EVE Online

Two months ago things started getting really scary in EVE Online. First, the player-controlled territories of null-sec fell victim to an unprecedented alien invasion. Soon after, CCP Games disabled a key feature of EVE Online's in-game chat interface, leaving players in a much more dangerous world. Now the changes, which CCP says were "planned as a temporary event," are being reversed.

Before the "Blackout" went into effect, most star systems in EVE Online would show you a list of players who were currently in the same solar system as you. Given that space is really big and mostly empty, it was a useful way of knowing who might be nearby.

For those players who brave the lawless regions of EVE Online's null-sec space, where there are no rules in place to protect you, knowing who was nearby was invaluable. Miners could tell when enemy pilots had slipped into the system and knew to run for safety, or alliances could muster a defense if a scout spotted a large number of enemy players entering or exiting a star system.

On July 12, developer CCP Games removed that feature, making it impossible to know who was in a system with you unless they actually spoke in the local system chat. It made the null-sec regions of EVE (which heavily outnumber safer star systems) way more dangerous. To survive, players were going to have to adapt.

It was all part of a larger experiment in what EVE Online's developers are calling The Chaos Era. During the Blackout, I traveled to Finland to participate in a very naked version of its annual Fanfest—only this one was held inside of a random Finnish player's house. It was during that strange weekend that CCP Games CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson told me that after 16 years EVE Online was beginning to feel a bit stale and CCP were looking to mix things up with bold new experiments—alien invasions and Blackouts being the first of presumably many more.

But now the Blackout has ended and, understandably, many players aren't sad to see it go. Announced earlier this week in a blog post, CCP Games said the Blackout gave it "an incredible amount of insight in terms of player behavior, sentiment and ability to adapt to rapid short notice changes."

"This will help to better inform us on where to take the direction of New Eden in future," the blog post concluded.

As one can imagine, such a radical change to EVE was contentious among its playerbase. While the Blackout initially seemed to be positively received, many of the big alliances affected by it quickly began to bemoan the change. The Blackout also coincided with EVE Online's lowest concurrent player levels since 2006, according to EVE-Offline, which reports on EVE's active player populations.

Though it's not clear if the two are related (but the causation seems likely), that led many to believe that CCP Games was capitulating to players upset over the change. But, as Pétursson explained on Twitter, the Blackout was always intended as a short-term experiment.

Regardless, EVE Online players are breathing a little easier now that they know what threats might be nearby.

EVE Online - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

Since July, players lurking in the darkest and crimeiest corners of Eve Online have been denied a valuable tool for surviving nullsec: seeing who else is in the same solar system. The “nullsec local blackout” meant that players had to speak in the local chat before they were counted and revealed to everyone else around, which made it a lot easier to lurk all sneaky-like. Developers CCP Games ended the 60-day blackout today, saying they’ve “seen some substantial changes in player behaviour” and learned a lot. Given recent talk of reintroducing chaos to the spaceskulduggery MMO, that’s perhaps equal parts threat and promise.

(more…)

EVE Online

You don't really know EVE Online until you're crammed into a hot tub full of drunk, naked Finnish players and two developers chatting excitedly about chaos and wormholes. I've traveled thousands of miles to end up here, in a stranger's house on an island called Kemiönsaari in mid-August, the boondocks of Finland. My journey to this county of some 6,000 Swedes and Finns isn't just for pleasure. I'm here to cover a historic event: EVE Online's first-ever Fanfest held inside a player's house.

Normally these events are held in developer CCP Games' home of Reykjavík, Iceland, and thousands of players from all over the world fly to party with the developers and learn about what's next for EVE Online. Last year, though, CCP Games decided to take their show on the road and also solicit invitations from players to host a Fanfest from their very own home.

Fanfest Kemiönsaari (or, more simply, Fanfest Home) is a surreal combination of a traditional gaming convention and a house party—keynote speeches and Q&A sessions spliced with barbecue burgers and vodka shots. When I told my parents about this trip, they were convinced it was an elaborate murder plot that would end with me flayed in a torture den somewhere. They did not predict the pale parade of nude, drunk EVE players shuffling to and from the sauna and hot tub. It's a fitting opening ceremony for this next chapter of EVE Online, one that its developers promise will bring mayhem to its hundreds of thousands of players and their precious empires.

Destination Kemiönsaari 

The sauna is warm, this is what we do.

Lilianah

The winner of Fanfest Home's contest was a player named Lilianah, a construction worker and member of a Finnish-only wormhole corporation called Avanto. As a serious EVE player who often hosts parties for his corporation, Lilianah has all the necessities: good internet, plenty of space, booze, and the all-important sauna and hot tub (a staple of Finland, I'm told).

"When I heard that six developers were on their way here, I was [confounded]," Lilianah says, laughing. "Here. Six devs. But I thought, what the hell. The sauna is warm, this is what we do." That spirit is shared among the dozen of Lilianah's corp-mates here, a rowdy group of Finnish men ranging from their mid-20s to late-50s. They had a lot to say about saunas.

Like any EVE Fanfest, the event started with a parade, only this one was composed of about a dozen people and only lasted the length of Lilianah's driveway. Everyone then piled inside Lilianah's house where his wife had generously prepared snacks and drinks. Slipping through the back to look at the hot tub, I stumble across his two children—one deeply engrossed in a round of Fortnite on his PC. Lilianah's family cleared out later that evening once the sauna and hot tub were fired up.

Instead of a normal keynote presentation, CCP Games creative director Bergur Finnbogason and CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson livestreamed a three-hour fireside chat, talking everything from EVE Online's sci-fi inspirations, original designs, to vague plans for the future. But the most relevant part of that chat had to with the nature of chaos, EVE Online's inherent inability to create it, and why CCP Games is now stepping in to make some of its own.

Agents of anarchy 

EVE Online has officially entered what CCP Games is calling The Chaos Era. It's a time of significant upheaval, CCP Games CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson tells me. On June 26, 2019, that chaos took the form of a surprise alien invasion that all but paralyzed the massive player empires found in null-sec space. Entire wars were called off as invading armies retreated home to save their precious starbases, jump gates, and industrial facilities from what many feared would be complete annihilation.

Then CCP Games announced a communications blackout across all in-game chat channels in null-sec space. Now when you venture into null-sec, the in-game chat interface no longer lists what other players are in a solar system with you. Now players or roving armies can move from system to system without having their presence immediately given away.

Everyone piled into Lilianah's living room for the keynote presentation.

We, as the caretakers of the universe, have to step in.

Hilmar P tursson, CEO of CCP Games

These surprise invasions and changes serve a greater purpose than just upsetting EVE Online's delicate political and industrial machines, however. It's a radical experiment to save EVE Online. "If you look at the game from the vantage point that we look at the game every day, the game starts to speak to you," says Finnbogason. "You follow the economy, you follow the meta, and you start to understand that there is pain, the game is in pain. It needs hand holding because we don't have the systems to automatically regulate it."

"Most things in life go through a period of disruption," Pétursson tells me. "You have an established paradigm, then it disrupts, and then you end up in another stable paradigm. This renews—it is often a form of creative destruction: It breaks up monopolies, it topples industrial giants, it creates new space for things to bloom."

Pétursson references cell phones and the internet as two real-world examples of these earth-shaking disruptions. But there's just one problem: "The conditions of EVE Online are not perfect," Pétursson explains, "and EVE Online lacks a good ability to renew itself in this way."

"Right now the situation in the game is such that the stagnation has been setting slowly over a few years and there is no end in sight," Pétursson says. "It's just going to stagnate. You don't want your sandbox to turn into cement, so it needs to be moved around a bit. And we, as the caretakers of the universe, have to step in. We want the game to be built, owned, and operated by its playerbase. But right now we have to."

Masters of control 

Though EVE Online has expanded significantly over 16 years, players have largely been playing and mastering the same game—consistently smashing hypothetical boundaries along the way. Player-made alliances like The Imperium boast 40,000 characters. Supercapital ships, once the prize of only a few players, now number in the thousands like an ever-increasing nuclear stockpile. Even wormholes, the transient network of hostile, isolated systems were designed only to be temporarily explored. Players started colonizing them permanently instead.

P tursson and Finnbogason discuss the past, present, and future of EVE.

"The conceit of EVE is that it's a chaotic sandbox for you to reign and to order, and we give people the tools to organize themselves," Pétursson explains. "The amazing alliance leadership of EVE has leveraged their ability to organize people at scale, and now the world is too orderly and not chaotic."

Unlike most other features in EVE, which are often announced months ahead of time, The Chaos Era represents a new, terrifying standard where sweeping changes can come and go at a moment's notice. Pétursson wouldn't commit to defining what will happen next or how long The Chaos Era will last, but it's clear this is just the beginning.

Right now, CCP Games is manually injecting chaos to disrupt its own players' ability to organize and create order. But Pétursson says the company is investigating options with procedural generation and artificial intelligence to empower EVE Online to create its own kind of chaos.

In the same way that the destructive effects of global warming are a consequence of industrialization and consumerism, EVE Online could one day possess a kind of sentience that allows it to counteract the will of its players. Dynamically generated cosmic disasters, more surprise alien invasions—anything could be possible. "If there were environmental effects in EVE from all this industrialization and order, that would be a great thing," Pétursson says. "Then the system could balance itself out and oscillate between order and chaos."

You'd think that this kind of chaos would be scary to EVE's players, but many welcome it. The members of Avanto, in particular, are eager to see "chaos come to wormholes".

After Finnbogason and Pétursson finished their fireside chat, the stream stayed on with cameras set up in different rooms of Lilianah's house to film the Fanfest Home attendees as they mingled and chatted. Meanwhile, Finnbogason grilled burgers (his nickname of CCP Burger is well-earned) to feed everyone.

I spoke with several members of Avanto who were eager to see how CCP could shake up their way of life. To date, The Chaos Era has only affected the large empires found in EVE Online's null-sec region of space, but they're just one quarter of EVE Online's four major player groups, each which has its own needs and preferred playstyle.

The real MVP of Fanfest Home was Lilianah's dog.

Wormhole corporations like Avanto, for example, are a fearless bunch who have colonized the treacherous, uncharted solar systems known as Anoikis. When wormholes were first introduced in 2009, CCP never imagined that players would actually live inside of Anoikis star systems. The wormholes that connect them to the known parts of EVE's universe are constantly moving. Every day you wake up with new—and potentially hostile—neighbors. It was too chaotic, CCP thought.

But in the decade since wormholes have come out, players have cracked the code of how these connections work and built an entire science around manipulating them. They can estimate with alarming accuracy just how long a given wormhole will last, where it'll go, and how much mass can pass through it before it collapses. Though there are inherently greater risks to living in wormhole space, players like Lilianah have learned how to minimize them. 

"Wormhole mechanics are pretty much used up," Lilianah says. "New winds would be a nice addition to the game. If chaos reaches wormholes, that's just a good thing. In general, wormholers are a really resourceful group. We shouldn't even be able to live there. So let the chaos come, we are looking forward to it."

Hot tub space-time machine 

That desire for chaos was reflected again and again as the night went on and, inevitably, clothes were shed. Being from Canada, I had no idea what a sacred ritual saunas were—or that there were so many different philosophies about how best to use one. "The Germans," one Finnish man tells me, wiping sweat from his face as he dumps another cup of water on the coals, "they are very strict about sauna. They have rules, like you have to stay for at least five minutes and you cannot sauna if you are too old or too young. But us? Not so much."

We didn't understand what a virtual world that's more meaningful than real life was, but EVE is on a mission to make that happen.

Hilmar P tursson, CEO of CCP Games

Pestered about chaos coming to wormholes, Pétursson and Finnbogason already had a growing list of ways to make life in Anoikis space scary again. Whether those features actually end up in a future version of EVE Online is uncertain.

During the car ride back to Helsinki the next day, it became clear that Finnbogason and Pétursson have some ambitions ideas about what shape EVE Online is going to take as it begins to enter its third decade of life. After so many years of working on the same MMO, their connection to it borders on supernatural, at least the way they describe it, and their expectations of what EVE can become are borderline science fiction.

"Think about it like EVE is an organism. EVE does not like where it's going. It's no longer limber. It's lost its stamina and mobility. It feels a little stiff. EVE comes to me in a dream and says, Hilmar, release the hounds of war," Pétursson tells me, referencing his decision to implement The Chaos Era. "That's how it happened. It came to me in a dream and it said, 'This cannot go on. I do not like this, this is not what I was meant to be.' The game has a purpose. It wants to finish its mission, and its mission is much larger than what it has executed in the last 16 years."

When I ask what EVE Online's purpose is, Pétursson is silent for a minute. "I think its mission is world domination," he finally says. "I think it wants to establish a new invention. At some point we didn't have countries and now we have countries. We didn't have companies, now we have companies. At some point we didn't have Facebook and now we have Facebook. At some point we didn't understand what a virtual world that's more meaningful than real life was, but EVE is on a mission to make that happen."

But before EVE Online can become the metaverse so many nerds have spent years dreaming of, Pétursson says, it needs to better simulate the conditions of our own reality. EVE needs to learn how to make its own chaos. And before it can do that, CCP has to understand what chaos really is. 

"If you're trying to figure out how the universe works, you put two atoms into a particle accelerator, you smash them together, and you look at the debris," says Pétursson. "The Chaos Era is a little bit like that. We are not smart enough—nobody is smart enough—to understand what we might find. It's not even the exercise of trying to predict what it is. You just have to have the courage to walk into the chaos."

EVE Online - EVE Online
We're delighted to announce that the September release is now live!

The September release brings changes to cynosural fields generators - reducing the number of hulls they can be fitted to in order to make hotdropping a more tactical choice.

Similarly, this release sees the introduction of the new Industrial Cynosural Field Generator that can be fitted by Industrials, Blockade Runners and Deep Space Transports. New industrial cynosural fields can be used by jump freighters, so as to reduce the impact of the cynosural field changes on logistical supply runs to more remote and dangerous areas of space.

Brand new wormhole graphics and audio also come with this release, with clearer visual representation of a wormhole's remaining lifespan and mass handling capacity. Check out this devblog for more details.

This release also sees the introduction of a whole host of visual and gameplay fixes and changes, including restriction on the Venture to prevent it from capturing lowsec faction warfare complexes, and a substantial number of UI and UX improvements.

Full Patch Notes - EVE Online Website
General Feedback Thread - Official Forums
Known Issues Thread - Official Forums
Known Issues & Feedback Thread (Mac) - Official Forums
EVE Online - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Matt Cox)

When we last checked in with Eve Online, players were embroiled in a big space war with invading NPCs. We (I) fantasised about how the balance of power among Eve’s eternally warring player factions would be forever altered, a Game Of Thrones style outside threat forcing alliances while, perhaps, encouraging betrayal. None of that really happened.

With the war amounting to little more than a damp space squib, developers CCP have turned their attention to newer players. As part of a broader attempt to ease new pilots into the game, moderators will start checking in with players when they lose a ship for the first time – and they might even refund them. I do like my “counselling” with a side of bribery.

(more…)

EVE Online

EVE Online is a notoriously tough game to get into. It's so tough, in fact, that of the 600,000 new players that tried to play it last year, only around 10 percent of them played it for longer than seven days.

Two weeks ago, developer CCP Games held its annual Fanfest convention at a Finnish player's house (I was there to cover the whole, sordid affair and have a feature coming soon). During the keynote presentation, CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson revealed that, contrary to most other MMOs and despite its age, EVE Online attracts more new players each year. Few of them, however, play longer than seven days. And to fix that, CCP Games is trying everything, including an upcoming feature that will provide a kind of grief counselling for new players who lose their first ship.

This feature, Pétursson explains, is part of a company-wide initiative to solve the greatest threat to the virtual galaxy of New Eden: Getting new players to actually hang out. "We're dedicating serious resources to this, which we have not done before," Pétursson says. "We have not done this level of investment, but we're doing it now because we've seen from our own numbers it is the biggest opportunity for the game."

Sorry for your loss 

If you lose your ship and you understand the context of why you lost it and it makes you come back stronger, that is the moment.

Hilmar P tursson, CEO of CCP Games

That EVE Online is an unapproachable MMO should surprise no one—even if you've never played it yourself. It's reputation for cruel betrayals and dastardly plots spreads far beyond the confines of its own community. But the only thing scarier than the players-turned-pirates waiting to blow you up is EVE's dense user interface and indomitable layering of complex sandbox systems. It's an intimidating game to learn, and one that takes years to master.

"If we were an endurance sport, EVE would be the Ironman Triathlon," Pétursson said. "Because EVE is such a legendary gaming experience with insane depth and complexity, onboarding you into that domain is like any extreme activity—like doing an Ironman race."

Of course, EVE doesn't require incredible mental or physical stamina to play, and its reputation as a merciless game where everyone is an asshole is mostly manufactured (the EVE community has just as many heroes as villains). But even so, it's an enormously challenging game to get into—in part because there's so much to learn and not an intuitive way to learn it.

Enter systems like the improved Agency, an interactive guide that shows players how to get involved with various PVE-driven activities found in New Eden like mining and exploration. This comes alongside out-of-game improvements like a more refined account management system and proactive customer support. There's even a new meet and greet program where volunteers and in-game moderators will message new players who just logged in for their first time to say hello and answer any questions they have.

That's where the idea to do grief counselling for new players started. Of all the most frustrating hurdles a new EVE Online player most overcome, losing your first ship is often the most devastating. Unlike other MMOs, death in EVE has serious consequences: You lose your ship, its equipped modules (like guns), whatever was in the cargo hold, and several other potentially expensive things. It's why the first rule of EVE Online is never fly what you can't afford to lose.

Right now, Pétursson said it's common for new players to die and, thanks to EVE's abstract depiction of combat and UI, have no understanding of what led to their precious ship going up in flames. Sometimes they'll email customer support (which will often give them a ship as a gift), but players are also just as likely to throw their hands up in frustration and quit, like I did the first few times I started playing.

But right now CCP Games is building the tools necessary to alert its in-game moderators whenever a new player loses its first ship. That moderator can then message the player and help them understand what went wrong and possibly reimburse their ship. "We're going to start by doing it manually, so we can cover all the cases," Pétursson explains. "But once we've done it manually [for awhile], we can start to automate the process of grief counselling when you lose your ship for the first time."

That might sound like CCP Games is going too soft on its players, but the idea is to simulate what Pétursson calls EVE Online's "magic moment"—that turning point where a person goes from being a noob to a true EVE player. "If you lose your ship and you understand the context of why you lost it and it makes you come back stronger, that is the moment," Pétursson says.

Ideally these moments should happen organically with other players. "What happens a lot in EVE is that a veteran player kills you and if your reaction is a certain way—not just crying about it but asking why—usually what happens is that the veteran player gives you money to buy a new spaceship, and if you show that [you're willing to learn], they'll even invite you to [fly with them]," Pétursson says. But EVE Online is a big sandbox with tens of thousands of different players—and not everyone is that generous. That's why CCP Games is hoping this "proactive grief counselling" will help new players overcome one of the biggest obstacles to learning what makes EVE special.

EVE Online - EVE Online


Check out this devblog for details on the all new 2019 version of the EVE Portal App - available to download now for free from the App Store and Google Play store!

Track and manage your skill training progress, mail, calendar and more - all from your phone!

Read all about it here!
EVE Online - EVE Online
We’re super happy to announce that GM Week kicks off today, with a fun schedule that’ll see Game Masters visit all four corners of New Eden over the course of the next five days.

Starting today, GMs will be making their way to several highsec systems with cargo holds full of glorious loot that’ll be of interest to many capsuleers, including the Combat Medic SKIN and a few others too. These intrepid game masters will form the first day of the Scavenger hunt, in which pilots will have to scan them down to earn rewards.

As a side note, the big brother of the Combat Medic SKIN – the Ambulance SKIN – will be available in the New Eden Store throughout GM Week.

You should keep your eyes on local and get your probes ready (the scanning type, not the other type). We’ll be changing locations over the course of the week, and the main focus of today’s hunt will be Amarr systems.

T-SHIRT DESIGN CONTEST

Later today we’ll also be launching the EVE Vegas T-Shirt design contest too, where you’ll be able to submit your designs to be in with a chance of winning fabulous prizes that include signed books, EVE Store credit (with free shipping of course) and all manner of other goodies.

Keep an eye on the EVE Dev Blogs feed for more details later today!

WHACK-A-BOT

One of the most popular events from last year’s GM Week was Whack-A-Bot, so what the hell – we’re going to do it again!

Keep an eye on Yulai at around 17:00 today... there may be some targets of opportunity appearing...

We’ll also be rewarding the pilots who manage to land the final blow on any super capitals that might appear, as well as highest overall damage, so be sure to ready yourselves for some pew-pew if you want to pick up some sick SKINs.

TOMORROW

As a heads up for tomorrow, we’d like to let you guys know in advance that we’ll be hosting a GM AMA on /r/eve that’ll kick off at 15:00 or so EVE Time. Be sure to check it out if you have a burning desire to know whether you should have the chicken sandwich first, or the spaghetti.

Tomorrow will also see us shift the Scavenger hunt to Minmatar space, and newbros across the cluster can expect visits from a few GMs in some interesting ships!

We’re looking forward to having some fun with you guys this week, so that’s it from me for now.

See you in space!

<3
EVE Online - EVE Online


We're happy to announce that as of today's daily downtime through until daily downtime on August 21st, pilots will be able to earn up to 50,000 additional skill points per day by taking part in New Eden's first Skilling Spree as part of the Season of Skills].

Each day, pilots will receive one of three randomly selected challenges at during daily downtime that offer either 10,000, 25,000 or 50,000 skill points as a reward for destroying NPC vessels.

If the challenge is completed successfully, the skill points will be rewarded, and the pilot will receive a new challenge at the next daily downtime.

If the challenge is not completed successfully, it will be replaced by another that's randomly selected during the next daily downtime at 11:00 UTC.

There's never been a better time to get out there in space and start blowing stuff up - these challenges are valid for any NPC in New Eden, so take no prisoners, give no quarter and grab those skill points while you can!
EVE Online - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Dominic Tarason)

Whew, hard to believe it, but this will be my last news post for RPS for the foreseeable future. Fitting, then, that it’s about going large and loud and blotting out the heavens themselves with explosions. Eve: Aether Wars is a collaborative tech demo/stress test run by Eve Online developers CCP and cloud networking techies Hadean, researching new ways to cram even more players onto a single shared MMO server.

The first Aether Wars event ran during Gamescom earlier this year, and squeezed 3,852 players into a messy free-for-all dogfight, resulting in an impressive 88,988 spaceships exploding. This time they want a full ten thousand on August 18th. Players are invited to sign up and join in free on the appointed day of the rumble. Below, a video about exactly what CCP and Hadean are trying to achieve here, plus my own farewells.

(more…)

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