Apocrypha is almost upon us: the EVE Online expansion which actually expands the game's galaxy via wormholes goes live tomorrow, March 10th. Exploration will no longer simply be about spawning missions across the existing star systems; instead it will be a plunge into the unknown, and a battle against previously unseen enemies. In conjunction with this new frontier, Apocrypha is laden with improvements and enhancements designed to make things smoother for the veterans, and more exciting for the newbies who will inevitably arrive via the new retail box version of the game.
We took some time to speak to senior designer Noah Ward about what the new expansion entails, and how CCP has gone about creating it.
Eurogamer: How much of the new content is intended to make the game more interesting for first-time players?
Noah Ward: As far as content for new players; we've got a team that continuously works on the "New Player Experience" so every expansion has something in it for new players. In Apocrypha that team was focused on the very first moments, such as simplifying character creation and refining the tutorial. The tutorial is now more fun, more rewarding and leads players to career agents that teach things through interaction rather than reading. The new Skill Training Queue and Neural Remapping (attribute respec) features are also results of work done by the NPE team.
The other big thing that relates to new players, but will eventually have an effect on all players, is the Epic Arc missions. Epic arcs are cool because they are long, branching story-lines that have real effects on the development of the player. As the player makes choices and completes parts of the arc, that story is logged in a journal that players can go back to at any time to reminisce about their past adventures. The first arc we've produced is a lower-level chain of missions, but we've got a lot planned for this new feature.
Eurogamer: Apocrypha's wormhole exploration has been a major talking point for players before release - what sort of challenges will it entail? Will I be able to go in with just a couple of friends, or will it be a more significant project to explore wormhole space? Will wormhole systems differ in "true sec" status, like normal space?
Noah Ward: W-space and the things in there will definitely be a challenge. It's going to take a bit of research to find out what encounters within W-space are at a level that maximizes your profit over your risk. You will be able to solo the easy stuff if you know what you're doing, but the goal of W-space is to bring back the fear and wonder, so don't expect a walk in the park.
To really profit from what you find on the other side of the wormholes is going to take a group effort. Within wormhole space you're going to encounter the mysterious Sleepers and will need to deal with NPCs that use entirely new tactics like evasive manoeuvring, spider-tanking and switching targets based on their ability to do the most damage to the players.
The other challenge that's going to face players is balancing their group to send the right make-up of ships through the wormhole without collapsing it. The mass of a battleship is worth the mass of 100 assault frigates, for instance. Also in W-space you can expect to experience what we call "tactical effect environments" that will cause havoc on your ship, but just might be an advantage to you if you know how use it.
Eurogamer: Can you explain a little about how Tech 3 materials will be procured from wormhole space? How will industrialists make money from this process?
Noah Ward: There are many sorts of resources that players will find with judicious use of their new scanner. Harvestable gas clouds, archaeology sites and hacking sites are common, as well as plenty of salvage, so mixed groups are going to have an advantage. An interdictor or destroyer set up like a Swiss Army Knife would be a good ship to have in your fleet in order to maximize profits. Once all of those things are gathered up, they need to be transported back to a starbase or research outpost where they can be reverse-engineered into parts to actually create Tech 3.
Eurogamer: What other features does Tech 3 have? What should we expect from Tech 3 ships? Will they change the current balance of PVP?
Noah Ward: This is a really tough call to make, because the design goal for the new Strategic Cruisers is to empower the players. We're trying really hard to make each subsystem equally valuable so we don't see cookie-cutter setups. Every subsystem has its own flavour, benefits and skill bonus. The element of surprise will play a factor in PVP.
When you saw someone in an Ishtar or Drake, you could be pretty certain what you were up against, but now when you see someone in an SC there will be a new level of uncertainty. We don't plan to make Tech 2 obsolete with these new ships, but this is Tech 3 we're talking about, so you can expect them to be pretty powerful and very good at what you configure them for. Suffice it to say we will be keeping a close eye on how players use these ships.