The March Update Brings Fleet Formations and Skill Rentals to EVE Online

CCP has pushed out their first big update for the month and it brings with it two features that CCP has mentioned before, fleet formations and the new player skill rental program called Expert Systems.

Fleet Formations

They are here at last.

  • Fleet formation settings can be accessed via a new tab in the fleet window.
  • Fleet warp will use a default point formation which behaves the same as fleet warps have until now.
  • Available formations include Plane, Wall, Sphere, Arrow, and Relative.
  • Fleet formations are respected for Fleet, Wing, and Squad warps.

Formations have been up on the test server for a while, so I suspect that some fleet commanders will be using this feature right out of the gate… provided that they have Leadership V trained up already so they can train up the new skills that go with the feature.  There are two:

  • Fleet Formations
  • Fleet Coordination

The first skill gives access to various pre-set formations (Plane, Wall, Sphere, Arrow, and Relative) with each level trained.

The second, which requires Fleet Formations be trained up to level I, impacts the size and scaling options for the custom formation, which allows an FC to set their fleet up and save the relative spacing and location so they can warp their fleet in and remain spread out.  Fleet Coordination affects the size and spread of formations allowed as well as unlocking unlocking additional scaling options with each level trained.

So to get full access to all of the fleet formation options a dedicated FC will need two skills trained up to level V.  But skill injectors have been around for five years now, so I expect any FC who really wants the skills will have them as soon as they want.

As part of fleet formations CCP has also introduce a new deployable, the Mobile Cyno Beacon.

The new cyno reality

Detail from the patch notes:

  • Disallowed in: Wormhole, Pochven, Abyssal Space
  • Restricted to Security systems below: 0.5
  • Activation Delay: 2 minutes
  • Maximum lifetime: 1 hour
  • Volume: 400
  • Skill Requirement: Anchoring 3
  • Blueprints can be found in NPC stations where other mobile deployables are seeded.

Developer Comment: This deployable item will bind to the fleet of the deploying character upon launch. Once activation completes, it will act as a regular cyno beacon for that fleet for the lifetime of the deployable, regardless of any fleet changes of the deploying character.

After making cynos available only on force recon and black ops battleships back in September 2019, CCP has decided that maybe some new twist was needed in the cyno dynamic.  Now a fleet can bring beacons along to setup to summon in reinforcements without the need to take up a fitting slot and carry around a bunch of fuel.

I do like that “Min distance from Control Tower,” the main element of the old POS structures, is listed in the parameters.  A sign that they are probably not going away any time soon.

Anyway, I am sure people will be warping around to shoot these soon enough.

Expert Systems

First mentioned about two weeks ago as a way to help new players, the idea was met by some skepticism by some in the player base.  Those who could get past the “real world money to rent skills” cash grab aspect of the idea were not convinced that this would be a mechanism that would help, or appeal to, new players in EVE Online.

But CCP was adamant, with EVE Online Program Director CCP Rattati saying that the move was considered because CCP definitely did not want to sell skill points… two days before CCP began selling skill points.

So now Expert Systems are here.  They are accessible from a new tab on your character sheet that shows you the offerings currently available and what they get you for your seven day rental.

Expert Systems tab

The offerings now are:

  • Amarr HS Space Exploration – $1.99
  • Caldari HS Space Exploration – $1.99
  • Gallenta HS Space Exploration – $1.99
  • Minmatar HS Space Exploration – $1.99
  • Core Ship Operations – $3.99
  • Mining Barge Operations – $3.99

At the bottom of the window is a “View in Store” button which opens up the Expert Systems page in the secure web store in a browser outside of the game, where you can purchase your rental.

Expert Systems Web Store Page

It mentions in the patch notes that the rentals can be extended from 7 to 30 days for a price, but that pricing is not immediately visible and I wasn’t keen to pay for one just to find out.  But i would guess that four times the duration would end up costing four times the price.

CCP lists the benefits of this new system as:

  • Experience and discover new gameplay and activities for limited time periods.
  • Highly accessible pricing that opens up the possibility of new paths before full training commitment.
  • Expert System access will be retained upon ship or capsule destruction.

That is all fine and dandy, but in addition to my own doubts that this will tempt many new players… or that they will even stick around long enough to figure out that it is a thing they would want… since these can only be purchased from the secure web store, that means any new player that wants to try them out needs to fork over a credit card number.  That has traditionally been a huge barrier in games that otherwise offer a free to play option.

CCP says that they may offer these are login rewards at some point as well.  That might have a greater impact on new players, if they can figure out where they go once you redeem them and how to activate them.  The game’s UI will ever be a burden.

Other Items

There are the usual mix of minor fixes and improvements.  The game is like an old house at this point, in constant need of little fixes here and there.  Some of them seem like they might have come to light due to current events, like the Imperium issuing war bonds:

  • Fixed an issue with the wallet for entering a number into the Shares field after giving out an amount of shares once will throw an exception.

Or fixes for things that have been posted as part of the ongoing “Literally Unplayable” meme in /r/eve:

  • Fixed an issue in the fitting window where a grey line overlapped over the top bar of the ammo slots.

Or items that were no doubt found on the test server as people played with the new features:

  • Fixed issues that unintentionally allowed launching of deployables or the activation of Cynosural Field Generator modules inside of stars, planets and moons.

I am sure that somebody was prepared to abuse that last one somehow.

And then there are some updated and new monuments out in New Eden with this patch as well.

  • The “Mekhios Graveyard” landmark in the Sarum Prime system has received a major overhaul.
  • Several new landmark locations have been added to the game:
    • A new monument to the famed capsuleer Chribba can be found within the Amarr system.
    • A new memorial to the late Emperor Doriam II can be found within the Kor-Azor Prime system.
    • A new Federation Grand Prix Finish Line location can be found within the Luminaire system, in preparation for the start of the YC123 Federation Grand Prix event on Thursday 11 March.
    • A new monument celebrating the champions of the Alliance Tournaments can be found within the Manarq system.
    • A new monument honouring the capsuleers who participated in Project Discovery Phase Two can be found within the Pakhshi system.

This will no doubt give Mark726 at EVE Travel some new things to post about.

The patch has been deployed, so you can log in and see the changes.  Relevant links:

4 thoughts on “The March Update Brings Fleet Formations and Skill Rentals to EVE Online

  1. anypo8

    > So to get full access to all of the fleet formation options a dedicated FC will need two skills trained up to level V. But skill injectors have been around for five years now, so I expect any FC who really wants the skills will have them as soon as they want.

    Yes. But EVE isn’t going pay-to-win. Don’t be confused. Never will be a pay-to-win game.

    I’m confused about the cyno thing. Doesn’t this take us back to where any ship with a reasonable cargo hold can be a cyno boat now? Only more so since it will be effectively a Black-Ops cyno? Does this bring back jump freighter shipping via cyno alts with a vengeance? Or am I confused about how cynos work again? It was never something I really used as a subcap player.

    It *sounds* like what is happening is that cyno alts are back, but now need much higher skills to do their thing. So basically pay-to-win again, I guess?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @anypo8 – It does seem like a bit of an about face on the cyno proliferation thing. But I think one of the things that CCP didn’t like was if you were ratting in your supercarrier and got dropped, you could light a cyno from it and bring in a defense fleet so long as your ship held out. The cyno deployable presumably has fewer hit points that a supercarrier, so can be popped by a big enough set of attackers before the 2 minute deploy cycle ends. It is CCP trying to find a path between different goals yet again.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. anypo8

    @Wilhelm Ah, that makes more sense, thanks.

    I looked, and it really only takes Anchoring III to drop the Cyno. So Omega, but a fairly trivial train. So I guess Jump Freighters are back in business. Kind of cool that they undid that.

    Liked by 1 person

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