EVE Online: Dominion @ PAX

Last week CCP announced the 11th expansion for Eve Online, Dominion will be making its way into players hands this winter. Inquiring minds wanted to know more, so we caught up with CCP @ PAX.

Last week CCP announced the 11th expansion for Eve Online, Dominion will be making its way into players hands this winter. Of course, inquiring minds wanted to know more so we caught up with Lead Content Designer, Scott Holden at PAX to do just that.

ZAM: What is Dominion all about and where is it taking EVE Online?

Scott Holden: Well, we have changes to sovereignty coming in; the first stage of a series of introduced steps on sovereignty should probably happen over the course of the next year and half—it's a long-term project. We [also] have some new balancing for capital ships, more epic mission content coming and the cosmos, which is essentially a new communications platform inside the game. It's basically taking the email system the way it is now—chat channels will still exist, as far as I know at this point—but basically making it much easier for people inside the game to communicate with other people. You can kind of think of it like Facebook inside EVE.

ZAM: What about some of the pirate epic mission arcs, can you tell us about those?

Scott: We're going to be releasing two arcs for Dominion; we have four in the hopper right now, but can only produce so many at one time. So we have two arcs; one is going to be flying for the Guristas and the other is flying for the Angels. We're calling them 'speedboat arcs,' so they're going to be around level 3 mission difficulty; specifically catered and geared toward people flying small, fast ships—like Interceptors—ideally. They will take you into low-security space, depending on the choices you make in the arc; you'll be taken out into Null-Sec.

ZAM:  And there are some enhancements to the EVE's graphics engine as well, correct?

Scott: Yep, we have all-new graphics for planets and moons—they look fantastic, you gotta see some of the art. All the planets are going to be re-done from the ground-up. I think there might be a few new effects as well, but primarily it's going to be planets and moons.

ZAM: So most of the graphical enhancements are for the background elements?

Scott: Yeah, sort of background stuff. There is a bunch of work being done on new nebulas and stuff as well, but I don't think that's going to get [into the game] in the beginning; it's a longer-term thing.

ZAM: What does the future hold for EVE Online, especially now, in the wake of Dust 514?

Scott: I think ultimately, the goal for EVE—the vision—is that it would be a comprehensive, science-fiction experience. Anything you could conceive of doing in a science-fiction world that you've read about, or seen in a movie; that's what we want EVE ultimately to be. We're talking years of development down the road, but we're almost six years in now, and we're constantly improving and adding new stuff. And we're just going to keep doing that.

ZAM: Of all the enhancements and changes you've made in those six years, what would you say would be the top three most significant?

Scott: Wow, there are so many changes...I think adding wormhole space was a pretty big deal. That's something that we can still stand to iterate on; we can still improve, we can add more and do stuff out there—lots of new content to develop for that. If you're talking in the long-term, I mean, all the new ships that have sort of appeared over time...again, that's not something that's going to stop. There will be new roles for ships, new purposes, new art, new skins for all these ships...So that's an ongoing thing that's happened over a long time. I think, ultimately, changes to sovereignty stand to be, in retrospect, probably one of the biggest changes. I don't think it's all necessarily going to be a huge change upfront, but I think over time, that's going to prove to really change the face of the game a lot.

ZAM: You mentioned combat and sovereignty; let's talk about sovereignty re-imagined with the new expansion. Can you go into any detail about that?

Scott: I can only talk about it so much, because I haven't worked on it personally, myself. But I know that, at this point in time, [everything] that's going in for Dominion is pretty much set. There will be tweaks and changes, but you're going to be dealing with planetary management...I think ultimately—and I may be misspeaking here—but, as I understand it, one of the goals in Null-Sec is to kind of get people to centralize their forces, rather than spread out and take over vast areas; to be a lot more careful about managing their supply lines. That's ultimately sort of the goal behind the changes to sovereignty right now. But the specifics of it, I'm not really 100 percent sure. I wouldn't want say it's going to be one way, and then have it not actually turn out to be that way.

ZAM: It sounds like there are a lot of new, tactical strategies involved. In fact, we've heard that a lot of the changes you've made have been from feedback at conventions, fan-fests, forums and the Council. Do you find the fact that CCP takes that community-driven approach is what made the game as successful as it is today?

Scott: Absolutely; I think we've improved a lot over the years, and I think we continue to improve all the time, in terms of listening to the players and what they want. [On one hand], you have to take what players say with a grain of salt, because there are always going to be people who complain, and usually they're a vocal minority. But at the same time, that vocal community tends to be your die-hard, most loyal fans. So you have to balance it carefully and consider the changes they're asking for; what are they really going to do to the gameplay for the masses of players who don't normally post, or complain about changes.

There's a careful balancing act between listening to what players want and deciding what's actually best for the game, and then acting on specific parts that we can really get behind. It's a constant process of improving, and we're getting better...we're listening more. As you said, the Council; that's a huge deal and it's really been invaluable to us, in terms of managing game designs in ways that I think the majority of players will be receptive to. There will always be people who complain. As long as we don't let our feelings get hurt when that happens—because we did our best—then we'll keep people happy, for the most part.

ZAM: It's interesting how you've built up and maintained a stellar economy within the game itself, and how you used real economists to help develop it. As the game changes over time and with expansions, do you continue to rely on those economists to ensure the in-game economy doesn't collapse?

Scott: I think it's secure enough that...well, we may make changes that will affect the economy in large ways, but it would be very hard for us to make any changes—at this point—that [would] jeopardize it. It's the root of everything in the game; every ship in the game is pretty much made by somebody out there. There's this constant circle of people manufacturing stuff, the end user is out there flying around in it, then it gets blown up and they have to buy more...It's this circle that's now pretty much self-supporting, despite anything we could do to it.

ZAM: Will any of the new social networking features in this expansion tie into other forms of social media like Facebook or Twitter, or will it all be self-contained?

Scott: I can tell you that's the idea behind it. What you're going to see in this release is just a first stage. There's a lot more to come; stuff that's been worked on, stuff for Dominion that's been scoped out, but we can't make it happen [right now] because of [certain] factors. In the long-term, ideally, that's what it becomes; it's a way for people to communicate and be part of the same universe together—to constantly be aware where their friends are and what they're doing—but that also relates to outside [the game]. There will be a fully-functional Web browser—definitely, that's part of the goal.

ZAM: As you mentioned, EVE has been around for a long time now. Do you foresee a time when you might want to start over with a brand-new engine, sort of like an "EVE 2?"

Scott: We get asked that question a lot. It kind of goes against our mindset. We're all about building something really cool and always making it even cooler. Five or ten years down the road, EVE will still be here. Whether there will ever be an EVE 2—I doubt it. But who can say? What you have now is EVE 2, or maybe even 3 and 4—it's always evolving, it's always a different game. It works for us so far...it's not broken, so let's not change it.

ZAM: Thanks Scott!


Andrew "Tamat" Beegle


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