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AGC: Nathan Richardsson

Jon Wood Posted:
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CCP - Interview from AGC

Jon Wood sits down with CCP Senior Producer Nathan Richardsson to talk about the game's present and future.

One of the games that has been on the tips of many gamers' tongues these days has been EVE Online. It is the game that seems to keep on growing, and players and non-players alike have been taking notice.

At AGC, I had a chance to talk to Nathan Richardsson, the Senior Producer on EVE Online about the game, its recent growth and its future. As readers may or may not be aware EVE, which has only one single game-space, recently surpassed the 30,000 Peak Concurrent User statistic that they have been striving for. That's 30,000 people, all playing at the same time, on the same server, making EVE the first mass-market MMORPG to reach that milestone.

Richardsson said that he was amazed every time that their PCU number climbs. He said that he is happy to work on a game that he loves and that other people like as well. He went on to tell me that the one-world (ie: one main server) concept was built out of an interest in seeing the social networks that would be created, and the way that a political structure would turn out. "The more people that play, the more complex [the game] becomes," he said "the scale is becoming enormous". He added that "Seeing what evolves never ceases to amaze me."

Talk shifted from the game itself to one of the dubious side-effects of a massive, populated game-world with its own economy; the secondary market. As with many other MMORPGs, EVE Online tries hard to keep gold farmers out of their game, banning large numbers of them at a time, but anyone who keeps track of the MMORPG industry will tell you that it can sometimes be an uphill battle. The bright side though, is that in EVE, says Richardsson, these people are not having a large-scale impact on the economy itself.

I asked what happened to the illicit goods (in EVE Online, it is often mined materials) after the farmers had been banned, and was told that the goods, whatever they are, do not move back into the game's economy. With over 140,000 players in the EVE universe, the amount is often small enough to not cause an issue.

Moving on to what exactly our friends at CCP have planned for the game's future, Richardsson gave me a long list of things that they are working on or thinking about:

  • Faction warfare
  • Exploration
  • Combat boosters
  • Upgrading the graphics engine – starting with ships and moving from there
  • Increasing the interaction within the game
  • Involving the avatars more but creating planet and space station environments to move around in.

He said that they were looking to make additions that won't disrupt the existing gameplay too much, taking smaller steps to improve the game, saying that "You give the tools, and it's amazing what people do with them".

Players of the game will be happy to hear that CCP has "no plans for ever doing paid expansions", meaning that the new additions and content will be added to the game over time though free updates. Their philosophy is that manageable releases are less prone to error and risk than are large-scale expansions. They are trying to look at the game's long-term goals. "EVE deserves the best" Richardsson says, "We try to give her the best". That's an easy statement to believe given the fact that the CCP team has doubled over the past year to include 117 employees.

As the scale of this enormous game world continues to evolve with its own internal politics, companies and economy, I would be remiss if I didn't bring up the recent EVE Intergalactic Bank (EIB) scam that saw one player make off with the hard-earned money of a number of the game's players. The exact amount isn't known, but it registers in the billions.

What this player did was not, in fact, against the internal rules of EVE Online. When I asked if, after this latest scam, they had considered creating in-game laws to govern things like this, I was told that it would be incredibly difficult to enforce that kind of in-game law. The bottom line is that what he did was within the rules of EVE.

"Should we be policing that?" Richardsson asked, "As long as the EULA isn't broken, it's not our place. We're really hesitant about limiting the freedom of [EVE's] sandbox".

Besides, it was pointed out to me that there is always player justice. Sooner or later, EVE players who got scammed are going to track this guy down in-game looking for their own brand of revenge.

That's not all for EVE Online at this AGC, as Richardsson also reminded me of the recent debut of the game's real-life spinoff trading card game that made it's first appearance at this year's GenCon, where it received a great reception. According to Richardsson, you don't even need to be an EVE Online player to enjoy the card game, but it's built on the same principles. The staff at CCP, I am told, has been playing it as well. While sales haven't officially kicked off yet, it will be interesting to see how this extension of the EVE brand will perform.

I try to end every interview by asking the developer if there is anything that they would like to say personally to our readers. Richardsson took me up on my offer with a phrase that ended our interview, and I'm going to use to end this article.

"I would like to thank the fans of EVE Online for sticking with us through all of our blunders. That's very admirable."

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Jon Wood