EVE Evolved: Three things you don’t want to miss in 2016

In the previous edition of EVE Evolved, I looked back at some of the big highlights EVE Online throughout 2015. It was a year that revolutionised practically every aspect of EVE‘s day-to-day gameplay with a flood of updates, that broke the stranglehold the game’s largest alliances had on territory, and that seriously advanced the in-game storyline in an awesome direction. It was also a year of new beginnings for developer CCP Games, with the studio releasing the rights to World of Darkness, securing a $30 million investment in its VR labs, and making a deal to bundle its upcoming VR dogfighter EVE: Valkyrie with the retail model of the Oculus Rift.

As we close the book on 2015 and begin writing the first chapter of a new year, it’s an appropriate time to the look forward at what’s to come for EVE Online in 2016 and speculate on what awesome stuff might be just over the horizon. The Citadel expansion is just months away and will let corporations of any size carve out their own little corners of the galaxy. The Drifter invasion of known space and the recent Upwell Consortium storylines will continue to play out in live in-game events that you won’t want to miss. New server hardware will be a welcome improvement as the game may finally be growing again, corp changes will help newbies get into the game, and new PvE features will encourage activity again.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at three big things happening in EVE Online in 2016 that you definitely don’t want to miss out on.

corpwars-1Citadels will let anyone own space

Territorial warfare in EVE has always been the purview of the largest and most well-organised alliances and coalitions, but that is starting to change. Over the past few months we’ve seen small alliances manage to capture and hold nullsec systems. There are more new names on the map than ever before and players seem to be enjoying territorial warfare again, but I think the biggest impact of the new sovereignty system is yet to come. When the Citadels expansion lands in spring 2016, it will bring with it a whole set of new modular structures of varying sizes that any corporation with enough ISK can plant literally anywhere in the game.

This is a game-changer for practically every aspect of EVE, and I think it’s going to be a land rush that you don’t want to miss. If your corporation has a particular favourite asteroid belt or moon or planet, you’ll now be able to stake a claim to it by planting your own Citadel there for as little as 600-700 million ISK. You’ll be able to dock inside it, set up offices, and store your assets there safely, and can even plant them near stargates and stations and in high-security space. Hell, you can even open Citadels to the public and charge a docking fee or launch a large citadel for about 7 billion ISK that has its own marketplace.

The invulnerability tethering system will make it a safe space for you and your corpmates to group up even in low-security space or nullsec, and you can strap some massive weapons to the thing and use them to defend in case someone attacks it. The best part is that it won’t use fuel and the cheap medium-sized version will only be vulnerable for three hours each week during a time that you select. Citadels will give corporations and alliances of any size the ability to carve out a small section of the galaxy to call their own and fight to defend and expand their tiny empire.

recoverPlayer activity may be starting to recover

The big news for EVE recently is that player activity may be on the rise again after dropping to an eight-year low during 2015. EVE used to hit new record high numbers for peak concurrent logins every year, even earning it a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, but concurrent logins seemed to plateau between 2009 and 2014. The occasional spike was seen after big events like the Battle of B-R5RB, but those have always lasted only a few months at best. As players worried about zero-growth in player activity, the trend took a sharp downward direction throughout 2014 and 2015.

I analysed this last year and found that EVE‘s subscriptions have always tracked quite well with global market for subscription MMOs, which is itself still on a decline; that means even stabilising player activity would be bucking the global trend at this point. Most recently the player activity in EVE does seem to have stabilised, and players are reporting that activity in their corporations and in space are on the rise again. This is likely mostly due to a huge PLEX sale and the Operation Frostline event that happened recently, which spurred the creation of thousands of new accounts and pulled veterans back in for a few days of events. Player activity also tends to rise in the winter when people are inside more and over holiday periods when people have free time to play, so we have yet to see what the long-term picture will look like.

Anecdotal reports from the community suggest that many ex-players are starting to return and get ready for the Citadels expansion, and a lot more corps seem to be recruiting newbies now. With Citadels changing the way we wage wars and the possibility of buying skillpoints from other players in order to catch up to veterans, newer players should find themselves on a more even footing throughout this year. It looks like 2016 could be the best opportunity to get into EVE (or get back into it) in years, and if it does see resurgence of players and an injection of fresh blood, then you definitely want to get in on it. Those of you with extensive experience of the game could even start training corps for new players and may soon find yourselves with a small army you can use to grab power.

drifterpewpewStory events that you don’t want to miss

Much has been written about EVE Online‘s player-driven and emergent gameplay over the years as it’s arguably the game’s most unique selling point, but there’s actually a whole history and lore to the EVE universe and the NPC factions that inhabit it. In my previous article, I talked about how that NPC story has been starting to seriously come alive through a new series of in-character news posts from EVE news corporation The Scope. These are expected to continue throughout 2016, but something you might not know is that many of the stories are actually tied in with real in-game events that you can take part in.

Most recently we heard the news of the Upwell Consortium organising a raid on the Serpentis pirate faction to free industrial organisation Outer Ring Excavations from its grasp. That led to the serpentis sites popping up all over EVE packed with loot, kicking off a fun holiday event called Operation Frostline. That storyline will be taking a big step forward soon as the Upwell Consortium will begin designing the blueprints for the first ever Citadels, and players can help the consortium by contributing certain research components for a chance to get their hands on one of the first Citadel blueprints before anyone else. Clever pilots will be able to make some serious money on these research materials as rich capsuleers try to be the one who delivers the most components to Upwell, but two contributors will also reportedly be chosen at random.

This isn’t the only big storyline that’s been playing out in-game, and arguably it’s not the most important either. The Drifter menace has been invading Amarr space for some time, and players have been piecing together theories about who they are and what they want. General Stargazer over at EVE blog Crossing Zebras has been cataloguing the various behaviours and capabilities of the Drifter ships over time, and discovered that they have been adapting both to counteract our ship technology and our strategies. Many believe that this is all gearing up to a full-scale invasion of the EVE universe by Drifter forces. Whatever way the story evolves, this chapter in EVE‘s history will be amazing to see unfold and is sure to make names for hundreds of pilots and corporations.

EVE Online expert Brendan ‘Nyphur’ Drain has been playing EVE for over a decade and writing the regular EVE Evolved column since 2008. The column covers everything from in-depth EVE guides and news breakdowns to game design discussions and opinion pieces. If there’s a topic you’d love to see covered, drop him a comment or send mail to brendan@massivelyop.com!


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