CCP Games on Tuesday announced the launch of the latest expansion for its spacefaring massively multiplayer online (MMO) game, EVE Online. It's called Hyperion, and it's a free update for all currently registered players.

EVE Online takes gamers far in the future and across the universe to a remote galaxy called New Eden, where mankind has settled after discovering faster-than-light travel. Players pilot customizable ships through more than 7,000 star systems comprising planets, asteroid belts, moons, stations, wormholes and other phenomena. Players engage in professions that build skills and create products or services that can be sold for in-game currency. EVE Online is a persistent, open-ended game in which players can do everything from piracy to mining, manufacturing, trade, exploration or even huge fleet combat.

Major changes in Hyperion include the addition of danger "Burner" pirates that now populate missions; the Burners are a different breed of NPC pirate than players have seen before, mimicking more of the firepower and tactics used in player-vs-player confrontations.

Major changes to wormholes — random encounter locations — have also been made, with new wormhole connections, new reliable exit wormholes in Class 4 wormhole systems and changes in mass calculations of ships designed to provide more exciting skirmishes.

More ship and module rebalancing has been done, UI has been improved, new cybernetic arms and "retro" headwear is available, and planetary colonies have been opened in null security space to those outside the alliances that control them.

Recently CCP Games switched from a semiannual upgrade cycle for EVE Online to 10 incremental releases each year. Hyperion is the third release to be launched since this change.

EVE Online is a free download for Mac and Windows, with a 14-day free trial available. It costs $14.95 per month to play, with discounts available in larger increments.