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Exodus Preview

Reed Hubbard Posted:
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Although classified as a MMORPG, EVE Online has often danced in the fringes of the genre. Developer Crowd Control Productions has chosen to embrace a rich economic framework and loosely restricted PvP over more conventional MMORPG trappings. This approach has garnered the persistent universe many fans, but has left others cold as the depths of space. However, this may all change soon. The epic universe of EVE Online is about to experience a major upheaval with its next expansion. Formerly known by the codename Shiva, the upcoming addition to EVE Online is entitled Exodus, and it represents a huge leap forward in both content and direction.

One of the new features in the Exodus expansion is the introduction of complexes. Alternately known as "dungeons," complexes are progressive Player vs. Environment settings where groups of players must defeat numerous NPC opponents to gain access to more difficult stages. For example, a gang of players may defeat a number of pirates to obtain the key to a dormant jumpgate. Upon activation, the gang jumps to a zone not accessible through conventional means of travel where the players must overcome more challenging opposition. Successful completion of all stages may yield the conquerors rare items, huge monetary rewards, and other desirable loot.

The dynamic aspect of the EVE Universe is not lost on complexes. Complexes vary in size and difficulty and are decidedly more PvE than the typical EVE experience. Some will appear in random locations, offering great opportunity for those fortunate enough to stumble upon them and well connected enough to quickly organize a gang to raid the complex. Risk versus reward also comes into the picture here. The opponents can be very tough and a player who loses his ship in a deep stage of the complex may have a tough time recovering his equipment.

The interface has received a major overhaul. Some may shudder at mentioning The Sims and EVE Online in the same sentence, but CCP has put radial menus a la The Sims in the interface. Rather than right clicking on an object and selecting from a drop-down menu, clicking on the object brings up a variety of surrounding objects. Target, approach, view and other commonly used commands are available depending on the item selected, providing an easier method of interfacing with objects in space.

Even more exciting is the tactical overlay. EVE's interface currently employs a 3D spatial radar in the bottom right-hand corner of the HUD. The developers, in a tacit acknowledgement of the clunkiness of the tool, have removed it and incorporated it into the main HUD view, which makes it eminently more practical and useful. Upon activating the Tactical Display, the user is presented with features that can help him in combat, such as concentric rings that mark the distance from his ship and elevation bars to that indicate the location of opponents from the horizontal plane. The bottom right-hand corner is now given to hot keys where players can map weapons, shields, hardeners and other items. These items were formerly located in the central indicator at the bottom of the screen and required selecting different views to see other items. Now they may all be viewed and accessed without having to continually change views, a definite advantage in a combat situation.

Possibly the most anticipated Exodus feature is the introduction of player owned stations. Corporations can purchase a control tower and locate it in orbit around a moon and add modules to enhance the station. A shield generator projects a blue force globe about the station area, protecting it from enemies. A moon harvester is a constantly operating module that culls materials from the local moon, providing the station with resources. A hangar provides a dock for ships within the station boundary. Citadel torpedo batteries can be added for protection. Large corporations may establish stations in 0.0 space, providing a local base for operations, especially with the new minerals that are being introduced.

But stations require other resources to continue to operate, particularly heavy water. There are now ice fields in space that contain a variety of ice chunks. Thin Blue Ice, Dark Glitter, and Gelidos are some of the types of ice that yield varying materials required for station operation. Those running stations will need to regularly mine ice fields to keep the station going, which may make for some interesting turf battles in deep space.

New ships are planned as well, including support ships, which will supply attack ships in battles, making them tougher and more deadly. In turn the battle cruiser will be required to provide protection for the support ship. It's a move geared toward fostering specialization among players, particularly those within corporations. New tools are being introduced for corporation management as well, and all users will now have access to the market interface in transit.

With Exodus, CCP is taking the universe of EVE forward significantly. It will undoubtedly appeal to current players, but Exodus may (contrary to its name) bring old and new players back to the universe of EVE. One can only speculate what the next expansion (titled Leviticus, perhaps?) will bring, but the changes and additions contained within Exodus are sure to intrigue EVE players - past, present, and future.


Reed Hubbard