EVE Online's next expansion finally lets players buddy-up with the pirates

EVE Fanfest is celebrating 20 years of CCP's unique space MMO, and has given us our first look at new FPS module EVE Vanguard and the reveal of EVE's next expansion: Havoc, coming November 14. The clue's in the name. Following the successful overhaul of faction warfare in recent expansions, CCP has decided to mess with things in the only way EVE really knows how. More factions, more fighting, and more destruction.

Havoc was teased with four hidden stargates that CCP recently placed in the game, alongside some obscure clues for how to find them. The developer expected this to take weeks, maybe months. The players did it in days. Just before the Fanfest keynote at which Havoc was announced, the audience was treated to EVE Online on the big screen, with CCP Fozzie, aka senior game designer Josh Bayer (Fozzie Bayer, geddit?), hanging out around one of the stargates with around 200 other players in the system.

Flashes. The odd naughty shot. Then all of a sudden the gate powers up. There's a collective intake of breath in the room as player ships immediately begin jumping. "Shall we go through the stargate?" asks Bayer. 

The room erupts in cheers. He jumps through and, as his ship arrives in the gorgeous new system, the room as one coos "ooh" at the vista, "aaahhh" as a black hole is spotted. There's a new gravity hazard in this system and Bayer flies in to demonstrate how it ignores shields and damages ships directly: but he's gone too far and misjudged the damage, and now his ship's about 10 seconds away from destruction. It looks like, whether by accident or design, Bayer's going to explode his ship in front of all these EVE nerds. 

Bayer boosts for the barrier and safety. The ship speeds forward, the numbers keep dropping, and in unison the room starts a "woooo" that increases in pitch as the barrier gets closer and the numbers get lower, the pitch gets even higher somehow as zero approaches and…. The ship shoots out into safety at the last moment to the biggest cheer of the day. If this was theatre, it was masterfully done. Either way in its combination of danger, joy,  wonder, and audience participation, it encapsulates EVE.

The new systems are accessible now, and some of the new ships are going to the game early, but Havoc won't properly kick off until November. It focuses on a character called the Deathless, a dude with big 40K emperor vibes who's alive but hooked up to a space station that feeds off his body, and the long-and-short is that his presence is going to allow players, for the first time, to ally with the Gurista pirate faction.

The reason? Bringing a third vector into faction warfare, with pirates now capable of establishing a forward operating base in the middle of an ongoing faction war, from which they can begin attacking both sides. The goal is to turn a fight between two groups into a fight between three and, as game director Snorri Arnarson says, "drive up the tinfoil" and celebrate "the beauty of destruction and havoc."

There are new ships, two destroyer class and two battlecruisers, but the biggest cheer was, inevitably, for the semi-mythical Angel Titan, which CCP first showed off art for years and years ago. It is an incredible looking thing that will take weeks if not months for players to construct, and you best believe many plans are already in place for this thing. Arnarson describes it as the "Titan Titan" and says "people are gonna love it; people are gonna hate it."

The Angel Titan. (Image credit: CCP)

Finally, CCP is changing various elements of corporate bureaucracy, meaning players will now be paid automatically for completing certain corporate tasks, more players can set those tasks within corporations, and more types of tasks are coming. You genuinely would not believe the cheer this got, which was only equalled by changes to logistics ships that had the guy in front of me whooping and screaming "logi on killmails!" Good luck with that, but this is certainly enough to be going on with.

EVE Online is one of the most remarkable games ever made and, even as someone who's won it, this is the kind of stuff that tempts me back. I'll never fly an Angel Titan in my life, and if I was a pirate I'm the kind that will pop up and immediately be hammered back down, but these are the kinds of experiences and sights that it feels like only this game can deliver. An expansion dedicated to, essentially, sowing extra chaos in among ongoing conflicts? That's something, that's CCP, and that's EVE Online. 

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."