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EVE Evolved

EVE Evolved: Should CCP interfere in the sandbox?

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Culture, Events (In-Game), MMO Industry, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Giveaways, Promotions, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content, Subscription

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When it comes to player outrage, EVE Online seems to make the headlines more than any other MMO. The game has endured several high-profile scandals in its 10-year history, from the T20 developer corruption incident in 2007 to 2011's famous Monoclegate scandal. As EVE is a true sandbox game with a focus on PvP and player competition, developers have historically limited their direct influence on the universe. The importance of limiting interference became abundantly clear during the T20 incident when it was discovered that a developer had given tech 2 blueprints and preferential treatment to the Band of Brothers alliance.

This interference in the sandbox had a profound and lasting impact on EVE's political endgame and undermined the legitimate accomplishments of other alliances. Some of the same issues that were raised in the wake of that scandal have now resurfaced amidst controversy over CCP's community team and its involvement with third-party fansites. Gambling website SOMER Blink was selected to host a huge giveaway event with rare prizes provided by CCP, and the contest organisers were then given rare battleships worth billions of ISK to keep as thank-you presents.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I run down the details of the latest EVE Online controversy and ask whether CCP should directly interfere in the sandbox at all.

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EVE Evolved: Deployables in Rubicon

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, PvP, PvE, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Sandbox, Subscription

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Last week I looked at EVE Online's upcoming Rubicon expansion, which aims to kick off CCP's long-term vision of deep space exploration with a series of new deployable structures. Until now, most structures have come in the form of modules that can only be added to starbases anchored at moons. Starbases are owned by corporations rather than individuals and require a significant financial and logistical investment to set up and maintain, putting them quite far out of reach for new players. Rubicon will fix this with a relatively inexpensive new personal Depot deployable that can be anchored anywhere in space.

The mobile Depot is a small feature that was no-doubt trivial to implement, but it could have a massive impact on the shape of the EVE sandbox. The module offers a way to store your items and refit ships in the middle of hostile territory, and this is the first of a new breed of structure that will ultimately unlock deep space for exploration. This expansion will also give us a new auto-looting tractor beam structure and a Siphon Unit that actually steals resources from nearby starbases. Not much is known about these three deployables beyond the basic information already released, and there's a ton of potential for new complementary structures that could be released in the future.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I examine the impact that Rubicon's two biggest deployable structures could have on the EVE sandbox and think about new structures that could be released in the future.

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EVE Evolved: Everything we know about Rubicon

Sci-Fi, Video, EVE Online, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, Previews, PvP, Endgame, News Items, PvE, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Livestream, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Housing, Player-Generated Content, Subscription

EVE Evolved: Everything we know about Rubicon
Back in April, EVE Online Senior Producer Andie Nordgren delivered an incredible long-term vision for the game's future that included deep space colonisation, player-built stargates, and players controlling practically everything that's currently run by NPC empires. This vision sets the tone and direction for development over the next ten expansions, each of which will introduce a small component of the overall goal. In a live interview session earlier this week, CCP revealed the first steps it will take toward space colonisation in its upcoming winter expansion.

Named Rubicon, the expansion will be in players' hands on November 19th and promises to give individuals and small groups unprecedented control over the sandbox. It will let players fight over planetary customs offices in high security space, significantly buff the ability of small ships to participate in hit-and-run style warfare, and even introduce a new set of personal deployable structures that can be hidden anywhere in space. All this comes alongside two new Sisters of EVE ships, twitch livestream integration, and significant balance changes to Marauders, Interceptors, Interdictors, and Electronic Attack Frigates.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I run down all of the new features and changes announced so far for EVE Online's Rubicon expansion.

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EVE Evolved: Will Star Citizen or Elite harm EVE?

Sci-Fi, Trailers, Video, EVE Online, Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvP, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Sandbox, Crowdfunding, Subscription, Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous

EVE Evolved Will Star Citizen or Elite harm EVE
Publishers haven't been willing to put a lot of money behind a sci-fi sandbox for some time, but upcoming games Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous seem set to revive the genre thanks to the power of crowdfunding. Star Citizen in particular has collected a world record $19.6 million in pledges so far from almost 258,000 individuals, eliminating the need for publishers and heavy investment entirely. Though both games are designed to be a primarily singleplayer or small-scale multiplayer adventures, their respective developers have already promised shared online universes and sandbox gameplay that could give EVE Online a run for its money.

The past decade has shown EVE to be one of the most resilient MMOs on the planet. It's survived several major scandals, barely noticed the release of giant World of Warcraft, and has somehow maintained its subscription-based business model in a market rapidly being overtaken by free-to-play titles. Even at its lowest point, the game managed to survive the 2011 monoclegate scandal and the subsequent fallout that saw CCP Games lose 20% of its staff worldwide. EVE's subscriptions and concurrent user numbers have historically been unaffected by the release of new MMOs or sci-fi titles, so why should Star Citizen be any different?

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at how EVE Online has lived with very little direct competition until now and ask whether Star Citizen and Elite could be among the first games to directly draw players from EVE.

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EVE Evolved: Fitting Heavy Assault Cruisers in Odyssey 1.1, part 2

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Classes, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, PvP, Opinion, Hands-On, EVE Evolved, Guides, Sandbox, Subscription

EVE Evolved Fitting Heavy Assault Cruisers in Odyssey 11, part 2
EVE Online recently revamped all of the Heavy Assault Cruisers in its Odyssey 1.1 update, in addition to buffing active shield boosters and armour repairers and rebalancing medium beam lasers and railguns. Last week I put together a new brawler setup for the recently revamped Deimos, a sentry drone sniper fitting for the Ishtar, an extremely effective anti-frigate Cerberus setup, and a sadly underwhelming railgun Eagle. This week I've turned my attention toward the Amarr and Minmatar HACs, with some surprising results. The Zealot and Sacrilege are still as powerful as ever, and the Muninn may see some use as a tactical frigate sniper, but this patch could see many players retiring their Vagabonds.

The nano-fit Vagabond was once the unrivaled number one ship for lone pirates, able to speed-tank anything larger than a frigate and still deal over 500 DPS. It engaged safely from outside web range, moved too fast for turrets to track, and absorbed any attacks that did hit with its sizable buffer tank. When CCP made warp scramblers knock out microwarpdrives, Vagabond pilots adapted with dual propulsion module fits that use a microwarpdrive to approach the target and an afterburner to orbit. Unfortunately, the Vagabond didn't fare well in the Odyssey 1.1 patch and players aren't sure if they can adapt this time.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I put together PvP setups for the at the Zealot, Sacrilege, Muninn, and Vagabond Heavy Assault Cruisers.

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EVE Evolved: Fitting Heavy Assault Cruisers in Odyssey 1.1

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Classes, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, PvP, Opinion, Hands-On, EVE Evolved, Guides, Sandbox

EVE Evolved Fitting Heavy Assault Cruisers in Odyssey 11
The Odyssey 1.1 patch landed this week in EVE Online, introducing several highly requested PvP tweaks and overhauling all of the Command Ships and Heavy Assault Ships. Active shield boosters, armour repairers and medium-sized long range turrets all received sizable buffs, but it's the newly updated Heavy Assault Cruisers that really took my interest. They've historically been used as highly mobile damage-dealers for fleet warfare, but now each has been targeted at a specific combat niche. The Deimos is a brawler for small-scale gang warfare, the Ishtar is a heavy drone platform, the Cerberus turns frigates into molten poop, and the Eagle is... well, nobody can really figure out what to do with the Eagle yet.

All of the HACs have been augmented with a new role bonus that reduces the signature radius penalty of activating a microwarpdrive by 50%. This may seem pretty weak, but in practice it makes the ships a lot more viable in PvP. Activating your microwarpdrive will normally increase your signature radius size by 500%, making you a hell of a lot easier to hit and increasing the damage you take from missiles. The speed boost will counteract this to some degree, but it takes a while to reach that speed, and you're very vulnerable in the interim. Reducing this to only 250% means you get all the defensive benefit of the speed increase without much of the vulnerability. In most cases, you'll actually take less damage with the microwarpdrive on than off.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I put together PvP setups for the at the newly revamped Deimos, Ishtar, Cerberus, and Eagle Heavy Assault Cruisers.

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EVE Evolved: Odyssey 1.1 and PvP balance

Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, PvP, News Items, PvE, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Dev Diaries

EVE Evolved Odyssey 11 and PvP balance
It's been just under three months since EVE Online's exploration-focused Odyssey expansion went live, bringing in a new hacking minigame and significantly buffing the underused tier 1 and tier 2 battleships. With a complete rebalancing all of the tech 1 sub-capital ships now complete, CCP has turned its attention to some of the oldest tech 2 ships in the game: Heavy Assault Ships and Command Ships. Developers have been testing out changes to these ships on the test server and hitting up players for feedback since Odyssey went live, and the results are finally ready to deploy.

Odyssey 1.1 will go live in two days time on September 3rd and contains some pretty big changes that are sure to shake up the PvP landscape. Medium-sized long-range weapons have been buffed beyond all recognition, and a buff to active tanking may soon make it viable in PvP. Heavy Assault Ships and Command Ships have been beefed up, the Dominix is getting a small nerf following its absolute dominance in the Alliance Tournament, and the Nosferatu energy vampire module may be about to make a return to PvP setups.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I analyse the upcoming Odyssey 1.1 patch and what the new ship balance changes mean for the average player.

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EVE Evolved: Grid-Fu and bending space

Sci-Fi, Video, EVE Online, Bugs, Game Mechanics, Lore, PvP, EVE Evolved, Sandbox, Subscription

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In last week's article, I described how EVE Online maintains the illusion of full-scale solar systems by dynamically creating small pockets of high-detail space called grids. It's within these discrete bubbles that everything we do in space takes place, from mining asteroids to running missions or shooting at other players. The system is designed to split up space into manageable chunks to reduce server load while still maintaining persistent 3-D space that appears to span the entire scale of a solar system.

Grids have been in EVE since it was first created, but over the years people have noticed a few odd things about how the system works. Flying about 250km-400km away from a stargate causes your ship to disappear from that grid and pop into a newly created adjacent one, for example, but this doesn't always happen. Bizarre occurrences such as abnormally shaped grids and ships mysteriously disappearing and re-appearing on the same grid were always thought to be freak accidents or unintended bugs until an interesting document emerged in 2009. Titled Grid-Fu: A Practical Manual, the 18-page PDF described the process of bending and manipulating space for a tactical advantage.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at the various ways that players have manipulated space to their advantage.

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EVE Evolved: Does EVE Online have the world's largest MMO map?

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, EVE Evolved, Sandbox, Subscription

EVE Evolved Does EVE Online have the world's largest MMO map
MMO game worlds seem to be getting larger every year, and the debate over which is biggest frequently appears on forums and blogs. It usually starts with people breaking out infographics comparing the size of the various islands and continents in their favourite fantasy MMOs, and it escalates from there. World of Warcraft's Azeroth turns out to be surprisingly small at an estimated 80 square miles, while World War II Online claims to have the largest MMO game map in the world with over 300,000 square kilometers (115,831 square miles) of playable space modeled as a half scale map of Western Europe.

Someone in the discussion will inevitably mention EVE Online, and that's when things get complicated. The New Eden star cluster is lightyears across, and its 7,699 accessible solar systems have earned it a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, but can EVE's map even be compared to accessible landmass in a fantasy MMO? All of the space between stars is currently empty and inaccessible, and players warp between points of interest within a solar system without interacting with any of the space in between. With that and the relative difference in scale between EVE and land-based games, it isn't immediately clear whether EVE Online still has the world's largest playable MMO map.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at how empty space works under the hood in EVE Online and crunch some numbers to find out whether it really does have the biggest playable game world.

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EVE Evolved: Alliance Tournament XI Grudge Match

Sci-Fi, Video, EVE Online, Culture, Events (In-Game), Lore, PvP, News Items, EVE Evolved, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content

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The largest alliance war in EVE Online's history is currently underway, with the latest battle to hit the news reaching over 4,000 players and shattering the world record for players involved in a single PvP battle. While massive battles like are becoming a regular occurrence in EVE and have dominated the news lately, the strategy of just throwing thousands of ships at the enemy and seeing if it works doesn't work in every corner of New Eden. Wormholes, for example, limit the mass of ships entering a hidden Sleeper star system at once, promoting smaller-scale conflicts that are more about deep strategy and execution than scale.

So it is for EVE Online's annual alliance tournament, a fairly matched drawing that attempts to simulate what would happen if small squads of ships from opposing alliances met on equal terms. Teams are drawn randomly against each other and put together squads of ships within the bounds of an imposed point limit. This year's tournament involved only 64 teams and had no elimination stage but still managed to pump out 128 action-packed matches with full commentary and studio coverage. The grand final even played host to the biggest grudge match in Alliance Tournament history as Pandemic Legion faced off against Hydra Reloaded.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I round up all the matches in this year's massive Alliance Tournament and discuss the explosive final that saw old tournament rivals face off for glory and huge in-game prizes.

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EVE Evolved: Strategic resources for everyone!

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Culture, Economy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, PvP, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Sandbox, Dungeons, Player-Generated Content

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The past four EVE Online expansions have mostly focused on adding small features and overhauling old game mechanics and content that were beginning to show their age. Crucible delivered dozens of small but highly-requested features and gameplay improvements, and Inferno and Retribution continued with overhauls of several aging PvP systems. Even Odyssey contained mostly small features and revamps, its biggest gameplay features being a new hacking minigame and a streamlined scanning interface. It's been several years since EVE has received a truly massive and game-changing feature like wormholes or a sovereignty revamp, but that may all be about to change!

CCP recently announced its intention to start reaching for big ideas again, but this time set over a more realistic timeframe. If everything goes according to plan, the next five years could see the introduction of player-built stargates and true deep space colonisation. I wrote about the potential of this concept last week and looked at some of the big features we'd need to make it a reality, but I didn't really delve into my personal favourite idea for a potential future expansion: New strategic resources and player-created deadspace complexes.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at how strategic resources could be used to get even individual players invested in something worth fighting for, and how player-created deadspace dungeons could be a great way to introduce them.

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EVE Evolved: Colonising deep space

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Culture, Expansions, Game Mechanics, PvP, PvE, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Sandbox, Dungeons, Player-Generated Content, Subscription

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If you were watching the news coming out of this year's EVE Online Fanfest, you no doubt heard Senior Producer Andie Nordgren's incredibly ambitious five year vision. The past few expansions have been mostly filled with bug fixes and improvements to existing gameplay, but the goal is now to begin delivering an epic vision of deep space exploration, colonisation, and PvP raids on enemy infrastructure. The five year roadmap toward this goal includes the addition of player-built stargates and completely uncharted solar systems to locate, explore and build an empire in. If the very idea of that doesn't make shivers go down your spine, something may be wrong with your central nervous system.

CCP has opened new space before with the addition of the drone regions in nullsec and some new lowsec systems for faction warfare, but it wasn't until 2009's Apocrypha expansion that we saw a true exploration and long-term colonisation effort get underway. I think the intoxicating draw of wormhole exploration was primarily due to the fact that the new systems were hidden and the information on them wasn't public. Just adding new solar systems to the existing stargate network wouldn't have had the same effect. Nordgren's vision may take up to 10 expansions to fully realise, but what kinds of features will we need in those expansions to recreate true exploration and deep space colonisation?

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at some of the challenges CCP will have to overcome to make deep space colonisation a reality and what small steps could be taken in each expansion to get us there.

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EVE Evolved: Is DUST 514 a pay-to-win game?

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Business Models, Economy, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, First Impressions, EVE Evolved, DUST 514, Sandbox

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I've been following DUST 514's development with a cautious optimism for the past few years and have been trying to convince my console gamer friends to give it a try since it launched back in May. Last week I finally sat down to play the game myself and was thoroughly disappointed with both its 2005-era graphics and fundamentally broken gameplay. DUST 514 will likely stay in development for the forseeable future and may end up becoming a polished and integral part of the EVE Online universe, but right now it's a buggy and mediocre FPS that has very little impact on New Eden.

DUST 514 launched to mixed impressions from the gaming media, catching a lot of flack from reviewers for its microtransactions options. Some have argued that selling skill point boosters and destructible Aurum tanks and equipment directly for cash makes it a pay-to-win game, while others maintain that it doesn't give you an advantage that free players can't buy for ISK. The definition of pay-to-win isn't always clear, and the console FPS audience may not be as tolerant of microtransactions PC users have long since accepted.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at the arguments for and against it being a pay-to-win game and ask what went wrong with the game's launch.

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EVE Evolved: First impressions of DUST 514

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Culture, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, Patches, Previews, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Consoles, First Impressions, EVE Evolved, DUST 514, Sandbox

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Every time I'm in a conversation about DUST 514, I find myself excusing its gameplay problems on the basis that it's treading new ground and has years of development ahead of it. But even though CCP has revealed an aggressive new schedule of big monthly updates, console gamers aren't willing to give it a free pass today based on future potential. I finally convinced my console gamer friends to pick the game up this week and gave it a fair go myself.

I absolutely love the idea of DUST 514 and want to see the game succeed, but console gamers just don't seem impressed. When the game officially launched on May 14th, it was largely regarded as just another mediocre and buggy first-person shooter with a perishable gear system. The MMO components such as territorial control aren't very visible or accessible to new players, the gameplay balance and graphics need serious work, and the link with EVE Online feels practically non-existent. It pains me to say it, but DUST is neither a great FPS nor a great MMO.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I delve into DUST 514 and give my first impressions of it as an EVE player.

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EVE Evolved: The battle of Z9PP-H caught on camera

Sci-Fi, Video, EVE Online, Business Models, Culture, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, Guilds, Lore, PvP, Endgame, News Items, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content

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If you're the kind of person who loves reading about the political shenanigans that go on inside EVE Online, you should be aware that a colossal war has erupted in the wake of the Odyssey expansion. The expansion redistributed the value of nullsec moons and gave the two largest alliances in the game, the Reddit-based TEST Alliance and Something Awful-spawned GoonSwarm Federation, a good excuse to go to full-scale war. Allies have piled in on either side, and nullsec has erupted into full-scale region takedowns, spy-jacking, and more of the lovely political tomfoolery we love to hear about.

EVE News 24 has been doing a good job of keeping players up to date on what's happening in nullsec, and its reporters are not the only ones keeping tabs on the war. Streamer Mad Ani has been setting up cameras in strategically important locations throughout the contested regions and providing live coverage of huge battles whenever they happen. A few days ago, the war came to a head in what could have been the deciding battle of the entire Fountain invasion. Over 4,000 people watched the stream as TEST's entire capital fleet of over 100 carriers was taking a pounding in Z9PP-H, when suddenly the server crashed and disconnected everyone in the fight.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at what happened in the battle of Z9PP-H, how CCP crashed its biggest piece of PR in months, and how player livestreams are changing the face of EVE Online for the better.

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