'EVE: Online's' Project Discovery Hands The Players The Tools To Help Scientists Discover Exoplanets

For years, CCP Games has helped to fuel people's sci-fi fantasies thanks to EVE Online, one of the world's longest running MMO games -- and one of the most infamous. Known less for the humdrum of the gameplay and more for what the world's largest player sandbox can produce, such as betrayals, epic space battles with galactic implications, and more; hundreds of thousands of players take part in driving the economy and political landscape of New Eden. EVE Online has been giving players the tools to start influencing real-world scientific research recently, and at EVE FanFest 2017, the Icelandic game studio expanded on what the newest version of Project Discovery will look like.

EVE Online will soon be joining scientists in hunting for Exoplanets in our galaxy thanks to a new mini game which will pair EVE players with real-life star data. Developed in conjunction with citizen science company MMOS, as well as the University of Reykjavik and the University of Geneva. During EVE FanFest this year, Michel Mayor, a scientist and a pioneer in Planetology, took to the stage to explain exactly how scientists discover these Exoplanets. Mayor recently was one of the winners of the 2017 Wold Prize for Physics thanks to the role he played in the discovery of the first exoplanet.

The TRAPPIST-1 Exoplanet System
Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech

On-stage in the Harpa convention center in downtown Reykjavik, Mayor gave EVE Online players a crash course in the "transit" method -- the method with which the TRAPPIST-1a exoplanets were discovered. Scientists measure small dips in light intensity as they study a star, which is a result of when a planet passes in front of the star as we see it. The end result over time is a large amount of light curve data for computers and scientists to sift through. And with so much data, especially since it's relatively easy for telescopes to track and store vast amounts of light data over time, potential exoplanet systems can be missed, even by a computer.

This is where EVE Online players come in. With Project Discovery, players will examine real-world data sent in by the universities in partnership with CCP. The new minigame, which is being introduced with this round of Project Discovery, will give players access to a series of tools to identify dips in the light data. This data can be filled with ancillary noise that can make it hard to find these dips, such as normal stellar activity, multiple planet transits, and more. The tools that EVE Online players will be equipped with will help them isolate the light data and cut out all the clutter. Once a strong enough player consensus has been reached, scientists at the University of Geneva, headed up by Michel Mayor himself, will take a further look at the data to determine whether or not it's worth looking into further.

Project Discovery aims to help facilitate and fuel scientific discovery outside our own solar system, an endeavor which feels right at home in New Eden. EVE Online has a tremendous history with helping facilitate citizen science effort. Last year's iteration of Project Discovery had EVE players classify images of the Human Protein Atlas. That mini-game was hugely successful, as EVE Online Capsuleers logged over 25 million image classifications within just the first three weeks of the mini-game going live.

ProjectDiscovery EVE Online Minigame
Project Discovery minigame inside of EVE Online. [Image by CCP Games]

EVE Online has been going strong since its release in 2003, and while to ardent fans and players of the game the idea of citizen science is natural, most on the outside mainly know the world's largest space "SandBox" to be filled with intrigue, massive battles on epic scales, and the occasional betrayal. Project Discover plays just one role in CCP Games' plans for EVE Online in the future, including an all-new "New Player Experience" to help those first starting out get their space-legs in the world of New Eden easier.

Excited about Project Discovery coming to EVE Online? Let us know in the comments below.

[Featured Image by CCP Games]