Torfi Frans Ãlafsson is Senior Producer at CCP Games, the makers of EVE Online. He was kind enough to say a few words about the upcoming Tyrannis expansion, which features the development and control of entire planets.
Ten Ton Hammer: Can players really get into planetary interaction on the their first day of playing EVE, given all the right advantages?
Torfi: Players will finally get access to and be capable of meddling in the affairs of entire planets. The pilots were unhappy with just roaming the skies and controlling the universe from above. So now they are interested in the trillions of people that live on these planets, and the riches on them that will provide a lot of opportunity and adventure.
TTH: Since there is not going to be any way to dislodge players from the planets that they have started governing, unless it is by their own mis-governance, are planets going to be assigned on a first come, first served basis?
Torfi: No. The actual mechanics of how many people can occupy a planet haven't been ironed out, yet. But the general idea is that it is not a land grab. You can build infrastructure and interact with almost every planet in the game, regardless of whether someone has something there, already. The problem is that the planets are going to have limited resources. So if too many people are harvesting a planet at the same time, there will be diminishing returns. So what you will find is that it will be much more enriching to travel to the more remote planets in the more remote systems, for planets which haven't got infrastructure built up, yet. But of course that takes you away from the key trade hubs to which you want to deliver your manufacturables.
We are taking a lot of the things from building systems in the past and we are trying to use the best practices from what we have learned, and to avoid some of the mistakes in terms of implementing industry and markets and handing out slots. In the past in EVE, there are a lot of systems like that. So the general idea is that everybody can play EVE, every player can do stuff on any planet, and the more people that use a particular planet, the less valuable it is for that particular player. And of course there are over 65,000 planets in the game. And you can interact with each and every one of them. Including those that are in wormhole space, which can actually be quite challenging.
TTH: I'm guessing that different planets have different resources and that the harder a planet is to get to, the more rare its resources will be.
Torfi: Of course. And they are all wildly different, which is exciting. We're making really interesting manufacturing and resource trees here, right now. Going over 'what materials are you extracting from gas giants, what are you getting from planets which are pretty much just molten magma. You will actually be able to put down facilities, arcologies, and cloud cities, or really tough units that you can place on very hostile worlds, to extract and manufacture from them. And then rocket the stuff off of them, or move it out with a space elevator. In general, of course, with more risk comes more reward.
TTH: Right, right. Will there be a new set of skills that players will need to master?
Torfi: Yes. Absolutely. Your ability to master a planet, to manufacture, build up, and manage it, will be bound by skills. But again, the barrier of entry is really low. We want people to get in on and get a feel for this feature early. And also, I should mention that the planetary interaction should not be thought about as a feature to replace any action that is already going on in EVE, today. It's more augmenting and re-experiencing EVE. It doesn't require you to sit and grind. You go and you build up infrastructure, but then you set up some manufacturing cycles and infrastructure, and that interacts while you are playing the game. Then you can go back to it and make sure that everything is going well. Lube the machines, so to speak. And collect stuff from them to sell to someone else, or pick it up. But in general you can actually be playing and profiting from planetary interaction while doing all of the other interesting things that you can do in EVE.
TTH: So does the core conflict that is being introduced in Tyrannis revolve more around the transport of these materials, and not so much on the planets themselves?
Torfi: From a PvP perspective, in planetary interaction the conflict is more like too many people hogging the same resource. It should be said, though, that with Dust 514, all of that is going to change. We're not saying that your installation in high-sec is going to get blown to smithereens the day DUST hits the market, but for low-sec and zero-sec, DUST 514 will definitely play a part of allowing you to mess up other peoples' infrastructure and have interesting gameplay connecting the planets and mercenaries down on the planets in a very meaningful way. A way that is yet to be revealed, of course.
TTH: There's been some talk on the forums about planetary interaction replacing NPC-seeded products on the market. The materials like skillbooks and so forth that players aren't producing, but that show up on the market anyway. Can you quash those rumors?
There are elements of EVE which we feel can use some iteration based on the experiences that we have learned, running EVE for seven years. The NPC market is definitely one of them. It's been with us for a long time. It hasn't changed much. We want to take these commodities and move them into the hands of the players.
We are not giving out publicly yet which commodities these are. Even once we put it on the public test server, you will not be able to see what these final commodities are going to be.
TTH: On planets that lend themselves to habitation, will you be able to not only harvest resources and make commodities, but also tax the inhabitants?
Torfi: We're not expecting to be able to go that much into population control, in this expansion. This iteration is more about scanning for great deposits, mining them, building up infrastructure to refine them, and manufacturing stuff out of them on the surface of the planets. Then launching it into space to be used by players.
TTH: Is all this effort at creating infrastructure on planets effectively creating the maps that we are going to see in DUST 514 at a later time? Is that something that you can talk about?
Torfi: Not directly. DUST 514 mercenaries will be having battles at some of the installations which are represented in planetary interaction. But because we are eventually giving you access to all of the planets, which is a really broad spectrum of types of worlds, with different gravities and atmospheres, no atmosphere, surfaces which are just pure plasma, etc.. You're not going to be having DUST matches in all of those. But you're still going to be deploying infrastructure onto these worlds.
TTH: As far as player interaction with these planets, you mentioned that you'll be creating the infrastructure and then coming back to pick up the materials that are harvested. Are there other aspects to this? Like will you have to worry about sabotage or any other kind of variable, like dust storms or other problems occurring on these planets?
Torfi: It's too soon to tell. The thing is that we have a backlog of features that we really want to get in there. So it's too soon for us to commit to a few of these. So I can't really tell whether a thing might make it or not, yet.
TTH: As far as your success with controlling a planet or part of a planet, how much of that is going to rely on controlling the space in the solar system around the planet? Like as part of a corporation or alliance?
Torfi: In 0.0 systems, we are expecting you to need sovereignty over that system for your infrastructure to function on a planet. So that you can't have your enemy using or being in your garden, so to speak, or using your planets despite you having sovereignty over it. Taking sovereignty really disrupts industry and messes things up. The gameplay in high-sec will generally be more cooperative. The goal is that people will actually be working together on the planets, benefitting from each other. One player will not be able to serve in all roles, or specialize in all roles in the entire manufacturing and mining sector.
TTH: Will the planets have some manufacturing and research possibilities that are currently done on stations?
Torfi: They won't have the same, no. We are not going to be competing with the industry, research and manufacturing on the stations. And they're not going to be competing with mining. We are not replacing any of these game systems. They will be a separate ecosystem, so to speak.
TTH: How will the first day of Tyrannis play out? You mentioned that it wouldn't be a land grab.
Torfi: Well it will have people flying all over space, deploying satellites and scanning for resources. Also launching command centers and building infrastructure. And also starting to train the skills needed for it, of course. Some discoveries will be made, too. Some people will definitely be striking it rich by discovering huge deposits of valuable minerals in remote locations, and trying to keep these a secret for as long as they can.
TTH: So it will take some time to set up control and dominance over these planets and resources.
Torfi: Yes, absolutely.
TTH: Thank you so much for taking some of our questions. I'm sure the audience can't wait to hear more.
Torfi: Yes, thank you. Of course, the feature is in development and we're going to be blogging about it, as well as posting on our forums and and talking about it, as it evolves. And we're putting out an experimental alpha version of it on our test server. Which will, of course, not totally reflect the final product. But I think you will find it interesting to actually watch how it works.
TTH: Any timeline on this? I know you said it was a summer expansion.
Torfi: The goal is to have it out on the test server in little more than a week. It's going to be very embryonic. It's funny, because it's a recurring debate: we choose to put our stuff out really early, onto a test server, even if the UI isn't finished, the core experience isn't finished, and the pipeline isn't finished. Both to get player feedback, and also just to get people hammering on it to see what it can take. Some of us would prefer not to release anything until launch day, but we feel that it's better to get as many eyes on the feature as possible, and as many fingers clicking the buttons as possible, as soon as possible. But often it's confused or mistaken for a beta or for the real thing. What they're watching is just active software development.
TTH: It's been exciting to watch how you guys have involved the community with the direction of the game.
Torfi: Thanks. It's really exciting for us, as well, because the community continues to surprise and amaze us, and we of course would be nothing without it.
TTH: Very cool. Thank you so much, Torfi. It's been a pleasure talking to you, as always. Good luck, and we hope to talk to you again, soon, as development progresses.