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EVE Evolved

EVE Evolved: The top five most dangerous solar systems

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Culture, Game Mechanics, Lore, PvP, Endgame, Opinion, Hands-On, EVE Evolved, Guides, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, MMORPG

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EVE Online is a PvP game at its core, with conflict built in at a fundamental level. Pirates lurk around key trade routes and stand ready to pounce on unsuspecting victims, while vast nullsec alliances protect their territories with watchful vigilance and never-ending bloodlust. Wander into the wrong solar system as a new player and your precious ship and cargo will be turned into molten slag and a few points on a killboard quicker than you can say, "Hello, new friend, and what does that red square on your ship mean?"

The original map of EVE was generated one evening by an Icelandic developer who could scarcely have known he was deciding the fates of thousands of gamers for years to come. New systems have been added to the game over the years, and a few manual changes have been made to the stargate network, but most of the universe has remained the same for over a decade. In all that time, a few solar systems have stood out as brazen bastions of bastardly behaviour and made their marks on EVE's history.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I run down a list of the top five most dangerous solar systems in EVE's long history and delve into why each has earned its reputation as a no-fly-zone for newbies.

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EVE Evolved: The Bloodbath of B-R5RB

Sci-Fi, Screenshots, EVE Online, Culture, Economy, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, Guilds, PvP, Endgame, News Items, EVE Evolved, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content, MMORPG

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To the vast majority of gamers, EVE Online is an unforgiving sci-fi dystopia that's one part epic sandbox stories and nine parts spreadsheet. Once or twice per year, the gaming masses get a glimpse of the game's true depth when stories of incredible wars, political corruption, and record-breaking heists spread across the internet like wildfire. From the 2005 Guiding Hand Social Club heist that was plastered over the pages of gaming magazines to last year's infamous Battle of Asakai, tales of big events from EVE have always managed to grab the gaming media's attention.

This week saw the largest record-breaking battle to date as a total of 7,548 players belonging to EVE's two largest megacoalitions fought for control of an innocuous dead-end solar system in the Immensea region. A total of 11 trillion ISK in damage worth over $310,000 USD was inflicted during what has now become known as The Bloodbath of B-R5RB and is allegedly the largest PvP battle in gaming history. The odd story of how the fight started and its record-breaking destructive scale are both big news, but the unsung heroes of B-R5RB are the people who work behind the scenes to ensure that the server can remain online during major battles.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at how one player forgetting to check a box on a form sparked this immense battle and how technologies like Time Dilation help to keep the server online when the ship hits the fan.

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EVE Evolved: EVE needs real colonisation now

Sci-Fi, Video, EVE Online, Business Models, Culture, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Guilds, PvP, Endgame, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Sandbox, Housing, Player-Generated Content, Subscription

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MMOs have absolutely exploded in popularity over the past decade, with online gaming growing from a niche hobby to a global market worth billions of dollars each year. Once dominated by subscription games like EverQuest and World of Warcraft, recent years have seen free-to-play games take centre stage. Global MMO subscriptions have been reportedly shrinking since 2010, and EVE doesn't appear to be immune to this industry-wide trend. Though February 2013's figures showed EVE subscriptions have technically grown year-on-year, those numbers were published just after the Chinese server relaunch, and CCP hasn't released any new figures since.

Developers have done a good job of catering to current subscribers and polishing existing gameplay with the past few expansions, but the average daily login numbers are still the same as they were over four years ago. EVE will undoubtedly hook in plenty of new and returning subscribers when its deep space colonisation gameplay with player-built stargates and new hidden solar systems is implemented, but time could be running out on these features. Hefty competition is due in the next few years from upcoming sandbox games such as Star Citizen, EverQuest Next, Camelot Unchained, and Elite: Dangerous, and CCP will have to release something big soon to bring in some fresh blood.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I ask whether CCP should focus on new players and suggest plans for two relatively simple colonisation-based expansions that could get EVE a significant part of the way toward its five-year goal in just one year.

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EVE Evolved: Has colonisation been forgotten?

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Expansions, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Patches, Previews, PvP, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Housing, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous

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At last year's EVE Online Fanfest, CCP revealed its ambitious plan to take the game where no sandbox MMO has ever gone before: full deep space colonisation. The plan will be delivered over the next five years and will end with the incredibly exciting vision of players building their own stargates and colonising brand-new solar systems that lie off the grid. Rubicon was intended as the first step toward this glorious plan, and its new focus on deployable sandbox structures certainly seemed to be introducing a more player-directed form of colonisation.

I've been cautiously optimistic about the whole endeavour so far, but five years is hell of a long time to wait for that vision to come to fruition. Rubicon's Mobile Depot structure was a great first step toward player-run empires on all scales, but none of the recently announced Rubicon 1.1 deployables has continued along the same theme of colonisation and exploration. The Mobile Micro Jump Drive and Mobile Scan Inhibitor structures I looked at last week provide extra tactical options in PvP, and the three new structures revealed this week are all designed to steal money and resources from nullsec corporations.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I ask whether the newly revealed Encounter Surveillance System and alternate Siphon Units are a step in the wrong direction. With games like Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous on the way, CCP may not have five years to deliver the promise of colonisation.

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EVE Evolved: Rubicon 1.1's new deployables

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, Previews, PvP, Endgame, EVE Evolved, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Subscription, MMORPG

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Of all the major changes to EVE Online in the past few years, it's the introduction of personal deployable structures that has had me most excited. I've always been of the opinion that a true sandbox should let individual players and larger organisations build their own personal empires in empty wilderness. If it were up to me, everything from mining and manufacturing to research in EVE would take place in destructible structures and possibly even player-built deadspace dungeons. The Rubicon expansion took an important first step toward this brand of sandbox-style gameplay with the introduction of several new personal deployable structures, including an item hangar and refitting service that can be deployed anywhere in space.

Four more structures were initially planned for the Rubicon 1.1 point release to expand the game's tactical possibilities, and this week two of those structures were confirmed. The Mobile micro Jump Unit is a game-changing strategic device that allows players any nearby players to jump their ships 100km forward, and the highly requested Mobile Scan Inhibitor physically hides nearby ships from probes and the directional scanner. Players on the test server have also discovered overview filter options for Mobile Jump Disruptor and Mobile Decoy Unit deployable structures, but developers were unable to confirm whether these would be part of Rubicon 1.1 or even if they'd definitely make it into the game.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look into the tactical possibilities of the Mobile Micro Jump Unit and Mobile Scan Inhibitor and why some players have reservations about these game-changing strategic structures.

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EVE Evolved: Designing EVE Onland, part 2

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Economy, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvP, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, Ultima Online, EVE Evolved, Sandbox, Dungeons, Player-Generated Content

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When it comes to living sandbox MMOs, there really isn't a bigger name than EVE Online. Throughout its decade-long history, EVE has produced some huge gaming headlines, delivered record-breaking in-game thefts and heists, and played host to the complex political machinations of dozens of warring alliances. EVE's sandbox design has even made it remarkably resistant to changes in the market, with subscription numbers remaining relatively stable in the face of new releases and the free to play phenomenon. It comes as no surprise then that the sandbox genre is seeing a triple-A revival, with games like Star Citizen, EverQuest Next Landmark, and Camelot Unchained on the way.

With the sandbox genre due to explode back onto the fantasy scene, I've been left wondering how much of the core gameplay that makes EVE tick could be easily adapted for an avatar-based game on land. Even features such as EVE Online's trademark territorial warfare and player-run economy have roots in classic fantasy MMOs like Ultima Online, so they should be easy to convert to modern fantasy equivalents. Last week I started this game design thought experiment with a territorial warfare system and free-for-all PvP with harsh consequences for attackers, but there's a lot more to a good sandbox than smashing people's heads in.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I delve into the hypothetical world of EVE Onland again and tackle issues of realistic world scale, exploration, economics, and the evils of global banking.

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EVE Evolved: Designing EVE Onland, part 1

Sci-Fi, Dark Age of Camelot, Darkfall, EVE Online, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvP, Endgame, Opinion, Ultima Online, Shadowbane, Mortal Online, EVE Evolved, Perpetuum, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content, Subscription

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When I'm not playing or writing about EVE Online, I can usually be found huddled over my computer typing lines of code into a compiler and chipping away at bugs that make varying degrees of sense. Designing my own hardcore space game is a really fun challenge and very fulfilling work, but I have a dirty little game dev secret: I've actually always wanted to make a fantasy game. While the budget and personnel required to take on a project the scale of an MMO remain quite far outside my grasp for the moment, it's still fun to think about how I might design such a game if the opportunity arose. The MMO genre seems to be heading for a sandbox revolution this year, and there's no bigger sandbox than EVE Online, but could all of EVE's gameplay translate to a fantasy game?

EVE is probably the most atypical MMO out there, maintaining a subscription-based single-shard PvP sandbox in a genre that's typically headed in the exact opposite direction. There are several new sci-fi sandboxes on the way that may or may not qualify as massively multiplayer titles, but the vast majority of MMO gamers still prefer to keep their feet on the ground in fantasy lands. I often find myself wondering how much of EVE Online's core gameplay is possible only because of its setting -- and how much could actually be applied to a fantasy MMO. Not only should it be possible to adapt most of what makes EVE great to a modern land-based game, but many of the mechanics sandbox gamers now attribute almost solely to EVE actually started life in classic fantasy MMOs like Ultima Online.

In this week's unusual EVE Evolved, I'd like to start a game design thought experiment as I delve into the hypothetical world of EVE Onland.

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EVE Evolved: Unleash your inner space janitor

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Economy, Game Mechanics, PvP, Endgame, Opinion, Hands-On, EVE Evolved, Guides, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content

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Did you know that people leave perfectly good stuff just lying around in space? Between abandoned starbases, safespotted containers, floating wrecks, and lost drones, there's a real mess out there in space that somebody aught to clean the hell up. So why doesn't someone get out there with a dustpan and brush and vacuum up everything valuable that isn't bolted down? That's what I've been up to for the past week, and I've found it surprisingly enjoyable and profitable. Building on my recent article on staying safe in lowsec, I put together a strategic cruiser setup designed for rapidly searching through lowsec and nullsec for the goodies others leave behind or don't notice.

What surprised me the most about my journey across the wilderness of nullsec is how many starbase owners allowed their towers to run out of fuel and shut down. Using just the directional scanner, I was able to locate and destroy dozens of unprotected starbase structures, including research labs, ship hangars, corp hangar arrays, and factories. The main target of my exploration escapades was actually the new Ghost Sites introduced in Rubicon, which spawn randomly throughout space and usually end up migrating to systems that aren't frequently used. The ISK per hour may not be very good in hunting these sites, but the payoff of finding the rare Ascendancy Omega blueprint would make it all worthwhile.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I delve into the wonderful world of interstellar trash reclamation and asset liberation. I explain how to find abandoned starbases to loot, and I share some tips on locating and tackling the elusive Ghost Sites.

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EVE Evolved: Three exploitable game features

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Bugs, Game Mechanics, PvP, PvE, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Sandbox

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If there's one thing EVE Online players are good at, it's finding ways to get an advantage over each other. The hyper-competitive PvP sandbox breeds players with an investigative streak who will constantly figure out ways to bend and abuse new features to make ISK or get an edge over other players in combat. The most obvious cases include abusing bugs, as happened in 2009's starbase exploit that corporations used to generate valuable tech 2 materials out of thin air and 2010's MonkeySphere exploit that let players hide themselves from the local chat channel and sneak up on unsuspecting victims.

Most cases of abusing features for profit or advantage aren't as clear-cut as these obvious exploits, as some have negative consequences but still use completely legitimate game mechanics. When players figured out how to abuse Faction Warfare's kill LP rewards to farm five trillion ISK, for example, they did so using in-game mechanics that just hadn't really been thought through. Many more subtle cases of broken game mechanics that undermine EVE's core design ethos still exist, some of which have been recently introduced and others that have managed to remain unchallenged for years because there isn't really a good alternative.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at three features in EVE Online that I think fundamentally break the design ethos of the game but don't have very clear solutions.

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EVE Evolved: Lowsec isn't impenetrable

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Expansions, Game Mechanics, PvP, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Guides, Sandbox, Dungeons, Subscription

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When EVE Online was created, one of its core design philosophies was the idea of risk vs. reward -- that higher-value activities should expose the player to greater risk of loss. This rule naturally follows from how the world of business and competition works in real life, and I think it will always arise organically from sandbox MMOs with limited resources. If something's risk-free and easy to do, you can bet there are countless other people already doing it and squeezing the profit margins. This idea was also built into EVE at a fundamental level, with the galaxy split into police-protected high-security systems, the pirate-infested low-security borders between nations, and the chaotic uncolonised wilderness of nullsec.

The steep step up in risk when transitioning from high- to low-security space has always been a major point of contention with gamers, as those who don't know any better often charge straight into deep space to their deaths. The story of the newbie working his way up to get his first cruiser or battlecruiser and then losing it to pirates is repeated so often on forums and in the comments sections of articles that it's almost become a cliche. While the idea that pirates wait around every corner lingers on, this impenetrable barrier hiding all the best content from new players no longer really exists. Through the addition of wormholes and the changes made in Rubicon, no star system is now off limits to a pilot with just a few months of skill training under his belt.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at what you can do to safely travel and operate in EVE's dangerous areas, why the barrier into low-security space needs to remain low for new players, and how CCP has expanded the EVE universe through the introduction of riskier areas of space.

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EVE Evolved: Donate your old spaceships to charity

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Business Models, Culture, Economy, Events (Real-World), Events (In-Game), MMO Industry, News Items, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Promotions, Sandbox, Crowdfunding, Player-Generated Content, Subscription

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The Philippines recently suffered its worst natural disaster in living memory when typhoon Haiyan made landfall on November 8th, leaving over half a million people displaced and millions without food and basic supplies. Countries and organisations around the world have been sending relief aid into the region, and gamers have once again proven to be a generous bunch. Several livestreamers have been running donation drives; the developers behind Luvinia Online even promised to donate 100% of the income from three new in-game items to the Philippine Red Cross. EVE Online has now also joined in the fundraising by reactivating its popular PLEX for Good scheme.

CCP started the PLEX for Good scheme back in January of 2010 as a way for players to donate in-game assets and ISK to help people in the real world. EVE Online players have collectively donated over $150,000 US in aid following 2010's Haitian earthquake, tsunami devastation in Japan, flooding in Pakistan, and tornadoes in the US two years ago. Players hope to smash all fundraising records this time around with dedicated fundraising auctions, events, and liquidation firesales happening across the game. There are even ways for ex-players without active subscriptions to donate their idle in-game assets to charity.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at the PLEX for Good scheme, the fundraising efforts players are using to help out a country in need, and how you can donate your ISK to charity even if you've long since quit EVE.

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EVE Evolved: First impressions of Rubicon

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Economy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, Previews, PvP, Endgame, Opinion, Hands-On, First Impressions, EVE Evolved, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content, Subscription

EVE Evolved: First impressions of Rubicon
For years I've been writing that EVE Online needs more deployable sandbox structures that any player can use, so I was naturally pretty excited to hear that this was to be one of the key features of the Rubicon expansion. The Mobile Depot sounded like a great freeform sandbox tool when it was announced, but I didn't understand quite how awesome it was until I started setting up my own. While the depot is ostensibly a fancy item container with a ship fitting service, anchoring one feels almost like planting your flag in space, and spotting another depot on the directional scanner means war.

I've spent this week exploring low-security space in the new Stratios Sisters of EVE faction cruiser, stealing rare moon minerals with a Siphon Unit, and desperately searching for the elusive but valuable ghost sites. As expected, players have already found some creative uses for the new personal deployable structures: Mobile Depots are being used as advertising billboards in Jita and to bait aggressive players into becoming flagged as criminal suspects, Mobile Tractor Units have seen some unorthodox usage outside of missions, and the Siphon Unit will literally print money if you find an unsecured moon-mining operation tucked away in space.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I test-drive the Rubicon expansion's new structures to find out if they live up to expectations.

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EVE Evolved: Getting ready for Rubicon

Sci-Fi, Trailers, Video, EVE Online, Economy, Events (In-Game), Expansions, Game Mechanics, PvP, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Guides, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Subscription

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EVE Online's Rubicon expansion goes live in just two days on Tuesday, November 19th, introducing four brand-new personal deployable structures and revamping PvP across the board with a seemingly innocuous warp acceleration fix. The expansion represents the first step in new Senior Producer Andie Nordgren's plan to bring true player-run deep-space colonisation to EVE Online. The new Mobile Depot that can be placed anywhere in space is possibly the most sandboxy feature since the introduction of player-owned starbases back in 2004. Players have been coming up with plans for the device since its first announcement, but I think we'll see its true potential revealed in the coming weeks and months.

If you've been saving up your Sisters of EVE loyalty points to get your hands on the faction's new exploration ships, be prepared to buy and build the blueprints as soon as the server comes up. These will be the first pirate faction ship blueprints that are available in high-security space, and a recent devblog confirmed that players have been collecting Sisters of EVE loyalty points like crazy lately in anticipation of the expansion, but those who get the built ships to market first will make an absolute killing. For the rest of us, getting ready for the expansion means planning where to set up a Mobile Depot for some quick profit-making enterprise or building a few small PvP ships to put the new warp speed mechanics to the test.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at some of the best places to set up a Mobile Depot, re-consider the lure of low-security space, and propose adapting your PvP fleets to take advantage of the warp acceleration changes.

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EVE Evolved: Ghost Sites and PvE goals

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Economy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Subscription

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PvE in most MMOs revolves around killing hordes of NPCs for currency, XP, tokens, or loot, and EVE Online is no exception. Players can hunt for rare pirate ships in nullsec asteroid belts, farm Sansha incursions for ISK and loyalty points, or team up against Sleeper ships in dangerous wormhole space, but most prefer the safe and steady income of mission-running. Missions are essentially repeatable quests that can be spawned on request, providing an endless stream of bad guys to blow up in the comfort of high-security space.

Completing a mission will earn you some ISK and a few hundred or thousand loyalty points, but most of the ISK in mission-running comes from the bounties on the NPCs spawned in the mission sites. Similar deadspace sites with better loot are also distributed randomly throughout the galaxy and can be tracked down using scanner probes. But what would happen if the NPCs in these sites were a dangerous and unexpected interference that could get you killed, rather than space piñatas ready to explode in a shower of ISK? This is a question CCP plans to test with the Rubicon expansion's upcoming Ghost Sites feature, which promises to introduce a whole new form of high-risk, high-reward PvE.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at EVE's upcoming ghost sites and explain why I think its goal-oriented approach to PvE should be adopted in other areas of the game.

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EVE Evolved: What DUST 514 should have been

Sci-Fi, Video, EVE Online, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvP, Endgame, Opinion, Free-to-Play, MMOFPS, EVE Evolved, DUST 514, Dev Diaries, PlanetSide 2, Sandbox, Subscription

EVE Evolved: What DUST 514 should have been
‚ÄčIt's now been almost six months since DUST 514's official release, and I think it's safe to say it hasn't quite lived up to expectations. The game was lauded for its revolutionary realtime link with the EVE Online universe, but so far there's very little back-and-forth between the two titles. Originally intended as an MMO in its own right but also as an integral part of EVE's territorial endgame, DUST now exists largely as a lobby-based first-person shooter with the twist that equipment is lost on death.

Even the planetary conquest portion of DUST that could be considered its most MMO-esque element has been abstracted into a series of instanced and scheduled 24v24 battles. DUST's main rival during development was the PC-based PlanetSide 2, and had the two games released on the same platform, I'm sure that rivalry would still be in the media spotlight. I've been playing PlanetSide 2 for just a few days, and I can already see elements that would make it a far better fit for the EVE universe than the current version of DUST. So what could DUST learn from its non-console-only counterpart?

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at how PlanetSide 2 handles issues of persistence, planetary conquest, and vehicle spawning, and why I think DUST 514 should be borrowing a few tricks from its game design.

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