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Eve Online NPCs strike back against player-run empires

CCP’s Darwinist sandbox space sim Eve Online is at war. Well, slightly more war than usual, and for once it’s not just between player-run power blocs. As reported by Steven Messner over on RPS fan-site PC Gamer, player-made stations out in lawless ‘nullsec’ space are coming under siege. The culprits? The Drifters, a cyborg NPC faction introduced in the Ascension expansion. Until recently, players had been farming them for loot by luring them into range of station defences. Now, hundreds of Drifters are pounding at the gates of the stations that once threatened them, and there’s no end in sight.

This NPC uprising is almost entirely unprecedented, and likely part of the story arc kicked off by the latest expansion, Invasion. Messner poked developers CCP for an official statement on the fracas, and a spokesperson responded that they’d “reached out to the Drifters for comment, but they rejected our hailing frequencies”. I’d imagine CCP are watching in glee as their NPC minions shake the foundations of the game. Player opinions on this invasion are mixed. As “Dran”, representative of the TEST player alliance says, “The game needs more snowglobe shaking”.


Footage of the Drifters pummelling a Keepstar, via Eve news-site Imperium News Network.

Others are less pleased. The enigmatic leader of player alliance The Imperium – “The Mittani” – feels that the invasion runs contrary to the spirit of Eve. He says that having to “grind through what amounts to World Of Warcraft-style raid content” isn’t what he signed up for. The Imperium claim to have sussed the Drifter AI and repelled all attacks so far, as have TEST. As spectacular as this invasion is, the damage done is relatively minimal. Few if any stations have been destroyed, thanks to their multi-layered siege defences giving players time to rally.

That’s not to say that some players haven’t felt the sting of this invasion on their wallets. As PC Gamer reports, smaller roaming bands of Drifters are attacking lone players with unusual ferocity, even sinking some high-end capital ships worth billions of ISK (the in-game currency). Worse still, they’re aggressively attacking player escape pods, causing even more financial damage (when you die, any cybernetic perks you have go with you) and forcing a lengthy flight back from wherever the dead player last frequented a clone bay.

As for myself, I’m rooting for the Drifters. While I’ve dabbled in Eve, I don’t have the time, patience or social nature for it. As an outsider looking in, though, this invasion is fun stuff. Pass the space-popcorn.

Eve Online is free to play and has the potential to demolish all of your free time. You can get it direct from CCP or via Steam, but I’d recommend just watching from the sidelines.

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Dominic Tarason

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