Monday, 13 August 2007

Eve Online

[Edit: For Eve fans out there, you might also want to have a look at the live blog notes I made on another panel that Hilmar Peterssun was on. I also can type up the notes on the Q & A that immediately followed this session if you want, including how Scottish rodents took down Eve Online. And I can provide some general impressions of Hilmar if requested. Just post below if you are interested.]

Peterssunn: I am going to explain the concept of Eve Online and CCP. CCP is an Icelandic company from 10 years ago, its taken a while for us to get to this point. We founded the company in a space that didn't really exist at the point in time. Worked on a property called Lazytown to fund the start of the company.

We began full-force in 2000, by raising $3 million which is about one-tenth of the current MMORPG. 3 years of development, the last year of which we had no money but everyone turned up to work anyway despite us not being able to pay them. This created a core of people who have gone through hell with us, and helps with the community especially.

We had publishing problems, with Simon & Schuster, which resulted in no distribution or marketing, despite having 30,000 players. We ended up buying the rights back at 2002 and going into digital distribution. This has forced us to treat this more as a service as a product and using viral marketing techniques to propagate the product out, long before others were doing this.

We are planning a massive graphical upgrade to the game, and should hit 200,000 subscriptions later this year. We have had different growth than most other games, because the whole game takes place on a single shard, which allows escalation of power and social equity as the size of the community grows.

(Plays Revelations II trailer. Audio mix isn't great and voice over not really legible.
Good to see the Titans with lots of tiny ships around them).

The important thing to note that the graphics were straight from the game. From 2003 I had to have arguments on the phone as publishers would not believe graphics from the game.

Started off as an MMORPG but it is now become more of a virtual society. [He contrasts Themepark (WoW) vs Playground (Eve / Ultima) approach] Ultimately, its about the kids who are playing in the sand box. CCP just has to make sure the sand is clean.

When you give people the tools, which can be small and not particularly complex, complex behaviour emerges. What surprised us, was how fast the players came up to speed on what the potential of the tools in the sandbox are. 121.573 man years has been put into Eve by the players. When people play, they are doing something social and its inheriently competively social and that allows you to hone and develop skills which are applicable to real life: incentive plans for employees, using PR to take down your enemy, manage complex logistics.

[Shows the Tranquility Map] The hope was that people would start off in high-security space and then move to low security space. What we saw was that people did this in accordance to their nationality. The Russians hacked the game so that they could write in Cyrillic. This lead to the fact that their only method of communication was violence. Their next door neighbors, the Scandinavians became the recipients of this. The Russians were very well organised and had better pilots, but they couldn't defeat the Scandanavians. But as it turned out that the Scandanavians were being fronted by the Americans, who were claiming not to be involved. And until the Russians figured this out and persuaded the French to attack the Americans were they able to defeat the Scandanavians. This ran from month 3 to month 6 of the game and involved about 20,000 people. There was a lot of PR in this: e.g. the American's claiming their innocence and so on.

[Talks about fansites] Very early on a radio station was created: Eve radio. They have now built a TV station to complement this. Eon magazine is the People magazine of the Eve world. Eve TV has a CNN style news report of the Eve world. There is a huge group of people who make trailers and movies in the world [Shows Day of Darkness video by an amateur community in the game]. All the property destroyed in the game was destroyed for real.

(Aside: I was expecting a movie, but its more like a dance track. I guess its from the lack of frame of reference not having played the game).

[Slide: It took 250,000 man years to build the Great Pyramid. We are half-way there.]

The important thing to note the social equity investment in the game. Even though they are not directly creating the world (as in Eve), the social structures they have created in the game are real.

Scalability is the hugest issue. It has continously exceeded our ability to build the servers to support the infrastructure. There's about 2 tonnes of equipment and we are investigating high-performance computing concepts to scale the load. You are at the forefront of the impossible of computer science. Last year we introduced the concept of solid state disks to support the database.

We have 200,000 people who buy and sell resources on an open market, so we have to use natural resource dynamics to ensure that the economy that does not inflate or deflate. We hired an economist earlier in the year.

We have strived to build the way people relate within an organisation within the game [Goes into linear relationship between brain size and maximum number of people known]. Its like running IBM with 20,000 employees. Traditionally, MMO developers have been despotic. We are now in a big effort to decentralise governance of the world. We want to employ democratic elections to elect representatives to have an ongoing say in development.

[Shows examples of improvement in graphics]


CrazyKinux said...

Thanks a lot for this detailed description of his presentation. Almost feels like been there!

Andrew Doull said...

Hilmar is definitely worth meeting in person - he's full of energy. Him, Yves and Tim Guest were the speakers who really impressed me.

Adhar said...

Anybody know if they're going to publish some of the content of the presentation(s) online? Beyond the ambulation video that's been viewed to death, that is? (Don't get me wrong, I think I wore out that section of my hard drive...:P)