This has been a monumental year for the folks over at CCP, the company most famously responsible for the creation of EVE Online, a sci-fi sandbox MMO. What started as a small company making a board game to grow capital to finance a video game has now become a big name in the MMO world, with offices on three continents and employees from every continent (except Antarctica). Whether you like them or you hate them, it’s hard to deny their impressive rise.
This past Friday, I (along with numerous other press and guests), attended the official opening of the CCP / White Wolf offices in Stone Mountain, GA. For White Wolf, the building houses the staff working on the popular pen and paper World of Darkness series, For CCP, the building houses some support staff for EVE Online. For the two combined, however, it houses the development team for the much-anticipated (but still very, very early in the development process) World of Darkness MMO.
When I toured the building, I was first surprised at how small the pen and paper team is for White Wolf’s World of Darkness series. Like many, I’ve been hearing about White Wolf games for years. In fact, my very first role-playing experience came at a local convention where a game of Vampire was being played. Naturally, I assumed that this game (which was very cool) must be made in a huge office by an enormous team. As it turns out… not so much.
Speaking with Mike Tinney, the President of White Wolf, he told me that while they have employees in-house, they also work with people like artists, on an as-needed basis. He told me that for every book, they try to find the people who will be a best fit for the task.
It was clear that this was a big day for the people at CCP / White Wolf, and nowhere was this more evident than in the face of Tinney as he gave us a tour of the new offices. Now, some of you may remember my fairly recent trip to Iceland to visit the CCP offices there, and you can read the whole report here.
I’ve said before that the Iceland office is one of the most unique video game studios that I’ve ever visited. For one, they’re located by the water in an old fish plant (no residual smell though). It makes for a really neat lay-out. The second thing that struck me as interesting was that the company had their own on-hand chef. This made meal-time a team affair, and seemed to provide the employees with a chance to relax and socialize.
As it turns out, the unique feeling of the CCP offices isn’t restricted to Iceland. As Tinney showed us through the new offices, the first thing that I think we all noticed was the amount of space that seemed un-occupied. Tinney was quick to address that point as he told us that CCP / White Wolf has an “aggressive growth plan” in place that will see the space filled sooner than later.
“This office serves three functions,” Tinney told us. The first, and probably the most obvious to anyone entering the building is that this is where White Wolf publishing is being housed. Second, the Atlanta office provides support for EVE. Having customer support located on three continents goes a long way to alleviating the need to have people at work in Iceland at crazy hours. The third, and probably most interesting of the three is the fact that this is where the content development for the upcoming World of Darkness MMO will take place (tech will likely be handed out of Iceland).
They still aren’t talking much about the upcoming MMO, and as far as I know, it hasn’t been officially announced. I tried on a number of occasions to coax something out of Tinney and some of the others about the game, but unfortunately, their lips are sealed. “There’s no such thing as vampires,” one of the employees answered wryly to my inquiries. Blasted catch-phrase.
I can tell you though that in the minds of CCP / White Wolf, vampires and werewolves for that matter (where’s the love for the furry dudes?) do exist. I did manage to take a look at some of the concept art that was up on the wall (we weren’t allowed to take pictures of it though). I can tell you that it looks great. It’s got that overhanging feeling of darkness and shadow about it that makes me feel like maybe we’re going to see the first truly dark and gothic MMO.
After we moved beyond the concept art, we were introduced to one of those quirks that I’m now going to expect in every CCP building. In this case, it’s a fully-functional racket ball court. Apparently, it was left by earlier tenants and rather than tear it out, the powers that be decided to keep it.
After the tour, we were treated to the official ribbon-cutting ceremony. We got to listen to speeches from both Tinney and CCP CEO Hilmar Petursson as well as two local political figures.
With the ribbon cut, we ventured back inside to experience the work of the CCP / White Wolf North America chef, another parallel with the Iceland office. In fact, this was a must-have for the company as they felt that the success of the chef in Iceland, and what it did for the team there was worth repeating.
Drinks and music were served as we moved to yet another part of the building (they just kept revealing areas). This time, it was a huge, empty warehouse. I don’t know what they’re going to use it for, in the end, but that night it was used as a place to socialize and unwind.
To that end, I was surprised to see Jon Selin in the crowd of faces. MMORPG.com regular readers might recognize the name from Lockpick Entertainment’s Dreamlords. As it turns out, he’s another new member of the CCP team. From Sweeden, Selin is one of many international employees working in the CCP offices. Check out the map for a full breakdown.
Perhaps the most interesting conversation that I had that night was with CEO Petursson himself. Now, for those of you who have never met him, Hilmar is a very tall, very red-headed man who looks like he’d probably be a very imposing figure if you ever crossed him. Thankfully, I’ve always met him in an affable mood, and tonight was no different as he smiled and joked with employees, press and others at the gathering. Hilmar was kind enough to tell us a little bit about the upcoming Fan Fest, which will be home to a discussion panel that includes virtual world experts Richard Bartle and Jessica Mulligan. The panel will involve CCP employees, the aforementioned experts and, of course, the EVE playing public. Its purpose is to gather information on the best ways to move forward with EVE’s virtual world, including the idea of a player-run government that would advise the developers as EVE goes forward.
One of the things that I’ve always liked about talking to most people that work on EVE, and Petursson in particular, is that they are always concerned with making their game a better game for the players who subscribe. While they might not get it right, 100% of the time, the intent seems to be there. That isn’t to say that there haven’t been bumps along the way, but, from talking to the folks from CCP, lessons are always learned from the mistakes.
One thing that Hilmar said that really stuck in my head (I’m paraphrasing here) was that EVE couldn’t have been designed from the beginning to be the game that it is today. No predictions from back then could have foretold the virtual world that would be created by 200,000 people.
Like I said before, you don’t have to agree with CCP, you don’t have to like EVE, but it sure is interesting that someone is out there operating a real, sandbox-style sci-fi MMO, and that it’s been big enough to spawn a corporate merger and a second MMO in development.
Below, you'll find a map that was sent to be pointing out all of the homelands of people working for CCP.