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On April 27th, 2008, I joined the Massively crew and published the first edition of a new weekly column dedicated to the world of EVE Online. It's hard to believe that the EVE Evolved column is now four years old, spanning nine major expansions and predating CCP Games' transformation into an industry giant with three games in development. Since the column's first crude scribbling about shuttles, I've written over 200 in-depth articles, guides, stories, and opinion pieces. With its free expansions and iterative updates, EVE is a rapidly changing game that provides a constant supply of things to write about.

To celebrate the fourth anniversary of the column, I'm giving away two 30-day Pilot's License EXtensions to two lucky readers. To enter the competition, leave a comment stating which EVE Evolved article from this year is your favourite, and why it's your favorite, and what topic you'd like to see covered in the coming year. You will need an active EVE account to claim the prize, so be sure to include a character name with your comment if you want to be able to win a prize. If you're not comfortable with giving out your character name, use an alternate character or sign up a new trial account. The winners' names will be revealed in next week's column.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look back at some of the highlights from the column's fourth year.

Contest entry guidelines:
  • Each entry may consist of one explanation of which EVE Evolved article published this year was your favourite and why, plus as many ideas for future columns as you like.
  • Suggested column topics should be ideas that I haven't really covered before. Before submitting your idea, take a look back at previous entries or do a quick Google search. With over 200 articles, your suggested topic might already be in there somewhere.
  • Although people without an EVE account are welcome to suggest ideas, to enter the contest you must supply a valid character name.
  • The deadline for entering is Friday, May 4th at 8 p.m. EDT.
  • The winners will be announced in May 6th's EVE Evolved column, and the prizes will be contracted in-game.
EVE Evolved side imageA year in review: Guides

I've written guides on every gameplay mechanic over the years, so this year's guides focused mostly on ship fittings. In an article all about flying the Dominix, I gave out module loadouts and strategies for my two favourite PvE and PvP setups. When the Crucible expansion hit and dropped new tier 3 battlecruisers into our laps, I test-drove the Gallente Talos and the Caldari Naga to figure out effective PvP setups for each. When the assault frigate overhaul hit EVE in February, I wrote a guide on fitting and flying the updated Gallente Enyo and Ishkur. Most recently, I produced a guide on five popular scams in EVE, how they work, and how to avoid them.

EVE has always been one of the hardest MMOs for new players to get into as it requires a different mindset than most MMOs do. This year I focused extensively on the new player experience, starting with a suggestion to charge head-first into the unknown from day one. Following this, players asked for tips on setting up their first PvP frigates, and I obliged with a massive guide containing advice, tactics, and eight popular PvP frigate setups. I rounded out the series with two guides on upgrading to PvP cruisers. Later in the year, I put the new player experience to the test as I sat my friend Kajatta down in front of EVE for the first time and interviewed him on the experience.

EVE Evolved side imageA year in review: Opinion pieces

Opinion pieces have been the crux of the EVE Evolved column for four years now, and this year was no exception. I looked into casual gameplay with public groups, the jump bridge problem, and the need for corporate-level benefits to help encourage corporations to recruit new players. Following news of plans to revamp nullsec, I wrote a series of articles on bringing back the glory days of nullsec industry, designing a better empire-building mechanic, and ways that CCP could accomplish its goal of getting small entities to move to nullsec.

Many of this year's opinion pieces have focused on ways various areas of EVE could be improved, such as potential user interface overhauls and music updates. With the upcoming Inferno expansion promising to revamp every area of PvP, I speculated on how CCP could possibly resurrect the dead faction warfare system and what would be required to fix the wardec system. I also delved into CSM delegate Mark Heard's inside scoop on development on EVE for 2012 and examined plans to fix Gallente weapon balance. Following the announcement that the web development team would soon start work on new community tools, I speculated on what types of tools players would want.

EVE Evolved side imageA year in review: Monoclegate

This year CCP faced a very real crisis that threatened the entire company and EVE Online itself. When the Incarna expansion finally launched in the summer of 2011, players quickly noticed that the clothes in the new microtransaction store were priced at more than real-life versions of the same clothes. This came just after I'd looked at CCP's controversial attempt to charge players $99 for a commercial license if they wanted to accept hosting donations or put Google ads on a fansite.

The story of the $80 monocle spread across the internet like wildfire, and the situation went from bad to worse when an internal newsletter titled Greed is Good was leaked; it discussed plans for gameplay-affecting microtransactions. I wrote up a comprehensive summary of the monoclegate events as they happened and later got the inside scoop on what was going on in CCP as 20% of the company's workforce was laid off.

EVE Evolved side imageA year in review: Expansion plans

Shortly after monoclegate, I investigated CCP's poor track record with iterating on expansions and asked why development on in-space EVE features had slowed to a crawl since Apocrypha. In the months that followed, CCP made a 180-degree turn and assigned more people to work on EVE than ever before. Developers began pumping out news on dozens of small improvements and iterations that later went live with the Crucible expansion. I dedicated an entire article to examining the starbase changes and player-owned customs offices and another to a visual tour of the incredible new system backgrounds following the expansion's deployment.

With the success of Crucible's countless iterations on existing features, CCP set about developing the upcoming Inferno expansion with the same principle in mind. I looked at Inferno's plans to re-invigorate PvP across the board with updates to faction warfare, nullsec territorial control, and highsec wardecs. In an article on rebalancing EVE's ships, I explored CCP's extreme plans to completely get rid of ship tiers within tech 1 ships and to continue releasing new ships once or twice per year. Although Massively didn't attend Fanfest this year, we were able to pull a lot of information from the stream for a double dose of EVE Evolved, including details of the Inferno expansion's PvP revamp.

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The weekly EVE Evolved column started four years ago, and today it's still going strong. This year saw new ship fitting guides, articles aimed at new players, and thorough coverage of the Crucible and Inferno expansions. EVE Evolved played a big role this year in investigating the monoclegate scandal and uncovering the depth of human casualties behind the drop in subscriptions that followed. Since then, I've explored the exciting new direction EVE is taking, with the great work done in the Crucible expansion and awesome new features like lag-busting Time Dilation.

This coming year will be filled with new beginnings as we look forward to the upcoming MMOFPS DUST 514, which will be intimately linked with EVE Online, and explore the potentially revolutionary gameplay coming in the Inferno expansion and beyond. I've really enjoyed delivering your weekly dose of EVE Evolved for the past four years, and I hope you've had just as much fun reading the column as I have writing it.

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.
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