GDC10: Torfi Frans Olafsson gives details on Tyrannis, Incarna and more

For the last few weeks, EVE Online players have been getting excited about the up-coming Tyrannis expansion with its Planetary Interaction feature. We received our first taste of what Tyrannis will hold last month when the expansion was announced and since then we've speculated on how its planetary interaction feature might work. Although CCP haven't answered our interview questions on Tyrannis yet, we caught up with EVE Senior Producer Torfi Frans Olafsson at GDC 2010 to get the inside scoop. Torfi was keen to point out that a lot of what CCP are doing in Tyrannis is laying the foundation for future updates and expansions. He calls Tyrannis "a stepping stone toward something even bigger."

In addition to providing some inside info on the upcoming Tyrannis and Incarna expansions, Torfi revealed that there are more people working on EVE today than ever before. In contrast to MMOs that cut down their development team sizes once the game is out, CCP's ranks have been increasing at a huge rate in recent years. The ever-increasing revenue generated by EVE subscribers allows them to fund a large development team dedicated to making the game better for EVE players. "We've never had as many subscribers as we have today", says Torfi, "330,000 subscribers, like actual paying subscribers, not counting trials." It's thanks to all those subscribers that CCP are beginning to realise dreams they were never able to achieve when the game was less popular.

Skip past the cut to see what Torfi Frans Olafsson had to say about Tyrannis, Incarna and more.
Planetary Interaction:

"We want to stop having NPCs manufacturing some of these things and start having the players manufacturing."

Between the information we learned from Torfi Frans Olafsson at GDC 2010 and CCP Hammer's latest devblog, we've begun to build up a firmer picture of what we can expect from Tyrannis. The expansion is primarily based on exploration and industry, with planetary interaction revolving around scanning down deposits of materials on planets. Players can set up a series of mining facilities to extract raw materials and factories to build them into final products.

Instead of producing materials currently available from mining or moon harvesting operations, the materials found on planets will be entirely new to the game. "Tyrannis is not going to be replacing mining or moon mining", said Torfi. Once it's set up, your production chain will be churning out all sorts of commodities for sale to other players. According to Torfi, the end products coming out of planets are things that are in the game today but are currently manufactured by NPCs.

CCP's goal is that they "want to stop having NPCs manufacturing some of these things and start having the players manufacturing". Torfi believes this will make the market "much more interesting and more dynamic", adding further sandbox elements to EVE's gameplay and removing NPC influences on the market. The final products are not yet set in stone but CCP currently have their eye on skillbooks, implants and starbase fuel components.

Broad appeal:
The barrier to entry for players who want to get into planetary control is meant to be low but the skills required and the cost of any required equipment have yet to be announced. What has been confirmed is that every single planet in EVE can be tapped for resources -- all 65,000 of them. This includes those in wormhole systems and empire space.

For those worried about planets becoming a tool for the rich mega-corps to get even richer, Torfi responded with the reassuring notion that no single player can hog a planet and there would be a system of diminishing returns as more players use the same planet. Planetary excavators may need to periodically move their operations to other planets to find the best deposits of materials.

Unfortunately, one thing we won't see in Tyrannis is any form of planetary flight. All interactions with planets occur from a new "planet mode" screen which makes use of the current planet graphics. Structures are placed from orbit and represented as simple icons on the planet's surface. When it comes time to collect your finished goods, they're launched into orbit with a rocket for the player to collect. The latest devblog on the expansion suggests players might be able to make use of a "space elevator" structure to make it easier to send materials into space.


"Social gameplay and collaborative gameplay will actually be a big part of the gameplay within stations."

Incarna is possibly EVE's most anticipated future expansion, its main feature being the ability for players to get out of their ships and walk around the stations of New Eden. Torfi explains that in the hyper-technological EVE universe, the only reason for a pod pilot to leave his ship would be to go offline and keep their actions hidden. Incarna's gameplay will revolve around "secrets, lies, trust, deception, diplomacy and backstabbing," with a little gambling thrown in for good measure. We've previously heard of the illegal underground missions that will be available through Incarna and Torfi gives a few additional details on what they will entail.

Rather than being combat-oriented, the missions are intended to focus on social conflict and storyline. "Social gameplay and collaborative gameplay will actually be a big part of the gameplay within stations," he explains. Incarna's developers are currently working on prototype gameplay, building station environments and creating customisable character models for us to use. As attached as some of us are to our character portraits, Torfi pointed out that they'll all need to be updated with Incarna in what he sees as "an evolutionary step".

To make the visuals of Incarna possible, it's also an inevitability that the system requirements of EVE will increase. EVE's system requirements have always increased over time to make use of new technology. Unfortunately, this often means dropping support for older hardware such as shader model 1.0 graphics cards. As Torfi put it, "Supporting ten year old craptops, fun as it may be, takes up a lot of time." CCP have increased EVE's system requirements several times in the past and each time they monitor hardware usage from EVE players to ensure only a very small portion of the community will be majorly affected.

Additional information:
In addition to details of the upcoming Tyrannis and Incarna expansions, Torfi gave further information on how CCP's other interests are doing. The World of Darkness MMO currently doesn't exist but CCP has a lot of people working on their mysterious "Project X". Production on DUST 514 is continuing and when asked if it would ever be on the PC, Torfi responded only with "maybe".

The EVE social networking tool "EVE Gate" was confirmed to have some corporation and alliance tools at launch and in future iterations, corp management, market orders, skills and contract management are all on the table.

CCP is currently focused on making EVE better and improving old game systems. Torfi suggested that expansions tend to alternate between introducing new game systems and improving something that's already in-game. Whether or not this means the next expansion after Tyrannis won't be Incarna is uncertain but the pattern certainly holds for previous expansions. With all the information on these exciting expansions coming our way, it's an awesome time to be an EVE player.
This article was originally published on Massively.