EVE Evolved: The making of EVE Online, part 2

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Expansion #6 – Revelations I (continued):
With all tech 2 modules now released into the game and their blueprints handed out to players, the tech 2 blueprint lottery officially shut down during this expansion period and was replaced by the Invention mechanic. Invention allows players to create their own inefficient limited-run tech 2 blueprint copies, putting the supply of tech 2 ships and modules into the hands of the general EVE populace rather than those lucky enough to have won the original tech 2 blueprints.

This patch came with an impressive-looking new zoom feature with a system view and a map view. A new type of module called a rig was introduced, with every tech 1 ship being given three rig slots and every tech 2 ship being given only two. These were intended to be expensive luxury items that gave mostly defensive bonuses to your ship. The patch also introduced the new mini-profession of Salvaging, which yielded parts with which to build these new rigs. This patch also brought in the entirely new contracts system, which replaced the escrow system that was starting to show its age and was becoming a lot less useful for finding what you wanted.

For the explorers amongst us, this patch put forward an entirely new system that a lot of players, myself included, were very excited about. The new "Exploration" system involved hidden complexes spawning all around the game universe that could be scanned down with probes and infiltrated for fun and profit. The best profit from exploration was to be had in deep 0.0, where a lot of the early adopters made tens of billions selling the data interface blueprints found there. Being required for invention, the first people to get their hands on data interfaces were able to make a lot of isk by inventing normally expensive Tech 2 ships and modules for far below the market price.

Expansion #6 – Revelations II:
The Revelations II mini-expansion focused on revisiting and extending some existing game mechanics. Starbase warfare received a revamp with the addition of faction control towers, Cynosural field jammers and energy neutralising batteries. Jump Towers were also created, intended to be miniature stargates which allow players to link two systems within range together. All offensive structures were moved outside the POS force field, making them vulnerable to attack. Attempts were made at anti-fleet weaponry in the form of expensive area-of-effect bombs for stealth bombers and a Remote ECM Burst module for motherships but neither proved especially effective against fleets.

New exploration complexes and missions were introduced over the course of this expansion period, including the release of new Level 5 agent missions intended to be run by capital ships or small gangs. Unfortunately, the rewards for level 5 missions were so low compared to their difficulty that very few people actually tried them. Additionally, most level 5 missions do not permit capital ships to enter. This patch saw the start of EVE's "need for speed" initiative under which a team of developers seek out sources of lag and work out ways to optimise those portions of the code. Revelations II also saw the introduction of the "Heat" mechanic that allows players to overload their modules for a short period of time.

Expansion #7 – Trinity
If Revelations I wasn't the biggest expansion EVE's ever seen, Trinity most certainly was. Ships were examined across the board and improvements made to ships from all races. Amarr ships in particular benefited significantly from this patch. A whole host of new Tech 2 ships became available, from the fragile but effective Electronic Attack Ship electronic warfare frigates to expensive jump-drive capable Jump Freighters. Heavy Interdictors capable of tackling supercapitals were released, which can fit an impressive tank on top of excellent tackling ability.

Marauder class tech 2 battleships were finally released with Trinity, taking over from navy issue battleships as the best mission-running ships around. With only four turret or missile hardpoints but a built-in 100% damage bonus, Marauders effectively have eight gun's worth of damage output but use only half the CPU, powergrid, capacitor and ammunition of a full rack of eight. The additional high slots were intended for utility modules such as the tractor beam, which all marauders can use at double the normal effectiveness in both range and pulling speed.

Intended for covert operations, Black Ops battleships were introduced. These odd ships sport the same armament as their tech 1 variants but come with a fully functional jump drive and can use miniature jump portal generators to send covert ops frigates, stealth bombers and recon ships into an enemy system. Because of their potential to be the ultimate swiss army knife ship in EVE, these ships came pre-nerfed and their abilities are being cautiously balanced upward in future patches.

Trinity saw the introduction of scripts which could be loaded into some modules to modify their performance. Seeing a need for specialised drone ships to be able to carry spares, the drone bays on all drone specialist ships were increased in size. However, to prevent frigates and cruisers suddenly wielding drones that should be too big for them, each ship received a new constraint called drone bandwidth. This system limits the volume of drones you can have active at any one time, allowing a ship's drone bay to be increased in size without increasing the ship's damage-dealing capability.

The Trinity patch also included an optional major graphical overhaul. A premium version of the client was released which is updated in tandem with the classic client. This premium client requires a shader model 3.0 compatible graphics card and offers amazingly improved graphical quality over the classic client. The remainder of the patch included uncountable numbers of fixes and performance optimisations.

Expansion #8 – Empyrean Age
Originally planned as a Trinity feature that didn't make it in before code-freeze, the Empyrean Age expansion is being introduced in a series of small instalments. We're currently on Empyrean Age 1.1.2, a minor update on version 1.1.1. The main content of this expansion has been the Faction Warfare system that allows corps and individuals to sign up to NPC faction militias and fight against their enemy militias. Since its release on 10th June, unfortunately, very little has been changed with Faction Warfare and many corps have already gotten bored of it and moved on to new things. The initial inception was also poor, with only around 5% of the playerbase signing up and several major role-playing alliances being disbarred from joining due to being in an alliance.

Each race received a new navy issue cruiser variant and the Amarr received a new frigate, bringing their ships in line with the other races. In the Empyrean Age 1.1 patch, several important changes were made to the NPC police faction CONCORD. In response to the ease with which suicide ganking can occur in EVE, CONCORD's task force response times were cut significantly. In addition, the security rating penalty for attacking a ship was increased by a factor of 3 and plans to remove insurance payouts for ships killed by CONCORD are on their way.

The future:
The next major expansion for EVE Online will bring us "Ambulation", also called "Walking in Stations". This expansion has no definitive release date yet but the latest trailer videos show just how far along development is. When released, ambulation will bring EVE's immersive gameplay experience to the next level. EVE is an MMO that is constantly changing and evolving, it's the main reason I'm still playing after all these years and I for one can't wait to see what CCP will come up with next.

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