“He who controls the Spice controls the universe.” Okay, Spice doesn’t exist in EVE Online, but just the same, rare minerals do play a big part in the ebb and flow of the game’s universe. EVE’s new Lifeblood expansion promises to make some major changes to that flow, in the hopes of giving players more to do when they log in for quick sessions.
The changes in Lifeblood, which rolls out for free on October 24, focus on the trade of precious minerals in all sectors of EVE. Out in the frontiers of Low and Null security space, this means changes to the way the rarest of natural resources, colloquially known as “moon goo,” is extracted from the galaxy’s natural moons.
Moon goo is collected by players and used in special reactions. The full explanation of this process doesn’t really matter to anyone other than specialized industrialists of EVE. The process is long, dull, and overly complicated, so let me just say that it is a very important resource that is used in the construction of nearly any advanced weapon or spacecraft imaginable. Even more important than its usefulness, is its scarcity. Not every moon in the galaxy is capable of producing materials, and those that do are separated into many different tiers of usefulness and value. In a mirror of the real world, this resource scarcity has driven conflict in EVE Online since it’s discovery.
Prior to the Lifeblood expansion, Moon Goo was extracted passively through unmanned starbases, vulnerable to attack and prone to destruction if not defended. Assaulting and defending these structures has been a way of life in the New Eden galaxy for years, causing some of the greatest wars in EVE’s bloody history.
With Lifeblood, this all changes. Rather than going through the process of passively generating stockpiles of goo to be sold at market or built into ships, players will have to put their own ships at risk actively mining the material from space.
Orbital mega-structures which function as refineries are being introduced to the game. When anchored in orbit around a moon, they will be able to fire earth-shattering lasers into the surface of the planetoid. A powerful tractor beam attached to the structure will then draw the broken section of crust into space, where it will explode into a temporary asteroid belt full of useful ore. This allows player-controlled ships to move in and extract the mineral wealth. These artificially-created asteroid belts will have a mix of regular ores, used in the creation of all variety of structures and spaceship, and the aforementioned moon goo.
The goal of this design change, like others in the Lifeblood expansion, is to create a source of on-demand, short-session content for players, forcing them to exist in space with other players either cooperatively or in direct competition. Additionally, CCP says the hope is to provide more of a reward to players that wish to actively manage their resources rather than just logging in every few days to collect them.
In an effort to bring the same short-session gameplay to the High Security areas of space—where new players are first introduced, and where those less interested in PvP tend to congregate—CCP is introducing a new gameplay feature named Resource Wars. These missions see players assisting the military industrial wings of the major NPC Empires in the game, assisting them in extracting precious minerals from sites heavily contested by a pirate presence. According to CCP Falcon, the goals of Resource Wars are “to get co-operative gameplay out there, and to provide a ‘quick fix’ type of gameplay option.”
Resource Wars come in five levels of difficulties, with each site activing in a similar manner. Players warp their ships into a staging room, where they are able to discuss their plan and put together a fleet without being under any sort of restrictions of time or danger from NPC Pirates. In this room is a warp gate which, when activated, will launch the player into the mining facility. Once any player activates the warp gate, a timer begins ticking away on the player’s UI screen, signaling the oncoming destruction of the site to keep it out of the hands of pirates.
Players can assist in completing the site prior to the timer’s expiration by either destroying NPC ships or assisting in the mining of precious ore. Once enough ore is mined and deposited into NPC-controlled hauling vessels, the site is considered complete, and everyone who participated is given an equal share of the rewards. If the timer reaches zero before the last ore hauler escapes the site with a full cargo bay, the site explodes, destroying anything and everything present at the time.
Finishing these sites, even if they detonate before all ore is extracted, awards standard in-game credits as well as ‘loyalty points’ for use in shops associated with the faction running the operation. These loyalty points can be redeemed for new ships, complete with fittings, new ship skins, or new apparel items for pilot avatars.
Resource Wars seems simple enough—defeat a few NPCs and collect a few space rocks for wealth and prizes—but CCP Burger warned players in his presentation that it may not be so easy. The pirate factions of New Eden have been slowly getting smarter, thanks to CCP Burger and his internal team, called Team Phenomenon.
Team Phenomenon has been slowly adding and upgrading new NPC AI to the game for over a year now, CCP Burger said. These NPCs are react faster than normal, and are more powerful than average NPCs, because they are allowed to use the same equipment and ships that players can. They also adapt to player fleet tactics, dodging attack craft, isolating support ships, and interfering with the industrial hauler NPCs whenever possible.
Harassing players participating in Resource Wars is not the only thing these new NPCs are up to, though: they have also begun staging probing invasions of High Security space, building Forward Operating Bases to stage from.
These bases will show up on the edges of High Security space, where the Empire’s power begins to fade. Pirate fleets will spawn from them if players approach them, and will fight to the death to defend their new base. According to CCP Burger, they are balanced to fight a fleet of around ten players, but the bases’ AI will scale its response to meet whatever players feel the need to bring. Destroying these bases will provide an ISK bounty to the most successful fleet or players involved, as well as potentially dropping special modules for player-run space stations.
If the spoils of war aren’t enough to incentivize players to seek and destroy the bases as they come online, the pirates have one more trick up their sleeves. They have the ability to get bored—and a bored pirate is a dangerous one. Once the bases have been online for a few days, fleets will leave from them and search for players to fight. If no players are found, they will follow a long-held EVE tradition and start shooting any available structure in the system, hoping to draw players out of hiding to face them. Assuming no players stop them, the pirates will systematically destroy every player-owned structure in the system.
The Lifeblood expansion promises to deliver a wide variety of PvE-centered content to EVE Online, as well as touching on a few PvP conflict drivers, making its name very fitting: being able to launch yourself into space, and find other players to interact with, truly is the “lifeblood” of the game. This expansion promises to deliver quite a few brand new options for interacting with other players, for better or for worse.