Tomorrow marks a huge milestone in MMO history as sci-fi sandbox EVE Online officially turns ten years old. Released by a tiny icelandic development studio whose only previous release was a board game featuring Reykjavik's favourite cross-dressing mayor, EVE has slowly grown over the past decade to become one of the industry's biggest and most stable subscription titles. Following 2011's monoclegate scandal that led to around 8% of players quitting and CCP Games shedding 20% of its employees, this year saw EVE Online climb to new heights as it regained the playerbase's confidence and smashed the 500,000 subscriber barrier. As a special side-note, the EVE Evolved column also turned five years old last week; it has now officially been running for over half of EVE's lifetime.
The past year has been remarkably successful for CCP, with both of the year's EVE expansions being extremely well received and console MMOFPS DUST 514 finally starting to take shape. The Inferno and Retribution expansions fixed a staggering number of small issues that were broken in the game while also making big changes to bounty-hunting, piracy, and PvP across the board. We also saw huge emergent events like the Battle of Asakai, a $6,000 ship kill, and the five trillion ISK faction warfare exploit this year. With DUST 514 officially launching in just over a week on May 14th and players fired up about the upcoming Odyssey expansion, the future's looking bright for EVE Online as it heads into its second decade.
In this week's EVE Evolved, I look back at some of year's top EVE stories, stories that touched real life, and what the future holds for EVE's second decade.
The biggest stories from EVE's tenth year
This year got off to a fantastic start with the Inferno expansion adding some much-needed PvP incentives to the ancient Faction Warfare system. The expansion added loyalty point rewards to player ship kills based on the value of the ship and cargo destroyed, a feature that a few clever EVE players figured out they exploit. By manipulating the market price of certain rarely traded items, the players were able to trick the game into thinking they were destroying ships worth billions. The exploit yielded five trillion ISK worth over $100,000 before it was reported to CCP and fixed. The players involved had the ISK removed and received a slap on the wrist.
The biggest story of the year by far was the 3,000-man Battle of Asakai. It wasn't quite the biggest single battle in the history of EVE, but it was special in that it came completely out of nowhere. A titan pilot accidentally clicked the "Jump" button instead of "Jump Bridge" and his valuable ship appeared on a battlefield in low-security space without a support fleet for backup. The battle escalated out of all control as one side began throwing in ships to try to kill the titan and the other threw in more ships to save it. The result was one of the largest unplanned PvP events in EVE's history, and the servers stayed online and stable thanks to the game's Time Dilation mechanic.
Stories from the sandbox that touched real life
Gamers around the world watched on as the story emerged of a player losing a ship worth $6,000 US. The kill would have been the single highest-value loss any individual had suffered in EVE's lifetime, made worse by the fact that the victim was carrying the valuables in a tiny, defenseless frigate. Discrepancies in the killmail soon arose that cast doubt on its authenticity and lowered the estimated damage to around $1,000. Despite having originally linked the kill on its Facebook page, CCP was unable to confirm or deny the kill.
In September, we heard the distressing news that highly respected EVE Online player and former CSM member Vile Rat was one of the state officials killed in an attack on the US consolate in Libya. The outpouring from the EVE community following the event was immense, with players donating cash to a collection for his widow and showing their support in-game and on the forums. Those who knew him organised an in-game vigil in his honour and talked about the great times they'd had with him. The cynosural field beacons lit up the in-game map for hours as players paid their respects and showed that EVE is much more than just a game.
The Retribution expansion was awesome
While Crucible and Inferno helped CCP claw back a lot of player confidence, this year's Retribution expansion was hands-down the best expansion since 2009's Apocrypha. The expansion contained a ton of gameplay changes for new and old players alike, buffing entry-level tech 1 frigates and cruisers beyond recognition and revolutionising PvP in high- and low-security space. Mining barges were finally given enough defenses to withstand the average suicide gank attempt, and in the unfortunate event that it still happens, you can now sell your kill rights to the public to get revenge.
Retribution's revamped bounty hunting system gave non-PvP players another way to get indirect revenge on attackers while giving PvP-focused players more incentive to get out there and fight. An all-new crimewatch system also put players in the driving seat of justice by making thieves globally attackable by any other player rather than just by the player they stole from, and a new weapon safety feature helped stop new players from being tricked into opening fire on an invalid target and getting themselves killed. Salvage drones were added to make mission-runners' lives easier, and a new battleship-sized microjumpdrive was introduced to add variety to ship fittings.
DUST 514 integration with EVE
Many EVE players have thought of MMOFPS DUST 514 as a waste of development time and money that doesn't help the spaceship game they know and love, but this year saw that perception change as the link between the two games became a hell of a lot more real.
E3 2012: DUST 514 hands-on Well, my first E3 is in the books, and though I got a good look at pretty much everything, I spent most of the time looking at shooters. MMO shooters came first, of course, and there was plenty of PlanetSide 2, Defiance, and even an 8v8 lobby title called Arctic Combat to be had (more on this last in an upcoming The Firing Line).
EVE Evolved: Merging EVE with DUST 514 When console MMOFPS DUST 514 was first announced, players were cautious of the game's ambitious goals. Developers promised that DUST battles would decide the ownership of planets inside PC MMO EVE Online, and that this would tie into system sovereignty and ultimately ownership of entire regions of space.
What DUST 514 means for EVE factional warfare Fan site DUST514Base.com has a new blog post that's worth a read if you're curious about the changes that CCP's recent integration has brought to both EVE Online and its new shooter sibling.
Funcom, CCP, Snail devs talk skill-based MMOs Although the majority of MMOs are level-based, some games are bucking the trend. The Secret World, EVE Online, and Age of Wushu are three titles that eschew the standard system in favor of offering players a more open gaming experience.
GDC Online 2012: CCP on keeping players cheaply Sandboxes get a lot of flak in today's themepark-dominated MMO industry. That said, sandbox developers who do it right will be laughing all the way to bank, according to CCP senior designer Matthew Woodward.
PAX East 2013: An interview with EVE Online's Jon Lander The next expansion to EVE Online was announced during this year's PAX East. Odyssey will usher in to the game a host of improvements ranging from better exploration mechanics to a redistribution of resources, ensuring that players have plenty to do with their internet spaceships over the summer.
It's been a fantastic year for EVE Online, and after this year's Fanfest presentations I can safely say we have a lot to look forward to in the coming decade. CCP's vision for the future involves the incredibly intoxicating idea of building our own stargates and finding completely new, alien star systems. The NPC empires of New Eden will lose control of power and immortal capsuleers and ground-pounders will take over. It may take us a few years to get to that point, but it's going to be one hell of ride.
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.