After the closure of the studio working on World of Darkness, CCP have switched their focus back to Eve. While their core team continues to develop the space MMO, other branches are busy building Eve Valkyrie, and the newly announced shooter, Project Legion. I caught up with CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson for a talk about Fanfest, and CCP's plans for the future of the Eve universe.
PC Gamer: EVE Fanfest has been going for ten years now. What's the benefit of the event for CCP?
Pétursson: This is the tenth Fanfest. I remember the meeting when we had the idea for the first time. We were talking to all these people on the forums, and it can be unproductive to have dialogue on the internet. I was like, I wish we could just get them here. We should have an event where they all come. And then we just did it. We wondered if anyone would come. I think about 300 people came to the first one, which was like way more than we expected. The game had about 50,000 users at the time.
The thread that links them all, from then to now, is the engagement we get with the players. People who enjoy it to the point where they'll fly to Iceland to celebrate the game and each other. The round tables, the casual mingling, and all of that has a lot of benefits for us. We do these big keynotes and talk about future plans, but really it's the mingling between players and developers that's important. There's a lot of energy around Fanfest. The people who love playing the game get to meet the people that love making the game. Making the game is a collaborative effort between us and the players.
PC Gamer: What was the thinking behind expanding the EVE universe into other non-MMO games like Dust and Valkyrie?
Pétursson: For the longest time we were in the process of adding features to EVE in a way that made it horizontally complex. It was a bad complexity. We want the game to be complex and challenging, but it shouldn't be difficult to understand. Your achievements should be overcoming obstacles and collaborating with players, but it shouldn't me managing too much complexity. So we came up with the idea of isolating these experiences to create more focused games, insteading of just adding more and more to EVE Online. That became a much better way to structure the development process. Now we have teams that are very focused on their individual projects, which gives us much more momentum and innovation.
We can increase the appeal of the EVE universe, but we don't have to change Online to do that. We can focus the experience much more on its heart. We've always wanted to expand, but now we think making new products is the best way to do it, rather than spread the butter of EVE Online over too much bread.
PC Gamer: EVE has an incredibly dedicated player base, some of whom have flown miles to Iceland for Fanfest. What, to you, makes the game so special?
Pétursson: The freedom of the sandbox. You can do anything. The game gives you that impression through its vastness and the legacy. There are so many stories where people have done amazing things. The eleven year history of the game has seen users breaking the game, and in some cases that's helped us. That gives us a lot of freedom. Anything goes. If you're determined, you can shape this universe. People love being in a universe where that can happen. It's exciting to know that every ship you see has a player controlling it, and every item for sale was put there by a player. The grandeur of the ships and the epic space opera feel, navigating a ship that's the size of a city, the nervous feeling that you could lose it at any time.
PC Gamer: I know so many people who have downloaded the game after hearing these amazing stories that come out of the game. This must be a blessing for you in terms of spreading the word.
Pétursson: Players generating stories started to happen from day one, but it took a while for the world at large to catch up to the fact that there was an actual intergalactic war happening in our times, but in a computer game. The mainstream media has begun picking up on these stories, which has made us want to get more of them out there into the press. It makes it accessible to a vaster audience than just players. Many people have told me that they love to read about Eve Online, but when it comes to playing it they find it too daunting. These stories are a way to tap into the magic of the game and express it in different ways.
Expanding the Eve universe with things like Valkyrie lets us make it more accessible. Valkyrie is a very intuitive experience. I've seen people of all ages, all walks of life, play it and pick it up immediately, and have a lot of fun engaging with it. Which isn't the immediate reaction when some people play EVE Online for the first time. It's much more abstract. Through that we may learn new ways to make the core experience of EVE more innovative without harming the sense of freedom.
PC Gamer: EVE has entered its second decade. Where do you see it in another ten years?
Pétursson: I can't speculate that far. We just want EVE to continue to grow and prosper in its second decade. Ultimately I hope we have the stewardship to make it outlive us all.