Tomorrow, EVE Online will launch Apocrypha 1.5, which CCP Games has dubbed a "mini-expansion." The Apocrypha expansion was released in March and introduced a slew of new features to the game, but there were more changes in the works that didn't make it into that first release. The 1.5 changes slated to roll out tomorrow are numerous and will introduce a few new aspects to EVE Online, more than a typical patch would, but cannot be considered a full expansion release either.
[UPDATED]: The maintenance window has been extended "due to delays earlier in the deployment process" per CCP. Tranquility is expected to come online at 16:30 GMT (12:30 PM Eastern).
Read on for Massively's highlights of what Apocrypha 1.5 will bring.
New Epic Mission Arcs
One thing that Apocrypha introduced to EVE were Epic Mission Arcs (quests), essentially long, branching stories where the choices you make as you progress affect the outcome. The first Epic Mission Arcs were Level 1 missions, which will seem easy in comparison to the new Level 4 missions available as of tomorrow. A new Epic Mission Arc will be released for each of the game's four races, which CCP says is "deeply rooted in the lore of New Eden."
Most ships in EVE Online can make use of "rigs" -- expensive components that can be plugged into a ship to improve its performance in one area or another. Greater agility, better tanking, and faster recovery of capacitor energy (your ship's lifeblood) are only a few examples of what rigs can do. But the high costs of these rigs, and the fact they can't be removed without destroying them, meant they were typically used only on ships with high survivability, namely battleships. Apocrypha 1.5 will bring small and medium rigs which will have drastically lower costs, giving players more customization for their frigates and cruisers.
Specialized cargo holds
CCP Games is adding specialized cargo holds that will benefit mining-focused capital industrial ships like the Orca and Rorqual, allowing for higher volumes of ore on-board.
Black Ops battleships will get a buff, as new dedicated fuel bays will allow them to power their jump drives longer. It's the same story with all jump drive-equipped capital ships, actually, but there is a drawback; CCP stated they're also cutting down on the cargo hold sizes of these ships.
That small change leads to a big complication. In fact, CCP issued a note of caution today for EVE pilots with ships that make use of jump drives: "We wanted to call attention to some extensive changes to the amounts that cargo holds will be able to hold on certain ships. Please be advised that if, after Apocrypha 1.5 is deployed, your ship's cargo hold is too full, you will be stuck in space."
Ouch. Regardless of the announcement, it's a safe bet there will be a number of "stuck" petitions fired at the GMs this week.
Factional warfare gets a buff
Factional warfare became part of EVE Online when the Empyrean Age expansion launched in June 2008, and it had a lot of promise. Players would fight at part of organized militias of pilots in the all out warfare between EVE's races. (The Gallente and Minmatar loosely aligned against the Amarr and Caldari.) As the players fought in the war, embedded journalists would report on events from the front lines.
Considering this Empyrean Age warfare was triggered by events in the novel and numerous videos banged the war drums, most would agree that factional warfare hasn't lived up to expectations, for reasons we've discussed at Massively.
One major reason that factional warfare hasn't remained as popular with the players is that it's stagnated. Why will players want to participate if there isn't some tangible benefit to fighting? CCP Games has acknowledged there are problems and have said they're going to fix them.
This is where Apocrypha 1.5 will have an impact on militia fighters; EVE will now offer greater rewards for factional warfare participants. Enemy militia pilots will have a bounty on their heads of sorts, paid to you by your own militia in Loyalty Points. The higher ranked your opponents are, the more LP you'll receive. In addition, all militia pilots will receive discounts on their faction navy's ships, plus unique items are being introduced to the game that are sold only through these militia Loyalty Point stores.
Finally, another recent improvement, albeit a subtle one, is that the effects of the victory of the Caldari militia players over their Gallente enemies can now be seen in the in-game news reports. This is in keeping with CCP's wish to "weave the exploits of capsuleers into the NPC canon."
These are by no means "fixes" for factional warfare, but they do seem to be steps in the right direction. Hopefully CCP Games will continue to improve factional warfare as time goes on.
Other notable changes
CCP is nerfing directional scanners, used by EVE's hunters to find their prey, and by smart pilots to know when they're in danger. They state, "The Directional Scanner can now only be activated once every 2 seconds. This has been done due to performance concerns and exploits."
Some long awaited changes and bug fixes for the game's exploration system will go live tomorrow. Given how visual the Apocrypha exploration system is, these UI changes should be a major improvement.
The audio glitches many players have reported will be fixed, and new graphics have been added for warp tunnel and warp scrambler effects, and for energy vampire use as well.
These are really just a few of the main points, but the full details can be found in the Apocrypha 1.5 patch notes. CCP will update the patch notes in green text if further improvements will be made, and there's a discussion of these changes to EVE on the related forum thread for Apocrypha 1.5.
The Apocrypha 1.5 deployment will require an extended downtime on Thursday, August 20th, lasting from 6:30 am GMT to 12 pm GMT.