Tony Gonzales Interview About EVE Online, Incarna, And DUST 514

Tony Gonzales is works on content at CCP, and is the author of EVE: The Empyrean Age, as well as an upcoming sequel, called Templar One, that will introduce and incorporate the upcoming DUST 51

Tony Gonzales is works on content at CCP, and is the author of EVE: The Empyrean Age, as well as an upcoming sequel, called Templar One, that will introduce and incorporate the upcoming DUST 514 console game.

What are you excited about in EVE Online?

It comes at you all at once. I am thrilled with Incarna because the game is becoming a lot more personal. It's been a long road. We talked about it, we agonized over it, and we iterated on it. We got great technology to support it. To take these first small steps into this brave new world is, well I don't think I can ever fully articulate the potential that this adds. It's a brave new world, and EVE will never be the same.

You sound pretty excited.

Well, it's small steps. I think that sometimes people forget that ambitious things take time. We work our way there, a little bit at a time. Everyone wants it all at once, and that's flattering. We are marching on a steady path that is opening up a whole new world.

During one of your Fanfest presentations, you worried that older EVE players might be turned off by new content. Do you have something you'd like to say directly to them?

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Templar One will show how DUST 514 fits into the world of EVE Online.

Yes: I'd say thank you for your passion. Thank you for holding on so dear. It means that what we've created so far is extremely compelling to you and you don't want to see anything get in the way and detract from that. We're not abandoning anything, we're making it better.

The game is about to become a lot more accessible to a lot more people. The folks who are so impassioned by the flying in space component of EVE will be able to engage more people about it, in sort of a "hey guys, check this game out" way. And because you will start the EVE experience as a fully-rendered avatar as opposed of a rotating frigate, you are going to connect to it a little more.

People are always averse to change, and that's natural. But we're not really changing anything, just complementing it. We're peeling back a perspective of this universe that they've been in all this time. They'll be seeing that universe in a new way.

You published a book on behalf of CCP, called EVE: The Empyrean Age. How did it do?

Really well. It sold 70,000 copies worldwide, is translated into German and Italian. I think there is a deal for Russian in the works. I'm just shocked. What it tells me is that the world is ready for EVE Online. The world is eager for it.

There are a lot of reboots of old science fiction brands out there, but not too many new ones. Look at the success of Battlestar Galactica. I think we're on the verge of EVE breaking through, and we just need to get it in front of more eyes. People aspire to it because it's very human.

It's getting more human all the time, too.

Yes, exactly. We're twenty-thousand years in the future, and we're bringing the good, the bad, and the ugly with us. People latch onto that. It's interesting and it never really gets old. You may change the outfit and give them a laser gun instead of a sword, but it's still fundamentally about people being people. EVE doesn't have any Cylons, cyborgs or Ewoks to get in the way. It's just people in your face, all the time.

How much of your first book tied into EVE content?

It turns out that with Empyrean Age we had a good deal of it. There were two main goals for Empyrean Age, on the business side. The first one was that it aligned with the introduction of factional warfare to the game. The book told the story of how this war happened. The second was to kind of give the layman a whirl around EVE Online universe. That was the hardest thing to reconcile, actually, because I think that at least fifty percent of the book was exposition.

It's interesting that you needed to work a tour of EVE into the book. Was it hard to write that?

Yeah, it comes at the cost of something. In Empyrean Age, it came at the cost of character development. If we had proper character development, the result would have been an eight-hundred page book. No publisher is going to allow that.

Are you doing another book for CCP?

I just finished a sequel. It has a lot more character development. The common thread behind most of my critics was that they want to see more character development, and the second book definitely has that. It's a true sequel to Empyrean Age, and the point of the book is to introduce DUST 514 to the EVE canon.

An excerpt of your new novel, Templar One, was given out at Fanfest. How much of that stuff will actually be in DUST 514?

Yeah, the ground warfare stuff. You will see the stuff in that booklet in DUST 514. This book tells the story of how immortal soldiers come to New Eden. Templar One is the first, the prototype.

They are actually clones, like the pilots in EVE Online?

Yes. I forgot to mention this during my presentation earlier today. I don't want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that DUST 514 mercenaries use a new technology, and a new technology opens up new possibilities for everyone involved. And that's all I'll say about that.

Do you have any hints about your Templar One?

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DUST 514 is a huge question mark as far as EVE players are concerned. The more we know, the more we can prepare.

I would say that a lot of mystery dots are going to come together. There will be some big reveals about The Sleepers. There will be a fairly big amount of stuff revealed about the Jove and what has happened to them. It won't be completely gratifying, but it will kind of explore what happened, where they are. It will give hints about that kind of question, specifically.

It'll also explain a lot about the Amarr Empress. There were some weird things that happened to her in the first book that will all come together in this one. You're gonna learn a lot more about guys like Jakus Rhoden, who is the president of the Gallente Federation right now.

Do you pay attention to what EVE Online's roleplayers are doing?

Very carefully, actually. In fact, a lot of our ideas come from them. We see ourselves as the copy editors to their storyline. Of course that needs to be reconciled with the greater good and the needs of the game, but a huge part of the live events and Incursions were totally powered by roleplayers and the feedback we have received from them over the years.

At the same time, now matter how much we integrate their feedback, it will never be enough. That's the thing: you give people a little bit and they want more. That's awesome and totally understandable, but gets overwhelming really fast. But we pick our spots and then we roll with them. So far it's been great.

That's pretty cool, and something that most other sci-fi game worlds probably don't have.

Well, in terms of lore or a roleplaying event being cemented into the canon, that's something we haven't done that much. But what we've done instead is use feedback about player speculation on the intents, motivation and history of the characters, and built that into the developmental implementation of the game itself. We are also wary of bringing in too much of that.

Let me just say here, I want to give a shout out to CVA. For years we have just been amazed at how they stayed true, by flying only Amarr ships, wanting to offer up their region of space to the empress. We love it. It's a delicate line to cross, because inevitably someone cries out about favoritism and bias. It's a shame, really. Maybe some day we'll become more fearless about it.

You're sort of fans of your own fans.

Of course, you have to be. We all come from there. All of us were players before we became developers.

What is your average day at CCP like?

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CCP is an interesting example of what a truly international company can be.

All days at CCP start with a double shot of espresso. That's usually followed up every four hours. As soon as we figure out how to get an IV hooked up, we'll do that. There's nonstop collaboration. I don't work at CCP's office in Iceland, I work overseas. But we're always connected by chat programs or on the phone with voice over IP software. The first half of my day is usually spent with the managerial day to day project moving stuff that's implicit in any organization. There are a lot of emails and meetings. Here in Iceland, they start going home around what's lunchtime for us in the Atlanta office. I start my day early at eight o'clock and it's already noon, here. The meetings with Iceland happen between eight in the morning and noon, and after that my day slips into creative type stuff.

You know the old expression: if you're not completely over your head here, you're just not pulling your weight. There are a lot of long nights. After taking care of the family and dinner, that kind of thing, we're back checking emails and doing other stuff, because in the evenings is when the Shanghai office comes to work. There are phone calls, emails, and that kind of thing. If I have enough strength left when that's done, I'll fire up the game.

Ah-ha! What do you do in the game?

Right now I'd say I'm a bona fide carebear. My days of swashbuckling and making trouble are way past me. Actually, I was never the one making trouble. I failed at that so bad, I was usually the one on the receiving end. But I had a great time. I miss those days. I wish I had more time to invest in that, I'd love to get back into it. It was damn fun, but there's just not enough hours in the day to get in there and stir things up a bit.


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