EON Magazine issue 24 looks back at EVE Online's Apocrypha expansion

Issue 24 of EVE Online's quarterly official magazine EON hit the shelves this month, bringing a fresh dose of internet spaceships to coffee tables and bathrooms everywhere. Produced by MMM Publishing and written by a growing cast of writers from within the EVE community, EON provides something solid for fans of EVE to hold on to and acts as a snapshot in time or record of the game as it evolves. Recent big news stories and nullsec wars are detailed in each issue, along with editorial pieces, fiction, interviews and guides.

The latest issue is a wormhole special, with a huge focus on 2009's incredibly successful Apocrypha expansion and the hidden wormhole systems it brought to EVE. In addition to the second part of Pottsey's background on the ancient Sleeper race locked away in wormhole systems, the magazine contains testflights of the four strategic cruisers produced from materials discovered in wormhole space. A fantastically insightful article on the making of Apocrypha also delves into the gritty details of how CCP put its entire weight behind one incredible expansion during a time of real world economic turmoil.

Skip past the cut for a breakdown of everything in EON Issue 24 and my impressions from reading through it.

All the usual stuff

The staple articles of each issue are present, as always, but the magazine's graphical style and formatting has changed a little from previous editions. Although I'd grown attached to the old style, even adopting similar angular shapes in my own EVE Evolved column, the new format is really starting to grow on me. The revamped 0.0 report, in particular, places less emphasis on statistics and the outcome of key battles and more on the actual story of each war, the underlying politics, and the motivations involved. The cover article for this issue is about ship crews, but it's more of an editorial piece and actually highlights how quick CCP has been to dismiss the idea.

This issue features interviews with security expert CCP Sreegs and software director CCP Explorer, along with profiles of several in-game corporations and a historical report of the rise and fall of Dusk and Dawn alliance. Personally, I was much more interested in an article on EVE fiction with remarkably humble author and EVE Online IP manager Tony Gonzales. Tony could literally sell umbrellas in a desert and this article has completely sold me on his upcoming novel Templar One. The novel aims to tie the world of DUST 514's ground troops into the lore of EVE's escalating wars and will likely be released alongside DUST 514.

The more you know...

The Insider's Guide section of the mag has been replaced with a more general Knowledge Base section, featuring not only guides, but also lore and back-story. EVE player Torvix starts this issue's Knowledge Base off with a guide to convincing your real life friends to play EVE. Over the years, it's become clear that EVE spreads most successfully by word of mouth and that players who are introduced to the game by a friend are much more likely to stay. Much of Torvix's guide is common sense, with a few nuggets of wisdom like, "fit out a frigate and hop into a low-sec system with them," and, "for the love of god, do not take them mining!" thrown in for good measure.

Angus McDecoy, co-host of the Fly Reckless podcast, writes an interesting introduction to the story behind the Guristas NPC pirate faction. This is the latest article in a series exploring the backstory of EVE's pirate factions, and I'm really liking where the series is going. Aimed at novice players, this article brings together all the information known about the Guristas faction, from the details of the Crielere incident to lore from official Chronicles. Finally, editor-in-chief Zapatero writes a short guide to the new captain's quarters. I don't think a guide to the single room we currently have access to is necessary, but it does highlight some new features like the corp finder and agent finder that new players will definitely appreciate.

An ancient enemy

EVE archaeologist Pottsey continues his guide to the ancient Sleeper race in part two of an intermediate guide to one of New Eden's most mysterious forces. Not content to simply read the existing Chronicles and official game fiction, Pottsey has made it his mission to piece together snippets of information on EVE's ancient races strewn across the galaxy. For a long-time fan of the lore behind EVE's ancient races (the Sleepers, Talocan, Takmahl and Yan Jung) featured in the four main COSMOS constellations, this is a great article.

Pottsey speculates on possible links between the Jove race and the Sleepers, and unearths information that ties the Talocan into Sleeper society. I only wish there had been more concrete information to deliver and less left to wild theorising, though that can be chalked up to CCP not advancing the Sleeper story in over two years.

Rounding out this wormhole special, Lex Starwalker writes an exhaustive guide to life in wormhole space. We practically wrote the book on living in wormhole space here at Massively, but Lex adds a unique and useful perspective on the solitary life of a wormhole expedition team. The guide covers additional topics like managing starbase fuel, and having a paper-based guide to read while away from the computer definitely has its perks.

Headline Feature: Creating Apocrypha

There's no doubt about it; 2009's Apocrypha expansion was the single best expansion EVE Online has ever seen. Bringing true exploration back to an aging universe, 2500 new hidden solar systems were unlocked for players to discover and plunder. The unstable wormholes by which we reached these foreign lands and the unique military and logistical challenges to be overcome completely revitalised the game.

Small-scale warfare made a rampant come-back with wormhole piracy, corporate-level system ownership and small-scale turf wars suddenly became viable, and explorers charted completely unknown content for the first time in years. In the six months following Apocrypha's release, subscriptions climbed rapidly to break the 300k barrier as players came to the game in droves.

Two years on, EON editor-in-chief Richie "Zapatero" Shoemaker sat down with developers at CCP to talk about the making of EVE's favourite expansion. This really is an incredible article, at once both inspiring and disappointing. It's inspiring to hear about Lead Designer Noah Ward's eureka moment in the shower when the concept of using wormholes to tie all the content together popped into his head. It's even more encouraging to hear the story of how Noah and Torfi brought the idea to CEO Hilmar, who in a moment of unrepeated resolve offered to put all the resources of the entire company into the expansion.

With Iceland facing major economic turmoil, CCP pooled its resources to prove to itself and the world that the Icelandic office was in control of its own future. In just four short months, CCP not only adapted to a completely new agile development model but also produced an incredible EVE expansion. In highlighting the incredible heights CCP can reach when it really tries, we're unfortunately reminded of the lack of visible development quality following Apocrypha. In the two years since the expansion went live, we've seen four miniature expansions each touching on a single area of gameplay. Though Apocrypha may have been produced through a fluke of financial and motivational necessity, there's no doubt that EVE Online could really use another blockbuster expansion.

Like a lot of older EVE players, my personal motivation to play EVE has been greatly reduced by recent controversies and a development direction that will likely see no major iteration on existing gameplay until this time next year. Somehow, EON Magazine always seems to instill me with the desire to get more involved in EVE -- to dig deeper into the sandbox. Perhaps it's the effect of having a magazine in my hands that does it, or maybe it's the result of reading articles that echo an enthusiasm I know all too well.

If you're on the fence about buying EON Magazine issue 24, I'd strongly recommend you get it. It provides a strong reminder of the best content EVE has ever seen -- content that, while now fully explored, still exists to be challenged and conquered. Now if only CCP could be convinced to sell the magazine for in-game Aurum or PLEX, there'd be a lot of very happy EVE fans out there.