The NPC Pirate system is currently under an overhaul with upcoming features and changes. The changes are still some what away from going live on Tranquility but will soon get into a balancing and testing phase on the Development Server (Chaos), the organization for the distribution is at the last stage but the tuning of new features for the individual NPC's is still in development form. The goal is still to get these changes/features out in next major Castor Patch.
NPC Groups & Behavior
The NPC distribution in asteroid field will get a much better balance based on the security status and availability of ore types in systems. Some sectors will get tougher with these distribution changes and some will get easier.
The biggest change to the pirate groups will be decreasing their size, specially the escorts of battleship pirates, but increasing their frequency of appearance. This is to keep up the pace of pirate hunting while not overwhelming mining operations with a single large pirate group. Instead the chance of meeting a battleship in deep space will be increased a whole lot, some areas will have up to half the groups with one or more battleships in them.
New high-bounty NPC frigates will start escorting battleships in deep space, these NPC's will behave similar to the Interceptor elite frigate class already available to players. These NPC's will handle propulsion jamming for the bigger ship classes in deep space.
NPCs will also sometimes warp out to flee from player attacks. Warp scrambling an NPC will of course become an option.
We will be giving more of a racial feel to the NPC's, based on location of the NPC's (i.e. Angel Cartel playing Minmatar style while Blood Raiders play Amarrian style).
Armor Repairing and Shield Boosting will be given to NPC's and also better resistances based on racial resistances vs. keen anti-race damage, specially for the higher level NPC's. Example would be:
Highest Explosive Armor Resistance
High Kinetic Armor Resistance
Low Thermal Armor Resistance
Lowest EM Armor Resistance
(We are also planning on changing the damage messages that players receive showing which damage types are dealing how much damage, which would help NPC hunters finding out what NPC factions are weaker to which damage types: "Your SmurgleBlaster hits TomB for neat 300.1 damage (50 EM - 200 Thermal - 0.1 Kinetic - 50 Explosive). This feature is scheduled for soon™)
Propulsion jamming will get removed from most NPC's as the new NPC Interceptor frigate class will be handling these.
Stargate pirates will get re-introduced in some sectors, though they won't be as strong as the groups found in asteroid belts, and they won't be particularly common as the infestation chance will be very little and respawn timers will be set to a long duration.
New rare spawn groups will come with the overhaul in three forms: Pirate Mining Operation, Pirate Commanders and Pirate Corporation Officers. These spawns will vary on the solar systems.
Pirate Mining Operations will have the usual asteroid pirates as protection and new NPC "haulers" will be part of these groups, carrying minerals/ore.
The Pirate Commanders will have the normal asteroid pirates as protection and are rare spawn NPC with increased bounty and higher chance of dropping named modules. New named pirate modules will also be coming through rare spawn commanders.
The named Corporation Officers will be very rare and only be found around the head quarters of pirate factions. These officers will be both stronger than other commanders and dropping new ultra-rare and ultra-violent items.