eve evolved

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

EVE Evolved: Four PvE improvements EVE needs

EVE Online is typically thought of as being a heavily PvP-oriented game, and for good reason. Players can attack each other anywhere in the EVE universe with varying levels of consequences for their actions, and most of the big stories about the game do seem to revolve around players smashing spaceships together or screwing each other over in some manner. Even playing the market is considered PvP, as traders attempt to corner the market for particular items and force the competition out of business. Despite all of this, stats on the EVE playerbase have always shown that a lot of players engage primarily in PvE activities, and NPC bounties always come top of the ISK faucets lists in EVE‘s monthly economic reports.

All players have to kill a few NPCs now and then to pad their wallets, but PvE covers more than just shooting NPCs and many aspects of EVE‘s PvE gameplay are woefully outdated. Mission-running is an archaic system that provides little challenge or variety, mining is a severely unrewarding profession, and the Sansha incursions should have been replaced or heavily expanded on years ago. We found out at EVE Fanfest 2016 that CCP now has several new teams working on PvE, and this week game designer Linzi “CCP Affinity” Campbell released details of an interesting new PvE event called Shadow of the Serpent that will be kicking off at the end of the month. But what would our ideal PvE systems look like, and what more can be done to improve EVE‘s rapidly antiquating NPC-smashing gameplay?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at what the Shadow of the Serpent event means for the future of PvE and delve into four key PvE improvements that I think would improve EVE Online for all involved.

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EVE Evolved: How are citadels actually being used?

In the build-up to EVE Online‘s Citadel expansion, there was a great deal of speculation from both players and the EVE developers about how the new player-built citadel structures would be used. Some hoped that a new player-run trade hub would open up near Jita and take over as the main place of trade in the game, many expected that citadels would play key roles in nullsec conflicts, and some predicted that even small corporations would launch their own citadels in high-security space. It’s only been a month since the expansion went live and we’ve already seen all of this and more.

Several fortizar citadels are currently fighting to become the dominant player-run market in the game, offering tax breaks for traders and other benefits. A new Charity Citadel trade hub project was even announced with the goal of donating all profit to in-game charitable causes and CCP’s PLEX for Good disaster relief campaigns. Wars have predictably erupted over the deployment of citadels throughout the game, with major clashes over citadels in Saranen even helping to reinvigorate the fighting in World War Bee. Hundreds of citadels have now been deployed all across New Eden, though adoption rates by smaller corporations may have been hampered by an unexpected increase in prices.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, we look at how citadels have been used since the expansion went live and ask why the build costs are still over double the originally announced values.

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EVE Evolved: CCP Games on the future of EVE Online’s PvE

It’s no secret that EVE Online has always been a primarily PvP-focused game, with thousands of players smashing fleets of ships together on a daily basis. PvE requires a different set of skills and ship setups than PvP and is often seen as little more than a necessary grind to replace lost ships. Even with great PvE additions over the years such as Sleeper NPCs in wormhole space or Sansha incursions, almost all PvE ultimately still boils down to shooting at predictable NPC ships that don’t pose a real threat. Players have engineered all of the risks out of PvE, coming up with optimum strategies and ways to predict NPC behaviour.

Things have begun to slowly change over the past year or so with the introduction of dynamic NPCs like the powerful Drifter menace with its advanced AI, Burner missions that in some ways almost mimic PvP, and new high-level capital ship NPCs. We’ve even had several seasonal events that can be completed in PvP-fit ships, turning the event dungeons into unexpected flashpoints for PvP. At EVE Fanfest 2016 we learned that CCP has begun stepping up these efforts to merge PvE with the rest of the game world and adding some unpredictability and engagement back into the game, and two new PvE dev teams have been formed to get the job done.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I talk to game designer Linzi “CCP Affinity” Campbell and senior creative producer CCP Burger about two new PvE dev teams they’re part of, CCP’s plans to integrate PvE more closely with the rest of the game, and how the Drifters were developed behind the scenes.

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EVE Evolved: Fixing EVE’s New Player Experience (again)

It’s become almost a running joke in the comments of articles that EVE Online is a great game to read about but not nearly as fun to actually play. While those of us who have been playing for years can attest to EVE‘s depth and long-term gripping power, it has always been a difficult game for new players to get into. EVE sees an unmistakable spike in new players every time a story about a massive battle or political event hits the gaming media, but most don’t stay in the long term and activity levels always return to normal within a few months. CCP has tried to revamp the new player experience more times than probably any other part of the game to combat this, but EVE‘s infamous impenetrability remains stubbornly intact.

At EVE Fanfest 2016, we learned that a whopping 1.5 million people signed up to EVE last year, but that 51% of them quit within the first two hours. They’re obviously drawn in by something but are then turned off by things like the minute-to-minute gameplay or the complicated user interface. A new developer named CCP Ghost is now tasked with solving this most intractable of problems, armed with a fresh perspective and an investigator’s eye. Now it looks as if CCP may be fundamentally changing its approach to new players and is considering some options that few people expected a hardcore sandbox game like EVE would ever embrace.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look into the problems with EVE‘s new player experience, some interesting ideas discussed at Fanfest’s New Player Experience roundtable, and my thoughts on what the new game introduction could look like.

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EVE Evolved: What to expect from EVE Fanfest 2016

Ask the average gamer what he knows about EVE Online and after the word “boring” and a spreadsheet joke or two, he’ll probably talk about stories of massive scams, colossal space wars and savage politics. Though EVE is well known for its cut-throat in-game universe, the shared struggles of players have created some very close-knit communities and enduring friendships over the years. Those online communities and friendships bleed into the real world for a few special days each year when the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik plays host to the annual EVE Fanfest. In-game rivalries are set aside, mortal enemies buy each other beers, and everyone celebrates their shared love of internet spaceships.

Fanfest is an opportunity for CCP Games to interact directly with the game’s most dedicated fans, and is usually packed full of reveals, roundtable discussions, and player-run talks. EVE Fanfest 2016 kicks off in just a few days on Thursday 21st April and runs until Saturday 23rd, and Massively OP will be on the ground again this year to get the latest information on EVE Online, Valkyrie, and even some brand-new projects. The event schedule has been released, and it looks like there are also some fantastic player talks, panels on recent and future changes, and feedback-gathering roundtables. As usual, there will also be plenty of opportunity for interviews and posing questions to CCP and players.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I dig into the EVE Fanfest 2016 schedule and see what there is to look forward to this year. If you have any questions you’d like to be posed to CCP or even other players, let me know in the comments!

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EVE Evolved: How did World War Bee start and where is it going?

Throughout the almost nine years I’ve been covering EVE Online in the gaming media, I’ve been continually amazed at the sheer scale and impact of events that happen in the sandbox. The fact that everything happens in one massive shardless universe lends events in EVE a kind of tangibility that is rarely felt in an MMO, with the effects of huge battles and record-breaking heists rippling throughout the game world and potentially affecting every player. Right now the whole New Eden cluster is ablaze with talk of the largest war ever to kick off in EVE Online or indeed gaming in general, a war that has come to be known as World War Bee.

We’ve been covering this ongoing war between EVE‘s largest military coalition (called CFC or The Imperium) and its collective enemies (known as The Allies or the Moneybadger Coalition), and so far it’s had some pretty epic twists and fights. But what actually caused World War Bee, what are the events that led to the Moneybadger Coalition coming together, and how does The Imperium plan to fight this war in the long term? With the wider gaming world peering on as EVE alliances smash huge fleets together in deep space over ideals and past grudges, now is a good opportunity to explore those questions.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I delve into the events that many in the EVE community believe are responsible for World War Bee and get an update on its progress and The Imperium’s plans.

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EVE Evolved: Why you should participate in EVE’s Project Discovery

Back at EVE Vegas 2015, CCP Games unveiled an ambitious project that aimed to involve EVE Online players in some really exciting scientific research that could make a big difference in the real world. CCP has been working with researchers from the Human Protein Atlas project on a way to gamify their research and integrate it directly into EVE in a way that respects the game lore. The Project Discovery minigame went live this week, and it’s been a big hit with the playerbase so far, with almost half a million submissions from over 23,000 players in the first day alone.

The minigame tasks players with identifying highlighted cell structures from fluorescent images in exchange for ISK and Analysis Kredits that can be used to buy some shiny new Sisters of EVE items. Project Discovery can be opened from the side bar whether you’re docked or in space, making it a good way to kill some time while you’re waiting for something to happen. The task can be a bit tricky at first, but some players have already become expert classifiers with hundreds of submissions and accuracy ratings of over 90%.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I delve into Project Discovery, link a few great community guides, and highlight some serious problems with it that have unfortunately appeared.

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EVE Evolved: Analysing EVE’s new Economic Reports

EVE Online‘s massive and largely player-run economy has been a frequent topic of discussion on MMO blogs and gaming news sites over the years. The unregulated nature of EVE‘s sandbox and the fact that all players interact together in a single server has made it the target of high-level studies in free-market economics, and CCP Games even had a full-time economist on staff from 2007 to 2014 to analyse it. Dr Eyjólfur Gudmundsson and his team delivered the in-depth Quarterly Economic Newsletter (QEN) on the state of the game until the reports were cancelled in 2011 due to being time-consuming and costly to produce.

While the majority of EVE players are content to run missions or smash spaceships together for fun and profit, for some it’s the complex markets and industrial gameplay that hold their interest. They fill the Market Discussion forum with speculation and pack the room during the economy talks at events like EVE Fanfest, and they’ve been asking CCP for more economic data since the QENs were cancelled. This week they got their wish as CCP Quant released the first of a new series of monthly economic updates packed full of graphs and statistics from all corners of the EVE universe.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at the new monthly economic reports and glean some useful information from February’s stats. Where is the safest place to mine? What effect did Skill Trading have? And which nullsec alliances are moving their assets?

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EVE Evolved: Citadel stats revealed, theorycrafting begins

EVE Online‘s Citadel expansion is due to launch this spring, transforming the way many of us play the game through the introduction of player-owned citadels. Building and running your own space stations seems like a no-brainer for a space sandbox MMO, but until now it’s been a very complicated and costly affair that usually appealed to only the most hardcore of players and corporations. Citadels promise to open that gameplay to everyone and make it a hell of a lot more compelling, with easy-to-use stations that can be built almost anywhere in space for as little as a few hundred million ISK.

This expansion will be the biggest step yet toward CCP’s grand sandbox vision for accessible space colonisation revealed at Fanfest 2013, with future steps including things like industrial structures and player-built stargates. Developers have now released the preliminary stats for the new structures and all of the modules and rigs that can be fitted to them, in addition to the proposed component lists and fuel costs. This information has sparked fresh speculation on how each of the three sizes of citadel will be used when the expansion goes live in just a few months, and many are already buying up materials and making plans.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I summarise all of the recently released information on player-owned citadels and draw some conclusions on how each of the three citadels will be used.

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EVE Evolved: The right way to reboot DUST 514

This week we heard the news that CCP Games will be officially shutting down PS3 online shooter DUST 514 in May to start work on a PC reboot. While this is obviously disappointing for the small but dedicated community that has stuck with the game over the years, it’s a predictable end that we always knew was coming and the prospect of a PC reboot is interesting. DUST 514 was an incredibly ambitious game that aimed to merge EVE Online‘s spaceship warfare with planetary conquest on the ground in realtime, but it never managed to harness that potential. We got very limited forms of cross-game communication and a barely useful orbital bombardment mechanic, and the core FPS gameplay wasn’t compelling enough on its own.

The new reboot is in the very early development stages and is being built from the ground up on Unreal Engine 4, so we probably won’t be getting our hands on it any time soon. By the time it does arrive, there’ll be several more first person shooters on the market and it may be competing with games like Destiny and Star Citizen on first-person gameplay. CCP will have to do something unique and compelling with the new FPS to make an impact, and that means playing on EVE‘s main strengths as a single-shard sandbox MMO with intense wars and community politics. For the new FPS to be a success, it will have to be much more tightly integrated with EVE.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at why DUST failed in its execution on PS3 and what kind of gameplay and features I think the reboot needs to be a success.

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EVE Evolved: Should CCP start developing Walking in Stations again?

In all the time that I’ve been writing about EVE Online, one of the most common recurring comments is that the game badly needs some compelling avatar-based gameplay. Many people have been compelled to try EVE over the years after hearing some crazy story of a record-breaking heist or massive ship battle only to be put off that you spend all of your time trapped inside a spaceship (or an escape pod if you run into trouble). CCP has even been teasing us with the idea of getting out of our ships and walking around inside stations since as far back as Fanfest 2006, but the feature never fully materialised.

Originally called Ambulation and later renamed to Walking in Stations, EVE‘s avatar gameplay represented a massive technical challenge of a scale that the studio had never tackled before. The feature was reportedly partially developed and then scrapped several times over the years, with grand plans periodically emerging for things like player-owned social bars, gambling minigames, and holographic war rooms. When the feature finally landed in 2011’s Incarna expansion, it didn’t live up to expectations, and the backlash from its ludicrous microtransaction prices and the perception of wasted developer time had serious repercussions for CCP’s bottom line. Development on avatar-based gameplay ceased at that point, but nearly five years on I’m beginning to think that now would be the perfect time to revisit it.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at the reasons that avatar gameplay failed in EVE the first time and why I think now may be a good time to pick it back up again.

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EVE Evolved: Three things you don’t want to miss in 2016

In the previous edition of EVE Evolved, I looked back at some of the big highlights EVE Online throughout 2015. It was a year that revolutionised practically every aspect of EVE‘s day-to-day gameplay with a flood of updates, that broke the stranglehold the game’s largest alliances had on territory, and that seriously advanced the in-game storyline in an awesome direction. It was also a year of new beginnings for developer CCP Games, with the studio releasing the rights to World of Darkness, securing a $30 million investment in its VR labs, and making a deal to bundle its upcoming VR dogfighter EVE: Valkyrie with the retail model of the Oculus Rift.

As we close the book on 2015 and begin writing the first chapter of a new year, it’s an appropriate time to the look forward at what’s to come for EVE Online in 2016 and speculate on what awesome stuff might be just over the horizon. The Citadel expansion is just months away and will let corporations of any size carve out their own little corners of the galaxy. The Drifter invasion of known space and the recent Upwell Consortium storylines will continue to play out in live in-game events that you won’t want to miss. New server hardware will be a welcome improvement as the game may finally be growing again, corp changes will help newbies get into the game, and new PvE features will encourage activity again.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at three big things happening in EVE Online in 2016 that you definitely don’t want to miss out on.

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EVE Evolved: 2015 EVE Online year in review

It’s been a busy year for sci-fi MMO EVE Online and developer CCP GamesEVE received more updates throughout 2015 than in any previous year, though it came in many small releases rather than a few big expansions. We got a whole new sovereignty system and new territorial warfare mechanics that have started to break apart many large alliances. We got new ships with the tech 3 tactical destroyers, tech 2 command destroyers, tech 2 logistics frigates, and more. Practically every module was also rebalanced, the graphics have seen a number of serious upgrades, and the NPC storyline began to seriously heat up with the appearance of a new Drifter faction emerging from wormhole space with insanely advanced technology.

We got a good look at the future for EVE‘s gameplay at EVE Fanfest 2015 and again at EVE Vegas 2015, with plans to return to big blockbuster expansions with the Citadels expansion in spring 2016. EVE‘s player activity also showed a slow decline in tandem with global MMO subscriptions in 2015 but appears to have finally stabilised toward the end of the year. As a company, CCP continued to position itself as a leading player in the upcoming VR games market with its immersive dogfighter EVE: Valkyrie and the recently released mobile VR game EVE: Gunjack. We also heard very little from PS3 shooter DUST 514, and the rights to the World of Darkness franchise were sold off to another developer.

In this year-in-review edition of EVE Evolved, I look back at the past year of gameplay updates, lore and news coverage for EVE and CCP.

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