June 2, 2008 - Matt Woodward is one of the principal game designers behind Empyrean Age, the upcoming expansion to EVE Online that will bring factional warfare into the game for the first time. On the heels of CCP's recent announcment that Empyrean Age will go live on June 10th, 2008, we discussed some of the details of this free and much-anticipated addon.
Ten Ton Hammer: So factional warfare is something that players have been longing for...
Matt Woodward: We've been talking about it since beta, yea. (laughs)
Ten Ton Hammer: What does it bring to the table for new players that are out for new missions, looking for agents, maybe haven't quite found their place in a corporation quite yet? What can new players do to help out?
Matt Woodward: Basically, we've got the empire stuff - you're safe in high sec, you're mining, you're running missions. Everything's fine and dandy and no one's shooting at you. Then you've got null sec combat where it's just like - bam! bam! bam! politics, explosions, crazy stuff. And a lot of players say, "I'd like to try PvP, but I'm really intimidated, basically. Everyone's really good, and I'm going to get ganked by a bigger ship, and I don't know anybody," and so on. There's a big barrier to entry between the two areas of the game. We're trying to bridge that gap.
The concept is that you'll sign up - you can sign up as a new player or veteran player - you can take missions and missions will send you into enemy space. The enemy will shoot at you, and you can shoot back or run away. You get in and you do your thing, you maybe snipe a bit, and you get out again. It's mostly directed, the mission tells you where to go. Maybe you don't like PvP - that's ok, there's a place for you. Or maybe you're like, "Oh man, that was the greatest experience of my life, I just got killed!" I know a lot of people in game that have been like that; they were care bears, then they get shot at and die and they're like, "That was awesome!" That's what we want people to do - try it. If they try it and like it, they can keep doing it, and there's more features that they can get involved in. They can be fighting over territory for their empires and deciding who controls this system or that system.
But the basic thing is to give people who don't PvP or prefer to go solo the chance to PvP on a smaller scale. Some areas you'll come in and only find a single frigate or destroyer. This amazing 5-year old guy with his tech 2 battleships isn't coming in, isn't involved with the fight - you'll only find people flying the same ships as you. So it's a level playing field. Hopefully over time you'll bring some mates along - there's a chat channel when you sign up where you can talk to other people on your team if you like. You know, "Hey guys, I'm going to go and do some stuff. You can come along if you like." And then you get a few random guys together, you go and do the mission, maybe someone jumps in on you and you chase them away, and all the sudden you're like, "Whoa! This is what EVE Online is all about." And you're making these social bonds and maybe some of the older guys invite you in on some larger-scale stuff - it really provides a way for new players to meet experienced players too. The goal really is to kind of ease you in to the core gameplay.
Ten Ton Hammer: So the "looking for corporation" kind of tools you introduced in Trinity kind of feeds into this as well?
Matt Woodward: Absolutely. But, on a smaller scale, we've always kind of shyed away from having an "LFG" command in the game - that's not quite EVE. Rather than just picking a random few people, it's forming these social bonds and getting to know people, really clubbing up. We're hoping that Empyrean Age is going to enable that.
Ten Ton Hammer: So you're out in space and mining, and maybe you've allied with the Amarr Empire. Are you going to be able to dock and offload at a Gallantean station, or will you be kill-on-sight with the NPC turrets and patrol vessels?
Matt Woodward: We had a big discussion about this; there was a lot of back and forth, but we decided we couldn't mess around with the station docking. It's a fundamental thing. When we looked at the map and looked at how things are laid out, there are a lot of stations in hostile space - like Minmatar stations in Amarr space. If we start having station guns fire at you, it makes the combat area too chaotic. You come up to a station - "is it going to let me in, or is it going to kill me?"
Again, it's something that we've got in mind, and if things go a certain way, we might change it. But for the initial release, we're going to keep the mechanics pure and simple.
Ten Ton Hammer: So station guns won't fend you off, but will the NPC navies attack you when you come through a gate and into their faction space?
Matt Woodward: If you go into high sec space belonging to an enemy, then they're going to come after you. And they're getting beefed up - the gate spawn NPCs are currently not very challenging, and we're going to make them more of a threat. But they won't warp scramble you, so you'll be able to get away. Just don't hang around, because they'll be following you. So if you're going through high sec and you want to take a shortcut, just keep going. You'll slide through and you'll be fine. But if you want to hang around, the navy is going to come after you and it going to make your life difficult.
Ten Ton Hammer: How will attacking the NPC navy mess with your security rating?
Matt Woodward: It shouldn't have a direct effect. Because you're at war with the enemy, it's not going to lower your rating if you attack the enemy. Unless third-party pirates get involved, at which point if you choose to attack them first, you're going to take a hit. But that's one of those gambit things where, you know, do you shoot him or do you wait for him to start the fight? If you fly in low sec space for long enough, you get used to thinking like that.
Ten Ton Hammer: So, as a side benefit to all the additional combat options that Empyrean Age and factional warfare offer, do you hope to kind of cloister single faction players closer together and help to create these social bonds that, as you mentioned, are such a big part of EVE, maybe because these players will be a little more afraid to venture into enemy space alone?
Matt Woodward: I think that's going to be one of the side effects, it wasn't a direct design angle. Because, well, the sign-up for the different factions is a very low standing check, so we're not saying that if you're Caldari then you can't fight for Gallente. We'll let players keep their corps together so you can sign-up an entire corporation; if you're corp standing overall is good enough, maybe you have one guy that went a little crazy but on average you're ok, we'll let you play. We're trying very much to not break up existing social groups.
Thanks to Matt Woodward and CCP for taking time to talk with us about the upcoming Empyrean Age expansion, set to launch on June 10th, 2008.
You can find out more about the expansion at the EVE Online Empyrean Age official page.
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