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EVE Online's new focus is putting power in the players' hands

Mar 26 // Brett Makedonski
Nordgren said that this was "a huge step" for CCP. She cited it as the developer's way of saying "What you see in space should be much more in the hands of players." But, it's not necessarily as simple as CCP providing the sandbox for pilots to play in -- that might threaten the very foundation which EVE Online was built upon. "We're going more and more in that direction," Nordgren remarked about the possibility of an open sandbox. "But, it'll never completely get there," Nordgren continued. She elaborated "We’re going more toward a place where we want to control the reality of the New Eden universe, how it works, and what’s possible. Ideally, players should control anything that players can build, for example. And, then they can work with what you can do in that reality. It’s a fictional space universe, and it makes sense that we as a developer are responsible for the world, and we should give tools to the players to do stuff in it." If the change to structures is the functional example of this mindset, the customization to spaceships is the creative embodiment of it. It's borderline silly how big of a deal this is to the EVE Online universe; after all, nearly every other game on the market is chomping at the bit to offer (in most cases read: sell) extra skins. [embed]289358:57918:0[/embed] Even Nordgren had to chuckle a bit when I asked why this was such a monumental step. As it turns out, it's less about the actual aesthetic, and more about what they represent. "The game is 12 years old, and we have a very ambitious art direction for it as part of why it looks really good. We haven’t really given players any means to stand out or customize their stuff. Players have been asking for this for a long time," she explained. "You had some options before, but it was mostly through acquiring completely different special ships rather than changing your ship. This is a huge upgrade to that. Also, it’s really reflecting that the players are getting more power in the universe. These almighty space pilots get to finally decide what their ships look like." All-in-all, it boils down to CCP becoming less rigid as the gatekeepers to EVE Online. It seems as if the developer strives to draw attention away from the idea that the game has limitations, and enforce a mentality that it just exists as the player wants it to. This is apparent by looking at the roadmap to changing EVE over the years, which has moved from two major updates each year, to ten updates per year, and now, a constant stream of new features. Nordgren says that CCP found this evolution of its features model to be "a natural progression" because it would want to release updates that weren't necessarily thematically tied to whatever happened to come next. This left a lot in limbo, which is a pointless problem in an ever-changing, living, persistent world. But, mostly, CCP found itself in a weird place where players only paid particular attention at certain times. Nordgren said "In the past, we’ve trained people to really care about these release dates because we had two per year, and features would only come on those days. So obviously, people would invest a lot and care about those dates. But then, a bunch of features actually become available in between. So, it's like 'Well, they’re not exactly part of the release, and they’re not part of the next release, so how are we going to tell people about them?' We release a bunch of stuff, but people barely notice because it’s not on this big date." The solution? As Nordgren, with a grin on her face, brazenly put it "Shit's gonna change all the time." She added "You’re probably going to care more when it’s big features, so let’s focus on the features instead of the dates. Instead of trying to teach everyone that this date has this name and then talk about what’s in it, we just talk about features." So, if EVE Online feels like a more fluid entity beginning in the coming months, that's because it is. A lot of care and planning has gone into making it seem like a game with less monumental changes. Those changes are still happening, they're just not telegraphed the same way. It's all part of an ever-evolving model to put power in the players' hands and to make the EVE universe as closely rooted to the possible and the achievable as it can be.
EVE Online photo
New directions for New Eden
The developers at CCP face a unique challenge with EVE Online that other studios don't necessarily face. Its players expect an incredibly deep and detailed experience, which means that evolving the game is particularly d...

EVE Online Fanfest photo
EVE Online Fanfest

The Fanfest 'Worlds Collide' event wasn't the Powerman 5000 concert I was expecting


What is it really that is going on here?
Mar 21
// Brett Makedonski
It's no secret that I hate spiders, but there's one spider I adore. That's MC Spider, the frontman of Powerman 5000. That's why I was raucously excited to hear about the "Worlds Collide" event at Fanfest 2015, obviously a PM5...

EVE: Valkyrie wants to be the leader in VR eSports

Mar 20 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]289262:57848:0[/embed] Odds are decent that Valkyrie might hold that ambitious mantle because of the inherent nature of VR. One thing that O'Brien's CCP Newcastle team quickly found out is that VR works best when there's a minimal disconnect between the real and the immersive world. "For every bit of immersion that you're getting in this other world, there's less and less of the real world there. We're going for full immersion, because if you end up somewhere between the two, that can make simulation sickness worse and you'll feel weird. Like, we really avoid, for example, big hand movements or your character doing something that your brain tells you you’re not doing. Even our controller is positioned not in a joystick position, but in the position of the console controller. We very minimally move the pilot. I mean, the ship moves, but we don't do any touching other screens because that really jars you out of the experience. So, I actually think in our experience, the more immersed you are, the less likely you are to get simulation sickness." That's the kind of learning on-the-job that CCP (and, really, all VR developers) have had to deal with. As O'Brien says "It's becoming less and less true, but a year ago, there were no real VR experts. We're kind of learning, and talking to the manufacturers, there aren't any hard and fast rules. They have guidelines of what to try to do or what to try to avoid, but really, we're all still learning." And, it's that learning curve which hamstrings a current eSports favorite: first-person shooters. Developers are working on integrating FPS to virtual reality, but no one's done it particularly well yet. O'Brien thinks it'll eventually happen, but he's not sure when. "I'm sure at some point, someone will crack FPS, but they haven't yet. FPS in VR is very disorientating because your body is doing things that you're not doing. There are set ups that you can get where you're walking on a treadmill, but one of the disconnects that breaks immersion is when your body is doing something in the immersive world that you're not doing in the real world. It's little things, like in most first-person shooters, the gun is your hands, but in real life, you could be looking around. There are a lot of things to solve there. But, the main thing is locomotion. You're running and jumping in the virtual world, but you're really seated in a sofa. That's very disorientating for the body." For all the extra time that CCP has had to spend on Valkyrie, it legitimately seems like time well-spent. The game running on the new Crescent Bay headset is a significant upgrade over what we've seen in the past. Despite being a space dog-fighting game, the world is now filled with enough debris and objects to feel occupied. There's also a new emphasis on color that makes the world vibrant and enjoyable to cruise around in. Even dying is neat because the respawn screen puts you inside a pod that seems like it's ripped straight out of Alien's Nostromo. However, even if Oculus launched, say, six months ago, O'Brien is confident that Valkyrie would've eventually ended up where it is today (and, further, where it'll eventually go). "We would've shipped a smaller experience and built on it," he said. That building could go in any direction, but an obvious one is to connect it to the greater EVE universe. O'Brien would like to eventually do that, but it's not a priority now. "We have a small team, and I want to stay focused on making a great competitive multiplayer game," O'Brien stated. He continued, "I think you need to focus on one thing: the game, rather than what's the link to the EVE universe. I think once the game's up and running and working well, then we can look at longer term things. Ultimately, I don’t know how many years hence it'd be, but it'd be great if the battle you just saw was real capsuleers there, as well. But right now, I want to give that experience in the EVE universe without actually getting hamstrung by a direct connection." He's right; talking about melding Valkyrie into EVE Online is kind of putting the cart before the horse. For the time being, getting this game into people's hands is the main priority. O'Brien acknowledges that it won't be easy, but that road is getting less rocky. "There are more and more people coming into the arena, and that can only be good for VR in general. There are a lot of people that are starting to invest because the tech does work now," O'Brien commented. "I think the key to adoption is going to be facilitating easy trial, because I haven't met anybody yet who has tried one of these headsets and gone 'eh, it wasn't great.' Once people have done that, as long as it's at the right price point and not too hard of a tech setup – right now, I think it's more about making it easy for the consumer rather than the quality of the experience, because the quality of the experience is definitely there." But, virtual reality is nigh impossible to convey second-hand. It really is something that needs to be personally experienced. O'Brien concluded the interview by empathizing with anyone who's VR-wary, even if he's a believer. "There are two types of people in the world: There are people who have tried a VR headset and those who haven't. People who have tried are all converts, and people who haven't are all skeptics because VR has already been the next big thing so many times."
EVE: Valkyrie preview photo
Ambitious, for sure
It was almost a year ago (ten months, more accurately) when I sat down with EVE: Valkyrie's developers, and they told me "We're ready to ship when Oculus is ready to ship." At the time, Valkyrie was considered a flagship...


EVE Online photo
EVE Online

EVE Online has plans for exclusive ship skins, here are 11 new ones


'These almighty pilots finally get to decide what their ships look like!'
Mar 19
// Brett Makedonski
The EVE Online keynote at Fanfest 2015 just wrapped up, and one of the major themes was that CCP wants to put more power in the hands of the players. A popular way of accomplishing this is by finally releasing unique shi...
EVE Valkyrie trailer photo
EVE Valkyrie trailer

New EVE: Valkyrie trailer starts with a routine escort mission


'See you in the next life'
Mar 19
// Darren Nakamura
EVE Valkyrie has come a long way since the footage from last year's EVE Fanfest. The trailer above shows a more fleshed out mission, beginning with a mundane escort and ending with, well, something a little more exciting. Th...
Fanfest 2015 photo
Fanfest 2015

What does the future have in store for EVE Online?


Fanfest 2015 holds the answers
Mar 18
// Brett Makedonski
Greetings from Iceland, Internet dwellers. I'm in a hotel room in Reykjavík eating a pepperoni dog and drinking a ginger beer. Someone wrote a super friendly message on the wall just outside my window. There's a handle...
Fanfest 2015 photo
Fanfest 2015

EVE Online's Fanfest 2015 officially slated for March 19-21


In Reykjavik, Iceland as always
Oct 02
// Brett Makedonski
Pilots in EVE Online might feel like they're on top of the world when they're flying their spaceships through the galaxy, but if they want the full and authentic treatment, they have to make a voyage to Iceland for Fanfe...
EVE of Destruction photo
EVE of Destruction

Yeah, so no EVE developers came close to beating MMA fighter Gunnar Nelson


What a shocker
May 03
// Brett Makedonski
This might blow some fragile minds, but none of the CCP developers who went up against undefeated MMA fighter Gunnar Nelson at the Fanfest '14 EVE of Destruction event tasted the sweet nectar of victory. No one really ca...
EVE Online photo
EVE Online

EVE Online plans to have approximately ten annual updates from now on


Kronos is numero uno
May 02
// Brett Makedonski
EVE Online has one of the most dedicated communities in all of videogames, and CCP is reciprocating that with some dedication of its own. Whereas most massive multiplayer online titles have a few large updates a year at ...
 photo

CCP Devs to go up against MMA fighter at EVE Fanfest


Gunnar 'Gunni' Nelson will beat some devs down!
Apr 22
// Dale North
EVE Fanfest is an amazing event already, but this year's sounds like it's going to be completely nuts. The craziest thing they're doing is probably staging an event called Eve of Destruction, where MMA fighter Gunnar &ld...

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