CCP Ytterbium writes that NPC pirate battleships will now spawn in locations they never have before. The distribution of these higher level spawns throughout low security space should offer some more challenge and ISK rewards for those willing to risk prowling in lowsec. These spawns likely won't have the same level of ISK bounties typical of NPC pirates found in 0.0 (lawless) space, however. (But presumably, they will yield the same module drops and salvage components of a typical battleship spawn.) These higher powered NPCs will not, however, encroach upon the relatively safe haven of high security space though. This change may well bring more high sec dwellers out into low sec for NPCing, which would be a good move all around -- greater risk for greater rewards, and of course this could lead to more opportunities for PvP. It could be bad news for low sec miners though...
In the spirit of providing more challenge to New Eden's pilots, CCP Games is introducing a much stronger breed of NPC antagonist: the Sleepers are an ancient race that players currently know of only in cryptic terms, with fragments of their technology existing in the game as artifacts. The in-game description of Sleeper Technology states that the Sleepers are, or were, "masters of virtual reality, neural interfacing and cryotechnology."
Players will encounter Sleepers via wormhole exploration. CCP Ytterbium cautions, "Do not underestimate them, as they will remain radically different from the regular pirate factions you are used to. More often than not, they will give you some substantial bang for your buck and will require player gang coordination and effort to be dispatched."
With the advent of wormhole exploration in New Eden, sometimes journeying into the unknown will have its risks -- and the Sleepers may prove to be persistent antagonists for EVE's explorers. Interaction with the Sleepers, via gunboat diplomacy, will yield the components essential to Tech 3 production, ensuring plenty of motivation for explorers to face the odds in hopes of returning with rare Sleeper tech.
Those odds may be steeper than players expect, given the new AI that Sleepers (and Officer spawns in 0.0) will be imbued with in Apocrypha. CCP Ytterbium writes, "How will they react with such a behavior? Let us just say at the moment they are going to make logical target choices depending on the most threatening targets available..." The new AI is essentially going through a trial run with Sleepers and Officer spawns when the expansion launches, but if successful, CCP may ultimately give all of New Eden's NPCs a more dynamic AI.
You can check out the "When Evolution Leaps Forward" dev blog at the EVE site, and how New Eden's pilots are reacting to the news on the game's forums.