Daily Tip:Just because a player is in a faction or militia, doesn't mean that he's limited to using that faction's ships.

Incarna Incarnate: An EVE Online Q&A with Torfi Frans Ólafsson

Updated Wed, Oct 14, 2009 by Ethec

Torfi Frans, looking slightly tougher than usual (but only slightly).
At EVE FanFest 2009 last weekend, CCP trained its marketing turrets on the newly revealed console-based MMOFPS DUST 514, the total out-of-game experience with New Eden, and the new alliance vs. alliance friendly Dominion expansion coming this December. But one aspect of EVE Online's future was intentionally downplayed: Incarna (formerly "Walking in Stations", formerly "Ambulation").

However, Torfi Frans Ólafsson, Senior Producer, offered one trailer that seemed to hint at a more achievement-oriented side of the Incarna project that will peel pod pilots out of their ships and put them into stations for the first time. Intrigued, we caught up with Torfi for a few questions about Incarna, planet-sized revamps, the massive Titan nerf, and how exactly Treaties will work at EVE FanFest 2009.

Ten Ton Hammer
: First this project was named “Ambulation,” then “Walking in Stations,” now “Incarna.” Aside from a parade of ever better names, has the project been reinvented along with the name, or is the project closer to completion than it was when we saw it demoed at last year’s FanFest?

Torfi Frans Ólafsson, Senior Producer: Oh yea, it’s closer. The core technology group at CCP is hard at work developing the technology that allows us to do incredibly realistically lit rooms and interiors, and they’re also working on our custom rendering and animation technology. This is the technology foundation that’s being used for Incarna. We did a reveal at last FanFest to prove that the technology works and that it works within EVE, but it was of course only presented in demo state - very pre-alpha and focused solely on graphics and feel over functionality. So we’re working on technology and functionality right now.

The game designers have also been sweating out the design for Incarna, and there will be more to do than we’ve previously talked about.

Ten Ton Hammer: So from what we saw in the Incarna trailer, there will be an achievement angle to Incarna?

Ólafsson: Absolutely. To the people that I said that you won’t have to play Incarna to be successful in EVE... not entirely true. (laughter) You can still, you know, not do it, just like you can not do industry or agent missions or not do mining, but it’s going to be an important element of gameplay. As you saw in the teaser, the reason you go into stations is to go “offline” - to go off the grid. You go there to interact with people that may not even exist on the grid. For all intents and purposes, Concord thinks they’re dead.

Ten Ton Hammer: So it sounds like a whole new avenue for the game that’s outside of CONCORD’s control.

Ólafsson: Exactly.

Ten Ton Hammer: We’ve seen a lot of good stuff here from the DUST 514 team at CCP Asia. We know that DUST 514 is using Unreal Engine 3, which is a far cry from the Python-based setup that EVE uses, but are you sharing assets or knowledge back and forth between the Incarna and DUST 514 teams?

Ólafsson: Absolutely. We’ve shared assets a little bit, we’ve certainly shared technology and people and, most importantly, we are on big company. The team working on DUST 514 might be a different team, but like I mentioned yesterday, they worked with us on Apocrypha, they’re collaborating on the planets right now, DUST 514 and EVE will be talking together in terms of game mechanics, so a lot of us have spent a lot of time in China working with the team and vice versa.

Ten Ton Hammer:
Do the war barge and social spaces we’ve seen in DUST 514 tie into Incarna at all? Could EVE and DUST players eventually meet each other?

Those are separate spaces. The strategic planning room - that’s within the war barge - while Incarna will focus solely on stations. The people of DUST 514 are of a different creed than pod pilots. In the backstory, their paths would hardly ever cross except when there’s profit to be made - when one needs the power of the other.

One of the planets post-Dominion revamp. This one happens to look pretty familiar.
Ten Ton Hammer: Sort of like the navy and the army?

Ólafsson: Yea, or maybe like the CIA and the navy.

Ten Ton Hammer: Shifting gears a bit to talk about December's Dominion expansion: The work you’re doing with the planets is gorgeous - right down to seeing the cloud layer and man-made lights on the dark side of colonized planets. Can you tell us a little bit about the process and the work that went into these procedurally generated planets? I’m guessing you used satellite photography extensively?

Ólafsson: Of course we were all inspired by NASA’s imagery and Hubble pictures and Galileo pictures. In recent years we’ve had really cool pictures coming from Saturn via Magellan. We were inspired by them, but sometimes we’ve realized that realism is a bit boring and we take it further. We’ve only seen a very limited number of planets and moons [in the real universe], and making cool planets and moons is what I call “geology porn.” It’s basically geology, just making it more aesthetically beautiful so that you enjoy it.

Ten Ton Hammer: What kind of inputs go into the procedurally generated planets? Do you calculate the distance from the star, water vapor in the atmosphere, that sort of thing?

Absolutely, we use all the basic inputs: the distance from the star, the density of the planet, adjoining moons, type of star, and so on. All of these inputs go into figuring out what the planet will look like.

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