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Massively interviews EVE senior producer Arnar Gylfason on Incarna, PvE and more

Brendan Drain , @nyphur
Some fantastic news came out of this year's EVE Online Fanfest. CCP Soundwave's talk on Incursion provided some insight into past and possible future development of EVE's often-neglected group PvE activities. We also got a first look at the captain's quarters coming this summer as a first massive step toward full-blown avatar-based interaction with Incarna. Finally, CCP presented the company's vision for the future of EVE -- a video showing the potential interaction between Dust514's ground combat, Incarna's station environments and EVE Online's typical space-based PvP.

In his keynote speech, EVE senior producer Arnar "CCP Zulu" Gylfason brought together all the new information that had been released at Fanfest over the last year. We caught up with Arnar at the EVE Fanfest to ask some followup questions to his speech. In an EVE Spotlight article last week, he answered questions on the role of live events in future expansions and other topics. In this second interview, we asked Arnar about incursions, the future of PvE, captain's quarters, the new player experience, Incarna gameplay, and more.

Skip past the cut to read our full interview with Arnar Glyfason, a man in whose accent the word "awesome" sounds seriously awesome.

Massively: In Soundwave's talk on Incursion, he mentioned some cool new features and tools that his team came up with when it was developing the expansion, things like the modular AI. Can we expect future additions to PvE to be using those tools, and what kind of form might that take?

Arnar Gylfason: Absolutely. A lot of the stuff that they did for Incursion was specifically designed and architected in such a way that it could be implemented in other areas of PvE. So it could be implemented in COSMOS dungeons, belt rats, etc. One of the things they did was build these modular systems that they can then just map out to NPC groups or pirate spawns. The content actually has to be re-authored to fit it together; you can't just slap on a new AI to an old spawn. It would be a collaboration between a team implementing this for that specific type of NPC and the content teams that are going in and figuring out, "OK, now they have this new ability, does it make sense that we're spawning 50 of them?"

At peak times, highsec incursions only last for around six hours. Once they reach 30%, people start running HQ sites and the incursion is rapidly brought to conclusion. Are there any systems being put in place to counteract that?

I have to be completely blunt: I don't know the specifics of it. But I know that Soundwave and his team, Team BFF, are actively monitoring incursions. They have some time scheduled to iterate on it and improve it based on both empirical feedback from metrics and user experiences like yours. I don't know the exact schedule of those tasks, but they are releasing to Tranquility three times before summer already, so if it's on their development schedule there, it'll just go out with the next patch that they have.

The captain's quarters coming out in the summer aren't going to be customisable. Obviously people will want that customisation; is that something that's planned for after the summer?

Absolutely. One of the big things with Incarna is about allowing players to identify more with their avatars -- their personae. A huge part of that is being able to customise your surroundings in a way that's who you are and whom you want to project. So absolutely, customisable captain's quarters are definitely something we will be working on fairly soon after the original launch.

We heard that the captain's quarters would be heavily used in the new player experience. Do you think that introducing players to themselves as an avatar before themselves as a spaceship will help players see that their ships are tools used to get a job done?

Hopefully, because people are way too afraid of losing their ships. The one thing we noticed was that in any other game you start out as an avatar in a very safe, secure environment. That's just something people are used to and it's something they expect when they go to a new game. Being able to identify with an avatar gives you more connection and flattens out the learning curve just a little bit. In some aspects, it is definitely targeted at easing the transition for new players into what is essentially very new to everyone who tries out EVE. This is not like something they've played before, so giving them a hint of home in that is an important thing.

There was mention that the free trial and new player experience was being restructured when the captain's quarters come in. Could you tell us a bit about that?

They're basically adapting it to the captain's quarters, restructuring it so that the first page doesn't say, "Welcome to space." What's really changing is the crash course, which is being turned into an epic arc. It's more of a familiar taste for MMO players to come in and get that, more of a gradual introduction into what EVE is. It has to work with going back into your captain's quarters, talking to Aura, and going back out again. This isn't released yet, and we haven't finalised the designs; we have to do that based on player feedback. It shouldn't be a drastic change from what you actually learn and what you do in it, but the presentation might change.

Has a focus been decided for the gameplay in multiplayer station environments? Will it be mostly based on corps getting together, social interactions, meeting rooms, or will there be any other gameplay in the first iteration?

I can tell you that the multiplayer environment technology is going to be sort of multi-use. Building a skin on top, whether it's a bar or a corporation centre or something like that, is fairly trivial from a game development scale. What's really tricky is actually building the core tech of having multiple avatars in an environment that is a world space and resides on a cluster. Once we have that part set up, which is upcoming in a later release this year, we can start building the application layer on top -- which is corp offices, recruitment offices, bars, all of that stuff.

When the initial idea for Incarna was put forward years ago, players were going to be able to have store fronts so that we could own our own shops. Is that all still planned?

Absolutely, that's all still planned. It's not one of the immediate first releases, but it's definitely still planned. Being able to personalise your store front and space and everything. Totally.

If there was any single message you think people should take away from this year's Fanfest, what should it be?

That EVE is forever. Seriously. We're not gonna forget our roots, even if we're now deepening the immersion on planets and with avatars. We're not going to forget that there's a space game out there; this is all additive together. The core message is we're here to stay and we're here to do it with you, the players.

A lot of players have voiced disdain for Incarna as they think it's detracting from EVE as a space ship game. What would you say to them?

People are afraid of the unknown -- that's really what it is. We saw a lot of aversion to the new character creator as well, until people saw it. Then they said, "Oh yeah, so that's what they're building. That makes sense. Now I like it." People are afraid, I think, of change. I would imagine for someone who is heavily invested into EVE and is hearing that we're building Incarna, he would think we're diverting focus and that we'll let the spaceship game he loves die. I think we can definitely show people, and we have shown them now, that that's not the case. We have a team on all the small issues, another team on security, another team on under-the-hood performance -- the list goes on. We're definitely not abandoning what EVE is today and moving on to something else. We're adding to what EVE is today.

I think that's everything. Thanks, Arnar!


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