While EVE Online has always focused on the real stories created by players through player-vs.-player conflict rather than on its NPC storyline, its universe has rich lore stretching back thousands of years. The political machinations of the four empires and the history of the ancient races have often set the stage for expansions and PvE content, while players have controlled the PvP world.
In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at the latest escalation of the Invasion storyline and speak to EVE Creative Director Bergur Finnbogason and Brand Director Sæmi Hermannsson about just how big a change this live event will bring.
Live events that interact with an MMO’s prime fiction are always risky because players can take the event in unexpected ways, but CCP developed the Invasion storyline over time in response to player actions. While the first two chapters of the Invasion arc focused on fighting back against the Triglavians, for example, some players tried to actively side with the enemy. In response, CCP has now turned this into a full-blown feature by transforming the invasions into a huge two-sided war.
Each invaded system is now a live power struggle between the Triglavian Collective and the new EDENCOM branch of CONCORD, with players able to influence the outcome directly by choosing to kill or support either side. This is definitely not something you can do solo, so I would highly recommend joining one of the public fleets that’s been rolling out several times per day. Players fighting the Triglavians are organising in the Consortium Operations channel in-game, while those supporting our new triangular overlords should join The Triglavian Community.
A UI at the top of the screen tells you the current status of the power struggle in an invaded star system, with the Triglavians trying to build structures around the system’s central star and EDENCOM setting up permanent defences. Systems that reach 100% EDENCOM control enter the EDENCOM Fortress state and become so well defended that they’re immune to Triglavian attack. Where things get really interesting is when the Triglavian forces start to make progress and gain a foothold.
“New Eden will never be the same again”
An unsettling event happened several days ago when the normally safe highsec system of Raravoss suddenly turned into low-security space without warning. When the invasion in the system crossed into the “Second Liminality” phase, all police presence was expelled from the system and it dropped in security rating from 0.6 to 0.3. Thousands of ships were killed in Raravoss this weekend as fleets clashed, as if someone just chucked a lit match into a barrel of gunpowder.
There were reports that the autopilot initially failed to recognise that the system was now dangerous and sent hundreds of highsec players to their deaths (oops!), and of course it didn’t take long before bored nullsec fleets dropped in to kill everything in sight. Public fleets have been running continuously for Triglavian supporters, and BjornBee and Ashterothi have both run some great livestreamed fleet actions. Over 800 people piled into the system at the peak of the fighting this weekend, and the Triglavians are winning control.
When Triglavian forces started to make progress in Raravoss, they set up two huge megastructures around the system’s blue-white star and began firing beams into it. The star began to turn dark yesterday, and the structures were clearly extracting something from the star.
Two fleets from The Triglavian Community stayed up all night grinding EDENCOM forces to help capture the system: The varied Beta Fleet that welcomed a wide range of ship types and pilots, and the more professional Zeta Fleet with strict ship doctrines and comm discipline. The system was officially conquered by Triglavian forces at 05:14 GMT this morning thanks to the efforts of Beta and Zeta fleets, and the invasion can no longer be repelled by EDENCOM forces.
The event seems to be a bit buggy, however, as the star system’s security rating suddenly switched back to its original state and dozens of players were suddenly killed by police. After downtime, the star system was converted to full null-security space. The events depicted in CCP’s Eclipse Quadrant trailer have all unfolded in order, and if that holds true then the final stage of Chapter 3 could be the stargates shutting down in conquered systems. The former Amarr highsec system of Raravoss and others may be about to go off the grid permanently, and it all depends on what players do next.
With the release of Invasion Chapter 3, I caught up with EVE Creative Director Bergur Finnbogason and Brand Director Sæmi Hermannsson to find out what might be on the cards as the event unfolds:
Massively OP: We’ve seen two chapters of the invasion story and now we’re moving into the endgame, this is definitely the final chapter. So either this ends with them going away for good or staying for good, is that the message we’re getting?
Bergur Finnbogason: Well, I can promise you that New Eden will never be the same again. It is obvious that [the Triglavians] have done major investments in setting up their equipment, starting with more mobilised equipment, but then we started to see more of the similar equipment that we’ve seen in Abyssal Deadspace that space emerge in known space. Then with the stellar observatories, it’s like… anyone can waste an Astrahus here and there, but you don’t really waste a Keepstar.
The Triglavians are building these massive structures and the empires are building defences. Will any of these new structures see any use by players in territorial warfare or wormholes?
Bergur: So we’ve been quite adamant in development when we build new NPCs – we really try to figure out a way to give it to players as well. But what has kind of changed a bit over the years is that we now have a long game in mind when it comes to this equipment. Some of the equipment’s that players will be seeing now is not yet at a state where I would trust players with it.
But these structures are things that we could eventually be building ourselves in the future?
Bergur: I would love to, yes, absolutely. In my wildest dreams as an EVE player, I want to be building abyssal gates myself. I don’t know why, but there is something about them. I would love to use them.
With people being stuck inside during the pandemic, I imagine that’s had an impact on EVE. I’ve noticed that EVE’s PCU has been doing quite well, actually.
Bergur: We’ve been doing this friendship research and EVE Effect research now for close to three years. In a world where people are kind of stuck at home and a lot of their communication goes through kind of 2-D images, something like EVE Online that has the capability of creating a deeper connection than just kind of a video chat, all of the sudden is way more viable.
There are a lot of new people, a lot of new players, and a lot of returning players. We’ve seen a lot of people who haven’t been playing the game for more than a year come back in, so that’s a that’s a really healthy sign. We’re seeing all our cohorts grow, and new markets like people from countries that I did not know liked EVE Online but they’re loving it.
The conflict when it began was almost between the Triglavians and the Drifters and that the capsuleer involvement was almost secondary. So will we see the Drifter storyline advance in this chapter?
Bergur: So the Drifter storyline is definitely a longer storyline than the Triglavian storyline and the Drifter storyline has definitely been a slower storyline in many ways. We might see some advancements to the Drifter storyline in this chapter, it will depend on what happens and how players play this out. But what’s interesting in chapter three, and something we’ve learned from chapter one and chapter two, is that the content will definitely play out. We’re not just dropping everything on day one and then 15 minutes later everything is written up and perfectly archived on EVE Uni.
The idea is more to kind of follow follow suit in what we’ve been doing so far, that the content will progress throughout and over the summer, ideally. That’s actually a super exciting way for us to develop as well because it allows us to kind of adjust exactly how things are and how things go, and to take in what’s already happened.
We’ve talked before about some of the tools that you guys have made to allow you to do that adjustment on the fly. So how have those tools evolved to let you do these live storylines?
Bergur: We’re constantly evolving our tools and actually pretty interestingly, our efforts on new player experience has actually given us a lot of power in in developing our tools even further. What we’re doing now in development is that we’re actually focusing a lot more on our content tools, and we’re basing it kind of off all the learning we’ve been doing with the behaviours and the opportunities tool that we built the new player experience on.
The idea now is that once these tools get to a healthier place, they should be able to create anything from an early tutorial to a mission to an epic arc to invasion-type content. When you kind of take a step back and you look at content in EVE, it’s all fairly similar and there are very similar paradigms. There are a couple of ways we dress it up and how we kind of serve it to you, but at the end of the day it doesn’t make any sense having multiple tools doing multiple different content.
The things that we learned with the Drifters when we when we first kicked off this tool development, and then learned with the mining operations and the shipyards and FOBs and Abyssal Deadspace, we’re taking a lot of this learning and we’re inserting it into tools. One of the great things about these kind of new tools is the fact that you know, the Triglavians will actually interact with the mining operations, even if we haven’t touched the mining operations for like three or four years. Because it’s all standings based, the mining operations will actually fight the Triglavians, and we’ve seen a couple of those happen.
And because it’s standings based now, we have the opportunity now for players to get standings with Triglavians.
Bergur: *Dramatic noise*
Sæmi Hermannsson: I think when when things leak to Hoboleaks the other day, which is the inevitable part of our process, this was the first thing that was picked up by everybody. And there’s a reason why.
Bergur: There is a reason why, yeah. I mean, this is probably the most epic Epic Arc we’ve ever made. And it’s been so much fun developing it, it’s been so much fun writing it and basically writing it with players. We’re constantly monitoring what people say and what they do, and there are a lot of people that that have a lot of Triglavian love, and we’re just giving them that extra step. Dark stuff is going to happen.
Sæmi: And I think like what Bergur said, it’s actually amazing how much the community has been involved in the shaping of this, first of all, and then also just in the speculating and thinking about it. What has been fascinating for me is just seeing this story now come to an end. It’s not just a thing that started and just sort of fizzled out or whatever, this is the beginning of the end of this trilogy.
This has been the Mantra for us from the beginning, and I think probably Bergur has been the one beating that drum the most. It’s just like we’re going on a journey and there is an end point to that journey, and we’re committing to f&%king finishing it.
Bergur: I love CCP Delegate Zero and we spend a lot of time nerding out over lore, and we have at any given moment easily 50 or 60 open-ended storylines. Some are being actively worked on, others are on frost, and some players don’t know about — there are a lot of stories that players have no idea about, that have been in front of players for years in some cases. But when we set up on this journey, we both agreed that this is one of those storylines that needs to end.
Sæmi: Also what has been for me a very important thing is that this is not just a novel that is written and read, this is a storyline where the players can experience it in-game, see the things happening, and interact with it.
Bergur: And actually I don’t want to say the storyline will end. I think it’s better to say that it will conclude, that there will be a conclusion of the storyline. I think that’s that’s a better way to frame it.
There’s a lot of speculation about what that conclusion will be. You’ve said that New Eden will never be the same again and we’re seeing these new Triglavian haulers and structures that seem to be plugging holes in their lineup. Is this paving the way for them to become a permanent empire or a playable race?[At this point, Bergur gave a cheeky grin like a kid who’s been left in charge of a sweet shop]
Oh, I see that smile. I’m taking that smile as confirmation!
Bergur: I can’t wait to see how you interpret my smile in writing!
OK, so this is going to unfold over the over the summer, live in game. So for new players or those coming back to the game, how can they get involved?
Sæmi: I think this is especially relevant for the players coming back. I think the new players joining in on day one immediately might have a difficult time just jumping into it immediately. Since this is unfolding over time, if they commit to joining EVE Online now, by the end of this they will definitely be able to participate in this. We don’t want to be misleading to players joining EVE now and being able to like choose sides now, but for returning players this is great content.
Bergur: Yeah. But actually, interestingly enough, the Agency window shows the invasion as like the biggest part in the Agency. We did a test where we removed it for half of the new players, and actually the players who saw that advert and clicked on it and participated actually showed way higher retention. So they got introduced to harder content at the beginning and now they have a goal, now they have a kind of, “Oh shit, this is proper.”
Sæmi: It’s also the living universe aspect about how there’s so much happening in EVE and we will not be timid to market that the the chapter three is live, but we will also focus on not setting false expectations. They’re joining a fantastic universe that is about to change, and they can play a part in it if they set a goal from day one.
Bergur: Back in 2015 when we had the the Drifter invasion for the first time, one of the things we kind of talked a lot about back then, was my kind of irritation of how content in EVE was… if EVE Online was this circle here, the missions and stuff were always kind of just a blob outside. And one of the things that I really wanted to do is grab that and pull that into the centre of the universe, and how can we make sure that content has an effect on its surrounding so it’s just not just a one-off thing?
The invasion we of course understand that’s content and not everyone is gonna use it or participate in it, but the outcome of that content is something unavoidable and something that takes a grip on EVE. Like we knew that Abyssal Deadspace would not be for everyone, but the things coming out of Abyssal Deadspace would kind of serve the whole community.
In Invasion chapter one, one of the things we did was that when they when the Triglavians invaded the system, the whole system was affected. You could come by them by the gate or a station. It needs to be meaningful, and for it to be meaningful it cannot be avoided, you know?
This event is getting very heavy interest with the EVE lore crowd, people are piecing together things about the ancient races of EVE and speculating on the motives of the Triglavians, analysing their behaviour, etc. Has it been good to see players embrace that story?
Bergur: Yeah, and on that I have to shout out to the Arataka Research guys. Have you read their paper? I mean, it’s 27 pages and it reads like a proper scientific text. The work they put in is mind-blowing. I’ve read it twice just because the first time I was like, “Whoa, I need to read this at nine o’clock in the morning after a fresh pot of coffee and with like all my notes next to me.”
Sæmi: This is the best content I’ve seen from EVE players.
Bergur: We did not know about this thesis, and it was actually leaked to me when it was ready. So that was the first time I saw it, and I had to like really question how much of this was true and how much of this was false. I was like, “Do they have our notes?” and then like, “Wait wait wait, did someone change the design?” and then like, “Ah, that’s probably wrong.”
So has this kind of speculation from players fed back into the design of future chapters of the invasions?
Bergur: I mean, we love listening to the community and we love picking through lore forum speculations. I love going through the tinfoil, that’s my all time favourite.
Sæmi: And like Bergur said before, rolling this out slowly makes things change on the goal, as they unfold and as players interact or speculate on things.
Thanks for your time!