PC Gamer has whipped up an extensive, three-page feature that takes us through the development, launch, and post-release history of CCP's EVE Online and its various expansions.
EVE's first pioneers learnt, adapted, and developed new customs. They were flying electronic spaceships sat in their rooms at home, so they didn't need to get their heads around the tricky combo of '˜fire' and '˜the wheel', but their emergent behaviour still shocked Reynir their chaos in play. Mining is his example. (People would reach a system, eject their cargo containers, mine their ore into them, and keep going. Then one guy would warp in and pick them up. We thought that was brilliant.) Nearly eight successful years and counting.
CCP's first development team was small and agile enough to respond quickly to player trends. Torfi recalls the era with a definite fondness. (Sometimes I miss being all together in the same room and being able to shout, '˜Guys, it's not going to be sci-fi it's going to be dragons in space now',) he laughs. (When we were still seven horny guys in an attic, a cigarette break could lead to a major shift in vision or goals for the company.)
Seven years down the line, the chances of EVE sticking to its first template are nonexistent. Was there even a long-term goal? Hilmar responds. (We had a long-term wish.) It's agreed in the business of universe creation that it's best not to plan too efficiently so as not to stifle your new residents. Later, Torfi explains exactly how CCP plots out EVE's route. It involves leaving children to die. (It's about scoping to your abilities. Sometimes you do it consciously, sometimes you do it under deadline where you have tons of amazing ideas and you can only pick two of them. Like having ten perfectly healthy smiling children and having to take two with you before your planet blows up.) Torfi looks increasingly confused as he drops infant-murdering similes, like his mouth is betraying him. (It's a tremendously painful process!) he tries to assure me. Too late.
Fleet battles are EVE's trump card. The greatest of these have become folklore, scenes powerful enough to yank the eyes of people who'd never willingly play internet spaceships. Thousands tune into the Alliance tournament livestream, as Derek Wise EVE's senior technical director excitably informs me. He explains how the pilots involved fly wildly complex ship variants into battle. I can feel him straining to tell me more, explain the benefits of exact fittings, but my simple grin when he describes how a gang of drakes isn't always the best PvP option warns him off. It's comforting to see this level of genuine passion, especially from someone exposed to the game's inner guts on a daily basis.
Reynir's getting excited now, gesticulating down the camera. (We have warfare that lasts for years, involving thousands of people. There's propaganda!) He tries to remember the largest number of ships involves in a single fleet battle and mumbles numbers. Hilmar leans in and half proudly, half fearing for the reaction he'll set off corrects him. It's 3,400. Nearly three and a half thousand people sat in their rooms, but also sat in space, watching the same scene unfold from different perspectives, living the same experience from their independent viewpoint. I'm excited just about the verbalisation of the concept.