CCP Games Interviews

After the turbulent period they've gone through, including the lay-off of 20% of their global employees, it appears that the folks at CCP Games are on a little PR tour, considering that, after their interview with GameSpot, they did two more, specifically with Eurogamer and PC Gamer, although it's worth noting that the latter was technically conducted before the news of the lay-offs.

A sample from the first:
Eurogamer: The list of people who have publicly stated they are leaving CCP reads like a Who's Who of Eve's community history and are popular figures with players. How does their departure tie in with CCP's renewed commitment to engaging with its community?

Hilmar Pétursson: A lot of great people are leaving the company through this process, famous or otherwise. The people who are recognised members of the community get more of a spotlight but there are a lot of people leaving CCP at this juncture. How it relates to the community - that is part of the restructuring, our community division has been spread around the globe and has had a lot of good contact with the community. But we've not been as effective. By centralising customer support and community, we have more people doing community work than we did before. Being co-located with the developers allows the information within the community groups to have a much more direct effect on the development process.

Pétursson offered a frank and personally accountable perspective on the problems facing CCP. The structural situation made it very hard for the development side to hear the feedback from the players via the community teams and revamp plans based on it. It wasn't that the teams elsewhere were negligent or were "bad" community advocates. In fact, they consistently went above and beyond the call of duty in that regard, were experts at remote communication, and performed very well in such difficult circumstances. There's now an even quicker feedback loop between the playerbase and the development team. That's crucial for a game like Eve where the players make the content and it's important for the "playerbase experts" to have that unfettered access.

A lot of the mistakes we made over the summer were known quite well within our community groups, but they were not getting through to the people making the decisions due to not being co-located with them.

Eurogamer: What impact do these changes have on World of Darkness? Is there still a roadmap for its development and eventual release?

Hilmar Pétursson: World of Darkness is now a smaller team. As we now really need to focus on Eve and Dust, we have a smaller team than before and it's less coupled into our development process. We were running a very integrated plan which led to a lot of energy being spent on coordination, which drew energy out of actual proper value being generated. We're hoping that by focusing the company more, we have a better chance to make progress - especially on Dust and Eve.

And from the latter:
PCG: So why exactly did you think that virtual goods were something that EVE specifically of all games needed? I mean, EVE's not a garden variety MMO. So why try to shove a square peg into a round hole?

KT: I think it's just becoming such a common part of gaming. We see a lot of free-to-play games. A lot of other MMOs are free-to-play now. Virtual goods and character customization are just becoming very standard parts of gaming. And we thought that they'd kind of enrich the environment. And I think they could. The problem was that we were doing it for the first time, and it just didn't go as it well as it did for some companies who've been at this for years. We didn't have the experience to do it properly.

We screwed that up a bit, but we just see so many games where people react positively to being able to customize their character. We thought it'd be a natural fit for the Incarna expansion.

PCG: So you followed the crowd, basically. Is this a cautionary tale, then? Is it good example of why the gaming industry is headed down a dangerous road if it keeps sticking to (me-too) mechanics and ideas?

KT: I think for us, the devil was in the details. Like, we're doing Dust, the shooter. And one of the things that's really apparent for us is that we've benefitted from having EVE people come work on it. But also, we've brought on FPS people, because building an FPS if you're used to making a slow-paced space MMO is a massive challenge.

We might have taken it a bit too lightly with the virtual goods [in EVE proper], because it's actually the same. If you don't know how to do virtual goods well, you have people who are kind of just guessing. And, of course, we had surveys made and we talked to some people; we kind of tried to bring people in. But at the end of the day, I don't think virtual goods are inherently bad. I just don't think we did the implementation well enough.