will also be met with a completely new story-driven introduction instead of a standard tutorial, and a new ghost fitting system will let players try out ship designs using virtual ships. PvE immersion is also due for a boost as NPCs will begin harvesting ore in asteroid belts and engaging in some industrial operations just like players.

The central feature of the as-yet-unnamed expansion will be the introduction of a new line of player-built citadels for us to build and fight over, this time with a specialised focus on manufacturing and research. Gang and fleet warfare throughout EVE also seems set to change for the better, with a complete redesign of the fleet boost mechanics and the removal of controversial off-grid boosters. Titans will be given new strategic superweapons that provide huge gameplay-bending effects to large areas of the battlefield, and the Rorqual capital mining ship is getting a serious buff.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at a few of the features that have been announced for the November expansion and speculate on how some of them might impact EVE.

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