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EVE Online Interviews: Dominion Interview

By Garrett Fuller on November 20, 2009

MMORPG.com:

What is the status of Dominion right now? How has the expansion been coming along?

Noah Ward:

We're in the final stages of the "hardening sprint". That means all features are implemented and no new code changes or features are being added. We're doing heavy QA, bug fixing and final polish. All of the teams are pretty happy with what they've achieved. The primary feature in Dominion is the change to Sovereignty which effects "end game" players so naturally there will be a lot of strong opinions on the subject. Despite the heated debates and changes to designs and code along the way we think we're in a good place now--it has been a rough but necessary journey. We're also confident the changes we've made are a good base with which to add more functionality.

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MMORPG.com:

Talk about the territorial claims coming with Dominion. Players are very critical of this design plan, what is it that you want to say to players?

Noah Ward:

Like I mentioned in the previous answer, any time we touch aspects of the game that our most hardcore players use there will be clashes of opinion. One thing everyone agrees on, that we've been hearing since the original sovereignty system came in, is that the system needs to be more dynamic and rely less on shooting starbases. What we've done and what you can read more about in a recent dev blog about the subject here is to make a system that gives attackers and defenders many more chances to actually engage each other in combat. The old days of chewing through a few dozen starbases is gone, replaced by a few key objectives to fight over and a need for attackers to defend their own structures.

MMORPG.com:

Talk about the recent changes to the Massive Super Carrier. Many players are calling it a nerf. Can you set the record straight?

Noah Ward:

Unlike most other MMORPGs, with EVE we try to give every class of ship a clear role. It's not a simple game of bigger is better. It's more like a complex and nuanced game of Rock/Paper/Scissors. Unfortunately the poor Supercarrier (previously known as Mothership) never had a clear role much like the lion in Wizard of Oz didn't have a heart. They occupy a space between the massive Titans and the more ubiquitous Carrier class of ship without really standing out on their own. We wanted to improve this situation, find their true role and make them something pilots would be proud to fly; enter Fighter Bombers. Fighter Bombers are anti-capital weapons that launch big dumb warheads that do a lot of damage but have trouble hitting the broad side of a battleship. We like the direction things are heading and the models look damn cool but we're still not 100% sure the changes are achieving what we want to achieve. This is why the changes to Motherships/Supercarriers are being deferred and won't go out in Dominion 1.0. We're going to continue to play test both internally and on our public test servers. We're going to continue to talk to players. We're going to follow the yellow brick road and we're going to find the unique role these ships fill which will hopefully make the largest number of people happy.

MMORPG.com:

What is your biggest concern about star systems changing hands among players?

Noah Ward:

A bigger concern would be that star systems didn't change hands. Players want a nice fight on their hands. When playing "Internet Spaceships" as some like to call it, the whole goal is to have laser and missiles firing with ships dying in big explosions. With that said we don't want the mechanics behind claiming and capturing systems to be too easy. We've added plenty of checks and balances to counter "time zone games" but we're never going to fully remove the fact EVE is a persistent universe that takes place 23.8/7. We're also working on getting players that last .2 of the day.

MMORPG.com:

How will these changes impact resources in the game? Do you fear a change to the economy?

Noah Ward:

The biggest change to resources that will happen in Dominion 1.0 is that players owning space in 0.0 space will be able to upgrade the density so that more people can live in a given system. The income however isn't being increased much over what players can get from level 4 mission in the initial point release so we don't expect a massive exodus of people out of empire space or a massive change in the influx of money or resources. We're going to watch how the resource upgrades take hold and iterate on them. The majority of the upgrades revolve around exploration content and we have plans to boost that content, but not until we let players get used to the system and we're sure we're not going to crash the economy.

MMORPG.com:

What are three parts to Dominion you are most proud of?

Noah Ward:

Visually the planets are just amazing. The landscape of EVE will be drastically improved when they come in. As the planets started showing up in space on the internal dev server the buzz around the office was overwhelming. There were e-mail threads with screenshots and subject titles like "HAVE YOU SEEN THIS? NEW PLANETS!" So that's one thing we're really proud of.

The next thing would be the evolution of sovereignty. On top of the basic changes in the capture mechanics we've added new map views, a sovereignty dashboard and given alliances the ability to influence the abundance of resources in space through gameplay.

The third part is a quality of life thing. We've iterated on two of our oldest features in this release. Namely the eve-mail system and the in-game Web browser. Both of those features were as bare bones as can get. The browser only supported a subset of HTML 1.1 for instance. Now it's fully featured and we were looking at our office with Google Maps INSIDE EVE! We can't wait to see what the players do with it. The improvements to mail are equally impressive and pave the way to allow out-of-game access in a Web browser.


Screenshot

MMORPG.com:

Is there a specific message to the players you have about Dominion and how it will change EVE?

Noah Ward:

As in the eleven other free EVE expansions, it is the players and not the expansions themselves that determine how EVE changes. Sure, we have design goals to make Alliance Warfare more exciting, make taking and defending space more alluring and to iterate on a lot of "quality of life" issues like planets, in-game mail, fleet finder and in-game browser. But it comes down to it, the changes you will experience in Dominion will be the changes brought on by your fellow pilots through the features. You may find your trade route has fewer ambushes waiting for you because the corporation tasked to defend it has their attention elsewhere. You may be courted by others for your abilities as a capital fleet pilot. You may find more fleets popping up in your militia. So, while Dominion will certainly change the balances of power on a macro scale thanks to Sovereignty and Capital Ship changes, each player should have even more tools and more opportunities to make the EVE experience better for themselves on a personal level.

MMORPG.com:

Can you tell us something about Dominion that we might not have read in an interview or dev journal?

Noah Ward:

One new feature that made it in at the last minute which hasn't had any press is the ability to set your wrecks and loot cans as "abandoned" so anyone can loot them with no fear of repercussions. Typically if a player takes loot from another player the player which participated in the theft would be flagged for PvP. The reason this feature is so important is because we want EVE players to be able to meet new people and play together without fear of sudden backstabbing halfway through a mission. So with the new loot logging option in fleets that lets everyone in the group see who looted what and now the ability to abandon loot players are able to share the wealth in missions much easier. We want to keep the dark hardcore feel while at the same time giving players options that facilitate meeting new people. We feel these new tools achieve those goals without forcing artificial limitations on players.

MMORPG.com:

Talk about how you analyze player input when it comes to the changes in Dominion. What steps do you take to implement good ideas from the players?

Noah Ward:

We have many channels to receive feedback. FanFest, the CSM, the forums, industry conventions, social networking sites, the test servers and offical IRC channels are all channels that feed us input. Also, with close to 500 employees who are passionate about EVE, there is really no end to the number of ideas that get pitched to the game designers. In the end it's up to us to prioritize those ideas into features and schedule them into an expansion. Our goal is to make a fun game that people want to continue to play--so we take all the feedback we get very seriously. On top of just listening, we also look at metrics to help improve the game. For instance, if a large number of new players are dropping out of the tutorial at step 7 we know there is room for improvement.

MMORPG.com:

What do you think the first day of Dominion will be like when it goes live?

Noah Ward:

Hectic and also awesome. Some people will be rushing to try out the new pirate arcs in interceptors or running missions to obtain faction ships which were boosted. Some people will be trying to kill those people. Some will be scrambling to set up new infrastructure and upgrade their sovereign space. Some will be trying to kill those people. Some will be sorting their mail by date then by sender and back again. BAM! Many will be flying around space checking out how incredible the new planets and moons look against the backdrop of the new starfield. Of course some people will be trying to kill those people. Finally some will be getting rich selling ships to all those poor people who got blown up.

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