eve evolved

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

EVE Evolved: Does skillpoint trading make EVE pay-to-win?

EVE Online‘s realtime skill training system has been a major point of contention throughout the game’s lifetime, being a boon for those with little time to invest but often stunting players who prefer to work toward goals. While you could grind your way to your first billion ISK and can play the market freely, skill training will slow your progression. The system made a lot of sense back in EVE‘s early life when subscriptions were the only game in town, as you’re guaranteed to make progress even if you don’t have time to play. EVE quickly got a reputation as an MMO that rewards careful planning more than hours sunk into grinding content, and it settled in that niche for quite some time. For new players, however, skills represent roadblocks lasting anywhere from a few weeks to a few months depending on what ship you want to fly or what role you want to play.

The inability to grind for skillpoints has been a common complaint among today’s prospective players, who believe they’ll never be able to catch up to veterans no matter how good they become at the game. Those complaints may soon be silenced, however, as CCP has announced plans to let players extract skillpoints in unwanted skills and sell them on the open market as Transneural Skill Packets. You’ll be able to respec your character by extracting skills you don’t use and re-assigning their points to other fields, and players who grind their way to riches will be able to buy skillpoints to boost their characters. The player reaction to the announcement has been oddly mixed, with over 150 pages filled with doomsday predictions on the forum but more cautiously optimistic responses from the EVE blogging community and subreddit. So what’s the big deal with selling skillpoints, and does it make EVE pay-to-win?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at EVE‘s skill system, what will change with the introduction of the Transneural Skill Packet system, and whether this makes EVE pay-to-win.

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EVE Evolved: Bring on the big expansions again!

When EVE Online‘s development switched from two major expansions per year to ten smaller releases, the benefits were pretty difficult to argue with. EVE had garnered a reputation for pushing out new features before they were ready just to make the expansion deadline and then moving swiftly on to the next big idea. Moving to smaller but more frequent releases means a missed deadline is only a delay of a few weeks and completed features don’t sit in limbo for up to six months until the next expansion window. The results in terms of gameplay are pretty hard to argue with too, as EVE has seen more updates and content in the past year than in any previous year.

Dropping expansions hasn’t been a wholly positive change, however, and in the long term I think it may have actually harmed EVE‘s player numbers. The smaller updates don’t make much of a splash in the media and don’t seem to make people excited to play or resubscribe in the way that a big blockbuster expansion does. Some big expansion-worthy features have been deployed in the dozen small patches released over the past year, only to slip silently under the radar of past and prospective players. Executive Producer Andie Nordgren recently announced that EVE is switching back to a standard expansion model next year, but with the twist that expansions will be released when ready rather than forced out the door for an arbitrary six month deadline.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I discuss some of the problems caused by smaller updates and why I think big themed expansions are an integral part of EVE.

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EVE Evolved: New roles for capital ships

In the past two editions of EVE Evolved, I looked at the Aegis sovereignty warfare overhaul and how it played out in a recent war in the Providence region. The new system has been a pretty big success in terms of improving the day-to-day play of those living in the depths of null-security space, but there have been a few casualities. As I mentioned in last week’s article, capital ships have lost their primary roles in the new war dynamic and are fast becoming unnecessary on the battlefield. The new gameplay encourages the use of highly mobile gangs of medium sized ships such as battlecruisers and cruisers, leaving not much use for battleships and capitals. Dreadnoughts have been made completely obsolete as we don’t shoot at structures any more, triage carriers have little use in a war that doesn’t need battleships, and you don’t need supercapitals to counter enemy capitals if they aren’t fielding any.

CCP has promised that a full capital ship rebalance is in the works to give EVE Online‘s capital ships new roles in nullsec warfare, and a recent devblog has shed some light on the first step of that plan. Dreadnought pilots will be happy to know that shooting at structures is coming back in a limited fashion; the new Citadel structures that are planned to eventually replace player-owned starbases and space stations will use a new damage mitigation mechanic instead of the entosis mechanic. There’s still no word on what roles carriers, supercarriers or titans will be squeezed into, but there are plenty of ways they could be adapted to serve important strategic roles in the new sovereignty gameplay. Could supercarriers become actual carriers for moving fleets behind enemy lines? And maybe titans could be the mobile space stations we’ve read about in the EVE lore.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at a few problems with the new damage mitigation mechanic and suggest possible strategic roles for the other capital ships.

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EVE Evolved: The war for Providence

In the previous edition of EVE Evolved, I looked at how the state of PvP in EVE Online has changed since the Aegis Sovereignty overhaul and asked whether it’s been a success. Players quickly started adapting to the new system and reported getting a lot more fights, with some smaller alliances even managing to capture space from established entities. Small fleets found themselves able to kick down another alliance’s space doors and become a credible threat, being rewarded with either a good fight or an opportunity to capture something. Station capture events also naturally became beacons to third parties that signaled a big fight was about to go down, and huge alliances discovered that they could no longer easily hold space they don’t use. The day-to-day PvP in alliance territories seemed be massively improved, but we had yet to see an actual turf war using the new mechanics

Since then we’ve got our first taste of a real territorial war with the battle for the Providence region. Alliance theorycrafters have been drawing up experimental fleet doctrines and battle plans since Aegis landed, and at the end of August we got to see them tested on a real battlefield. The Imperium announced plans to mobilise its forces to conquer Providence as a way of testing new strategies and gaining experience with the new sovereignty mechanics, and it wasn’t long before other major groups like TEST Alliance and Legion of xXDEATHXx joined the fray. The results of the battle were very illuminating, with people having a lot more fun than expected and the defender’s advantage being thoroughly tested. We also saw how capital ships have lost their roles in today’s territorial warfare, which was expected as CCP has already stated that a full capital ship rework is coming.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at how the recent war in Providence played out and give my views on why capital ships have lost their roles in the new territorial warfare dynamic.

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EVE Evolved: Has the Aegis sovereignty system worked?

It’s been over a month since EVE Online deployed its new sovereignty and territorial warfare system, and the dust is only now beginning to settle. The Aegis update completely revamped sovereignty warfare, replacing the grind of shooting massive structures with massive fleets with a new system based around the Entosis Link module. It was hoped that the new system would lower the barrier to entry for sovereignty warfare and allow smaller but dedicated alliances to capture and hold space against larger opponents. While the old system made large fleets practically mandatory and led to ever-growing coalitions banding together, it was hoped that the new system would encourage a larger number of smaller fights. When fleets of any size can attempt to contest the ownership of a structure, it’s up to the owners to aggressively defend their space or lose it.

There has been considerable noise in the EVE community since the update went live, with plenty of critical feedback from nullsec alliances and even some backlash directed at its designer CCP Fozzie. Despite complaints, it’s clear that the sov system is achieving some of its stated goals: players have reported an increased number of smaller fights, a few small alliances are capturing space, and industrialists are being actively recruited into nullsec alliances again. The past month of warfare has nonetheless highlighted some pretty serious problems with the sovereignty mechanics that CCP will need to address, some of which it plans to tackle in Tuesday’s Galatea update.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I delve into the player response to EVE‘s new territorial warfare mechanics, highlight a few remaining problems with the system, and look at the upcoming Galatea sovereignty update.

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EVE Evolved: CCP can’t just focus on EVE Online any more

The recent announcement of arcade shooter EVE: Gunjack for the Samsung Gear VR has prompted some pretty interesting negative responses from gamers this week. There’s obviously still a lot of ill will in the air over the cancellation of the World of Darkness MMO, and people have been a bit skeptical of CCP‘s plans since Monoclegate and the underwhelming reception of DUST 514. Many of the comments on Massively Overpowered and other sites suggested that CCP should release Valkyrie before starting work on yet another title, or that the studio should stick to EVE Online and stop wasting money from EVE subscriptions on side projects. People are honestly suggesting that CCP should keep putting all of its eggs in one big (and slowly shrinking) basket, but that just doesn’t make business sense.

Nobody should be surprised that CCP wants to develop several new games or that it’s failed to replicate the success of EVE Online. EVE activity seems to be on a slow decline, and the truth is that very few independent game studios strike it big with even one game. Previous success is not necessarily an indicator of future success, and it’d be naive to think one game can support a large studio indefinitely, so CCP naturally has to keep working on new titles just like everyone else if it wants to survive. If we want EVE Online to still be around a decade from now, it may depend on experimentation with new games and emerging trends such as VR today. There may even come a time when CCP won’t revolve around EVE Online but around whole collection of titles spanning the EVE universe and beyond, and it won’t get there without taking some measured risks.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at why CCP can’t just focus on EVE any more and why developing lots of small experimental games could benefit EVE Online in the long term.

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EVE Evolved: Fitting Tech 3 Tactical Destroyers as PvP brawlers

The past few months have seen a flood of frequent updates hitting EVE Online, and among them we got a whole new class of ship with the Tech 3 Tactical Destroyer. Unlike their cruiser-sized bigger brothers, tech 3 destroyers can transform mid-battle to choose between three separate roles: Defense, Propulsion, and Sharpshooter. These versatile little ships have carved out a niche for themselves in small scale PvP such as Faction Warfare, each functioning as an effective tackler and brawler rolled into one. Tech 3 destroyers can also fit a combat probe launcher to get a warp-in on enemy fleets and have become a popular anti-tackle tool that can snipe from over 50km and track interdictors and interceptors.

I’ve previously written a guide on fitting the Amarr Confessor, the first of the new tech 3 destroyers to be released, but since then a balance patch has made those setups obsolete. Now that all four races have got their own tactical destroyers and the prices have come down to an affordable 35-60 million ISK, I’d like to take a look at how we can fit each of them for PvP. EVE has become a testing ground for dozens of experimental ship setups for each of the tech 3 destroyers as players compete to find out what fitting works best for a variety of situations. The dust has far from settled, but some pretty decent brawling and kiting fits have been gracing the killboards lately and I’ve put together four of my favourite brawling fits. All of the fittings in this article use only tech 2 and named items, but they require good fitting skills and sometimes a 2-3% CPU or powergrid from implants. They’ve been put together with the aid of the fantastic EVE Fitting Tool.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at PvP brawler fittings and strategies for the Amarr Confessor, Caldari Jackdaw, Minmatar Svipul, and Gallente Hecate.

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EVE Evolved: It’s never too late to start playing EVE

Any time an in-depth discussion pops up about EVE Online, it’s never long before someone pipes up with the complaint that new players just can’t compete with veterans. EVE has been out for over 12 years now, and thanks to its realtime skill training mechanic, there are players who seem to have up to a 250 million skillpoint head start. Existing players have also had years to build up wealth, join together in huge alliances, learn how all the game mechanics work, figure out the best ship fittings, and get a lot of PvP practice. Actually catching up to the veterans in every way is next to impossible, but the truth is that you don’t need to. You can be very effective in PvE and PvP with just a few months of skill training and practice, and you can still contribute heavily to fleets with cheap tech 1 ships.

As EVE has been in constant development for 12 years, its history is full of moments when the rules of the game changed and the gulf between newbies and veterans suddenly shortened. When a new major feature comes out and changes the game in a significant way, new players and veterans alike must adapt and effectively have the same challenges and opportunities. We could be approaching one of those moments with Tuesday’s patch, which will turn sovereignty on its head by allowing small groups to potentially steal star systems from larger alliances. There’s a lot of theorycrafting left to be done on strategies and fleet compositions in the new system, and anyone who implements a good strategy before anyone else will get a significant advantage.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at several moments in EVE‘s history when players found themselves suddenly competing on a more even playing field and ask what lesson older games can learn from them.

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EVE Evolved: Is EVE becoming less emergent?

I’ve often heard it said that EVE Online is more fun to read about than to actually play, and for the vast majority of gamers I’m sure that statement would hold true. Some truly incredible stories of theft and politics have come out of EVE over the years, but most players will never get to be an integral part of events such as those. For every player who pulls off a massive scam or accidentally kick-starts a battle that makes its way into the record books, there are thousands just going about the everyday business of manufacturing, mining, and smashing spaceships together for fun and profit. The huge stories that hit the news are often months or years in the making, and represent EVE‘s highlight reel rather than its everyday reality. Nevertheless, the possibility of becoming part of one of those emergent stories is a huge part of the reason people sign up to the game.

When EVE launched back in 2003, a lot of players were hooked by the potential of a massive sandbox universe that was largely under player control. With barely any content to speak of and only a handful of ships and modules, EVE quickly became a game where motivated players could make a name for themselves. Corporations became known for particular strategies, pirates gained infamy, and certain star systems specialised into manufacturing centres, marketplaces, or pirate hotspots to be avoided. This was all completely emergent gameplay, unscripted and often unexpected by the game’s developers, and it’s what made EVE special. The past few years have introduced a ton of content and improved gameplay, but I’m beginning to think that it’s come at the cost of the game’s core emergent gameplay.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at why emergence is such a big deal in EVE and ask whether the game has actually become less supportive of emergent gameplay over the years.

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EVE Evolved: Is EVE’s fleet warp nerf a good idea?

In the latest episode of EVE Online‘s livestreamed o7 Show, game designers CCP Fozzie and CCP Larrikin revealed some controversial changes that are on the way for the game’s fleet warp mechanics. A fleet commander can currently warp his entire fleet to the same location with one button press, but July’s Aegis patch will be severely limit this feature. We’ll still be able to fleet warp to other fleet members or celestial objects like planets and stargates, but we’ll no longer be able to fleet warp to things like bookmarks, missions, deadspace complexes, or scan probe results. Response to the news has been mixed, with some expecting it to breathe new life in PvP fleets and others bemoaning the loss of convenience. The only thing that seems certain right now is that this change will have far-reaching consequences for all group-based gameplay in EVE Online.

Wormhole citizens are rightly concerned about the proposal as wormholes and valuable sleeper sites aren’t on the approved fleet-warping list, though thankfully cosmic anomalies are. The inability to fleet warp to missions and bookmarks will also be an inconvenience to miners and PvE-focused players, while incursions and faction warfare farming should be relatively unaffected. The biggest impact will obviously be in PvP, where the nerf reduces the ability of fleet commanders to directly control their troops during a battle. Fleets will now need to issue more orders over voice chat, get cloaked ships next to the enemy before warping on top of them, and maybe even prepare tactical bookmark sets ahead of major engagements.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I examine the incoming fleet warp nerf and ask whether the benefits outweigh the inconvenience.

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EVE Evolved: Have the Drifters conquered the Jove Empire?

EVE Online‘s Carnyx release is right around the corner on June 2nd, and it’s going to be a big update! The Caldari will finally get their tech 3 tactical destroyer with the release of the Jackdaw, a tough little ship that specialises in light missiles and rockets. We’re also getting some graphical tweaks, more cruiser-sized burner missions, and the long-awaited rebalance of afterburners, microwarpdrives, shield extenders, and armour plates. This release will also add the Entosis mechanic I’ve discussed in previous articles, though players will be able to use it only in a limited capacity to disable station services.

While it’ll be good to see all of the above implemented, the thing that I’m most looking forward to is the opening of five more mysterious new wormhole systems as part of the advancing Drifter storyline. The new star systems can be reached via unidentified wormholes that appear in systems with Jove Observatories and appear to lead directly to Drifter space, where new group PvE challenges lie. This next step in EVE‘s storyline also seems set to tie everything new in the game together, from the upcoming structures and new capture mechanics to new PvE types and maybe even plans to eventually give players control over empire space.

In this lore-filled edition of EVE Evolved, I delve into the story surrounding the Drifter menace, speculate on where the Jove fit into the picture, and look at how an in-character YouTube series is really bringing EVE‘s patches to life.

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EVE Evolved: Building your own empire

When CCP announced its far-reaching plans to overhaul EVE Online‘s territorial warfare gameplay, players were cautiously optimistic but understandably guarded. EVE‘s old sovereignty system saw the game’s signature political rivalry and emergent warfare gradually morph into a stagnant universe in which a few massive coalitions held practically all of the power. What started out as alliances naturally joining forces against common enemies ended up with just a handful of groups controlling almost all of the lawless nullsec regions, a situation that nobody (not even the coalitions themselves) was happy with.

Independent alliances and individual corporations are still forced by neccessity to gain powerful allies or join an existing coalition if they want to play any part in EVE‘s territorial endgame. The jump fatigue feature introduced in November’s Phoebe release and the recent changes in Mosaic have helped force alliances contract into smaller territories and shattered many renter empires, but those are just the first steps in a much grander plan. EVE is heading into a golden age in which any corporation can build its own little empire and independent alliances may actually be able to defend their space from attack, and it all begins this summer.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at the latest details of this summer’s sovereignty overhaul and the recently revealed Citadel structures that will let any corporation build its own little empire in the void of space.

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EVE Evolved: Seven years of EVE Evolved

When I started writing about EVE Online for Massively back in 2008, the MMO genre was really hitting its stride, and emerging sites like Massively were starting to attract quite a bit of traffic. I was a young Computer Science student and massive EVE fanatic with just a few magazine articles and an amateur blog under my belt, equal parts excited to expose my favourite game to a wider audience and apprehensive about screwing it up. I cautiously penned my first EVE Evolved piece on April 27th 2008, a critical think-piece that set the tone for much of the column’s tenure. Now seven years and over 320 articles later, I’m very glad that EVE Evolved is still here to dish out a regular dose of insight into the often impenetrable world of EVE Online.

I think it’s safe to say that this has been one of the most interesting years in the column’s lifetime, especially with Massively shutting down back in February and the staff striking out on our own as independent MMO news site MassivelyOP. It’s been an equally interesting year for the MMO genre, with indications of paid subscriptions dropping across the board and EVE Online showing its first year of non-consecutive growth. As EVE approaches its 12th birthday next week, it’s worth looking back on some of the year’s highlights. We’ve seen the impact of EVE switching from two major expansions per year to ten smaller releases, a ton of improvements for new players, the exciting resurgence of the 2009 Sleeper storyline, and there’s the promise of a complete nullsec overhaul just around the corner.

In this anniversary edition of EVE Evolved, I look back at the past year of the EVE Evolved column and highlights from EVE‘s 12th year!

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