Sunday, 24 March 2013

Coverage of CCP Games at PAX East... and the 'O' Word

It's hard to miss the single word echoing around the EVE-flavoured interwebs at the moment. Odyssey has just been announced as the 19th EVE expansion due to be released in June 2013. A contingent of devs have been camped out in a booth at games convention PAX East in Boston, MA, led by CCP Unifex who made a short announcement in which I half expected him to sell three steaks and a pound of spuds to the nearest bargain hunter (if you've not been to a London market, that joke was probably lost on you).

Although those who are browsing for EVE material to read will probably already be sick of the column inches to actual information ratio that currently exists in all Odyssey related media, I'm going to briefly add to it by directing you to the three posts I've published over on GameSkinny.

A Brief Analysis of EVE Online's 19th Free Expansion: Odyssey takes a look at the few key details to be found on the official expansion page. Taking what we already knew from CSM minutes and previous devblogs, I have a stab at trying to figure out what exeactly we might expect from Odyssey.

EVE Online: Odyssey Image Analysis - Minigame Speculation is a bit of a flight of fantasy, but I got all excited when I stumbled upon some photos of the presentation and saw some screenshots showing some of the upcoming features. I'd be interested to know what you can make of the images. Minigames? Sub-system targeting? Or just more visual polish on the scanning system?

EVE Online Odyssey Community Response: MOAR INFO PLZ! was to sate my curiosity to see what the community response has been thus far. As expected there has been a wide range of opinions based on scant information, but less fury than I expected. Maybe the usual suspects are just warming up.

Content has been a bit light on Freebooted lately, but I'm currently on high alert for the imminent birth of my first child, so I'm just hanging around the undock whilst the little one plays station games. Normal service will resume... at some point. Maybe.

Monday, 4 March 2013

CCP Soundwave and the Nerd Boner of Nordic Cool

It seems a certain Mr Touborg is doing a few warm-up gigs to get his eye in for the big stage at Fanfest in April.

As part of a month long Nordic Cool festival at the Kennedy Centre in Washington D.C., Kristoffer 'CCP Soundwave' Touborg delighted the audience with his sharp wit in a discussion about the influence of Scandinavian game design in a presentation entitled Game Design: Behind the Screen.

Along with Saku Lehtinen, developer of Alan Wake and Max Payne, the hour long presentation had hints of Inside the Actor's Studio, but with Mike Snider, Tech Reporter for USA Today instead of James Lipton.

Hey Finnish guy, just press play.
What could have been quite a dry presentation was saved by a liberal spread of Stoffles charm as the silver-tongued Swedish Dane opening with the announcement that he works in Iceland, “where spaceships come from.”

After delighting the audience with the adventures of Vic 'Keith Neilson' Lacuna in the Retribution trailer, Kristoffer gleefully admitted that linking a PC game to a console game was a “bad idea” but added the caveat that “now it's working for us it seems like a good idea.”

"So a geek and a Viking walked into a bar..."
The stand-out comedy moment was after showing the DUST 514 – Gathering Forces trailer. Earlier in the presentation, after identifying that there were some children in the audience, the more reserved Saku Lehtinen had apologetically explained that the Alan Wake trailer he was about to show contained some violent scenes, but it was all just a dream and no one really gets hurt.

After the DUST trailer had finished, Soundwave painted a picture of the joy of the EVE/DUST link thus:

“When you sit in a spaceship and someone in another game calls in an airstrike and you bomb that from a totally different game, you will get the biggest nerd boner you've ever had.”

Like me, the crowd laughed openly, but I can imagine there would have been some difficult parent-child conversations on the way home in the car.

What's happened to the other one?
Shortly after, KT played the World of Darkness trailer as shown at Fanfest 2012, complete with animated disembowelments and boobs in baths. That car conversation isn't getting any easier.

With the presentation segment over, the conversation between Touborg, Lehtinen and moderator Snider commenced, some of which I've covered over on GameSkinny, but I transcribed much more of the dialogue and I thought I'd reproduce my more EVE-specific unused notes here.

Kristoffer Touborg on the Nordic approach to game design:

“I'm not terribly surprised that games like Minecraft and other games of that type come from Nordic countries. There is an appetite to make games to challenge people and that take some getting into.”

KT on how the Nordic influence is evident in EVE Online:

“EVE Online is not a simple game to get into, it's a fairly complex game and we're pretty cognizant that we maybe won't have everyone stay in our game that tries it out. We're perfectly all right with that. EVE isn't for everyone, it's for people who want something challenging, something that they're invested in. That fits all our games, DUST 514 - the shooter - has a level of depth that no other shooters have and for some people that might not be what they want, but hopefully we'll catch a crowd that want a little bit more out of their shooters.”

"CCP has been really, really good at doing new things. Sometimes it's gone not so well, but a lot of the time it's gone really well."

KT on why the Nordic approach to game design might be different to that of developers from other regions:

"I think that's part of being in part of an isolated game culture."

"If you're in a game studio in LA, there's tons of other game studios around, you'll go out, you'll meet other people. In Iceland, there's just water. Thousands and thousands of miles of water. There's no one I can talk to about games in another studio there. Of course that has its disadvantages because you're not part of this big community that gets together, but it also has the plus side of us having to come up with something on our own and not having a culture that homogenises what we do.

"I think that also, it doesn't surprise me that the only single server MMO, the only game connected to another machine like the PS3 comes out of that."

On video games as part of pop culture:

"Videogames are the new movies."

“Super-flexible medium. Movies haven't really changed that much in the sense hour and half long - you can watch them at home or at the movies. Games are a completely different beast. You can sit on the bus and play an iOS game, you can go home and spend 15 hours on World of Warcraft - don't do that, I think that might be overdoing it a little bit. Pace yourselves.”

“It's so flexible; you can do it multiplayer, you can do it alone, it's justa medium that I feel has done very well in reaching all kinds of different people in all kinds of different situations. That alone is a gigantic advantage.”

“We've been seeing the free-to-play games come out of the past few years, I think that's an even more interesting step in the direction that you're basically getting entertainment for free until you choose for it not to be free.”

Response to audience question on the future of the games industry [notes]:

Not just mobile. Device integration. Defiance tying into a console game. A PC game that ties into a PS game.

Social revolution. On a much bigger stage. Riot games - eSports. Walked into a sports bar and was annoyed they were watching baseball during a League of Legends final.

In response to an audience question on CCP's philosophy on intervening in player activity in EVE Online:

“It's a sandbox, we try to stay as hands-off as humanly possible. Sometimes it can be painful. It can be a bit like a car crash - you're standing there and it's like: 'this is a little bit awkward for us'. But we have a principle and I think us staying hands-off for ten years is why the game is doing so well.”

“Every now and then I'll be sit in a meeting room and I'll be like: 'all right we have to do something about this'. But we've kept our heads cool and not really interfered and I think that's why the game is so much fun. [It's] the reason why I don't think kids should be playing EVE Online - we have an age restriction on it - and I think that's fully justified is that people can do things in EVE Online that might not be morally right. We don't have a lot of blood spatter and murder in our game, but we do have people that are allowed to behave how they morally feel. Some people will be morally outrageous in the game.”

“We let people build these gigantic communities and when you have alliance that has 10,000 people in it and [they're] trying to take space from other people, those ambitions might step on some people on the way - I think that's what makes EVE Online great - but sometimes it can be a little bit scary to watch.”

On making a Viking-themed video game:

"If we ever make Viking game I'll die from shame." [Goes on to explain that some DUST 514 maps are based on Iceland's terrain.]

On CCP's plans to port EVE Online and DUST 514 to other platforms:

"I cant really tell what the long term plans are. Initial launch on PS3 and everything else that comes after that for me is like some business voodoo magic that takes place completely outside of my realm. I'd hope some day - but we're launching on Playstation."

Although Mister Touborg was very entertaining and brought a bit of sparkle to the presentation, I'm still hoping he'll up his game at Fanfest and sing Rocket Man in the style of William Shatner, like he promised last year.

[For more coverage, check out Nordic Cool: EVE Online and Alan Wake Developers Discuss the Game Design Superpower of Scandinavia on GameSkinny]