Summary: EVE Online launched, almost bombed, and has since seen steady growth. The unique MMO also had a massive beta launch in China. JCal talks to the developers about their success and their expansion plans.
Editor's note: The screenshots that accompany this article are early shots from the upcoming graphical upgrade of EVE Online
FiringSquad: First, EVE Online continue to grow in its subscription rate even though the game itself is sold and download almost completely online now. Did CCP anticipate having this many customers at this time when the game launched?
Nathan Richardsson: Well, that depends on who you ask and when you asked them :)
The first ambitions were quite high, but along the development time the expectations became more realistic. After we acquired the publication rights back and started online distribution of the client, our numbers started growing again. We’ve so far exceeded our expectations year after year and hope it we’ll continue to be pleasantly surprised.
FiringSquad: How different is it to run a game that is basically using one large world for its customers rather than splinter it like most other MMORPGs do?
Nathan Richardsson: We believe it’s far better to do, not only from an operational perspective, where the whole team is focused on the same game world. The social networks that emerge are amazing and we believe this increases considerably the average time in which people stay with us. We have corporations reaching 100’s, even a thousand now and Alliances include thousands of players. We believe people play massively multiplayer games because of the other people and anything which helps the community grow stronger as a whole benefits the game in the long run.
FiringSquad: How hard it is to provide customers service and support when you guys are based in Iceland?
Nathan Richardsson: If anything, we believe it’s a benefit to be in Iceland developing a game. After all, what else can you do here during the cold winter months than play (or develop) games! ;) The game is played by people from all over the world and we felt that Iceland was as good as any place to support players that were playing from all over the world. We surely wouldn’t say easy, but it’s not that difficult either.
FiringSquad: Where does CCP stand on the growing amount of third party efforts to make real money from virtual items in the MMORPG space?
Nathan Richardsson: It really depends on what aspect we’re talking about and what is being done. We see a lot of MMO’s emerging which are designed from the beginning to accommodate that type of gameplay, even providing the game for free but additional content or benefits via micropayments.
We believe it can work, while many games can be really hurt by it if it’s rampant and uncontrolled, where the game makes it easy to convert real cash into advancement. Then you really start to diminish the efforts of players which have spent time for that advancement.
It’s also a question of a lesser evil. Can you create an environment where the demand and supply is controlled, preventing the scams and abuse, while allowing limited advancement in certain areas? Is it better or worse than an uncontrolled situation?
Nathan Richardsson: We attended ChinaJoy to promote EVE and meet some potential opportunities which were following up on. It worked out and we’re now working with our partners in China in an Open Beta phase. It’s 5 days since it opened and already there are more than 400.000 registrations for the Open Beta!
FiringSquad: Has it been a hard process to translate a MMORPG as different as EVE Online to the Chinese market?
Nathan Richardsson: No, the interface architecture and structure is fortunately quite straight forward to put into a translation framework. We decided that since we were going to translate the client into Chinese, we might as well create a system which manages multiple language clients and was Unicode compliant. This made the effort more difficult but in the end it’s worth it. There were some problems with the Chinese specifically, such as the size of the fonts so they were properly readable and then fitting them within the user interface.
FiringSquad: How does CCP keep up with the development of the Chinese version of the game and how will the company gain revenue from the version when it officially launches?
Nathan Richardsson: The current Chinese version is a more recent and updated version of EVE than is already running. This is because of the translation framework which we did, which resulted in a number of rewrites and optimizations along the way. After we have opened in China, this version will be developed further to incorporate Kali features and German and be released to Tranquility, our cluster in London.
This will create the future deployment cycle, where we deploy expansions to Tranquility and China working on a delayed deployment schedule because of the translation required. EVE is licensed to our partner in China, we share the revenue with our partner which will fuel the future development of EVE. Because of both world utilizing the same code base, we should be able to achieve bigger goals faster which benefit all EVE players.
FiringSquad: Recently you announced plans for a new expansion for the game. Is it a hard process to decide what to put into a new content update with a game like this?
Nathan Richardsson: Yes, it never ceases to surprise us how heated we get internally about what to do next. It’s a mix of evolution and revolution. We’re big on evolution since we believe EVE was quite of a big bite to handle already in the beginning and we need to evolve the individual mechanics, improve other systems, optimize others and simply fix bugs.
This iterative process is based largely on our crazy future views of how EVE should be and a lot on player feedback. We then want to do some revolutionary stuff to the EVE universe and then evolution comes and bites us in the ass, reminding us that it’s not cool to always throw new stuff in, the current game needs to be constantly maintained and evolved. In the end, we’re never happy and I guess this is part of what is fuelling our continued passion for EVE.
FiringSquad: What do you think are some of the more important aspects of the new Kali expansion?
Nathan Richardsson: The new Contract system is probably the most important aspect, although that won’t become apparent until it’s in and being used. It allows corporations (our version of guilds) to better manage themselves 24/7. This is quite important since corporations in EVE have a very high ratio of shared resources and assets which need to be managed and goals need to be created for the members. With the Contract system, you’re really creating “missions” for your members, not requiring any more the persons which have sufficient rights to access resources or the leaders which tell you what to do to be online all hours of the day.
The flagship however is Factional Warfare, where we’re opening up the large NPC factions and empires for players to fight their wars for them in PvP. Up till now, the future of the NPC controlled universe and surrounding areas have been up to us to decide, but with this we hope to give more power to the players, releasing more control of the universe to the players. At the same time, this will hopefully act as an introduction to Alliance PvP for a large part of our PvE playerbase or more casual PvP playerbase.
In addition to this, more organizational tools for combat, better situational awareness and integrated voice communications which has become a necessity for fleet battles. We’re also expanding our Research & Development, extending our mini-professions such as Hacking and adding shipwreck Salvaging, Combat Boosters and new Ship Upgrades (we call it “Pimpin” inhouse, searching for a better name :)). That and a lot of other improvements, fixes, 8 new ships and of course 8 new regions of deep space opening up!
Nathan Richardsson: Well, our engine is already 3 years old and back then, people were quite impressed with the look and feel of EVE. Now we felt it was time to take it up a notch again, start utilizing some of the advances and added hardware acceleration features on graphics card. We’re remodelling all of our ships in millions of triangles, which we use to create normal mapped versions, then utilizing soft self-shadowing, per-pixel lighting and HDR.
FiringSquad: CCP also announced plans for a DirectX10 version of EVE Online. What can you tell us about this version in terms of graphical features and whether or not it will have the same content as the current version of the game?
Nathan Richardsson: We call it EVE Vista since it’s mainly for that operating system at the moment. The content and gameplay will be exactly the same as with the current client, playing on the same servers in the same EVE universe. The only difference is that it will be utilizing the new features and optimizations of DirectX10 and then leveraging the programmable shader pipeline. For short, it’ll be more spiffy when showing the new uber ships! :)
FiringSquad: Looking into the future does CCP Games plan to work solely on EVE Online or are there any plans for other games outside of the EVE universe?
Nathan Richardsson: We are a game developer and we certainly plan on remaining a game developer :)
However, we are so busy with EVE and there is still a lot we need to do there until we’re satisfied, that we’re only on the concept stage with anything else. You know, the “we’d love to do something like this” kind of thing. As long as there are players playing EVE, we’ll be there evolving it, but we also have plans for world domination, like all respectable game developers have (right?) so there will be other titles.
Whether they’ll be using the EVE universe as setting remains to be seen, but rest assured, there is nothing like “EVE II” coming out. There is only one true, constantly evolving, EVE. Ok, don’t quote me on that in 40 years though …
FiringSquad: Finally is there anything else you wish to say about EVE Online and CCP's plans for the future?
Nathan Richardsson: I did mention world domination, right? Right. Other than that, if you decide to try out EVE, joining a player run corporation is the best way to get into the EVE universe, they help you starting out and get you over the pretty steep learning curve.
|© Copyright 2003 FS Media, Inc.|