Ever since I started covering EVE Online as one of my main beats in this industry back in 2017, one phrase has stuck out every time I attend either a major event, speak to a developer, or just read a blog post: EVE Forever. It’s a slick marketing phrase that clearly gets across what CCP is trying to achieve: to have EVE Online outlive us all.
It’s easy to look at that phrase and see it for what it is: a marketing phrase that must have the PR folks back in Reykjavik and London very proud of themselves. I’m not sure anything EVE’s developers say carries as much succinct meaning as EVE Forever.
A related refrain is something we heard a ton at last week’s EVE Fanfest 2022 in Reykjavik, Iceland: setting up EVE for the third decade. Indeed, in most of my interviews with Brand Manager Saemundur Hermannsson since the pandemic started, he has used that specific phrase at least once, if not multiple times.
It’s easy, though, to get lost in what might be deemed as PR speak: easily repeatable phrases and terms that get the conversation back on track, but also stick in both the interviewer and readers' minds long after they’ve left the conversation. And with most other studios, I would expect that these would be slickly coached and hyped-up talking points each developer has been instructed to keep at the top of their mind in every conversation.
But with CCP Games, this idea of EVE Forever feels like a developer imperative. It’s a drive that keeps devs looking ahead towards the future, not simply sticking around in EVE’s glorious past.
Introduced back in 2011 as a way to present a future vision for EVE Online, we’ve been hearing this phrase for over ten years now. But it is more than that to the CCPers I spoke to at Fanfest. It’s a mantra that drives the studio forward, this idea that CCP Games truly wants EVE Online to outlive every one of us.
“Our ultimate goal with EVE Online is to have EVE last forever. We want EVE Online to outlive us all,” Creative Director Bergur Finnbogason told me in an interview over the weekend.
During the Keynote, players who were watching might have expected announcements that were more immediate - something to sink their teeth into right away. New content, new ships, new ways to play - anything. However, when you take a look at the announcements made last Friday, everything is aimed at setting up this goal: EVE Forever.
“That is the journey that we are on,” Bergur continued. “That’s the long view reality that we live within. We were in a state back in 2018 where there had been, there had been a lot of “Manifest Destiny” in EVE, just to be 100% honest.”
Bergur didn’t say it outright but hinted at the idea that the team had promised the world, but didn’t necessarily deliver it fully in the past. But what we’re seeing from the keynote is a desire to take what the team has been building for the last several years and fit this “epic puzzle piece” as he calls it into the puzzle that is New Eden.
“This is like the epic puzzle piece on a journey that started in 2014, 2015 where we’ve been building our capabilities of telling better stories[.] Back in 2014, EVE was a PvP game. And then there were lore and missions but it was kind of like, don’t talk about it. But we’ve been on this journey of how do we mash them together and merge them? Through iterations, we’ve built off our capabilities and competency and doing stuff like that, and I feel like we’re at the point where finally [we’re] kind of bringing everything together.”
CEO Hilmar Veigar Petursson agrees, pointing to the incredible amount of work being poured into the technology of EVE to help prop the 19-year old MMO up for the future.
“It may be hard to see it now,” Petursson explained in an interview with me. “Like in five years, we’ve done all those deep investments in technology, tools, processes, fixing the economy, cleaning up a lot of things that were never the right time to do that because we needed to release another feature for EVE and we needed to address some community concern. So we never really gave ourselves time to really do the things that really improve into the future.”
Hilmar went on, explaining that now that a lot of the dev work on the backend is more or less coming to fruition, the team can start to “take the training wheels” off and let developer ambitions take the reigns.
“Now we’re in this period where, hopefully, we can take the training wheels off[.] So it’s more just maybe this ambition for what EVE can become now that we have shored up all these things we never had time to shore up. There’s still some more things left to do. But certainly, a lot of the heavy lifting has been done.”
Factional Warfare And Arcs
To start, players will be seeing massive changes coming to the Factional Warfare system, a gameplay mechanic in dire need of an overhaul. During the Fanfest Keynote, this was touched on a bit, showcasing how the team is going to turn the stagnant Lowsec PvP activity into something that has a real, lasting influence on the space around it by folding it into the various planned narrative-themed Arcs the studio is releasing moving forward.
One way for this to happen is to turn Factional Warfare systems into what feels like an actual battlefield between the two giant warring Empires. Right now, if you go to a Factional Warfare system, there really isn’t a whole lot to differentiate it from the surrounding systems, other than the chance of more PvP. While this is fun for some, the feature has sat, virtually untouched for so long that players have been begging for an overhaul.
Now, star systems that are bordering an enemy empire will be turned into Frontline zones, where players will be able to PvP and gain rewards. The systems themselves will be easier to capture thanks to their proximity to the enemy, making for (hopefully) some fun back and forth, tug-of-war type encounters
The systems that are nearby will also play a role in the new Factional Warfare, system, such as acting as logistical support areas called “Command Operations,” as well as rearguard systems. Given the way EVE Online’s player empires can already plot out battle plans and routes based on the complicated star clusters that make up New Eden’s Nullsec blocks, it’ll be interesting to see how players organize and attack these new Faction Warfare systems, especially as they aim to turn the tide for their chosen NPC empire.
EVE Online has been setting up this idea of giving more narrative focus back to the lore of EVE, and Faction Warfare is one part of the new goal of setting up EVE through more stories. This means that the days of quick-paced updates like Quadrants are a thing of the past and expansions are coming back to EVE Online. This will, in theory, give developers more time to create interesting stories, goals, and more based on the factions in EVE and how players are reacting to developments.
During the Living Universe panel on Saturday, CCP Aurora stated that Faction Warfare is her team’s “primary focus,” though did state that this didn’t exclude content coming to other areas of EVE in the future. But right now, Faction Warfare is the vehicle that is aiming to drive this new content push into the third decade.
With the Arcs and how they are driven by Factional Warfare, players will be able to swear allegiance to one of the NPC empires in the game - and, as Aurora teased during the Keynote, potentially pirate factions in the future - and work towards the goal of furthering that faction. That could be in the way of faction goals, tasks, and more that accomplishes something in-game that affects the narrative moving forward. This could also mean seeing meaningful decisions that affect the outcome on the level of the Triglavian Invasion and the creation of Pochven even, as Bergur teased in the Fanfest press release.
As CCP Loki stated during the Keynote, CCP Games wants to “create an experience that doesn’t feel repeated.” Every Arc, according to Loki, should “feel unique.”
The idea here is pretty ambitious, as the team envisions the possibility of affecting other areas of New Eden based on what happens during a Faction Warfare Arc. Aurora talked about the idea that what happens in Lowsec won’t stay in Lowsec, but could affect things in Nullsec and more.
Player actions and how they react to their chosen faction’s goals could determine the direction of the story. Aurora used the example of trying to stop an opposing faction from developing a ship, and if the players are successful, that ship may never see the light of day in New Eden.
The Third Decade
This idea of building more tools to allow for more player interaction in the universe is something CCP has been talking about for years. In an interview with us back in 2020 during the height of the Triglavian Invasion, Bergur talked about the idea of opening up their dev toolkits to allow for more “player interaction with the universe, while breathing more like and action into it.”
The announcements at Fanfest 2022 feel like the last few years of creating dynamic events, building more meaning into flying around New Eden, and giving players more ways to not simply interact with each other, but ways to meaningfully interact with the world around them.
The fall of Niarja is a perfect, clear example of this ambitious event that shakes the world that was, in a way, player driven. While the underpinning event - the Triglavian Invasion - was a PvE directive by CCP Games, the impact that the Niarja system’s fall - and the fact it was player decided - is the type of emergent gameplay that CCP Games is aiming to capture with Arcs and the increased focus on narrative-driven content that is dictated by player actions and decisions.
“And you feel like you have purpose, you feel like your actions are actually benefitting the world and the things that you’re doing are shaping the outcome,” Bergur told me during our Fanfest 2022 interview. He went on to describe how these seemingly disparate things are teaching the player more about EVE, and setting them up for future success - and fun - as a result.
“In the meanwhile, you’re doing these things that you enjoy. You’re actually learning - you’re accidentally learning PvP, you’re accidentally learning how some mechanics work, you’re definitely learning how structural mechanics work. All these things then apply when you go independent, or you go into the unknown, or wormhole gameplay.”
Bergur admits, though, that this is a multi-year journey, even though the much-anticipated third decade is only a year away. But he attributes the journey they have been on has all been to set up this goal: growing EVE into the third decade, with the eventual imperative of EVE Forever.
Hilmar looks at EVE from a high-level approach, which makes sense given he’s the CEO of CCP Games. Instead of just confining EVE to the PC Online game, he’s looking at ways to ensure that the EVE IP moves forward, beyond simply EVE Online. Hilmar is looking beyond EVE surviving forever, but thriving.
“I think it’s important for it to thrive is to have more than just EVE,” Petursson explained in our interview during Fanfest. “And we have, for the longest time, wanted to build a second pillar to carry the EVE brand forward. Not that we’re doubting the one EVE Online PC, which will probably on its own go on forever. But to have a stool, you need three legs. So getting to the point where we have three games, really sort of driving the EVE IP forward is kind of the state we want to get to. We also have three studios, so each studio contributing with a franchise of their own inside the EVE IP is kind of the end state.”
Given that during Fanfest we saw the first concept art of CCP London’s FPS project set in the EVE universe, as well as word that CCP Shanghai is working on a 4X strategy game, currently being called Project M5, the three legs of the EVE stool seem to be under construction indeed. And the idea of driving the EVE universe beyond just the PC MMORPG has been a goal for a while now for CCP, as evidenced by their past working titles like Dust 514 and, most recently the scrapped FPS Project Nova. Hilmar states that whether or not the pillars he’s talking about will be in the form of London and Shanghai’s current projects remain to be seen, but it’s the goal.
“Whether that is the current shooter in London, the current M5, who knows - hopefully, certainly it’s the plan. But if that bite of the apple doesn’t work, we continue the idea of this three-legged stool. Three studios, three games holding up the IP.”
As the third decade inches ever closer, CCP Games is setting things up to ensure that EVE lives forever, beyond even EVE Online. The goal of EVE Forever may look slick on a piece of concept art, but it’s an imperative that feels at the core of everything EVE’s passionate developers are doing behind the scenes.
Whether or not it truly outlives us all remains to be seen. But for now, the groundwork is being laid for growing not just EVE Online into its third decade of existence, but the broader stories and themes of the EVE universe across myriad properties to create that “three-legged stool” Hilmar described. One that will, hopefully, hold EVE upright for decades to come.