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Interview with Nathan Richardsson

By Frank Mignone on February 17, 2006 | Interviews | Comments

Interview with Nathan Richardsson

EVE Online Interview (Page 3 of 3)

MMORPG.com:Also listed is an enhancement to exploration, using system scanners to search for ‘escalating paths’. Can you give more detail as to what this will mean to players, old and new, particularly those who find the flavor of space exploration appealing?
Nathan Richardsson:

As mentioned before, it’s about finding all that which is not in plain view. You have to use your scanner and associated skills and tools to find new locations. What you find will depend on what area of space you are in and a number of other factors relating to your environment and your equipment.

We’ll be implementing certain themes of exploration: you can, for example, go for archaeology, where you’ll be searching and excavating ancient sites of the four ancient races, finding a mixture of ancient tech and other useful resources or elements you can use for research.

Likewise there are locations intended for Hackers, where they can acquire knowledge from the empires or other factions on, say, technology or other secret locations. There will also be space agent locations to find, along with various Deadspace Complexes and perhaps even the very rare chance of finding Jove relics.

What makes this more interesting is the notion of the escalating path. This is where, during some form of activity – hacking, scavenging, archeology or simply blowing something up – you will find a locational marker for another location.

A hacker working a secret Sansha Comm Relay might find a location to a Sansha Comm Nexus, thus finding a harder, more secretive and rewarding location, an escalation in his path. At the Nexus there is decreased chance of finding any further locations, but if the hacker gets lucky he might stumble onto it. This way we can tie together a number of locations, creating interesting paths through the exploration themes and between them.

Dropping locational markers will of course also be utilized in all forms of activity, not only Exploration sites. Killing a Deadspace Complex overseer can result in starting a path, completing a mission could also do so and the same applies to killing a pirate Officer in a belt.

The beauty of this system is that you can explore the universe wherever you are. If you find a location you can’t do yourself, you can always sell it on the market to someone who can – or gather a group to check it out. It encourages interaction while providing a new aspect of flight through the EVE universe.

MMORPG.com:The guild system in EVE Online is modeled after the structure of a corporation. While player corporations have always engaged in self-initiated, verbal agreements with each other, it has never been an official aspect of gameplay. With the implementation of contracts in Kali, these agreements will become an integrated aspect of gameplay. Can you tell our readers how this will work, are there consequences for a breech of contract, and what incentives exist to encourage their use, as opposed the continued use of verbal, unofficial agreements.
Nathan Richardsson:

The Contract system aims to formalize a subset of all the agreements you can do. It’s more focused on complex combinations of escrow, auction, courier, collateral and prerequisites rather than putting in some arbitrary conditions which then need to be measured and/or enforced.

This is simply due to practical reasons, since we’re unable to measure success on many of the agreements which players make today, but we believe this system will cover 80% of the use cases we’re seeing with “unofficial” player-made contracts.

However, we’re quite sure that the needs and environment will change, so specialized parameters will emerge with which we can then implement special contracts for the more esoteric cases.

As an example of an “official” contract in our new system, I can easily create a Bring-Your-Own-Materials deal, where I specify what materials I want in exchange for release of an item or set of items. As such, I could require the mineral ingredients for a certain item, X amount of ISK and a number of Tags, in return for which I will give the ship with a full fitting of named modules. When the items I require are at the location, my contractor simply fulfills the contract and the items I said would be given in return are released. With this system I can’t back out of the contract, since when I create it, the items are taken into escrow and can be released only upon fulfilment of the contract.

Likewise, you can utilize contracts in a limited trust relationship, where you put up contracts only for your Alliance or Corporation members. For example, you could easily create mining contracts, which would give you a mining ship when you accept the contract, but to fulfill the contract and get the cruiser which is the completion reward, you have to give the mining ship back along with 1 million units of Tritanium.

With this you have “corporation missions,” where the directors can issue what has to be done and members can then fulfill the contracts – and add that to their track record, because we keep the player’s contract history.

Additionally, in trusted relationships such as within corporations, we’re allowing the creation of free-form contracts, where you simply enter, in text, what you want to be done, after which a member can take the contract and then mark it as fulfilled when he believe he has done so. The issuer then either accepts the fulfilment or rejects. This is only done to help organize corporations and alliances; as it is an unenforceable and mechanically meaningless contract, it’s more of a recorded order from the corporation, which then goes on your track record.

MMORPG.com:The EVE Online Community was been one of the most outspoken within your forums and within the game itself with regards to gameplay suggestions. Asking both for new features, and the alteration of existing ones. How much impact does this feedback influence the direction of the games development? Does the rapid frequency of gameplay expansions relate to this feedback?
Nathan Richardsson:

It’s probably more correct to say that the rapid frequency of expansions enable us to react to the feedback rather than the other way around. We firmly believe in iterative design, where we have a system developed in staged deliveries, with the functionality constantly adjusted based on usage statistics and feedback.

As a result, we’re very open to suggestions and feedback on EVE, because the players are the real users which the functionality affects and as such are a vital part of the feedback loop. We’re as different as we are many, however, and the opinions and suggestions range from sheer lunacy (OK, those are mainly my own suggestions) to incredibly insightful and deeply thought-out ideas.

We’ve implemented a range of features and modifications from the community. They might not always have gone in looking exactly like the original idea, but we take inspiration from our environment and EVE players are a very big part of our environment (I admit, I love to fla… uhm, interact on the forums).

Eye for an Eye is a good example of a suggestion which was implemented in Red Moon Rising. It gives you the right to avenge the unlawful death of … well, yourself. There has always been a big pirate element in EVE and we’d like to keep it and enhance it, but there have been problems with there not being enough opportunities to seek revenge for unlawful acts. This solved that nicely, although we’re still smoothing out the edges.

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MMORPG.com:On January 6th, an alert was posted in the official Eve Online forums, advising players to alter their passwords after a series of account hacks and 57 accounts compromised. Can you give any details of what your investigation has revealed and what was done to the affected accounts? What measures have been implemented to protect your customer’s accounts from future attacks?
Nathan Richardsson:

It revealed a number of further possibly compromised accounts, which we immediately reset the passwords for. We kept Tranquility offline for some hours while we conducted a full investigation to prevent further harm to possibly compromised accounts.

We decided to overreact and, so in addition to the compromised accounts, we reset thousands of account passwords and summarily asked the owners to change their passwords. We thought it was the right thing to do. We’d rather go a step too far than risk the accounts of our players.

The damage to the accounts which were compromised has all been fixed, but we’re still seeing a number of cases coming in where players are finding out very late that they were affected and they are being worked on as they come in.

Understandably, we’re stepping up security measures and beginning to enforce more stringent password policies, such as regular changing and enforcing a certain complexity of passwords. We’re also using the opportunity to find out how we can further increase security on all ends of EVE; our side, the players side and the link in between.

MMORPG.com:Lastly, what changes can the player of EVE online look forward to in the year to come?
Nathan Richardsson:

That’s a hard question. With more people in the EVE universe, the development team constantly increases by proportion. As a result, our personal and corporate goals for EVE are getting bigger (and more insane, I should note).

EVE is now almost 3 years old and after the first tight development years, we have a huge stack of ideas and concepts we want to implement. From here on it’s a question of prioritization. The reality is more down to earth (no pun intended) than many assume. We’re assigning a lot of resources to fixing, improving and optimizing EVE. Part of these optimizations require us to sacrifice some aspects, but they usually open up new avenues for us to explore.

For 2006 we have a graphics engine upgrade scheduled, we have the Kali expansion coming up and hopefully we’ll have another minor expansion release this year. We’d like to keep a roughly 6 month release schedule on major changes, so depending on the release and contents of Kali, we might be able to squeeze one in before Christmas again :)

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Frank Mignone / Currently Art Director with an Orlando Simulation Company using Cryengine 2. Graduated Valedictorian from Full Sail with a Degree in Computer Animation. Already did College for Aerospace Engineering...it's more fun in video games..no one really gets hurt. Freelance writer on the side. Designed some ships for 'Pirates of the Burning Sea' ...argh!
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