Brendan 'Nyphur' Drain

Reporter

A long-time MMO-addict, northern-irish lad Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is Massively Overpowered's resident EVE Online expert and writer of the long-running EVE Evolved column, published Sunday evenings. The column covers everything from guides and opinion pieces to commentary on game design and hints on preparing for upcoming expansions.

In addition to the column, Brendan covers EVE Online news, community events, general interest stories, and other posts. When he finds the time in his hectic schedule, he can sometimes be found writing features on game design topics or other MMOs he's playing.

He is hard at work on his first video game, the indie space 4X game Predestination.

Twitter: @nyphur

EVE Evolved: A furious supercapital war is raging in EVE Online

This year kicked off with a bang for EVE Online as rumblings emerged of impending war on a scale that the gaming world had never seen before. It looked as if two massive military coalitions were about to come to blows in the most spectacular way when a small border skirmish between The Imperium and Pandemic Horde escalated out of control. Both sides armed heavily for a battle over a space station and moved hundreds of expensive Titans and Supercarriers into position to prepare for the battle. Players estimated that a fully escalated battle could have seen the equivalent of a million dollars in ships go up in smoke, and the story of EVE‘s first “million dollar battle” rapidly captured the media.

While that battle earned a Guinness World Record for having 6,142 players simultaneously in the same battle, it was far less destructive than anticipated. The Imperium decided not to commit its full forces and ultimately less than 1% of the expected value in ships went up in smoke. Fast-forward to this week and the old rivalry came to a head again as The Imperium teamed up Legacy coalition to launch an all-out assault on a Northern Coalition and Pandemic Legion staging Keepstar in the X47L-Q system — except that this time both sides committed their full forces. The result was one of the most destructive battles in EVE Online‘s decade-and-a-half long history, and this war may be just getting started.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I dig into some of the history that led to the current conflict and details of the battle in X47L-Q.

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EVE Evolved: Four changes to improve EVE Online for new players

A few months ago, I created a new character and ran through the new player experience for an article on how to get new players to stick with EVE Online. One of the first things I did was change some of the default settings, followed by re-arranging the chat windows, modifying the overview settings, and fixing the camera field of view. I’d usually dismiss this as me just being used to having the screen set up just the way I like it, but the truth is that the default settings new players are exposed to could really stand some improvement.

At the same time, there are a few gameplay changes that would undoubtedly help improve EVE Online‘s long-term retention of new players if CCP Games would commit to investigating them. War declarations need a serious overhaul to allow groups of friends to safely form social corporations, for example, and lone players should ideally be directed more forcefully toward corporate recruitment.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at four relatively low-impact changes which I believe could have a positive impact on new players and long-term retention.

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EVE Evolved: Improving EVE Online’s organisational tools

Throughout most of EVE Online‘s lifetime, players have developed their own third-party applications (and yes, spreadsheets) to help organise and enhance their gameplay. We’ve got skill training calculators, websites for keeping track of structure fuel, databases full of information on items, and advanced industry and market tools that look like they belong to real world stock brokers. Most large alliances also now use Slack or Discord to organise out of game, have their own dedicated voice comms servers, and use tools like Jabber to notify members of important events.

CCP Games itself has added some brilliant in-game tools over the years that help players organise too. We now have a great in-game Calendar and event system, a customisable notification popup tool, corporation bookmarks, and an official smartphone app. We even have the ability to simulate and share ship fittings, and a new Agency panel that helps new players find content near them. These are all extremely useful productivity tools, but with a few improvements I think they could be even better!

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I discuss a few improvements I’d love to see for EVE Online‘s calendar, Agency interface, and official mobile app that would help players organise and work together more easily.

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EVE Evolved: Will EVE Online’s Abyssal Deadspace ever be expanded?

EVE Online‘s recent Into the Abyss expansion has managed to grip me in a way that few expansions have, providing a challenging new solo PvE feature that’s as addictive as it is lucrative. Now that players are starting to figure out ship fittings and strategies for taking on abyssal deadspace and it’s being farmed at an increasing rate, the question on many players’ minds is “what comes next?” The Triglavian storyline is far from resolved, and these new size-restricted instances could be expanded on in dozens of different ways to spark a virtual renaissance for small-scale PvE and maybe even PvP.

CCP Games has a long history of making impressive “first steps” like these in new areas of gameplay, but sometimes those ideas don’t go much further and the first steps are the last. Abyssal deadspace could easily become another one shot feature that joins EVE‘s permanent gameplay, just like the Sansha incursions that are still in the game years after they probably should have ended. I seriously hope that CCP doesn’t abandon the feature this time though, as further work on abyssal deadspace has the potential to open up whole new types of gameplay that aren’t available anywhere in EVE right now.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I theorise about some of the different ways abyssal deadspace could be expanded and how the story of the Triglavian Collective still has a long way to go.

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EVE Evolved: The expert Gila’s guide to Abyssal Deadspace in EVE Online

EVE Online‘s new Into The Abyss expansion launched less than two weeks ago and I’m bloody obsessed with it! Players have had great success running the first three tiers of the new Abyssal Deadspace sites in tech 2 fitted Heavy Assault Cruisers and there are some spectacular fits out there for dealing the tier four and five sites already. My ship of choice for the Abyss is the Gila, a pirate faction cruiser with a great passive shield tank and a huge 500% bonus to drone hitpoints and damage, and which I’ve used successfully to reliably tackle tier four and five sites.

Abyssal deadspace fits are complicated by the fact that four of the filament types have resistance penalties that apply to both your ship and the NPCs inside the site, which has implications for both your tank and the damage types you should use. But how do the resistance penalties actually work, and under what circumstances is it beneficial to switch damage types? I performed a variety of tests on the test server and built a spreadsheet (yeah, you can make the joke now) to answer this exact question and figure out how to tackle top-tier Abyssal Deadspace sites.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I explain exactly how the resistance penalty in Abyssal deadspace works, share my tried and tested Gila fit for high-tier sites, and detail strategies for tackling all of the enemies you’ll encounter.

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EVE Evolved: Last-minute advice on Abyssal Deadspace in EVE Online

There are just two days to go before EVE Online‘s Into the Abyss expansion lands on May 29th, introducing its new Abyssal Deadspace solo PvE feature. Players will use abyssal filaments to travel into Abyssal Deadspace pockets that exist underneath space throughout the EVE universe, risking their ships in challenging procedurally generated encounters. It’s in these instanced solo encounters that players will come face to face with The Triglavian Collective, a bizarre and twisted subspecies of human with powerful new ships and a new type of subatomic particle weapon called the Entropic Disintegrator.

This new solo content is intended for players of all skill levels, with the lowest tier sites being easy enough to complete in a well-designed tech 1 cruiser and higher tiers requiring considerably more expensive gear. Each site contains 3 randomly generated pockets of deadspace to defeat within 20 minutes, after which time the pocket will implode and destroy your ship. The prizes for risking it all in these dungeons include blueprints to build player-controlled Triglavian ships, plans for Entropic Disintegrators, and Mutaplasmids that can randomly mutate the stats on existing items.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I follow up on last month’s article on preparing for the Into the Abyss expansion with some last-minute guidelines on preparing your ships, how to use drones effectively in Abyssal Deadspace, and useful tips and strategies for tackling the sites.

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EVE Evolved: Getting new players to stick with EVE Online

EVE Online has the odd distinction of being one of the most impenetrable MMOs on the market today and yet also one of the stickiest. Few new players make it past their first week or month in EVE, but more of those who do scale that infamous learning cliff tend to stay for several years and become part of the community. Many of the most active veteran players have even admitted that EVE didn’t really click for them the first time, and for some it took them several attempts before they finally got hooked.

This anecdotal evidence seems to mesh quite well with CCP’s own brutal retention statistics, as we heard back in 2016 that over 1.5 million people had signed up new accounts that year but just over 50% of them quit within the first two hours. Even after the free-to-play option was added to eliminate the biggest barrier of entry for new and returning players, retaining more of those players in the long term is still proving difficult. So what is it that prevents new players from really clicking with EVE even if they want to, and what can be done about it?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at some of the factors that make EVE difficult to penetrate, the importance of joining a corporation, and a few things CCP could do to help with player retention.

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EVE Evolved: Getting ready for EVE Online’s Abyssal revolution

If you’ve seen the news recently coming out of EVE Fanfest 2018, you’ve probably heard of EVE Online‘s upcoming expansion: Into the Abyss. Pockets of a bizarre and twisted underspace called Abyssal Deadspace have been discovered all throughout new Eden, and players will be able to venture into them and encounter an all-new enemy: The Triglavian Collective. This new form of solo PvE is limited to cruiser sized ships and is the first form of technically instanced combat gameplay EVE has ever had, sending players into short 20-minute dungeons with incredibly stunning new visuals and deadly NPCs.

The rewards from this new gameplay include powerful player-controllable Triglavian ships, a new type of weapon called the Entropic Disintegrator, and organic Mutaplasmids that can be used to modify existing modules with random stat variations. The sites are currently playable on the test server but aren’t in their final form, so a lot could change from now until the feature is released on May 29th, but there’s enough information available to begin analysing the the effect the expansion will have and the strategies that might work in Abyssal Deadspace.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I dig down into the debate about the game balance of randomised stats in EVE Online, give some early advice on fitting a ship for Abyssal Deadspace sites, and strategies that should work in this upcoming form of PvE.

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EVE Online Executive Producer Andie ‘CCP Seagull’ Nordgren is leaving CCP Games [Updated]

It’s always tough when a development studio loses one of its top people, but today’s news is sure to sting more than usual for both EVE Online players and the developers at CCP Games. We’ve just confirmed that Andie “CCP Seagull” Nordgren will be stepping down from her position as Executive Producer on EVE Online and leaving the company in about two months. Nordgren joined CCP in 2010 as a Technical Producer on the Core Technology Group before eventually spearheading the development direction of EVE as its Senior Producer and finally taking on a broader Executive Producer role in 2014.

Nordgren has been well liked by players for her clear vision of the future for EVE and open approach to development, and her interviews at events never fail to get us excited about what’s coming next for EVE. Most recently she has overseen the development of the Citadel, Lifeblood, and upcoming Into The Abyss expansions. CCP Games CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, who has reportedly been getting more directly involved in EVE‘s development recently, will be helping to transition Nordgren’s roles until a replacement is selected.

We first heard this news as a rumour from a tip and reached out to CCP Games for comment, and it supplied us with the following confirming statement.

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EVE Fanfest 2018: CCP Falcon on EVE’s community team layoffs and having Hilmar as a CEO

It’s safe to say that it’s been a rough year for CCP Games, with the company pulling out of VR game development and laying off around 100 staff worldwide. The entire EVE Online community team was reported to have been slashed down to just two employees, and many of the studio’s most experienced PR staff were let go when the Atlanta office was shuttered. EVE players (including me) came down hard on CCP and on CEO Hilmar Veigar Petursson in particular, and some inside the company were notably shaken.

EVE Online Community Manager Paul “CCP Falcon” Elsy was one of the few members of the community team left after the layoffs, suddenly finding himself organising the 15th anniversary Fanfest without a team. It’s now been almost five months since the layoffs, so I caught up with Paul at EVE Fanfest 2018 recently to find out how the company has coped with the loss of so many skilled community staff. He also clarified CCP’s role in tackling harassment outside the game client in the wake of a recent virtual scuffle on the Open Comms show, and gave a fascinating account of how Hilmar himself dealt with the recent layoffs and how he’s been getting more involved with EVE lately.

Read on for our massive in-depth interview with EVE‘s Community Manager Paul “CCP Falcon” Elsy.

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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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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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