EVE Evolved: Rubicon 1.3 and repainting ships

EVE Evolved title image
EVE Online's recently released Rubicon expansion was an important first step toward a truly player-run universe for everyone, allowing corporations to wage empire wars over planetary customs offices and introducing a series of new personal deployable structures. The initial release was a little light on content, but developers have since expanded on it significantly with three major point releases. Rubicon 1.3 went live this week, and the changes seem pretty good all around. This release overhauled the directional scanner, buffed the SoE Nestor battleship's capacitor recharge rate and remote repair range, and nerfed remote sensor dampeners into the ground.

Large corporations like EVE University were pleased to hear that the limit on the size of corporations has been increased to 12,600 thanks to changes to the corporation management skills. And in response to an emerging trend in fleet warfare involving hordes of drone ships assigning their drones to an interceptor, developers have also limited the number of drones that can be assigned to another ship to 50. The 1.29 GB patch also included several overhauled ship models and new ship shaders, but the new feature I see the most potential in is the ability to finally repaint our ships. This could eventually help corporations establish their own visual identities and might even link into gameplay or EVE's spying metagame.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at some of the Rubicon 1.3 changes and how repainting your ship could become more than simply a cosmetic upgrade.

EVE Evolved side imageGallente got nerfed!

If you've been involved in any fleet-level engagements over the past few months, you've probably noticed a new drone strategy becoming popular. Fleets of carriers and drone ships like the Gallente Dominix assign all of their drones to a single interceptor, which essentially acts as a fast trigger for the entire fleet. The fleet's entire complement of hundreds of drones will attack anyone the interceptor fires on, allowing several hundred thousand damage per second to be applied to any target in the blink of an eye. This has always been a popular strategy, but Rubicon buffed interceptors to the point at which it's now a lot more effective. As a result, the Dominix pilots can be largely AFK during a large battle.

Rubicon 1.3 limits this strategy to small-scale battles by limiting the number of drones that can be assigned to one target to 50. Players will still be able to use the feature for small gatecamps, incursions, and co-ordination on the squad level, but an entire fleet will no longer be able to sit AFK. The Gallente Celestis also received a double-nerf with its bonus to remote sensor dampener range being cut down to 7.5% per level and the base optimal range on all damps being cut by 16.66%. The Celestis was previously able to operate at extreme ranges when fit and rigged appropriately, and could take several ships out of a fight. Reactions to the nerf have been mixed, but it was honestly necessary as the Celestis and Maulus were far too effective as cheap electronic warfare platforms.

EVE Evolved side imageCustom ship painting may be on the way

When players and developers debated the addition of a microtransaction store to EVE several years ago, players got genuinely excited for the idea of making cosmetic alterations to their ships. EVE community member T'Amber Demaleon has been regularly surveying the community since 2009 to find out what kinds of cosmetic alterations players would like, revealing that players would pay for them and even producing some awesome mock-up images of an in-game body shop where players could customise everything from paint colour to patterns and add custom artwork.

Due to technical limitations in EVE's engine, this feature unfortunately didn't materialise when microtransactions were introduced, and we got $70 monocles instead. But Rubicon 1.3 has brought the idea back to the forefront with the first batch of new ship skins that can be bought as 50-run blueprints from the NEX Store. The blueprints convert units of the base ship into units of the resprayed version, costing about $0.25 per resprayed frigate and $2 per battleship. This is a pilot programme to find out how popular the feature will be, and if it's successful, CCP may give us the ability to completely customise our ships' paint jobs.

EVE Evolved side imageShip skins could be more than just cosmetic changes

While CCP is probably considering ship paint jobs as solely cosmetic customisations, there's plenty of room to integrate them into gameplay without disrupting game balance. Imagine if your corporation could pay to design a branded version of a popular ship, emblazoned with your corp logo and sprayed with its signature colours. CCP could probably charge a lot of money to make that ship design exclusive to a particular corporation and available to all of its members for free use. The customisation process could even render the ship impossible to fly for anyone outside that corporation without stripping the paint job, making it a true banner for your corporation.

Custom designs could be taken one step further by allowing players to actually join an NPC faction and gain access to its ship designs. You can already ally yourself with pirate factions like the Blood Raider Covenant and Angel Cartel by running missions for them in nullsec, but you'll still be attacked on sight by the faction's NPCs. Pirates could be programmed to recognise players using their ship designs and hold their fire or even spawn to help you out in PvP. New missions could be developed based around infiltrating enemy strongholds by respraying your ship, providing the option to avoid most of the combat for those who prefer a more covert playstyle. Deadspace missions and complexes in lowsec and nullsec could also be given deadly waves of enemies at the first warp gate to make it difficult for someone who isn't sprayed for the mission to enter the site.

EVE Evolved title image
Overall, I'm quite pleased with how Rubicon 1.3 has shaped up. The drone assist and sensor dampener nerfs were pretty necessary, the corporation management skill changes are a blessing for the game's largest groups, and the directional scanner overhaul is an absolute god-send. The most noticeable changes in this update are obviously graphical in nature, from the new ship lighting shader to the awesome redesigned Tristan. Projected shadows unfortunately seem to be bugged out and producing a strange mottled pattern, and most objects are rendering a lot darker than before, but ships definitely look a lot sharper and cleaner than before the patch.

It's the ship skins that have me interested more than anything else, both for the customisability options it will open up and the potential integration with gameplay. The uses for ship customisation range from designs that help tie together a corporation's identity to paint jobs for infiltration missions to features that could help revamp low-security space. Imagine if players living in lowsec could work for pirate factions, use pirate-modified ships, and call in NPC support during missions or PvP. If CCP does go ahead with a fully customisable ship design system, I think we could be in for a lot more than just pretty paint jobs.

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.