The EVE PvE – Past, Present and Future


Like it or not, EVE’s PvE experience is, to put it mildly, a sprawling, inconsistent mess. While many agree on the state of PvE in EVE, few agree about what PvE should be. With Ascension new blood has poured into the game and many are seeking a robust PvE experience that they are simply not getting.  Understandably, they ask “why not?”

Generally, a flimsy zero-sum argument was given such as “if highsec PvE was good, less people will go to nullsec.” It was the common consensus that PvE was just there to make ISK, not to be valuable content in and of itself. For years this, along other concerns such as localization, has driven players to run the same decade old content over and over again. Not to enjoy themselves, or engage in the game world, but rather to simply punch the ticket, get their ISK and get to what they want to do – namely PvP.

Over the last year we have seen a shift from that argument to an understanding that PvE can help retain players in the game, leading them to PvP or into ever more complex PvE experiences. We have come to understand that it isn’t a question of “nullsec vs highsec” but rather a question of staying in the game at all.


CCP Ghost and the new player experience project (NPE) set a new tone for the direction of PvE content not just in its narrative style, but also in its assumptions about what players may enjoy or find valuable in the experience. What CCP seems to be shifting towards is a more interactive universe; one that has something to teach us about itself.

So, you may ask, why don’t they just expand on this? They are, but there is a snag in the form of the new AI they are building. Current tools used to build missions and other sites are very hard to work with and ultimately even the best NPC fail to simulate an experience similar to PvP.

Furthermore, development of the current system wouldn’t result in anything beyond more of the same and development of new systems is very costly. This isn’t even so much about authoring content being “hard”. PvE NPCs just don’t follow the same rules as player ships, which renders ALL PvE confusing, non-intuitive and potentially immersion breaking compared to the richness of the whole of EVE.

Enter the new AI

A little over three years ago CCP started working on a new AI system that will allow them to make better rats that behave more like players and follow the same mechanics as players. They started this by introducing the Drifters: a new race that remembered opponents, moved between areas and did other things more associated with player activity. Just as players can kill them and loot them, they can kill you and will scoop your corpse. At the time we had seen nothing like it in the game.  And then in a show of force of this new technology, the Drifters assassinated Jamyl. This was a big deal because while the ships were spawned by CCP, the entire attack was conducted by the new AI.  Then the Drifters attacked in their own Incursions and the entire project fell on it’s face.

The Drifter Incursions included a bit in the AI that was new: the ability for NPCs to shoot each other. Prior to this, all NPC vs NPC actions were simply scripted explosions, with no actual combat. However, while the AI had performed handsomely during the attack events (such as Jamyl’s assassination), when the Incursions started the servers ground to a halt. There seemed to be something wrong with the new AI and the Incursions were pulled.  When they returned the AI NPCs no longer were shooting one another. It was clear CCP had hit a serious problem with how the AI interacts. Prior to this issue a major advancement in the Drifter story was planned to be introduced during the summer of YC118 (2016). We should have had NPC patrols by now. With this setback, combined with the formation of Team Genesis and focus towards the creation of the NPE, the Drifters faded into the background.


Now the Drifters and their new AI are back and it appears like the problems are solved. Not only is there NPC cross fire in the new Inception NPE, but the Drifter AI 2.0 has returned in a totally new form: The Mining Fleets.  The new Mining Fleets are a low impact test of the new AI. They look like players, they fight like players and they interact with the simulation like players do. This is huge. Once this gets established there is literally no end to the content they could provide. The fights become less about simply earning the reward and more about the experience of the fight itself – with the thrill of victory over your opponent. Each of the ships controlled by the new AI operate as if they were real players, using the same tactics players often implement.

This “show don’t tell” demonstration of behavior shows huge strides towards making players more familiar and comfortable with the idea of fleet PvP combat, not merely by providing “harder” enemies, but instead more realistic ones. Completion of this stage and smooth roll out of the new NPC AI technology is imperative and that means unfortunately the current mission system probably won’t see much love until that is finished. Once this roadblock is finished, then a new form of “quest” like content could follow.

This all was reinforced in the latest o7 show appearance by CCP Larrikin and CCP Burger. In the interview CCP confirmed that the eventual goal is to replace all of the AI within New Eden with this new, better creation. However, they also admit that it isn’t as simple as replacing the current NPC AI, as that could render much of the expansive PvE content unplayable. CCP is facing a monumental, multi-year challenge. The key to this is not the problems they face, as much as the solutions they created to face them.


What we DO know is that Ghost and his team are now working on a “command center” of sorts. This would be an interface that helps you decide what you want to try out, guides you to where and how to do it and records your achievements and progress. This will go a long way towards making EVEs Universe interactions (PvE) feel more fulfilling and, when combined with the opportunities the new AI can bring, means a naturally more vibrant and engaging universe.

The future for EVE is bright and as more core systems in EVE are improved for everyone, efforts such as Team Genesis and the new AI offer us a possibility to realize some really cool potential. Ideas that people believed to be crazy only months ago, seem reasonable and wanted.

EVE may be in fact entering a third Genesis.

Tags: asherothi, NPE, pve

About the author


Ashterothi has spent the last five years learning and teaching EVE Online. He is a host on the highly successful High Drag and Hydrostatic Podcast.

  • Bill Bones

    >>Thanks for asking, CCP. I thought you would never do. As someone who played EVE for 8 years and never liked anything else than PvE, here is my sincerest opinion: I don’t want to PvP, and I don’t want PvE that resembles PvP. I’m not interested in PvP. This is why it is so damn good that you’re asking; otherwise you, CCP, would do as usual and would design new PvE to suit the wishes of people not fuckign doing any fucking PvE. >>

    Oh wait. CCP never asked PvErs why do they do PvE, what does float their boat, or what do they expect and wish from PvE. Thus now you can gank NPC miners as CODE ganks player miners, because CCP was told by PvPrs that this is what they wanted for PvE. PvErs, of course, just keep leaving the game after doing the same 10 years old missions for the 100th time, but, who needs them?

    • Doc3d

      This! Ive always wondered about the PvE in Eve, as it seems evident that the Devs want you to PvP, and that is the basis of the game.. but then why have PvE at all? The people interested in PvE might NOT be interested in PvP, and in a sandbox that should be fine. Just this ‘if they don’t want to PvP, let’s force them, because PvP is what it is all about’ attitude that eve has been spewing forever is just so stupid, and really is driving PvE’ers out of the game as there is very little dev-time or actual improvements to that part of the game, AND, like Bill Bones mentioned, if there is a development in PvE its to make it more like PvP!!!? Sooner or later, all the care bears leave, and eve is stuck in a man-eat-man PvP heaven (where no ships can be builds any more because you killed all the miners and god forbid a pew-pew l33t do any of that god awful work. And god help you, the ships shoot back, wtf!!?)

      I really hope CCP realizes that PvE’ers are a valuable asset too, and I hope they realize it SOON

      • Bill Bones

        Oh, they kinda realize it. But they also know that they’re comitted to ignore PvErs until 2018 or whenever they release the last pieces of no-sec PvP (new space, player stargates, et cetera), and all they can do until then it’s throw some bones to PvErs and hope they’ll stick. Just they do so without as much as asking PvErs: “all for the People, without the People”.

        As for the NPC miners, they are so freak that I have trouble understanding why did CCP bother. Are they trying to tell miners that they’re replaceable by CCP bots? Right after getting rid of player bots…? Are they trying to lure players into learning how to gank miners? What does that even have to do with PvErs?

        I mean. why should I attack those NPCs? Because they’re tough and their AI behaves like a real player? And so what?

        Apparently CCP developed the AI first and now it’s trying to figure ways of using it. Would not be the first time CCP develops a piece of code without a real purpose for it; they also had a groundbreaking feature to link a PC game with the Plasystation network and it was used to press a button in the PC game and cause an effect in the Playstation game once each six to eight minutes. Which was as thrilling as it sounds.

    • DireNecessity


      If I read you correctly, you no longer EVE. I presume that’s because after 8 years, EVE’s old PvE grew stale. You also seem displeased with the new PvE mechanics CCP are introducing. After 8 years of the old stuff, it seems you probably don’t want more of the same. You also don’t want the different CCP is introducing. What is it that you do want?

      • Bill Bones

        I’m glad you asked, like dozens of other people did before you. Not CCP, though, they apparently know better by reading tea leaves and listening to PvP players.

        Roughly speaking I would like three things.

        (Disclaimer: I will speak about combat PvE, not mining or exploration. That’s also PvE but their potential is limited)

        First, a continuous expansion of the existing (combat) PvE, with a development team assigned to dungeon building and launching new dungeons (missions) with each expansion.

        Second, NPC rewards specific for PvE, unattainable through other means than engaging in PvE. This could take many forms and in my experience civil discussion ends once those means are suggested so I will not dive into details. But PvE should have exclusive rewards, much as PvP haves them, and those rewards should be meaningful, much as PvP are.

        Third, PvE as a form of PvP. Players engaging in certain means of PvE should influence other players, which in turn could use PvE to negate that influence. That would create a dynamic player-driven PvE conflict, much as PvP mehcanics create a dynamic PvP conflict..

        The point would be to evolve combat PvE into a different way of playing EVE. One as powerful and sophisticate as exploding player stuff. Probably I would not play much with the fruits of points 2 and 3, but they are the answer to the essential flaw of combat PvE in EVE as is today: it is nothing you can’t replace with a swipe of your credit card and the only purpose to do it is to keep doing it.

        • you’re dumb

          you’re dumb
          WoW —>

          • Bill Bones

            No, that way it’s Elite: Dangerous. Guess who’s got my money since I won EVE (paintjobs included).

        • Viince_Snetterton

          Ignore the idiots Bill. You are absolutely correct in your views and ideas.

  • DustVet

    New Eden goes West World

  • SaintChuthulhu

    Does the NPC-Miners have to have a mining permit from CODE? Or is there a NPC-CODE?

    • Hargh

      Code cant shoot them. Tey shoot back you know. Code are all just scammer liars who are scared to shoot anything which can shoot back.

  • Amberpaw

    as someone who likes PvE and only gets the urge to PvP once in a blue moon

    let me just say, you can’t force me to PvP, i’ll quit before i’m forced to PvP.

    i want more PvE. and when i feel confident enough in PvE that i want to try PvP. thats when i’ll PvP (usualyl with Spectre fleet and Bomber’s bar. <3 those. or FW if i'm really eager for PvP)

    but forcing me into PvP will never happen.
    and for people saying "if you want PvE then don't play EVE"
    my reply will be "if you want to keep players then don't drive them off"

  • Tallion_MPIAU

    I think the npc miners a great idea and also the npc convoys as well, think outside the box people, if you own a small corp of pve people who not big enough to war dec or confident to join pvp or have no wish to, create yiur own content, use the miners to run corp mining missions with your own security squad flying overwatch, or do the same protecting new alpha miners offering to take care of security while they mine, use your imagination, time for coporation leaders and management to take the lead and get into it surely these initial things are only the beginning, read up on lore and make your own story line, BE a leader and make it fun