In what will probably be the biggest change to Eve Online in the past three years, developer "CCP Whisper" has announced some details about how the new wormhole system will work. The wormholes will be added in the upcoming March expansion, which is timed to coincide with Atari's boxed release. Whisper says: "These wormholes are unstable and will spawn and vanish randomly throughout the known universe. A pilot who stumbles across one of these stellar phenomena can fly through it and travel to unknown space, where there are no stargates or stations, just the unexplored void of a new solar system. And when I say "new solar system" that is exactly what I mean. It will not be moving you to instanced space but rather to one of the thousands of new solar systems we will be adding to the EVE universe." Lots more after the jump.
Whisper continues: "Wormholes will shift all the time. They will open and close and reopen at random locations throughout New Eden and thus present you with an ever-changing area of space that no-one can control all the choke-points to. While it is theoretically possible to move a control tower into wormhole space, set it up and maintain it, the logistical challenge and risks of fueling and defending a tower in a system with no permanent links to known space would be considerable. But then again the potential rewards are equally great."
This is hugely exciting because it essentially addresses the disappoint we faced over the original exploration mechanism, which did little more than spawn new missions. This will be "real" exploration, that offers something like the venture into the unknown that we want from such exploits, quite unlike the those that are possible in the teeming Eve universe at present. The idea of getting a gang together not simply to rove about looking for targets, or to run a mission, but to actually go into unknown space, is thrilling. And if that new space is 46% the size of Eve's current galaxy then we face no shortage of places to head off to. If the wormholes do shift this radically it could mean that players get trapped for a time, or find themselves coming back out in some hostile part of space. I should think people will try to deploy towers out there, too, which will be a massive new challenge. Without the super-easy logisitcal support of capital jump-drive ships getting back and forth to these wormhole system becomes a fresh puzzle. It shouldn't, Whisper thinks, be supportable to expand Empires into these new regions, but folks will try.
"One important point needs to be made: Wormhole space will not be able to be claimed as sovereign space. This is partly due to current implementation restrictions regarding how we added 46% more solar systems to EVE but mainly because we wanted to design an area of space which, while risky to travel through, is open to all players all the time. We have not forgotten about the desirability of space for colonisation, and will be looking at ways to implement that gameplay feature in the future."
All this is clearly great news for people who wanted Eve to have some other dimension of exploration and PvE, but it also suggests some strange possibilities for PvP: will wormhole roaming to pick off explorers and industrial corps become the new frontier for PvPers? What kind of gang would you have to taken into the wormhole? It's clear that if this is a popular system then certain wormhole systems will rapidly become well-trafficked, with multiple gangs entering the systems and probably fighting over the resources. So this announcement clearly raises more questions that it answers, but it suddenly makes the coming expansion all the more interesting, and threatening to revitalise Eve's low-end of solo or small-group play. I can't wait to see it in more detail.