Interviews

EVE Online's Jon Lander Discusses The Inferno Expansion (Part 2)

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This is the second half of our interview with Jon Lander, the Senior Producer for EVE Online. In this part of te interview, we discuss null-sec, the drone regions, ship balancing, CCP's alt characters, and the new modules slated for release in the Inferno expansion.

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For the first half of this interview, go here.

Are there any big changes to null sec in Inferno?

We're doing a number of things. We're looking at rogue drones. The drone regions drop alloys instead of bounties, and those alloys are being farmed. They're completely screwing up the market. Mining is not particularly interesting industry right now, and it's not very profitable. You can just shoot drones and get huge amounts of high-ends, which is skewing things. We're looking at mixing that up, and I think that will have a really interesting dynamic on the profitability of low- and null-sec mining. I think many more people will see mining as a profitable industry to get involved in. But it's also going to have an interesting effect on the drone regions. I don't know whether a lot of people will still be happy to be out there, whether people will want to go there, or whether they will want to leave. It's going to be interesting to see that dynamic.

Are we talking bounties instead of alloys?

It's one of the things we're thinking about. All of a sudden, we'll lose this massive influx of minerals. Does that mean it no longer is a really nice place for super cap construction - who knows? It's one of those things where you can't keep all of the people happy, all of the time, but doing something around this is a really needed change, because there is more to the game than just PvP.

There's more to EVE Online than PvP?

People keep telling me that, anyway. I'm a big PvPer, I know there are all types of career paths that just aren't really viable right now. But we're hoping that this will mix it up. And yeah, we're always sort of looking at the end point and the balance of the situation. I hate balance in the game. It's bad for the game, because you get bored. I think it's good to keep things out of balance, because it promotes conflict. It promotes people saying "That's better than this. Let's go take that."

I was talking to CCP Soundwave the other day. We were having a beer and saying that we need to find ways to promote hate in this game. Everybody's trying to chum it up. Because it was great - Goons versus BoB. Bad things happened to kick off that rivalry, which were pretty unpleasant, but it led to this in-game absolute hatred. When you saw Mercenary Coalition going against Goons and kicking them out of Syndicate and various other places, and those guys were just going at it on CAOD. It was great, great entertainment. Loads of conflict going on - not because they necessarily wanted the ground, but just because they wanted to annihilate each other.

When Darius Johnson and Suas were at fanfest, they bumped into Seleene, who used to be head of Mercenary Coalition. They had their two groups around them, and it looked bad. Then, before you know it, they were buying each other beer and spent the entire time chilling out, having a really good time. We need to promote hate in-game and love out of game.

So we're looking at things that we ought to do for null sec, but we also know that there's more to EVE than that. If you look at what we have really achieved over the last three or four years, in terms of what we're putting out there, a lot of it has obviously been war and combat related. It keeps the perpetual machine going - harvest, build, destroy - but we need to spend a little bit of time looking at these other areas as well.

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Another thing: we want to make it easier to balance ships. Everybody gets absolutely petrified when we say we've got to balance tech I cruisers. "But, you haven't balanced tech I cruisers in nine years! What are you doing? If you get it wrong, it's going to be another nine years, and, oh my god." And we want to make it so it's just like adjusting some dials. The way we're deploying things is tricky, so this is about changing the dials, listening to the forums, to the feedback, and to the CSM - whether what they're saying is good or like, "Oh my god, this is dreadful," so then we change it.

So it's just making those things easier so we're not stuck in a nine-year cycle, and the launcher that we just pushed out is getting some interesting feedback and comments. What the launcher enables us to do is push out content and crash fixes all the time, if we need to. So we can just put out a 2k patch and it'll just take it and apply it. That's where it'll get us to. It just enables us to be more agile.

About PvP, there was that one month with only eight killmails involving CCP employees? Were those you?

No, I was busy at the time. That was an interesting one. I'd been logging in and doing some industrial stuff but I hadn't actually been PvPing, so I was like, "Ohhh.... okay." I was thinking, "What do we do about this?" And so I said, "Well, I'm just going to start taking some of the newer players..." We took on 200 people in the company between 2009 and the end of last year, and a lot of those people were not necessarily EVE players. So I was like, "Let's start up a corporation with some alt characters and I will take them out, FC, and teach them the basics of PvP."

I've led corporations and alliances, and I've FCed some pretty gnarly fights, and it'll be interesting at the keynote tomorrow - I'm sure my character is going to get outed. Quite a few people have heard my voice. The internal affairs guys are waiting for it. And so I basically created a corporation of just CCP employees and got a load of them into it. We were back in complete newbie territory with just in rifters. Just going out, and I landed us in a bubble with a boatload of faction-fit Goons and we were just having all sorts of fun on the Torrinos gate with that. We died tons of times and then came back to do it again.

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I think that there are a lot more CCP just now getting into it. I also think that it's a bit of a pain. I've got to get a VPN whenever I want to use someone's forums, Teamspeak puts the flag of your country, so we've got to use VPN so it looks like we're coming from the United Kingdom. It's a hassle and that's a fact. But if you're doing it with just CCP employees, then all of that goes away. So we've got a number of corporations that we've started up in the last few months with people just missioning, doing incursions, or coming out for some PvP. We're not very good - these are new players so I wouldn't say they're getting a lot of killmails, but the volume of CCP employees getting back into this is going up. I think that's really important. I think when you look at some of the UI changes and these ability changes that you're seeing, it's because people are playing the game.

It's a bit of a shame in some ways, because we've got to be whiter than white. We're not allowed to play in the gray areas or to do all sorts of things, for pretty obvious reasons. So you don't get quite everything that you would want. We're never going to take sovereignty, we're never going to do those things. So we won't be able to get all of it, but a lot more CCP are getting involved. And actually, I still fly around with my old alliance mates and stuff who haven't got a clue what's going on. Until the keynote, anyway.

It sounds like EVE Online is in good hands, and that you are adding a breath of fresh air to the game with Inferno.

Yeah, the new module stuff was much needed. The modules have been around since the beginning of the game, but they never made anything obsolete and they never added more stuff in, so one of the things we've been discussing internally - and literally just in a discussion phase - is, what about if you get these modules in some different way, and after six months, you can't get them anymore? And you bring some new ones in. So things drop in and out. Like, what if we brought mines back in? I know people still have mines in their hangars. We're looking at some of those ideas.

I get this feeling right now that EVE is in balance and, hence, is boring. If you look at it on a macro scale, it really hasn't been mixed up. So how do we do that right without pissing everybody off? By adding things to the core spaceship game. For instance, tier three battlecruisers. Everybody loved them. Completely new, big guns, good looking things, all that. We're now playing to our strengths. We'll see how it spices the game up.

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