Eve: Rubicon is the devilishly clever 20th expansion to CCP Games' sprawling MMO sandbox. VG247's Dave Cook quizzes the studio about how the race for new frontiers is only just beginning.
I seem to conduct Eve: Online interviews every other month, but the insight never ceases to impress me. As I type this my brain is aching from what I've just learned, and trying to imagine exactly what's going to happen once new expansion Rubicon lands on the servers. It's incredibly smart.
Here's the rub: Basically, developer CCP Games is adding a whole new sector of space into the Eve Online universe, but exactly how Capsuleers get there is shrouded in mystery. The only clue given to me by chief marketing officer David Reid is that corporations will have to construct a new type of Star Gate capable of taking them there. What lies on the other side is - for the time being - a heavily-guarded secret.
Instantly I was reminded of Minecraft's Nether Portal, which can only be crafted using certain materials. They too were shrouded in mystery, but over time the player-base figured it out. The same approach is being taken in Eve: Rubicon, except now the entire player-base will be competing with each other, sabotaging plans and warring over the chance to be the first corporation to steers ships into that secretive new frontier. It's pure, unfiltered, emergent gameplay gold, and it's insanely exciting to comprehend.
"Rubicon marks a really important moment in the Eve: Online history." Reid told me over the phone. "We announced a particular vision at FanFest this year, and talked about the concept of space colonisation. The Eve universe is a pretty massive place already, with 7,000-plus solar systems and tens of thousands of planets. But other than the wormhole expansion that happened with the Apocrypha [expansion] in 2009, there hasn't been an expansion per se, of the known universe. Using the analogy of other MMOs, there haven't been new 'zones', or 'continents'.
"Rubicon begins a multi-expansion arc that will allow players to begin harvesting, amassing the resources, blueprints, the implants and things that it will take to construct the first Star Gates and then go forth and colonise new galaxies. At some level there is this very intricate balance of power that's been going on in Nullsec for many years. We're going to open up a whole new gold rush if you will. There's going to be a race to build the first Star Gate, and the corporation that do that are going to be the first to plant their 'flag' on the hills of new systems if you will."
Already you can envision corporations sabotaging Star Gate construction sites, commandeering necessary supplies, deploying a range of espionage tactics to subvert or deceive efforts and as always, engage in mass-scale dogfights. Reid confirmed that supplies necessary to build the coveted device will be found at 'Ghost Sites', which are vaults secured by pirate factions. These encounters will take many forms and add new urgency to engagement as players battle for those precious loot drops.
It's not just about Star Gate pieces either, as you'll also need to liberate and use sufficient implants to adapt your Capsuleer to the gate's new warp speed, vital ship upgrades and more. Collecting the necessary item set to reach Eve's new section of space will demand great teamwork, but as always, Reid isn't fooling himself by thinking everyone will simply play nice and work together. In fact, he reckons many corporations will only discus their efforts in locked forums and through other means to ensure they, and they alone are first through the gate.
"It's like anything else," Reid continued. "If you think about the early colonisation of our world, there was great reward, but there was also tremendous risk. I mean, who knows what you're going to find on the other side of that Star Gate? There's any number of things that could and will happen.Some of these colonisation efforts will be wildly profitable, some of them will end in the modern analogy of the Donner Party in America colonisation, where they were snowed in and it was quite a disaster. That level of choice and consequence, loss and victory is pretty unique to Eve and we just want to amplify that. We want to make the absolute value of these things even bigger than players are seeing today."
"The process is beginning now," he added. "People will have a couple of expansions to think about this and to run their own little 'water cooler' bets as to what's on the other side of the door, or down the rabbit hole if you will, pick your analogy. But yeah, part of what makes a game like Eve work so well is that sense of mystery and wonder and risk. We're certainly not going to spoil it, because there are genuinely few things in video games now where people can be surprised. There's a big internet, millions of people playing and posting walkthroughs on YouTube and what-now, but we have an opportunity to deliver some real surprise in this game and that's something we want to stick to."
So how long might it take a corporation to assemble a Star Gate, augment their Capsuleer and ship enough to make the jump and break through to this shrouded new area of space? Reid suggested that it would take a while, given the contested nature of the gate components and the eventual conflicts that will rise out of Rubicon's space-race. The process will run over the next few expansions as it'll take time for the Ghost Sites to be found, and for people to figure out how all of the special items fit together.
Reid offered a theoretical scenario, and explained, "I wouldn't be surprised if - yes you'll have some players who will want to propel the universe forward and give their findings away for free - and there will be some who say, 'Absolutely not. We're going to get there first, we're going to sabotage anybody who looks like they have an edge on us.'"
The race to the Star Gate won't simply impact on the world of Eve, as Reid assured me that its ripples would also be felt within DUST 514 and hopefully Eve: Valkyrie. It may not be as profound as a new feature or visible bleed-through, but the overarching economy and performance of corporations is all relative, so there will be a degree of cross-over at some level. As ever, Reid and the whole of CCP is confident that its player-base is smart and capable enough to thrust the combined world into a new age of prosperity and war.
It's going to be very interesting to see how the Eve: Online community reacts to Rubicon and as the creation of the universe's first Star Gate nudges closer. As always we'll be here, reporting on it and being blown away by the community's efforts.
Eve: Rubicon launches tomorrow, November 19 for free.