Yesterday, MMORPG.com news Manager Keith Cross talked about EVE Online and their Ambulation project that will eventually see players able to get out of their ships and interact as characters rather than as space ships. While that’s all fine and good, and will undoubtedly add a lot to the sandbox game, but we’ve heard about Ambulation before. Turns out that there’s a new kid on the block that we haven’t talked about yet and that’s exactly why I sat down with EVE designer Matthew Woodward at NY Comic Con.
When CCP launched their last expansion, Trinity, players were treated to all kinds of new stuff, not the least of which was a major graphical upgrade that saw the realism of EVE kicked up a few notches. This time, with the announcement of the follow-up expansion, Empyrian Age, the developers are adding to the story of the game and the depth of the universe by starting a great war between four empires.
“A war between empires?” You ask, “but isn’t EVE all about war, pretty much all the time?” Well, yes, but this is the first time that individual players and even entire player corporations will have a chance to unite under an NPC banner to wage an even bigger war.
“Empyrian Age is the first expansion that we’ve really been building the story into things,” said Woodward. “We’ve got [an author] who has written us a novel of the same name and it’s about four big empires who exist in a kind of uneasy peace for some time. It all comes to a head and it all starts. The whole cluster is extreme and everything is kicking off, so the expansion ties into this.” They are also planning to have news and information come out in-game to prep players for the expansion’s release.
When the expansion does indeed kick off, players will be able to sign up for one side or the other. From there, they start to run missions and complete tasks for their empire, gaining more and more standing with them.
You can sign up individually,” Woodward said, “or you can sign up with your corporation. This, of course, will put you at war with the other factions. You‘re going to be fighting them in space, and you‘re going to be fighting them for glory.”
While there will be war-specific missions available, players who tend toward a style that doesn’t see them collecting missions will still have plenty to do as you can fly around and attack enemy installations and the like.
The system will keep track of what has happened and systems will change hands based on the success or failure of the players.
The goal with this expansion, Woodward tells us, is to try to bridge the gap between players who play in safe space, generally running missions and the like and the players who are actively engaging in the game’s PvP. The distance between those two play styles is what Woodward called a “big step” that is often intimidating.
“The step from one to the other is a big step and what we’re trying to do is build a bridge so that you can say ‘I want to try some PvP in a semi-controlled environment.’ It’s not safe, obviously. You’re going to die a lot because that‘s what PvP is about. Still, once you get into the mindset of ‘I’m going to lose this ship’, it’s all a lot more fun.”
“[The players] can start up and their agents will give them objectives to complete. You’ve got direction. You’ll go out there and get shot at and you’ll shoot at people and either you’re going to find that they like it or not.”
Woodward went on to tell us that while there will always be players who just aren’t interested in PvP (there will still be plenty for them to do), that he has had a number of experiences with players who had been more industrious before and avoided PvP, who had a great time with it. There’s just something about PvP that can really get people hooked. The expansion is at least partially about introducing these people to the fun of PvP. There is also a hope that the four empires will provide players with an excuse to interact and maybe make friends and start their own corporations.
While in the initial release of the expansion, there are no mechanics in place for resource gatherers, Woodward did point out that such a massive war effort is going to require raw materials, ships and the like and there will be enterprising players who take full advantage of this point.
“When someone dies, they’re going to need a new ship and someone’s got to make it. Why not you?”
The last question that I asked Matt before our time was up was whether or not I could sign up for one particular faction, fight for them for the bulk of the war and then suddenly change sides (betrayal is awesome). He told me that when players first start and choose their empire faction, they will be able to easily change their minds, but once players commit to a path, it becomes much more difficult to switch sides. Essentially what happens is that as you complete objectives for an empire, you gain favor with them. At the same time, you start to get a bad reputation with your enemies (blowing up their stuff will do that). Once you’ve got a really bad rep with one side, they’re not going to trust you or take you on.
Obviously, there is still a lot of development left to do on this new expansion, after all, this is really the first that we’re hearing of it. MMORPG.com will continue to follow the Empryian Age as more information becomes available.