Encounter with an Unidentified Wormhole

Note to self: Drifters really don't like capsuleers poking their nose into their wormholes, apparently.

The Drifters appear to be heavily modified with cybernetic implants, and pilot battleships of Jovian-inspired design.

The Drifters appear to be heavily modified with cybernetic implants, and pilot battleships of Jovian-inspired design.

An Unidentified Structure - now fully visible, and over 140km long.

An Unidentified Structure - now fully visible, and over 140km long.

The New Unknown

Something big is brewing in the lore of EVE Online. With the Tiamat release, a new race made itself known to the inhabitants of New Eden: the Drifters. They have begun to appear in battleships of apparently Jovian-inspired design, near unidentified wormholes throughout known space. We've seen what the pilots of these Drifter battleships look like, and it's clear that their bodies are heavily enhanced with artificial implants.

The massive cloaked structures that have been appearing all over the cluster - one of which I previously investigated, as reported in this post - have now become visible. And they are huge - over 150 kilometers long. The purpose of these spindle-shaped structures isn't yet known, though it is clear that they have been there a long, long time, listening and observing.

I ventured back to the site in my home system where I had investigated a cloaked unidentified structure, and was struck by how impressive it is, now that it is fully decloaked. It exudes a completely alien and unwelcoming presence. Flying closely alongside the structure in a frigate makes one feel especially small - and vulnerable.

Further, the heretofore benign Circadian Sleeper cruisers are now defending themselves, if provoked. The damage they deal out is low, and the danger they pose to capsuleers is minimal - so far. I attacked a fleet of Circadian Seekers, and they responded with a persistent barrage of low-damage blasts. I warped away and docked up at a station. When I undocked, I discovered that they had followed me, and were waiting for me outside the station. They restarted their attack, so I re-docked.

As I said, the damage was low - nothing to really worry about if you have any tank at all on your ship - but the behavior of the Circadian Seekers fleet is a matter of concern. They warp after targets and pursue them persistently, even if they dock up. If these Sleeper cruisers ever increase the damage they deal, this could ruin a pilot's day, certainly.

The relationship between the Circadian Seekers and the Drifters is not entirely clear. Are the Drifters controlling these Sleeper cruisers? No one knows for sure, and the Drifters aren't talking - except with their weaponry.

Flying up alongside one of the massive Unidentified Structures makes one feel especially insignificant in a frigate.

Flying up alongside one of the massive Unidentified Structures makes one feel especially insignificant in a frigate.

An Unidentified Wormhole

I recently undocked and discovered an Unidentified Wormhole listed on my overview. Intrigued, I decided to investigate. I warped in at 100km, cloaked.

This was no ordinary wormhole. It appeared to have been either created or sustained artificially by two structures, which faced the wormhole on opposite sides. My overview indicated that these structures were of Sleeper origin.

Cross-shaped Sleeper structures face the Unidentified Wormhole on opposite sides, like two hands suspending the anomaly between them.

Cross-shaped Sleeper structures face the Unidentified Wormhole on opposite sides, like two hands suspending the anomaly between them.

My overview indicates that the two structures on opposing sides of the Unidentified Wormhole are of Sleeper construction.

A few Circadian Seeker cruisers were circulating near the wormhole, but they soon all warped off to investigate something else in the system. Alone, I decided to approach the wormhole and see if I could enter it.

As I approached, the wormhole blinked, and a Drifter Battleship appeared on grid. It's an impressive-looking ship - black and angular, with long antennae-like feelers splayed out like catfish whiskers. Beyond my curious fascination, I didn't worry too much about the Drifter. I was unarmed and didn't pose a real threat. My complacency was a mistake, however.

As I continued to approach the wormhole, at 30km away, I heard a low hum and then suddenly my ship evaporated! My ship's wreck appeared before me, and I was floating in my pod. I warped back to my station and docked up. Reviewing my logs, I saw that the Drifter Battleship had destroyed my ship in a single massive blast, like a mini-doomsday super-weapon.

I reshipped into a small covert ops ship, and returned to the Unidentified Wormhole at a safe 100km distance. The Drifter Battleship was still there, as was my wreck. I saw the Battleship approach the wormhole, enter it, and blink out of sight. I decloaked, turned on my MWD and quickly scooped the salvage from my wreck, ready to warp away if any new hostiles appeared. None did, but I decided not to poke the Unidentified Wormhole in the eye any more - I'd learned my lesson.

What next?

Even though I'd lost a ship (fully insured, fortuitously), I was fascinated by the encounter. What does it all mean? Do Drifters possess the ability to create their own wormholes? It certainly looks that way, and they appear to be very protective of them. What do the Drifters want? Will they become more aggressive and hostile? Or will they continue to ignore capsuleers, unless provoked?

Some players have been able to take down a Drifter Battleship, but not without significant cost. The Drifters' super-weapon is extremely effective, and not to be taken lightly. I hope they are indeed Jovian in origin, as EVE lore experts have speculated, and that there aren't very many of them. If Drifters operated in significant numbers, and became overtly aggressive, they'd pose a formidable threat to every pilot in New Eden.

I, for one, can't wait to see how this all plays out. We certainly live in interesting times.

Fly safe! o7

Warning! If you intend to investigate an Unidentified Wormhole, make sure you have selected "Drifters Battleship" and "Roaming Sleeper Cruiser" on your overview settings, under the Entity category - or else, they will not appear on your overview!

UPDATE: Mark726 has posted a more substantive report on an Unidentified Wormhole on his excellent EVE Travel blog, here: https://evetravel.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/unidentified-wormholes/ Recommended reading!

Bits and Pieces

I woke up this morning thinking about EVE Online, though my thoughts are never well-organized when first waking up. No one should hold me accountable for anything that passes through my brain until after I've had my second cup of coffee. I'm now seated here before this blog, second cup in hand, and am now ready to share a few personal observations on recent developments in flying and dying in Internet spaceships.

Whose Opinions Should Matter re: 0.0?

I had recently started a long, tedious, rambling blog post, following up on my previous entry about the coming jump drive changes for null-sec space. Realizing that it was long and tedious, I mercifully trashed it, especially when it was pointed out to me via Twitter by none other than Council of Stellar Management member and low-sec denizen FunkyBacon that any opinion on the future of 0.0 from anyone who does not reside in 0.0 should be ignored.

This was in response to my retweet of a link to Evehermit's blog post about his perspectives on power projection, to which FunkyBacon replied that observations expressed by Empire residents on the state of null sec are irrelevant:

When it comes to changes to null-sec, I agree that the opinions of those with direct on-site experience should carry more weight than those who opine from afar. But to discard any outside perspective altogether seems unwise, especially since what happens in 0.0 affects everywhere else in New Eden, including high-sec, and at least to some extent, vice-versa.

FunkyBacon's position bothered me, especially since he was an elected CSM9 representative, but I felt a little more reassured when I saw this quick slap-down from none other than CCP Fozzie:

This led to some back and forth tweets, wherein FunkyBacon entrenched himself in the idea that null-sec is completely isolated from other types of space (except low-sec, apparently). That actually started some fun bantering, including this tweet:

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To which FunkyBacon wryly replied:

I must admit that I enjoyed trolling FunkyBacon a bit too much - and I'm glad he took it in good humor. Still, I'm disappointed that he's convinced himself that changes in null-sec will have no effect on Empire. By design, New Eden is highly interconnected and interdependent. I worry that his isolationist attitude may be pervasive on CSM9.

I'm somewhat comforted that Mike Azariah is there, who undoubtedly is providing a persistent voice for high-sec interests - and make no mistake, high-sec residents are every bit as interested in the emerging changes for 0.0 as any segment of EVE Online players, as they will be affected by them, at least indirectly. I am looking forward to reading the minutes of the last CSM summit meeting to see what kind of group dynamics are in play - those minutes are expected to be released by the end of October.

On Refining the 0.0 Long-Distance Travel Changes

CCP Greyscale: bold nemesis of the status quo in null security space

CCP Greyscale: bold nemesis of the status quo in null security space

CCP Greyscale announced further refinements to his nuclear bomb of a dev blog on long-distance travel changes, and they all appear to me to be quite reasonable. The very heavy nerfs to instantaneous travel remain mostly in place, but the noose around the neck of null-sec logistics was loosened a bit - jump freighters range got extended to 10 light-years, and hauling ships using jump bridges now get the 90% reduction in jump fatigue. Black Ops also got a bit of a reprieve by halving the jump fatigue effect of their portals, and by increasing their jump range to 8 light-years, giving a little more life back to hot-drops though they are much more restricted compared to the current mechanics.

Overall, most players' reaction to these changes have been positive, though there is still a significant minority who steadfastly disapprove - some to the point of at least threatening to unsubscribe. As for me, the more I read about the changes, the more I like them, though they are far bolder than I expected. Only the previous CSM candidate and Pandemic Legion fleet commander Manfred Sideous seems to have anticipated the degree of change to force projection correctly. Like many interested observers, I hope that these changes will make defense of geography in null-sec relevant again, which should result in more fights. It will be fascinating to watch how the current 0.0 powers react over the next few months.

Yep, that's me: Mr. Content Creator

I need to pay more more attention to announcements by the Red Frog Freight service before hopping in a freighter to do some space trucking. I had heard about a few gangs from 0.0 space coming down to Empire to play havoc with haulers plying the trade runs from Jita, but I didn't understand how many there were, until it was too late. Perhaps I should have realized that the giant swarm of CONCORD ships I saw while passing through Uedama was not an NPC pilots' family reunion. When you see a hundred white crosses gathered at a gate, that generally means that someone's been naughty, and that one should be more cautious.

Well, I didn't, and I ultimately paid the price for my hubris, losing a well-packed Charon to a Goon gang in Niarja, the choke-point between Jita and Amarr. It wasn't so much the billions in collateral that I lost - that just means I have to get a little more active in the markets for a while - it's the fact that I missed all the signs of impending doom that annoys me the most.

To their credit, this gank gang tried to contact me to negotiate, but I wasn't in the mood to embarrass myself further by begging for mercy. I simply blocked their convos and waited to pop. Fortunately, I was able to get my pod away safely, so at least my implants were spared.

I have a rule: whenever you get ganked in high-sec, it's always your own fault. This was no exception. I should have been more alert. I shouldn't have crammed so much valuable cargo in my hold, and made myself such an attractive target. If you don't pay attention, you will find yourself involuntarily becoming "content" in New Eden!

I now possess 18 kill rights for various Goons and some of their affiliates - though I honestly do not know what would be best to do with them. Does anyone have any useful suggestions?

On Phoebe

I paid $9.99 for the HD stream on CCP's Twitch TV channel to watch the EVE Vegas proceedings this weekend. (I also really wanted the special Quafe Megathron hull for my ship collection, too.) I'm primarily interested in the keynote address by CCP Seagull, Executive Producer of EVE Online, on the current and future state of the game. The next expansion, called Phoebe, is slated for release on November 4th, and I anticipate that she will highlight some of its key features in her remarks.

Besides containing the aforementioned changes to jump ranges, Phoebe contains several interesting improvements and additions.

  • Multiple market sell order creation: Though it will be generally ignored by many pilots, my favorite feature in Phoebe is the new "multi-sell" option, being worked on by CCP Punkturis. Though it has not yet been completed, this new capability will be a godsend to mission-runners and industrialists who often have to sell multiple items in the market. Currently, that has to be done one item type at a time, which can become extraordinarily tedious if you have more than a few things to sell. If you salvage and loot after missions, you definitely know what I'm talking about. I can't wait to be able to highlight a bunch of loot in my hangar, click "multi-sell" (or whatever they decide to call it), and instantly set up sell orders for all those at once. All hail CCP Punkturis!
  • Unlimited skill training queue: There is a lot of buzz about the pending capability to set up skill training queues that go well beyond the current 24-hour limit. Now that I've surpassed 100M skill points, I find I'm only training really, really long level V skills, and it will be a blessed relief to be able to set up a series of these and forget about my queue for a few months. Some people say this will reduce the number of log-ins per day, but I don't think that will affect gameplay very much, as those people who just log in to update their queue from time to time aren't really interacting with others and creating content anyway. This feature is a good move by CCP Games.
  • Compass display and... BOOKMARKS IN SPACE!: (I can't seem to write that without thinking about the "Pigs in Space" skits from the old Muppet Show.) I really like the new "compass" indicators to be added to the HUD while in space, which point to various locations in space around you. That should make it easier for pilots to orient themselves correctly and navigate to the right places. Even better, the ability to both make and see bookmarks in space is going to be wonderful, especially for pilots who rely on bookmarked places for their survival. Scouts and PvP combat pilots are going to love this new feature, for sure.
The ability to create a bookmark in space, literally on the fly, and see its location in space, is going to make a lot of pilots very, very happy.

The ability to create a bookmark in space, literally on the fly, and see its location in space, is going to make a lot of pilots very, very happy.

  • Revised invention: I wrote a previous blog about my enthusiasm for the coming changes to invention, and my eagerness has not waned. Invention needed to be streamlined, and these changes do it well. I'm going to be interested to see how the new variability in invention outcomes affects my Tech II module production. Based on my back-of-the-napkin calculations, I don't expect to see any adverse affects, but I'm looking forward to testing that assumption.
  • Notifications: I've been testing the new notification system that was made optionally available in the Oceanus expansion, and I like it quite a bit. You do have to fiddle with the various options to make it work for you, lest you enjoy being inundated in dozens of messages while you traverse the spacelanes. In Pheobe, this feature will be enhanced further. I recently traded tweets with CCP Karkur, asking her to add notifications for new contracts - she indicated that they were working on this and other new alerts as well. If you've not yet turned this feature on, I encourage you to do so. It's dramatically more elegant than the old notification messages.

There is more planned in Pheobe, but these are the announced features that initially caught my fancy. I'll be watching CCP Seagull's address and keeping an eye on the dev blogs, in hopes of seeing some more additions. I hope to see more module re-balancing, at least.

Don't trust the Empires!

There is a live event ending today - a contest involving the contribution of "blue loot" from Sleepers destroyed in wormholes. Read the dev blog from CCP Fozzie for the details.

After you've read that dev blog, now go read Rhavas' excellent analysis of what it all means, in terms of game lore. He reveals that this contest is a deceit, and the Empires - and especially the Sisters of EVE - are not to be trusted. Instead, he recommended donating the requested items to independent capsuleer Guillome Renard.

The contest ends today, and unfortunately it looks unlikely that independent donations will overcome the lead by the Caldari. Nevertheless, I applaud Guillome's initiative.

Too many EVE Online players are ignorant of the game's lore, and how the different factions can affect our gameplay. For me, knowing more about the background stories in New Eden enhances my enjoyment of the game. If you aren't yet familiar with the many layers of EVE Online lore, start with Mark726's excellent Lore Survival Guide - the stories are fun, and definitely worth your while.

Fly safe! o7

The Resurgence of EVE Lore

EVEWife.PNG

I play EVE Online - it's one of my favorite pastimes. But my charming bride (for more than 30 years) never fully appreciates my hobby.  She watches me stare into my screen, and just shakes her head.

"What is so interesting about this game?", she asks me, in an irritated tone.

I eagerly describe the sandbox, the single shard, the complexity, the graphics - and her eyes begin to glaze over.

Resigned to an obviously losing proposition, I give it one last effort, explaining: "There's also incredible depth. The backstory, for example..."

Her eyes snap open and focus. She's suddenly interested.

"Oh, there's a story? I just thought it was ships flying around. What's the story?"

So, I explain the EVE Gate, the Gallente and Minmatar, the Amarr, the Caldari, the pirate factions. I show her the chronicles database, and how the backstory plays out in live events. I tell her about the Battle of Caldari Prime.

"OK, I get it now - that's pretty cool", she pronounces, and then wanders off, contented that her husband is not so strange, after all. And I feel satisfied with my wife's tacit permission to continue play.


The Value of Story

onceuponatimebook.jpg

Whenever I try to explain my technical fascination with EVE Online to the uninitiated, I typically receive a look of confusion or derision. But if I explain that I am playing a part in a complex space opera story, then people seem to better understand my interest.

People relate to stories. It's something I often teach in my Real Life job - if you want to sell something, you have to explain how a buyer is on a journey, and the destination is this wonderful place where they are happier and more complete. You have to make them part of a story. It's something that has been hard-wired into human beings ever since our earliest ancestors gathered around the communal fire and told tales about the gods in the stars. It's primordial and instinctual, and woven deeply into our brains. Stories help human beings understand the world, and their places in it.

For this reason alone, the extensive lore and backstory of EVE Online is important. It makes something complex and convoluted more accessible - more easy for people to understand.

We who have played the game usually forget this. We get excited about the thrill of PvP, the satisfaction we feel when we've finally mastered one of EVE's complexities, the heartbreak of losing that ship you worked so hard to earn. We try to explain the joy and pain of playing EVE Online to others in emotional terms. But this approach almost always fails. It's more effective to show how they could play a role in the world of New Eden - how they can have a place in an interesting new universe - and one where they can make a difference.

This is why CCP's best video of all time is "The Butterfly Effect" - it explains this phenomenon that you are part of a story in EVE Online very viscerally and clearly. If you've never seen this video, watch it below, and you'll see what I mean.

The importance of story is also evident in what I think is CCP's second-best video trailer of all time, "Origins". Released at Fanfest, this video explains the initial backstory of New Eden, how capsuleers came to be, and why they are important to the emerging story.

CCP's Re-emphasis on EVE Lore

For a while, CCP forgot about the importance of story in the evolving universe of EVE Online. In fact, they seemed to have abandoned it almost completely. Although there were some ambitious efforts to continue the development of lore in EVE - such as the Arek'Jalaan Project and the Sansha Incursion events - they were unsustained threads and eventually petered out.

But CCP has clearly seen the light, and now recognizes that the stories in EVE Online have real value. At Fanfest, their Creative Director, Torfi Frans Olafsson, described how these stories are being used in new ways to bring EVE Online to a larger audience: an EVE-inspired comic book, an EVE-inspired clothing line, and an EVE-inspired television series. The True Stories contest collected tales from EVE players to serve as examples - and seeds of new intellectual property for CCP.

In short, CCP now appears to understand that the stories in EVE Online can be converted into money - into real income for the company.

It is for this reason that we have seen renewed efforts in continuing the backstory and developing the lore in EVE Online. A dedicated group, Team Illuminati, are focused on extending the story of the New Eden cluster in meaningful ways, including live events. The most visible of these efforts has been the Battle for Caldari Prime, but there have been other forms of storyline progression, including more news reports about in-game characters.

I recently moderated a panel discussion of several well-known experts in EVE lore. They were all thrilled about what Team Illuminati has been doing lately to progress the storyline, though they were also concerned about CCP manifesting EVE lore in potentially incongruous ways. Regardless, they all agree that this is an exciting time to be a role-player in EVE Online, or to just have an interest in some aspect of the the developing story.

For example, Rhavas published a thought-provoking post on his blog recently that highlights the value of understanding the emerging storyline in EVE Online. Though highly speculative, he describes how the recent events in EVE lore could impact future gameplay options.

The Value of Lore to EVE Players

Many EVE Online players continue to ignore or dismiss the storyline in the game. In fact, there has been at least one CSM member who commented, "Literally no one cares. Seriously, the EVE storyline is the least important feature of this game."

I asked Morwen Lagann, editor of the Backstage EVE role-playing forum, what he thought of those players who dismiss the importance of lore and backstory in EVE Online. "That is an extremely narrow minded and short-sighted view," he replied, "We would not have this game, if it were not for the lore. I mean, the lore is what defines the game as a premise... it is why we have the game as it is."

Regardless of how any individual player may feel about the storyline and lore of EVE Online, it is clear that CCP intends to invest in them to enhance their intellectual property and economic value. Those players who choose to ignore the storyline are certainly welcome to do so - just as many players ignore whole features in the game today - but they do so at the risk of missing emerging elements that would enhance their enjoyment and satisfaction from EVE Online.


For those who are not familiar with the rich storyline and lore in EVE Online, here are some recommended resources to review: