EVE Evolved: Setting the universe on fire

EVE Evolved title image
This week CCP Games announced the name and focus of EVE Online's upcoming summer expansion. The Inferno expansion aims to re-invigorate PvP with some long overdue gameplay changes. CONCORD-sanctioned wars will be iterated on for the first time in half a decade, and faction warfare will hopefully be getting the updates it should have received in 2008. Following on from the success of the Crucible expansion with its hundreds of small features and gameplay changes, Inferno will also contain dozens of small gameplay changes, usability fixes, and minor improvements.

We'll hear more about DUST 514 in the coming months as CCP reveals more concrete details of the game's link to EVE Online and the motivations behind planet-bound wars. Incarna fans will apparently also see some movement, with Team Avatar focusing on avatar-based updates for this release. While Inferno is a rather uninspired name and coincidentally would make three of the last four expansions start with the word "in," the expansion's content is genuinely exciting. Fundamental changes are coming to EVE's PvP mechanics for the first time in several years. CCP hasn't revealed the exact changes, but that hasn't stopped players from speculating on what might be heading their way.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I speculate on the changes coming in the upcoming Inferno expansion and what changes I think might be coming to EVE's PvP.

EVE Evolved side imageLinking EVE with DUST 514

So far, all we know about the EVE-DUST link is that it will occur in real-time, ships in orbit will be able to deliver air strikes, and ground troops can use a skyfire battery to hit ships in orbit. We know that ISK will be shared between the two games, enabling EVE players to finance DUST ventures and vice versa. The DUST marines will share the same corporations, alliances and chat channels as EVE players, and their fights for planets can have some effect on nullsec system sovereignty. Though DUST is scheduled for a summer release, I think it's unlikely to be launched by the time Inferno hits in late April to early May.

If DUST integration is scheduled for shortly after Inferno's initial release, it's reasonable to assume that the expansion will contain changes designed to help the two games merge. Nullsec sovereignty will likely be more closely tied to planetary infrastructure, making the battles over planets critical to holding space. The economic incentives for owning planets are currently still unappealing, but I'd expect that to change when DUST launches with its own brand of planetary industry. Until then, I'd expect CCP to make planets much higher strategic value targets for warring alliances in order to make holding them worthwhile. How that will be achieved is anyone's guess, but it's possible that planet ownership will be linked to system quality.

EVE Evolved side imageCONCORD-sanctioned wars

One of EVE's oddest mechanics is the war declaration, which is essentially a bribe to make the police look the other way when you attack your target corporation. While that's very much in the spirit of EVE, the mechanics of the wardec system make it a very one-sided affair. In most wars, a combat-ready corporation attacks an unprepared, less experienced, smaller target. Perhaps the biggest oversight in the system is that as long as the attackers pay the war bill, there's no way for the defender to actually stop the war. A war with nothing important at stake and no victory conditions isn't really a war, and that's hopefully the key thing we'll see changed in Inferno.

If the new system is geared toward using planets, it's possible CCP plans to make planets the victory condition for a war. To declare war, a corporation might have to set a planet it controls as the war HQ. The defender might then be able to disrupt the war by taking out that base, either alone or with the help of mercenaries. Even if victory conditions like these aren't introduced, I think we'll definitely see some new bounty hunting mechanics that will let a wardecced corp extend its ability to fight to a mercenary corp.

EVE Evolved side imageFaction warfare and other forms of PvP

I've written countless posts on what I think CCP should do with faction warfare, and now that change is finally on the way, I find my wish list is pretty small. CCP says we'll be getting "real reasons to fight for your faction," and I really hope it's not just a new system of item rewards. It would be awesome if the faction in control of a system could deny docking access to enemy faction combatants or if we could buy remote scans of a conquered system's local channel. That would make enemy territory a dangerous place, encouraging people to capture systems and erect starbases for defense. At this point, any update to faction warfare that gives real reasons to fight is very welcome.

In a very cryptic message, CCP announced plans to "introduce many new things which will mix up all forms of combat in a way not seen for a long time." This might mean that some of the fundamental mechanics of combat are about to change, as happened when warp-to-zero was introduced and when warp scramblers were made to shut off enemy microwarpdrives. Perhaps all stargates will be increased in size to make gate-camping less viable, or warp disruptors may prevent docking to eliminate station games. With the cryptic promise of mixing up all forms of combat, I really don't know what to expect. To be honest, I would be happy if the devs just fixed neutral remote repairing and revamped the bounty hunting mechanics that haven't ever worked.

EVE Evolved title image
Inferno promises to revamp EVE Online's signature feature by improving PvP across the board. It's been several years since CCP worked heavily on fundamental PvP systems, the last major update being faction warfare's introduction in 2008's Empyrean Age expansion or perhaps the new wormhole hunting grounds in 2009's Apocrypha. With wardecs due for a revamp and the mysterious promises of mixing up all forms of combat, I doubt I'm alone in hoping that we'll see a massive resurgence of small-scale PvP and hit-and-run style small gangs.

CCP's keeping a tight lid on the Inferno expansion plans, promising to make big reveals at this year's Fanfest next month. DUST 514 will be publicly playable for the first time at Fanfest, and we'll finally get to see CCP's new plans for PvP in their entirety. I strongly advise all PvP newbies to train up some gunnery and missile skills as Inferno approaches because this summer we set the universe on fire.

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.