Over three years ago, Iceland based developers CCP launched EVE Online, their space based MMORPG. At the time, the game was up against Electronic Arts' similar title Earth and Beyond. Now EA's game has been put to pasture and EVE Online has been gaining more and more subscribers (over 100,000) and recently began beta testing a version of the game in China. FiringSquad got a chance to chat with CCP senior producer Nathan Richardsson about their plans for EVE Online, including an upcoming DirectX10 version of the game.
FiringSquad: How hard it is to provide customers service and support when you guys are based in Iceland?
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. Weíve so far exceeded our expectations year after year and hope it weíll 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 itís 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 100ís, 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.
: If anything, we believe itís 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 wouldnít say easy, but itís 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?
: It really depends on what aspect weíre talking about and what is being done. We see a lot of MMOís 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 itís 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.
Itís 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?