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Ship Shape

Part 2: More on EVE Online from CCP's Hilmar Veigar Petursson.

In part one of our exclusive interview, CCP boss Hilmar Veigar Petursson discussed the company's latest plan for hit MMO EVE Online. Here, in part two, he reveals more about the new content that's about to be added to the game. In the first four to six weeks of EVE there's very little by way of instruction. Do you think it would be advisable for you to hold the player's hand a little more through the early stages of the game?

Definitely, but if you look at what we're essentially trying to teach people, these are fairly hard concepts that people go to university to learn. How to understand an open market, bids and asks, supply and demand, governance, employing people, incentivising people; if you could teach people this in a month, we would give you an MBA for playing through EVE.

Given what we're dealing with, there really is no easy way of teaching it to you. We try to teach you the basic mechanics of it, but understanding the fundamental opportunity of a free market - how can you teach that?

I look at EVE much more like a large social network that's one degree removed from reality. MySpace is social networking in the real world, but we've taken a step on into an escape; the key driving factor is that social network.

The driving factors within EVE are advancement, getting better equipment, money and power. These factors seem to matter to players within EVE far more than they matter to players of World of Warcraft. It's almost like a job. How does that experience relate to the mass consumer? Are you even aiming at them?

No. It was always our goal to make a hardcore, niche game, and the reason we elected to do that is that we were a tiny company in Iceland, and you cannot make a mass market product out of utter obscurity. I mean, you have no market access, you have no home market, you have no way to launch a product unless you partner with a major publisher to do it for you, and we weren't really interested in that.

So we intentionally made a niche product, because then you really have the viral, grassroots activity to help you in building the game.

In terms of the major graphics updates, is it a scalable solution? Are people on lesser PCs still going to be able to play?

Yes. We still have our old content and our old graphics engine. If you have a powerful computer you can play both; if you have an older computer you can play the classic version.

Will you simply download an update?

Yes. Although the new content is quite big.

It'll be a new client?

Yes, it'll probably be a new client. The old client will be a small proportion of the whole thing. But we haven't really decided how we're going to push this through. It is the biggest update ever done to EVE, but it's probably the biggest update ever done to an MMO.

Is it just graphics or are you adding new content as well?

We're remodelling all the existing content. So all the spaceships that are now in 3000, 10,000 polygons - we're remodelling them in millions of polygons, rendering normal maps and specular maps and dust maps and whatnot, and making a true DirectX 10 experience out of it. You should just see what it looks like. It's awe inspiring. It makes everything we did previously look like crap.

Obviously with Revelations you added things like dreadnoughts and other major ship classes. Are you going to be doing the same again with this release?

With this update we're more focusing on fixing up a lot of systems. Optimisation is a big part of it; we'll be increasing the overall robustness.

There isn't that much in terms of new features. As we've done previously, we've focused on content and features, and arguably stability and robustness has fallen a little bit behind. So now we're placing emphasis on robustness and stability and making a truly solid experience.

So really it's a technical update more than a content update?

Yeah. There are content and features in between, but that's the sole focus. Then the big update comes at the end of the year where it's basically all new content.

In terms of new content - for the fans - what can we expect?

[Laughs] I could get you a list. Off the top of my head I can't remember any of the big things. Well, one of the things we're doing is that we're making so each corporation has different wallets so you can operate a corporation with different divisions and have a wallet for each. That helps a lot with corporate governance.

Those sort of tools sound quite techy but they really are useful.

Exactly. It really adds to the overall stickiness. Because ultimately, the corporations make up the content of the game. They set the goals for the players, as the game itself doesn't really set goals for you, so everything you can build in that helps with that does wonders for it.

Hilmar Veigar Petursson is CEO at CCP. Interview by Patrick Garratt. To read part one of this interview, click here.