EVE Online: Exclusive Post-Dominion Interview

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Earlier this month, EVE
players were given an early holiday
gift in the form of Dominion, the game’s twelfth expansion
overall and
second in 2009. Recently, Ten Ton Hammer caught up with Senior
Producer Torfi Frans Olafsson to talk about the impact of Dominion on
player-controlled areas of space, player reactions to the expansion and
whether or not CCP has any other plans for the title that we might see
make it in-game prior to the release of href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/2216">DUST 514.

Ten Ton Hammer: One of the goals for Dominion was to
the player-controlled areas
of space dynamic and more accessible to smaller alliances. Are we
seeing signs of this happening?

Torfi Frans Olafsson, Senior Producer of EVE Online:
It’s too soon to tell if that has happened yet. The real fighting
and changing of hands of sovereignty won’t start until December 15th,
when we unlift the grace period we gave to the alliances so that they
could make the proper upgrades and arrangements to their already
pre-Dominion claimed systems. On or around that date we expect the
alliances to act on their safe-guarded strategies, insuring a large
degree of destruction.

Ten Ton Hammer: The new sovereignty system is already being
taken advantage by existing
alliances that wish to fortify and enhance their space. Are new groups
of players trying to conquer space? Is CCP happy with the level of
difficulty experienced when a new alliance tries to find a home in
conquerable space?

Olafsson: Again, too soon to tell. We designed the system so
that current
“AFK-empires”, that held on to large swathes of space they don’t use
would be more inclined to consolidate their forces in smaller areas
that they then upgrade and make more valuable. This does make room for
the new kids on the block, so to speak. The coming weeks and months
will tell us if that goal will be achieved. For better transparency, we
put in a slick sovereignty dashboard that allows players to review the
status, recent conflicts, and victories and defeats. It helps
communicate to all of the players in EVE, not just the ones deep in
zerosec warfare, just how vibrant and alive with conflict the solar
systems of EVE Online are. Watching the progress is like
watching a
beautiful flower grow, or a beautiful building being torn apart,
depending on your point of view.

Ten Ton Hammer: You have previously stated that you do not
anticipate players migrating
to conquerable space because it is not lucrative enough. Has that
changed significantly with the Dominion expansion?

Olafsson: We are seeing evidence of large numbers of people
upgrading their
clones and taking the jump into the lawless, player-controlled
zero-security part of space, finding riches in fat bounty NPCs and
mining, and upgrading the development indices of their systems by doing
so. So whatever is causing it, more people are waking up to the fact
that zerosec is fun and the risks are worth it. Remote systems, deep in
zerosec, are now teeming with life, there’s chatter in the local chat
channels, money is being made and people are having fun. It’s very
exciting for the developers to see this unfold.

Ten Ton Hammer: The changes to the Super Carrier ship class
were completely scrapped
only a few weeks before the Dominion release. What was the reason for
this move?

Olafsson: The Super Carrier / Mothership balancing began as a
mission for us
to find a better defined purpose for these red dragons of fleet
warfare, to make them more tactically distinct for more engaging
capital ship gameplay. We had great discussions with members of our
community at Fanfest, through the Council of Stellar Management and
various other channels and had the repurposed Motherships / Super
Carriers up on our test server well in advance for the expansion.
During testing, it became clear to us that the ships, with their new
deployable Fighter Bombers, were too powerful and we saw several
scenarios that would result in heavy griefing, providing hours of fun
gameplay for the people that owned such ships (which are less than 500)
at the cost of multiple thousands that would be slaughtered in the
carnage that would follow. They were too powerful. We put our balancers
then on the task of re-balancing them, which in retrospect was being
done too close to comfort to the upcoming release.

At that point, we didn’t feel that enough time had gone into the
re-balancing. Despite there being so few ships in the game, they are
hugely expensive and some of the most powerful and talented players of
EVE have worked incredibly hard to obtain them. We chose to cancel all
the changes and come up with a better strategy of balancing the ships
after the new year, working with the community, doing proper testing,
essentially doing something we can all be happy with.

It was difficult to see the amount of rage directed at one
game designer that had picked the short straw to be the one behind the
blog outlining our re-balancing. We look at ourselves as a
team - there’s never just one rogue developer “ruining the game” or a
hero “saving the game”. Projects of this complexity are always a team
effort. Any change we make that goes out to the test server has
undergone reviews, discussions and iteration with a number of people
before they are deployed. We’re a team of people committed to making
the game better, and take praise and criticism as such.

Ten Ton Hammer: Can you tell us more about the new
"speedboat" pirate missions? How are
they being received by players? Are there more or less
players trying them out than expected?

Olafsson: We are seeing lots of positive feedback on both our
own and player
run forums. People celebrate the new challenge in tactics while
following a rich unfolding plot that touches upon the darker and more
sinister regions of the backstory.

Ten Ton Hammer: Dominion is an impressive expansion
that touches on nearly every aspect
of EVE life. Will href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/2216">DUST 514
be the next big thing in the EVE universe,
or can we expect something big in between?

Olafsson: There are several interesting things lined up in
EVE before Dust 514
for sure. Our goal is to build the ultimate science fiction simulator.
We’re slowly working towards that, one feature at a time. At Fanfest we
talked about planetary interaction - being able to build, develop and
own installations on planets. We are also developing a powerful web
front-end to the game which will help you communicate, organize and
collaborate with other players, even when you are not at your gaming
rig. Meanwhile, ingame, there will be several features which are
focused on combat, tactical awareness, better fleet battles and such.
Basically seeing expensive stuff destroyed in a beautiful organized
manner. We will be making more announcements in the new year about our
upcoming plans, but I’d like to point to our Fanfest 2009 coverage on
YouTube for those that are interested in our vision for EVE for the

We’re not making any announcements yet about what’s in the next
expansion, but at least internally at CCP, developers are pretty pumped
up and getting into gear, now that Dominion is close to being
stabilized. The recent PCU record of 54,181 pilots online at once sets
the stage for 2010 being an awesome year in EVE. I can’t wait for it to
begin, frankly.

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