All That Glitters

By Jim Rossignol on December 3rd, 2007 at 3:09 pm.

This coming Wednesday sees the launch of Eve Online‘s most far-reaching patch to date: Trinity. Arguably Revelations Red Moon Rising had a bit more to say about the game was played, since it introduced capital ships and all the grand space-ganking that they entailed, but Trinity nevertheless adds new ships, freshly squeezed combat tweaks, and, of course, the long-awaited graphical overhaul.

It does look shiny, but I can’t help feeling that they did too well on the original visuals: Eve already looked pretty impressive, and now it just looks a couple of notches up the graphical ladder towards photo-realism… if such a term can be applied to fantasy spacecraft.

Read onwards for Eve thoughts and lovely screenshots.

The new visuals certainly update Eve’s fidelity – those spacecraft look all crisp and detailed, covered in lights and reflections and tiny windows. It gives an idea of where MMOs could go in the future – gradually repackaging the same world in fresh pixels – and, indeed, how they could have entirely different skins altogether. It might be possible to have a Steampunk skin for World Of Warcraft? Or an Art deco Everquest? Or a Star Trek Star Wars? Or not.

Anyway, what will really make a difference to Eve players are the new ships. They’re new toys and aspirational targets for the playerbase – giving the older and wealthier characters something to aim for – but they’re also going to have some impact on how Eve’s combat will play out.

Eve’s PvP combat is actually remarkably simple, although the overall range of options for ships and fittings of those ships is enormous. It’s simple because ships are like ‘deck’ card systems: you fit them out to complete a particular task and the selection of ships that you have in your fleet will determine what that fleet will be able to do, and how easily it will be able to do it. When two fleets collide the outcome is usually mathematical – except when quite unusual tactics are applied. It’s a game of rock, paper, scissors played with perhaps a dozen different items, and played between uneven numbers of players. This is one thing CCP have never really managed to deal with: the tendency to just try to get more people in your gang. I mean there’s every chance that the one guy with a rock will run into an entire fleet full of scissors (smart bomb vs interceptors?), but usually that’s not the case. What’s usually the case is that the bigger, better equipped fleet will win.

And this ties into one of my concerns about CCP’s direction with the game as a whole: jump-capable ships. One of the main tactics in Eve has always been to scout the enemy, to work out what ships they’re in and therefore what kind of deck is stacked against you. Being able to judge that by seeing your enemy coming at your from nearby systems has always essential, and pulling off a sneaky attack by getting close without being scouted is equally satisfying. Now though the ludicrously powerful capital ships are to be joined by jump-capable battleships – the Black Ops – and supplemented by ‘jump bridges’ that allow alliance members to jump between various points in their galactic infrastructure. No longer can fleet commanders rely on their network of scouts to keep the fleet safe, because a smaller, weaker fleet, or even an equally matched fleet, is just as likely to be a trap with jump-capable reinforcements just a few seconds away. This has, for me, removed one of the most vital aspects of Eve’s tactical game. Good scouting has been all the more difficult to come by.

There are ramifications for logistics too: jump-capable ships don’t have to run the gauntlet of blockades, or be escorted through dangerous systems: they simply jump past it all. Getting a freighter from a) to b) might once have been a challenge, and an opportunity for enemies to deliver a creative ambush. Now though all your toys can be delivered safely to their destination, with barely a sliver of possibility that a badguy will be able to get in the way.

It’s always been the case that Eve’s combat has evolved and changed: there’s never been a single, ultimate tactic that has lasted too long. But I’m uneasy about the future. After all, Evolution is more than capable of reaching a dead end.

And yes, I know those are all Amarr ships – I just like that Lynch’s Dune golden chic… And no, they haven’t changed the weird docking ranges on certain stations, Janek.

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37 Comments »

  1. ShineDog says:

    When you say jump capable, Doesnt that require someone to Cyno you in?

  2. Janek says:

    :(

  3. Piratepete says:

    If ever a set of screenshots have tempted a few quid a month out of me, these are them.

    *drools*

  4. Alex Hopkinson says:

    I look forward to the Make The Megathron Look Awesome patch on wednesday for the prettiness. We shall have to see what effect the new ships (and changes to existing ones) have on the game in the long term though.

  5. heartless_ says:

    I’m not sure what you are talking about. The main problem I always had with EVE is the fact that player combat doesn’t occur and less you or your enemy allow it to occur. Sure there is some ganking, but the game almost always stalled into a “they’re over there” and “we’re over here” battle with NO WAY TO CLOSE THE GAP AND ENGAGE.

    Of course if you did get lucky enough to engage, the lag was horrible in big fleet battles and unplayable, essentially turning it into a “whoever has the best ships and guns wins”. In a big fleet vs fleet battle, it always came down to how much damage could be produced by the first load of ammo. Once you were forced into a “reloading” state, the game always froze and your guns never reloaded.

    In smaller fights, it is just rock, paper, scissors. If you aren’t going to be the winner, you run and chances are you won’t be caught. The only players that get caught are people that don’t have a clue or who lag out.

    EVE is a shit game fueled by some rather over-zealous hardcore players and developers.

  6. Jim Rossignol says:

    Sure there is some ganking, but the game almost always stalled into a “they’re over there” and “we’re over here” battle with NO WAY TO CLOSE THE GAP AND ENGAGE.

    And I’m not sure what you mean by that, either. Are you talking about sniper battles? Because those are relatively rare now.

  7. Zeh says:

    If only MMORPGs weren’t MMORPGs.

  8. MeesterCat says:

    Jim, SpiralJunkie has pulled you up on your “Revelations introduced Capitals comment” on SHC.

    As for Trinity, well I’ve avoided going onto Sisi so the shinies are a ‘surprise’. The only new ships i’ll be able to fly straight off are the EAFs which do look seem pretty funky (at least when the price comes down). I Just need to find the willpower to resub.

  9. Jon says:

    This is something which really annoyed me when I was pvping and in Eve you can get around most obstacles by adapting your tactics. Also, I’d like to point out that Eve isn’t just PVP, sure it makes up a lot of Eve, but that’s like saying Bioshock is just about Plasmids and that Peggle is just about shooting a ball at pegs…. oh wai-

    Also, I seem to be shadowing the previous poster all over the internet, I don’t meant to. Honest :D

  10. Jon says:

    And it would appear I don’t know how to use the block quote code at all ¬_¬

  11. Ben Hazell says:

    That really is so very pretty.
    And it’s probably more beautiful because you really have to achieve those ships.
    Like many, I’d love to play Eve, but I know I just don’t have it in me to get there.

  12. Jim Rossignol says:

    Eh, when were caps introduced then? EDIT: Okay, Red Moon Rising, and dreads so don’t count.

  13. Janek says:

    It’s certainly when they’ve come to prominence though. Well, beforehand as well. But supercaps in particular have been popping up all over the place (possibly due to smaller industry only just catching up, or possibly due to sovereignty changes making people feel more secure with their capital shipyards).

    Also I would like to reiterate that the Damnation (top) has always been the best-looking ship in game. Yes.

  14. Nuyan says:

    I’ve checked out the graphics on the test server a bit and I think it’s amazing. They’ve added much more a sense of scale, it feels huge. Cruisers looked like battleships first time I saw them. At the same time, it’s still Eve. It didn’t really take time for me to get used to it at all.

    And it runs amazingly stable. I haven’t tested fleet-battles yet, but I could run it all on highest without annoying frame-drops. I’ll most likely end up lowering shadows to high instead of extreme though. But it really runs nice. Dual-client still works quite nice aswell for the people that are interested in it. Personally I was happy to see alt-tabbing didn’t cause any problems or slow-down at all.

  15. David says:

    It’s important to remember that, as pretty as the old engine was, it was an old engine; no pixel shading, overly-reliant on the CPU, with a fair amount of unpleasantness that had been patched up over time (anyone else remember when your ship would morph into another object?). I’m sure Trinity will have its teething problems like all new engines but I’m glad it’s here – huzzah for CCP and their free expansions for subscribers!

  16. Will Tomas says:

    I feel the same as some other posters – I’ve always been tempted by Eve pictures and the idea of the Iain M Banks-but-capitalist playground, but never tempted enough to actually play it.

    Although (geek moment) surely the answer to jump-capable ships is an equivalent to an Interdictor-class Star Destroyer?

  17. Kelduum says:

    Although (geek moment) surely the answer to jump-capable ships is an equivalent to an Interdictor-class Star Destroyer?

    Not really, no.

    Rather than FTL and/or warp drives for travelling between systems, EVE uses wormholes, and jump gates. Larger ships cant use the gates, so have their own Jump Drives, but still need a ship in the destination system to create a ‘Cyno Field’ to give them a beacon to jump to. These normally show up on the overview for eveyone in the system, meaning something is about to happen.

    In Trinity, they are introducing the new ‘Black Ops’ ships, and new modules which are more covert, so you can see them coming. The idea being that a Black Ops ship can infiltrate behind enemy lines, and raise havoc.

    However, you still need the new Covert Cyno Fields, and a ship to create them already in the system, so that has to get past your defences, as it did before.

    Also, there are Interdictor Class Star Destroyer equivalents – both in ship (new ones added with this update in fact) and static deployable ‘bubble’ forms – they just stop people entering warp, though.

    Finally, to anyone whos thinking of starting playing Eve, but is overwhelmed with the complexity, check out Eve University – we take new players, train them up, and set them free into the galaxy to make their name.

  18. Junior says:

    Sorry? Did someone say Dune’s Golden chic? Will we finally get a game worth Frank Herbert’s blood?

    With all the technology laid out, and a whole beautiful universe ready, i think i can be forgiven for a little impatience.

  19. Ben Hazell says:

    Kelduum: “we take new players, train them up, and set them free into the galaxy”

    If I can ask without being accusing, why do you guys do this? Is it just to get people into the game that you love, or are there in-game political motivations to bring in new blood associated with your faction?
    I’m considering that offer. :)

  20. MindBrain says:

    I’ve played Eve Online for a total of about 3 months on and off. It’s really a sweet game and the graphics upgrade looks great but I’d really wish they’d improve jump transitions between the systems, make them a bit less choppy somehow, I think that would go a long way. Anyone know if they improved this at all?

  21. Devin says:

    I’m neither an EVE-U member nor an alum, but they do seem fairly neutral (at least in terms of recruiting and alumni affiliations, though they do have friends and enemies… Can’t teach PVP without someone to shoot, after all).

  22. ShineDog says:

    where do they stand on the whole BoB/Swarm warfare thats going on?

  23. Nallen says:

    I know you’ve got to keep this fairly simple for people that aren’t already playing EVE but you are overplaying the effects of the jump changes some what I think. Jump capable freighters replace the (nerfed) carrier frieght runs with something that makes sense and Black Ops cynos and jump bridges can only be used in conjunction with Covert Ops ships and are highly demanding on resources.

    If your fleet can be engaged by a Cov Ops fleet of a greater strength that’s been delivered via Black Ops you are so far out gunned and out resourced you’ve already lost in any case.

    Btw does anyone know if POS Cyno jammers block Cov Ops Cynos?

  24. fearian says:

    @ShineDog

    The Red Swarm Federation* has been faily rapidly pushing back band of brothers. its now at the point where if the swarm advances any more they will be pushing into bobs home space (atm bob has neve lost something they didnt take in the first place).

    bob has been wirking their way up north but nowhere near as fast as they are being beaten back in the south.

    *Red Alliance, Goonswarm and the Tau Ceti Federation – the three most powerfull aliances in the game next to Band of Brothers (BoB)

  25. Jae Armstrong says:

    Eh, I think he was asking what stance EVE Uni take on the War. I think they’re neutral, by the way, but for Christ’s sake don’t quote me on that.

  26. Heartless_ says:

    And I’m not sure what you mean by that, either. Are you talking about sniper battles? Because those are relatively rare now.

    I was referring to the situation that occurs in regards to almost any fight in EVE. They are on that side of the gate and we are on this side. Until one side moves through, there is no fight and chances are the fight will just be over stragglers that lagged out as everyone jumps to another gate. EVE PvP concept is great, but it’s action is highly overrated and as boring as watching paint dry. They have done nothing to bring the combat to the forefront, too much still relies on exploiting and spying.

  27. Janek says:

    That’s a fair enough comment, Heartless, and indeed part of the reason I recently quit Eve (again) was due to the increasingly conservative nature of the playerbase – I hadn’t had a decent stand-up gang fight for months.

    While you do get folks who are happy to just go “fuck it, let’s go” and jump into an enemy fleet or whatever, you’re increasingly seeing people not willing to engage unless heavily outnumbering the opposition, or having capital ship backup ready to jump in. It’s just bait and gank, bait and gank. Some people are just too afraid to lose anything (hence logoffski, omg spies, docksies, etc).

    Coupled with personal frustration over certain game mechanics, it’s meant that the ratio of satisfaction from a good fight to sheer desk-headbutting frustration is too low to make it worth my while any more. And that’s a real shame.

    Having said that, I don’t regret my time in Eve, I was in a fantastic corp, and have had fantastic allies and enemies over the years.

  28. Heartless_ says:

    They could start by removing names from local. Just stupid to be able to scout out an entire zone by looking at a chat channel.

    Even when fights get going, it is warp in, warp out, warp in, warp out, warp in, warp out. It is stupid combat for the most part. They could do so much better.

    And part of it is the playerbase being reserved, but I don’t blame them. Who wants to flush potentially MONTHS of time down the drain because they got caught unaligned to the nearest star gate?

    I’ve always advocated for gang sizes to be capped and for zones to have a hard cap of about 64 players, limiting how large attacking/defending forces could be. That way the action would spread out and a lot more fun could be had.

    This 200 vs 200 stuff is garbage and the Internet is years away from making it work.

  29. Janek says:

    See, a hard system cap just wouldn’t work as the game stands – need to defend a key system? Pack it to the limit with alts! Noone gets by.

    Totally agree on the major fleet stuff though, and I turned away from major alliance warfare for just that reason, amongst others. Rather than a hard cap on local, you really need to shape game mechanics such that stategic confrontations don’t require you to just shovel as many grunts as you can into one system.

    Don’t really see how that can happen without a radical restructuring of how territory is controlled, and I can’t see that happening because everything is so strongly entrenched now.

  30. James says:

    EVE has big problems, no doubt. Combat is imperfect, no doubt. Listing off very precise technical bugs and imbalances in game mechanics is easy. What’s more important is, despite this, it’s still by far the most in-depth, immersive and beautifully complex MMO we have currently.

    As for disillusionment with fleet operations, that’s very understandable. Taking part in massive 100 vs. 100 pitched battles sounds nothing sort of epic. What you get, due to the technical side of things (local or remote), is a very choppy, uncomfortable (and sometimes painful) mess that’s over too quickly and quite often regrettable.

    My main problem with large engagements isn’t the lag or near certainty of death, but the “primary calling”, whereby the fleet commander designates the target for the entire gang to shoot at. That’s fine for a small engagement of a few people where the “primary” ship may take some minutes to succumb to focused fire, but in large scale battles this ship will always die within seconds (even the sturdiest battleships), with no chance of retaliation or survival. Poof. 200m ISK turns to spacedust.

    Hit point buff, maybe? DPS nerf, maybe? Siege mode for battleships?

    Maybe I’m just being silly here, but in my mind Star Wars-esque epic space fights are a series of small skirmishes on the battlefield between squads of similarly-classed ships (the potential, maybe, for making different classed ships vastly ineffective against each other, making for diverse fleet makeups and squad-based combat?) duking it out over a fairly long period of time, with victory being decided by superior tactics and willpower rather than sheer numbers.

    Having said all that (and hopefully not scaring away potential new players), none of these problems are present in small-gang warfare. In engagements like these, a pilot’s skill and ship are much more important than luck in determining survival and success. The problem is that this type of warfare is in decline due to people moving up the social food-chain into 0.0 space and alliances, and hence into 100 man fleets. I think it’s natural to wish to raise your social status, and EVE wouldn’t be the game it is without the hundreds of thousands of friendly and unfriendly pilots floating in nearby systems, but the death of small-gang warfare is a high price to pay for populated player space in 0.0.

  31. ShineDog says:

    Yes, but the most common action i am seeing in one of the big guilds isnt the big fleet battles, but small raiding parties running through our territory, steamrolling a belt or two then running up and down the pipes taking people out on route then moving on. (CURSE YOU STAINE)

    Then parties form to take these guys out.

    Thats the most common PvP I’m seeing

  32. Jim Rossignol says:

    Yeah, roaming PvP is the most common (and most enjoyable) aspect of Eve. I’ll write about it at some point, because I think it’s essentially what the game should, at core, have been about.

    While I’ve not reached the same stage of frustration as Janek, I am somewhat disillusioned (see above) and I do think Eve is hugely in favour of defensive play. It really is too easy to hide, and that’s something driven by the unforgiving cost of the game.

    I think Heartless is being a little overzealous, however, as there’s still a great deal of interesting combat in Eve. And combat *is* at the forefront of the game I play. The hundreds (okay, thousands) of kills I’ve participated in attest to that.

  33. Jae Armstrong says:

    Gah, is the TQ patch not up for download yet? Considering this this is supposed to come with GBs of new art, I’d have thought CCP would put it up for download some time before they finish deployment.

    Maybe I’m just being dense.

  34. Janek says:

    They generally don’t bother until the servers go up. Which is slightly inexplicable, but never mind.

  35. Jae Armstrong says:

    SO. MUCH. PRETTY.

  36. K-k says:

    Sadly, graphics do not make the game. The game… well, if you can call it that, makes you feel dirty like a goldfarmer bot. For the first month or 2, you shouldn’t concider playing it at all, other than just plugging in the new thing to train. Only after you’ve paid them for 2 months you should start to play the game, but if you’re a powergamer like me, you’ll hit another stunted spot sooner or later, and then again have to wait for period of X days / months since playing it any more wouldn’t really do any proper good. You’ll know what i mean if you’ve played this game.

  37. Ackwell says:

    After playing the game for 3,5 years now I still can’t fly a battleship yet. I have decided to stay in the smaller classes so far and had tons of fun specially with the T2 frigs. Being in either an empire war or lowsec/0.0 roaming the small ship icon seems like a warcall for ignorant/new players thinking they got the upper hand with their cruiser/BC. Being able to take out a bigger ship class with my assault frig is the most rewarding feeling in EVE. I love it and I like soloing around with them or electronic frigs. It’s not always “the bigger wins” situation. Everybody just has to find their personal way around the universe of EVE. Forever favoring the small… :)