2009 was a typical year for EVE Online; drama, scandal, the rise and fall of the eternal lag monster, impotent forum raging...and two free expansions. Here are some of the highlights from the year that was:
The Death of BoB
February saw the downfall of one of EVE's largest and most well known alliances, Band of Brothers, after a turncoat director disbanded the alliance. Shortly after, Goonswarm- who also claimed responsibility for instigating the betrayal- and many others descended upon the Delve region to take advantage of their sudden loss of sovereignty. Despite quickly reforming as Kenzoku, it was the beginning of the end, and they were forced to pull out of their old home, before eventually disbanding later in the year.
With the release of the Apocrypha expansion in the Spring, thousands of new systems were added to the New Eden universe; accessible only through a constantly shifting network of wormholes. W-space, as it came to be known, was also the home of the Sleepers; fierce drones that guard the ruins of an ancient civilization and the valuable resources required to manufacture the new Tech Three ships. Along with a new probing system, it kicked off a massive wave of exploration amongst the players as the "gold rush" for T3 materials began.
Apocrypha also allowed players to build their own ships with the first wave of modular ships: the T3 Strategic Cruisers. Instead of a single base hull, each one is formed of five different subsystems that can changed be alter both the look and capabilities of the ship. However, despite allowing for many different combinations, some of the subsystems are still regarded as useless and Strategic Cruisers still remain prohibitively expensive, keeping them from becoming a common sight in New Eden.
Regular updates followed Apocrypha, including the changes to ECM modules and Caldari electronic warfare ships that was also known as The Falcon Nerf. While they still possess powerful jamming abilities, their use has noticeably declined in the past year, and they are no longer the dominant force in small-gang warfare that they used to be.
It just wouldn't be EVE without some kind of controversy cropping up at least once a year. This time it was the player-elected Council of Stellar Management (CSM) that was the source of grief for CCP. Through their meetings with EVE's developers, the council get glimpses of upcoming changes to the game, and member Larkonis Trassler used this information to pre-emptively purchase several billion isk worth of items from the market. CCP reacted appropriately, by removing him from the CSM, but "Larkonis-gate" still left some sections of the community understandably outraged, and others speculating on exactly what it was that he was trying to hoard before Dominion went live.
The two expansions of 2009 seem to have struck an interesting balance; while Apocrypha brought in more new features, Dominion leaned heavily toward revamping what was already there. An entirely new sovereignty system was put into place, as well as an infrastructure system that allows players to upgrade their territory through activity. Having only arrived at the beginning of December, it's still difficult to get a clear picture of just how successful it's been at limiting the growth of vast empires or attracting more players to venture out into the wild west of 0.0 space- especially as tweaks and fixes are already being tinkered with in preparation for Dominion 1.1.
A large number of alterations to existing ship classes were also made in Dominion; the Titan Doomsday Device's switch from an almighty AoE weapon to a single-target death ray was a significant shift for 0.0 warfare; the Mothership's transformation into a Fighter Bomber wielding Supercarrier was unfortunately cancelled at the last minute (although I'd put money on it going ahead with 1.1); changes to projectile turrets and tracking modules gave the Minmatar back their "Alpha King" crown, as well as much more flexibility when trying to kite targets; the four Navy frigates were re-born as Assault Frigate-Interceptor hybrids; and the Pirate faction ships went from expensive hanger ornaments to expensive killing machines that are actually worth flying.
After EVE's ships and structures were given a graphical overhaul over two years ago, the rest of the game world has been slowly catching up; first in Apocrypha with weapon and module effects, and then with the new star field and planets of Dominion. EVE Online now looks better than ever; with only the decrepit-looking character avatars left to upgrade; hopefully when CCP finally let us leave our pods and strut around the space station.
2009 is over , but there's always more to look forward to. The recently announced Dust 514 - an online FPS that will integrate directly with the world of EVE Online and influence planetary control - would seem to be a long way off, but rumours and suggestions are already circulating about what's going to be in the next expansion. Planetary control of some sort is almost certainly going to be part of it (along with the possibility of T3 modular Frigates) and it's even possible that the long awaited Walking In Stations feature, re-named Incarna, will make an appearance before the year is out.