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EVE Evolved: EVE Online’s free-to-play upgrades are pretty damn generous

You’ve probably heard by now that EVE Online is giving its free-to-play alpha clone characters a massive boost in power in December about a month after the launch of the Lifeblood expansion. The news has been spreading through the gaming media since it was announced last week at EVE Vegas 2017 and the reception online has been generally positive. Some existing players are worried that the change might even be too generous, with fears that veteran players may let their subscriptions lapse and play for free, or that the new skills might be abused to create an endless army of ganking alts.

There’s no doubt that the changes will help to close the power gap between subscribers and free players and will open up new avenues of gameplay. Free players will finally be able to fly tech 1 battlecruisers and even battleships, and cross-training for multiple races will unlock multi-faction ships such as the Sisters of EVE exploration ships. Alpha clone players will also finally be able to use tech 2 weapons and fly many of the ship setups flown in massive nullsec wars, though the way that the new skill limit is being implemented may actually benefit old and returning players more than new ones.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I dig into the free-to-play changes, briefly examine the power gap between free and subscribed players, and look at who will benefit most from the change.

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Video game journalist infects hundreds of EVE nerds with insidious virus

A gaming convention turned into the banal opening scene of a zombie outbreak movie this week as a number of players who attended EVE Vegas 2017 suddenly came down with the symptoms of a cold virus after the event. The airborne virus was brought to the event by an anonymous video game journalist — let’s call him Drendan Brain — and is believed to have originated in the United Kingdom, where it’s been sweeping rapidly across the country this month.

We reached out to Drendan Brain for comment, but his phone always went to a busy tone and his emails keep getting returned to me. The cold may also have been brought to the event by 19 other attendees from the UK, the EVE: Valkyrie team from the UK, or literally anyone going through any airport, but that wouldn’t make a snazzy headline. However the outbreak started, hundreds of EVE Online players were potentially exposed and many are now crawling into bed with some chicken soup and a cup of hot lemon. Get well soon, space bros!

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EVE Vegas 2017: Structure warfare is about to get very cool in EVE Online

If I had to pick out one thing that EVE Online does exceptionally well, apart from the political betrayals and thefts that regularly grace the gaming headlines, it would be the ability to build a real home that you’d want to protect. This year we’ve seen players erect thousands of citadels and engineering complexes all over New Eden, from the colossal 300 billion ISK Keepstars owned by the largest military alliances to tiny Astrahus citadels and Raitaru factory stations owned by one-man corporations. The stage is set for the next wave of Upwell structures with refineries and moon mining gameplay hitting on October 24th in the Lifeblood expansion.

While adoption rates of the new structures have been immense, not everything about them has gone over well with players. The game is becoming littered with cheap and often abandoned structures mostly because they’re difficult to destroy and there’s no incentive to do so. The battles that occur when players do fight over structures have also become stagnant thanks to the emergence of a few clearly optimum strategies. So while developers prepare to launch into the future with Upwell refineries and beyond, they took a pause at EVE Vegas 2017 to peer back at the past year and committed to some big improvements to structure warfare. … And this time they might have goddamn nailed it.

Read on for a full breakdown of the new details of EVE‘s upcoming moon mining feature and a look at the future of structure warfare with the Upwell Firmware Upgrade 2.0 update.

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EVE Vegas 2017: Pirate factions will hunt you down in new EVE PvE

If your experience with EVE Online‘s PvE is of grinding through waves of predictable NPC pirates firing space pea shooters at you, get ready for that to change. CCP Games has been working on advanced AI for the past few years with the aim of turning those mindless drones we fight in PvE into intelligent actors similar to players. The first stage of this was shown off with the roaming Drifter battleships and later with the Blood Raider Shipyard and NPC mining operations that will form up counter-defense fleets and try to drive you out of the star system.

The next step in this plan is landing with the Lifeblood expansion on October 24th with Pirate Forward Operating Bases (or FOBs for short) and a new Resource Wars PvE system. We learned more about these new features this weekend at EVE Vegas 2017, and they’re beginning to sound pretty epic. Read on for a breakdown of both features and details of how the Blood Raider and Guristas pirate factions may soon be actively hunting you down.

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EVE Vegas 2017: EVE Online’s free-to-play option is getting a huge boost

When EVE Online added its free-to-play alpha clone account option, it felt more like an infinite trial than a truly viable free tier. Alpha clone players are currently limited to a single faction’s ships, can only fly tech 1 cruiser sized ships and below, train skills at half the normal speed, and have access to only about 5 million skill points worth of skills. CCP Games initially expected there to be a section of the playerbase who would play alphas exclusively and never upgrade to a full account, but the options proved to be far too limiting and internal stats showed that most people upgraded to Omega quickly or quit.

At EVE Vegas 2017, CCP announced that EVE Online‘s free option is getting a massive boost this December after the Lifeblood expansion. Alpha clones will soon be able to fly battlecruisers and use tech 2 small and medium guns, allowing them to fly many of the common ships used in nullsec fleets and removing most of the power gap between alpha and omega pilots in those roles. They’ll also be able to fly battleships and train for all 4 races of ships, which has the side effect of allowing powerful pirate faction and cross-faction ships such as the Machariel and Stratios.

Read on for a brief breakdown how the new system will work for new and current players.

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EVE Vegas 2017: CCP announces new EVE-based mobile MMO Project Aurora

At the opening presentations of EVE Vegas 2017, CCP Games announced that it has teamed up with mobile developer PlayRaven to produce a totally new free-to-play mobile MMO set in the EVE Online universe. Currently codenamed Project Aurora, the new game won’t be connected to the EVE universe directly but is thematically set in EVE and has some similar gameplay elements such as territorial warfare and corporation politics.

Each player in Aurora will take command of an upgradable space station, from which ships can be dispatched to gather resources and capture territory. You’ll find yourself on a star map with other players doing the exact same, and can forge alliances, form corporations, and betray other players just like in EVE. The goal is to fight for possession of ancient artifacts in the centre of the map that you can then use to fix a broken ancient stargate and move onto the next map. Each jump brings you one step closer to the ultimate goal of reaching the center of the galaxy — I’ll take a pause here for those currently experiencing No Man’s Sky flashbacks.

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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: 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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