GDC08: EVE Online's space stations

In this morning's first panel, CCP's Senior Technical Producer Torfi Frans Olafsson had a lot to say about EVE Online's upcoming space station environments. At present, EVE's player characters are little more than still portraits -- in the playable portion of the game you are primarily represented as your ship, which you can use to navegate and explore the game world. Initially announced in a 2006 dev blog, EVE will one day have the ability to exit your ship and interact with other characters as a human avatar rather -- we still don't have an exact release date (though at GDC07 they gave a 2008 date, so there's a chance it may be included in the upcoming Kali 4 expansion, about which little is known), but we have some details on the gameplay and the development process after the break.

What the EVE development team did to upgrade ship graphics in the Trinity expansion they plan to do to character graphics when they launch their (of yet unnamed/unknown) space stations expansion. When this launches, it will add an entirely new element to gameplay -- and they've spared no effort in designing it. CCP didn't want to add environments in that felt contrary to existing gameplay. Though the space station environments will be a different type of gameplay than the space environment, they stuck to the game's basic design principles. There's no slow-placed eye-candy here, but exquisitely detailed real environments that the player can explore, interact with, socialize in, and (of course!) make money in.

There will be no killing inside the space stations of EVE -- the goal was to create a social environment for players rather than add an FPS element. ("The environments must not be tactical or puzzle-like," says Olafsson.) Players in space stations will be able to interact, socialize, participate in mini-games (the example given were a poker-like game through which players could make money), and... well, whatever they want to do! "Squares are not enough," Olafsson tells us -- the environment had to be more than an empty box players were thrown into and told to interact.

Because this part of the game is intended to provide a social environment, the world had to be incredibly detailed. Unlike an FPS where players will rush through slaughtering monsters, players will be spending time in these space stations (and not just passing through), the environments had to be exquisitely detailed. To make their environments real and compelling, CCP has brought in actual architects to help design their environments. Bringing in outsiders has been a challenge -- real world architects do not necessarily understand the constraints of the virtual world. CCP's team has worked closely to try to explain engine limitations and work with their architects to create a world that is both beautiful and fun to explore.

Real world fashion designers have also been brought in to consult on the clothing elements for EVE's avatars. Because they wanted to be sure to avoid typical stereotypes, they brought in a female fashion designer to work with their concept artists. (This designer has had a hand in all of the clothing that we'll see in EVE.) Olafsson told the crowd this brought their art and concept design to a new level.

CCP wanted to avoid having too much customization in your character's costuming options, though. As an example, Olafsson shows us a slide from City of Heroes showing off two heroes costumed as Santa Claus, so all of the clothing options you'll find fit into the EVE environment.

Acquiring clothing will be more complicated than just walking into a store -- if you want a black leather jacket, you'll have to get the leather and put it together. If you want blue pants, you'll have to get the cloth and the dye to make them. From what we've seen, clothing options are very detailed with a variety of texture to them.

We're going to be out on the show floor this afternoon and we'll be on the look out for any additional details CCP might give us on EVE's space stations!

This article was originally published on Massively.