Massively recently caught up with Winterblink and spoke with him about how Warp Drive Active came to be, finding humor in a game that's taken so seriously by its players, and what it means to him to be a part of the EVE community.
How long have you been playing EVE, and what attracted you to the title in the first place?
I've been playing EVE since one of the late beta phases, so probably the very early 2003 time frame. I was looking for a good science fiction MMO, and had been playing games like Neocron and Earth and Beyond to get my fix.
I'd seen bits about EVE on the Earth & Beyond forums and other places around the net but nothing really concrete was out there at the time. Then they released the "Angelice Prime" trailer. First thing I said would sound familiar to the first CCP developers at the time, "There's no way that's real gameplay."
I was immediately struck by the incredible designs of the ships, the environments, the overall dark and gritty feel of EVE in that trailer, all of which appealed to me a lot more than Earth & Beyond's cartoony look. As soon as I could, I got into the game through the beta. Like most I realized the game was going to be very rough at launch, so I gave it a month or two before purchasing the retail client and diving right in. I've been here ever since.
EVE's playerbase is pretty hardcore in terms of their dedication to the title. With all these people being so into the game, does it surprise you that more people haven't come out with their own podcasts? (The Drone Bay, Titan Weekly, and Fly Reckless notwithstanding).
Yes and no. EVE's a very complicated beast, not only the game but its community. It's easy to fall into that trap of trying to make everyone happy, and that's just not possible with EVE-related community efforts in general. There's probably a lot of people who wanted to start a podcast up but didn't when the possible reception of the effort led to overthinking it, leading to the effort stalling.
"EVE's a very complicated beast, not only the game but its community. It's easy to fall into that trap of trying to make everyone happy, and that's just not possible with EVE-related community efforts in general."
The Warp Drive Active comic is something I like to use as an example for this. I knew going into it that not everything will be received as a 10/10 by everyone, but first and foremost I do it because I enjoy doing it. It's a fun challenge to find the funny in a game which takes itself so seriously.
Podcasts in general are a lot more work than some people think, and I doubt that's a small factor when considering starting one.
How did the Warp Drive Active comic lead into being one of EVE's most popular podcasts? Was it your idea, or was it the brainchild of Urban Mongral?
I've been doing the comic since December 2003, and back then in EVE's earlier days EVE Radio had a show on it called Desert Asteroid Disks. Urban was the host of it, and asked if I wanted to come on and do an interesting variation of an interview where you're marooned on an asteroid with a select few tracks of music, and answer questions.
We had a lot of fun with it. Much later after Podded (the first EVE podcast) stopped doing new episodes, I got to thinking about doing a more off-the-cuff version myself. It turns out, Urban was pondering a podcast himself, and we decided to collaborate.
Podded was a great first effort for a podcast but in general it was basically a vocal version of the Player News Center. I wanted to do something which was a lot less just reading the news, with little or no scripting. More of a free-form, two guys chatting about EVE, drifting off-topic sometimes (ok, a lot) type of thing, something that's a bit more interesting to listen to. It seems to have worked pretty well.
There is a vocal contingent of EVE players who are dissatisfied with where they see the game heading. Being someone who's been playing EVE Online since the beginning, how do you feel about the changes that have been made of late, or some of the impending nerfs?
MMOs have to evolve over time, adapting not only to its veteran players but also to be more cuddly to new players. Lets face it, back when EVE first launched its new user experience started out like being pushed out of an airplane wearing only your underwear, five seconds *after* a parachute. In the vast majority of ways, it's still a lot like that.
At the same time, you have to address the concerns of people already playing your game. Some nerfs are just plain necessary, no matter how many people it will piss off. The "Speed Nerf" is an example of this, where certain setups made ships pretty much unkillable. EVE's a game of rock-paper-scissors, to use a simple metaphor to describe a ridiculously complicated system. Things have to be in balance.
"EVE's single shard server system means communications between developer and community is all-important. The developers have a vision for their product and everyone has to respect that, but not at the expense of your bread-and-butter players..."
This is similar to the changes way back, to turret tracking. It made the sub-battleship classes have some survivability against larger targets, and turned a game which was becoming Battleships Online into a game where a mixed fleet was a necessity, and still is to this day.
EVE's single shard server system means communications between developer and community is all-important. The developers have a vision for their product and everyone has to respect that, but not at the expense of your bread-and-butter players, the veterans who in a lot of cases know how the system works better than some developers probably do. Surprise nerfs like the mothership one was met with a brick wall response from the community, and CCP had to rethink what they were doing. It wasn't anyone's finest hour, and that kind of "surprise, here's what we'll be implementing next week!" just doesn't work with EVE.
Going forward, obviously CCP has to address that monster learning curve in order to draw in players from other games. The new user experience has been improved vastly, there's accessible PvP in the form of Faction Warfare, and the Walking in Stations expansion coming soon should give some types of MMO players something they can relate to easier than just a spaceship in a station. Personally I think these are great, they give new things to do for all players, and it's optional for those who don't want to bother.