Brendan 'Nyphur' Drain

Reporter

A long-time MMO-addict, northern-irish lad Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is Massively Overpowered's resident EVE Online expert and writer of the long-running EVE Evolved column, published Sunday evenings. The column covers everything from guides and opinion pieces to commentary on game design and hints on preparing for upcoming expansions.

In addition to the column, Brendan covers EVE Online news, community events, general interest stories, and other posts. When he finds the time in his hectic schedule, he can sometimes be found writing features on game design topics or other MMOs he's playing.

He is hard at work on his first video game, the indie space 4X game Predestination.

Twitter: @nyphur

EVE Fanfest 2018: CCP Games has big plans for data collection and machine learning

Every day in the sandbox of New Eden, several hundred thousand EVE Online players perform millions of unseen actions. Every item manufactured, module activated, shot fired at an NPC, and stargate activated leaves its mark on the universe, but the granular details of those actions is lost forever. It simply isn’t feasible to record every little thing a player does in-game, or at least it wasn’t feasible until now. At EVE Fanfest 2018, CCP announced an innocuous new Activity Tracker feature that may actually eventually have big consequences for everything from game balance to fighting bots.

The feature will be delivered as a new Activity Tracker window in the game client that will show players detailed stats on almost everything they’ve done in-game since the tracker went live. This in itself is useful, both for helping players set goals and for highlighting other areas of the game they might not have given a fair shake yet and so might enjoy. Behind the scenes, the way that CCP is collecting this detailed data and the implications of its use are really fascinating, and there are even plans to use machine learning to look for patterns in this data that would help identify bots.

Read on for a breakdown of exactly how masses of new data is being captured on EVE players, and how it could be put to use in the future.

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EVE Fanfest 2018: Andrew Groen on the sequel to his popular EVE Online history book

One of the most common comments you’ll see in articles about big events in EVE Online is that it’s a lot more entertaining to read about than to play, and that’s certainly true if what you’re reading is Empires of EVE. Written by EVE Historian Andrew Groen back in 2015 and published thanks to the support of over 3,000 players through a crowdfunding campaign, Empires of EVE tells the story of some of EVE‘s earliest and most deadly wars and political schisms.

Cutting through all of the propaganda and player self-motivations in a political sandbox like EVE is no small task, and it’s complicated by over a decade of shifting loyalties, misinformation, propaganda, and misremembered events. Andrew is uniquely equipped to cut through many of those issues, collecting as accurate historical records as possible and delivering it all as a coherent, deeply compelling narrative that even plenty of non-players have thoroughly enjoyed. Andrew recently announced that Empires of EVE had broken the 15,000 sales mark, and at EVE Fanfest 2018 he announced a sequel is now in the works.

I caught up with Andrew at Fanfest to find out how the first book’s success has affected him and what the future holds for Empires of EVE: Volume II.

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EVE Fanfest 2018: Two EVE players were married by the space pope. Yep.

Of all the fascinating things the EVE Online community has embraced over the game’s almost 15-year lifetime, perhaps the most bizarre is space pope Max Singularity. The character of the space pope started out as a joke among players who discovered Max doling out words of worldly wisdom in the in-game chat channels and counselling players who were going through tough times. This most cutthroat of online communities embraced Max’s kindness, and he embraced his new in-game role as a religious leader of the Amarr empire.

The space pope is actually NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory employee Charles White in real life, but at EVE Fanfest 2018 this week he was in full papal garb with an entourage of space monks and space nuns. If you’ve never heard of the space pope, well, I promise I am not making this up. Today at Fanfest, lucky EVE players Tairon Usaro and Irma Amatin were married by the space pope himself in a traditional Amarrian ceremony in front of hundreds of onlookers. Skip past the cut for a short video about the wedding.

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EVE Fanfest 2018: EVE Online’s upcoming ‘Into the Abyss’ expansion sounds incredible

While player capsuleers are undoubtedly the most powerful force in EVE Online, there are some pretty scary NPCs lurking in the depths of space. One of those threats has just been unearthed throughout New Eden with the discovery of The Triglavian Collective, an ancient and twisted offshoot of the human race found in tiny pockets of space cut off from the rest of the universe. EVE Online players will soon be able to invade these pockets of Abyssal Deadspace and face the collective in the upcoming “Into the Abyss” expansion coming on May 29th.

At EVE Fanfest 2018, CCP revealed a huge set of interconnected new features revolving around ancient Triglavian ships and Abyssal Deadspace pockets. Players will hunt through these bizarre new environments filled with unpredictable dangers that get more challenging the further you go, and with increased challenge comes some incredible rewards. You’ll find blueprints for powerful Triglavian ships, an incredible new weapon system ominously named the Entropic Disintegrator, and organic mutaplasmids that can transform your existing modules into powerful Abyssal versions.

Read on to find out who the Triglavian Collective are, what the deal is with Abyssal Deadspace, and why the “Into The Abyss” expansion could be incredible for solo PvE players.

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Watch EVE Fanfest 2018 live from home right now

EVE Fanfest 2018 has just kicked off here in sunny Reykjavik, and MassivelyOP is on the ground once again to bring you the latest on the future of EVE Online. While Fanfest is primarily a community event and a chance for players to meet their in-game friends in the flesh, this year’s event also promises to be packed with some big news and exciting announcements.

The main talks and presentations will all be streamed live from the event, the most important of which is the announcement-packed EVE Keynote. The keynote presentation will go live just a few minutes after this post goes live, and you can tune in now via CCP’s official twitch channel or the embed after the cut. If there’s something that you’re particularly excited for or if you have any questions you’d like us to pose to developers, let us know in the comments!

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EVE Fanfest 2018: EVE Online FPS Project Nova is coming ‘in months, not years’

When CCP Games first made the leap into the first person shooter market with DUST 514, things didn’t exactly go to plan. The game was released as a PlayStation 3 exclusive toward the end of the console’s lifetime and fell severely short of expectations. While DUST 514 was eventually discontinued, the dream of a first person shooter in the EVE Online universe has been kept alive at CCP. Two years ago, the company announced that a total remake of DUST 514 was underway under the name Project Nova, and this time it would be released on PC.

Today at EVE Fanfest 2018, CCP Games’ CEO Hilmar Veigar Petursson revealed that Nova will be coming “in months, not years.” The game should hopefully be playable in some form this year, and the initial release will focus on core FPS gameplay in an EVE setting rather than being directly connected to the EVE server. CCP hopes for the game to stand on its own feet before slowly integrating it into EVE — first via social integration, and later through economy links and other gameplay links. No new content was shown off for Nova this year, but CCP has started a newsletter for those who want to get in on the ground floor.

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EVE Evolved: Get ready for EVE Fanfest 2018!

There’s just a week and a half to go before EVE Fanfest 2018, the biggest event in the EVE Online social calendar. The event kicks off on April 12th and will celebrate EVE‘s upcoming 15th anniversary, a major milestone for any online game. This year we’re anticipating juicy details on the next step in EVE Online‘s ambitious long-term development roadmap, an update on the impending EVE mobile game, and possibly a major announcement about CCP’s upcoming MMOFPS codenamed Project Nova.

MassivelyOP will be on the ground once again this year to get the latest insight into the future of the sandbox. Stay tuned to our coverage of the event using the EVE Fanfest 2018 tag, where I’ll be posting major announcement news, detailed discussions on new gameplay revealed, interviews from the event, and in-depth opinion pieces. Fanfest will also be a great opportunity to assess the mood and impact of last year’s pull-out from VR game development, and to take the pulse of the community of a variety of topics. If you have any specific questions you’d like me to pose to developers or players while I’m there, please let me know in the comments.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I break down our expectations for EVE Fanfest 2018 and give some tips on getting the most out of the event for players attending or just watching from home.

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EVE Evolved: What pushes EVE Online players to breaking point?

How many times have you read the comments on an EVE Online article and found someone talking about an experience they had that turned them off the game? They were suicide ganked and lost a month’s worth of progress in 30 seconds, scammed out of all their ISK, or their corporation fell apart after a war declaration. Even former players who look back fondly on their time in EVE Online will relate some event or trend that ultimately pushed them away from the game, whether it’s a gameplay change that ruined the way they liked to play, their alliance suddenly losing all of its territory, a valued friend quitting the game, or a social structure they relied on breaking down.

These natural breaking points happen to all players eventually, and some will invariably take the opportunity to quit the game when they occur. EVE is more of a long-term hobby than a game, so it’s only natural that some players will leave the game if something catastrophically upsets the way they’ve learned to enjoy that hobby. Lately I’ve been thinking about these moments in which a player can lose something they’ve invested heavily into, and wondering whether there’s something more that could be done to minimise these failure states. Should CCP provide safety nets for players against catastrophic failure, or is this just part of the player-directed nature of the sandbox?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I consider some of the things that can push a player to breaking point, and whether additional safety nets would make a difference.

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EVE Evolved: EVE Online’s March balance update has players excited

The EVE Online community came down pretty hard on CCP Games at the start of the year, with podcasts, blogs, and the Council of Stellar Management all highlighting a recent lack of balance changes and iterations. CCP responded with a renewed wave of updates, and it’s safe to say that the studio is absolutely knocking it out of the park. The upcoming March patch will include surprise buffs for the Muninn and Eagle, damage increases for the Cyclone and Drake Navy Issue, and an unexpected change to Attack Battlecruisers that could turn the fleet PvP meta completely on its head. The Orthrus is also finally getting its long-awaited nerf, and some careful tweaks will end the dominance of Ferox and Machariel fleets.

As if that wasn’t enough good news for one month, developers also plan to release a completely new class of ship designed exclusively for fleet commanders, are finally adding blueprint-locking to citadels and engineering complexes, and have some big territorial warfare improvements in the pipeline. The horrible but often necessary Jump Fatigue mechanic is finally being re-evaluated, and players will no longer be able to use citadel tethering mechanics to easily move capital ships in absolute safety. The territorial capture gameplay and the Entosis Link module used in nullsec sovereignty warfare are also being improved based on player feedback. The community hasn’t been this positive about upcoming changes for quite some time!

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I lay out the details of the upcoming ship balance overhaul, the new Monitor fleet command ship, and other changes coming in the March update.

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EVE Evolved: Solving EVE Online’s botting problem

Practically every MMO on the market today has had to contend with botting and the range of issues that come with it, and EVE Online has always been a favoured target for bots. EVE‘s slow pace of gameplay and predictable PvE activities make it ideal for automation, and the nature of a persistent sandbox is that more time spent farming resources and currency will always be better. The issue seems to have escalated in recent months since the free-to-play upgrades expanded the range of ships and modules available to free users, and the community has been pushing CCP heavily for progress.

A team of bot-hunting players made the news last month when they took down eight ridiculously expensive supercarriers being controlled by bots, exposing just how big the scale of the problem is. The EVE security team responded with a ban wave hitting over 1,800 bot accounts in January and promises that they are “coming for the bots,” but one expert admitted in a recent interview that the war on bots may never be won. So just how difficult is it to tackle botting in EVE Online, and what could CCP do to improve things?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at the difficulties in detecting and shutting down botters, how extensive botting may be in nullsec, and some things developers might have to do in order to solve the problem.

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EVE Evolved: A matter of balance in EVE Online

Throughout its almost 15-year lifetime, EVE Online has walked a fine line between developing new features and iterating on existing gameplay. Development has to push forward on new features to keep the game fresh and attract new players, but balance issues can emerge in existing gameplay that equally make the game stale or less enjoyable. CCP Games hasn’t always responded to these issues in a timely manner, at times leaving known balance issues in the game for months or even years because development resources weren’t available to tackle those specific issues.

This strategy has been challenged recently by Council of Stellar Management member Jin’taan in his article “Balance is not optional,” in which he argues that CCP shouldn’t even be making balance changes compete for development time with other features. Player Capri Sun KraftFoods followed up with a look at EVE‘s modular item attribute system, arguing that almost any balance change can be implemented quickly and easily just by tweaking the right attributes. Could it be that easy to iterate on EVE‘s frequent balance issues, or does the nature of the game necessitate caution?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I break down the case for quicker iterative updates on balance issues, look at some of the challenges with balancing a game like EVE, and look at CCP’s new balance team.

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EVE Evolved: The Citadel conundrum

The hot topic on everyone’s lips in EVE Online right now is Citadel proliferation: The galaxy is rapidly filling up with an uncountable number of citadels and other Upwell structures that are cheap to build, difficult to destroy, and powerful force multipliers in combat. There have been some amazing battles over the structures in nullsec since they were first introduced, but some star systems are now littered with them and a number of serious gameplay issues have bubbled to the surface.

CCP announced plans for a total structure warfare overhaul to an excited crowd back at EVE Vegas 2017, and this week we got the final details of what’s coming in February 13th’s extensive Upwell 2.0 update. The patch will introduce moon mining in highsec and wormhole space, rebalances structure combat, and aims to resolve many of the most pressing structure problems with a set of sweeping changes to the vulnerability and reinforcement mechanics. It all sounds great in theory, but some players have expressed serious concerns with several parts of CCP’s plan.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I delve into some of the problems with structure warfare in EVE today, how Upwell 2.0 plans to pull things back from the brink, and some of the changes that players are speaking out against.

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EVE Online’s biggest battle ever is about to happen, but both sides may be afraid to fight

If there’s one constant in the political sandbox of EVE Online, it’s that everyone is secretly plotting revenge on someone. Alliances can hold grudges for years, and one of those grudges may be about to explode into the largest war in EVE‘s almost 15-year history. It all started back in 2016 during the famous conflict that came to be known as World War Bee or The Casino War, when military coalition The Imperium (self-anointed villains of the EVE universe) found itself outnumbered for the first time by a loose coalition of its collective enemies known as the Moneybadger Coalition.

We covered World War Bee heavily at the time, following its political twists and decisive battles as The Imperium was forcibly evicted from its home regions in the north. The coalition vowed revenge, annexed space in the south of the map, and began farming hard to rebuild its supercapital fleets in preparation for the day when they would take the fight back to the enemy. That day may have finally arrived, but are both sides afraid to commit?

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