EVE Evolved: Five years of EVE Evolved

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About five years ago, on April 27th, 2008, I joined the Massively team and wrote the very first issue of the EVE Evolved column. Five years later, the column is still going strong and delivering its weekly dose of EVE Online to thousands of readers. I used to worry about running out of ideas to write about, but regular game updates and hilarious player shenanigans mean there's always something interesting going on in New Eden. When EVE hits its 10th anniversary in May, this column will have been running for just over half of the game's lifetime. In that time, I've written over 250 in-depth articles, guides, in-game stories and opinion pieces on EVE Online and a few on DUST 514.

As usual, I'll be celebrating this anniversary by rounding up this year's column highlights and giving away two 30-day Pilot's License Extensions to two lucky readers. To enter the competition, write a comment explaining which EVE Evolved articles from this year you liked best and what topics 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 your character name in your comment if you want to be in with a chance. If you'd rather not give out your character name or don't have an EVE account but would like to give the game a go, you can sign up a new trial account and use the name of your new character.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look back at the highlights from the column's fifth year!

Contest entry guidelines:
  • Each entry must consist of at least 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 covered before or that there's good reason to revisit. Before submitting your idea, take a look back at previous entries or do a quick Google search. With over 250 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 and be in with a chance to win the PLEX prize, you must supply a valid character name.
  • The deadline for entering is Friday, April 27th, at 8 p.m. EDT.
  • The winners will be announced in April 28th's EVE Evolved column, and the prizes will be contracted in-game.
EVE Evolved side imageA year in review: Making EVE history

If you ask 100 EVE veterans why they first signed up to the game, I'd be willing to bet that a healthy proportion of them joined after reading some incredible story of in-game goings-on. 2005's Guiding Hand Social Club heist is still talked about to this day, and news of every big scam or kill spreads across the internet like wildfire. There's no escaping it; story-telling is a central part of EVE Online. This year I looked at the top 10 ganks, scams, heists, and player-run events of all time, and why sandboxes make such tangible stories that appeal to people who don't even play the game.

CCP aims to kick things into high gear in the coming year with a whole series of new Live Events centering on DUST 514. Following the landmark 3000-man Battle of Asakai that captured the world's attention, I asked whether EVE had inadvertently become a spectator sport, and looked at CCP's attempt to bottle lightning with its staged Battle For Caldari Prime event. I also took my own look at the history of EVE with a review of the Interstellar Starbase Syndicate's vision for a civilian presence in nullsec and an exploration of what it would take to truly bring EVE's NPC and player history to life.

EVE Evolved side imageA year in review: Ship fittings and guides

One of the biggest changes of the year for new players was the rebalancing of EVE's frigates and cruisers. Previously useless frigates become battle-ready overnight, and the Retribution expansion gave already competent tech 1 cruisers some serious teeth and claws. Following on from last year's successful series of ship fitting guides, I revisited each of the revamped ship types as they were updated. I started with a look at the beefed up brawler frigates and went on to explore PvP ship fittings for each of the Caldari, Amarr, Minmatar, and Gallente tech 1 cruisers.

If this year's stats have shown anything, it's that guides are extremely popular. Some of the EVE Evolved guides from years ago still net hits every week, and this year saw a few more guides added to the now very long list. I looked at the various ways that a new player can earn his first billion ISK and explored five awesome high-end carrier tactics with full video demonstrations from the Rooks and Kings portfolio. On the darker side of things, I wrote about how people can safely hunt defenseless mining barges in high-security space without any consequences and how baiting overconfident PvPers in highsec can be hilarious fun.

EVE Evolved side imageA year in review: Opinion pieces

Though I love writing guides and talking about EVE's history, the EVE Evolved column has always been primarily a platform for speculative opinion pieces. I gave my impressions of EVE's $10,000 New Eden Open, deemed the new Ancillary Armor Repairer module useless, and asked controversial questions like whether the PLEX system makes EVE pay-to-win. I went on to examine EVE's top selling points as an MMO, what four things I think other MMOs should adopt from EVE, and four ideas that Guild Wars 2 may have actually borrowed from EVE.

Having recently started my own indie game development studio, I was this year a lot more comfortable delving into game design and development topics. I started off with a look at the lessons we can learn from events like monoclegate and the closing of 38 Studios, and I went on to tackle design issues like the broken risk-vs.-reward system of low-security space. I asked whether years of development have restricted EVE's future development to small iterations and discussed how I would build a sandbox from the ground up if I had the chance. Other topics I delved into include the use of themepark quests in a game like EVE and the problems that limit the opportunity for small-scale PvP.

EVE Evolved side imageA year in review: Expansions

On the heels of the Inferno expansion and its PvP iterations, CCP pulled a rabbit out of its hat this year with the spectacular Retribution expansion. Originally assumed to be yet more necessary-but-bland iterations on hundreds of outdated game mechanics, Retribution turned out to be awesome. I dug into the gritty details on the expansion's new crimewatch system that put players in the driving seat of justice and its bounty hunting overhaul that made real financial retribution possible again. I also looked at the revamped tutorial released as part of the expansion and some of the problems it sought to address with armour tanking.

The big update we're excited for now is this summer's upcoming Odyssey expansion, which plans to introduce a ton of new exploration content all across the game. I gave my thoughts on why Odyssey could be as incredible as 2009's blockbuster Apocrypha expansion, why Jove space may be about to open, and the necessity of fixing starbases before any kind of exploration update lands. Several months before Odyssey was announced, I wrote a series of articles explaining the need for huge themed expansions just like Apocrypha and giving my thoughts on how wormhole exploration could be expanded in a future update. Whether those ideas will have any bearing on CCP's plans today is anyone's guess, but we'll know more after next week's EVE Fanfest.

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The EVE Evolved column started almost five years ago, and after 250 articles, there are still so many topics left to cover, guides to write, and ideas to discuss. I think that's a testament to the depth of EVE Online, the adaptability of its playerbase, and the fact that the state of the game changes drastically from year to year.

This year I've really enjoyed exploring EVE's living history, investigating why EVE produces such strongly knit player communities, and looking more deeply into game design problems. I've had fun writing ship fitting guides, delving into the known details about upcoming expansions, checking out some awesome new EVE videos, and producing speculative opinion pieces.

I can't help feeling that this has been the best year for EVE Online in a long time. It hasn't all been sunshine and puppies, with low points like the closure of EVE's official print magazine EON, but for the most part this year has been a positive one. With DUST 514 on the way and Odyssey planned for an early June release, I honestly can't wait to see what the next year brings as EVE enters its second decade.

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.