Interview / CCP’s Chief Marketing Officer Ryan Dancey

One of our PAX ground troops Jordan Fehr had a chance to sit down with CCP’s Ryan Dancey last week to talk all things EVE Online. If you haven’t payed attention to EVE then this interview should catch your attention as it offers a ton of insight into the game and CCP’s dedication to the player experience. It’s clear from the interview that CCP is looking to build the biggest most awesome all-inclusive sci-fi MMO. Between the upcoming expansions to EVE Online and the addition of Dust 514, CCP is positioning itself to have the premiere sci-fi MMO on the market.

That VideoGame Blog (TVGB): You have a new expansion coming out, why don’t you tell us a little bit about that.

Ryan Dancey (RD): The next EVE expansion will be released in Nov, its name is Dominion and it basically focuses on the zero/zero, low security/no-security portions of EVE Online where players can take control and build their own little kingdoms out in space. It also will see the release of Cosmos which is our social networking site for EVE. Cosmos will have all new email, calendaring and scheduling for corporations and alliances. It’s basically a tool to help players manage their social networking in EVE and their time in EVE.

TVGB: Other than the new story additions with Dominion what other additions can we expect like ships, items, economy…

RD: The biggest change in terms of in-game stuff is going to be Fighter Bombers which is a feature we just announced here at the show. Fighter Bombers can be deployed from Carriers and they’re anti-capital ship weapons. Basically Fighters can go after Frigates, Destroyers and Cruisers and Fighter Bombers are effective against Battleships, Capitals and Super Capitals. They’re slow but they do a lot of damage, so they’re a very specialized tool for large fleet combat.

In the next week or two we’re going to be releasing a patch to Apocrypha [the previous expansion] which is 1.5.1. That patch is going to include revisions to all the faction’s Tech 1 and Tech 2 battleships. This is mostly balancing, there is no new ships but a bunch of the variables in ships are being tweaked and updated to make the more interesting to play against Tech 2 battleships.

TVGB: Can you speak more to those balancing tweaks?

RD: Tech 2 Battleships are very specialized and all of them have very obvious roles for them to take in the game based on their fittings, power grid and their CPU and it’s pretty easy to see what they’re supposed to do. Tech 1 Battleships are very generic — you can put a lot of stuff on them, a lot of modules and fittings and make them do a variety of things. The new balancing changes are meant to create a middle ground. They’re a little bit more specialized than a standard Tech 1 battleship but they’re not so overly specialized that as soon as you see it you know what it is.

TVGB: Were those changes made because certain ships where overpowered?

RD: No I think it’s more about usage. We pay close attention to what ships get used, how they’re flown and how often they’re manufactured. When the 1.5 patch for Apocrypha released we started to award more points for faction warfare which could spend money on new and cool things. So we fixed the way points were allocated now we’re trying to add more interesting things for players to spend those points on.

TVGB: You guys are big on player feedback. Considering how there’s a player elected body of representatives, how has that worked towards improving the game?

RD: EVE Online has an elected body of representatives called the Council of Stellar Management, they are self-nominated and then elected on by the players and then each term of the CSM is six months. During that six month term the entire council is flown out to Iceland and they have an all day meeting with the developers for each facet of the game. Their role is to gather feedback from their constituents who voted them in and they bring that to CCP so we see what issues really matter to the players. One thing that a lot of MMOs struggle with is that a vocal minority can distort what issues really matter to the majority of players.

We have a lot of ways to get feedback from our players but this is one of the best ways to get broad based feedback from the players. They have brought up issues that we knew about and issues that have raised issues out of obscurity.

The biggest effect that the council has had on the game though is how it has affected the social networking of the game. Most MMOs if you as a player are really dissatisfied the only place you can really go is to the development team and complain. By creating the CSM we’ve given our players another way to express their issues and concerns and it doesn’t just have to involve game mechanics. They can be unhappy about the way we do our advertising or how we handle polices about forum posting or the panels we’re going to have at the fan fest. Having the CSM empowers the players and they’re not just out there talking to the wind.

TVGB: It has been long rumored that there might be an out-of-ship expansion to EVE, how has the announcement of Dust 514 affected the possibility for that?

RD: The goal that the entire development team has for EVE Online is to turn into a full sci-fi simulator. So anything you would experience in the sci-fi genre will at some point in the future become a part of EVE Online. In order to get us to that level of content you need to be able to get out of your ship and walk around. So this isn’t just a short term thing, this is a significant building block for the entire IP and we’re going to release it when it’s ready. We have a really large core technology group which is developing our capabilities to do full avatar based gameplay and I wouldn’t expect to see it for another 12 to 18 months.

TVGB: What is your personal favorite thing from the upcoming expansion?

RD: I think that the most important change coming in the expansion is with the revisions the sovereignty system. Sovereignty is the game mechanic by which an alliance takes and controls a star system, constellation or a region. Right now that mechanic is based on putting bases around moons and then defending them. It’s relatively boring and it is relatively static. It’s difficult to dislodge an alliance from their space. When Dominion is released my expectation is that there will be three or four ways players will set up their alliances. As time goes on that will become more and more sophisticated and then eventually that’s how Dust 514 will connect up with EVE. In a perfect world we would like to see corporations and alliances in zero/zero space acting like they were really a real world kingdom or empire.

TVGB: So are you adding ways for outside players to affect the inner workings of corporations and alliances?

RD: We think that Dominion will have much more fluidity when it comes to control and power with in EVE. Some alliances will figure it out quickly and retain solid control, others will possibly struggle and find themselves losing control of their space.

TVGB: Developers are gamers too and with that said, what games other than CCP games are you most looking forward to?

RD: Star Wars: The Old Republic, I was a big fan of Knight of the Old Republic and I have been a fan of BioWare for years. I used to work at Wizards of the Coast I was the Dungeons & Dragons brand manager and was there when BioWare did the Baulder’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights, so I have a long standing relationship with them and I just respect everything that they do.

I’m a huge fan of Jack Emmert and I think he’s going to do a great job with the Star Trek game. I think Star Trek is a really hard nut to crack, I’ve been a Star Trek licenser in the past and it’s a really hard audience to please but I think they have a good shot at doing it.

I’ve been keeping my eye on Darkfall which is a smaller game out of Europe, it’s kind of a clash between Ultima Online and EVE for fantasy. They’ve taken some of the things we do with limits to a no limit area they have full body looting so when you kill somebody and you can take all their stuff. As an experiment in pushing game design to its limits I think it’s interesting , I’m really pleased that there are still companies out their willing to push the boundaries and take a shot at it.