by EVE Online Team11:30am on Wednesday 17th May 2023
Welcome to the first in a series of articles that will put elements of the upcoming EVE Online: Viridian expansion in focus, preparing you for the big day in June when you will be able to dive in and experience it for yourselves. Viridian will be the first of two major expansions for EVE in 2023, bringing with it new tools for capsuleers to manage their corporations and set goals, to personalize Upwell structures, as well as engage in socially driven gameplay content. It will also provide more avenues for new and existing players to forge relationships as they fly and strive together for the glory of their corporation!
Another big element of the expansion will be the visual updates that add immersion, wonder, and depth to the universe of New Eden, specifically those being made to empire frigates, marauders, missile impact effects, and volumetric clouds – all of which will be discussed throughout this article, in the video below, as well as on stream via CCP TV today at 16:00 UTC.
Frigates in EVE are wildly popular and versatile, and they are symbolic of the first ships flown by new players as they begin their unique space adventure in New Eden. Addressing and improving the visuals of empire-based frigates is important as it represents creating the best experience and impression of the universe for rookie capsuleers, as well as for veteran pilots who still count this class of vessel among their favorites. Part of this experience is ensuring that those first adventures into space are as visually pleasing as possible, firing the imagination.
In total, 68 frigates are being updated, having their visual effects improved, including the addition of lights and effects that change depending on the state of the ship. The aim of this update is to bring even more life to the use of empire frigates in space, enhancing the experience of flying these small-but-powerful ships. It is also important to maintain consistency in appearance and effects, ensuring that ships of the same empire (not just frigates) have the same look and flavor.
Some of the empire frigate hulls will get a total VFX revamp, as the Rifter did in January this year, while others will receive more subtle updates. For example, the appearance of some hulls will change completely when they go into warp, with some changing color significantly. Many of the effects are tied to the speed of the ship, with effects getting stronger as the ship travels faster, providing the player with more feedback.
As for things that you might notice immediately, the most impactful updates are probably the ship headlights. These will be more visually pleasing and tied to the state of the ship, having been added in on hulls which may not ever have had headlights previously. In addition, empire frigates will emit smoke from lit up vents when they drop out of warp.
There are also more subtle effects added, such as the dimming and flickering of lights when an empire frigate is hit in battle and taking structure damage. In addition, a further lighting pass will ensure that areas around the ships that look like they should affect their surroundings now do so, lifting the overall visual quality of the craft. Be sure to zoom in on your favorites to find a previously unnoticed gem of an effect!
Comparing the newest ships in EVE to how they appeared 20 years ago, it’s clear to see that visual advancements have been radical. These advancements have been made as a result of a combination of factors, the most significant being the introduction of physically based rendering (PBR) shaders, effects advancements, and the use of higher polycounts. A good example is the Rifter, where the original model had close to 1,200 polygons, compared to the new model that uses around 70,000 polygons and is bathed in effects. These advancements have provided the freedom to achieve desired results faster and more effectively.
As mentioned above, the aim when updating ship effects and appearances in EVE is to bring them more to life and make them more visually interesting to use, encounter, and experience. The updates coming for the mighty marauders are no different, especially as a plethora of new graphical systems and components have been introduced since the last visual update to these particular ships, some of which have been employed when redesigning the Rifter or creating the new Tech II dreadnoughts.
Marauders are powerful, a statement on the battlefield, and that is primarily due to the contribution of the bastion module that this ship type can exclusively fit. This has previously been portrayed visually by the ship changing state with an animation revealing the energy reactor to space. With this update, the visuals of the engaged bastion module have been punched up to make the ship look even more aggressive and powerful. The new visuals show off the energy that is pulsing through those exposed reactors, and this has been achieved with particle effects, holographic paneling, and extra hull lighting. As a result, it will be much clearer to others in space when a marauder has activated its bastion module.
There is a constant drive to improve and enhance the visuals of EVE’s ships, either by redesigning or updating effects (as with the marauders), the vision is to continually strive for the highest graphical fidelity.
There are few things more satisfying in EVE than watching a volley of your missiles rain fiery/electromagnetic/kinetic/explosive death upon your enemies, therefore it is essential to make sure that missile impact visuals convey that sense of visceral combat while maintaining the innate visual beauty that has been one of the foundations of EVE’s development for the last 20 years.
The desire here was to make the visuals for each missile explosion archetype distinct so that it becomes absolutely clear by sight what type of damage the missile is applying to its target. This will improve gameplay and combat readability, as well as increasing visual diversity on the battlefield. Basically, you will know what type of missile you are being struck by just by looking at the impact. Once you are familiar with each missile type’s explosion effects, you’ll be better equipped to make real-time decisions in combat. Alongside that, missile impact effects will be more enjoyable to witness, and make space battles that much more breathtaking.
In order to create the visual distinction between types of missile impact, missiles that deal thermal damage now exhibit explosions mostly based around heat, whereas missiles dealing electromagnetic damage create some crackling electricity that lights up the surrounding area, with artistic license that maintains the caustic EVE visual effects aesthetic. Furthermore, depending on the angle of attack at missile impact, the explosions are now visually directional instead of being randomly rotated omnidirectional impacts. This adds to the realism of the impacts as explosions now also spread outwards across the shield of a ship.
EVE has been known for its beautiful background nebulae for some time now, but the addition of the new volumetric clouds into the game means that – for the first time – something much closer to that gaseous elegance is actually going to be within the gameplay space, making for more immersive experiences and sites to visit in New Eden. These improved volumetric clouds will be introduced in the Homefront Operations sites coming with the launch of Viridian, with their look, feel, and performance to be optimized moving forward.
There will be many variations of the clouds used in over 20 Homefront Operations sites when the Viridian expansion launches. Currently, clouds in EVE are very nebulous, but with these volumetric clouds, it will really feel as though you're physically flying through them, around them, inhabiting them, and passing filaments of cloud as you go.
The new clouds have been created in collaboration with the engine team, tweaking and iterating to open up the greatest number of possibilities for authoring new clouds in EVE for Viridian, and into the future. The new clouds are being generated by a gamechanger of a program called Embergen, with real-time rendering of changes and lightning-fast iteration speed compared to the past for cloud authoring, meaning that something beautiful and substantial can be achieved almost instantaneously.
As for what comes next on the way to EVE Online: Viridian’s launch, stay tuned for today's CCP TV stream at 16:00 UTC on the above visual updates, as well as another Viridian in Focus article next week on Tech II dreadnoughts!