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AGDC09: EVE's Nathan Richardsson on the Dominion expansion and beyond

James Egan

Massively was on the ground at the Game Developers Conference 2009 in Austin this week, and had a chance to sit down with Nathan "Oveur" Richardsson, Executive Producer of EVE Online. We discussed EVE's winter expansion, Dominion, and the new dimensions to the sci-fi MMO's setting that CCP Games hopes to introduce. We also learned a bit more about the company's plans to expand EVE into other platforms, namely through the COSMOS social network which will tie in with the game from Dominion onward.

We've been hearing a bit about EVE's winter expansion called Dominion through dev blogs and PAX breadcrumbs over the past few days. Can you tell us a bit about the focus of this expansion?

Nathan Richardsson: It's basically two main focuses we have with this expansion. One is sovereignty -- there's more and more coming out about this -- and we're also really breaking down the barriers of EVE so you can access it anywhere through our COSMOS social networking site. This is also the platform that we're going to use to get into mobile and other platforms actually, so that's probably the most interesting thing. We're building a strong foundation for both.

And what exactly is going to make COSMOS better than using IM or Facebook?

We're exposing in-game features over time so you can manage a lot of the more asynchronous stuff that you're doing in game. Secondly, we're providing organizational and productivity tools, and we're providing a public front for the players, corporations, and alliances. Now players don't need to put these things up themselves, it's in their close environment and everything. All access rights are taken care of because you're in the corporation. It really is both a public and a private place for you to interact. The main thing there is that so many people don't have access to the various statuses of their groups so this ties into the other features in game.

What are your long term goals with COSMOS?

There are a lot of long term goals, but I think that our final goal is achieving a point where you can just transparently interact whether it's voice, or IM, or EVE Mail. To be able to go there and establish a voice connection to corporation chat. It really means that you can communicate and interact through any medium. Imagine somewhere down the road you can just pick up your iPhone and dial in to your corporation chat or you could simply manage your market orders. Having such a strong social network and that being a fundamental element of EVE, that simply expanding on that, empowering everybody, will allow them to experience EVE everywhere.

Given that EVE was designed to be a sandbox where the players can establish and topple each other's empires in nullsec, what kind of problems do you see with the sovereignty system as it exists today?

The thing is that sovereignty hasn't evolved much since we introduced it, so we're seeing a lot of flaws coming out over time that we want to address. It's also that we want to allow much more build up and infrastructure and also enable more people to live out there. So what we're looking at long term is that an alliance can control a region and create treaties with other corporations and license them to get in, and there's actually an infrastructure where you can have a relationship where both sides benefit from it. It's not a free form thing anymore. What we'd like to see are more ways to establish and defend sovereignty, but also at the same time have more opportunities to really build up your own space and harness its resources - and become an empire.

EVE has a very hardcore playerbase, particularly those who will be affected by the sovereignty changes. Do you expect a lot of fallout from the playerbase over these changes?

Well, no, that's why we're putting this out into play testing. It is a fundamental change though and there are going to be flaws, but what we're looking at is a long term investment in sovereignty because this isn't just for alliances at the endgame, but we're also trying to bridge the path out of Empire for everybody there. So it's not such a big step to actually go out from Empire space and low security space. It's really providing a smoother entry into 0.0. And also providing an encouraging environment for alliances to actually take in other corporations on business relationship terms.

CCP just announced some big changes to the game with capital ships. Are these final decisions about balancing these ships or is CCP looking for player input on the changes?

No, nothing is ever final in EVE. We've been changing EVE for six years and a big part of us evolving is simply taking into account a lot of feedback from a lot of sources. By all means we're nowhere near done. A fundamental part of EVE is evolution and we're going to follow with that.

Almost 2 years ago when CCP announced they were going to change capital ships, the playerbase reacted very negatively with a 110 page thread. Those changes were put on hold at the time, but looking back, do you think CCP still should have gone ahead with them?

No. In the end we simply reached the conclusion that we weren't happy with the solution that we had and we re-evaluated the situation, we saw we had to make more wide-reaching changes. We really think we're at a point now where we have much more data to base our decisions on and start moving in that direction, but probably in less drastic terms though.

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