Header art by: Mintaki
At Fanfest this year, one of the most interesting parts of Hilmar’s speech was him mentioning that he has started playing Eve again. He mentioned that he had done PI, and later, it was announced that PI was having a QoL pass.
This got us wondering what Hilmar was doing in-game, as he hadn’t played for a long time. Returning players often find themselves behind in New Eden, especially as they try to understand mechanic changes that have happened in their absence. So we thought it would be fun to sit down with Hilmar, and get his view as a returning player. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, we were unable to transcribe the interview, so the following is a synopsis of the notes taken from our discussion.
I was not sure how the interview would go, as Hilmar can be notoriously quiet, and I was not sure if it would be a difficult interview. In the event, Hilmar was the most excited and animated I have ever heard him, and, I will try to get some of that enthusiasm I heard through in this article.
As soon as we started the interview, Hilmar began talking about how this was the most addicted he has been to Eve for years, that he has been losing sleep staying up playing Eve, and is absolutely hooked on it. While he has been playing in sprints after a feature release, he hasn’t played Eve heavily since 2013, and does not think he has been this hooked on it since 2004.
Rediscovering New Eden
It all started last year, with Project Discovery and exoplanet searching. This seems to be an unusual way to get hooked into Eve. For Hilmar, it was a gateway minigame, leading to the sleepless nights and adrenaline rushes from PvP that many of us recognise.
It took quite a journey to get to where he is today in Eve, and he travelled a road that many players will have followed.
From his interest being sparked by exoplanet hunting, he decided to take a look at Planetary Interaction. Using an old character, he set up PI, and started running a few planets. As most players know, there is not a lot to do in PI, so Hilmar began searching for another activity in Eve. As he had not done the New Player Experience since the revamp, he started some new characters to try this out.
As a lot of players have found, playing two characters adds to the Eve experience, and for Hilmar, it “doubled the tempo,” increasing his interest in Eve. He was not multiboxing in the way most think of it, like running a cyno alt or a scout alongside a main. Instead, Hilmar was doing two sets of career agents, and running his PI. At one point, he got up to 4 characters, but, again ran into the issue that is familiar: the more characters you are active with, the more scope there is for mistakes. Four characters was this point for him.
Having dipped his toe into the PvE experience, he followed the usual path to its logical conclusion, running level 4 missions in highsec. By now, he was flying a Vargur, A powerful PvE ship with the Bastion module. This meant it was invincible, right? Nope. Unwary mission runners have found to their cost that L4 missions can be tricky if you haven’t figured them out yet, and Hilmar was no exception. Three Vargurs were lost this way.
While considering his options to not lose ships in PvE, he tried out Distribution missions. These have been a mainstay of anyone faction rep grinding who cannot run the epic arcs, as you can autopilot an unfit T1 industrial between the destinations.
The only real risk with distribution missions is that, sometimes, you get one that sends you to lowsec. Normally, you drop these, or switch to something light and fast to get you in and out. The killboards are littered with T1 industrials belonging to impetuous pilots who think they can just nip in and out without planning. Their numbers have been bolstered by a terribly fit Mammoth wreck, bravely piloted by Hilmar, and using a fit from way back in the day. As he put it “I was locked down and destroyed quickly, and they were probably laughing at the terrible fit that I had.”
Undeterred by this or his Vargur losses, he headed to the internet to find out about fits and ships, returning with a Prowler fit and a plan for cloaking skills that has kept his distribution mission pilot safe since.
Social Game, Social Challenges
The mission-based PvE in Eve is not the most exciting gameplay, and Hilmar became restless, looking for a new challenge. Nullsec is where people traditionally go looking for PvP and group gameplay, but, of course, when you are the CEO of the company that makes the game, joining a corporation that requires voice comes with challenges. Eve Devs often have this issue, especially the ones with recognizable voices like Fozzie and Rise. Hilmar could have opted to remain in highsec, running missions, and perhaps branching into Industry or Market trading from an NPC corp.
After looking around at available gameplay, he decided that the Pirate arcs would give him a focus and a purpose to being in 0.0 space, so he headed off to start running these in an undisclosed NPC null region.
Looking for fits, he came across Warp Core Stabilizers. These are modules which add to your warp strength, meaning it is more difficult to catch you (WCS have just been disallowed from use in FW complexes, with the change implemented in the May patch). After using these, he felt that the design of them is not as optimal as it could be, either for the user, or for the players trying to catch them. Warp Core Stabs are now on the list of items to be refactored.
He spent some time on Eve University’s website, looking at fits, and reading advice for living in nullsec. As a result of this, he switched his WCS for Inertia Stabilisers and has never looked back!
Like many returning players, his older characters had gaps in their skills, and the new ones feel a bit like they are behind. Skill Injectors were used to fill in these gaps, and he bought a lot of PLEX to allow him to experiment with ships and ideas. He was surprised at how much fun he could have with €10; 750m ISK or so goes a long way when you are not flying (and losing) Vargurs.
So, is Hilmar still playing Eve, and what is he up to right now?
Apparently work is getting in the way of Eve (A situation many of us can relate to!). There was also a new game out recently, Battletech, which has distracted him temporarily from Eve, but he is still very active. Hilmar looks forward to get back to losing sleep and spending days surreptitiously planning fits and activities.
These days, Hilmar has been living in the most spooky of Eve places, Wormholes. He is absolutely in love with the wormhole lifestyle, and told me that it reminded him of Eve in the early days. Wormholes were never designed to be used by players as they are today, and it is something that the devs did not plan for. Hilmar loves the cat-and-mouse-style gameplay that exists in wormholes, and the situational awareness required for living there. He compares it to nullsec, where you have intel at your fingertips just by looking at your local window. In wormholes this information is not available, and so you rely on scanning and probing to see who is nearby.
There are problems with the gameplay, and a simple one that Hilmar mentioned was the d-scan usage of putting it in the bottom corner of your screen and repeatedly hitting V. This is not an engaging style of play, and it is something that may end up being reworked to make it more interesting.
Living out of a wormhole has given him an insight into how much of the rest of the game (especially nullsec and lowsec) could maybe benefit from some of the gameplay in wormholes. Bringing situational awareness into other areas would make for more engaging gameplay.
He has also seen how Wormhole gameplay was not something that was forced or designed—it organically came into being from players. The whole WH lifestyle developed without intervention by developers, and this is what makes Eve…Eve.
As anyone who has watched any of Hilmar’s presentations about ye olde Eve knows, players doing things not expected by the devs is something that is very close to his heart (as well as hearing the tale of him having to mine back his ship…something he did not do this time round!)
I went into this interview unsure what to expect from it, and came out with the impression that Hilmar is once again in love with the game, and that while he has seen things that he wants to change, they seem to be things to take Eve back to harsher roots. There is always concern from players, myself very much included, when CCP start playing the game and looking for tweaks they can make. At the same time, we often criticize them for not being in touch. While Hilmar is not involved in nullsec gameplay (at the moment. Who knows, he may figure out a way to join a corporation without giving away who he is…or, he may be out there at the moment, Entosising nodes and picking up the batphone to CCP HQ to complain about it), he is very much involved in WH life, and wants to get more into PvP.
Seeing EVE’s CEO being so active in, and even losing sleep (in a good way) over the game he created fifteen years ago is a good sign for our favourite internet spaceships game. With so many possibilities for changing old systems to have more of the brutal, uniquely EVE flavour we’ve come to know and love, we’re looking forward to seeing where Hilmar’s renewed love for the game takes us in the coming years. This drive could potentially turn into a broader revival of EVE’s gameplay and identity. Now we need to wait and see.
Update: I went back to Hilmar with a question about WCS vs Inertial stabs and his experiences in NPC null, he replied:
I had very low success rate in getting through the numerous gate camps on the way to the Guristas mission Arc with warp core stabs, it wasn´t until I found this Reddit post that I could reliably navigate around 0.0 to do the mission arcs. I had additional problems with being killed while undocking from the main mission stations until I was fully setup with insta-undock bookmarks. Overall once I had gotten relatively on top of the basics, I lost a lot of ships through trial and error, but I was surprised how enjoyable it was, as I was learning something each time. I was also quite impressed how determined some EVE players are in making sure 0.0 is a dangerous place!