eve evolved

EVE Evolved is an EVE Online column by Brendan Drain. [Follow this column’s RSS feed]

EVE Evolved: Getting new players to stick with EVE Online

EVE Online has the odd distinction of being one of the most impenetrable MMOs on the market today and yet also one of the stickiest. Few new players make it past their first week or month in EVE, but more of those who do scale that infamous learning cliff tend to stay for several years and become part of the community. Many of the most active veteran players have even admitted that EVE didn’t really click for them the first time, and for some it took them several attempts before they finally got hooked.

This anecdotal evidence seems to mesh quite well with CCP’s own brutal retention statistics, as we heard back in 2016 that over 1.5 million people had signed up new accounts that year but just over 50% of them quit within the first two hours. Even after the free-to-play option was added to eliminate the biggest barrier of entry for new and returning players, retaining more of those players in the long term is still proving difficult. So what is it that prevents new players from really clicking with EVE even if they want to, and what can be done about it?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at some of the factors that make EVE difficult to penetrate, the importance of joining a corporation, and a few things CCP could do to help with player retention.

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EVE Evolved: Getting ready for EVE Online’s Abyssal revolution

If you’ve seen the news recently coming out of EVE Fanfest 2018, you’ve probably heard of EVE Online‘s upcoming expansion: Into the Abyss. Pockets of a bizarre and twisted underspace called Abyssal Deadspace have been discovered all throughout new Eden, and players will be able to venture into them and encounter an all-new enemy: The Triglavian Collective. This new form of solo PvE is limited to cruiser sized ships and is the first form of technically instanced combat gameplay EVE has ever had, sending players into short 20-minute dungeons with incredibly stunning new visuals and deadly NPCs.

The rewards from this new gameplay include powerful player-controllable Triglavian ships, a new type of weapon called the Entropic Disintegrator, and organic Mutaplasmids that can be used to modify existing modules with random stat variations. The sites are currently playable on the test server but aren’t in their final form, so a lot could change from now until the feature is released on May 29th, but there’s enough information available to begin analysing the the effect the expansion will have and the strategies that might work in Abyssal Deadspace.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I dig down into the debate about the game balance of randomised stats in EVE Online, give some early advice on fitting a ship for Abyssal Deadspace sites, and strategies that should work in this upcoming form of PvE.

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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 Evolved: EVE Online’s case for asymmetric and asynchronous gameplay

If there’s one thing that EVE Online does better than any other MMO on the market today, it’s persistent gameplay on massive scales. The now-famous Bloodbath of B-R5RB in 2014 involved 7,548 players over the course of almost 24 hours, and the Siege of M-OEE8 at the end of 2016 peaked at 5,300 separate players all piled into the same star system at the same time. Hundreds of thousands of players live and fight in the same single-shard universe, and EVE‘s largest corporations have more members than the total population on some other MMOs’ shards.

But what about the smaller end of the scale? MMOs aren’t just populated by monolithic organisations bent on galactic domination, and a growing proportion of today’s gamers play online games solo or in smaller groups. Features such as Upwell structures and the new PvE gameplay have clearly been designed with a wide range of gameplay scales in mind, but EVE has never really got past the problem that bigger groups are almost always better. Could the solution to this problem be found in small-scale asymmetric and asynchronous warfare opportunities?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at why EVE‘s massive scale makes it so compelling, the problem that massive scale introduces, and the case for more asymmetric and asynchronous warfare.

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EVE Evolved: 2017 EVE Online year in review

We’ve reached the end of another year, and it’s certainly been a busy one for EVE Online. This year saw heavy gameplay iteration, with improvements to everything from the UI to ship balance, and the Lifeblood expansion’s total moon mining overhaul. PvE-focused players got a new AI-driven Resource Wars activity in high-security space, and an experimental user interface named The Agency has helped tie seasonal in-game events together. New refinery structures caused a bit of a land grab on moons and gave alliances more to fight over, and CCP Games lifted some of the free to play alpha clone restrictions to help bring in new players.

It’s the players that make EVE Online special, of course, and this year had no shortage of crazy political shenanigans. We followed The Imperium’s war for revenge in the north of EVE that eventually fizzled out, watched as The Judge betrayed his alliance and stole the largest sum of ISK in the game’s history, and sat aghast as the leader of that alliance was banned for threatening to cut off the thief’s hands in real life. CCP Games itself hasn’t exactly made it through the year unscathed, with the company unexpectedly pulling out of the VR market and laying off around 100 staff worldwide.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look back at the past year of EVE Online news and summarise the highlights.

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EVE Evolved: Calling time on EVE Online’s five-year vision

When Andie “CCP Seagull” Nordgren walked onto the stage at EVE Fanfest 2013 and delivered her long-term vision for the future of EVE Online, the excitement in the room was palpable. EVE was riding its highest peak concurrent player numbers in the game’s history following the overhauls of the Crucible, Inferno, and Retribution expansions, and players were ready for a new blockbuster feature to fire their imaginations. CCP delivered its ambitious five year vision to hand the reins of EVE‘s living universe over to its players, with player-built stargates and deep space exploration in completely uncharted star systems.

We’re now about four months away from the five-year mark on that vision, and many parts of it have now been completed, but no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy. We’ve seen some big feature drops such as the release of citadels, the industry overhaul, and the recent moon mining overhaul, but that deep space colonisation gameplay still seems far off. Some players feel as if EVE is currently in a holding pattern, with everyone waiting for the next big feature or overhauls to their favourite part of the game before deciding what to do next. So what does come next?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I break down the progress toward Nordgren’s 5 year vision so far and talk about the possible next steps I think CCP could take to make it a reality.

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EVE Evolved: Three top tips for staying safe from gankers in EVE Online

EVE Online is renowned for its cold, harsh universe and relatively few rules, and we’ve all heard the horror stories over the years of players losing everything they own to one ill-fated encounter with pirates or suicide gankers. There are whole corporations dedicated to ganking miners minding their own business, and the trade hub station in Jita is a hotbed for suicide attacks. If you’re planning to give EVE a try when the new free-to-play upgrades arrive on December 5th, or if you’ve already signed up to get a head-start on the competition, you might be worried about this happening to you.

The fact is that most players will never experience a suicide gank, and it’s relatively easy to avoid becoming the target of one. Bookmarks can be used creatively to give even the most persistent gankers the slip, for example, and the Weapon Safety system can prevent you from accidentally committing a crime and opening yourself up to attack from ordinary players. Remember, though, that managing risk is a core part of EVE, and with that in mind there are some common sense rules that can help you to minimise the risk of attack or the degree of loss should an attack occur.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I give three top tips for staying safe in EVE Online that should help even if you’re completely new to the game.

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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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