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EVE Evolved: Retribution expansion highlights

Brendan Drain
Brendan Drain|@nyphur|December 2, 2012 6:00 PM
EVE Evolved title image
EVE Online's PvP-focused Retribution expansion goes live in just a few days on December 4th, bringing with it a whole series of balance changes, UI updates, and new features. In addition to a whole new bounty hunting mechanic, we can look forward to a new combat UI, some serious ship rebalancing, and a new crimewatch system that puts players in the driving seat of antipiracy. Faction warfare is also due for a bit of a revamp, and a new safety system will help newer players stay within the bounds of the law.

CCP has been releasing torrents of information on the expansion this month in the run-up to release, covering everything from the new UI updates and ship balancing to kill rights and corp hangars. There are some interesting changes on the way that might affect your everyday life in EVE. If you haul ships and items around EVE inside an Orca's ship and corp hangars, be aware that the hangars will no longer be immune to cargo scans and their contents will now drop as loot when you're destroyed. Expect suicide attacks on Orcas to spike immediately following the expansion's release, and keep your expensive toy out of harm's way.

In this week's EVE Evolved, we'll dig into this week's Retribution expansion and look at a few of the highlights in depth.

EVE Evolved side imageThe safety system

A big part of EVE's sandbox gameplay is the ability to do whatever you want. There are consequences to breaking the law, but the choice to do so is always yours. The problem is that people sometimes perform illegal actions without intending to or are tricked into doing so by another player. Retribution adds a new Safety system that has to be switched off before you can perform dangerous actions, kind of like the safety on a gun. It can be set to three positions: Disabled, Enabled, and Partial.

When set to Enabled, the safety will automatically prevent all criminal actions, from stealing loot to shooting a neutral ship. Whereas previously each action would pop up its own confirmation dialogue that was easy to accidentally click through, now the action is automatically blocked if the safety is on. Partial safety is an interesting setting that lets you do anything that makes you a suspect (such as stealing loot or shooting people in lowsec) but still prevents actions that would brand you a criminal and get you killed by CONCORD. As someone who's lost more than a few expensive ships to embarrassing misfires, I can definitely agree this change is needed.

EVE Evolved side imageFaction warfare changes

When it was released with the Empyrean Age expansion back in 2008, Faction Warfare was an incredible feature. Thousands signed up to take part in its instant-action PvP, forming rag-tag fleets ranging in size from just a few ships to hundreds. Unfortunately, the system wasn't iterated on for several years, and small issues like NPC balance and the lack of consequences for system ownership were allowed to fester. CCP's quick fix of increasing the rewards seriously backfired and turned faction warfare into a farmer's paradise, and Inferno's PvP rewards were similarly gamed to produce trillions of ISK.

Retribution is taking another stab at fixing faction warfare, this time by revamping capture sites. Gone are the dozens of NPCs with electronic warfare, replaced by just one or two tanky NPCs with low damage output. Players will have to bring enough damage to kill the site NPCs quickly or just tank them for the capture duration, giving an advantage to any enemies who decide to engage. While this is a good change, I'm not convinced it'll make much of a difference. Capture sites were originally meant to be flashpoints for PvP, but that never really happened as players can see you coming on the directional scanner and warp out.

EVE Evolved side imageUser interface changes

EVE's user interface has been a sore point since the game was in beta, and developers are constantly trying out new ways of doing things. People often liken the game to a spreadsheet, but I don't there are many ways to display so much information in one place without it looking like a spreadsheet. Nevertheless, developers are aiming to simplify as much of the UI as possible by replacing text with graphics where appropriate and making graphic styles more consistent.

The new ship targeting interface displays shield, armour, and hull hitpoints in a similar manner to how your own ship stats are displayed. Combat flags like the 60-second jump timer after firing on another player will be displayed as small clock-like circles in the top left of the screen rather than being hidden from the player or displayed as text. Most importantly, the unified inventory system that a lot of players hate will now remember what state each window was last in. Hopefully this will mean we don't have to fiddle around with the unintuitive interface once we've got everything set up the way we want.

EVE Evolved side imageNew modules

Along with its upcoming ship revamps, Retribution will be introducing new modules and tweaking a few of the existing ones. The Ancillary Shield Boosters added in Inferno are due for a nerf, the Reactive Armour Hardener is having its cycle time cut to make it adapt to incoming damage types more quickly, and the Target Spectrum Breaker is being boosted slightly. Drone damage modules are having their bonuses increased to help compete with turret damage modules, and new officer NPCs in the drone regions will drop valuable officer drone modules.

Retribution will also add two completely new modules that players have been waiting a long time to get their hands on. The Salvage Drone will fly to and salvage wrecks and then deposit the salvaged components in your cargo hold. In automated mode, it will fly around and salvage all legal wrecks in the area, but it won't loot them, so you'll be left with a sea of cargo containers after clearing the site of a level 4 mission. A new Micro Jump Drive will let battleships jump directly forward 100km after a short 12 second charge-up time. It can be used to escape from warp disruptors and interdiction bubbles but is shut down by short-range warp scramblers and can only be activated once every three minutes.

EVE Evolved title image
Retribution is set to introduce a ton of new features, some big and some small but all equally awesome. I've written about the new Bounty Hunting system at length and discussed how the new kill rights and player retribution systems work, but some of the more recently announced small features are my favourites. When the expansion lands, we'll be able to select multiple entries from the directional scanner and drag them into a chat window, for example. That's sure to be an absolute god-send for fleet scouts and players reporting to intel channels.

Another interesting change is that freighters will have their cargo access restrictions lifted, which means they could scoop ore from a mining operation. I particularly like the Safety feature; I'm sure some players will complain that it's dumbing down the gameplay, but EVE's combat mechanics are complex, and sometimes it's hard to know who's a valid target to attack. This should stop players from getting killed by police when attacking an invalid target, and at the very least it will provide enough evidence for a successful reimbursement petition.

All in all, Retribution seems to be following CCP's new philosophy of iterating on existing features and just plain improving the game. I have to say, I could get used to expansions like this!

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.
EVE Evolved: Retribution expansion highlights