Capsuleers Against COVID: A Closer Look at the Latest Iteration of Project Discovery


Art by Major Sniper.

CCP’s June 15 patch introduced a new mini-game that allows players to aid the global effort against COVID-19. The update comes as a part of Project Discovery, EVE’s in-game citizen science program that seeks to create a positive impact beyond the border of New Eden. Project Discovery can be found in the Exploration tab of The Agency, or directly from the Neocom menu.

Flow cytometry is a technique used to assess the cell characteristics present in a given population. Samples are suspended in a fluid before each cell is individually fed through a chamber into the path of a laser. Sensors opposing the laser then record the pattern of light distortion each cell creates when passing through the laser’s beam and assemble the data into a dot-plot that can then be analyzed by a human. With regard to the coronavirus pandemic, flow cytometry is currently being used to better understand the development of the virus as it comes into contact with the human immune system. This is known as the disease’s immunopathogenesis.

A paper entitled “SARS‐CoV‐2, the Virus that Causes COVID‐19: Cytometry and the New Challenge for Global Health,” published in March 2020, states that there have been no data published on the behavior of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease, once it enters the human body. “Thus, the immunopathogenesis of this disease is still largely unknown,” says the paper’s lead author, Dr. Andrea Cossarizza of the University of Caille. “However, several groups . . . are now investigating different molecular, cellular and immunological aspects.” Dr. Cossarizza is also the lead scientist who collaborated with CCP to bring the new flow cytometry activity to EVE, and is featured in the current Project Discovery in-game tutorial.

As with previous versions of Project Discovery, participants will be rewarded with ISK, cosmetics, and SKINs for their efforts. Blueprint copies for three CONCORD ships – the Pacifier, Enforcer, and Marshal – will also be distributed at levels 50, 150, and 500 respectively, and permanent Biosecurity Responder SKINs for each are rewarded at levels 75, 175, and 650. Capsuleers will also earn a Flow Cytometry Rewards Crate for every level achieved, which contains a random, permanent Biosecurity Responder SKIN. 

Getting In the Flow

On first opening the new mini-game, capsuleers will be guided through a brief explanation of flow cytometry and a tutorial on how to identify cell clusters in dot-plots generated through flow cytometry. In brief, the screen will load a plot with hundreds of colored dots, the task being to form a polygon around identifiable groups of dots by drawing lines, enveloping as many cells as possible. Each dot represents a cell, and areas with higher concentrations of dots will be displayed in warmer colors. Once the tutorial has been completed, the interface will load real data, interspersed with pre-analyzed samples which serve to assess a participant’s accuracy. Experience points are rewarded for each plot analyzed, and the number of points required to rank up increases with each level.

Samples examined by EVE Online players will help scientists at the forefront of coronavirus research understand the disease’s varied effects. Dr. Cossarizza’s paper continues that “there are several crucial clinical questions that urgently await an answer and that require strong and highly dedicated work.” EVE’s capsuleers can now contribute to this work and aid the fight against COVID-19 from within the New Eden galaxy.

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