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EVE Evolved: 2016 EVE Online year in review

It’s been another busy year for sci-fi MMO EVE Online, and an absolute roller coaster ride for both players and developer CCP Games. On the development side, we’ve had two major expansions with Citadel and Ascension and a significant business model change with the introduction of a free-to-play account option. Fan events EVE Fanfest 2016 and EVE Vegas 2016 brought us some fantastic insights into the future development, including a peek at some amazing work on future PvE gameplay and an all-new EVE FPS codenamed Project Nova.

Proving once again that the players in EVE are the most engaging content, this year brought us the political twists and turns of the now-infamous World War Bee, which became the largest PvP war ever to happen in an online game. We also delved into some absolutely crazy sandbox stories, including one player using $28,000 worth of skill injectors to create a max skill character as a publicity stunt, and the controversial banning of the gambling kingpins behind World War Bee.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look back over all the biggest EVE stories of the year, from the political shenanigans of World War Bee to the surprise free-to-play option and how expansions have changed the face of the game this year.

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EVE Vegas 2016: EVE Online is finally getting a real tutorial

One of EVE Online‘s developers once described the new player experience with the line “Welcome to EVE, here’s a Rubik’s cube, go f**k yourself,” and he wasn’t wrong. EVE has a well-earned reputation for being a difficult game with an incomprehensible user interface, and new players are just dropped into it at the deep end. CCP has tried to overhaul the new player experience several times over the years and even implemented an achievement-style Opportunities system, but 51% of new players still quit by around the two hour mark.

This was the monumental problem inherited by CCP Ghost, the weird chap who showed us all a scan of his brain at EVE Fanfest back in May. Ghost had some interesting ideas for revamping the tutorial using a story based approach, and this weekend at EVE Vegas 2016 we got to see the final result of this work in action along with details of how it was designed. Under the codename of Inception, the first stage of EVE‘s new fully voiced story tutorial will be going live with the Ascension expansion on November 15th. After seeing the Inception tutorial in action, I finally see what has been missing all this time and realise that EVE has never actually had a proper immersive tutorial before.

Read on to find out what makes EVE‘s upcoming Inception tutorial so different, how it was designed, and what the future may hold for EVE‘s new player experience.

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EVE Evolved: Alpha Clone economics, bragging rights, and restrictions

Yesterday at EVE Vegas 2016, developer CCP Rise held us spellbound with tales of his recent misadventures in EVE Online recently when pretending to be a newbie. With free alpha clone accounts on the way, the devs wanted to prove that a well-informed player in an alpha clone could engage in a wide range of activities and even see success in PvP, and CCP Rise naturally rose to the challenge. Starting with only the skills trainable by an alpha clone character and no ISK or assets, he quickly got on his feet and made enough ISK to start engaging in frigate and cruiser PvP and net some very nice solo kills against veterans.

Rise’s success came as no surprise to me, as I’ve done similar experiments with small group PvP and I know just how effective cheap tech 1 cruisers can be. I recently showed how free users could be nearly as effective as well-trained subscribers in the same ships, and yet the myth that they will be simply cannon fodder for the elite pervades the comments sections in articles throughout the web. Developers have said that they intend for free play to be a viable long-term play style, and it should be possible to extend the system in the future. We may even some day get specific challenge clone states for those who want bragging rights or hardcore clones with permadeath.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I debunk the myth the alpha clone system is an endless trial, examine the potential impact of alphas on both EVE community culture and CCP’s financials, and look at a few ways the clone state system could be expanded on.

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EVE Vegas 2016: Bridging the gap between PvE and PvP

While EVE Online is typically thought of as a cutthroat PvP game, players spend a substantial amount of time engaged in PvE activities such as missions, exploration, and farming nullsec anomalies. At last year’s EVE Vegas event, we heard about CCP’s ambitious long-term vision for PvE that included ideas such as procedural content and NPC ships flying around and acting like players. This weekend at EVE Vegas 2016, we learned that an impressive part of this vision will actually be going live in the Ascension expansion with the introduction of NPC mining operations.

Starting with the Ascension expansion on November 15th, several NPC corporations will begin mining in the asteroid belts throughout New Eden. These groups have been modeled on real player-run mining ops and will feature NPCs mining real ore and haulers collecting it, but they aren’t just new NPCs to blow up. If you attack the mining ops or have low standings with the corporation or faction that owns them, they’ll dispatch a combat wing to take you out. Critically, all of the ships in these groups (including the combat ships) will be flying actual EVE ships with real fittings modeled on player-made ship setups.

Read on for a brief breakdown of the new PvE feature, what it means for PvE, and how it bridges the gap between PvE and PvP.

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EVE Vegas 2016: Ascension expansion detailed, new trailer released

While the main event of the EVE Online social calendar is unmistakably the annual EVE Fanfest convention in Iceland, smaller gatherings are held throughout the year all over the world. Hundreds of players flock to Las Vegas every year for EVE Vegas, which started life as the largest player-run EVE event and is now officially endorsed and run by CCP Games. I’m on the ground at EVE Vegas this weekend to get some insight into the upcoming Ascension expansion, which is due to go live in just over two weeks on November 15th.

Ascension aims to turn EVE Online on its head by opening the doors to subscription-free users for the first time in the game’s 13-year history. To prepare for opening the flood gates on a free-to-play EVE and get all of those new players over the game’s infamous learning cliff, developers have produced a story-based tutorial system and overhauled the character sheet interface. Veterans can look forward to a dramatically improved ship fitting screen, new player-built industrial complexes, huge mining ship buffs, a new EVE mobile app for Android and iOS, and NPC mining ops using advanced AI.

Read on for a breakdown of some of the big things we learned at the EVE Vegas 2016 Keynote and to check out CCP’s new expansion trailer and feature videos.

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EVE Evolved: What else is coming to EVE Online in November?

Recently I’ve been looking at how EVE Online will be affected by the introduction of free-to-play “alpha clone” accounts in its upcoming November expansion, but there’s a lot more coming in the update than just free accounts. New players will also be met with a completely new story-driven introduction instead of a standard tutorial, and a new ghost fitting system will let players try out ship designs using virtual ships. PvE immersion is also due for a boost as NPCs will begin harvesting ore in asteroid belts and engaging in some industrial operations just like players.

The central feature of the as-yet-unnamed expansion will be the introduction of a new line of player-built citadels for us to build and fight over, this time with a specialised focus on manufacturing and research. Gang and fleet warfare throughout EVE also seems set to change for the better, with a complete redesign of the fleet boost mechanics and the removal of controversial off-grid boosters. Titans will be given new strategic superweapons that provide huge gameplay-bending effects to large areas of the battlefield, and the Rorqual capital mining ship is getting a serious buff.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at a few of the features that have been announced for the November expansion and speculate on how some of them might impact EVE.

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Here’s how EVE Online’s new player experience is going to flow

Andie “CCP Seagull” Nordgren has a new development video out for EVE Online players this afternoon. She explains that as part of the free-to-play conversion for the game, CCP has a “big team” working on the new player experience.

“When you enter the game, you will wake up in the aftermath of a battle gone wrong, ” she explains, “and your empire will need you to get up to speed and perform important tasks so that you can eventually help with the Drifter threat in a pinnacle moment where a large fleet from your empire engages the Drifter forces.” Players will be guided along by their ship’s AI and factional leaders with the goal of getting both a purposeful and epic experience.

Nordgren says more information on the new player experience, the engineering complexes, command bursts, and fitting simulation system will be released next month and during EVE Vegas (which Massively OP’s Brendan Drain will be attending).

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The MOP Up: Batman invites you to his gala (September 18, 2016)

The MMO industry moves along at the speed of information, and sometimes we’re deluged with so much news here at Massively Overpowered that some of it gets backlogged. That’s why there’s The MOP Up: a weekly compilation of smaller MMO stories and videos that you won’t want to miss. Seen any good MMO news? Hit us up through our tips line!

This week Bruce Wayne (AKA Batman) threw a special gala in DC Universe Online. We’ve got that plus stories and videos from DestinyMarvel HeroesElder Scrolls Online, and more, all waiting for you after the break!

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EVE Online looks back at 2015 in its totality

So, how was 2015 for EVE Online? Well, it featured a lot of stuff from the game’s development team, definitely. But is that the most interesting thing that happened? No, EVE is a game driven by its players, and the final year-in-review post from the team focuses heavily upon the many player-driven events and content that ran through 2015. That includes art, videos, and even fanfic written by dedicated players.

The retrospective also looks back at this year’s EVE Fanfest and EVE Vegas, so no matter what you liked about the year in the far reaches of space, there’s bound to be a nod therein. It’s a nice look back through the past 365 days of play; here’s hoping that 2016 produces no shortage of its own positive memories.

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EVE Vegas 2015: The future of PvE in EVE Online

While the focus of EVE Vegas 2015 was definitely on the new Citadel structures and the capital ship overhaul coming next spring, the topic I’ve been most frequently asked about by readers is what’s on the horizon for PvE. To find out, I attended PvE roundtable discussion headed up by game designer CCP Affinity, who answered player questions and gave us a glimpse into the future of PvE in the sandbox. In the short term, we can look forward to the advancement of the Drifter storyline and the release of a new soon-to-be-revealed Tribute system that will give players extra rewards for their first piece of content completed each day. We can expect to see a devblog on this new feature released any day now.

The long-term picture for PvE presented at the roundtable was pretty awesome, with NPC patrols for all factions flying around the game and interacting with the universe just like players. Every part of space could eventually be filled with ships going about their daily business and reacting to players based on standings, offering missions and services to allies and opening fire on or even pursuing enemies. Other ideas in the pipeline including procedural generation of missions and dungeons to add an element of randomness, and scaling up content in difficulty based on the number and type of ships you bring. This would be a huge deal for EVE, as right now PvE is so predictable that players quickly optimise strategies for dealing with any new gameplay.

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EVE Vegas 2015: Project Discovery gamifies scientific research

One of the problems facing some fields of scientific research is that there are often huge numbers of images to classify and analyse, and researchers just can’t keep up with the workload. Several labs have launched projects over the years that aim to get the general public’s help with this problem, such as the Galaxy Zoo project that asked the general public to visually classify galaxies. While machine learning has come a long way in recent years, the human brain is a powerful pattern-matching computer and real humans will always be useful for pre-classifying training images for the computer system.

Project Discovery aims to bring this powerful tool into EVE Online universe by turning the classification process into a game mechanic that makes sense within the EVE universe and lore. When the project goes live, the Sisters of EVE faction will begin offering people loyalty points for each image they correctly classify. Developers selected the Human Protein project as it fits with the EVE design and is altruistic in nature, supporting research into protein expression in cells that could have important consequences for research on a variety of diseases and genetic conditions.

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EVE Vegas 2015: Further Citadel details, Valkyrie, capitals, and skill packets

Though most of the big reveals for EVE Vegas 2015 were front-loaded into day one’s EVE keynote talk, a lot of questions were left unanswered on the specific details of the capital rebalance and citadel structures. Day two’s talks provided further details of both features and included a few additional reveals that got rounds of applause from the audience.

We had some excellent player presentations throughout the day on everything from the history of EVE Online‘s first great war to starting a corp successfully and the spying metagame. I also got the opportunity to try out the latest version of EVE: Valkyrie on what may be close to the final release version of the Oculus Rift, and found out what attendees thought of CCP’s plans for the skill packet trading system.

Read on for a breakdown of all of the above, including new information on structures and capitals and my own views on the announcements.

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EVE Vegas 2015: Citadel expansion details revealed

CCP promised some big reveals at EVE Vegas 2015 and so far it has definitely delivered. In yesterday’s EVE Online keynote speech, we heard concrete details on the big Spring 2016 expansion and some other cool stuff coming to EVE in the near future. Now officially named Citadels, this expansion is intended to be the “biggest addition to the sandbox gameplay since the original starbases” and includes a complete overhaul of capital ships as well as three different sizes of the new modular citadel structure. CCP confirmed that citadels will be anchorable anywhere, even in high-security space, with the only restriction being that it can’t be within 600km or so of any NPC structure, celestial object, or other citadel.

We also learned that the supercomputer which runs EVE‘s main Tranquility server is getting upgraded and moved to a new data centre, and some big server-side performance optimisations are on the way thanks to the Brain in a Box feature. CCP also confirmed that the company is standing behind its somewhat controversial Transneural skill packet system that will soon allow players to trade skillpoints on the open market, but that they are still taking feedback on board regarding the specific implementation details. EVE will also be getting some new camera options (including a first person mode) and a fancy new launcher by the end of the year.

Read on for a full breakdown of the reveals for the Citadel expansion and the capital ship rework.

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