Ascending: the Future of EVE Online

The Rubicon expansion will be released tomorrow, and it looks to be a good one, with something for just about every kind of play style in EVE Online. The changes in warp mechanics alone will revolutionize PvP and shake up assumptions about combat best practices.

SoE Stratios cruiser

SoE Stratios cruiser

As for me, I'm most looking forward to trying out the Marauder changes in Level 4 missions, and to flying the new Sisters of EVE ships, especially the Stratios cruiser. I've set a long skill to train, and can't wait to download the patch tomorrow.

CCP Games has billed Rubicon as the next step in a multi-expansion journey towards increased player control and colonization of new space. That sounds like a great vision, but for me, those have been merely interesting words uttered by CCP Seagull and a few other devs. How exactly that future might unfold and how long it might take to get there were still open questions.

Until today, that is. Now we are finally starting to get some clearer glimpses of what the future of EVE Online might really look like.

Spilling the Beans

CCP Pokethulhu (chief marketing officer David Reid) described how the colonization theme would evolve, in a couple of fascinating interviews. In a discussion with VG24/7, he said:

Rubicon begins a multi-expansion arc that will allow players to begin harvesting, amassing the resources, blueprints, the implants and things that it will take to construct the first Star Gates and then go forth and colonize new galaxies. ... There’s going to be a race to build the first Star Gate, and the corporation that do that are going to be the first to plant their ‘flag’ on the hills of new systems if you will.

And where will the components of a Star Gate come from?

Reid confirmed that supplies necessary to build the coveted device will be found at ‘Ghost Sites’, which are vaults secured by pirate factions. These encounters will take many forms and add new urgency to engagement as players battle for those precious loot drops.

And what else will be required to use a Star Gate, once it is constructed?

...you’ll also need to liberate and use sufficient implants to adapt your Capsuleer to the gate’s new warp speed, vital ship upgrades and more.

And how long before we see capsuleers embark from New Eden to the New World?

So how long might it take a corporation to assemble a Star Gate, augment their Capsuleer and ship enough to make the jump and break through to this shrouded new area of space? Reid suggested that it would take a while, given the contested nature of the gate components and the eventual conflicts that will rise out of Rubicon’s space-race. The process will run over the next few expansions as it’ll take time for the Ghost Sites to be found, and for people to figure out how all of the special items fit together.

CCP Seagull provided a tacit confirmation of David Reid's comments, with this tweet:

CSM Vice-Chairman Ripard Teg also gave some hints about the developmental direction of EVE Online in a recent post on his blog:

If you buy into CCP Seagull's vision of space exploration and capsuleer ownership of space that she laid out at Fanfest and consistently since then, then I think you have good reason to be very excited about developments over the next few years. Think about a movie or TV show or book that you like that had a long slow gradual build-up, laying groundwork as it went for several MAJOR pay-offs at the end -- Babylon 5, say, or Raiders of the Lost Ark. If you buy into the space colonization vision, then I can safely say that you have several HOLY SHIT moments ahead of you.

So, what does this all mean?

First, Ghost Sites are clearly going to be more important than anyone has yet anticipated. They are going to be more than just another cool new form of PvE activity. It appears that they will be the conduit through which CCP will seed required components of the new Star Gates to players. But finding the right components in these sites will be rare and difficult, and will require some additional experimentation to figure out how the various pieces fit together.

Second, the new Ascendancy implants (or perhaps similar implants, yet to be released), also gathered at Ghost Sites, are probably going to be a requirement for using the new Star Gate and reaching the New World.

Finally, as implied by these revelations, this is going to take a long time - years, in fact - and will be unveiled slowly over numerous expansions. This is likely going to be a three- or four-year journey - maybe even as long as five. That's another six, eight or ten expansions before we may see completion of the first Star Gate.

The New Space Race

Who will be first to claim dominion in the New World? The large nullsec alliance power blocs clearly have an advantage, as they have more pilots who can access more Ghost Sites. They will also likely keep any secrets learned to themselves, in order to maintain any possible advantage over rival Star Gate developers.

However, a coalition of pilots willing to share information openly might be able to compete effectively as a force for unraveling the secrets of the new Star Gates. An "open source" project for supporters of Star Gate technology could be as productive as any group trying to keep their knowledge proprietary. At the very least, it might help keep the playing field even, and encourage near simultaneous development of multiple gates to the New World by a larger number of corporations and alliances.

This gives me an idea. But that will be the subject of another post. First, I have a little homework to do.

Meanwhile, enjoy Rubicon!

Fly safe! o7

UPDATE: EVE University announces Project Ascension

EVE Rubicon.png