After well over a decade of continuous growth with a subscription requirement, the mega space epic MMO EVE Online added a free-to-play option last year to keep expanding the player base. And it totally worked. It also means digging into new types of PvE content to cater to different player interests is more important than ever.
Earlier this week, on May 6th, EVE Online celebrated its 14th anniversary with Capsuleer Day. To celebrate what began back in 2003, players were rewarded with a YC119 Capsuleer Day Capsule SKIN and loads of fireworks (see below!), redeemable until May 23rd. The timing corresponds with the latest major update (YC 119.5) which adds the big new PvE feature teased at EVE Fanfest 2017: Blood Raider Shipyards. It was this sort of content that was the focus on our chat with EVE Online executive producer Andie Nordgren when we spoke with her recently at EVE Fanfest 2017.
Before we get to that, here's what's just been added to the game:
Blood Raider Shipyards bring high-end PvE to EVE, as the Blood Raider Covenant has been working hard to bolster its military capability in order to ensure that they are at the forefront of combat technology. These dangerous sites provide a unique opportunity for capsuleers from across the cluster to assault Blood Raider manufacturing facilities and military staging points, salvaging blueprints that will allow the construction of three formidable Blood Raider capital vessels. These shipyards are well defended, and should they come under attack, backup forces will come in droves, harnessing a new A.I. very similar to player themselves. Furthermore, all stars throughout New Eden have been fully redesigned to be hauntingly gorgeous.
The YC119.5 Release also brought several other features to players:
- Changes to PLEX - EVE Online’s premium currency is now more granular, accessible, and easy to use. PLEX can be exchanged in batches of 500 for a month free of Omega game time. That other currency, Aurum, is being removed and balances above the minimum threshold will be converted to PLEX.
- Alliance Logos on Citadels - Players can fly their colors on the largest player structures in gaming
- Features & Fixes - New, more realistic star designs, ships get their own lighting within hangars, quality if life improvements to drones and fighters, increased active contracts and many more fixes here.
As for what's next beyond this week's major update, we spoke with EVE Online Nordgren told us that a feature she's long wanted in the game, the "missing component," as she labels it, is that "the world becomes more interesting." More interesting PvE elements that feed to more interesting PvP moments and potentially, vice versa. Nordgren continues:
Almost fifteen years ago now when the game launched, just the fact that there was online and that you could fly around in a space universe with other people was kind of astonishing. And now a world like this needs to be even more interesting and dynamic. Like, to have static asteroid belts in it and of course, some things that aren't static, that you have to actually scan them down and find them and so on. It's not like it's completely static, all of it. I just think that, if I call it the virtual world approach for giving people an experience in a video game I think the world just has to be more interesting and dynamic. It has to push players into situations. It's not enough to provide a kind of silent stage. The stage has to move a bit. "Oh, now it's leaning this wayyy!" you know? I like to just push players or groups of players into interesting decision making, into a call like "Okay, this happened. Now what am I gonna do about it?" Not that everything sits still and you just pick where to go, for example.
Is that the impetus for the Blood Raiders content?
Yeah. This is one example of how we're trying to go in that direction where it's like you think there's a Blood Raider shipyard next door because you see there are miners and haulers and you're like "where is it?" and now you have to hunt it down, right? But it also means that maybe you're not interested in that but because other people are, now suddenly your neighborhood is invaded by a bunch of people who are hunting for the Blood Raider Shipyard and you now have to make decisions based on that. And it's an interesting balancing act because you still have to feel some sense of control. It can't just be the world sometimes just randomly like shits on the stuff that you made. There's nothing that's fun about a huge earthquake or a hurricane - it just ruins stuff and kills people. There has to be a bit of back and forth, that you feel you have some control over it which is why we like working with NPCs because it would make sense that "okay, they'd build it here." It's not a natural disaster, right? They built something here and maybe you can drive them off or you can collaborate with them or that there's a relationship between not just players - between themselves - but between the world as well.
Will that sort of content, and these sorts of examples, be the focus of upcoming updates and expansions?
Absolutely. That's really what we're going into. I believe that's the exciting future for the experience in EVE, when you're really engaging with playing with and against the world. And we can make that way more interesting and I think it's a much more viable path forward for us, both more viable for us as a company to make, but also more exciting for players in this type of game than sort of manually authored content, if you will. And I think we can strike a really interesting balance because I think everything is excited in some way for procedurally generated content and all of that, right? And I think there's a balancing act because if you just press a button and have a computer spew out one million things, there's nothing that guarantees you'd have fun with that.
I feel like we've seen a certain game like that recently... [laughs]
Yeah, and there is some initial appeal with it but then once you figure that it's just repeating kind of the same thing, and it's empty, and you're not gonna encounter anyone else, then the joy of exploring it is not that much fun. The power we have in EVE Online is that if the things you discover, because they're kind of relevant to everyone else who plays, you have a different kind of purpose with them. Like if we do create something using procedural tools, that it's still made in such a way that it's not just for some individual to discover it. It's there to also trigger situations between players which means that it might be important to who finds it first, and it's not just because you get to write your name on it, it's because you get something that others might want to take. Because we're throwing it into the social dynamic where I think many other games that aren't multiplayer like that or are sharded - if we think of it as a board game EVE is like a huge military game people setup in someone's garage and play over months... many other games are more like Settlers. We can both fans of Settlers of Catan as a fun thing to do for an evening, but what you did in your game at your house has zero relevance or impact for what I did in my game. "Oh, I built this 6 piece long road!" Who gives a shit? I think this is the problem with procedural content and the discovery of it when it happens in isolation.
That's why I think this has much more interesting potential in EVE Online than it has in many other games because everyone cares what shows up on the board because everyone is around that same table.
As for how far ahead the team plans, there's a broad direction CCP knows they're going in on the long-term but they're very aware that they need to respond to what's happening live in the game and with current updates, issues, or meta shifts, as addressed even in the latest update video at the top of this post. There are "very certain plans" for the next 3-6 months and that's a rolling figure they always have. As an example, they began planning changes to phase out to the current starbase system two years ago, and it was just a year ago that citadels were added.