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Streaming, Loss And War - An Interview With EVE's Developers

An Interview with EVE Online's Creative Director and Brand Manager

Joseph Bradford Posted:
Interviews 0

One of the aspects of EVE Online I always felt was missing from the larger EVE discussion is streaming esports tournaments. These tournaments exist.Every major EVE event typically has PvP tournaments, and this recent round last year was meant to culminate in a final tournament at EVE Fanfest in Reykjavik before the pandemic shut the world down.

It looks like EVE Online’s creative team is looking at this as well as evidenced by the release of the Abyssal Proving Grounds update discussed in a recent dev blog post yesterday. By giving players direct access to the Proving Grounds next month with the use of new Filaments, it also opens the door for streamers and tournament organizers to take EVE competition to a more mainstream audience.

“This is a super exciting new thing,” Bergur Finnbogason, EVE Online’s Creative Director told me in a phone interview last week. “To put it extremely bluntly, this is our way to take one more step towards tournaments and what the future of tournaments are. When we turned off Alliance Tournaments last year, we’ve been working on [and] redefining what they are. And we’re going to use the Third Quadrant to basically test out a lot of different ways to run [them], if that be 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, 10v10, skirmish - all sorts of different events.”

 “Obviously this is great for content creators as well, streamers,” Sæmundur Hermannsson, EVE’s Brand Manager added. When asked if the team is now actively building content out with the thought of streaming in mind, Sæmi added:

“We’re not necessarily designing for [streamers] at the forefront, but it is important. [...] Content creators are what gives people aspirations. They create stories and videos and clips for us. They are thought leaders of things we are doing, especially now with the Invasion, there are a lot of, like, two sides of streaming. They’re creating content, hype and discussions. So I would say this is a very important thing to keep in mind.”

CCP Burger added: “To plus what Sæmi was saying, I think content creators have definitely become a new variable in our arsenal when we’re designing and when we’re kind of approaching new designs, and you can see that in a lot of our news stuff. In Abyssal Deadspace, there is a lot more foreground and it’s way more, kind of visceral than the kind of regular, or what regular EVE gameplay looked like at the time when it came out. 

“That then kind of bled over to the Invasion and how to make the Invasions more exciting and viscerally pleasing. So yeah, it’s definitely like a new angle of our approach to design.”

The Invasion content in EVE Online is only one part of the massive story being told in New Eden right now. The Invasion itself has taken on a life of its own, and while the stories have been set up by the developers themselves with the Triglavians entering New Eden and invading Hisec systems, the way it’s unfolding and playing out is entirely player-driven. 

 Among any current MMO, this event has kept my attention the most, having spent 50 or so hours and a few billion ISK fitting ships to take part on the side of the Triglavians. The discourse of EVE Online as this Invasion hits new heights has reached a fevered pitch, with the team at CCP just sitting back and enjoying the discourse. 

“Yeah, I mean there I’m just a fan,” Sæmi mentioned with a chuckle when asked about the team’s thoughts regarding the player reactions to the Invasion content. “I’m just a fan of the various content creators and advocates on both sides. I was watching a stream, Talking in Stations, the other day where Astherothi was doing a recap of what has been going on. [...]I look forward to see what the next steps are in this Invasion, I can speak very little of it.”

“There isn’t enough popcorn in the world to fill me up with this,” Bergur mentioned as well. “All of the amazing stories and all of the amazing events that have been going down in the last month, it’s been really exciting to follow the systems that have fallen over and either gotten an [EDENCOM] Fortress or Final Liminality, and I’m quite excited to see how this will progress throughout the summer.”

It’s funny, too, because while EVE Online players likely overwhelmingly play PvE, the stories that attract the most attention are those exploits of the players themselves. What makes Invasion feel so exciting is that, while it’s largely PvE content, the actions of the players have a real impact on changing New Eden. This desire and drive to bring more PvE content to the fore is something Bergur and I have spoken about at length in other discussions, and it’s something he reiterated to me here.

“We’ve talked about this in the past - I’ve been on this epic journey of trying to bring the PvE content more into the center of the game, and this is definitely part of that ambition and dream. It’s materializing here, where your interaction with the universe actually has a meaningful impact on the progression of the story and progression of the universe.

“And it’s been ridiculously exciting to follow this. But at the same time it’s also been really scary because we have no idea how this will end. And then like, ‘Are we done? Is there more?’ And it’s really clever to actually go in and give control to both the engine and the community. And basically, we just have to adjust our reality to the new norm, whatever it will become.”

As exciting as EVE Online has been with the Invasion content, it hasn’t been without controversy. The Forsaken Fortress update hit New Eden back in May and has been incredibly divisive, with EVE players coming down on either side of the argument as to whether or not this was a mistake on CCP’s part. 

In a nutshell, Forsaken Fortress strips away the protections offered to assets in abandoned structures in EVE Online. If a structure has been essentially abandoned by players in New Eden, that structure becomes more vulnerable to roaming fleets of players looking to score big. The crucial part of this is that the structure no longer triggers the Asset Safety feature which would normally protect all the ships and items in a station. This means that players who left their assets parked in a station that has since become abandoned can find themselves with nothing when they log back into the game.

Players have been up in arms with some stating that the Asset Safety being turned off in these structures amounts to a bait and switch on CCP’s part. Others are leaning into this update, seeing the potential ISK that could flow into the hands of those eager enough to go searching for the structures. 

CCP had to know this was going to be huge as well, teasing the update for weeks before it finally went live last month. And since then it’s been divisive within the EVE community, as well as media who cover the MMO.  

When asked if the update was, in the end, a mistake, Bergur was careful with his reply. 

“I think, you know, one of the core pillars of EVE Online is that loss has a meaning. Loss is an incredibly important element of the game. You have to make sure your stuff is safe and secure, don’t fly stuff that you can’t afford to lose. You know, the same thing should go for structures in many ways. 

“If you don’t pay your bills, someone will cut off the electricity, and if you cut off the electricity the food in your refrigerator will go bad. And I mean, that’s the harsh reality and EVE should follow the same paradigm. I don’t think it’s a mistake that if structures are not fueled then your stuff should be at risk.”

Hermannsson, in his own words, was a bit more harsh.

“First of all, I think the discussion that has been going on everywhere is fantastic. People have hard opinions on it on either side and it feels like this is going to be a middle-ground feature that we sometimes have.

“Structures have been in EVE since 2015. Since December  2019 they had not been iterated on. There were promises made in 2015 and 2016 that should not have necessarily been made. I don’t make promises - the only promise I can make is that EVE will continue to evolve. And the universe will continue to evolve based on what the players will do and what is happening. 

“We then updated [structures] after a long time of nothing happening in 2019, and then we followed up now, of course there will be stories of people losing everything. But we just have to look forward to the future. I one hundred percent believe that this is the absolute best decision for the longevity of EVE Online as a computer game and New Eden as a universe. And this is the beauty, I think, of EVE Online - that it’s not always this clean cut. ‘This is the right decision,’ [or] ‘This is the wrong decision.’ People have these beautiful different layers of gray options on this. And I totally respect that. But I firmly believe this is the best for New Eden.”

One of the major issues capsuleers are bringing up is that returning players who may not have been following EVE Online during their break or hiatus might log back in an see all their accumulated wealth missing and not know why, especially with the knowledge beforehand that even if the structure had been destroyed, the Asset Safety feature in EVE might have protected their ships and items.

“So I think with stuff like this,” Sæmi responded when asked whether or not players were given enough notice, especially those who simply don’t follow EVE as much as they used to, “We could have always taken more steps and done more, but at what cost I would say in terms of just focus and hammering home, etc. Whatever we would have done, no matter the math unless we just fly to everybody’s houses, there would have been stories of losses because people don’t always read the things, or listen to it, or have changed email addresses, or are not talking with their corporation anymore or whatever.”

Bergur added onto this, stating that the team sent out quite a bit of tweets and mentions regarding this new update.

“Yes it’s impossible to reach everyone, but this is one of those things that we went multiple rounds, this is a design topic that’s been talked about since the citadels came out for the first time. And finally we kind of ripped-off this Band-Aid and this was the approach we felt was the best approach at this [with] what we knew at that point. It’s created a lot of content, it’s definitely moved a lot of assets between hands and stirred a lot of life into the game.”

Bergur mentioned that the team is seeing some of the highest PCU numbers in EVE in years, and while the dev team has had to combat bots in the past, they’ve been able to “beat a lot of them out of the system.” So, these high PCU numbers are real people playing EVE

“So I think this is setting us up for way more exciting EVE, and now it’s giving you more reasons to fight, it’s giving you more benefits and a more lasting effect and impact of your actions,” Bergur mentioned.

“What this has done and what we will continue to see,” Sæmi mentioned, “is it has and will continue to reduce stagnation. Which is one of the key calls of this because they have become a tedious feature for people to try to have to clean up the Citadels and structures from them.”

“It’s definitely a hot topic,” Bergur concluded, “It’s crashing some people’s worlds, but it’s also creating new fortunes for others. And I firmly believe that this change might actually be the basis of the next empire in EVE - or the next empires in EVE.

One thing to note is that this design philosophy does feel consistent with what CCP have been preaching since earlier this year - reducing stagnation of wealth in EVE and reintroducing risk into the everyday lives of capsuleers in EVE Online.  

While the big feature going into the summer was the Invasion content as well as the Forsaken Fortress, the next few months in EVE Online feels poised to be one of the most memorable in recent history. With events like the Triglavian Invasion content just continuing to progress with both EDENCOM and Triglavian players furiously fighting over systems, one major event is on the horizon that has New Eden awash with excitement: World War Bee 2.

War is coming to New Eden - and while technically it’s already there with the Invasion content pitting factions of players against each other in both PVP and PVE engagements, this war is entirely a player-made conflict. And it’s one of those moments where you can feel the collective EVE universe holding its breath to see what is coming next. 

Obviously the team at CCP is excited at the prospect of what this player war can mean to EVE Online. Indeed, most of the think pieces around the Internet that discuss EVE are usually due to the player politics and exploits of its capsuleers, so naturally a high profile war like the one looming is no doubt going to bring extra eyeballs to the space-faring MMO. 

“We have our daily stand-up every morning with the leadership of EVE Online,” Bergur said, “and we spent this morning basically just going through the war, going through the backstory, going through a lot of the memes. War is exciting.”

It’s interesting to see too how EVE’s subreddit has basically been taken over by this war - from announcements, propaganda, speculation, and more, and it posed an interesting thought. EVE, and any game really for that matter, is at its healthiest when the discussion is around the game and not those who are making it. And right now, the EVE subreddit and larger community definitely feel that way. 

The excitement at what might happen next week is palpable. Will we see large battles that shake the foundations of some of the largest empires in New Eden? Will we see giant, priceless war machines unleashed in battles that threaten long-standing records in terms of scope, scale, and the overall battle cost of some of these losses?  

“I was looking at some old presentations from a year ago where there were screenshots of old Reddit pages that were just CCP this, CCP that. Now you go onto Reddit and people are talking about a war, they’re talking about the Triglavian invasion. 

“They’re talking about the game. People are debating the game. This has been like, 2020, the topic people are talking about is the game and it’s awesome. It’s fantastic. It’s actually really a kind of meter on the health of the game. 

“The more people talk about the game and the less people talk about CCP on Reddit, that means that something good is going on.”


Joseph Bradford

Joseph has been writing or podcasting about games in some form since about 2012. Having written for multiple major outlets such as IGN, Playboy, and more, Joseph started writing for MMORPG in 2015. When he's not writing or talking about games, you can typically find him hanging out with his 10-year old or playing Magic: The Gathering with his family. Also, don't get him started on why Balrogs *don't* have wings. You can find him on Twitter @LotrLore