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Apocrypha: Wormholes and You

CCP's Whisper has written a developer diary which explains the concept behind Wormholes, and the danger and promise of uncharted space in the upcoming Apocrypha expansion for EVE Online.

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"We cannot predict the new forces, powers, and discoveries that will be disclosed to us when we reach the other planets and set up new laboratories in space. They are as much beyond our vision today as fire or electricity would be beyond the imagination of a fish." - Arthur C. Clarke

Hello. My name is Whisper and I am here to talk to you about one part of Apocrypha, the upcoming expansion for EVE Online. I head up Team Bifröst, which includes such luminaries as CCP Casqade from Quality Assurance, CCP Bella Bee from the Software group, CCP Greyscale and CCP Abathur from Game Design and CCP PrismX from...who knows what pit of contrariness he sprung from but he's under my supervision now. So together with the rest of the team we're going to deliver unto you a feature of truly galactic proportions. This being the introduction of a brand new, glittering, shiny travelling mechanic: Wormholes.

First a bit of background musing. One of the criticisms that have been levied against EVE is that space is becoming crowded and that there really is no feeling of exploration. Indeed, from the very first moment you set foot in the universe of EVE, all of you have had a map at your disposal that shows you exactly where every solar system is, how to get there and what you may expect to find. You even have a newly improved autopilot who will selflessly and mindlessly guide you to your destination. And while there are still thrills to be had, there exists at the back of many of our minds the nagging knowledge that we are not the first to venture here. That the maps have been drawn, the anchorages charted, the wild hills surveyed and the paths trodden so often they're now four-lane blacktop highways with shopping malls and 24-hour burger bars along the fringes.

Well we are going to change that. We are going to give you uncharted, unknown places to visit via paths that shift and slide through the fabric of space. We are going to give you thousands of new solar systems which will contain new NPC's, new exploration content and new pockets of resources to exploit. You will have the chance to venture into places that promise great rewards but also bring with them great risks. We are going to establish the untamed frontier that lurks at the fringes of known space and into which brave souls bent on conquest and riches will venture with high hopes. Some will return as heroes, some will return as fresh clones spewing from the medical vats. Some may never return at all.

Wormholes will bring us to this new frontier, appearing all over New Eden as a result of a cataclysmic event, the nature of which we'll reveal in the coming months. These wormholes are unstable and will spawn and vanish randomly throughout the known universe. A pilot who stumbles across one of these stellar phenomena can fly through it and travel to unknown space, where there are no stargates or stations, just the unexplored void of a new solar system. And when I say "new solar system" that is exactly what I mean. It will not be moving you to instanced space but rather to one of the thousands of new solar systems we will be adding to the EVE universe.

EVE Online ScreenshotEVE Online Screenshot

The wormholes themselves will be open only for a randomly determined amount of time and can only let through a certain amount of mass before they collapse. Pilots should carefully consider the information their ship's computer gives them about a wormhole before committing to travel through it. Although there will always be a way back to known space from wormhole space, you may have to search long and hard to locate it. And in that process, you may find wormholes that lead you to even more unexplored wormhole systems, launching you on a voyage of exploration the likes of which EVE has never seen before.

Which begs the question of how you will find the wormholes. Well, we are in the process of revamping the entire scanner mechanic, making it faster and easier to use. A shortlist of the new scanner features is:

  • You will be able to drop more than one probe in a grid
  • Probe scan ranges can be adjusted via a drag and drop interface in the 3D map, removing the need for multiple probe types
  • Probes can be repositioned in the solar system map using a drag and drop interface and will warp to their specified positions
  • Scanning will now use triangulation to refine and improve accuracy of scan results
  • You can recall probes for re-use at a later point and time
  • The transition from ship view to 3D Solar System view to Universe Map view has been made near instant, allowing for quick switching between them

There will be two new probe types, exploration and combat. Exploration probes will not be able to locate ships and drones but will have extremely low fitting requirements, making them ideal for people who wish to hunt down wormholes and other celestial anomalies. The combat probe launcher is able to detect ships and drones but has a higher fitting requirement, making this the tool of choice for those wishing to hunt down other pilots. We are still in the process of balancing these probes and launchers and yes, we are looking into the options of how to deal with the existing probes, probe blueprints and launchers.

EVE Online ScreenshotEVE Online Screenshot

Why should you fly through these wormholes then? Well in the solar systems on the other side of the wormholes you will find new exploration sites patrolled by a brand new type of NPC. The salvage and loot drops from these NPC's and the exploration site rewards will provide you with the raw materials you will need to reverse engineer the technology that makes construction of the new Tech 3 ship modules possible. There will also be exploration sites with ore-rich asteroid belts just waiting to be found by an adventurous industry corp.

There is also the chance that you could stumble across a route through wormhole space that links two widely separated areas of known space and gives you a lucrative, fast trade route for as long as the wormholes stay open. Or perhaps the route leads into the backyard of your sworn enemy...at which point you may be faced with the question of what ships to send through to maximise the potential of the mass allowance the wormholes possess.

Wormholes will shift all the time. They will open and close and reopen at random locations throughout New Eden and thus present you with an ever-changing area of space that no-one can control all the choke-points to. While it is theoretically possible to move a control tower into wormhole space, set it up and maintain it, the logistical challenge and risks of fueling and defending a tower in a system with no permanent links to known space would be considerable. But then again the potential rewards are equally great.

One important point needs to be made: Wormhole space will not be able to be claimed as sovereign space. This is partly due to current implementation restrictions regarding how we added 46% more solar systems to EVE but mainly because we wanted to design an area of space which, while risky to travel through, is open to all players all the time. We have not forgotten about the desirability of space for colonisation, and will be looking at ways to implement that gameplay feature in the future. In fact one of my biggest challenges will be stopping PrismX from adding ten thousand systems now that he's gotten a taste of being a deity in creative mood.

Greyscale will be publishing a dev blog of his own where he will go into more detail about the game mechanics surrounding wormholes. I'm sure PrismX will be going wild in the comments thread about the work he's done to introduce more solar systems into EVE. I'll also be encouraging other team members to post in the comments and perhaps write dev blogs of their own about what they're working on with regards to this universe-expanding feature. And of course the other teams will be writing about their work in the very near future, so keep your eyes on the news column.

 

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