EVE Online is on fire. The game perhaps best known for being a sandbox for player-made tales of economics, espionage, and galactic-scale warfare is facing a threat unlike any it's seen before, and it's left players at the mercy of a massive NPC assault with no end in clear sight.
Drifters, an alien NPC faction that has been in the game for years but rarely a threat, have begun attacking player forces in alarming numbers. The first wave came out of seemingly nowhere, and now the Drifters are striking on sight, both at player ships and the structures they've built.
Both buildings and ships have fallen, like one particularly expensive Hel Supercarrier. In a message from the Goonswarm alliance leader (via EVE news hub Imperium News) telling their players to abandon an ongoing campaign against the Pandemic Family alliances, they say "this is stupid as hell but upon further discussion we will take [EVE Online developer] CCP at their word and not assume this nonsense is a bug."
CCP has remained quiet, allowing the chaos to play out across the galaxy. Reactions are understandably mixed; for some, EVE is as much a job as a hobby, and there are years of effort at stake. The Drifters don't seem to play by typical rules—reports have them shooting down pilot escape pods—and they attack in massive force across large swathes of space. The saving grace for most large alliances has been the phased structure of player-created buildings. When enough damage has been done to a vulnerable structure, it's made invulnerable for a short time before another siege can begin, so that the defenders have time to muster their forces and make a stand.
While posts on Reddit are applauding the event, those with understandably more invested in their empires are frustrated. In an interview with PC Gamer, TEST Alliance head diplomat Dran says that while the game "needs more snowglobe shaking," he's also at the end of his rope.
"If another player comes by and knocks down our sandcastle that's one thing," Dran tells PC Gamer. "Those risks are understood and part of the sandbox. We set up full well knowing the risks, and are prepared to fight anyone for our right to be here. We didn't set anything up knowing that at any point with no warning NPCs would materialize and blow everything up. NPCs don't sleep, they don't get tired, they don't have to wake people up or take off work to show up for a timer. They just exist one second, shoot, and then despawn. EVE is supposed to be a sandbox driven by human interaction and intrigue. This just feels contrived."
At least for now, Drifters are the new reality of EVE Online. However this plays out, with either players allying and forcing back the NPC armada or more hard work succumbing to a relentless machine fleet, it's something unlike anything EVE or anything else has seen before.