Countdown to EVE Online Fanfest: Second Star to the Right and Straight on 'til Morning
EVE Online's star cluster of New Eden is a game environment of inspiration and wonder, with a vast universe to explore and hidden secrets to discover. It has always been a curiosity, but over time it has grown, blooming into an interstellar realm of infinite possibilities.
The original 2003 release comprised 5000 star systems, each with a varied collection of planets, moons, asteroid fields and man-made structures, all linked by an intricate latticework of stargates.
Even then, when the EVE experience was in its infancy, I recall the overwhelming sense of depth and scale. As a new player I could lose myself in a few interconnected star systems, only foraging further as needed. Just a look at the vast universe map would be a humbling experience, knowing that those distant, lawless systems on the farthest edges of the EVE Universe were unpopulated, possibly unexplored.
They didn't remain that way for long.
The Exodus expansion of 2004 added to the depth with the introduction of deadspace complexes; discoverable content at remote but public sites. However, by 2006, New Eden's sense of unexplored wonder had diminished somewhat, with even the remotest regions claimed, documented and colonised. The Revelations expansion in November of that year did much to reinvigorate EVE's sense of frontier and adventure by introducing eight new so-called Drone Regions and a more sophisticated (but laborious) scanning system, which facilitated the discovery of new exploration sites.
Exploration of these hidden sites was still very much a niche playstyle, with a complex and slow scanning mechanic only accessible to the monumentally patient. However, it was a fascinating alternative to the more aggressive or gregarious pastimes of EVE, with the opportunity to discover sites which yielded ancient materials to salvage, archaeological finds to discover and encrypted vaults to hack.
All These Worlds Are Yours...
It was 2009's Apocrypha expansion that really took this sense of awe and mystery to a higher level, by providing new virgin territory to explore in the form of dynamic and nebulous wormhole systems. Nearly 2,500 new star systems were introduced, only accessible via unstable wormholes of limited lifespan and capacity, which needed scanning down with a revamped--and far more accessible—scanning system.
The NPC denizens (Sleepers) of these new systems were brutal, with early pioneers being slaughtered in ship setups which they had previously been considered impervious to PvE assaults.
To add further challenge to these new frontiers, many wormhole systems had anomalies which affected the natural laws to which pilots had become accustomed. Pulsars, black holes, magnetars and more influence many ships systems, boosting and reducing an assortment of attributes. Another unique aspect of wormhole space is the lack of local communications. The sense of isolation is greatly increased by having no immediate means of telling if there are other pilots in system. There were no space-stations at which to dock, no stargates to show you the way home. In wormhole space, you could be alone, or worse, you could be being watched...
Undoubtedly, wormholes (or W-space) was EVE's last great frontier. This new space gave rise to an entirely new playstyle, with a sub-culture of highly independent wormhole dwellers finding a way to eke out at existence by establishing starbase outposts (POSs) from which to co-ordinate their efforts. It was not something that CCP had planned for, but such is the nature of emergent gameplay.
And Odysseus Smiles
Today's EVE Universe is unfathomably enormous. Few players have explored a fraction of the content available and exploration of New Eden is already a legitimate, full-time playstyle. However, there is so much more that could be done with the concept beyond what already exists. After so many years, content unavoidably becomes repetitive unless revisited and refreshed.
It is with much anticipation then, that those wanderlust afflicted interstellar explorers must be waiting with bated breath for more information of the upcoming Odyssey expansion, due in June. The first free content expansion to benefit from CCP's new development strategy, Odyssey is thematically linked to the exploration ideology.
According to the few details available on the official expansion website:
“EVE Online's nineteenth free expansion, Odyssey, offers new tools for exploring the stars, challenges you to breach the unknown for adventure and rewards, and to face what lies on the other side. A re-imagined scanning system, intuitive navigation and new exploration modules will aid you as you search the heavens for your next conquest. Some will encounter sites never discovered before, and others will be confronted with intriguing tests of skill and resolve. Ample rewards await those that return from their journeys with ships intact.”
Tantalising but cryptic references to a new “spacescape” and a “rebalance of major areas of space” leaves the door open to all manner of possibilities and Fanfest will undoubtedly be the place to learn of what is in store.
It sounds like a new frontier is about to open up.
[Check out our other daily Countdown to Fanfest features for more information and speculation on EVE Online's Second Decade and the Party on Top of the World.]