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EVE Online: Odyssey promises huge changes, dual character training


It's time again for another enormous EVE Online expansion. This latest chunk of tweaks, changes, and updates, titled Odyssey and due for launch June 4, marks the 19th free content addition in the space-based MMO's 10-year history. And like the expansions that came before it, Odyssey promises to make a host of changes to the EVE universe -- some big, some small, and some even game-changing.

We sat down with CCP to get a look at Odyssey and some of its more major components, including a huge exploration overhaul, more user-friendly controls, and a dramatic change to the way in which resources are distributed across its vast, starry expanses.

Here's what we've learned.

Exploration is key

There are, at last count, around 7,900 star systems in EVE's universe. The great majority of these systems have hidden mysteries to discover, explore, and of course, loot. There's just one problem: finding the stuff in the first place. In the past, this hasn't been so simple and the payoff hasn't been so great. But CCP knows that exploration is a key draw for new players, with lead designer Kristoffer Touborg noting, "People come into EVE wanting to explore."

EVE Star Map
Odyssey is making some big changes to how you investigate EVE's hidden nooks and crannies. First, there's the new sensor overlay. This system isn't a menu but an in-skybox HUD element that immediately shows you potential areas of interest in your current system. It can be enabled with the flick of a switch, and some non-explorers may choose to keep it on just for the sake of discovery and convenience. The goal, according to CCP, is to keep players interacting with the universe -- not its menus. The sensor overlay won't remove the need to scan down systems but will make it more evident whether a system is worth scanning.

Second, the scanning minigame, in which you scan down system anomalies with the help of probes, has seen a few light touches in the interest of making it more efficient and new-player friendly. Probe launchers now launch seven probes at once, by default, and the probe scanner comes programmed with presets from CCP designed to aid in scanning down systems. You can also design and save your own probe presets if you prefer using fewer probes or have a setup that currently works for you.

EVE Wormhole
When you finally do track down an anomaly to explore, you'll notice a few more interesting changes. The old generic cargo loot boxes have been replaced with site-specific elements (a derelict ship for salvage, for example). There's also no longer a need to clear hostile NPCs. Instead, a hacking minigame has been implemented, one that feeds off of your character's existing hacking skills and provides a career-relevant challenge. In other words, you no longer have to scan with an exploration ship only to switch to a combat ship for clearing. Exploration is done via exploration ships, period.

EVE Online Hacking
Loot at exploration sites has been rebalanced to make exploring into a more viable career. According to CCP, all exploration sites will provide, at minimum, the same ISK per hour as before. But rare loot like capital ship rigs, faction towers, and faction POSs (which are being re-implemented with Odyssey) will make the potential payoff far greater than it has ever been. For the first time in a long time, exploration could be a viable singular profession for savvy EVE adventurers.

Evolving space

Exploration isn't the only thing in EVE getting a big update. The entire space-scape is receiving a massive rebalancing. First, obviously, new exploration sites are being added all across the game's known and unknown universe. Second, CCP is tweaking the ore value distributions across various systems -- less valuable but more fundamental ores will have a higher chance of popping up in more dangerous areas of space, providing low-sec corporations and players with vital materials they might need for continuing operations without as much need to trek into high sec.

"We're gonna turn some stuff upside-down." -Kristoffer Touborg

This is the real meat of the expansion for existing hardcore players. It's the stuff that sends the economy-watchers into a frenzy. But it's not just ore getting a tweak: Moons across the galaxy have been reseeded and their materials changed. Ice belts, once a static, infinitely harvestable feature in certain pockets of space, are no longer so easy to find or use; they must be scanned down as anomalies, and once they run dry, it will take four hours for new ice to spawn. CCP estimates that it is leaving about 1/900th of the current ice supply in the game with Odyssey and hopes to see ice become "EVE's oil" in terms of player-driven conflict and conquest.

In the words of Touborg, "We're gonna turn some stuff upside-down."

Ice Mining
Odyssey brings important tweaks to fans of low-security space. Player-owned starbases are receiving a few buffs to make them more viable home locations for those who choose a life on the edge. Personal hangars allow for the separation of goods and protection of assets. And CCP has tweaked starbases so that once they are fully upgraded, they are the best stations in the game in terms of services offered to capsuleers. No longer will you need to sink billions into a starbase only to find better efficiency at an Empire-owned facility.

There's also the issue of security status. In EVE, a player's security status, which is determined by his actions, is what controls his ability to enter certain areas of space. If your security status dips below a certain threshold, you'll be shot on sight in some of the universe's more respectable locales. But Odyssey offers a new path to redemption for former pirates and thieves: the Security Tag.

Security Tags are special items that drop from rare NPCs in low-sec and null-sec space. With a few Security Tags and a bit of ISK, you can buy back some of your lost security standing and eventually work your way back into CONCORD's (EVE's resident police force) good graces. And because this is EVE, Security Tags will be tradable on the open market. CCP emphasized that the enemies that drop Security Tags are not readily farmable but do spawn periodically around the darker corners of the universe.

EVE Online Security Tag
Perhaps the most notable non-exploration change for existing EVE players is the introduction of Dual Training, which allows them to burn a PLEX (an in-game item worth 30 days of game time) to simultaneously train two characters on one account. Previously, the only way to increase skills on two characters at once was to have two accounts. Now you can do the same thing with one account, albeit for a small fee. Or, naturally, you can purchase your Dual Training PLEX with a few hundred million in-game ISK.

The little things

Every EVE expansion introduces a collection of small changes in addition to the big stuff. Odyssey is no different. There's a new radial menu designed to make navigating the depths of space more efficient (say goodbye to right-clicking and reading tiny drop-downs). Clone costs have been reduced 30% in the hopes that people will get out of their ruts and take risks. Says Touborg, "Hopefully [players] go out and shoot some people. Or get shot." There are dozens of tiny tweaks aimed at making EVE more user-friendly for its 500,000 current subscribers and new players alike.

EVE Navy Battlecruisers
And let's not forget the ships. Four classic battlecruisers (the Drake, the Brutix, the Hurricane and the Harbinger) are receiving Navy-issue upgrades complete with new skins, new slots, and new bonuses. Navy frigates, cruisers, and battlecruisers have all been rebalanced, as CCP continues to work its way through every ship class in the game in the interest of making fights more fair and gameplay more interesting. Like its universe, EVE's ships are a constantly evolving collection of variables.

Overall, Odyssey is another massive update that will invigorate of the game's most interesting but least rewarding professions, while added elements like resource rebalancing, starbase upgrades, and Dual Training have the potential to once again fundamentally change key elements of the EVE metagame. Now all that remains is to see how the community reacts when the features go live.

Hopefully with a thousand-year war over spinning blue ice chunks in the sky.

Look for Odyssey on June 4th. And if you want to learn more, tune in for one of the official CCP livestreams on May 28th and May 29th at 5 p.m. EDT or check out the brand-new official dev blog on this topic.

Massively's not big on scored reviews -- what use are those to ever-changing MMOs? That's why we bring you first impressions, previews, hands-on experiences, and even follow-up impressions for nearly every game we stumble across. First impressions count for a lot, but games evolve, so why shouldn't our opinions?

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