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1 hour ago  IGN reports that more than 327 thousand EVE Online players have completed a number of quests in the third phase of Project Discovery corresponding to more than 330 years of scientific research. That's a significant improvement over the already impressive November 2020 result, when virtual pilots saved professionals 36 years of work.

  • Eve Online is a persistent, player driven MMO developed by CCP games. The game was released on May 6, 2003 and has received 18 free expansions since launch. The game is set in a science fiction space universe called “New Eden”, which consists of around 7,500 solar systems most of which are connected by star gates.
  • Eve online memories. Good times, lots of histroy.

The EVE Online community has accomplished some impressive feats since the game released all the way back in 2003. From setting multiple world records for online battles to hosting events for sick members of the community, EVE Online's player base is constantly managing to create unique and interesting scenarios within the massive multiplayer space role-playing game.

However, one of the coolest things the community has had a hand in doing is helping real-life scientists with COVID-19 research by playing the game. Recently, EVE Online's player base managed to collect and perform over 330 years of COVID-19 research thanks to the game's Project Discovery initiative.

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For those who may not be familiar with EVE Online's Project Discovery initiative, it is basically a set of minigames that players can take on that are built around real-life research regarding COVID-19. EVE Online's Project Discovery started last summer, and is easily accessible to any player logging into EVE, even incentivizing players to participate through in-game rewards. Thanks to a report by IGN's Wesley LeBlanc, more accurate numbers have surfaced regarding how many players have participated in Project Discovery. According to the report, '327,000 players have completed 1.37 million analysis tasks in-game, which has saved scientists 330.69 years worth of research...'

It truly is a staggering set of numbers which really puts into perspective just how much the EVE Online community has aided COVID-19 research. In terms of video games communities, developer CCP Games and the EVE Online community have really been at the forefront of COVID-19 research aid. In November of 2020, CCP Games and the EVE Online community helped to raise over $135,500, which was in turn donated to COVID-19 relief efforts. EVE Online's Project Discovery efforts really make one think about how video games can incorporate fun and engaging ways to make real-world differences through playing in the future.

In terms of Project Discovery, the minigame involved essentially boils down to players identifying different types of cell surface proteins, which helps scientist calculate an accurate number of those cell surface proteins. Additionally, because the minigame holds in-game incentives for players to participate, the number of players who have helped this research is massive. Even in November of 2020, over 200,000 players participated in Project Discovery, which has now been going for almost an entire year.

Additionally, it isn't just COVID-19 research that players are helping out with Project Discovery. According to Ryan Brinkman, a scientist of BC Cancer interviewed by IGN for its report, the project also helps out with 'machine learning A.I. practice.' Apparently, there are new approaches being developed that will help automate this same process in the future. With EVE Online's 18th anniversary happening this year, hopefully players really get to celebrate both the game they love and the real-world impact they have made thanks to their efforts.

EVE Online is available on PC.

MORE: EVE Online Interview: Scientists Outline Coronavirus Research

Source: IGN

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EVE Online is a massively multiplayer online game where players can mine planets, fight other players in all-out war, and fly through wormholes to reach new destinations. Now it’s helping scientists learn more about COVID-19.

Through a citizen science project called Project Discovery, players are able to help scientists in the real world solve problems that need human input, such as helping scientists discover new planets. Over the past year, they’ve been helping scientists learn more about COVID-19.


To date, 327,000 players have completed 1.37 million analysis tasks in-game, which has saved scientists 330.69 years worth of research into how the immune system responds to COVID-19. Speaking to IGN, EVE Online Creative Director, Bergur Finnbogason, explained how the project began.

“This is a project that was initially started by, or at least an idea from, [Massively Multiplayer Online Science CEO and co-founder Attila Szantner] a few years back where he was looking at citizen science projects around the world, all over the internet,” Finnbogason said. “He started seeing this pattern in these projects where basically... these fantastic projects would happen… with super worthy causes… but people would come in, try it once, and then never come back.”

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Seeing that people were so quick to drop these projects, the parties involved devised a way to merge citizen science projects with something that would make people want to stick around. That's where the idea of placing one of these projects in an MMO — a genre with communities of people who do the very opposite of trying something once and never touching it again — was born.

Finnbogason and Szantner said the idea came to them to merge citizen science projects while trying to get input from actual humans with EVE. If the game offered a science project to help real-world scientists, players would be dedicated to it. Thus, Project Discovery was born.


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The first Project Discovery project in EVE was centered on identifying proteins in human cells and the second Project Discovery project was centered on the discovery of real exoplanets or distant planets outside of our solar system. Similar to the COVID-19 minigame, EVE players played an in-game minigame to pour through luminosity curve datasets, which represented the brightness of stars as planets passed by them. This helped scientists discover exoplanets in space.

“Our latest installment is this COVID-19 project,” Finnbogason said. “We’ve been running it for almost a year, or exactly a year now, and yeah, it’s super exciting and it’s really turned into a wonderful project.”

If you were to log on to EVE to take part in this COVID-19 project, you’d find that it’s extremely well-implemented into the game. What players are doing when they play the associated minigame is looking at a cluster of multicolor dots. Some are yellow, some are red, some are green, and so on.

“Each dot is a cell,” University of British Columbia medical genetics professor and distinguished scientist of BC Cancer, Ryan Brinkman, said. “It is placed on a 2D graph based on how much it expresses one of many different types of cell surface proteins that can be used to define the cell’s function.”

[caption align='alignnone' width='720'] Pictured here are two clusters of cells that a player identified in the Project Discovery COVID-19 minigame within EVE Online, Photo Credit: CCP Games[/caption]

Players that play the COVID-19 Project Discovery minigame in EVE will see this 2D graph with multicolor dot cells. All they need to do is use a point-and-click system to draw polygons around the main mass of the clusters. Players earn set rewards when they reach specific ranks associated with the minigame. For example, at Rank 5, players earn the Biosecurity Response Team Mask and at Rank 650, they can earn the Marshal Biosecurity Responders Skin.

“Drawing the polygon allows us to count how many [cell surface proteins] are in that polygon,” Brinkman said. “The number in a given population can change according to, for example, disease of a drug and we can look for similar changes in groups of people (sick vs. healthy) to do discovery… or use it for diagnosis.”

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How EVE Online Is Helping Scientists in Our World

How exactly is this helping scientists in the real world? Well, the simplest answer is time. Players have completed the equivalent of over 330 years of work scientists would have otherwise had to do to match what players have done.

“The alternative for scientists is to look everywhere,” Brinkman said in regards to how players are analyzing 40 dimensions of data on a 2D plane that speeds up data research greatly. “Scientists can’t do that, though, because to analyze just one sample, it takes an hour… but we have an infinite amount of monkeys, all banging away on typewriters.”

What players are doing is helping scientists better understand how our immune systems are impacted by this novel coronavirus, according to Brinkman. They are doing this by measuring the chemical makeups of cells, a process otherwise known as Flow Cytometry in the world of science, to determine a body’s immune response to COVID-19.

Science projects happening by way of video games isn’t necessarily a new concept. [email protected], a project that utilized the PlayStation 3 among other processors to help scientists develop new therapeutics by simulating the movement of proteins and protein folding, began as early as 2000 and is still live as of six months ago. Never before, though, has it been done on a scale as large as EVE’s massive playerbase.

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Brinkman said the project is 60% COVID-19 help and 40% machine learning A.I. practice, which is another way this EVE minigame is helping the world of science.

“The other really exciting part is there have been approaches that have been developed to automate this analysis process and they all suck,” Brinkman said. “That’s my life's work for 15 years and they all [automated analysis processes] suck for various reasons. The excitement right now in the science world is A.I. machine learning. Everybody’s excited about that.”

The reason the processes 'suck' is simple: in order for a machine to learn, someone or something has to teach it to how to learn and for the most part, until Project Discovery, that wasn't possible.

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Over 300,000 EVE players have participated in this iteration of the Project Discovery minigame. They are quite literally providing the needed examples of how to analyze data – in this case, COVID-19 cellular data and how the virus affects human immune systems. Brinkman explained this kind of data will accelerate areas of science outside of COVID-19 — areas of science that will have an enormous impact on human health.

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Why EVE Online Players Are Participating in Project Discovery

Brinkman said they’re in the thick of everything with this data, with plans to publish findings this time next year – but are players aware of what a simple minigame is doing for the real world, or are they just there for the EVE rewards?

“We’ve seen three categories of players that play this,” Finnbogason said. “One of them is definitely just hardcore into the lore of the game and… playing it for that reason. Then there’s another group playing it for the rewards. I think the largest group, though, is playing it for the science and the rewards are just a bonus and possibly a strong incentive to keep everyone playing.”

Finnbogason said the EVE team worked hard to make this COVID-19 Project Discovery effort feel like something that belonged in EVE. It was really important to the team to theme it to the universe, because “we owe it to our players,” Finnbogason said. He said the team doesn't want the game breaking the fourth wall or the immersion felt everywhere else in the game.

The first Project Discovery project, the one that tasked players with identifying proteins in human cells, centered around an in-game faction called the Sisters of EVE, who were researching a new emergent race of enemies called the Drifters and their tissue samples. The COVID-19 project, however, is run by an in-game entity called Concord, which is the same entity that ran the exoplanets project.

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There are four other rules the EVE team follows beyond immersion when making these projects: the project must be altruistic in nature, meaning none of the parties involved make any money from the project; they need to be consistent in length, so players always know what they’re signing up for when they play the minigame; they need to produce a sizeable dataset, although players have continued to clear right past the team’s dataset goals; and finally, they need complexity in order to keep people interested.