EVE Evolved: Returning EVE to the Crucible

EVE Evolved title image
When EVE Online launched in 2003, it was a barren game without many of the comforts we enjoy today. The user interface was abysmally worse than today's (if you can imagine such a thing), players with cruisers were top dog, and practically the only activities were mining or blowing up miners. The culmination of years of hard work by a small indie studio, EVE Online sold almost entirely on its future potential. When I was introduced to the game by an excited friend in early 2004 during the Castor expansion, he encouraged me to get in on the ground floor because he believed the game was going to be huge. Years later, I find myself introducing the game to thousands of readers on the same premise.

EVE's continual success over the years transformed a fresh-faced CCP Games into a multinational game development giant. And yet, for all that growth and all the updates to EVE over the years, the fact that the game sells largely on future potential is still firmly embedded in both players and developers. Players subscribe not only because they like the game but because they want to support development to reach EVE's true potential. Two years with very little iteration on existing features sent the message that developers weren't trying to reach that potential, but it seems that trend is soon to be completely reversed. With the newly announced Crucible expansion, CCP will be adding countless small features, graphical updates and iterations that put EVE firmly back on the path to reaching its full potential.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at CCP's plans to return EVE to the crucible and reforge it into something awesome. Those waiting for the third part of my look at the new player experience can catch that in next week's column, as Kajatta is enjoying his final week in EVE before delivering his verdict.

side-imageBalance changes

In a dev video looking at game design and balance changes, CCP Soundwave admitted that CCP has "probably done more rebalancing in the past month than [it has] in the past two years." The impressive list of changes coming out of devblogs every few days certainly backs this up. Hybrid weapons have been underpowered for years, and with the Crucible expansion they'll be getting the revamp they deserve. We examined the changes to railguns, blasters and the ships that typically use them two weeks ago, and since then CCP has been collecting feedback on the changes from testers on Singularity.

Logistics ships will be getting some balance changes to bring them back in line with other tech 2 cruisers, and destroyers will be getting a buff to their combat capabilities while removing their spot as the top salvager for mission-runners. Newer players are likely to be annoyed by the change, but it's reasonable now that we have the specialised Noctis for salvaging. Wormhole dwellers will welcome increases to the ISK generated in cosmic anomalies, which should tempt more people into the depths of unknown space to be ganked repeatedly to strike gold. While many supercapital owners are complaining about the massive supercapital nerf coming in Crucible, it's a long-overdue change that should make for more traditional fleet warfare.

side-imageNew modules

A series of new tech 2 modules will fill in gaps that currently exist, the most potentially useful of which are the tech 2 capital modules. I say "potentially" because these could be used to address chronic problems with capital warfare, but so far the Siege Module II just deals more damage and the Triage Module II is a little lackluster. These modules are still in testing and CCP is taking feedback on them from test server participants into consideration, so we may still see something useful come out of this.

New tech 2 warfare links provide a bigger bonus to a fleet's armour, shield, or electronic warfare, something I see as a bit of a double-edged sword. Although unscannable tech 3 command ships were nerfed a few months ago, they're still difficult to scan down, and new command links may now make them essential. We're also getting new probe launchers, however, which might help close the gap between probing experts and tech 3 command ships.

Heavy interdictor pilots will be happy with the new Warp Disruption Field Generator II, which has increased range and the exact same penalties as the tech 1 version. Stealth bomber pilots will get a new bomb launcher, and the new Micro Auxiliary Power Core II should help make tight fits cheaper to put together. Dominix pilots will be overjoyed with the new tech 2 drone upgrades, which should make mission-running easier while boosting sentry drone sniper fits in PvP.

side-imageNew graphics

With all the focus on in-space features, players who might enjoy returning to their captain's quarters aren't left out in the cold. We finally receive the first Amarr, Caldari and Gallente captain's quarters, all of which look extremely good and suit their races' aesthetics well. The Caldari quarters are clean and corporate, the Gallente room is decadent with a widescreen TV in reach of snacks, and the Amarr sanctum hosts the dark nobility of a church.

The new nebula graphics are designed to look more like pictures of the universe that we're used to and give players a much clearer sense of where they are in space; it really does feel like you're traveling through a three-dimensional NASA archive. Ship spinning already made its return last month, but its release signaled that CCP had begun catering to existing players again and supporting what they actually do in the game world. This feature will be expanded on in Crucible with a humorous but actually quite fun "spin counter" that tracks how many times you've spun your ship around.

I may be in the minority, but the thing that most excited me this week was news that turret shots which miss a target will now visibly miss the ship model. This one tiny change should bring about a huge deal of immersion and make flying frigates and interceptors feel 10 times more epic than it already does. When you whizz through an enemy fleet with autocannons rattling to the left and antimatter blasts thundering past to the right, I guarantee you'll feel a proper fighter pilot.

side-imageThe little things

It would be impossible to mention every change coming in the Crucible expansion in any kind of depth; the sheer volume of updates, small features and quality-of-life fixes coming in the winter expansion is mind-boggling. Time Dilation will make massive battles with thousands of players possible again by slowing down time when the server gets under heavy load. The log-off timer will refresh any time a player is attacked, making it impossible to save a heavily tanked ship by logging off during a fight. Combat boosters will even be redesigned to give smaller bonuses but no side-effects, making them a more reliable tactical element to fleet warfare.

Starbase fuel will be redesigned into a convenient fuel-pellet system, and anchoring times will be vastly reduced to make starbase operations less of a chore. Killmails for destroying another player's ship will now distinguish between original blueprints and copies, pod killmails will list implants in the player's head at the time of death, and the resulting player shipwrecks will salvage for more components. Magnetometric sites that have long been declared worthless will get a huge buff, and the long-requested "loot all" feature will finally be implemented. That massive list isn't even all the changes we can expect, with countless smaller features and changes coming in the winter expansion.

Final thoughts title image
In the past few weeks, CCP has drowned us in an absolute torrent of good news, gameplay reveals and feature devblogs, and we love it. Player approval of CCP is currently the highest it has been in years, probably as high as when the Apocrypha expansion was in full swing, and communication about what goes on behind the scenes has been better than ever. We're getting new battlecruisers, new modules, graphics updates, quality of life fixes and countless features players have been asking for since dinosaurs roamed the earth.

The last few weeks have shown more than anything that faith in CCP has been restored. Things got bad enough this summer to cause in-game riots, mass unsubscribing and huge company layoffs, but in just one month CCP has turned things around. All it took was to resume the slow, tireless effort to fulfill EVE's potential that sold the game to players as far back as 2003. This winter, EVE returns to the crucible to be recast in a new image. It makes me genuinely proud again to support the game as it reaches for A Future Vision.

Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to brendan@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.