incursions

EVE Evolved: The Agency could revolutionise casual PvE in EVE Online

Though EVE Online has a reputation as a cut-throat PvP sandbox where anything goes, the fuel that fires its conflict engine has always been PvE. Players collectively pump over 100 trillion ISK into the EVE economy each month by hunting NPCs all across the game, and at the same time they mine around 40 trillion ISK’s worth of ore for ship and module production. Over 90% of NPC bounties predictably come from people farming in the player-owned nullsec regions where some of the largest PvE rewards can be found, but data released earlier this year showed that 7.2% of bounties actually come from high-security space.

It’s unsurprising, then, that CCP chose high-security space as the test-bed for an entirely new casual PvE format with the release of Resource Wars in the recent Lifeblood expansion. The expansion also saw the return of the Crimson Harvest event and the release of a new tool named The Agency that helps players find nearby PvE content. I’ve been getting stuck into all three of these this week and seeing how it all ties together, and I’m now more convinced than ever that we could be heading for a full-scale PvE revolution.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I discuss Resource Wars as a new model for PvE and consider how The Agency could be expanded to help promote casual pick-up PvE groups in EVE.

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EVE Evolved: Low-security space has lost its identity, but it can be fixed!

When I first discovered EVE Online back in 2004, it had been out in the wild for just under a year and was a much simpler and friendlier beast. There were fewer than 50,000 players in total and most of them were flying around in tech 1 frigates and cruisers, either mining, grinding their way up top level 3 mission agents, or PvPing. Most corporations lived in the relative safety of high-security space and warred with each other for all sorts of reasons, and some power-hungry corps tamed the lawless nullsec regions to hunt battleship NPCs and mine ores containing valuable Zydrine and Megacyte.

Low-security space offered a tempting middle-ground for players back then, a place you could go to reap better rewards than highsec but at the cost of a proportional increase in risk. Pirates faced much lower consequences for attacking another ship unprovoked there than in highsec, and the areas around stargates and stations were kept safer by automated sentry turrets. The delicate balance between risk and reward in low-security space began to fall apart as the sizes of player groups in EVE increased and ships got better at tanking the damage from sentries. Nearly a decade later and with very little done to revamp the area, today’s lowsec still suffers from this legacy and has lost much of its identity. But how can this problem be solved? Hints may come from recent rumblings at EVE Fanfest 2017 on the future direction of PvE.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at the reasons I believe low-security space has lost its identity and a few of the ways CCP could inject some much-needed personality and speciality into this neglected area of the game.

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EVE Evolved: CCP Games on the future of EVE Online’s PvE

It’s no secret that EVE Online has always been a primarily PvP-focused game, with thousands of players smashing fleets of ships together on a daily basis. PvE requires a different set of skills and ship setups than PvP and is often seen as little more than a necessary grind to replace lost ships. Even with great PvE additions over the years such as Sleeper NPCs in wormhole space or Sansha incursions, almost all PvE ultimately still boils down to shooting at predictable NPC ships that don’t pose a real threat. Players have engineered all of the risks out of PvE, coming up with optimum strategies and ways to predict NPC behaviour.

Things have begun to slowly change over the past year or so with the introduction of dynamic NPCs like the powerful Drifter menace with its advanced AI, Burner missions that in some ways almost mimic PvP, and new high-level capital ship NPCs. We’ve even had several seasonal events that can be completed in PvP-fit ships, turning the event dungeons into unexpected flashpoints for PvP. At EVE Fanfest 2016 we learned that CCP has begun stepping up these efforts to merge PvE with the rest of the game world and adding some unpredictability and engagement back into the game, and two new PvE dev teams have been formed to get the job done.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I talk to game designer Linzi “CCP Affinity” Campbell and senior creative producer CCP Burger about two new PvE dev teams they’re part of, CCP’s plans to integrate PvE more closely with the rest of the game, and how the Drifters were developed behind the scenes.

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The Division’s Incursion update launches April 12 [Updated]

Update: A recap of the stream follows after the cut.

This afternoon, Ubisoft will stream the first look at its next free update, Incursions, due out in April.

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Incursions are essentially challenging 4-man endgame PvE content, so if the PvP-oriented nature of last week’s patch didn’t do anything for you, maybe this PvE-centric update will.

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EVE Evolved: Three EVE mechanics that need an update

With over 12 years of development under its belt, EVE Online has now revamped, rebalanced or replaced practically every part of its gameplay at least once. Almost every ship and module has now undergone extensive rebalancing in the past few years, for example, and the entire research and industrial side of the game was completely re-imagined last year. Just recently territorial warfare got a massive revamp, and player-owned structures are about to get an overhaul with the Citadels expansion next year. So many parts of the game have been iterated on and improved since their introduction, but there are still a few things that are badly in need of an update.

The most cited example of dated gameplay in EVE is its probably agent mission system, which sends the player on an endless stream of odd-jobs to ferry items from A to B or blow up a pack of bad guys. We’ve seen some good movement on this front with things like the burner missions and CCP’s long-term vision for PvE is pretty epic, but agents aren’t the only feature badly in need of a redesign. Low-security space has been badly neglectled over the years, off-grid warfare link boosting alts continue to plague small-scale PvP, and the temporary Sansha incursions that kicked off in 2010 have been running for five years.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I tackle three EVE features that are desperately in need of an overhaul and describe potential solutions for each of them.

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