Massively's Apocrypha expansion hands-on: True Exploration

James Egan
J. Egan|03.06.09

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Massively's Apocrypha expansion hands-on: True Exploration

True Exploration

For many EVE Online players, the Apocrypha expansion is the advent of true exploration. Exploration has been a mini-profession in EVE for some time now, and there are a number of dedicated explorers in the game. That said, the profession has been difficult to learn and players typically go through exploration probes like kleenex, in the hope that they'll find a hidden pocket of space to exploit. Critics of exploration have pointed out that they're not truly exploring new places, simply scanning down what's just hidden to most other players.

The Apocrypha expansion will bring true exploration to the game, allowing players to find and enter wormholes leading to uncharted regions of space. Roughly 2500 new solar systems await EVE's explorers willing to brave the challenges within this hostile space.

"The Apocrypha expansion will bring true exploration to the game, allowing players to find and enter wormholes leading to uncharted regions of space, roughly 2500 new solar systems await EVE's explorers willing to brave the challenges within this hostile space."

Key to bringing wormhole exploration into EVE is a radical change to how exploration will actually be done. The new scanning system simplifies the process while eliminating many of the drawbacks of the old system. The end result should be much quicker scan times, particularly as probes are no longer stationary. Apocrypha's scanning involves positioning probes in 3D space, literally adding drag-and-drop functionality to exploration. Ultimately, zeroing in on hidden content should be easier than in the past. Probes will warp to whatever position you want them to in order to scan a wider area for hidden content or focus in on a tighter area with more intensity. This largely eliminates the need to warp to multiple bookmarks in a solar system and drop probes in those particular places. They're far more dynamic, as is the new scanning system itself.

Even better, CCP has solved a problem some players have run into. In the event that they're disconnected from the game, it will now be possible to re-connect to probes. Once you re-connect, you can then recover your probes, instructing them to warp back to you. This doesn't just help people whose wi-fi connections are spotty. Explorers will soon find that they can leave a solar system with their probes out in space, and then come back later. Ward even says it may be possible for players to distribute probes in different locations in a solar system and use them to scan down enemies or potential threats later as the need arises.

The exploration system will change dramatically, but the original skills used in the profession won't be phased out, according to Ward. He says, "We've made the highest ranked skills the most valuable in the new [exploration] system."

This new functionality with scan probes makes them less of the disposable commodity that they have been to date. As players will be going through fewer probes than in the past, it's likely to have an impact on those who earn ISK by selling the probes or researched blueprint sets. These more dynamic scan probes will be a major improvement for most everyone else, though.

Wormholes and Tactical Environments

Ward shows off a bit of what players can expect from wormholes in Apocrypha. He easily scans down a wormhole and warps his Proteus out to it. The brilliant spherical swirl of the wormhole is similar to what's been shown in the expansion's teaser trailer.

He explains that the wormholes graphics in EVE are actually modeled after how they've been theorized to appear in reality. What's notable is that when you look into a wormhole in EVE Online, you can see the nebula on the other side. It's a gorgeous effect, seeing the swirling distortion of a wormhole originating in a system with a cool bluish hue, leading to an uncharted system tinged with a stunning red. The type of nebula you see through the wormhole will be an indicator of how dangerous the uncharted system will be, which leads us to a crucial aspect of true exploration: Tactical Environments.

Wormholes may lead to a Tactical Environment (one of six binary systems) where environmental effects are themed around different combat styles, alternately creating improved or adverse conditions, Ward says.

On the plus side you may find that your ship's damage output is magnified but at the expense of targeting speed. Your speed might be boosted in certain Tactical Environments, but in other cases your surroundings may take their toll on your shields or armor. The pulsars, black holes, red giants, and other binary systems players find when entering these uncharted expanses of EVE will add a whole new set of risks to true exploration. Learning what types of binary systems produce which effects will be key to survival in these uncharted tracts of the galaxy.

"Wormholes may lead to a Tactical Environment where environmental effects are themed around different combat styles, alternately creating improved or adverse conditions."

With that caveat out of the way, Ward pilots his Proteus through the wormhole into an uncharted region of space. "All wormhole space has other wormholes in it," Ward says, showing me that within this unknown solar system, the wormhole that leads back to known space is still visible. But another wormhole elsewhere in the system leads further down the rabbit hole to another unknown location, lending an entirely new sense of exploration to the game... the ability to keep going and discovering new places.

The wormholes will be unstable, meaning that there will be mass limits on how many ships can pass through before it collapses. The wormhole itself physically constricts, giving a visual indicator of how unstable it is. Should the wormhole collapse while pilots are inside, they'll find themselves cut off from where they began their journey. There are then only two options open to stranded capsuleers: discover another wormhole and use it to leave for destinations unknown, or commit suicide and return to known space where your clone is located. Cynosural fields won't function within wormhole space, meaning it's not possible to circumvent mass restrictions by essentially teleporting capital ships into these solar systems. Carriers will be able to pass through certain wormholes, but motherships and titans cannot enter these new solar systems (regardless of what test server video footage has shown in the past).

Ward notes that not all wormholes lead to previously undiscovered wormhole space. Some will lead from one place in known space to solar system in the charted galaxy. This could prove lucrative for players into trading or smuggling. Ward says, "There will be known-to-known jumps so you might find a really awesome trade run, that you have to basically exploit before it's over because other people might find it too. If there was a jump between Rens and Jita, you could take advantage of that."

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