New Eden is engulfed in war as player alliances duke it out for supremacy while aliens invade the “safer” regions of space in EVE Online. And Icelandic developer CCP Games really wouldn’t have it any other way. EVE Online is abuzz with activity right now, and the greater EVE IP is seeing more and more appeal as EVE Echoes launched on mobile devices early last month, to a great reception.
“It’s fantastic seeing the reception,” EVE Online’s creative director Bergur “CCP Burger” Finnbogason told me over a call last week. “We have lots of devs in here playing the game and not just dabbling, but hardcore playing it.”
“It’s been awesome to see how the EVE community has embraced Echoes […] Welcoming EVE Echoes players to the EVE universe,” Sæmundur Hermannsson, EVE’s Brand Director, added to Bergur’s comment.
The dev team back in Reykjavik have looked closely at EVE Echoes throughout its entire development process, taking an “audit,” to use a word Bergur mentioned to describe how his team has learned from the Echoes project.
“Basically we’ve been going through a three year audit of EVE Online through this Echoes process. We’ve learned a lot and now we’re learning even more seeing it out in the wild. We even have our own list in house of things we want to integrate from Echoes, or kind of at least explore and see what a desktop version of a feature like that would be.”
As a result of Echoes being released on iOS and Android, EVE Online is actually seeing a “Halo” effect, where Echoes players are being introduced to New Eden through their phone, and some are logging into the main EVE Online version to continue their adventures in the EVE universe, which is something Hermannsson is definitely not taking for granted.
“If you look at how this industry is, that’s not a thing that you can take for granted, I would say. Like Bergur said, there’s been a resurgence internally because people have been playing EVE Echoes, and then they like playing EVE Online. […] We’re probably living in the biggest days right now in the EVE universe in terms of population because of Echoes.”
Sæmi is referring to the combined population of both EVE Online and EVE Echoes here – the total, playable EVE universe. With EVE Echoes eclipsing over a million players, that’s not hard to believe. There does seem to be more excitement around EVE nowadays than even just a few months ago.
The player war, dubbed by some as World War Bee 2 is in full swing, and the effect of the war can be felt throughout New Eden. The team at CCP is watching the war closely as well. Bergur mentions that the team has reports on the war internally once a week, keeping tabs on what is going on.
Player wars are one of the most fascinating parts of EVE Online’s universe, both for those capsuleers who live through them as well as for the many readers on gaming websites who live out their EVE fantasies vicariously through the articles written about them. The deeds of the Bloodbath of B-R5RB, or the Battle of 9-4RP2, also known as the “Million Dollar Battle” to some have become the stuff of gaming lore, whether you play the game or simply follow it. However, to onlookers, there haven’t been any of the real crazy battles we’ve seen in other wars previously. At least, it doesn’t look to be that way on the surface.
“Wars in EVE are usually a pretty long endeavor,” Bergur told me when asked about the seeming dying down of the major chatter between the major combatants to most outside onlookers. “It’s quite common to see almost like story arcs happen where you initially have a lot of chatter and then things die out, and then big moments happen, and everything flares up again.”
“For me, personally, seeing the stories, seeing the two sides trying to keep their sides motivated and writing the story about how they’re winning and everything is going according to plan – I think it’s fantastic,” Hermannsson added.
Bergur talked also about how the war has exposed some issues on the team’s end that they are keen to fix and improve on – specifically about improving systems and issues that only crop up during these major, epic wars. Sæmi touched on this as well.
“There’s nobody that finds this more frustrating than us because we want our players to have a good experience. But like Bergur was saying, the players are just pushing EVE to the brink every time because of these massive wars. And while we are always investigating things to make it better, we’re not always either in a position to talk about why things happened because it’s a sensitive thing – the intelligence behind it, the reasons and everything. And we don’t want to go into a blame game either for anybody.”
Player wars can shape the landscape of EVE Online – and it already has even just two months into this latest struggle. Multiple Keepstars have seen destruction, and territories in Null Sec have found new masters since the war began early July. And the team hasn’t been just letting the war rage without adding new elements and things to interact with in New Eden.
Cosmic weather made its debut late August, sticking mainly to Null Sec space where many of these battles are taking place right now. Players now no longer just need to worry about enemy capsuleers, but also cosmic storms as part of the Metaliminal Storms that will rage across player controlled space.
These storms will affect gameplay, with players having to either avoid them or learn which ships can thrive in the storms themselves. Some EVE players are already starting to put out weather forecasts, such as one capsuleer, Dunk Dinkle, who released his late last week. And for those who have been paying attention, this was hinted at even in EVE Vegas 2019 last year.
Here is your New Eden Space Weather Report https://t.co/hEswrzG9Ls— Dunk Dinkle (@DunkDinkle) August 29, 2020
“If you remember back to Bergur’s presentation at Vegas 2019,” Saemi mentioned,” at the end where he went into sort of the long term vision of EVE, talking about weather and being adapted to it, I would say this is the first step towards that vision. I mean, of course in the universe there’s weather and adjustments that need to be made because of the different circumstances changing. This is life now. We will see how it impacts things. See how it will impact the gameplay, how players enjoy it, what the feedback is and we’ll take it from there.”
Bergur chimed in, adding that it’s a way to “deepen the experience,” as well as another way to “master your surroundings.”
“It also creates opportunities to master your surroundings. It is like, ‘I’m a master of my own space. People hire me because I’ve mastered this region and I understand the patterns, I understand the movement of these patterns.’”
However, many of EVE Online’s capsuleers have been watching another war as well – one with players taking on both each other and an NPC threat – the Triglavians.
We’ve covered the expansions that feature the Triglavians for what feels like years now, and earlier this year it all started hitting a tipping point as the Trigs invaded New Eden. Players can choose to help the alien invaders gain a foothold in New Eden, or join EDENCOM - a coalition of the major NPC empires of EVE in order to stop the Triglavian advance.
While the Trigs had taken over systems before, nothing was really all that important to the actual stability and everyday life of New Eden’s capsuleers. The systems were far away from major trading hubs, sometimes requiring over 20 jumps from a major hub to reach.
The battles were fierce, however, and when one system started to see action, because of where it was anyone following the battles could see clearly how a Triglavian victory would literally change the course of EVE Online.
Niarja, a system inbetween Jita, one of the largest trading hubs in all of New Eden, and Amarr, was under attack. This system is important as it helps connect the two systems, making trade between them quick for space truckers and industrialists. Remove this system and what was originally a simple 9 jump route becomes a colossal 45 jump to reach Amarr from Jita. That’s huge.
The implications of this attack couldn’t have been higher – and it ended up becoming something not just High Sec and PVE players struggled over, but also a battleground for the PVP alliances duking it out in their player war as well.
Imperium sent ships to the system. Brave fought on the side of EDENCOM. Players who were discussing the aftermath of Niarja’s downfall on Reddit wondered why some major alliances didn’t seemingly show more interest in the system, or if they did why they didn't show up. Other Redditors questioned why Null Sec players would even take interest in High Sec at all, claiming it's not "their space."
To say CCP was excited about what was going on was an understatement.
“I’m baffled that this happened. I am like, speechless,” Bergur told me when asked about the massive event in High Sec.
Niarja’s downfall was streamed by CCP about thirty minutes after the team realized what was happening. How the Triglavians choose a system is somewhat random – CCP themselves don’t cherry pick the systems according to Bergur, it’s out of their direct control. So for Niarja to be chosen as a battleground surprised even the developers. And soon over 20,000 people were watching this massive battle over one of the most important High Sec systems unfold.
One of the things Bergur has consistently told me in most of our interviews is how every action in EVE Online should have a greater impact on the whole world. Your actions should matter. The battle that took place in Niarja between players on EDENCOM’s side, NPC ships of the Triglavian Collective, and players who sided with the Collective, completely altered the geography of EVE Online that day. It was one of the clearest examples of player choices having a direct and lasting impact on a game world that I can remember. All of the pollical layers as you start to investigate what really happened is just as interesting.
The word “propaganda” is thrown around in EVE Online - indeed one look at Reddit, especially as a new war is heating up and you’ll see nothing but “propaganda” flags all down the page. However, Saemi used a phrase I’m not sure I was prepared to hear uttered about a video game before in my life: “proxy war.”
“I totally mean it as well,” Saemi said when I mentioned how interesting it was to use a Cold War-era phrase to talk about wars in a video game. “It’s really fascinating. When I saw all the stories about the call to arms, and clearly these big player organizations were taking the time to make a decision of whose side to be on, it’s fascinating.”
While the fall of Niarja a few weeks ago was huge, one question loomed in my mind – would we see Jita be attacked by the Trigs? Would CCP even allow something that crazy to happen? We’ve seen Goonswarm “burn Jita” in 2012, but would CCP allow the Triglavians to attack what is one of the most economically important systems in all of EVE Online?
“As I said,” Bergur said, with a hint of amusement on his face as he did so, “We’re not in any control of this. This is out of our hands, so who knows what will happen? We don’t know.”