EVE Online's Odyssey expansion is set to land in just over a week's time, kicking off the game's second decade with a focus on exploration, immersion, and resource rebalancing. Developers plan to shake up nullsec by redistributing the value of various moon minerals and buffing player-owned outposts, and lowsec will become a more tempting place to visit with the addition of valuable new tags to asteroid belt NPCs. But what's in it for highsec players?
In addition to new navy issue battlecruisers and immersive new jump and death sequences, players from all corners of EVE will find new exploration content in their back yards. A big part of the new exploration system is a complete redesign of the Hacking and Archaeology mini-professions, which have been in EVE for as long as I can remember and have remained relatively unchanged. Odyssey will add new sites for both professions and replace the boring old chance-based system with a new minigame that emphasises co-operation with other players.
In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at the history of Hacking and Archaeology in EVE and what the new system brings to the table.
What are Hacking and Archaeology?
Hacking and Archaeology were originally introduced as part of the COSMOS initiative in 2005's Cold War expansion. In a kind of experiment with more themepark-style content, CCP gave each of the four races a constellation packed to the brim with interesting structures and missions that could be completed only once. Each COSMOS constellation told the story of a few particular NPC organisations, such as the Caldari Wiyrkomi corporation's attempted hostile takeover of the Gallente Algintal constellation and resistance from FON terrorists.
Rather than spawning a new complex for each mission, COSMOS missions send the player into communal complexes with fast NPC respawn rates. Some of these complexes are hidden and have to be found with scan probes, and a few require special keys or passes to enter. Missions usually involve killing a certain NPC and looting something from his wreck, but often the player has to steal information from a data terminal or find relics in the ruins of an ancient ship. This is where the Hacking and Archaeology skills come in, pairing with the Codebreaker I and Analyzer I modules respectively to extract data and relics.
The system was incredibly basic, with objects like data terminals and shipwrecks represented by locked loot containers that the appropriate module had a percentage chance every 5 seconds to open. This gameplay was first expanded with a plethora of new hidden exploration sites and then later expanded again with a ton of new sites in wormhole space, but core mechanics haven't changed in around eight years. We still basically sit around waiting for a module to succeed at opening the container and then grab the loot.
The new system in Odyssey
When Odyssey lands next week, Hacking and Archaeology will be augmented with a new minigame in which the player has to navigate through a hostile computer network to find and destroy its System Cores. The Codebreaker I module will be used to inject into a modern computer system, generating a futuristic-looking minigame full of firewalls and data nodes. Older computer systems will be accessed with the Analyzer I, opening a minigame with an older visual aesthetic but just as many booby traps. Successfully navigating through the system and destroying all the cores before the time limit is hit will cause the computer to relinquish control and the object it controls to jettison its contents into space.
It's here that the co-operative aspects of the new system kick in, as items are flung in every direction and must be grabbed one at a time. The exact details of how and why the loot containers disappear haven't been released yet, but CCP promises that hackers won't be able to pick them all up by themselves. The most likely scenario is that items will disappear once they get a certain distance from the hacker himself, so that if he chases objects going out of range in one direction, he sacrifices those heading in the opposite direction. The new Hacking and Archaeology systems will hopefully add some much-needed teamwork to exploration and help make it a group activity for corporations.
Possible future additions or features
Hacking and Archaeology in Odyssey sounds like a lot of fun, but what appeals to me the most is the possibility for future development. We could obviously get new ships specialsied for Hacking and Archaeology, and new versions of the Codebreaker and Analyzer wouldn't be unwelcome. I image we'll also eventually be able to load Codebreakers and Analyzers with scripts or ammo that will give us utilities to use inside the minigame. CCP has even suggested that unused utilities found inside a computer system might eventually be extractable and that we could sell them on the open market.
The most exciting possibilities lie in CCP's aim to "tie the Hacking activity much closer into the EVE Universe." The latest devblog hints at future integration of Hacking into the broader EVE universe, making many more things in the game hackable for benefits other than just ISK. We'll almost certainly be able to hack abandoned player-owned starbases to take control of them some day, but the possibilities here are endless. Could we hack supercapital ships to disable their jump drives or knock out the weapons?
Players might eventually be able to deliver supplies to DUST mercenaries on a hostile world mid-match by hacking into the customs office or sneak a team of mercs into an enemy station to cause havoc. Archaeology could see similar DUST integration, with EVE players breaking into a Rogue Drone hive or Sleeper stronghold with an Analyzer and depositing marines for a co-op mission against AI.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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