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EVE Fanfest 2018: CCP Games has big plans for data collection and machine learning

Every day in the sandbox of New Eden, several hundred thousand EVE Online players perform millions of unseen actions. Every item manufactured, module activated, shot fired at an NPC, and stargate activated leaves its mark on the universe, but the granular details of those actions is lost forever. It simply isn’t feasible to record every little thing a player does in-game, or at least it wasn’t feasible until now. At EVE Fanfest 2018, CCP announced an innocuous new Activity Tracker feature that may actually eventually have big consequences for everything from game balance to fighting bots.

The feature will be delivered as a new Activity Tracker window in the game client that will show players detailed stats on almost everything they’ve done in-game since the tracker went live. This in itself is useful, both for helping players set goals and for highlighting other areas of the game they might not have given a fair shake yet and so might enjoy. Behind the scenes, the way that CCP is collecting this detailed data and the implications of its use are really fascinating, and there are even plans to use machine learning to look for patterns in this data that would help identify bots.

Read on for a breakdown of exactly how masses of new data is being captured on EVE players, and how it could be put to use in the future.

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EVE Fanfest 2018: Andrew Groen on the sequel to his popular EVE Online history book

One of the most common comments you’ll see in articles about big events in EVE Online is that it’s a lot more entertaining to read about than to play, and that’s certainly true if what you’re reading is Empires of EVE. Written by EVE Historian Andrew Groen back in 2015 and published thanks to the support of over 3,000 players through a crowdfunding campaign, Empires of EVE tells the story of some of EVE‘s earliest and most deadly wars and political schisms.

Cutting through all of the propaganda and player self-motivations in a political sandbox like EVE is no small task, and it’s complicated by over a decade of shifting loyalties, misinformation, propaganda, and misremembered events. Andrew is uniquely equipped to cut through many of those issues, collecting as accurate historical records as possible and delivering it all as a coherent, deeply compelling narrative that even plenty of non-players have thoroughly enjoyed. Andrew recently announced that Empires of EVE had broken the 15,000 sales mark, and at EVE Fanfest 2018 he announced a sequel is now in the works.

I caught up with Andrew at Fanfest to find out how the first book’s success has affected him and what the future holds for Empires of EVE: Volume II.

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Next year’s EVE Fanfest won’t be in Iceland, obviating your efforts to properly spell Reykjavik

Last autumn, when CCP Games began dumping assets and studios and VR holdings overboard, it also sent almost all of its EVE Online community team packing too. At the time, it caused some players to wonder about the fate of EVE Fanfest as well as its spinoff versions like EVE Vegas, so we were all relieved to hear that this year’s Fanfest would go on as planned.

But CCP is apparently planning a shakeup of its gatherings. Next year’s event won’t be held in Reykjavik, Iceland, breaking a 14-year tradition to hold it in CCP’s own back yard. The company says it’ll instead hold 2019’s events across the continents, so there will be one in Europe, as well as Australia and the US (Vegas and one on the east coast too). CCP further says that’ll hold one event inside one player’s home, which is definitely something I do not want to have to clean for, so I will not be entering the video contest for that, but you folks definitely should. We’ll bring the popcorn.

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EVE Fanfest 2018: Two EVE players were married by the space pope. Yep.

Of all the fascinating things the EVE Online community has embraced over the game’s almost 15-year lifetime, perhaps the most bizarre is space pope Max Singularity. The character of the space pope started out as a joke among players who discovered Max doling out words of worldly wisdom in the in-game chat channels and counselling players who were going through tough times. This most cutthroat of online communities embraced Max’s kindness, and he embraced his new in-game role as a religious leader of the Amarr empire.

The space pope is actually NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory employee Charles White in real life, but at EVE Fanfest 2018 this week he was in full papal garb with an entourage of space monks and space nuns. If you’ve never heard of the space pope, well, I promise I am not making this up. Today at Fanfest, lucky EVE players Tairon Usaro and Irma Amatin were married by the space pope himself in a traditional Amarrian ceremony in front of hundreds of onlookers. Skip past the cut for a short video about the wedding.

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Massively Overthinking: The best of PAX East and GDC in 2018

The past couple of weeks has been wild as we dispatched writers to GDC in San Francisco and PAX East in Boston to gather up and bring back everything they could on the MMORPGs large and small on the spring convention circuit. In fact, as I type this, we’ve got Brendan in Reykjavik for EVE Fanfest too! So for this week’s Overthinking, we’re rounding up our coverage and then reflecting on the best and worst as we pick out what most excites, surprises, and disappoints us: First the roundups, then our thoughts. Read on!

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EVE Fanfest 2018: EVE Online’s upcoming ‘Into the Abyss’ expansion sounds incredible

While player capsuleers are undoubtedly the most powerful force in EVE Online, there are some pretty scary NPCs lurking in the depths of space. One of those threats has just been unearthed throughout New Eden with the discovery of The Triglavian Collective, an ancient and twisted offshoot of the human race found in tiny pockets of space cut off from the rest of the universe. EVE Online players will soon be able to invade these pockets of Abyssal Deadspace and face the collective in the upcoming “Into the Abyss” expansion coming on May 29th.

At EVE Fanfest 2018, CCP revealed a huge set of interconnected new features revolving around ancient Triglavian ships and Abyssal Deadspace pockets. Players will hunt through these bizarre new environments filled with unpredictable dangers that get more challenging the further you go, and with increased challenge comes some incredible rewards. You’ll find blueprints for powerful Triglavian ships, an incredible new weapon system ominously named the Entropic Disintegrator, and organic mutaplasmids that can transform your existing modules into powerful Abyssal versions.

Read on to find out who the Triglavian Collective are, what the deal is with Abyssal Deadspace, and why the “Into The Abyss” expansion could be incredible for solo PvE players.

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Watch EVE Fanfest 2018 live from home right now

EVE Fanfest 2018 has just kicked off here in sunny Reykjavik, and MassivelyOP is on the ground once again to bring you the latest on the future of EVE Online. While Fanfest is primarily a community event and a chance for players to meet their in-game friends in the flesh, this year’s event also promises to be packed with some big news and exciting announcements.

The main talks and presentations will all be streamed live from the event, the most important of which is the announcement-packed EVE Keynote. The keynote presentation will go live just a few minutes after this post goes live, and you can tune in now via CCP’s official twitch channel or the embed after the cut. If there’s something that you’re particularly excited for or if you have any questions you’d like us to pose to developers, let us know in the comments!

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EVE Fanfest 2018: EVE Online FPS Project Nova is coming ‘in months, not years’

When CCP Games first made the leap into the first person shooter market with DUST 514, things didn’t exactly go to plan. The game was released as a PlayStation 3 exclusive toward the end of the console’s lifetime and fell severely short of expectations. While DUST 514 was eventually discontinued, the dream of a first person shooter in the EVE Online universe has been kept alive at CCP. Two years ago, the company announced that a total remake of DUST 514 was underway under the name Project Nova, and this time it would be released on PC.

Today at EVE Fanfest 2018, CCP Games’ CEO Hilmar Veigar Petursson revealed that Nova will be coming “in months, not years.” The game should hopefully be playable in some form this year, and the initial release will focus on core FPS gameplay in an EVE setting rather than being directly connected to the EVE server. CCP hopes for the game to stand on its own feet before slowly integrating it into EVE — first via social integration, and later through economy links and other gameplay links. No new content was shown off for Nova this year, but CCP has started a newsletter for those who want to get in on the ground floor.

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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: 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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Perfect Ten: Exploring MMORPGs from the far corners of the world

Have you ever noticed that while there’s an entire world out there, most all of the MMORPGs we discuss and play tend to either be ones crafted in the USA or imports from China or Korea? We even have a shorthand for this: “western” and “eastern” MMOs. We’re usually not talking about entire hemispheres with these references, but rather about categorizing three countries that are big into the MMORPG business.

But what about the rest of the world? Are all of these other countries so uncaring about this genre that they’ve never tried their hand at making an MMO? Of course not; as I’m about to show you, there are plenty of online RPGs that have been made in countries other than China, the USA, and South Korea. It’s just that for various reasons, those three countries ended up fostering concentrations of video game developers who knew how to create these types of games.

So let’s take a tour around the world and see if we can’t give some credit to other countries for their contributions to the MMORPG genre past, present, and future. Before you click the link, see how many you can name off the top of your head!

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EVE Evolved: Video highlights from EVE Fanfest 2017

For a few days each year, hundreds of EVE Online players from across the world flock to a frozen volcanic rock at the top of the world for the annual EVE Fanfest. I was on the ground at EVE Fanfest 2017 last week in sunny Reykjavik to get the latest on what’s ahead for EVE and CCP’s other titles, and it was a thoroughly enlightening experience. We learned all about CCP’s amazing plans to roll out adaptive AI-driven PvE across the game world, talked to players and developers, and heard about the next stage of Project Discovery that will let players search for real exoplanets in space.

We also got hands-on with CCP’s immersive VR sport game Sparc, looked at Valkyrie‘s new Groundrush game mode that has players fighting inside huge structures on a planet’s surface, and confirmed that DUST 514 successor Project Nova is still in development. There were talks at Fanfest that we just didn’t get a chance to go to, and others that really have to be seen first-hand. Thankfully, CCP has recorded most of the event and has begun uploading talks to the EVE Online YouTube channel.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I’ll be running down some of the highlights of the official videos from EVE Fanfest 2017 for those who missed the event.

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EVE Fanfest 2017: EVE Online joins the hunt for exoplanets through Project Discovery

The scientific community has been buzzing lately with the incredible news that a star system less than 40 lightyears away named TRAPPIST-1 was found to contain seven rocky planets of similar size to Earth. Three of the planets are in the star’s habitable zone, the narrow orbital band in which water should be found in a liquid state and so life may be possible. TRAPPIST-1 has fired the imaginations of the general public, who have been getting involved directly in the search for new exoplanets via crowdsourcing initiatives such as the Exoplanet Explorers project on Zooniverse.

At EVE Fanfest 2017, it was announced that that players of MMO EVE Online will soon be joining the great exoplanet hunt too through an interesting new mini-game that challenges players to find elusive planetary transits in data from telescopes around the world. Developed in collaboration with citizen science company MMOS, the University of Reykjavik, and the University of Geneva, the task will come to EVE as a Project Discovery mini-game with a variety of in-game rewards. It’s pretty exciting to think that players waging war over planets around other stars in a virtual universe will soon be finding them in the real world.

Read on to find out how exactly we find planets around other stars, and how this is going to be integrated with EVE Online.

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