Just when I thought I was out...

So, things got busy for me in Real Life again over the last month - planning a daughter's wedding, lots of company business, some overseas travel, selling my home and buying a new one - and that has reduced my playing time in EVE Online. And, I must admit, after foolishly getting my freighter blown out from under me last month, I was feeling a little space-weary. I needed a break from New Eden. I took some time to think about what, if anything, I wanted to do next in the game.

I briefly considered suspending my subscriptions for a while. This was not the result of rage about the new limits on jump travel (which make geography matter in null-sec again and are therefore excellent for the game), but rather, more from just plain old ennui. After deciphering a degree of success out of the Crius manufacturing changes, and taking advantage of the simplifications to invention in Pheobe, I felt like there weren't any new challenges of interest to pursue in New Eden.

And then, CCP Seagull puts out a dev blog about the coming changes in the Rhea update, and I feel my interest in EVE Online rekindling once again.

Oh, CCP Games, you minx, you...

In past posts on this blog, I have lamented that New Eden needs new space to explore, and at long last, Rhea will provide some uncharted territory for capsuleers to discover. The 101 new Shattered Wormhole Systems sound very intriguing, especially Thera, the giant wormhole system with four Sisters of EVE stations - the first wormhole with NPC stations. This could rapidly become the alternative trading hub for W-space - though I am trying to imagine Jita without CONCORD and my brain is exploding. This is going to be a very wild and dangerous system to play in.

I now feel compelled to go there. Damn you, CCP Games!

I can't wait to see what Mark726 and Rhavas and some of the other hard-core role-players think about how CCP is handling the emerging lore for these new systems. The importance of the backstory of New Eden has been steadily rising ever since CCP Seagull took over as Executive Director, and Rhea represents the largest leap forward in progressing the complex plot that supports the rationale for these new additions to the game. Thera and the other shattered wormholes will contain landmark sites that will help explain the mystery of their origins.

I love this attention to detail, and the effort to provide a rational, immersive experience. Kudos to CCP Fozzie and the other developers for maintaining the importance of lore in each new release of EVE Online.

New Shiny Objects

Rhea also contains a number of new features that I'm eager to give a whirl, including:

  • New ships! The first of the new Tech III destroyers, the Amarr Confessor, looks like some kind of strange insect. Alas, my favored Gallente will not see its Tech III destroyer model for several months, as they ended up last in the research contest, but if the Amarr vessel is any indication, it's going to be unusually designed.

    I haven't quite made up my mind about the new ORE freighter, the Bowhead, designed to carry fully fitted ships in a huge Ship Maintenance Array. I can only think that it will be a giant gank magnet in high-sec space - but maybe that is the point. Incursion teams will certainly enjoy the convenience they provide, as they shuttle their battleships around to various systems. According to the latest reports, the Bowhead will certainly be gankable, with about 400,000 maximum effective hit points. I'm not planning to acquire one anytime soon - I think I'll wait and see how often these things get blown up first.

The Amarr Confessor is the first Tech III destroyer, to be released in the Rhea update. It will feature three modes: speed, sniper and tank, with animated hull changes for each.

The ORE Bowhead will be a boon to Incursion runners who need to shuttle blinged-out battleships between systems - and also to gankers looking for rich targets.

CCP Games also changed the look of the Incursus/Enyo/Ishkur frigate, and I think I like it. It's a little less organic, and a little more mechanical, but it doesn't lose the "knight riding into battle" look of the old model.

CCP Games gave the Incursus a new look. I like that they added some more lances - you can never have enough lances on spaceships.

They added some snazzy new ship skin variants for dreadnoughts, too - though that Interbus Moros looks kind of like a lumpy bumblebee now. No doubt the Goons will find this irresistible.

  • No more medical clone upgrades! Once upon a time, I charged into an enemy blob in my Megathron, and was promptly blown up and podded. Eager to get back into the fight, I jumped into another ship, undocked, and dove back in - and got podded again. And that's when I realized that I'd just lost nearly a month's worth of skill training, since I forgot to upgrade my medical clone before I undocked the second time. Many an expletive was uttered on that day, I can tell you.

    Starting with Rhea, this will no longer be a concern for capsuleers. Incremental grades of medical clones will be eliminated, along with their cost - podded pilots will simply end up in their free medical clone with all of their skill points intact (unless they get podded while flying a Strategic Cruiser, which is the only exception).

    Some bittervets complain that this is just one more example of the "dumbing down" of EVE Online, but I think it's a good change. Whenever I explained the mechanics of medical clones to new players (see my syllabus for my EVE University course, "Messing With Your Head"), they were confused. Further, the old mechanic was a disincentive for highly skilled characters to avoid flying in cheaper ships, such as frigates, as their medical clone would cost more than the ship hull!
  • More PvE content! As someone who enjoys solo mission-running and exploration from time to time, I welcome new player-versus-environment content. Rhea brings new Sleeper Cache sites to known space, which will present some new challenges to master. I hope that these are not as rare as the Ghost Sites turned out to be. I was very excited about those when they were announced, but have since been able to only run two of them - far too uncommon to really add enough to EVE Online gameplay, if you ask me. In addition, Rhea will bring new Sleeper scout drones appearing in k-space, and I'm eager to try taking these on - their advanced AI always makes Sleepers more interesting targets than the usual red crosses you see in missions and system anomalies.

OK, You Win...

There's more to come in Rhea, but these are the features that caught my eye, and made me think there are still some good reasons to continue flying in New Eden. Kudos to CCP Seagull and her team for switching to the new rapid release cycle - that has turned out to be a brilliant move. It certainly keeps experienced players like me engaged.

Fly safe! o7

Dis gon b gud

During the debut episode of CCP Games' new show, broadcast on Twitch, aptly titled o7 (the universal EVE Online player's salute in chat), CCP Greyscale and CCP Nullarbor hinted about coming changes to 0.0 space:

The major coalitions have basically solved the game and figured out how to win... and it’s kind of boring.
— CCP Greyscale, on the inaugural o7 show

Today, CCP Greyscale made good on the promise to shake up null-sec by publishing the first of what will no doubt be a series of controversial and far-reaching dev blogs. This first set of changes cover force projection and jump drive ranges in very profound ways, much to the chagrin of many 0.0-based capital ship pilots.

Essentially, the ability to traverse vast distances in New Eden with jump drives is being curtailed, which means that capital ships and their support fleets will take much longer to travel to a far destination, compared to what is possible today. Long-distance travel that would take only a few minutes under the current game mechanics will now take much longer periods of time - potentially, hours or even days. (Thanks to Pallidum for the example.)

This is a result of two principal changes:

  • Jump-capable ships get their maximum jump range reduced to five light-years (except for Black Ops ships), assuming fully trained skills
  • Pilots are now susceptible to a new mechanic, called "jump fatigue", which is essentially a cool-down timer between jumps that increases at a significantly (some might say over-dramatically) increasing rate for each successive jump. This timer reduces at a constant, relatively small rate per minute. So, in general, the more frequent and distant the successive jumps, the longer period of time that a jump-capable ship pilot must wait to jump again.

To balance this, capital ships will be able to use gates in null-sec and low-sec, which compared to the longer jump travel times, could be more efficient for shorter distance travel.

Jump Freighters and Rorquals will get a new ship role bonus that reduces jump fatigue by 90 percent, enabling them to do multiple jumps much faster and keep the flow of goods running in 0.0 and low-sec space.

CCP Games anticipates that these changes will begin to be implemented in the next expansion scheduled for November, called Phoebe, with additional adjustments to be rolled out in the subsequent expansion, called Rhea, scheduled for December.

Player reaction to these changes has been decidedly mixed, with many capital ship pilots expressing their dismay at the radical limitation to their operational range. In theory, these new limits should increase the importance of localized territory control and raise the number of smaller-scale skirmishes and fights, without escalating them into giant brawls like the "Bloodbath of B-R5RB". However, even CCP Greyscale admits that further adjustments to these proposed changes will likely be necessary before they are pronounced final.

In the meantime, this first dev blog announcing the beginning of change to null-sec space has energized the player base, and is a harbinger of even more shake-ups that will reverberate through all of New Eden over the next few expansions. As one apt observer said on Twitter after reading the dev blog: "Whoa, Nelly!"

Hold on to your butts, folks. EVE Online players are in for some very interesting times.

Fly safe! o7