Interview With Tony Gonzales, Development Manager at CCP Games

Recently, Christos Reid caught Tony Gonzales, Development Manager at CCP Games and fiction overlord of the stellar EVE Online for a quick chat about the game’s narrative universe.

Christos, Gamernode: "What attracted you to space, as a creative medium?"

Tony Gonzales: Space is unconquered. It’s a harsh, brutal environment that we’ve only begun to take our first steps in. One way or the other-be it through scientific intrigue, capitalistic venture, or dire necessity-we will be compelled to cross its vast expanses. Doing so will require a quantum leap in technology-perhaps with breakthroughs that we presently dismiss as fantasy or impossible by today’s primitive standards. When you remove those barriers, you end up with a stunning vision of where we could go. But we also expect that humanity itself will remain unchanged. We’ll bring all the good, the bad, and the ugly with us to this destination. To us, that makes for an extremely attractive creative medium.

CGN: "When you first conceived the Eve universe, were you inspired by anything in particular, or wanted to create something new?"

TG: The founding crew were huge fans of the game Elite. Between the way the night sky looks in Iceland and the immense enjoyment they took from this game, they were inspired to apply modern computer science technology and artistic direction to the same underlying gameplay activities of space trading and combat. But rather than create a single player experience, the ultimate idea in everyone’s mind was to make real people the enablers of these activities by marrying virtual world technology to the internet. People will always be the best source of content for everyone else, so in this sense we knew we could create something new.

CGN: "You’re only using one server, which is a big change in the way most MMO titles are approached. Was this for technological reasons, or because (it seems) you wanted one instance of New Eden to serve as the basis for all player-driven storylines and developments within it?"

TG: For people to become the source of content for each other in the game, its architecture has to provide conditions where emergent social behaviour can thrive. That requirement extends far past just providing the tools for players to interact and organize themselves. We wanted a game where one player really could make a difference, and where his or her actions could resonate across the game universe and uniquely claim that success. That’s not possible in sharded worlds. In these setups, an entity can rise to prominence but never achieve true "global" dominance because their influence is limited to the instance or shard they exist in. EVE is one world. When an alliance conquers a region of space, it is uniquely theirs.

CGN: "When putting characters from the fiction into the game, and having a large variety of Eve fiction on the website, what was the intention: to present players with a more immersive universe through literature, or something different to this?"

TG: The literature serves two main functions: it describes aspects of the setting that we cannot yet portray in the virtual world, and it engages an audience that is eager for storytelling in a way that exposes them to just how deep the rabbit hole goes when it comes to the actual game. It’s very difficult to communicate what the power of the single shard architecture does for gameplay to the uninitiated. On the other hand, immersion is a universal translator. If our audience enters the game world and encounters the NPC’s described in the fiction, it is likely they will encounter other players who share the same interests, who in turn can reveal to them the depth of gameplay experience than EVE provides.

CGN: "When the EVE economy reached the point where you required the services of a trained economist, did you feel you’d accomplished something new in the MMO universe?"

TG: Economics is a model of social behaviour, and so we felt as though we had achieved our initial vision of creating a vibrant, emergent, player-run virtual world. Hiring a full time economist was the result of this success and an outright necessity, given the fact that it’s very difficult to predict the impact or ripple effect of even minor changes to any aspect of the game in a single-shard architecture. So yes, we did feel as though we created something new, since the depth and sheer volume of interactions between players through the economy modelled the behaviour of people in the real world.

CGN: Thanks for your time, Tony.


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Author: Christos Reid View all posts by

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