We sat down with EVE Online's Lead Game Designer, Noah Ward to get clarification on some of the newly announced features including Planetary Interactions, Mining Enhancements and the rise of the Jovians.
We learned an abundance of new information during the CCP Presents keynote on Saturday. After the presentation we sat down with EVE Online's Lead Game Designer, Noah Ward to get clarification on some of the newly announced features including Planetary Interactions, Mining Enhancements and the rise of the Jovians.
Noah Ward: Hi, my name is Noah Ward, I also go by Hammerhead, and I am the lead game designer.
ZAM: First of all, can you just go into a little bit more detail about the sovereignty capture system that's going in?
Noah: It's really simple, and that was the whole goal of it. You just plunk down your clay marker and that's really all it takes. There's a bit of a timer. In order to take it back, you have to have 51% of the gates in the system controlled with these, we'll call them "disruption beacons," I don't know if that will be the final name. Basically you have to have, what we consider air superiority of the space in order to make the clay marker vulnerable.
ZAM: OK, so there will be new planets and stars. Does that have anything to with DUST? Are those in preparation somewhat?
Noah: It does. The planets in EVE and the planets in DUST are the exact same planets, it's the same universe. And the look of the planets in EVE and DUST are the exact same. So when you are in orbit over a planet in EVE or DUST, they're all procedurally generated and every planet has a unique ID in the database, and the look of the planet is seeded from its unique ID, and it will look the same across both, with the same climate and everything.
ZAM: So what's the story with the Jovians? We hear they're evil, they're awesome. Harbingers of doom speaks pretty loudly to me, so what's the story?
Noah: I mean, can't really say, they're an enigma those Jovians. I mean, I can't really go into more details about them.
ZAM: So no basic stories or anything leading up to what's going on?
Noah: No, not yet. We're going to have the planetary interaction stuff, we're going to have Incarna, we're going to have DUST, and Jovian are out there.
ZAM: On that topic, going over the planetary interactions, we heard that it was a little bit like gardening. What are some of the upkeep elements involved in having a district in these things?
Noah: It's a planet, it's a living world down there and they're going to need inputs and outputs and various commodities. I would really like to see a way where they could interact with each other and you could have trade between districts, but also space elevators or mass drivers where you could get stuff off-world. Maybe one planet is like a water planet, and has entirely one type of commodity there that's valuable, but lacks a whole bunch of other commodities. So there you'll have trade opportunities and arbitrage opportunities for the players. So, I mean, I really want it to be heavily trade based, but I want it to be a dynamic system that the players will be able to influence. Rather than, like, we have this NPC trade system in game now where it's sort of static. Where, you know that if spiced wine is sold at this station, it will always be sold at this station and the range will be this much.
What we want for the planet is a much more robust, a more real feeling world. And if this planet needs water or whatever type of commodity, then you'll be able to figure out ways to profit from that.
ZAM: Gotcha, but it's not as complex as say, Sim City, you won't actually be involved in the actual design of the planets.
Noah: No, you're not drawing a little issues like "this is the commercial district and this is that", etc...
ZAM: You're just dealing with the established populace that already exists?
Noah: I also want it to scale really well. Say in our science and inDUSTry, there are fifty lab slots per station, and they all fill up. I really don't want a situation where players run into where they hear about this awesome planetary interaction, and they come into the game and they're like "Oh no, the planets are full! You can't play! Sorry!" It needs to be infinitely scalable. Obviously people have to fight over resources, but I want everybody to be able to enjoy it.
ZAM: But is there a finite number of districts that players can own? Or is it just going to scale as there are more players, there will be more areas?
Noah: I'm not sure. The goal is that everyone is able to play, so however that ends up working out.
ZAM: But you have the opportunity, or the possibility of disrupting these districts. You can pollute them, etc. What kind of negative things can you do if you're not responsible?
Noah: Well, all sorts of stuff. Or, your neighbours can be polluting you. And maybe this is the reason you go to war, you want to send some DUST mercenaries over there and tell them "dude, your factories are puking out stuff, and I'm trying to grow food here, and you're screwing me over. So either stop it or...."
ZAM: So as the owner of one of these districts in EVE, when DUST 514 is out, you can actually hire a mercenary group to say "screw it, let's burn it to the ground! Let's get this pollution thing fixed!" That's something that can be solved that way as well?
Noah: We're trying to build it so that you want DUST Mercs. Like, this is the one thing where EVE Players might be thinking; "Why the hell do I want some 12 year old on an Xbox or whatever, to be influencing MY EVE." Well, as the lead game designer of EVE, I'm really focused on the EVE players, and fulfilling the EVE player’s wishes, and making sure that their game is a game that we all want to play. And I'm never going to screw with their game in that sort of way, where they can have their experience messed up.
ZAM: For those who might not be familiar with Incarna, can you kind of go into some of the basic details of when that is, and then when we'll be able to see it?
Noah: Hopefully we'll see it next year, but it’s about getting out of your ship and walking around. The goals behind it are to have everything player controlled, and all the places you go are owned by other players. We sort of feel like this will stop this sort of ghost town feeling you get in a lot of other games, where they build a lot of cities, and you're the only person. But if all the bars and all the corporation offices and the captain's quarters are all player owned, the players will just close them down if nobody comes. So, hopefully, they're all going to be well populated.
ZAM: And this will be an additional way to create resources? Like having a bar, for example, how is that going to work, exactly? How are you going to be able to make money that way?
Noah: Well, you'll be able to make money off of both selling stuff from the bar, and the mini-games, you can scrape some stuff off like a casino. And then there are also NPCs that are roaming, they're mercurial - they're not agents! They’re like the true underground of EVE. They're off the grid, and they don't register on any sort of computer network, and you can really only meet them in a bar face to face, because they won't talk to you over a communications network. If you do them favours, then they'll do favours for you. If you run a bar, and one of these guys appreciates you looking the other way, he'll want to do favours for the proprietor of the bar as well, so that's one way to profit. And you're going to want to run a bar that attracts these people, and by attracting these NPCs, that will attract players, and it's sort of a cycle.
ZAM: Is that to say that it will affect your flying around in space part of the game as well?
Noah: Yeah, it absolutely will. The original idea was that it was going to be in DirectX 10, and not everyone would play it, and only if people had the certain hardware. But then we looked in and we said, "No, we want all the people who play EVE to be able to experience it." And when we changed the direction from being just a DirectX 10 thing all the way down to, like, Shader Model 2, we decided that now we can have this fully integrated. And the vision is that if a player joins EVE in a couple years from now, they will never even be able to fathom that there wasn't this part where you could walk around, like "what do you MEAN you were just your ship? That's not even possible!" So one of these agents might be able to tell you who's on the other side of the gate, or get you some sort of benefit, or a nice wormhole location, all sorts of stuff.
ZAM: One of the things that spoke pretty loudly to me was the whole "nuke from orbit" thing that was talked about. Is that mostly a joke? Or are we serious here with nukes from orbit in these districts, and how they will affect planetary interaction?
Noah: When you consider, a Dreadnought is a tiny speck, and a planet is this huge massive thing, and in the future when you have all this space combat stuff, you're going to have planetary defences to stop random people from coming in and nuking it from orbit. So what you're going to need is stuff on the ground to knock out these planetary defences BEFORE you can glass it from orbit. But yeah, it's just every space ship captain’s dream to bomb the crap out of a place. So the whole idea that CCP has with EVE is that we're trying to make the ultimate science fiction simulator. We're trying to create this world, this rich, deep world that goes in and expands out and recreates every one of those cool sci-fi moments you've had in movies and books, and everything when you think of science fiction. We want EVE to be like that, and bombing planets is definitely one of them, the seedy bar, and the canteena, all of that stuff. We want all of these really cool, gritty sci-fi experiences to be in our world, but with our spin on it.
ZAM: So we start with a nuke and we graduate to a Death Star!
ZAM: My last question is about the mining enhancements—mining the planetary orbital rings and the comets. In what ways does that add value for miners, and also, how does that make mining a much more enjoyable experience?
Noah: I like to think of it as either fly fishing or like golf. It's where it's really sort of easy to pick up, but to master it takes much more. So you pick your tools and you consider, like "do I want to use a Nine Iron?" And so on. So first you're scanning the system to try to find where the good stuff is, so you find that this section of this planetary ring maybe has something. And then you go in there and you use a different kind of scanner. But the results are not just like, "this is Arkanoid, just put your laser on it and do it." There's more to the makeup of the rocks that you can sort of use your knowledge of the system and say, "OK well we're going to pick this item and use it." Like fly fishing has all of these different things, and you look at the river and you think "Ah, the bass want me to use this little orange dude." But you can use anything and maybe catch a fish, but the better you are and the cooler tech you have, and the better your gear and your knowledge is, the more you're going to get out of it.
ZAM: So we're graduating from mindless harvesting, there's going to be a skill set to it?
Noah: Yeah, there will be a skill set, but we want it to be player skill and not just training up skills. Also, there will be some downtime to it. Much in the same way with fishing and golf, where you smack the ball, and you socialize with some people, and you walk and talk, and then you hit the ball again. In fly fishing, you cast out there and then you hang out with your buddies. We want that experience. First you check out things and you use your skill, and then you just... mine some! And you kick back and you talk to your friends on EVE Voice or something, sing karaoke or be stupid. We really want to maximize human interaction, so in order to have good human interaction; you have to have some sort of downtime. I think it's one of the things that makes Counter-Strike so successful. It's not just constant shooting each other in the face; there's this in between rounds where you get the chance to build a community with people. So if it was just constant clicking, then you couldn't socialize. And we want to make a game where people socialize with each other and have fun with their social structures.
ZAM: A continuation of that; if you're mining a comet, is there a finite number of resources, or is a "catch it while you can," and then you'll see it later? Are there going to be specific comets that you'll see?
Noah: We haven't really decided exactly how it's going to be, but we do want to be able to have that "eureka!" strike it rich.
ZAM: Like, "there's Haley’s comet!"
Noah: Yeah, like you're on Corp Chat and you're like "Guys guys! We need a lot of people here right now, because we're going to miss it if we don't do it!"
ZAM: Excellent. Thanks for being so generous with your time.
Andrew "Tamat" Beegle