fleet warfare

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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EVE Evolved: The Citadel conundrum

The hot topic on everyone’s lips in EVE Online right now is Citadel proliferation: The galaxy is rapidly filling up with an uncountable number of citadels and other Upwell structures that are cheap to build, difficult to destroy, and powerful force multipliers in combat. There have been some amazing battles over the structures in nullsec since they were first introduced, but some star systems are now littered with them and a number of serious gameplay issues have bubbled to the surface.

CCP announced plans for a total structure warfare overhaul to an excited crowd back at EVE Vegas 2017, and this week we got the final details of what’s coming in February 13th’s extensive Upwell 2.0 update. The patch will introduce moon mining in highsec and wormhole space, rebalances structure combat, and aims to resolve many of the most pressing structure problems with a set of sweeping changes to the vulnerability and reinforcement mechanics. It all sounds great in theory, but some players have expressed serious concerns with several parts of CCP’s plan.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I delve into some of the problems with structure warfare in EVE today, how Upwell 2.0 plans to pull things back from the brink, and some of the changes that players are speaking out against.

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EVE Online’s biggest battle ever is about to happen, but both sides may be afraid to fight

If there’s one constant in the political sandbox of EVE Online, it’s that everyone is secretly plotting revenge on someone. Alliances can hold grudges for years, and one of those grudges may be about to explode into the largest war in EVE‘s almost 15-year history. It all started back in 2016 during the famous conflict that came to be known as World War Bee or The Casino War, when military coalition The Imperium (self-anointed villains of the EVE universe) found itself outnumbered for the first time by a loose coalition of its collective enemies known as the Moneybadger Coalition.

We covered World War Bee heavily at the time, following its political twists and decisive battles as The Imperium was forcibly evicted from its home regions in the north. The coalition vowed revenge, annexed space in the south of the map, and began farming hard to rebuild its supercapital fleets in preparation for the day when they would take the fight back to the enemy. That day may have finally arrived, but are both sides afraid to commit?

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EVE Evolved: EVE Online’s case for asymmetric and asynchronous gameplay

If there’s one thing that EVE Online does better than any other MMO on the market today, it’s persistent gameplay on massive scales. The now-famous Bloodbath of B-R5RB in 2014 involved 7,548 players over the course of almost 24 hours, and the Siege of M-OEE8 at the end of 2016 peaked at 5,300 separate players all piled into the same star system at the same time. Hundreds of thousands of players live and fight in the same single-shard universe, and EVE‘s largest corporations have more members than the total population on some other MMOs’ shards.

But what about the smaller end of the scale? MMOs aren’t just populated by monolithic organisations bent on galactic domination, and a growing proportion of today’s gamers play online games solo or in smaller groups. Features such as Upwell structures and the new PvE gameplay have clearly been designed with a wide range of gameplay scales in mind, but EVE has never really got past the problem that bigger groups are almost always better. Could the solution to this problem be found in small-scale asymmetric and asynchronous warfare opportunities?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at why EVE‘s massive scale makes it so compelling, the problem that massive scale introduces, and the case for more asymmetric and asynchronous warfare.

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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 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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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: 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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