Tuesday, September 5, 2017

EVE Online: Lifeblood - The Surprise Expansion

As new technologies for resource acquisition emerge in the form of Upwell Refineries, new moon mining capabilities and refined reaction processes, pirate factions have set their sights on taking a slice of the dwindling resources that remain in New Eden.

With more tools for resource gathering at the hands of capsuleers than ever before, the competition for raw materials and supremacy over space is becoming more heated than ever as the cluster is pushed closer toward the brink of all out conflict.

A couple of weeks ago, I noted that CCP had removed mention of high-sec content coming in the winter expansion from the Updates site. On Friday, CCP announced the next expansion, Lifeblood, would launch on 26 October, which technically occurs before winter in the northern hemisphere. When does a game company move the date up on a release? Unheard of!

The expansion mainly covers two things, the moon mining changes in null and low security space, and the addition of new content in high sec. I'll list (aka copy and paste) the features currently listed on the Updates site and then give some thoughts based on the sometimes limited knowledge of the features available.

Refineries: The next class of capsuleer-built structures are arriving, putting even more industrial power in the hands of pilots throughout New Eden!

Refineries will revolutionize how consumable resources are harvested and processed in New Eden, and will become the premier structure for capsuleers to use when collecting, processing, refining and reprocessing.

This new line of structures will offer an entirely new method of moon mining, and improve the ability to carry out reactions by utilizing the industry UI for the process, allowing capsuleers to streamline their industrial workflows like never before.

Nosy Gamer: The addition of the refinery structure will also issue in a complete redistribution of moon minerals throughout the game. High sec players will no doubt complain that the structures are of very limited use in CONCORD-patrolled space, but anyone thinking that moon mining was coming to high sec hasn't followed developments too closely. In the dev blog introducing refineries in March, CCP explicitly stated:
To be clear: Refinery structures themselves will be deployable anywhere that other Upwell structures can be deployed. However only Refineries deployed near minable moons will be able to fit a moon drill service module. The deployment UI for Refineries will clearly show whether the structure is in a location suitable for moon mining before deployment is confirmed.
The dev blog also stated, "However, for this first release we are not currently planning on expanding moon mining to areas of space where it is not available today (highsec and wormholes). Although this gameplay has the potential to be interesting and fun in any area of space we want to be careful not to dilute the regional value of tech two resource collection too much."

Moon Mining: With the arrival of refineries, capsuleers will now be able to carry out moon mining operations directly via these structures, transforming the process from an entirely passive form of income into an active form of gameplay that promotes collaboration and conflict.

Nosy Gamer: I wouldn't exactly describe the mining process as occurring directly from the refinery. Yes, the mining module is part of the structure. But the belt created by the moon mining process will lie 100 kilometers from the refinery. The mining operation will lie beneath the guns and missiles of the refinery, but the mining ships and supporting haulers will need to bounce to a spot over 150 km from the refinery before making the final warp to the structure.

Also, I still want to know one thing. Where are the low sec moon miners going to find people to mine the asteroid belts? Any adventurous miners willing to brave the risks beyond high sec will most likely head to the safety of null sec, skipping low sec completely. After all, the pay is much better there.

Improved Reactions: The arrival of refineries heralds a rework of reactions, wherein they will be moved into the industry UI and will be a process exclusive to refinery structures.

With a simplified interface for ease of use by pilots of all levels of industrial expertise, the new reactions system will bring a more coherent and clear process to the fingertips of both veteran and rookie industrialists.

Nosy Gamer: From everything I've heard about the existing mechanics and running reaction farms, I don't think anyone will complain that CCP is "dumbing down" the game. Interestingly, all existing reaction jobs will stop at downtime on 24 October. In addition:
POS Reactor arrays will remain anchored in space but will be offline after the Release. Your Reactor Arrays will not be able to be onlined again. No new arrays will be able to be manufactured and no new arrays can be anchored. Any jobs to manufacture arrays that are running at the time of the release will continue to run (will not be paused or cancelled) and the arrays will be delivered to the manufacturer once the job has completed. It will not be possible to anchor or online these arrays.

Mining Ledger: With the advent of new mining technologies, capsuleers will be able to utilize detailed information on their mining history, as well as those who’re mining in their space to monitor efficiency and raw materials output from their resource gathering operations.

Nosy Gamer: I'm sure the mining ledger was designed with moon mining in mind. After all, minerals as valuable as moon goo need to have a way the owner of the refinery can keep track of the activity. Still, I'm not a big fan of the free intel on who is ninja mining under the noses of the refinery owners. Finding out everyone gets a personal mining ledger is a welcome bonus.

Resource Wars: As pirate forces encroach on the borders of New Eden’s sovereign nations, capsuleers are being contracted to assist with resource gathering operations in high security space. Forming part of resource gathering expeditions as combat or mining pilots, capsuleers both young and old will be able to take part in collaborative gameplay with other capsuleers to assist their chosen empire with the release of EVE Online: Lifeblood.

Nosy Gamer: The first of the high sec features, we don't have any details apart from the fact mining is involved. If I had to guess, I'd say that the resource gathering expeditions will gather to clear out one or more dedicated sites. I also expect a large death toll for the first 2-3 weeks after the expansion releases, as I expect CCP to use the same AI protecting the Blood Raider Sotiyo-class engineering complexes in null sec to also contest the sites with players.

Pirate Forward Operating Bases: Increased conflict over dwindling resources across New Eden has caused the Guristas and Blood Raiders to expand their influence and industrial capability, staging daring raids into high-security space which lies under the sovereignty of the empires.

New pirate Forward Operating Bases – or FOBs – have been spotted across New Eden, creating new opportunities for groups of likeminded capsuleers to band together and work toward driving out the threat.

Scan them down and hit them hard to reap the rewards from defeating hostile forces.

Nosy Gamer: At first glance, these should resemble the Blood Raider engineering complexes. A lot of questions remain, like will the Guristas and Blood Raiders divide empire space, or will they appear throughout New Eden like the Sansha incursions? Once again, expect a high toll of dead ships until players figure out the NPCs.

Improvements To The Agency: With the arrival of EVE Online: Lifeblood, many user experience improvements will be made to the interface for The Agency, including the ability to find gameplay sessions with likeminded pilots so that capsuleers can collaborate on exploration, mining, combat and other aspects of life in space together.

Nosy Gamer: Remember a couple of years ago when improved support for social groups was a semi-big issue? The improvements listed may represent some of that work. At the very least, the feature may make gathering groups to run the Resource Wars and Pirate Forward Operating Bases content a lot easier.

Alpha Ship Balance Pass: With the deployment of EVE Online: Lifeblood, there’ll be a sizable balance pass to many of the hulls popular among Alpha pilots, in order to give them a little more punch, including a few slot layout and bonus changes that aim to shake up the combat meta a little, and provide new tactical options for these classes of hull.

Nosy Gamer: When I first started playing in 2009, min/maxers would choose to play Caldari Achura due to the starting learning statistics associated with bloodline. Today, the way to start is to create a Gallente character due to the ships available to alpha accounts, followed by the Caldari. Hopefully following a balance pass choosing either a Minmatar or Amarr character will make more sense.

Overall, I think the expansion is meaty enough to have content for 3 out of the 4 areas of space (sorry w-space!). I do have a hesitation about fully endorsing the release, however. Lifeblood feels rushed. I know that CCP needs to get the moon mining content in place so the null sec blocks will start fighting seriously again. I guess we will find out as CCP releases not only dev blogs over the coming weeks, but during the presentations at EVE Vegas coming up over the first weekend of October.

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