CCP’s Torfi Frans Olafsson Talks Tyrannis


When you’ve got Eve Online’s senior technical producer on the phone, it’s rude not to ask him about his plans for that most righteous of MMOs. Here’s what Olafsson had to say about Eve and forthcoming expansion, Tyrannis. We also had a few words about console action crossover, Dust 514. (Am I convinced there won’t be a PC client? No, not convinced. CCP still saying it’s their console game, however.)

RPS: Around 2003 there was a lot of optimism about what MMOs could do – Eve, Planetside – there doesn’t seem to have been another big wave of MMO innovation since then. I wonder if we’re getting back toward that now… but there’s still no one copying Eve’s model (aside from Perpetuum, which remains in a closed beta). Does it surprise you that no one is trying “do a CCP”?

Olafsson: Well I think plenty of people are being influenced by Eve, at least, just as we are influenced by many other games. I think the wave of optimism in 2003 had a lot to do with Ultima Online coming out and firing up the developers. Look at it backwards: consider the time it takes to create an MMO, what people were doing before that, and playing before that, it’s Ultima Online and MUDs. What we can see about MMOs is the space is dominated by a single product: Ultima, Everquest, and then World Of Warcraft came and killed them dead. It makes the space difficult to get into. But you are asking about more sandbox approaches…

RPS: Well, I talk to a lot of MMO developers, and I never hear them say “oh we’re trying be Eve”, or “oh we got that from Eve…”

Olafsson: Perhaps people consider us too hardcore, too obscure. They may be concerned that they’re never going to reach twelve million subscribers if they go the sandbox route. And it’s also more challenging. It would be incredibly hard to do a big launch on a sandbox game. These kinds of games rely on social structures to work. You can’t go straight to a million players in this way when there are a million strangers. A million subscribers… you need to grow from a smaller number, to grow relationships, not just the world.

RPS: Can you talk about Dust? How did that come about? [Dust is a planned crossover with consoles to create a planetary action game that is plugged in to the functioning Eve universe at an economic and strategic level – ExplanaBot]

Olafsson: It came about because we think that Eve itself is an exciting IP, and we really like that world we have created. A lot of people are excited about it – books, tonnes of fiction and so on. We wanted to capitalise on that. But secondly we as a company want to make console games, but our expertise is sandbox MMOs and larger network infrastructure. This was a perfect opportunity to go into the console space. We were not going to copy something else that had been done previously, but instead capitalise on our expertise in managing large, networked communities and infrastructure, to manifest our IP there. Rather than create something that was sideways in time, or otherwise disconnected from the original game, we decided to plug it right in: to connect this new console game to the vibrant, pre-existing economy and social structure of Eve. It’s a good way to catalyse a community: to have movement already there. That’s the problem with any community – if you start from scratch you will struggle. If you can plug what you are doing straight into the pre-existing movers and shakers then you have momentum.

It’s a game design nightmare. An interesting nightmare. We’re enjoying the technical challenge.

RPS: So anyway, moving back to Eve itself, the planetary interaction stuff you have planned for Tyrannis is presumably groundwork for Dust. How does that work?

Olafsson: Because Eve is all on a single server it is quite volatile, quite fragile. If we put out something on the server then it could break the game, the entire community, the entire economy. With this in mind we put our expansions every six months. Rather than rolling out huge expansions every eighteen months to a big fanfare, we are producing them iteratively. What we are doing next is our planetary interaction expansion, Tyrannis, which also includes our new socialisation features, EveGate. The planetary interaction feature set is the first step of many to building on planets which will lead into Dust. In the expansion right now you are given the ability to scan for resource deposits and to build infrastructure to extract them. It’s just the core mechanics of planetary interaction gameplay this time, that we will then iterate on in future expansions. It will provide an excellent source of income that can make money for you while you play the rest of the game.

RPS: Can you explain a bit the mechanics of it? How does infrastructure work?

Olafsson: What is important is that this has a low barrier of entry. All a player needs to do is purchase a command-centre somewhere on the open market, a command centre for the particular type of planet. All of the 55,000 planets in Eve are available for interaction, provided you can fly up next to it. If you are deep in low security space it could be protected by someone. You fly up, right click, and open the planet in planet mode. Plonk down the command centre and you can start to build extractors, processors, factories and different things. Then you need to place the factories close to the command unit and then be strategic in how you place modules, and then set up a production chain: what goes from where to where to produce material. Finally, of course, you need to fly to the planet every now and then to pick up your produce.

The interface is interesting, because it is a hybrid of abstract and photorealistic, the planet is realistic and the pins are abstract. We decided to use that approach because the worlds are so different in size, but also in terrain: we have gas giants, desert worlds, lava planets, and so on. We had to abstract out the graphics of the installations with little holograms.



RPS: What happens if someone already has a command centre down there?

Olafsson: If he is extracting then the resources will be low. In busy systems the planets will be sucked dry by lots of players. Everyone can interact with every planet, everywhere, but the more people who are using a planet, the less valuable it is.

RPS: No destruction mechanism for planet infrastructure?

Olafsson: No, not in this expansion. We will be iterating on the concept and introducing PvP concepts later.

RPS: Okay, so can you tell us a little bit about the other aspect of this expansion, EveGate?

Olafsson: EveGate is a portal into the game. We feel that the game is bigger than the client, and we feel that interfacing with the world when people aren’t in front of their regular gaming rig is important. We’re doing this iteratively too, so we focused on the most needed parts. For now we focused on social aspects, so there will be ways to log on and read and send Evemail, to access calendars where you can organise events, as well as create corporation profiles and view those of others. It is a socialisation interface, but we expect to introduce actual web browser. So you will be able to interact with those aspects of the game which don’t require 3D graphics, such as corporation management. But those are to come, for now it is mail, calendar and profiles. In the future I want you to be able to pick up your iPhone and interact with the game on some level.

RPS: Looking back on the last couple of expansions (this is the 13th) how do you feel about the sovereignty mechanics? Obviously that was a big change in Dominion… how do you feel about it now?

Olafsson: I think it was a good start. It’s certain not finished. I think it was really successful as an expansion, because it renewed interest in Eve – we saw old players coming back. In terms of mechanics, we saw warfare in 0.0 in become more tactical, and it became more interesting as a result. I think we can improve. After watching the gameplay, the graphs, the feedback, I feel we could do more to make it interesting. We fixed old and broken mechanics, of course, and many of them had been broken for a long time. But there are few systems in Eve I regard as “finished”. The whole game is in flux and is open for iteration and polish. But there are just so many systems, and so little time.

RPS: Speaking of time, thanks for yours!

Tyrannis hits Eve on May 18th.

56 Comments

  1. Tweakd says:

    Started playing again. Loving the game so much. CCP are fantastic! I just wish I could stop leaving my drones and probes all over the place!

    “It’s a game design nightmare. An interesting nightmare. We’re enjoying the technical challenge.”

    My thoughts exactly! good to see that they enjoy the challenge and i believe thats a sign of a great developer. So long as they can see its flaws and have the time/money to take their time. If they get it right it would be quite an occasion. I’m very interested to see how all this ties in. The thought of the Eve players manufacturing better weapons for their console warriors to wage war really is a fascinating idea. That’s something I hope they can achieve in some form but I realise that may be too much of a design nightmare.

  2. Pod says:

    No PvP for planets?

    How do you stop people building loads of shit in your corpspace, sucking up your precious planet-goo?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Yeah, odd to leave that out of this expansion. Going to be six months of planet-milking, I think.

    • Davee says:

      I too am a bit worried about this – factions putting tons of factories on planets in enemy space? Hopefully not – I’m guessing there is some measure of controlling what’s going on exactly (for example, you may not build on a planet in an enemy-owned star system, sovereignty you know).

    • Batolemaeus says:

      It’s not just no pvp, it’s a lack of interaction. There’s currently next to no interaction with people on the same planet. No trade, nothing, as if others wouldn’t exist.
      It just strikes me as very not-eve.

      Also, saying “I think we can improve” in regards to 0.0 is a massive understatement. Dominion was a massive setback for 0.0 warfare and hasn’t improved since.

    • Kelron says:

      They still need to fly to the planet to deploy command centres, manage the infrastructure and pick up goods. As anyone who’s been involved in the PvP side of EVE will know, hanging around planets in low security space for too long is not a very safe thing to do.

  3. Hat Galleon says:

    “When you’ve for Eve Online’s senior technical producer on the phone”

    Huh? I’m not even sure what you’re trying to say here, you might want to fix it. Unless it was intentional, in which case I’m just an idiot.

  4. Jae Armstrong says:

    Someone remind me, what’s happening with Ambulation?

  5. Sobric says:

    Maybe I’m confused as to exactly what Dust 514 offers, but if it ever came out on PC I think I’d scoop it up right away.

    I’ve never been able to get into EVE, but I know plenty of people who are. If I could fight for their corp in Dust 514 and actually affect the game in EVE, that would be pretty awesome.

    • Davee says:

      I pray to the dev-gods that it will arrive for PC! I want to be able to help the planet-side fights for my/my corp’s property! :)

  6. nine says:

    This game is my Dwarf Fortress. The game I should really love, but it just pisses me off every time I try to get into it. (I like DF so that’s why it’s not my DF).

  7. Dave says:

    I am dissapoint! Not the greatest of expansions ever. Evebook and afk planet mining, wow… As usual theres the list of “broken for years” things that always gets completely ignored.

    Whine Whine Whinge Whinge

    Anyway quick plug for RPSH

    Come join us as we epicly decide to sack off Brick alliance in Stain and move to Syndicate. Be mobbed by the opposite sex by name dropping our glorious leader in conversation. Become part of the most elite, professional corp in Eve. Regular training OP’s, Military style command structure, Alarm clock OP’s every weekend, terrible terrible lag in giant epeen waving sov warfare and a free Tech II BPO when you join.

    simply drop into “rps community” and we’ll take care of the rest.

    • Dworgi says:

      All of the above is a lie.

      Die regularly as part of one of the drunkest corps in EVE. Cause things to explode and watch yourself explode. Have lots of fun doing so.

      Join RPSH!

    • LD says:

      LIES

      its a Gentlemans corp

    • ErrantConstruct says:

      What does the corp focus on a role(mining, pvp,…) in particular or just whatever people feel like doing?

    • Psychopomp says:

      PVP

      Lots of PVP

  8. Tei says:

    Great!.. Looks nice, and these people are serius and cool.

    “It’s a game design nightmare. An interesting nightmare. We’re enjoying the technical challenge.”

    Sounds like “Development Hell”. Sorry. Hope this guys can deliver things. The graphics are awesome, and the ideas, and the taste.

  9. LD says:

    what dave said

  10. Mister Adequate says:

    EVE is a game I have deep, deep admiration and respect for, but I’m just not of the right mindset to actually get into it for extended periods. For better or worse I can’t play games so intimately bound up with other people. But I feel this interview shows that CCP have a pretty damned good understand of what they are doing, and I think EVE is a hugely important MMO which deserves credit and praise. Just wish I could join in!

  11. ErrantConstruct says:

    I tried to get into this before but left because I couldn’t find a good group. How is the RPS corp?

  12. Dave says:

    Come and try us out…

  13. The Great Wayne says:

    Interesting stuff.

    I’ll not come back to EvE, got too much fond memories to spoil them with the tedium I know the game can be about. Not mentioning this freaking game have a strange tendency to run under your skin after a while playing amongst the big 0.0 alliances. It often push people to weird extremities in their level of personal involvement, generating stress, endless dramas and whatnot.

    I’m pretty much done with this, as many others, but color me most interested about DUST 514. EvE world with a lighter and more instant-fun “kapow” gameplay ? I’d most certainly play that. This may be the soft that’ll make me buy a console.

    Any info on the subscription formula for D514 (Xbox live or whatever), if any ?

  14. MikeBiggs says:

    Surely it would be mostly stopped by keeping enemy corps away until you’ve filled the planet your own infrastructure?

  15. MikeBiggs says:

    Hmmm, one of these days the reply function will work for me…..

  16. Alfie Noakes says:

    Too much wrong with EvE for it to ever be anything other than a game that survives on multiple accounts per player.

    Two random things that come to mind immediately…

    1. I’m docked in a station with dozens of other players, but I can’t see any of their ships? Errrr… K.

    2. The entire display fades out when undocking? They seriously couldn’t at least keep the UI on the screen so I can continue my conversations in chat??

    Neither of these are gamebreaking, but there are so many of these little niggling oversights and inconveniences in EvE. Don’t get me wrong… I love the complexity of the game, but I hate it’s seemingly intentional clunky awkwardness.

    • mandrill says:

      The move from a staion to space (and between systems) is known as a session change and involves alot of backend jiggery pokery which using the chat or any other dialogue wiould slow down, causing lag.

      Lag is still experienced on session changes as it is, for instance when jumping into a starsystem with a lot of ships at the gate on the other side, or undocking from jita 4-4 (eve players will know what I mean). You’re stopped from interacting with the game during this period to keep lag to a minimum.

  17. mandrill says:

    Tyrannis is a first step. remember that. They are looking to replace all of the currently NPC seeded good on the market with player created ones. Making a big change like that should be done slowly and with care or you risk breaking the game’s economy. (which is what EVE is about and depends upon really)

    my predictions:

    1 Tyrannis – introduce planetary interaction at a very basic level allowing players to produce products that are currently NPC seeded.
    2 The future mark 1 – Wait for supply chains to stabilise so that these planetary products are behaving properly as part of the economy and allow trade between players on planets
    3 The future mark 2 – Remove NPC seeded items from market
    4 The future mark 4 – tie in with dust so that EVE players can hire Dust players to blow up each others planetary infrastructure
    5 The Future mark 5 – Add in population elements and more governmental elements to planetary interaction (espionage, diplomacy, population control, happiness, riots in the street, revolutions, religion etc etc)
    6 profit as EVE continues to grow in depth and complexity

    Trade between players on a single planet can happen at the moment (its up on the test server) but the existing market must be used which requires transportation of goods to a station and the setting up of buy and sell orders, contracts, or the opening of a trade window. Its do-able but long winded. I reckon this will be addressed fairly quickly.

    OT: still using the old captcha system as logging in is still a hassle. put login on front page and sort the cookies out so it doesn’t boot me from my own wordpress login

    • The Great Wayne says:

      While I’m pretty sure they could do it, I see very few pros in doing so. It’s opening an extra huge window for economy griefing (as if there weren’t already enough), losing the few control the devs can have on the market flow. Plus, with the running inflation in the game, it’d be in fact a lot harder for newbies to survive, which is no good from a broader perspective.

      All that for near to zero fun/interest factor (unless you’re a griefer, in which cas see above) other than from a pure experimental point. Therefore, I’d be most suprised to see that happen ever, but it’s just mho.

  18. Mad Doc MacRae says:

    Sic Semper Tyrannis!

    Anyway, hopefully Dust will be on PCs, too. That trailer wasn’t very interesting except it’s one of the few game trailers for srs war shooters that featured extended screaming. Which I think is maybe more immersive than throwaway wilhelm screams that most games seem to go for.

  19. the wiseass says:

    I was thinking that we would like get that “walking on station” thingie. I was so looking forward to this but it seems that they have forgotten about it. At least that would get me playing this game again :(

  20. Jad says:

    I do hope that Dust comes to PC someday. I love the idea of Eve, the player-run world and all the stories that come out of it, but the actual moment-to-moment gameplay does not seem very interesting to me. Anything that allows me to indulge my penchant for shooting people in the face while interacting with this larger universe is exciting.

  21. Durkan says:

    The love child of eve and battlefield bad company. mmm

    A proper mmo shooter would be a v glorious thing indeed. Poor old planetside how I miss thee.

  22. Magic H8 Ball says:

    This is absolutely amazing. It’s very rare for me to be actually surprised by what the devs are doing since they usually downplay everything, but this is just epic. I mean hell, if you asked me half the stuff EVE does is impossible, the network requirements are too great and it should all come crashing under it’s own weight. But it works.

    And they’re still adding to it!

  23. Kaeli says:

    Okay. I do not play FPS games, typically. They just don’t appeal to me. So – maybe I’m biased by my utter lack of FPS experience, but Dust 514 looks amazing.

  24. chesh says:

    we saw warfare in 0.0 in become more tactical

    tactical != laggy

  25. St4ud3 says:

    I would really like Dust to be released on the PC. The concept sounds good, but playing a console on a shooter is just horrendous. I cant even play Uncharted 2 properly because my aiming is so bad on a console.

    Maybe I should give EVE another go. I still have my reasonably good equipped Mining ship in Eve University :] I would really like to get back into some MMO, since I have really good memories from my WoW days, but somehow I havent found the right one yet.

  26. starwarsfireflyender'sgame says:

    I love this game.

    Thank you CCP for all the time and effort you all put into the story, graphics, playability, difficulty, complexity, etc.

    That being said, it also seems like the creators and developers are trying to make Dust a unique concept, just like EVE is.

    When creating this first-person shooter, please consider maintaining the “complex freedom” we enjoy in EVE . Anyone can make an FPS. We’ve seen many examples (i.e. Quake, Halo, Doom(s), Counterstrike, Call of Dutie(s), etc.), and various others which are incredibly lame, because they have been done before. SO many times. In the end they are all the same; except for Dust.

    Dust gamers will be able to interact with an existing universe of gamers stretched out across the entire blue planet. Please excuse the cliche, but the possibilities are limitless.

    Back to the “complex freedom”. What is freedom? EVE is freedom:

    -Being able to choose the path of our character as we please.
    -Adventures/missions/PvP that can (and will) go on forever.
    -Legendary and epic stories, like our favorite books, that DO NOT end.
    -The infinite that is space, and a valiant effort by CCP to make our EVE space as vast and limitless as RL space.
    -EVE is not a game you “beat”.
    -EVE is not one of those games where you can rack up exp. points somewhere for a few days, then go destroy everything.
    -Your girl (or kids, if you have them) can’t just button mash and beat you.
    -There is no beginning and there is no end. The beginning was 20,000 years ago (please excuse me if I am not exactly accurate with this figure) and there is no end to space.
    -If you give up or get frustrated easily, this game is NOT FOR YOU.

    That being said, we should encourage CCP to maintain standards like these for Dust. This is all what sets EVE apart (and on a much higher gaming tier entirely) from every other game. Although Dust will be a console game, the players should still have this same complex freedom that capsuleers do. Let them decide where and when to do things. What to train. Who to join with. What careers to do. What path to take. I hope this game can hold on to all the things we value in EVE.

    -M.D.P.

  27. feliponz says:

    I’m rather new to RPS and I stopped playing EVE because I was in rather noobish corps. Never really got into pvp for lack of funds. Through this article I found out that RPS has a corp!? Awesome! I was contemplating resurrecting my account! Who do I have to kill to join it? :p

  28. Thursday says:

    To join the RPS corp. Simply sacrifice three badgers to the gods of lag and paint your ship with their entrails while singing “My Way” over Ventrilo.

    Or, like Dave said, you can join the in-game chat channel, “RPS community” and ask where to join us. It’ll work better than the first method, but your spaceship won’t look nearly as badass.

    • DMJ says:

      @Thursday: I hear there is a warmer reception for prospective pilots who pursue Option A.

  29. Lukasz says:

    yes… what’s happen to that? Walking in station supposed to be huge thing and now there is no news about it whatsoever. what happened?

  30. dead guy says:

    it’s called Ambulation – it is planned for early 2011 – no one has forgotten about it – search “ambulation” on youtube for new vids by ccp

  31. Magic H8 Ball says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    That being said, it also seems like the creators and developers are trying to make Dust a unique concept, just like EVE is.

    When creating this first-person shooter, please consider maintaining the “complex freedom” we enjoy in EVE .

    I feel that EVE players are not Dust’s target audience. Why would you want to give them “complex freedom” anyway? At best they’ll completely ignore it, at worst it will confuse them and hurt sales. It’s a console FPS, geeez dude.

  32. poop says:

    generic comment about how eve is a cool concept but isnt actually fun to play yadda yadda yadda

  33. The Dark One says:

    I bet the twist that they’re holding back is that Dust won’t just be a console crossover. It’ll also be a WoD crossover. What better way to cash in on the vampire/werewolf fan hysteria surrounding the latest Twilight movie?

    • Other Steve says:

      If I could bombard the crap outta twilight fans with 1400mm Artys I would be a happy man indeed.

  34. Count Elmdor says:

    Dust 514 may be the only way I’m able to get into the EVE universe. I’ve tried two separate months of the game, and I’m just paralyzed by the total freedom available. Also, what’s with the tutorial agents basically telling your to piss off if you accidentally wait too long to accept a mission?

  35. Sorin Markov says:

    “for that most righteous of MMOs.”
    This has been proven by science to be the best MMO on the market. And you can’t argue with Science.

    “and forthcoming expansion, Tyrannis.”
    This has been proven to be incorrect. This will be the 13th expansion, not the fourth.

  36. Anomalous poster says:

    I want to love EVE. I mean I really want to love EVE. If there’s any game that I would gladly give up my life for, if there’s any universe, any vision, that would make me gladly turn my back on this pathetic, limited existence, it would be EVE. But I tried it and was so dissapointed. I agree with Alfie, there are problems. But they are the kind that massively break the game and make it unplayable.

    I could give you reasons, but I’ll let you try and guess because it’s more interesting (the ccp man in this interview actually mentions one with pride, damn him).