CCP got it very wrong in 2011, when players protested against new microtransaction policies by opening fire on an in-game memorial statue. Andie remembers this as a "riot", adding: "They pushed us to acknowledge what they wanted to see. And in that case, we did change direction, quite rapidly."She refers to herself several times during our conversation not as a producer, but as a "custodian", telling me: "I want to take people's commitment to this game seriously, and deliver stuff that will make them happy in this part of their life."
Related, on Waypoint: Speaking to the Power Players Behind the Massive War Consuming 'EVE Online'
"I get the most pride from seeing just how this all operates almost completely autonomously from me," says CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson. "I am super proud of the EVE development team, who've taken the reins, the legacy and history, and they're now driving the game in a really exciting direction which is completely theirs.""We've changed a lot, since we started," he continues, "and we've learned that nothing we add really starts until we add players into the mix. They will come up with new approaches that we could never imagine. My mind is blown by all the ways they've found to, essentially, break the game, to change it from how we thought it'd be played. They're our core motivation."
"We've learned that nothing we add really starts until we add players into the mix. They're our core motivation." — Hilmar Veigar Pétursson
"The most touching stories I hear about our game come from people who've managed to do something inside it that they could never do in real life," says Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, CEO of CCP. "That's often associated with having physical disabilities, people who can't move around for real, but in the game they can and impact on it incredibly.""But then, another set of stories involve people who aren't super confident in themselves, but in the game they've gained confidence, going out of their comfort zones and learning more about themselves. They're gaining leadership skills, realizing they have that capacity. But until they played EVE they never found a way to articulate it, and they've then taken their game experiences back into real life."
"The closer you can get to the game being your experience, the higher its human value." — Hilmar Veigar Pétursson
Watch Desus and Mero play 'Gears of War 4' as part of our #waypoint72 live stream (loads more clips here)
"People build up their in-game organizations on their own," Andie tells me. "Someone starts a corporation and begins recruiting, and if there's a leader in there who's enigmatic enough, they'll build up their numbers. People have all manner of roles and responsibilities, and these organizations are quite elaborate—some of the biggest ones have thousands of members."Some people do this in their work life and bring those skills into EVE Online, and equally there are players who've gained skills in the game and brought them into the real world. Managing over a thousand individuals is no small task, and that is something that's led to players of the game getting hired in real life."EVE Online is built upon the individual experiences of these many thousands—millions, cumulatively across the years—of players, each of whom carves out a niche for themselves, writing their own dramas against the glittering backdrop of New Eden. And CCP is happy to leave them to it, for the most part.
I get the impression of a studio that still holds most of the cards in their game, but relented ownership of the most significant ones several turns ago. They remain the masters, ostensibly, of this interactive space opera; but are far removed from the movers that matter most within it. So much of what plays out in EVE Online is simply beyond its architects' control, but the team at CCP seems okay with that."This is an interesting position to be in," Andie says. "The EVE community is so special, and I think that comes out of the fact that people really affect each other's experiences in the game. That's very different from just sharing a fandom."You might love the same TV show as other people, and you'll attend conventions and dress up in cosplay, and that's great; but in EVE, the experience is that much wider, because anyone who plays the game for any amount of time will directly impact the wider experience for other people. And that means you have these meaningful shared experiences, which build unique relationships between players."
"People really affect each other's experiences in the game. That's very different from just sharing a fandom." — Andie Nordgren
"Ascension" is taking CCP into its 20th year in business with a dramatic spike in EVE Online activity, essential after seeing concurrent player figures fall in 2015. I've still not personally played it, and I'm not about to begin, either: not because I'm not interested, but because I, like Edvald, simply don't have the time these days.I totally see the appeal, though. I understand how players who've spent days and weeks constructing magnificent vehicles and installations can puff out their chests and feel proud of their achievements.I sense the thrill of issuing the command to send hundreds, if not many more, of loyal allies into battle. I can as good as smell the heat of a siege, ultimately destroying a massive opposition station, a structure that's cost another organization countless hours to assemble. "Watching people's big constructions blow up is totally part of the fun," says Edvald, with a wicked smile.Cool guys don't look at explosions? I don't know about that. From the perspective of an outsider peering into the EVE Online universe, it's evident that making them happen is kind of a big deal. And doing that with friends old and new, as you zip about in stunning spaceships, claiming territories as your own and forging alliances when diplomacy takes precedent over torpedoes—that sounds cooler than just about anything else.Follow Mike on Twitter.
"Watching people's big constructions blow up is totally part of the fun." — Edvald Gislison