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 Evolved: Three tricks to maximize your free-to-play EVE Online account

It’s now been almost one year to the day that EVE Online officially got a limited free-to-play option, and it’s certainly been a boon for the almost 15-year-old MMO. There’s been a significant increase in new players asking for advice on the forums and in-game channels, and activity levels have been bolstered by the increased numbers. Some of the game’s largest corporations have opened their doors to hundreds of newbros this year, and the best is yet to come. Next month CCP will be lifting some of the restrictions free players are currently placed under and allowing them to access to larger ships, helping to close the power gap between free and paid users.

While the expanded free tier will open up a lot more gameplay to free users, there are some tricks new players should know to maximise the effectiveness of that tier. There’s even a way for returning veteran players who find themselves constrained by the free tier’s limitations to get a full Omega level subscription absolutely free and even to make a profit in the process. Whether you’re on a free Alpha account or an Omega subscription, there are also a few sources of easy ISK that will take relatively little time each week to manage.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I give a few tips new players can use to squeeze more out of the free tier and look at a way for returning veterans to get Omega subscriptions for free.

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EVE Evolved: EVE Online’s CCP Games is gambling with the livelihoods of employees

Last week we broke the story that EVE Online developer CCP Games is backing out of the virtual reality games market, closing its Altanta office and selling its VR-focused Newcastle studio. The long-held Atlanta office was acquired in the merger with White Wolf in 2006 and has been hit with several rounds of layoffs over the years, with a major hit in 2011 after the Monoclegate disaster and another 2014 when the World of Darkness MMO was cancelled. The Newcastle studio was the development house responsible for CCP’s VR dogfighter EVE: Valkyrie, and both Valkyrie and CCP’s new VR game Sparc will now be maintained by the London office.

Around 100 staff were laid off in the restructuring, roughly 30 of whom worked in CCP’s headquarters in Reykjavik, Iceland. Though we were informed at the time that these changes would not impact the development of EVE Online, it since became apparent that more than a few non-development staff were cut. In addition to the EVE PR staff and others that were stationed in Atlanta, all but two members of the EVE community team in Reykjavik have also been let go. There are reports that several GMs and the localisation manager for EVE have departed too, and the mood on twitter from staff in Reykjavik recently is best described as sombre and a little shaken.

In this extra edition of EVE Evolved, I dig into CCP Games’s history of taking risks with staff’s jobs, look at some of those affected by the layoffs, and ask whether there is more fallout to come.

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CCP Games ceases VR development, closes two studios – no negative impact on EVE Online

Icelandic business website mbl.is has just reported that EVE Online developer CCP Games is planning to close two of its offices and cease all VR game development. The move affects over 100 staff worldwide, with the Atlanta office in the United States being closed and the Newcastle studio being sold off. The Newcastle office was the development house responsible for the VR dogfighter EVE: Valkyrie, which released as a bundled launch title for the Oculus Rift and has since been released on PlayStation VR and as a non-VR PC title.

The move will see CCP pull out of the VR market for the time being, focusing instead on PC and mobile development. The studio secured a $30 million US investment specifically for VR games back in 2015, and CEO Hilmar Pétursson revealed back in March of this year that the company had only recently broken even on that investment. Despite having some success with Valkyrie, Gunjack, and its recently released VR sports title Sparc, CCP acknowledged the limited opportunities and growth it sees in VR as a platform over the next several years.

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EVE Evolved: The Agency could revolutionise casual PvE in EVE Online

Though EVE Online has a reputation as a cut-throat PvP sandbox where anything goes, the fuel that fires its conflict engine has always been PvE. Players collectively pump over 100 trillion ISK into the EVE economy each month by hunting NPCs all across the game, and at the same time they mine around 40 trillion ISK’s worth of ore for ship and module production. Over 90% of NPC bounties predictably come from people farming in the player-owned nullsec regions where some of the largest PvE rewards can be found, but data released earlier this year showed that 7.2% of bounties actually come from high-security space.

It’s unsurprising, then, that CCP chose high-security space as the test-bed for an entirely new casual PvE format with the release of Resource Wars in the recent Lifeblood expansion. The expansion also saw the return of the Crimson Harvest event and the release of a new tool named The Agency that helps players find nearby PvE content. I’ve been getting stuck into all three of these this week and seeing how it all ties together, and I’m now more convinced than ever that we could be heading for a full-scale PvE revolution.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I discuss Resource Wars as a new model for PvE and consider how The Agency could be expanded to help promote casual pick-up PvE groups in EVE.

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EVE Evolved: EVE Online’s free-to-play upgrades are pretty damn generous

You’ve probably heard by now that EVE Online is giving its free-to-play alpha clone characters a massive boost in power in December about a month after the launch of the Lifeblood expansion. The news has been spreading through the gaming media since it was announced last week at EVE Vegas 2017 and the reception online has been generally positive. Some existing players are worried that the change might even be too generous, with fears that veteran players may let their subscriptions lapse and play for free, or that the new skills might be abused to create an endless army of ganking alts.

There’s no doubt that the changes will help to close the power gap between subscribers and free players and will open up new avenues of gameplay. Free players will finally be able to fly tech 1 battlecruisers and even battleships, and cross-training for multiple races will unlock multi-faction ships such as the Sisters of EVE exploration ships. Alpha clone players will also finally be able to use tech 2 weapons and fly many of the ship setups flown in massive nullsec wars, though the way that the new skill limit is being implemented may actually benefit old and returning players more than new ones.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I dig into the free-to-play changes, briefly examine the power gap between free and subscribed players, and look at who will benefit most from the change.

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Video game journalist infects hundreds of EVE nerds with insidious virus

A gaming convention turned into the banal opening scene of a zombie outbreak movie this week as a number of players who attended EVE Vegas 2017 suddenly came down with the symptoms of a cold virus after the event. The airborne virus was brought to the event by an anonymous video game journalist — let’s call him Drendan Brain — and is believed to have originated in the United Kingdom, where it’s been sweeping rapidly across the country this month.

We reached out to Drendan Brain for comment, but his phone always went to a busy tone and his emails keep getting returned to me. The cold may also have been brought to the event by 19 other attendees from the UK, the EVE: Valkyrie team from the UK, or literally anyone going through any airport, but that wouldn’t make a snazzy headline. However the outbreak started, hundreds of EVE Online players were potentially exposed and many are now crawling into bed with some chicken soup and a cup of hot lemon. Get well soon, space bros!

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EVE Vegas 2017: Structure warfare is about to get very cool in EVE Online

If I had to pick out one thing that EVE Online does exceptionally well, apart from the political betrayals and thefts that regularly grace the gaming headlines, it would be the ability to build a real home that you’d want to protect. This year we’ve seen players erect thousands of citadels and engineering complexes all over New Eden, from the colossal 300 billion ISK Keepstars owned by the largest military alliances to tiny Astrahus citadels and Raitaru factory stations owned by one-man corporations. The stage is set for the next wave of Upwell structures with refineries and moon mining gameplay hitting on October 24th in the Lifeblood expansion.

While adoption rates of the new structures have been immense, not everything about them has gone over well with players. The game is becoming littered with cheap and often abandoned structures mostly because they’re difficult to destroy and there’s no incentive to do so. The battles that occur when players do fight over structures have also become stagnant thanks to the emergence of a few clearly optimum strategies. So while developers prepare to launch into the future with Upwell refineries and beyond, they took a pause at EVE Vegas 2017 to peer back at the past year and committed to some big improvements to structure warfare. … And this time they might have goddamn nailed it.

Read on for a full breakdown of the new details of EVE‘s upcoming moon mining feature and a look at the future of structure warfare with the Upwell Firmware Upgrade 2.0 update.

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EVE Vegas 2017: Pirate factions will hunt you down in new EVE PvE

If your experience with EVE Online‘s PvE is of grinding through waves of predictable NPC pirates firing space pea shooters at you, get ready for that to change. CCP Games has been working on advanced AI for the past few years with the aim of turning those mindless drones we fight in PvE into intelligent actors similar to players. The first stage of this was shown off with the roaming Drifter battleships and later with the Blood Raider Shipyard and NPC mining operations that will form up counter-defense fleets and try to drive you out of the star system.

The next step in this plan is landing with the Lifeblood expansion on October 24th with Pirate Forward Operating Bases (or FOBs for short) and a new Resource Wars PvE system. We learned more about these new features this weekend at EVE Vegas 2017, and they’re beginning to sound pretty epic. Read on for a breakdown of both features and details of how the Blood Raider and Guristas pirate factions may soon be actively hunting you down.

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EVE Vegas 2017: EVE Online’s free-to-play option is getting a huge boost

When EVE Online added its free-to-play alpha clone account option, it felt more like an infinite trial than a truly viable free tier. Alpha clone players are currently limited to a single faction’s ships, can only fly tech 1 cruiser sized ships and below, train skills at half the normal speed, and have access to only about 5 million skill points worth of skills. CCP Games initially expected there to be a section of the playerbase who would play alphas exclusively and never upgrade to a full account, but the options proved to be far too limiting and internal stats showed that most people upgraded to Omega quickly or quit.

At EVE Vegas 2017, CCP announced that EVE Online‘s free option is getting a massive boost this December after the Lifeblood expansion. Alpha clones will soon be able to fly battlecruisers and use tech 2 small and medium guns, allowing them to fly many of the common ships used in nullsec fleets and removing most of the power gap between alpha and omega pilots in those roles. They’ll also be able to fly battleships and train for all 4 races of ships, which has the side effect of allowing powerful pirate faction and cross-faction ships such as the Machariel and Stratios.

Read on for a brief breakdown how the new system will work for new and current players.

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EVE Vegas 2017: CCP announces new EVE-based mobile MMO Project Aurora

At the opening presentations of EVE Vegas 2017, CCP Games announced that it has teamed up with mobile developer PlayRaven to produce a totally new free-to-play mobile MMO set in the EVE Online universe. Currently codenamed Project Aurora, the new game won’t be connected to the EVE universe directly but is thematically set in EVE and has some similar gameplay elements such as territorial warfare and corporation politics.

Each player in Aurora will take command of an upgradable space station, from which ships can be dispatched to gather resources and capture territory. You’ll find yourself on a star map with other players doing the exact same, and can forge alliances, form corporations, and betray other players just like in EVE. The goal is to fight for possession of ancient artifacts in the centre of the map that you can then use to fix a broken ancient stargate and move onto the next map. Each jump brings you one step closer to the ultimate goal of reaching the center of the galaxy — I’ll take a pause here for those currently experiencing No Man’s Sky flashbacks.

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EVE Evolved: What to expect from EVE Vegas 2017

CCP Games’ annual EVE Vegas event kicks off in less than a week on October 6th, and once again MassivelyOP will be on the ground to get the latest on the future of EVE Online, EVE: Valkyrie, Sparc, and more. This year’s event is shaping up to be the biggest one yet, having sold out weeks in advance despite moving to a larger venue in The Linq Hotel and Casino. EVE Vegas is the largest community event for players in North America and serves almost as a mini-Fanfest for those who may not be able to make it to Iceland.

While the event is mostly a social gathering and an excuse to get drunk, it will also give CCP an opportunity to get critical feedback ahead of EVE Online‘s Lifeblood expansion on October 24th. We’ll hear more about the upcoming Resource Wars dynamic PvE gameplay, get an update on the development roadmap for EVE, and see a variety of player talks and presentations. We’ve also been told to expect some cool surprises this year, and we may get an opportunity to follow up on the recent record-breaking heist and betrayal that happened in-game.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at what we can expect from next week’s EVE Vegas 2017. If you have any questions you’d like me to ask players or developers, post them in the comments!

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EVE Evolved: How much toxic, antisocial behaviour should MMOs tolerate?

The EVE Online community is aflame this week after alliance leader gigX was permanently banned for making threats of real-life violence against another player following possibly the biggest betrayal in EVE history. Some players don’t want to accept that gigX crossed a serious line and deserves his ban, and others have been asking why The Mittani’s similar actions in 2012 resulted in only a temporary ban. CCP’s official stance is that its policies have become stricter since 2012, but it’s still not entirely clear exactly where the line is drawn.

Another side to the debate is that the internet itself has evolved over EVE‘s 14-year lifespan, and a lot of toxic behaviour that was accepted or commonly overlooked on the early internet is now considered totally unacceptable. Many of us have grown from a bunch of anonymous actors playing roles in fantasy game worlds to real people sharing our lives and an online hobby with each other, and antisocial behaviour is an issue that all online games now need to take seriously. The lawless wild west of EVE‘s early years is gone, and I don’t think it’s ever coming back.

So what’s the deal? Does EVE Online tolerate less toxic behaviour today, has the internet started to outgrow its lawless roots, and what does it mean for the future of sandboxes?

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EVE Online political betrayal results in record-breaking theft

The EVE Online twitterverse exploded late last night with the news of a political twist so enormous that it’s become the largest recorded theft of in-game assets in the game’s history. In the middle of the night and without warning, major EVE military alliance Circle of Two (or CO2 for short) was betrayed by its diplomatic officer, a player with the ominous name of The Judge. In addition to cleaning out the alliance war funds and assets to the tune of over a trillion ISK, The Judge also transferred ownership of CO2’s 300 billion ISK keepstar citadel in its capital star system of 68FT-6 to a holding corporation, effectively stealing the alliance’s home space station.

News of The Judge’s betrayal trickled out of EVE all through the night, and it wasn’t long before the full extent of the incident was known. The 68FT-6 keepstar was sold to enemy alliance Goonswarm Federation, while CO2’s smaller citadels throughout Impass are now in the hands of TEST Alliance. The theft combined with the value of the citadels is estimated at over 1.5 trillion ISK, easily beating the 2011 trillion ISK Phaser Inc scam to become the highest-value theft in EVE‘s history. The actual damage done is even more extensive, injecting a huge dose of chaos into CO2 alliance and throwing fuel on the fire of the southern war.

Read on for a detailed breakdown of last night’s record-breaking theft, the reasons behind the betrayal, and the political situation that led us here.

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