Energy neutralisers and nosferatu were given awesome new effects. Energy neutralisers now look like red lightning emanating from the attacker's ship and sparking to the victim. Every effect was redesigned, from sensor boosters and ECM to warp scramblers and remote sensor dampeners. The only major issues I have are with the new cynosural field and jump drive effects. The dramatic, powerful effects seen in Kyoko Sadako's video "War Has Come" have been replaced with a meagre "sploosh" similar to the new effect when jumping at a stargate.
Next to ships, turret effects were perhaps the most important graphics to be overhauled. The old turret effects were beginning to show their age and often looked quite bad. The new turret effects are undoubtedly a massive improvement over the old ones. With bloom and HDR enabled, lasers turn from little beams of light to incredible columns of raw power (or as an alliance-mate of mine calls it, "shoop da woop!"). Large blasters also have a particularly powerful new effect and many players are equally impressed with the other new, sharper turret effects.
What the future holds:
When the Empyrean Age trailer was released some time ago, there was a degree of outcry in the EVE community over its contents. This was the first full official trailer to make heavy use of out-of-game rendered graphics. While the scene of an Amarr fleet using a terran superweapon would have been impossible using only in-game graphics, players such as myself were initially disappointed that the trailer wasn't representative of the actual game. The video was quickly put into perspective, however, as I began to realise that graphics of this quality may be a glimpse into EVE's future.
In his talk on Visual Computing in EVE's 2008 Fanfest, Halldor Guðjónsson and an Nvidia representative explained where CCP was heading with EVE's graphics and what the future holds for the game. He first emphasised CCP's interest in including more moving parts on ships and more animations, something that is so far mostly restricted to rogue drone vessels. Additional emphasis was placed on the ability to deforming ship models. Although not explicitly stated, this could be used to generate battle damage beyond the current flames when a ship has recieved structural damage.
The big take-away from Halldor's presentation on Visual Computing was that CCP are currently looking into revamping the tired old planetary graphics. With recent competition on the market including some impressive planetary effects, EVE's textured spheres are in dire need of a change. Not content to simply increase the texture resolution, CCP described ongoing work with Nvidia to procedurally generate planet detail based on zoom level. This means no matter how far you zoom in, you'd see the planet in higher and higher levels of detail, for essentially infinite resolution. Additional talk of atmosphere simulation and surface animation has me excited.
This procedural generation could also be used to breathe new life into EVE's ageing system backgrounds. Another avenue CCP are investigating involves overhauling planetary rings and asteroid belts. Being able to render huge planetary rings and massive system-wide asteroid belts from the inside is a task CCP are working on. This could lead to a much-needed revamp of the mining profession, including mining on planets and planetary rings.
EVE Online is a constantly evolving game and together with their partnerships with other companies like Nvidia, CCP have been working hard to overhaul every aspect of EVE's looks. CCP are committed to keeping EVE's graphics on the cutting edge of modern graphics capabilities. When they're done, perhaps they'll start all over again with another long-term plan for the next cycle of improvements.
Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at massively.com. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you want to message him, send him an e-mail at brendan.drain AT weblogsinc DOT com.