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I’m just going to come right out and say that wormholes are the best addition to EVE Online – they’re what nullsec can’t be and what Factional Warfare isn’t; wormholes have brought the essence that EVE was founded on back to the galaxy. There’s been much hullabaloo over wormholes, but it’s all about the superficial cool-factor. Since wormholes are shifty critters, they pose only temporary, small scale threats to the security of nullsec alliances and thus don’t radically change the fabric of nullsec politics – besides being such a profitable ISK pot that alliances are encouraged to institute wormhole policies that allow the shooting of fellow alliance members.

But allow me to briefly enthuse over the superficialities of wormholes. First, the best kind of beauty – skin deep. Wormholes are gorgeous, mind-blowing, light-distorting cosmic baubles that could use a few more trips to the thesaurus to expound upon the full synonymic range of “wow” that they inspire. And now that the Premium Lite engine has been enforced as the bare minimum by CCP’s Graphics Gestapo, it’s mandatory for everyone to enjoy them.

The unfiltered tension and excitement that comes with getting genuinely lost for the first time in EVE is unmatched by anything I’ve done in known space for some time. I’ve been trapped – first on the wrong side of the galaxy, then from the frying pan to the fire of unknown space – after a bit of back-and-forth with some Aridian pirates went awry. Striving to get my Raven and implants back home, I’ve been probing in a huge unknown system with plenty of gravimetric sites to confound my probes. I haven’t a clue when I’ll reach home, but it will be in true ghost ship fashion – abruptly spat back into a friendly system, laden with unimaginably valuable loot from unheard-of places. I had said I’d prefer a Typhoon, because Caldari ships have so many hifalutin’ electronics it’s hard to let them go if something goes wrong – but alas. It will be an adventure for the ages, though I haven’t determined whether it’s masochistic to be enjoying this minigame of point-and-click Space Myst.

But stories of abandoned battleships and self destructing marauders are already turning old hat. Yet, few are talking about why wormholes are revitalizing EVE as they reach their insidious tendrils across the galaxy. It is because along with the Sleepers, unknown space has brought back the old EVE that made the game respectable.

The mass limit of wormholes means smaller ships in smaller gangs. Mass limits encourage people to bring through Tech Two ships to get more bang for their mass, while battleships have regained their former glory and capital ships are rare. Information, coordination, and tactics are key for surviving wormhole collapses (probers – first in, last out), Sleepers (spider tank for the win), and the scrambled local channel means awareness of other players is based on situational awareness beyond glancing at the local channel.

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Wormholes can go anywhere, which means high security huggers are once again exposed to meaningful PvP. A roaming nullsec gang can drop into Empire space to pop some mining war targets, while docile ratters – senses dulled by mission running – may find themselves probed down and ransomed in an unknown no-man’s land between two high security systems. Don’t forget market PvP, either; a wormhole from Jita to Rens – mythical, but it could happen – could turn both regions’ economies on their heads for a day, or just as easily trap haulers worth billions of ISK in a pocket of unknown space.

All this culminates to create a new playground where the sum of avatar and player skill matter more than numbers, and alertness, initiative, intuition, flexibility, and boldness – all traits numbed by continual high and null security existence alike – are rewarded more readily than proficiency with bland vanilla fits on the Ship of the Month (Falcons, currently). Less is more, expect the unexpected, and we’re all probably going to die – all hallmarks of an EVE from a younger age.

Did CCP fully understand the ingenuity of this newest implementation? EVE has obviously matured beyond its past incarnations with the addition and subsequent refinement of sovereignty mechanics, supercapitals, Tech Two ships of almost every size and shape, and more. Complaints about imbalances in the game caused by this or that expansion or tweak frequently feature a rhetoric of returning to EVE‘s past, a simpler, nostalgic time when battleships inspired awe and the galaxy still felt expansive and fresh. But while CCP calculate their expansions to build upon the original spirit of EVE rather than replace it, the game has changed substantially enough that this eulogized “purer” EVE is forever out of reach. CCP can do nothing to revive that original intent, short of rolling the game back three years.

Perhaps CCP learned a lesson from those prehistoric pockets of space – like Syndicate – that are somehow isolated from the rest of EVE‘s culture, where capsuleers can go to get a taste of deadliness preserved in chaos, where order seems like a faint ideal emanating from the Empires that dare not trespass on these ancient lands. But even these places have been exposed to capital ships, nano-fit trends and nerfs, and game mechanic rewrites; grudgingly, even the backwaters of EVE are dragged forward some with each expansion. Therefore the answer was not taking a step back, but instead moving forward in a new direction. Paradoxically, the Apocrypha expansion-the biggest content addition yet-that introduced wormholes and unknown space has opened up countless shimmering portals into the EVE of yesteryear, where the twinkling cosmos still wink knowingly at unsuspecting pilots. Go forth, sons and daughters of EVE, and be amazed.

Steven Croop, who goes by “Cyberflayer” in EVE Online, would like to point out that he named a Stabber “Apocrypha” before CCP clearly stole the name for their expansion. He’s probably not leaving unknown space any time soon-only partially of his own volition – and can only communicate with the outside world through his Open Salon blog.

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