10 Absolutely Shocking or Surprising MMO Events

The video game industry isn’t all about making games; that would be so downright boring. That is why now and then we get a shocking scandal, surprise announcement or surreal occurrence. Here are 10 controversial or surprising happenings that spread like wildfire and in some way changed the industry.

Save the Whales – Lockbox Legislation Around the World

Video Game Industry Scandals Star Wars Battlefront 2 lockboxes

Do you like gambling? Great! So why aren’t you inside a casino? Oh, that’s right, most games nowadays come with some sort of gambling feature called lockboxes. The premise is simple and ingenious: you are promised amazing in-game rewards that will be all the rage. So, what should you do? Purchase more and more of these boxes to increase the odds of getting that rare piece of gear or costume. Go on, put that credit card to use, games don’t make themselves, you know?

That was sarcasm, in case you didn’t notice. Always be responsible with your spending.

The shady thing with lockboxes is that the odds of really getting something worthwhile are incredibly slim and shrouded in secrecy, not to mention that they have this tempting allure that many players aren’t able to resist. It does sound a lot like gambling, right? That is how you end up spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on randomized pieces of loot.

Oddly enough, it was China that first started looking into this matter and demanded that developers publicly revealed the odds of earning an in-game item. Crossfire was one of the first games to come to light and the ludicrous 3% proves that lockboxes are a wonderful deal… for publishers.

Other regions such as Belgium and The Netherlands started investigating lockboxes, with some games such as Overwatch stopping the sale of lockboxes in affected regions. Electronic Arts was involved in this controversy as well, with games such as Star Wars Battlefront 2 and FIFA 18 being mentioned as examples. Of course, other countries aren’t entirely sure about this subject. France and Ireland, for example, aren’t the biggest fans of lockboxes but see this practice as a legally grey area.

Lockboxes are a touchy subject and will surely continue to be discussed during the following years. My advice to you is: if you really like a game and want to support the development team by spending some money, which you should totally do, look at the item shop and leave lockboxes alone.

 

Riot Games Bro Culture, Testicle Flicking and Gender-Based Discrimination

Video Game Industry Scandals League of Legends Riot Games

Riot Games achieved intergalactic fame riding on the success of League of Legends, but by late 2018 it was talked about due to the worst possible reasons: an alleged culture of sexism, a “giant fraternity,” and a “bro culture” where women were not welcome. It was a place where women were discriminated against, as their career progression was stifled as positions went to less-qualified men.

Kotaku created an amazing article with several interviews that dropped like a bomb in the already fragile and scandal-ridden video game industry.

Naturally, this piece spread like wildfire and had severe repercussions, with Riot Games having to undertake some serious damage control. Riot’s COO Scott Gelb was in the spotlight by facing accusations from multiple employees about repeatedly flicking testicles, farting on employees or humping them for comedic effect. Sounds like a lot of fun when you are on the receiving end, right?

To cut a long story short, several former Riot Games employees started sharing their experiences after reading the articles (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) and the least that can be said is that it is some heavy reading. Riot Games eventually apologized, but the damage was done, and the past can’t be erased. How it has affected the studio – and League of Legends – remains a bit of a mystery, but I doubt that it did them any favors. And it’s so easy to apologize after your humiliating studio culture is revealed to the world…

 

A Bad Case of Battle Royale – PUBG Corp Sues Left and Right

Video Game Industry Scandals PUBG

Here’s a lawsuit for you! And you! Everyone gets a lawsuit!

There is no denying that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was the game that kickstarted the Battle Royale craze. It remains as one of the most played games in its genre, but it is now trailing behind Epic Games’ Fortnite, and Respawn’s Apex Legends is also proving to be a worthy challenger.

However, if there is one thing that developer PUBG Corporation can’t claim is having invented the Battle Royale genre or its mechanics. That is why suing Epic Games sounded more like a desperate attempt to put a stop to the rising fame of Fortnite Battle Royale than an authentic, credible case. It felt more like a kid throwing a tantrum because someone stole his candy. His delicious, everlasting candy.

But before the Epic Games lawsuit, there was a previous one targeting NetEase. PUBG Corporation wasn’t pleased with Knives Out and Rules of Survival, going to the extent of detailing several game mechanics over 100 pages. Claiming copyright infringement for things such as a pre-game lobby, the air jump, character attributes and much more seems a bit of a stretch. Sure, I’ll admit that the frying pan armor may be somewhat original, but still…

PUBG is a huge success and shady copycats were bound to happen, but it will be a depressing day when a studio is granted the copyright for trite game mechanics or a completely unremarkable game idea. Let’s cross our fingers and hope that the day will never come.

 

Trust Us, This Time It’s Good – Bless Online Western Release Mess

Video Game Industry Scandals Bless Online

Bless Online is the perfect lesson in exaggerated hype and subsequent disappointment. May its legacy serve as a warning for future generations about the dangers of high expectations.

For the lucky few who aren’t aware of the whole situation, Bless Online is a Korean fantasy MMORPG that was several years in the making and had a large budget as well. A few lackluster betas led to a Rebuild project that ended up not changing that much, and the attrition between original western publisher Aeria Games and developer Neowiz was a clear sign that Bless Online wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.

Ultimately, Neowiz decided to self-publish Bless Online in the west through Steam, but with a major twist – it was going to be buy-to-play! An unfinished, buggy mess of a free-to-play Korean game that the western crowd was now expected to pay for. Oddly enough, many players cheered this decision because things are always better when you pay, right? With the reality shock and negative feedback stemming from the Early Access phase – because Bless Online wasn’t in development for long enough, you know –, there was a 180º turn and Bless Online’s official launch marked a switch to the original free-to-play business model. Too little, too late?

Apparently, yes. As the original Korean servers shut down, along with the failure of the Russian and Japanese versions. The Steam release of Bless Online is now the sole focus of Neowiz. Unsurprisingly, it is bleeding players and its future is uncertain, to say the least.

But I saved the best for last! Out of the blue, Neowiz and Bandai Namco announced Bless Unleashed, further stirring up the hornet’s nest, a.k.a. Bless Online PC players claiming that resources were being shifted to this upcoming game. This Xbox One exclusive is developed in Unreal Engine 4, is free-to-play and is scheduled for a 2019 launch. How does that old saying goes? Fool me once, shame on you…?

 

Who’s the Parent – Daybreak / Columbus Nova Chaos

Video Game Industry Scandals Daybreak PlanetSide Arena

Daybreak Game Company was in the spotlight for an important part of 2018, and no, it wasn’t due to the massive layoffs (around 70 people). It was because of all the confusion surrounding Daybreak’s alleged parent company, Columbus Nova.

The makers of Z1 Battle Royale, DC Universe Online and PlanetSide Arena, among others, were involved in a tangled web of miscommunication, doubt and unexpected twists. Daybreak has officially denied any affiliation with Columbus Nova, claiming that Jason Epstein, former member of Columbus Nova, is the primary owner of the studio. This conflicts with a 2015 privacy policy which described Columbus Nova as the parent company.

This almost feels like a detective movie, involving a Russian oligarch, billions worth of frozen assets and nail-biting suspense. All that is lacks is a romantic subplot, but let’s not make it more complicated than it already is.

 

Elves on Spaceships – Pearl Abyss Purchases CCP Games

Video Game Industry Scandals Black Desert Online

What does it take for one Korean studio to acquire a hugely reputed developer with a massive hit that has been live for more than 15 years? The answer has three words: Black Desert Online.

Pearl Abyss delivered a stunning MMORPG that is almost unrivaled when it comes to graphics and action combat. It is also incredibly deep and complex – so much so that it’s awfully grindy and requires a hefty dose of patience, and usually money, to become a powerful player. There are reports of players having spent over $5,000 USD on Black Desert Online, and I’m betting that is the tip of the iceberg.

With such revenue numbers, it’s clear that Pearl Abyss had a bit of pocket money. They decided to use it on the acquisition of CCP Games, makers of the intergalactic epic EVE Online. Apart from the upcoming release of EVE Online in Korea, we don’t know what other plans Pearl Abyss has for the Icelandic studio. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t involve spaceships landing in Black Desert Online.

 

A Handful of Nothing – Wargaming Seattle Closes Without a Single Release

Video Game Industry Scandals World of Tanks

Gas Powered Games is a name that brings back some pleasant memories. It takes me to a time when I enjoyed playing the Diablo-like Dungeon Siege, or the complex real-time strategy series Supreme Commander. However, in 2013 the studio was suffering from severe financial issues and ended up being purchased by World of Tanks publisher Wargaming.

Thus, Wargaming Seattle was born, along with hopes of a new “big free-to-play MMO” that never saw the light of day. Five years later, not a single piece of info or a measly screenshot was released to the public, and Wargaming decided to cut its losses. The studio was closed, affecting a 150-strong team and leaving the gaming community oblivious to what kind of project was in development.

However, this isn’t stopping Wargaming’s ambitions. The Belarusian company acquired Edge Case Games in November 2018 and has several partnerships with various developers, one of the latest being Ukrainian studio Frag Lab, which is working on a next-gen free-to-play MMO first-person shooter.

 

Not So Heroic – Marvel Heroes Downfall

Video Game Industry Scandals Marvel Heroes Gazillion

There was once a time when Marvel Heroes merged the best of two worlds: Diablo-like gameplay and super heroes. Sure, it didn’t have the greatest start, but just as it happened with other online games – League of Legends is the perfect example –, it eventually got better as development progressed, gameplay was finetuned and new heroes joined the fray.

After a few years of live service, some worrying news came to light, and not all of them involving the game. A sexual harassment scandal concerning Gazillion’s CEO Dave Dohrmann is a major problem, and Disney’s (owner of Marvel) intention to cut ties with Gazillion was a death sentence. It all ended with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2018, meaning that the studio wasn’t paying its creditors and was forced into bankruptcy by the same entities.

Gazillion workers ended up without any kind of PTO or severance, making the entire situation even more dramatic.

 

Worlds Divided – Gamigo Buys Trion Worlds

Video Game Industry Scandals Trove

Trion Worlds was once one of the most prolific free-to-play games publishers and developers. Trove, Rift, Defiance and Atlas Reactor are all their own doing, and you certainly have heard about ArcheAge as well.

While some of these games were moderate successes, they weren’t enough to keep the company afloat. In October 2018, German publisher Gamigo acquired Trion, along with the full rights to the aforementioned games. They even managed to get a few Gazillion assets (makers of Marvel Heroes) in the deal as well.

Gamigo was undoubtedly one of the top players in the free-to-play market when the genre was on the rise. Recently, however, its catalog is more discreet, with the decent shooter Ironsight being one of the latest releases.

 

Guild Lost – ArenaNet Layoffs and a Grim Future

Video Game Industry Scandals ArenaNet Guild Wars 2

For some reason, ArenaNet felt to me like one of those studios that couldn’t do any wrong. Sure, it’s not like they have done much besides Guild Wars and its sequel, but both MMORPGs were critically and commercially acclaimed, thus my appreciation and admiration for their spotless track record.

Nonetheless, there are very few studios that manage to keep going for years without the occasional new release. Founded in 2000, ArenaNet was allegedly working on two new projects, but delayed development and a shift of staff from Guild Wars 2 to these unannounced games ended up being an unsuccessful move.

Reports mention over 100 layoffs at ArenaNet following a restructuring decision by the studio’s owner NCSoft. The future of ArenaNet is now uncertain, and if there aren’t any new games in an advanced stage of development, there is only so much that new Guild Wars 2 expansions can do. I fear that we will end up seeing the talented staff being engulfed and separated by NCSoft in a not-so-distant future.

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CCP Games Sale to Fuel Future Projects

So now we’ve all had a fair length of time to fully digest the CCP Games sale to Pearl Abyss last week, perhaps we can all take stock in just what that will ultimately mean for the studio and its future projects. Handily, CEO Hilmar Petursson did just that in an interview with Variety.

ccp games sale

In the interview, Petursson parroted again that the sale of the company to Pearl Abyss would mean great things, but he also elaborated on just what direction things will be going for the studio.

CCP Games has already been eyeballing the mobile games market and will now have the means to pursue a real-time strategy game for mobile based in the EVE universe. There is also word of a PC MMO based on EVE, continued development on the FPS Project: Nova, and a multiplayer PC game based on a new IP.

With all of that said, Petursson stressed that there will be heavy investment in EVE Online. One of the most notable updates due for the game is a full overhaul of its engine, which sounds like it goes above and beyond the graphical update that arrived with the Into the Abyss update. “If we are to really live up to the aspiration of having a game that goes on forever, of making plans for the third decade, we need to look at that,” noted Petursson.

Our Thoughts

With all of this out there, this certainly makes us even more curious about what kind of timetable we’re looking at for all of these CCP Games projects. We definitely hope they’ll be able to follow through on their aspirations. After all, they also pursued the VR market with gusto and that didn’t exactly pan out.

Source: Variety

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Pearl Abyss Acquiring CCP Games

In what’s probably one of the more surprising developments in the history of a game studio that’s just full of ’em comes word of the CCP Games acquisition by Pearl Abyss. The announcement in question is twofold, with an official press release and a deeper breakdown of what it means for the Capsuleers of EVE Online.

ccp games acquisition

The press release, as often is the case in these pieces of correspondence, is generally upbeat regarding the decision. It does make a point early in the announcement that CCP Games will still operate as an independent developer with its studios in Reykjavik, London and Shanghai still operational, only now they’ll be bringing their expertise into current and future Pearl Abyss operations.

CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson further broke this down on EVE Online’s official site, additionally reassuring fans that things for EVE Online will not only continue, but improve with the new backing.

“Partnering with Pearl Abyss in my belief puts us in an even stronger position to continue to grow and nurture our amazing virtual world. We’ll continue to be free to do what we do best, but now we’ll have the support of another tried and tested developer that’s proven their own mettle in the complex and challenging field of creating and maintaining virtual worlds.”

While specifics on just what sorts of things this means in the near-term for EVE Online aren’t clear, Pétursson does bring up word of working towards “mutual long-term goals.”

Those who would like to pick the brains of the devs about this move are invited to join in on an AMA tomorrow starting at 12:30pm EST in the EVE Online forums. There’s also the upcoming EVE Vegas event, where the discussion will most assuredly continue.

Our Thoughts

Nebulous though these long-term plans may be, it’s undeniable that Pearl Abyss is a pretty big company to work alongside and so this will hopefully mean similarly big things for EVE Online and anything else CCP Games has cooking. We’re very interested in seeing how this all shakes down, though there likely won’t be any immediate effects.

Sources: press release, official site

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CCP Games to Use Unreal Engine 4 in Latest Projects

I’ll get it out of the way right here and now; the announcement I’m sourcing for this story doesn’t actually mention what these new CCP Games titles are. That said, we can at least assume they’ll look and run really well as the company confirmed it will be using Unreal Engine 4 exclusively for CCP’s upcoming projects.

new ccp games titles

According to the announcement, the use of UE4 for these next releases is a decision that touches on every CCP studio around the world. CCP cites UE4’s stability, ability to create quick prototypes, and cross-platform support as reasons for the decision. This also has the added benefit of letting all of CCP’s studios pool their knowledge of how to use the engine for every game in developed.

“Although CCP Games has used versions of Unreal Engine for more than 10 years on various projects, Unreal Engine 4.20 has massive improvements,” said CCP Shanghai development director Bing Xi. “The product’s push for cinematic rendering quality is something that we will aim to implement into our future projects,” added Snorri Árnason, game director of the still-in-development FPS Project Nova.

While details on the types of games that will be released with UE4’s toolset were not part of the announcement, it does mention that fans should “stay tuned” for further updates.

Our Thoughts

So it’s certainly clear, judging from the bits of information in this presser, that CCP Games is interested in having their new releases release across multiple platforms. The question to ask, then, is what sort of games are they working on? Considering this appears to be a studio who can only sustain and support EVE Online, it will be interesting to see where this goes.

Source: press release

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EVE Online Executive Producer Andie “CCP Seagull” Nordgren Leaving CCP Games

CCP Seagull seemed like one of those names that would forever be a part of EVE Online, but obviously that just can’t be the case. A farewell post by the EVE Online executive producer has announced her decision to leave CCP Games and the country of Iceland in order to return to her native country and her family.

ccp seagull

In her post, Nordgren explained the decision as one motivated by “family reasons” and assured fans that EVE Online will be in very capable hands. “It’s with a heavy heart that I leave CCP, EVE Online and Iceland. But I also know that I’m leaving EVE in good hands,” she writes. “The plans you heard about from me at Fanfest belong to the whole team behind EVE Online – the many amazingly talented people working relentlessly behind the scenes to bring you EVE Online.”

Information about who will take over the executive producer’s position are not immediately clear, but Nordgren stated that CCP’s CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson will be managing a “seamless transition” of duties to whomever is tapped for the role next.

While Nordgren is saying goodbye, she’ll be around the CCP Games office until about the end of June to assist with the transitional period. “The EVE community is amazing and working for you and getting to meet so many of you has been such a journey and fantastic experience,” she closes. “Farewell, fly well and thank you for everything. <3"

Our Thoughts

We wish CCP Seagull all of the best in her final few weeks at EVE Online and hope that she and her family will be well. Seagull was a major influencer to the sandbox MMO during her tenure as executive producer, and she will most certainly be missed.

Source: official forums

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CCP Games Reacts to EVE Online’s Latest Large-Scale Battle

After the single largest battle in EVE Online history over a keepstar was waged, CCP Games has had a moment to consider what it means for the EVE Online server infrastructure and how to improve it to better support such large engagements.

eve online server

While the game’s single Tranquility server did not suffer any form of catastrophic failure, the devs do contend that additional work is needed in order to support and even encourage similarly large battles to take place.

“The attackers did report problems launching fresh waves of unmanned fighters from their carriers, which was their main tactic and which accounted for the lion’s share of their damage output,” explained CCP Guard. “The keepstar was going down slowly but surely for two hours and only managed to heal itself once these problems started getting reported.”

In spite of the fact that the planned battle of attrition appears to be confirmed lost as a result of input lag, CCP Games is looking on the bright side. “Tranquility remained online for the fight, and thankfully we didn’t experience any unscheduled downtime,” said CCP Falcon. “This allowed us to watch performance, look at where the main bottlenecks are for an engagement of this scale, and provides us with a substantial amount of data that we can use to help plan the next steps toward strengthening our infrastructure to support these massive engagements.”

Those next steps, according to Guard, are software-based, with “active development” on systems that will transfer non-essential calculations away from the main server cluster and into the cloud. The battle has also reportedly reinvigorated discussions among the team to look into additional long-term solutions.

“We want to continue to allow our pilots to wage war on a scale that’s never been seen before in online gaming,” closed Falcon.

Our Thoughts

It’s definitely a shame that the keepstar stayed upright as a result of server problems instead of a well-executed defense strategy, but we are going to join CCP Games in looking at the positives in the aftermath of this latest war. Especially if those positives lead to more galaxy-shaking conflicts. After all, like the video touting the fight stated, neither the battle nor the war are over.

Source: Polygon

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EVE Online’s Anger Games Cancelled Due to CCP Layoffs

It looks like the layoffs of several community managers has spelled the end of the EVE Online Anger Games, a popular fan-run tournament. The layoffs in question are tied to earlier closures by the company which saw satellite offices and about 100 employees affected.

eve online anger games

Among the employees who were laid off in the October “restructuring” were several members of the EVE Online community team, including CCP Logibro who worked closely with events like the Anger Games. The layoffs left only four CMs remaining according to a report from a former CSM. That said, Logibro had evidently taken steps to ensure that Thunderdome – the private test server where player-run tournaments take place – would be ready for the event.

As a result of the timing of the layoffs, however, EVE’s senior game designer informed Anger Games organizers that Thunderdome would not be ready and that the Anger Games would have to be cancelled – an announcement that was made just three days before the tournament.

Despite this, the Anger Games and other player-run events are not dead entirely according to CCP Falcon, one of EVE’s remaining CMs. “At the minute, we’re currently working on prioritizing quite a few community projects and getting our heads together to resume regular service,” reads his response. “Of course you’ll get your entry fee back, and we hope to run this at a later date once CCP has figured out their sh*t.”

Our Thoughts

We imagine there was only so much Logibro could do while they were in the process of being shown the door, so certainly there’s no blame to be laid there. Still, it’s unfortunate that layoffs had an impact on EVE Online, especially since they said that EVE Online would not be affected. Still, if future player events can continue on as normal, then no harm, no foul.

Source: Kotaku via Massively Overpowered

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CCP Games Shutters VR Dev Studios

It turns out the gambit on virtual reality development isn’t paying off for CCP. A press release confirms that additional CCP Games VR development is being shut down, with a report stating that a large number of employees have been laid off as a result.

ccp games vr

CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson has stated in a press release that focus will shift away from additional VR development and back to PC and mobile gaming. “We will continue to support our VR games but will not be making material VR investments until we see market conditions that justify further investments beyond what we have already made,” said Pétursson in a statement.

As a result of the move, approximately 100 employees are being laid off and satellite offices in Newcastle, UK and Atlanta, Georgia are being closed.

As far as EVE: Valkyrie goes, a post on the game’s forums goes into additional details for the game’s future, stating that ownership of the Newcastle studio is being handed over and that the multiplayer first-person spaceship battler “is not going away”.

“The development team at the Newcastle studio will remain intact and complete work on the upcoming Winter Update,” reads the post. “This is not the end of EVE: Valkyrie, not by a long shot. It’s just the beginning of a new chapter.”

Our Thoughts

We first want to wish those who have been affected by this decision the very best and hope those employees that have been laid off will find new opportunities soon. That said, it would seem that the writing was on the wall with Valkyrie’s decision to drop VR exclusivity. Perhaps someday virtual reality gaming will get a greater foothold, but there seems to be too many roadblocks for that to happen.

Sources: PC Gamer, EVE Valkyrie forums

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Moon Mining Changes Coming with EVE Online: Lifeblood

CCP Games has revealed information regarding the changes and updates coming to their flagship MMORPG EVE Online in the next expansion, EVE Online: Lifeblood. The bulk of changes coming with Lifeblood concern the game’s industrial side; moon mining, reactions, and refining.

EVE Online: Lifeblood

Of particular interest within EVE Online: Lifeblood is the plan to change moon mining from solely a passive activity to one which is more active. With the introduction of new player-owned structures known as refineries, players will now have the option to work together and actually be part of the mining process. According to the official update page, “…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.” Also of merit is a rework of the UI and mechanics of reactions, with CCP promising that “…the new reactions system will bring a more coherent and clear process to the fingertips of both veteran and rookie industrialists.”

A number of new forms of PvE content are also in the works. The in-game pirate factions, the Guristas and the Blood Raiders, will begin conducting raids into the high-security regions of space within the game. Players will be able to combat these raids, as well as work together to destroy forward bases used by the pirates. Additionally, miners and combat pilots will now be able to work together, providing resources for the game’s four core factions. According to the website, “…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.”

A handful of quality of life improvements are also planned.  A new mining ledger feature will allow players to keep track of how much ore they have mined, where, and when, as well as who, if anyone, is mining in their space. The games’ in-game The Agency feature will be updated and streamlined, to make it easier for players to find other players to group up with for various activities. And the hulls popular with Alpha (free to play) pilots will be on the receiving end of a number of balance passes. According to the website, these passes are intended to provide these ships (Frigate hulls) a “…little more punch” and are being made with the intention to “…shake up the combat meta a little, and provide new tactical options for these classes of hull.” And lastly, to celebrate the game’s upcoming 20th anniversary, players who purchase tickets to the yearly EVE Online conventions Fanfest 2017 or EVE Vegas 2017 will be awarded a special, limited edition CONCORD Marshal class Battleship.

Players and readers interested in learning more about EVE Online: Lifeblood should visit the official announcement page. They can also watch the official announcement video below:

Our Thoughts

As a former longtime EVE Online player, it is great to see changes being made at all levels of gameplay; the new PvE content will widen the range of activities for pilots who like to stay within hisec space, and the new industry changes will provide new activities for people mining moons and holding space. Also, and of course, I always love to see balance passes for frigates, being a die-hard frigate pilot myself.

Now, CCP, fix the Jag and the Wolf please, thanks.

Source: Official Website

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