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: 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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Notorious EVE Online player banned for threatening to cut off someone’s hands in real life

Yes, you’ve read that headline correctly. It’s been an insane day for EVE Online, as players awoke to the news that powerful military alliance Circle of Two had been betrayed by one of its top people. A player named The Judge stole over a trillion ISK worth of assets from the alliance and gave away all of its space stations to its enemies in one of the biggest political betrayals the game has ever seen. We’ll have a full report on the record-breaking theft and the current political situation in EVE later tonight, but this story has already taken an unusual turn.

Circle of Two’s leader, a notorious player named gigX, was so furious to learn of The Judge’s betrayal that he went into full meltdown mode in the alliance chat channel. Not content to keep his rivalry in-game, gigX asked his alliance to give him The Judge’s real name and home address. He followed up the request by writing “The Judge feel free to use your hands by typing here” before adding “while you can” to make a pretty serious threat.

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EVE Evolved: Get ready for EVE Online’s Lifeblood expansion!

EVE Online‘s upcoming Lifeblood expansion was officially announced last week, and it’s landing a lot earlier than expected. Though it appears that Lifeblood is the winter expansion CCP Games has been talking about since EVE Fanfest 2017, it’s actually launching next month on October 24th. It includes the new Upwell Refinery structures, a total overhaul of moon-mining and advanced material reactions, a full balance pass for the ships used by free-to-play alpha clone characters, and some all-new PvE gameplay in high-security space.

We talked to EVE‘s Executive Producer Andie “CCP Seagull” Nordgren about the plans for new highsec gameplay back in April, and it sounded pretty damn exciting. CCP plans to use the new advanced AI that powers the roaming NPC mining operations to create an ever-evolving landscape of AI-driven conflict that players can affect. The first steps in that plan are arriving with Lifeblood in the form of Pirate Forward Operating Bases and Resource Wars, which ask players to help local factions fight back against the encroachment of pirates. This should make life a hell of a lot more interesting for players in high-security space, while the new moon mining gameplay is expected to set nullsec on fire.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I dig into the Lifeblood announcement and feature list, and ask how players can get ready to make the most of next month’s expansion.

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EVE Evolved: The strategy and narrative of EVE’s revenge war

At the start of this month, we reported on a massive new war that was kicking off in the north of EVE Online. The words “The Imperium Strikes Back!” rang across the game as one of the game’s largest military coalitions moved thousands of capital ships north in preparation for what it called a “dirty war.” The group planned to dump hordes of capital ships on the enemy aggressively and with little regard of the financial cost, using its vast economic wealth to spread pain and misery. This was going to be The Imperium’s great return to nullsec warfare after a year of farming ISK and building up resources, and that narrative was used to get thousands of players on board.

The reality hasn’t been quite so dramatic, but it’s been very interesting on a strategic level. We’ve seen the narrative of this war change substantially over the past few weeks and watched as every victory or loss is quickly spun into propaganda. The Imperium has lost several key battles and appears totally outmatched by the combined supercapital forces of the north, but has also destroyed a few enemy citadels and is already claiming victory over its primary strategic objective. TEST Alliance has seen its own share of victories and defeats in the region against Northern Coalition and Pandemic Legion too, but is now in the process of packing up to go home.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I examine the major strategic goals during this war, the apparent change in The Imperium’s narrative, and the effect on the average alliance line member.

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EVE Online revenge war update: The war machine stalls

Last week we brought you the news of a massive new war brewing in the north of EVE Online, and The Imperium’s threat of revenge to the alliances that live there. The Imperium has been farming hard in the southern Delve region for months and has built up a massive war chest since it was kicked out of its northern territory during the colossal World War Bee conflict last year. Meanwhile, military alliance Pandemic Legion has been throwing its weight around all over nullsec, interfering in TEST Alliance’s war with Guardians of the Galaxy in the north and dropping supercapital fleets on The Imperium in the south.

The revenge war kicked off as The Imperium formed a pact with TEST Alliance and then moved over 1,000 capital ships to a staging system in the low-security system of Hakonen in the north of EVE. This war seems to be mostly about creating engaging PvP content, but for The Imperium it’s also an opportunity to get revenge on those who sided against them during World War Bee. For TEST Alliance, it’s a continuation of its conflict with the Guardians of the Galaxy coalition and perhaps a way to give Pandemic Legion the bloody nose it deserves.

This week has seen some interesting developments in the war, with several failed attempts to anchor citadels and possible strategic blunders and supply issues. Read on for a breakdown of the latest in EVE Online‘s latest revenge war.

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EVE Evolved: A massive war for revenge is brewing in EVE Online

Just over a year ago, the largest PvP conflict in gaming history kicked off in EVE Online as war erupted between the game’s most prominent territorial alliances. Over 60,000 pilots were initially drawn into the interstellar war that came to be known as World War Bee or The Casino War, and thousands of ex-players and newbies signed up during the war just to get involved. We followed the landmark battles and political twists of World War Bee intently for several months as it unfolded like a living work of science fiction. Our coverage ended with The Imperium, a large military coalition led by alliance Goonswarm Federation, being kicked out of its territory in the north of EVE and losing thousands of members and allies.

The story could have ended there as alliances often collapse following a major defeat (in what players affectionately refer to as a “failure cascade”), but the core of The Imperium stuck together and vowed to one day get revenge. The group has since managed to conquer and hold the lucrative Delve region in the south of EVE and has been farming resources en masse for months, rebuilding its war chest and waiting for an opportunity for revenge. It looks like that moment has now arrived, as the group has reportedly moved a huge fleet up north to a staging system within striking distance of its former home.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at how the war brewing in the north of EVE got started and what shape it might take over the coming weeks.

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EVE Evolved: Does EVE Online need more conflict-drivers?

Of all the terminology associated with EVE Online, the one thing that’s always made me a bit uncomfortable is to hear players describe PvP as “generating content.” It’s an oddly sterile euphemism that seemed to surface years ago during the era of the blue donut when large alliances organised faux wars for the entertainment of their restless troops, and it doesn’t sit right with me. PvP in EVE is supposed to be about real conflict for solid reasons, not generating content for its own sake. It’s about smashing a gang of battleships into a pirate blockade to get revenge, suicide ganking an idiot for transporting PLEX in a frigate, or forcibly dismantling another alliance’s station because you just hate them so much.

EVE PvP can be visceral and highly personal, not just something fun to do or a game of strategy but a way to settle old grudges and punish people for whatever the hell you want. World War Bee was a brutal mix of Machiavellian politics and massive fleets of highly motivated players coming together, not just for some fun gameplay but to try and completely annihilate the goons. So what the hell happened? Why are so many people sitting in nullsec fortresses and farming ISK, building huge capital fleets and complaining about the “lack of content” in PvP today? Does EVE‘s conflict engine need a tune-up?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at some of the factors limiting real conflict in EVE today and suggest three possibly controversial changes that would drive further conflict in New Eden.

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EVE Evolved: How much trust is too much in EVE Online?

Of all the headlines to come out of EVE Online over the years, the biggest and most far-reaching have been the stories of massive thefts and underhanded scams. The MMO community has grown up hearing these tales, from the embezzlement of EVE‘s first public bank in 2009 and the estimated $45,000 US Titans4U scam in 2011 to the trillion ISK Phaser Inc scandal and beyond. EVE has been embedded with this narrative of mistrust and betrayal for most of its life, the most famous example still being the Guiding Hand Social Club heist from all the way back in 2005.

Yet when a player recently stole three extremely rare ships using social engineering, the victims expressed only disappointment that they had lost a friendship they valued. The question for players and the wider MMO community today is simple: How much trust is too much to give someone in an MMO? To what degree should the game mechanics automatically protect your assets and privacy, and how much of that protection should you be able or expected to give up in order to make progress or join a group?

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EVE Evolved: The controversy over EVE Online’s capital ship nerfs

EVE Online players have been up in arms this week over sweeping nerfs that are about to hit to high-end farming gameplay styles in the player-owned nullsec territories. It started when CCP Games announced that the Excavator drones used by Rorqual capital industrial ships would be getting a sizeable mining yield reduction and that a respawn delay would be added to ore sites in nullsec. As players were still reeling from that unexpected news, developers then announced a surprise general nerf to fighter damage with the goal of making carriers and supercarriers less effective in PvE and PvP. This significant balance change was just announced on Friday 9th June and goes live on Tuesday 13th, prompting outcry from the community over the lack of feedback-gathering on such a significant change to capital ship balance.

These nerfs both seem to be reactions to the latest few Monthly Economic Reports, which showed that the total money supply in the game economy is over a quadrillion ISK and rising rapidly. The detailed breakdowns of economic activity in the reports tell a more complex story, with ISK supply from bounty prizes roughly doubling over the past year and mining in the Delve region shooting off the scale in the past few months. It seems that a large number of nullsec players are spending more time farming and building up resources, and it’s the scale and efficiency of the top-tier farming setups that has CCP worried.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I discuss the upcoming Rorqual and fighter nerfs, look at the economics of farming, and explain why this trend could be a more serious indicator than CCP realises.

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EVE Evolved: War declarations need revamped for the citadel era

It’s a universally accepted fact in EVE Online that you’re never truly safe from attack. Low-security space is littered with pirates looking for an easy kill, nullsec alliances respond to invasion of their territory with overwhelming force, and cloaked ships could lurk around every wormhole. Even in the friendliest parts of high-security space, you can still be blown up by a squad of suicide gankers or find yourself the target of a highsec war declaration. Wardecs are intended to allow player-run corporations to fight with each other in highsec without interference from the police, but over EVE‘s entire lifetime they’ve been almost exclusively used to grief and harass small corporations.

Some wardec alliances log literally thousands of wars per year, with almost all of them being against small industrial and social corporations whose members have no intention of fighting back. The aggressors typically just camp trade hub such as Jita 4-4 and declare war on any corp caught hauling valuables through the system, turning a potential sandbox content-generator into a boring pay-to-grief mechanic. With the landscape of EVE being transformed by player-owned citadels and a dynamic PvE revolution on the horizon, I think the time is right to revamp war declarations for the new citadel era. The current wardec system isn’t fit for purpose, and we deserve something more engaging.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I give some thoughts on the wardec problem, a suggestion on how they could be revamped to fit the new citadel era, and an idea for how they could even provide a more immersive PvE experience.

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EVE Evolved: Is EVE Online becoming too safe?

EVE Online is often painted as a harsh universe without rules where you could have your entire net worth destroyed or swiped right from under your nose, a reputation that has been well-earned over the past 14 years. Emerging in an early MMO industry that was rapidly becoming obsessed with keeping players safe and happy, EVE stood out with its harsh death penalty and anything-goes ruleset. Stories of high-profile heists and massive battles are still the main types of news that come out of EVE, a narrative that underpins much of the official marketing of EVE even today. It’s been something of a double-edged sword for the game’s popularity, attracting some players on the promise of emergent PvP-oriented gameplay and dissuading others with the threat of extraordinary loss.

Despite this outward appearance, the past few years have seen an odd shift in EVE‘s development direction with the apparent goal of making the game a lot safer. Small improvements such as the Weapon Safety system and warning popups help prevent players from making fatal mistakes, but it’s the citadel asset safety and reinforcement timer mechanics that have been most striking. Player-built citadels are completely invulnerable for all but a few hours per week, and even attacking them in that short period is a painful experience as you have to defeat it three separate times over the span of a week and none of the station’s contents even drop as loot. Highsec is now littered with hundreds of structures that simply aren’t worth attacking, and I’m forced to ask whether the citadel reinforcement mechanics are overkill.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I discuss gameplay being designed with loss-aversion in mind and lay out some of the problems with the citadel asset safety and reinforcement mechanics.

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