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EVE Evolved

EVE Evolved: What does Thera mean for EVE?

Sci-Fi, Video, EVE Online, Culture, Events (In-Game), Expansions, Game Mechanics, Guilds, Lore, Patches, Previews, PvP, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, MMORPG

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If you've been keeping up with the recent news updates on EVE Online, you've probably heard about the upcoming Rhea update scheduled for December 9th. This mega patch will introduce the new tech 3 Tactical Destroyer ship class, Sleeper incursions into normal space, hands-on WASD flight controls, and 101 new wormhole systems (including 25 that are limited to small ships). The new wormhole systems have had all of their planets shattered by an as-yet unknown stellar phenomenon, and clues as to what transpired there will be hidden in the rubble. This infusion of new content and story will mark the first time the wormhole storyline and gameplay have been significantly expanded in over four years.

Each of the new shattered star systems is guaranteed to have at least one outgoing wormhole leading to normal space at all times, increasing the likelihood that pirates will catch you exploring or farming them. And since these systems won't have any in-tact moons, you won't be able to put up a permanent starbase to retreat to if hostiles appear. I'm pretty excited for exploring this new lawless frontier, but it's a unique shattered star system called Thera that I'm most looking forward to finding. Thera will be the first and only wormhole system to have fully kitted NPC stations and will serve as neutral ground for anyone who wants to live there. It's been described as the Mos Eisley of EVE, a permanent home to pirates, PvP corps, and smugglers looking to make some quick ISK.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at how the Thera system could revolutionise EVE for a lot of players and where the EVE storyline could go as a result.

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EVE Evolved: Clone upgrades and skill loss are gone!

Sci-Fi, Video, EVE Online, Economy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, Previews, PvP, Endgame, News Items, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Subscription

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While the player activity stats might suggest otherwise, the past few years have been a real rennaisance for EVE Online. Developers have gone back and iterated on dozens of old game features that were starting to show their age, and some of them have been pretty huge. The war declaration and criminality overhauls in 2012 were fundamental changes to core gameplay that had been stagnant for almost a decade, and the recent industry and warp acceleration changes were equally fundamental shifts. These were all features we had previously been told were essentially off-limits for iteration because they relied on undocumented legacy code from 2003, and none of the programmers wanted to poke that sleeping beast.

Now it seems that no idea is off-limits, and developers aren't afraid to challenge fundamental parts of EVE's original design that may not make sense today. This week's Phoebe update revisited capital ship force projection for the first time since the ships were added in 2004, for example, and it removed the 24-hour skill queue limit that CCP insisted on adding in Apocrypha. In Thursday's episode of The EVE Online Show, developers announced the next big legacy feature to be put on the chopping block in the game of progress: As part of December's Rhea release, clone upgrades and skill point loss on death will be completely removed from the game.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at the problems caused by the cloning system, why it needs to be removed, and what could possibly replace it.

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EVE Evolved: Could permadeath work in EVE?

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Culture, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvP, PvE, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Sandbox, Subscription, MMORPG

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Permadeath has been one of the most contentuous features in online gaming since as far back as I can remember. The feeling of permanently losing a character you've spent months training up and playing with because of a single mistake or lag spike would be horrifying to most people, yet the idea continues to intrigue both players and developers. Diablo II's Hardcore mode is probably the most successful permadeath mechanic in an online game to date, separating the hardcore players onto a different server so that they develop their own game economy and leaderboard. Several MMOs have experimented with permadeath servers or mechanics over the years, but they're almost always reverted as failures.

In a recent presentation at EVE Vegas 2014, EVE Online developer CCP Rise discussed the idea of permadeath characters as something he's wanted to add to the game for the past few years. This is particularly problematic for EVE as the game uses passive time-based skill training and the whole game takes place on one massive shard. The hardcore players would need to have enough incentive to risk their characters' lives on a daily basis, their abilities would have to be balanced with non-hardcore players, and abuse of the system to suicide gank players would need to be handled. But if those problems are tackled, is it possible that there's a place for permadeath in EVE?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at how permadeath could be added to EVE Online without disrupting the rest of the game.

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EVE Evolved: Fixing EVE's player activity

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Business Models, Culture, Expansions, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Patches, PvP, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Sandbox, Subscription, MMORPG

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It's been a sort of running gag in EVE Online throughout the years that players spend inordinate amounts of time docked in stations and spinning their ships around in the hangar, but this is oddly close to the truth. Those of us who have been hooked to EVE for years know just how intense the game can get at its most frantic and how incredible it is to be present for historic events and important PvP battles, but those moments are rare, and there's typically a lot of downtime between periods of activity. For every PvP battle fought, incursion fleet formed or wormhole op organised, players often have to spend hours in stations or in space amusing themselves or doing busywork.

With gamers now spreading their increasingly limited free time across a growing catalogue of online games, some EVE players log in for only a few minutes per day to queue skills, chat with corpmates, and see if anything interesting is happening. The recent announcement that the upcoming Phoebe release will contain infinite length skill queues has some players concerned that people will lose the motivation to pop their heads into New Eden each day and see what's going on. Since the best sandbox gameplay is emergent in nature, just getting players to log in so they're available to take part in something awesome when it happens is extremely important.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I ask whether EVE is in trouble due to its recent decline in player activity, look at the impact of people with just a few hours per week to play, and suggest a new app idea that could help solve all of those problems.

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EVE Evolved: Features coming in Oceanus and beyond

Sci-Fi, Video, EVE Online, Culture, Economy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Patches, Previews, PvP, Endgame, News Items, PvE, EVE Evolved, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Crafting, Subscription, MMORPG

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It's been almost four months since EVE Online switched from publishing two major expansions per year to releasing ten smaller updates, and so far it looks like the new schedule has been a huge success. Rather than forcing the industry overhaul out the door in Kronos before it was ready, CCP was able to push it forward to the Crius release window seven weeks later and the extra development time meant the feature launched in a very polished state. It may be too early to tell if the new schedule's success can be seen in the concurrent player graph for Tranquility, but the numbers have remained steady for the past few months in what is typically the annual low-point for player activity.

The Oceanus update is scheduled to go live in just two day's time, adding several graphical upgrades, more difficult burner missions, an experimental new notification feature, and other small improvements. The scale of the update seems to be on par with the recent Hyperion release, consisting of mostly small features and minor iterations on gameplay. While we're told that CCP is still working on large projects behind the scenes, the new release schedule means they won't be rushed out the door and so we may not see them for some time.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I summarise everything we know about Tuesday's Oceanus update, and take a look at what's to come in further releases.

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EVE Evolved: Has the industry revamp worked?

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Economy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, PvE, Opinion, Hands-On, First Impressions, EVE Evolved, Sandbox, Crafting, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, MMORPG

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When I was first introduced to EVE Online back in 2004, a big part of the attraction for me was the promise of a huge player-run economy in which the only real laws were those of supply and demand. With only a handful of tech 1 ships and modules available to build and everything made out of the same basic minerals, science and industry were pretty easy for new players to figure out. Over the years, more complexity has slowly been added to industry via features like Starbases, Salvaging, Capital Ships, Tech 2 Invention, Planetary Interaction and Tech 3 Reverse Engineering. Today's industrialists have to contend with hundreds of different items that are often arranged in sprawling component manufacturing chains, which can make it hard to figure out exactly how to make a profit.

The recent industry revamp attempted to solve this problem with a full user interface overhaul and a revamp of material costs and manufacturing prices. All of the relevant information for using a blueprint was packed into a slick new combined Industry UI, allowing new players to find the info they're looking for in-game rather than through websites or opening dozens of item info windows. It's now been almost two months since the industry revamp went live, and while the market for many items is still going to take several months to fully stabilise, the dust has finally begun to settle. So what's the verdict? Has the industry revamp worked?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I consider whether the industry revamp has been successful, how easy it is to make a profit in the new system, and whether it's worth setting up your own industrial starbase.

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EVE Evolved: Wormholes should be more dangerous

Sci-Fi, Video, EVE Online, Economy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, PvP, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, MMORPG

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When unstable wormholes began forming all over the EVE Online universe in 2009's Apocrypha expansion, players approached them with extreme caution. The promise of riches in the form of new loot and Tech 3 cruiser components was balanced by the incalculable risk of facing a powerful new enemy in untested circumstances. Between the Sleeper AI that had been reported to melt players' ships in seconds and the player pirates taking advantage of the hidden local chat channel to sneak up on unsuspecting victims, we had no idea whether any ship we sent into a wormhole would ever make it back out again.

The risk of venturing into something truly unknown made wormhole exploration the single most exciting thing I've ever been a part of in an MMO, but the past five years have completely eroded that danger. Farmers now know exactly what to expect in every wormhole site and can efficiently farm Sleepers with the minimum of effort or risk, and PvP alliances can rapidly cycle through systems to find weak targets to attack. We've mapped and tamed all of the wormhole frontier, systematically reducing the risk to the lowest possible levels under the current game mechanics. Tuesday's Hyperion update aimed to shake things up with a few disruptive changes designed to keep wormholes dangerous, and I think it's a definite step in the right direction.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at some of the changes in Hyperion designed to keep wormholes dangerous and ask what more could be done to keep things interesting.

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EVE Evolved: How to fix nullsec territorial warfare

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Guilds, Patches, PvP, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, MMORPG

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If you've been playing EVE Online lately or just following the major events in the game, it can't have escaped your notice that nullsec has become a bit stagnant. The lawless nullsec regions are supposed to be politically unstable territories claimed by hundreds of warring player-run alliances, but today they're dominated primarily by just two or three mega-coalitions. Individual alliances can no longer hold out against the combined forces of the coalitions and must either pick a side or be annihilated. The coalitions have even signed agreements not to take space from each other by force, and players are being bored to death as a result.

Two weeks ago, I examined the history of force projection in EVE Online and made the argument that capital ships and jump drives ultimately created today's nullsec problems. Increases in mobility have led to alliances teaming up over vast distances, making mega-coalitions an inevitable outcome. It's obviously too late to remove capital ships or jump logistics, but there are plenty of other ways to potentially fix the nullsec problem. We had some great discussions in the comments of the previous article about how this complex problem could be solved without making warfare the painful slog it was back in 2004, and I believe it's possible.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I lay out some ideas for new game mechanics that could solve the current nullsec crisis and may meet CCP's goals for the eventual sovereignty revamp that's on the way.

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EVE Evolved: Capital ships ruined nullsec

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Culture, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, Guilds, Lore, PvP, Endgame, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content, Subscription

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All throughout EVE Online's lifetime, compelling stories of incredible events, daring heists, and colossal battles with thousands of players have periodically surfaced and spread across the gaming media like wildfire. Most of the recent stories have been about record-breaking battles between huge alliances of players in the lawless depths of null-security space, and each one has been met with an influx of new players who want to participate. The surprising truth behind nullsec warfare, however, is that many of those on the front lines are simply fed up with the political state of the game.

In EVE's early years, the map was split between hundreds of small alliances, each of which slowly expanded its influence by conquering the star systems bordering its space. Skirmishes and pirate incursions were brief and commonplace, while border wars over territory were long and protracted affairs. Today's nullsec is a different animal entirely, with nearly the entire map carved up between two colossal mega-coalitions of alliances (N3/PL and CFC), each one internally held in a state of perpetually monotonous peace. No alliance in a coalition can break away and stand on its own for fear of being demolished by the others, and so all of nullsec is at peace with its neighbours and bored to tears by it.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I examine how nullsec got to the state it's in now and why it's badly in need of an overhaul.

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EVE Evolved: Stepping through the EVE Gate

Sci-Fi, Trailers, Video, EVE Online, Culture, Expansions, Lore, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, MMORPG

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Though EVE Online is often lauded for its rich decade-long player history full of wars and complex political dealings, the NPC storyline and New Eden's ancient backstory have always held my fascination. I started playing in early 2004 after reading dozens of fiction chronicles and mock scientific articles on the EVE website that painted the picture of a real living universe where incredible things could happen. Sure enough, my first years of play were punctuated with compelling live events and storyline arcs like the Crielere research project that led to the development of cloaking devices, the theft of a Federation Navy titan by Serpentis pirates, and the Blood Raiders taking over Delve.

CCP has frequently stated that its goal with EVE is to create the ultimate sci-fi simulator, and the core of a compelling sci-fi setting is a living universe that grows and changes. The best sci-fi TV shows are those with a constant cycle of revealing compelling mysteries and then solving them and of encountering escalating challenges to be overcome. EVE has done this extremely well a few times in its life, such as with the release of wormholes or when the Sansha incursions events were kicking off, and each time the concurrent player numbers have spiked. Guild Wars 2 has shown the power of an evolving living storyline to get people into the game and keep them actively playing in the long term, something that should be the norm for MMOs and that EVE Online could take much greater advantage of.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at some of the big NPC mysteries revealed in EVE Online's decade-long history and ask why they were abandoned and where they could go now.

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EVE Evolved: Making ISK from the Crius release

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Culture, Economy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, Previews, PvP, PvE, EVE Evolved, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Crafting, Player-Generated Content, Subscription

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‚ÄčEVE Online's economy has been studied over the years for its resemblance to the real world, and it is often cited as an example of a hyper-capitalist society with no laws or regulation. But underneath the emergent interplay of supply and demand that has fueled everything from freighter businesses to virtual investment banks, EVE is ultimately a game. The biggest influence on the markets by far has always been CCP Games and the changes it deploys in expansions, which shake the universe up and force players to adapt to new circumstances.

There's always money to be made from major gameplay changes, and accurately predicting how an expansion will impact on the market can put you on the head of a short-lived but very lucrative gold rush. Though EVE's updates now come in the form of ten smaller releases per year, the upcoming Crius release scheduled for July 22nd has practically a whole expansion's worth of changes to industry and research. That gives you just over two weeks to prepare for the change, train any skills you might need, and figure out how to cash in on EVE's industrial revolution.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I run down some tips for how to prepare for the upcoming industry revamp in Crius and make some ISK.

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EVE Evolved: Four top tips for living in wormholes

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, PvP, PvE, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Guides, Sandbox, Housing, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, MMORPG

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One of the biggest goals you can reach for in many sandbox MMOs is building your own empire and controlling a small corner of the game world. For much of EVE Online's lifetime, that privilege was reserved for the powerful few leaders of the game's large territorial alliances, which carve up vast swathes of space between them. A handful of alliances still control the lawless nullsec regions today, but there are still opportunities for smaller corporations and even individuals to stake a claim in the chaotic world of wormhole space.

Exploring and farming in wormholes is very profitable activity, but permanently moving in and setting up a starbase can be an intimidating prospect. One wrong decision might lead to pilots getting stranded in the void without bookmarks, your starbase coming under attack, or the whole expedition being robbed blind by a corporate infiltrator. The early days of wormhole exploration were rife with stories of hardship, heists, and devastating wars fought through shifting networks of wormholes. A lot has changed since the wormholes first opened in 2009, and today many of those problems have solutions.

In this EVE Evolved opinion piece, I look at some of the ways wormhole life has improved since Apocrypha and give four of my favourite tips for anyone planning to colonise wormhole space.

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EVE Evolved: Growing the EVE Universe

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Business Models, Culture, Lore, MMO Industry, New Titles, Opinion, MMOFPS, EVE Evolved, DUST 514, Sandbox, Subscription, MMORPG

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For much of EVE Online's early history, the playerbase saw consistent organic growth with no end in sight and developer CCP Games was able to stay laser-focused on its single game. The EVE universe has even had to grow several times to accomodate the increase in players, most notably with the opening of the drone nullsec regions and Apocrypha's addition of 2,499 hidden wormhole systems. EVE has survived the launch of countless high-profile MMOs in its lifetime and even weathered the monumental industry shift toward free-to-play business models, but it hasn't been plain sailing. While subscriptions have reportedly grown year-on-year, EVE's average concurrent player numbers haven't really increased since 2009.

The active EVE playerbase isn't really growing, so it should come as no surprise that CCP has been trying to expand the EVE universe on other fronts. Though the first attempt with console FPS DUST 514 was an unmitigated disaster, EVE players still seem quietly optimistic about its PC reboot as EVE: Legion. Dogfighter EVE: Valkyrie has also piqued the interest of the emerging virtual reality community and has the potential to introduce EVE to thousands of fresh faces. EVE's Creative Director Torfi Frans Olafsson even hinted during Fanfest 2014 that EVE Online, Valkyrie and Legion might all share a single login and that characters may eventually be able to switch between games at will.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at why I think a shared login could be a stroke a genius, and interview EVE's Creative Director and Valkyrie's Executive Producer to find out what the future holds for the EVE universe.

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EVE Evolved: Expansion names are important!

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Culture, Expansions, Lore, Patches, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Subscription, MMORPG

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Since its launch in 2003, EVE Online has adhered to a rough schedule of releasing two free expansions per year, one at the game's peak play time in the summer and one to tide players over during the long winter lull in activity. Each expansion has had a particular theme and a descriptive name, launching with several major features and then being followed up with a series of smaller sub-releases. At EVE Fanfest 2014 we discovered that CCP plans to change that strategy and instead produce around ten smaller releases each year, aiming to release one every six weeks.

Putting aside the mathematical impossibility of meeting that target with only 52 weeks in the year, the plan for smaller but more regular releases has been generally well-received. Players were very happy to hear that unfinished features will no longer be pushed out the door before they're ready just to meet an arbitrary expansion deadline, and it's great news that completed features and fixes will now wait a maximum of six weeks before deployment. There's no doubt that it's a great development strategy, but the more I think about it, the less sense it makes as a media strategy.

In this EVE Evolved opinion piece, I look at why expansion names are important, the problems with CCP's new development schedule, and what can be done to fix them.

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EVE Evolved: Eleven years of EVE Online

Sci-Fi, Trailers, Video, EVE Online, Business Models, Culture, Events (In-Game), Expansions, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvP, News Items, Opinion, MMOFPS, World of Darkness, EVE Evolved, DUST 514, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Anniversaries, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, MMORPG

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‚ÄčIt seems that every year another few MMOs have closed their doors or convert to free-to-play business models to stay afloat. EVE Online has always enjoyed a level of insulation from these market trends elsewhere in the genre, and just last week on May 6th it celebrated its 11th year of year-on-year subscription growth. Following on from my previous column celebrating the EVE Evolved column's sixth year of operation, this week I'll be summarising all the major EVE news stories throughout the year.

It's been a big year for EVE fans, one that many of us can be proud to have been a part of. The EVE community turned its financial wizardry toward the real world and raised over $190,000 US in relief aid following a typhoon hitting the Philippines, and CCP even built a monument dedicated to the community. Several massive player battles once again put EVE on the global media's radars, and the Odyssey and Rubicon expansions revitalised the game for explorers and PvPers alike. But not everyone can hold his heads up high this year, with details of more cyberbullying within EVE coming to light and several players being banned for defacing the EVE monument in Reykjavik.

In this anniversary retrospective, I summarise all the major EVE news from the year in one place and take a look at what the future may hold for the EVE universe.

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