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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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Battle Bards Episode 115: EVE Online

Forgettable ambient noise or entrancing space sounds? This is the debate that’s at the core of today’s episode, as the Battle Bards take on EVE Online’s beloved and perhaps misunderstood soundtrack. It’s a journey that goes far beyond our galaxy to one full of intrigue, industry, and space discotheques!

Battle Bards is a bi-weekly podcast that alternates between examining a single MMO’s soundtrack and exploring music tracks revolving around a theme. MOP’s Justin co-hosts with bloggers Steff and Syl. The cast is available on iTunesGoogle PlayTuneInPocket CastsStitcher, and Player.FM.

Listen to Episode 115: EVE Online (or download it) now:

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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: 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: 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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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: 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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Let’s go moon mining in EVE Online’s newly announced expansion, Lifeblood

Happy September, EVE Online. Howsabout an expansion? You got it: CCP has just announced Lifeblood, launching October 24th.

“As new technologies for resource acquisition emerge in the form of Upwell Refineries, new moon mining capabilities and refined reaction processes, pirate factions have set their sights on taking a slice of the dwindling resources that remain in New Eden. With more tools for resource gathering at the hands of capsuleers than ever before, the competition for raw materials and supremacy over space is becoming more heated than ever as the cluster is pushed closer toward the brink of all out conflict.”

New refinery structures are en route, along with moon mining, a better UI for reactions and The Agency tool, collaborative gameplay dubbed “resource wars,” pirate FOBs to take out, a balancing pass for alpha ships, and a ledger for mining history. The studio’s also awarding Fanfest and EVE Vegas ticket holders a Marshal class CONCORD Battleship. Requisite trailer below!

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CCP’s VR sports game Sparc has arrived on PSVR today

Remember CCP’s multiplayer VR sports sim Sparc? We first heard about it back in February, and now as planned, the Icelandic studio known best for MMO EVE Online has formally launched the game on PSVR for $29.99 as of today. It’s not really an MMO or even trying to be; the idea is that players will be sparring in a 1v1 arena playing a VR-based match of what is essentially fancy neon ping-pong/dodgeball versus friends or frenemies plucked from the matchmaker, then when that’s over, you even get to play dress-up.

MOP’s Brendan Drain got a hands-on with the game at this past spring’s EVE Fanfest. “CCP has hit the nail on the head with the feel of Sparc,” he wrote in April. “Sparc legitimately has the potential to become the Wii Sports of VR, a collection of competitive activities transmitted via the internet and experienced in VR but played in real space with real athletic competition. I’ve often complained that VR has no killer app, no must-have game that absolutely needs VR to work, but I think Sparc might be it.”

We’ve tucked the brand-new trailer down below, but we warn you: You won’t burn any calories watching it.

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CCP’s VR sports game Sparc launches August 29

First announced back in February, CCP’s multiplayer VR sports sim Sparc was all set for a summer launch as of E3, and now the date is firming up: The Icelandic studio known best for MMO EVE Online has picked August 29th for the game’s debut on PSVR. Expect it to run $29.99.

Sparc is a virtual sport, or ‘vSport’ – a unique full-body experience only possible in virtual reality, where the player’s VR equipment is their sports gear. In Sparc, players connect online to compete in fast-paced and physical one-on-one gameplay. Players use their two PlayStation®Move motion controllers to throw projectiles across the court at their opponent, while dodging, blocking or deflecting any incoming shots.”

MOP’s Brendan Drain got a hands-on with the game at this past spring’s EVE Fanfest. “CCP has hit the nail on the head with the feel of Sparc,” he wrote in April. “Sparc legitimately has the potential to become the Wii Sports of VR, a collection of competitive activities transmitted via the internet and experienced in VR but played in real space with real athletic competition. I’ve often complained that VR has no killer app, no must-have game that absolutely needs VR to work, but I think Sparc might be it.”

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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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E3 2017: CCP’s VR sports game Sparc debuts new trailer, summer PSVR launch

First announced back in February, CCP’s multiplayer VR sports sim Sparc is getting the E3 treatment this week, being available for play (and spectating) at the show. Expect it for PSVR later this summer, though it’ll eventually filter to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive too.

“Sparc is a skill-based, fast-paced, and physical sport only possible in virtual reality,” says the Icelandic studio known best for MMO EVE Online. “In Sparc, players utilize their two PlayStation Move motion controllers to aim and throw projectiles at each other inside a sleek virtual arena, while defending themselves by dodging, blocking, or deflecting incoming attacks from a live opponent. Players can compete against their friends or find challengers via online matchmaking.”

Our own Brendan Drain got a hands-on with the game at this past spring’s EVE Fanfest, arguing that “CCP has hit the nail on the head with the feel of Sparc.”

Sparc legitimately has the potential to become the Wii Sports of VR, a collection of competitive activities transmitted via the internet and experienced in VR but played in real space with real athletic competition,” he wrote in April. “I’ve often complained that VR has no killer app, no must-have game that absolutely needs VR to work, but I think Sparc might be it.”

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