PAX East 2013

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22 March 2013 | Reporting by Robert J. Pion

Entering it's 10th year, EVE Online has spawned a new, and major adaptation to the series, "Dust-514". Rob Pion spoke with Jon Lander, executive producer for EVE Online at CCP.

What's new and exciting?

As you see today, it's in open Beta, it's now actually a proper part of the EVE Universe - so, when you're flying around in your EVE Online spaceship and you see guys down on the ground, that's these people [beta testers] actually playing on the Playstation. We had a really interesting event on Friday where we had players here as well as Playstation 3 players around the world playing Dust, as well as EVE players fighting for the Battle of Caldari Prime, one of the big highs of our story that we've been developing, and the way that the battle turned was a huge EVE type was destroyed, and it actually ended up crash landing on the planet.

So, what we've actually got now is that actually changed the maps that we're playing here, so you can see now bits of wreckage, you can actually see bits of the Titan in the background. If you're in EVE Online, you can see the planet has been scarred. So, the integration of the games is becoming, slowly but surely, baby-steps ... it's becoming tighter and tighter. And, we're continuing to develop the game, there's still a lot of work being done in Shanghai for it, and it's a brilliant, exciting time as we go into our second decade of the EVE Universe.

It's hard to believe that it's beta because it's such a clean interaction between the EVE full universe all around, from the PC to the console. Was that originally your intention, or was Dust-514 going to be more of a stand-alone; did you go out of the gate going into it saying that we wanted everything to be one shard and make that work?

That's what CCP is about ... I've often likened this less to a games company and more a social engineering company ... our games are all about the people who play them, it's about maximizing human interaction. It's really one of our core things we strive for at CCP, so I couldn't even imagine us thinking about creating two games in the same setting, and not joining them together. I mean, the plot being part of this living, breathing world - it's really what CCP is all about, so the exact nature of that link of what you can do between the games, that's a constantly living, evolving thing like all of our games are.

EVE Online is now, we announced yesterday our 19th free expansion, "Odyssey". It's all about putting a bit of wonder back into the game; after ten years you kind of know everything that's happening - we're going put some more of that wonder back in, that sense of exploration, not knowing what's out there. A lot of people have been focused on what sort of exploration game play and this, that, and the other - and, yet there's a lot of really good features that we're putting in, one of those is also Dust is around the corner. There are all these things which we can start building in Dust which nobody on EVE will know what is gonna happen because it comes from other players, it's completely unscripted. So, it's was always going to be linked together, it's just a case of how much.

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Is your focus to stay with Dust-514 as more of a first person shooter, or are you going to delve into some of the things that are popular with the mainstay on the PC where they may be able to, let's say have a corporation on a planet and have a stronghold that they would have to defend as far as a base of operations...?

Absolutely, it's first and foremost a AAA shooter, and that will always be at the core of the game, very much like EVE Online, at the core of the game, it's about space and your spaceship, this [Dust-514] will be about you as a Dust mercenary, firing from the hip if you like. But, just like in EVE we will add more to it so that for those players that want to do that side of things, that more strategic, more of a organizer, or leader of people, of building-up your capabilities - we want to enable that as well. But, that can't be the game, that needs to be something that people want to delve into when they've actually had a really good shooter experience. Like with EVE, we want people to play this great spaceship game, this wonderful exploration, cooperative, cumulative game of real meaning. But, then if they also want to lead 5,000 people in a war, then they can do that as well.

How do you feel about the Playstation 4, do you have a development kit, are you having anything that's going towards that as like a higher graphics interface or...?

Right now we're just completely focused on Playstation 3, getting this out, I mean we're still in open beta, let's not get ahead of ourselves - we want to make this a phenomenally compelling proposition on PS3. You look at it, it's a AAA shooter, it's free to play. It's on Playstation Network, you can download this game and be playing it tomorrow, and it's linked into a PC game with this broader universe, that's enough for us to be going over right now.

Yeah, you definitely have a lot going on with this. I'm really amazed by the scope between the two things, the console and the PC - are you going to stick with a micro transaction [model].

EVE Online, it's an interesting beast, it's a subscription game and still growing. We're kinda bucking the trend. We've just passed half a million subscribers, we've been growing year on year for 10 years now. Every year we're getting more people and people are still paying a subscription. People are happier to have invested in something they know that will be there for a long time. They know there is a history, they know they are writing their own pages of history on this world. People are happy to pay for something where they know they're going to get that kind of investment. But, not a lot of people know you can play EVE for free ... people can buy a 30-day subscription which appears as an in-game item, a Pilot's License Extension, a "PLEX". You can either give yourself 30-days of game time, or you can actually sell it on the internal market. So, players, who've maybe got lots of time to earn in-game money can basically buy one of those and use it as a subscription, so they don't ever have to actually pay to be on the initial month or two.

Do you see yourselves delving into the mobile market, maybe someone who actually likes to interact with the market aspect of EVE Online, and maybe they just wanted to do their stock reports, or checkout their ship?

Yeah, absolutely. I think it was Fanfest... maybe two years ago, we had a demo on stage with a video where we had a ship fitting on a tablet, and the reaction of the crowd there, and the feedback we get from players is "Hey, give us more opportunities to play your game all the time". So, you know, mobile, cellphones, tablets, I think will be a natural direction for us to go into. We've got a lot on our plate right now, but it's certainly something we're already talking about. We've got a lot of ideas, and we've got a lot of things kind of in the pipeline - why wouldn't we want to be on those devices?

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Dust 514 Screenshot Dust 514 Screenshot Dust 514 Screenshot always come up with innovative ways, one of the things that really impressed me was that you recently did something where you sent up a probe into space for orbit ... can you tell us quickly how that came into fruition and what inspired you to do something like that.

I think we sat around the conference table, I think between Christmas and New Year of 2011 where we just shoot the shit basically, just like "Hey, what can we do?". I think it was Greg, one of our marketing guys in Atlanta who showed up... "Hey, why don't we set one of our spaceships up into space?" He just kind of threw this comment out there, and we were like, "That's not a bad idea." So, then the guys in Reykjavik took it on, and they spoke to the guys that... I think it was University of Iceland, or Reykjavik University, I'm not sure which one... and they said "We can do that, we've go these high-altitude weather balloons and Samsung chimed in with hi-def Galaxy phones to use in the GPS, and we said "Okay, we'll build the ship."

We got all the names of our subscribers, put on a USB stick, put it in there and sent this thing up. I mean, I'm sure you've seen the videos... you can see the curvature of the Earth - into space might be of a stretch, but it was a long way up. We've actually been looking, how do we top that, what's the next thing we can do to make it even better. A Fanfest this year, as part of our 10th anniversary celebrations, we've actually got an "EVE is Real" track where we're inviting people over who are significantly along the path of creating the real world, some of the things we talked about EVE.

Y'know, EVE's a game tens of thousands of years into the future, space elevators are a major thing in the game ... we've got the guy who has got a Kickstarter campaign to create a real space elevator, and we've had some really good conversations with him. So, we've got a number of these things where science fiction is becoming science fact, a little bit quicker than we anticipated, but that's just sort of one of the things we're looking at at Fanfest to really just celebrate this amazing world we've been filling up amazing stories from our players for ten years.

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In Fanfest usually there's a tournament that's been very popular with EVE, do you see something like that generating with Dust-514?

Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. And, just because of the joint nature of the games, I think if we're able at the EVE Fanfest to have EVE and Dust players on the same team fighting against another team, that's the holy grail, isn't it? Guys on PC flying spaceships, supporting guys on Playstation 3 running around shooting their guns, and they're doing a head-to-head right in front us - I want to see that.

You guys have been fantastic at giving things back to the fans, both in tournaments and things that we mentioned, going up into space, filling that blur between reality and fantasy - it's just amazing what you guys do

Yeah, it's very much part of our philosophy which is I don't really look at EVE as our game anymore, it's very much something that we created and we hand it over to our players and they create the content, they create the stories that are people in there having fun. It gets us into trouble sometimes, y'know sometimes people get very upset with things other players do to them, and they leave our game - that's a real shame, but I think it's important that we stay relatively hands off, that we enforce the terms of service, end user license agreement, and those things.

We prevent bad things, genuinely bad things from happening - we have no problems with people helping each other, scaring each other, all within the sandbox, within the set of rules we have. I think the fact that we have that and that relationship with our players, where we've turned it over to them means that we have a very close relationship with them. We've got the Council of Stellar Management, elected EVE player representatives who come and talk to us in Reykjavik three times a year - tell us what they think, tell us what their constituents, our players are thinking. We had a player gathering last night in Boston where all the EVE players came together, and we had a few beers and talked about spaceships for hours. I think that closeness with our community is really at the heart of what CCP is all about, I'm glad we have that kind of relationship.

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