Today was supposed to mark the opening day of Fanfest, EVE Online’s annual player gathering in Reykjavik, Iceland. Unfortunately, the event was cancelled due to coronavirus. Fanfest is normally a time for fellowship between EVE players, a chance to interface with the development team, and of course when major upcoming EVE Online features are announced. At least one of those things is still on the menu: EVE Online’s latest cinematic trailer debuted today, ushering in the game’s next quadrant and showing players what’s to come over the next three months.
Quadrants are a recent development strategy for EVE, breaking the year into four sections that each focus on a specific theme. They were first described last October at EVE Vegas and have replaced the practice of laying out a massive development roadmap to the playerbase. EVE’s second quadrant is called Eclipse, and according to Brand Director Sæmi Hermannsson its goal is “shifting the balance of power.” The main focus of the trailer looks to be the menacing Triglavian NPCs. In the trailer, a Triglavian character is seen overlooking a planetary city as it is slowly corrupted by rocky outcroppings previously only existing in the mysterious “Abyssal space,” where the Triglavians are from. At the very end of the trailer, a Triglavian World Ark vessel, halfway between a starship and a space station, seems to cause some effect on a star in the middle of a solar system that completely shuts off one of the stargates that players use to travel between systems.
Kotaku spoke with Hermannsson, EVE Online’s Creative Director Bergur Finnbogason, and a member of the player-elected Council of Stellar Management called Merkelchen to discuss Eclipse and EVE’s new quadrant release structure.
“We all have a collective goal to drive towards,” Hermannsson said of quadrants via Zoom. “It’s also given teams an opportunity to work with each other well and combine their work together. The whole is becoming larger than the sum of the individual parts.”
By only talking about the next three months worth of releases, developer CCP is able to give players a taste of what is to come without restricting themselves to features that may not end up working out. Quadrant 1 was named “Fight or Flight” and focused largely on player vs player balance and incentives, adding the frigate escape bay, brand new implants, a return of the ultra popular “reindeer” filaments, and an update to EVE’s mysterious wormhole space. Overall it was well received by players, especially since it came with a few long-awaited updates to the game.
According to Finnbogason, “[Fight or Flight] was a great start, but i think there’s a lot of stuff we were still learning. The cadence felt quite good; there might be a few tweaks. We’re going to be adjusting this as we learn and go. It will be difficult for all quadrants to be this impactful.”
Hermannsson added, “[Fight or Flight] was a fantastic start, and went way better than I expected. What we’re seeing internally is that more teams are starting to think about the timings of their releases, to release them with similar things. I’ve been preaching internally about ‘presentation at a chocolate factory.’ We need to package things together so that the changes compliment each other. We need to try and make a complete cake, rather than sell a pile of sprinkles separately from a bowl of icing.”
Player reaction to the quadrants has been positive. According to Merkelchen, who is also the leader of one of the largest player corporations currently in EVE, “With a 17 year old product you’ve gotta be pretty creative to keep things fresh, and I think [quadrants] is how [CCP is] trying to do it. They’ve tried a lot of things along the way to keep things going.”
Contrary to popular belief, the CSM doesn’t get to dictate changes that are made to EVE. Instead they provide feedback from a player perspective before features are announced to players at large. According to Merkelchen, sometimes new CSM members don’t even fully understand what they’ve gotten themselves into: “You arrive in Reykjavik, and make your ‘triumphant’ arrival at CCP HQ. You come in like Commodus, expecting to walk in with your ‘mandate’ from the voters, and you sit down in this boardroom ready to lay down the law, and it’s not like that at all. It’s very collaborative. When you arrive they’ve already got another year of activity planned and you and your ‘grand plan’ hit that like a brick wall.”
Merkelchen said he’s excited about Eclipse. “Lately [CCP] has been sort of obsessively focusing on new players and increasing retention. But this is one that’s got some really exciting stuff for the other side of the community, the veteran players. It should provide some really cool stuff for the established players in EVE.”
When asked what Eclipse and its seeming focus on Triglavians could mean for EVE, Finnbogason said, “We’ve been running a Triglavian epic arc for almost a year now, and we’re going into the final stages of that event now. In Chapter 2 there has been quite a bit of fighting between the Triglavians and the [NPC] empires. That fighting is continuing to ramp up, and chapter three is going to be filled with surprises and interesting things to do and compete over.”
Hermannsson added, “I can tell you that the landscape of New Eden will never be the same.”
The ongoing Triglavian invasions have become a staple of life in EVE Online over the last year, and players have adjusted to them, learning to deal with the occasional attack and forming fleets to repel the invaders. When asked what would happen to these features in the upcoming quadrant, Finnbogason said, “I guess that’s up to the players to decide, isn’t it?”
“There will be something else happening to drive the narrative; the story will continue. It’s not just a storybook that’s being read to people, it is a living story that is continuing and growing,” Hermannsson added.
Finnbogason continued, “We’ve been striving to let the storyline have more of an impact on the universe.”
The Eclipse trailer also includes a brand new spaceship, which EVE players are already discussing. Not much is known about the vessel yet, but it appears to have an entirely new weapon system built into it, one that previously has only been seen on EVE’s death star analogs, the giant Keepstar space stations. The trailer shows the ship firing a beam of blue energy that bounces off of one ship and onto another and then another, acting sort of like a chain lightning spell from every fantasy game ever.
Player theorycrafting is going wild despite the minimal information about the ship. In EVE, players tend to group together with their allies and fly in tight formations, making any type of area of effect weapons incredibly powerful. Currently there are very few of these weapons, and they are difficult to use to their full effectiveness. A targeted area of effect weapon like this ship seems to have could be massively powerful in giant fleet engagements.
Eclipse’s first content update will not be the mysterious new vessel, though. Instead, it will be another iteration of EVE Online’s version of an Easter Egg hunt. “The Hunt” event will start on April 6th and will task players with collecting “eggs” all over New Eden. These eggs are the egg-shaped escape pods of NPC and player ships. Players will need to search out NPC capsules in various event sites to gain access to more sites and more rewards, or hunt down and destroy player capsules. During the event, a special buff will enable players to have a chance at recovering the valuable implants often contained within player capsules, which are normally destroyed when a capsule is destroyed.
Despite the current global pandemic making EVE Online’s usual fanfare impossible, Hermannsson and Finnbogason said their plans for the game have not changed. They say CCP is incredibly grateful to players for their understanding and reception of the disappointing news that Fanfest has been cancelled. The team is looking forward to getting quadrant two into players’ hands and excited to continue this new, more agile approach to EVE’s continuing development.