CCP’s latest expansion for Eve Online has struck (almost) all the right chords and pushed all the right buttons. Today’s announcement of the initial EVE Vanguard play test from December 7 to December 11 aims to further resonate with players and draw attention to the new FPS being developed by CCP.
The CCP development teams appear to be rapidly iterating on both the Havoc Expansion and EVE Vanguard, as shown by the string of patches aimed at refining and balancing issues discovered in the system. A very good sign, and one I hope gets spread to other (ahem) more stagnant areas of EVE game play.
EVE Vanguard: First Strike from December 7 to 11
Starting on December 7, the “First Strike” event will go live. This will give EVE players with Omega accounts an opportunity to test Eve Vanguard for the first time. So far, CCP has been keeping information about Vanguard close to the vest. The Vanguard website showcases a mix of concept art, (presumably) gameplay footage, and development stills, all typical of a game nearing release but not yet ready for prime-time.
Without delving too deeply into the history of CCP and EVE-related shooters, there is a lot of hope in the community that Vanguard will be a success. Dust 514 still has its veterans who fondly remember it. The EVE universe has always had opportunities to tie in other types of games, such as flying fighters in VR, shooting ground troops from orbit, and even discussions about ways to make Planetary Interaction a mobile-style base builder, so that bio-breaks no longer need to be an EVE-free zone. However, CCP has faced challenges when trying to capitalise on these opportunities.
What we do know about Vanguard primarily comes from the 2023 Fanfest keynote address. Vanguard is expected to have meaningful connections to EVE in both directions. The primary link is planned to be how it can impact or impede the spread of pirate insurgencies, as opposed to the direct control of systems by factions. The notes emphasise that more than just supply chains will be needed to feed into these battles for territory control.
So on December 7, this first open playtest will be a chance for all of us to get our hands on the game and share our first impressions. CCP wants this stress test to be intensive for two major reasons. First, as we know, nothing that ties into EVE is ever flawless. This will give CCP the opportunity to identify any issues in the POS code before it goes live. Second, CCP has a history of being late to the party. CCP needs to ensure that their gameplay isn’t already outdated (or worse, locked to end-of-life tech from SONY). If this becomes a battle royale akin to a grim-dark Fortnite, then, well, I will be disappointed. Fortunately, the stage demo doesn’t seem to suggest that’s the case. Instead it appears to be an extraction PvPvE shooter type of game, based more around short, quick to achieve mission objectives.
But wait, there’s more!
This past week has also seen significant improvements in several key EVE Online metrics. Most notably, the Peak Concurrent User count has once again hit 40,000 players in recent days. Compared to the last couple of years, this is a major indicator of improved game health. Faction warfare areas are now flooded with new players. The Angel and Gurista pirate insurgencies have both been highly successful, along with new term “Zarked” coined when Fraternity and PH fleets fed to the mist.
In addition to the ongoing balance work on Havoc and the open test of Vanguard, CCP has also announced that the donation of Evermarks to corporations will be reopened. It doesn’t mention if loyalty points will be included, though the post alludes to “criminal activity.” It’s not a major impact, considering that Evermarks have essentially no ISK value compared to LP, which has a direct tie to ISK value through BPCs, implants, and other LP store items.
Overall, there are many reasons to be hopeful right now. Player counts are up, and content is growing. A promising FPS is nearly ready to go online (fingers crossed). CCP, please keep things moving in the right direction. Let’s avoid chasing after crypto-loot boxes or NFT gimmicks that could complicate these recent successes.