EVE Evolved: Expanding on wormholes

EVE Evolved title image
It's no secret that I'm nuts about wormholes! Last week I looked at the reasons why EVE Online's Apocrypha expansion was such a big success and rejoiced at the recent announcement that CCP will be developing similar laterally designed expansions from now on. In the announcement, developers wrote that they would ideally have liked to iterate on Apocrypha's wormhole gameplay for several releases, which got me thinking about how that gameplay could be expanded on now. Wormholes were a massive catalyst for exploration, small-scale colonisation, industry and PvP, but would it be possible to recapture that magic in an expansion?

The Sleeper storyline certainly evolved with the Incursion expansion as it became known that Sansha forces were able to control wormholes and had invaded Jovian space, but that story sadly didn't translate into gameplay for people living inside wormholes. There's no risk of running into the Sansha home system on your travels, and Sansha forces will never lock down a wormhole system and attack your starbase. That feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity to me, and I worry that a new wormhole expansion could similarly pass up the opportunity to add interesting new gameplay. Adding more hidden wormhole systems and combat sites would be fun for a while, but the underlying wormhole mechanics and NPC capabilities are already common knowledge.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at various ways that a future wormhole expansion for EVE could recapture the magic of Sleeper space.

EVE Evolved side imageExploration and the unknown

Wormholes were a huge boon for exploration, introducing 2499 hidden solar systems full of never-before-seen NPCs and new resources to be found. Since the systems could be accessed only through randomly shifting wormholes, there was a very real sense of mystery and danger. No one initially had any idea how the wormholes worked, what challenges they'd encounter on the other side, and what ships they would need to bring with them. The first people to explore wormhole space shouldered immense risk as they slowly mapped the new systems and figured out the secrets of the Sleepers.

Eventually that information was mapped out by enough people that it became public knowledge, so part of the mystery disappeared. To recapture that mystery, not only will CCP have to introduce new hidden systems, but those new systems will have to link together in a different way. There must be new unknowns to discover, new problems to solve, and new game mechanics to figure out. One possible solution would be to introduce a separate new region of wormhole space that only periodically connects with existing systems, a second tier of space accessible through rare intermittent super-wormholes or through single-use devices in rare combat sites.

EVE Evolved side imageColonisation and challenges

When wormhole space was originally designed, the developers weren't sure if they wanted to put moons in the new systems. The thought was that nobody would actually use the moons to set up starbases as they would be a logistical nightmare to run, an argument that turned out to be extremely far off the mark. In a grand display of emergent behaviour, players started setting up supply depots, pirate waystations, and full-on death stars inside wormhole space. Now practically every system has a starbase or two, and several alliances have even had small-scale turf wars over systems with a handful of capital ships.

This land-grab was really something to behold, as corporations had to overcome the logistical hurdles of keeping a starbase fuelled and moving products out for sale. Today those challenges have been solved, so the next level of challenge would be to let players build and defend outposts in wormhole systems. I'd also love to see the reverse happen, re-adding the level of uncertainty those first expeditions faced by having the NPCs in the new wormhole systems actually find and siege starbases periodically. Perhaps actors playing Sansha's army could pick a random system every few weeks to invade, and god help those living there.

EVE Evolved side imageIndustry and new resources

For most players, the introduction of wormholes meant new toys to play with in the form of tech 3 strategic cruisers. For industrialists, this was also an entirely new production chain to sink their teeth into, one that could be run completely from a single starbase. This became a huge source of ISK for corporations living inside wormholes; corps would track down rare gas clouds to harvest near their home systems and combine them together locally to form valuable composites. The size of gas and ore made transporting it back to empire space difficult, so having nearby reactors and refineries was a huge bonus.

To do justice to industry, any new wormhole expansion must introduce new resources and make them similarly location-bound by making them too big for players to realistically transport over long distances. This would make the most efficient production chain one that's set up locally within a starbase, causing industrialists to team up with military defense types again. I'd love to see an expansion that introduces tech 3 frigates or battlecruisers and provides all-new resources to build them with. We'd have to find the most efficient ways to farm the new resources and build new industrial infrastructure to take advantage of it.

EVE Evolved side imageTying it all together

It should be relatively easy to tie all this together by just coming up with a good reason for opening another layer of hidden space. We already know from artifacts left throughout the EVE universe that the Sleepers were an ancient race that coexisted with three others: the Takmahl, the Talocan, and the Yan Jung. The enemies we fight in wormhole systems right now are the AI-controlled guardians of the long-dead Sleeper empire, but several combat sites have revealed traces of the Takmahl empire and their seemingly organic ships.

We can easily conclude that there are undiscovered systems out there full of advanced Takmahl, Talocan, and Yan Jung technology. An expansion that gives us access to another area of space owned by one of the other ancient races would be incredible, and it would certainly pave the way for new technologies like bioships. The Sansha storyline has also showed that wormholes can be controlled and that there may be systems out there that aren't part of the standard wormhole network, so it's reasonable to assume Sansha may have found and claimed this new area of space. Perhaps the secret of controlling wormholes could be hidden somewhere in this region, and there could even be some permanent stargates linking a few systems together.

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The perfect wormhole expansion would need to recapture the magic of the original Apocrypha expansion rather than just add more content to the existing Sleeper systems. We'd need new systems that are accessible through strange and unknown methods, new dangers to face, and all-new resources and industrial challenges. Perhaps asking for Takmahl space to open up and bioships to be developed is a bit of a tall order, but if CCP does decide to iterate on wormholes, I hope that it can at least provide that same sense of the unknown and challenge that Apocrypha had.

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.