For the first time in a long time, EVE Online managed to send chills up my spine. It wasn't a fleet battle, or the disbanding of the Mercenary Coalition, my former alliance that made me stare in slack-jawed wonder at the screen. The thing that made me look at EVE with new eyes after 30 months of playing was the simple trailer, not even a minute long, for the Empyrean Age expansion, due this summer.

On the Drone Bay, I have made no secret of the fact that factional warfare was my single most anticipated feature for EVE Online, including the ambulation project. The idea of the four major factions going toe-to-toe with players deciding which way the balance tips gives the feeling of being inside a novel. This week's news has me more excited about my favorite game than I have been in a long time. Mechanics aside, the introduction of war between the NPC factions means some potentially big changes for EVE as a whole. No longer will the wars between player alliances be the only focal point for the high-end, fleet-minded PvPer. Now, PvP in EVE can potentially have a roleplay factor added in that some alliances have striven for for years.

For those not aware of the state of politics between the NPC factions in New Eden, there are four very distinct, very militaristic factions. The players call them "empires," though only one of the four uses that name for itself. Each of the four factions is ideologically very different from the others, and alliances, such as they exist, are a matter of convenience and common enemies. These four powers have existed in a state of cold war for the entirety of the game, until now. Players have always been able to run missions for NPC agents to subvert, sabotage, and outright murder NPCs of their agents' enemies, but never before have the players been able to shoot one another on those grounds, outside of very limited and rare occasions.

Despite all the excitement that naturally follows an announcement of this magnitude, there is a great deal of concern expressed by some members of the player-base, namely that this will marginalize some of the existing PvP content of the game, or that the stated planned mechanics could end up looking a lot more like WoW PvP than EVE PvP. While some of the mechanics of occupation and special hidden complexes were somewhat reminiscent of Halaa and Alterac Valley, it really does seem like CCP is introducing this not as a replacement for the existing alliance warfare, but rather as an alternative for those with more of a roleplay preference, or who simply do not like the turn towards enormous fleets and capitals that 0.0 warfare has taken.

So far, it seems that any player will be able to elect to fight for the faction of their choice, not just the faction of their own character's race. Additionally, whole corporations will be able to participate, meaning that we may well see corps formed for the sole purpose of creating capsuleer auxilia to faction navies.

I don't see this bringing down the game play of the hardcore 0.0 player, but rather simply providing a new avenue for PvP, and perhaps leveling out the learning curve of EVE's PvP a bit, allowing newer players to fly with veterans who fight for the same faction's militia group, and teaching the basics of combat and fleet organization without the rather large commitment involved in moving to 0.0 space.

The breakdown of the major conflicts is something that many veteran players are well aware of, but the lack of emphasis upon those conflicts may leave newer players wondering just what all the fuss is about. Most major corps have a wide swathe of races and bloodlines in them, and for most players, the identification lies with the name of the character and the type of ships they fly, not which newbie corp they started in.

For those newer players, and perhaps for some returning vets, here is the breakdown of the two major fault lines in EVE's NPC politics:

1. The Minmatar Republic vs. The Amarr Empire

The Minmatar have been enslaved by the Amarr for centuries. Over time, a movement of these slaves successfully revolted and formed the Minmatar Republic. The driving force behind the Matari is the preservation of their freedom, and the emancipation of those still held as slaves by the Amarr. Their biggest obstacle, however, is often not the Amarrians themselves, but the tribal nature of their own people, and the internal conflicts that often brings.

The Amarr are an empire ruled by a sci-fi continuation of the Divine Right of Kings. They are a theocracy, and, since the death of their emperor and the various difficulties in succession, there have been some notable heresies and squabbles for power in the higher echelons of the church and state. They are determined to remain true to their Emperor and their God.

It is worth noting that many of the most well-known roleplaying alliances (namely Curorates Veritas Alliance and Ushra'Khan) participate in this conflict. As such, this conflict could turn out very interesting, given the long-established forces that both sides possess.

2. The Caldari State vs. The Gallente Federation -

The Caldari are the epitome of capitalism and plutocracy. The major corporations run nearly everything in the State. The Caldari were once part of the Gallente Federation, before the civil war that won them their independence. Since the end of that war, there has been an uneasy peace as both sides participate in a cold war arms race. The Caldari value a certain amount of dominance of the group over the individual, and resent what they view as inefficient freedom that the Gallente indulge in.

The Gallente, by contrast, are a state based on classical liberalism and democracy. Most of their philosophy could be carbon-copied from 18th century French philosophers, and will look rather familiar to modern Western readers. They take it a step further, however, and approach government in a much more hands-off fashion than the other factions. Their conflict with the Caldari, aside from the simmering anger over the civil war, comes from a distaste for excessive control over the individual. The Gallente value freedom over anything else.

Thus far in the NPC history, the Gallente find themselves siding with the Minmatar desire for freedom from slavery, which means some amount of cooperation, and forces the Amarr and Caldari into a de-facto alliance. We will see if CCP continues this course, or if they have more twists in store. Perhaps Tony Gonzales' upcoming novel will shed more light on the issue. Until then, the drums of war are sounding, whose side are you on?


Philip "Crovan" Manning loves to write about EVE, play EVE and eat carebears for lunch. When not writing for Massively or playing EVE, he can be found co-hosting The Drone Bay podcast along with CrazyKinux and Alsedrech, or writing for his own blog, Bitter Old Noob. All questions, comments and offers of large ISK bribes gifts should be sent his way at phillip.manning AT weblogsinc DOT com. Fly deadly!

This article was originally published on Massively.
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