Back in April, EVE Online Senior Producer Andie Nordgren delivered an incredible long-term vision for the game's future that included deep space colonisation, player-built stargates, and players controlling practically everything that's currently run by NPC empires. This vision sets the tone and direction for development over the next ten expansions, each of which will introduce a small component of the overall goal. In a live interview session earlier this week, CCP revealed the first steps it will take toward space colonisation in its upcoming winter expansion.
Named Rubicon, the expansion will be in players' hands on November 19th and promises to give individuals and small groups unprecedented control over the sandbox. It will let players fight over planetary customs offices in high security space, significantly buff the ability of small ships to participate in hit-and-run style warfare, and even introduce a new set of personal deployable structures that can be hidden anywhere in space. All this comes alongside two new Sisters of EVE ships, twitch livestream integration, and significant balance changes to Marauders, Interceptors, Interdictors, and Electronic Attack Frigates.
In this week's EVE Evolved, I run down all of the new features and changes announced so far for EVE Online's Rubicon expansion.
More things to kill each other over!
One of the big changes announced in the livestream is that planetary customs offices in high security space will now be conquerable. Owning a customs office gives your corporation the right to tax any materials exported from the planet by players engaging in planetary industry. It's currently possible to conquer these in low-security space, wormhole space, and nullsec, but the planets of high security space have always been owned by CONCORD. Making them conquerable will give highsec corporations a new strategic resource to fight over and a reason to go to war with each other.
Developers have hinted in the past that they'd like to see more industrial activity moved to conquerable or destructible structures, and in the livestream reveal we learned that Rubicon will kick this off with several new personal deployable structures. Perhaps the most exciting of the bunch is the Depot, which acts as a small corporate hangar and ship fitting service rolled into one. It's exciting because it can be deployed anywhere, including deep safespots, asteroid belts, or in the middle of a mission complex. What makes this even better is that you can deploy them in high-security space and CONCORD police ships won't intervene if one is attacked. The attacker will instead just be flagged as a suspect, so players can police the structures themselves.
More deployable structures
The Depot is the biggest truly sandboxy addition to the game in years, and players are sure to find some awesome ways to use it, but it's not the only new structure that has me excited. A new structure tentatively named the Siphon Unit will let players actually steal resources from established starbases, automatically draining a percentage of its moon harvester or reactor output. The Siphon unit itself is vulnerable and insecure, so anyone can access its cargo hold to steal your ill-gotten gains and then blow it up for good measure. As long as the starbase owner doesn't discover the unit for some time, however, there's sure to be good money in stealing reactor output!
Mission-runners will absolutely lose their minds at the third major deployable announced during the livestream, which is a yet-to-be-named tractor beam and looting device. This will automatically pull in wrecks within a certain radius and store their loot in its hangar. It won't salvage the wrecks, but it will put them all in one place to make salvaging much easier. This structure can be used in missions, deadspace complexes, asteroid belts, or even at the site of a massive PvP battle. Fleets may end up deploying several of these in large battles in an attempt to evacuate as much loot as possible during the fight.
Warp acceleration fix
If you've ever flown a freighter in EVE, you've probably noticed that it's significantly slower in warp than other ships. The warp speed mechanic was originally intended to make small ships like frigates more mobile than their larger counterparts, but it unfortunately never worked as intended. Though two ships may have different maximum warp speeds, the rate of acceleration into warp is identical for all ships. Objects in EVE are typically close enough that most of the time spent in warp is either in the acceleration or deceleration phases, so consequently warp speed doesn't make much of a difference when chasing or running from another ship.
Rubicon aims to change all that by making a ship's warp acceleration scale with its maximum warp speed. As a result, small ships will be able to easily outrun or chase down larger ships, making hit-and-run style guerilla warfare a lot more viable. Battleships and tech 3 cruisers may be powerful, but a squad of stealth bombers or other frigates will be able to get in and out of enemy space before being caught. The change comes with a complete rebalance of warp speeds across the board, with anything smaller than a cruiser getting a buff and anything larger being slowed down.
With the warp acceleration fix, more people will be trying out guerilla-style tactics with fleets of small ships. To support this change, developers will be buffing Interceptors, Electronic Attack Frigates, and Interdictors. Interceptors will be made immune to warp bubbles in order to let them safely operate as solo forward scouts for fleets or as part of a cavalry raid gang that's practically impossible to catch. The details of how Electronic Attack Frigates and Interdictors will be rebalanced haven't been revealed yet, but developers have promised to release the stats on the test server for feedback before the changes go live in November.
One of the problems faced by small groups of ships hunting lone targets in nullsec is that those lone targets are often bait ships that will call in capital ship support when attacked. Rubicon adds an interesting counter to capital hot-dropping in the form of disposable, one-time use cynosural field jammers. This device will prevent Cynosural Field Generators from activating within a range of about 70-100km, but it may not deactivate fields that are already established. The enemy can still jump in capital ships elsewhere in the system and warp them into the battlefield, but this will remove the surprise escalation element of hot-dropping and makes it much easier for a fleet to escape when the big guns arrive.
New Sisters of EVE faction ships
The Sisters of EVE is an NPC faction that has historically conducted exploration expeditions to the site of the EVE Gate and the collapsed New Eden wormhole. The faction has played only a minor role in EVE to date but will be releasing its first two ship designs in Rubicon. Designed with long-term exploration in mind, the new ships come in frigate and cruiser variants and merge some of the best aspects of Gallente and Amarr ship design. Neither ship has been named yet, but development screenshots show that they're white with red highlights and bear a striking resemblance to Vulcan ships from Star Trek.
As expected, the ship will gain bonuses from both the Gallente and Amarr frigate or cruiser skills. They'll have huge drone bays to allow them to function for a long time without resupplying, and will get drone damage and armour resistance bonuses to make them able to deal with combat exploration sites and low-class wormhole anomalies. In keeping with the exploration theme, both ships will also get role bonuses to hacking modules and scanner probes, and both will be able to fit covert ops cloaking devices.
Certificate system revamp
EVE's complex skill system has been the cause of many headaches for new players since the game launched in 2003. CCP later tried to make the system more intuitive with the release of certificates that show how good your skills are in particular areas, but most players simply ignored them. Rubicon will add a new Mastery pane to each ship that will rank your skills at flying that particular ship on a scale of one to five. Each of the five mastery levels shows a simple list of recommended skill certificates, which should show new players exactly what to train in order to improve at flying that ship.
This comes along with a new feature called the Interbus Ship Identification Tree, which shows the skill-training path needed to get to particular ships and should provide a more intuitive understanding of the skill investment required. Older players won't be terribly excited by this feature, but it should help new players figure out what their options are. As I found last year when I convinced a friend try EVE for the first time, information on things like skill requirements and ship progression are actually big knowledge barriers for new players.
Julius Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon river in 49 BC is said to have eventually led to war, and so today the word is used to describe a point of no return or irreversible commitment. It's a fitting name then for the first expansion in a series that will take the irreversible step of putting control of the EVE universe into the hands of players. The expansion is sure to spark some wars over planets in high-security space, and the new anchorable Depots will give every player their own little home in space to defend.
We can also look forward to twitch livestream integration into the game client, and several major balance changes. Marauders will be getting a new Bastion transformation mode that grants the ship electronic warfare immunity and significantly buffs its tank, and missile-based battleships will be getting a new Rapid Heavy Missile Launcher designed for anti-cruiser setups. The new deployable structures are a great first step toward a universe ultimately controlled by players and in which small groups and individuals have something to fight for.
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.