EVE Online’s players are in a panic: All across the game, player controlled facilities are under siege by powerful NPCs known as Drifters. Drifter vessels have been in the game for years, but they’ve never attacked player structures in an organized force before. Developer CCP has not confirmed whether this is an intentional part of the recent Invasion expansion or an anomaly.
Drifters pilot battleships more powerful than almost anything that players have access to. Their battleships have incredible range, nearly impenetrable defenses, and weapons systems capable of shredding player ships in seconds. Normally, Drifter battleships are found in small groups in PvE focused areas, guarding treasure and precious materials. Occasionally a single Drifter battleship can be found roaming around, looking for unsuspecting players. The Drifters seen today are swarming in unheard numbers of 20 or 30 at a time. They’re roaming through player controlled space, engaging everything they find in their path.
Reports are still coming in, but so far nothing seems safe from the Drifter incursion. Player vessels are being destroyed on sight, and players are reporting that the Drifters are even shooting their escape pods, something that most NPCs in EVE Online are not capable of doing. The Drifter fleets are also engaging player controlled space stations all over Null Security space. Hundreds of structures across the EVE map have been attacked today, including some of the absolutely massive Keepstar-class battlestations, the largest structure able to be built by players.
Player response on Reddit, Twitter, and other social media platforms has varied widely. Some players welcome the AI threat to entrenched player empires, which they feel are too powerful for other player groups to overcome. Other players are angry that the Drifter NPC threat is interfering with actual players making war on one another. Initially, players were not certain whether or not this new erratic behavior presented by the Drifters would result in the destruction of player owned space stations or not. However, recent reports have come in that at least one structure has been completely destroyed by the Drifter menace.
In EVE, space stations have several “vulnerability cycles,” phases that players must go through to deal enough damage to destroy them completely. Each phase triggers an invulnerability timer for a certain period of time, which gives the owner of the station time to rally a defense around it. Initially, Drifters were only seen going through the first phase, triggering the initial reinforcement phase. Depending on the structure, this phase lasts between a few hours to a full week. In the case of the structure mentioned above, the reinforcement window was only a few hours. When the timer ran out, the Drifter fleet came back to finish the job. This suggests that players who are under attack by Drifters will have to be incredibly vigilant in defending their assets or risk losing everything.
There was no warning issued to players leading up to this massive change in AI behaviour, leading to speculation about the nature of the Drifter incursions. Some players are wondering if this activity is an AI bug introduced during the Invasion expansion. EVE developer CCP has been vague, saying only that they are aware of what is happening and are eagerly watching the situation. The next few days will reveal whether or not EVE is seeing the dawn of a new era of NPCs fighting an active war against players.