Icelandic game developer CCP Games had a quiet spot in a meeting room away from the main show floors at E3 2014, but the studio’s vision of three games connected by their players is more exciting than the space lets on. With Eve Online, Eve Valkyrie and Project Legion, CCP wants fans of virtual reality, first-person shooters, and the complex space MMO that established this universe to jump among these three titles using a single identity.
But first the team needs to figure out if that’s what their fans actually want.
Expanding industry. The first piece of this puzzle is Eve Online, a notoriously complex massively multiplayer game that’s been running for 11 years and is still growing, according to CCP Senior Brand Manager Ryan Geddes. The game’s economy is entirely player-driven and player-run, which facilitates momentous unscripted events like the recent battle of B-R5RB, in which thousands of real-world dollars’ worth of in-game ships were destroyed.
The developers erected an in-game monument to commemorate that battle, and they’ll be able to do more things like that on the fly now that they’re updating the game 10 times a year instead of twice. “What it lets us do is if something’s not working, if a feature’s not coming in right, if we need more time, it’s not tracking right, we don’t have to wait, we don’t have to make our players wait six months or a year for one of these big expansions,” Geddes explained. The first smaller update, called Kronos, came out June 3, and it simply added new spaceships and factions. The next Eve Online update, arriving july 22, is called Crius. It’s “all about industry,” Geddes said.
“Industry is really the backbone of Eve,” he said. “All those Titans that we saw earlier, all those ships, all the ammo to shoot down our ships, was made by our players. We don’t make that stuff. Our players do.” The Crius update is meant to “make industry easier to use, more fun, more accessible for our players who’ve never tried it, and we also want to give it more power for our current industrialists,” he continued.
But can that industry extend beyond the detailed world of Eve Online? That certainly seems to be where things are headed.
The real Valkyrie. Just look at Eve Valkyrie. The virtual reality space combat game is more impressive every time it’s shown in public. It’s gone from a tech demo created by a handful of CCP’s talented developers working during their off-hours to a full-blown game being developed for an eventual commercial release. It takes place in the same universe as Eve Online, and the games are directly connected.
Connected how? That’s still somewhat up in the air, but CCP definitely wants to let players use one account across all its games. “You can imagine a lot of different possibilities when you’re moving back and forth,” Geddes said. “You might want to log in and play as a Valkyrie pilot, some quick dogfighting. You might want to play as a Capsuleer in New Eden, hop into a battleship. You might then want to hop down to the planet’s surface and fight as a mercenary there.”
And that’s where Project Legion comes in.
We are (Project) Legion. Like Dust 514 before it, Project Legion is a shooter set in the Eve universe. The game is designed to make the world of Eve Online more accessible, particularly to shooter fans. And there’s nothing surprising about that. But CCP also wants to feature some of the elements that make Eve Online so special: emergent gameplay, player-run economies, and extensive sandbox tools.
“It’s something that came out of our early explorations of bringing Dust 514 to the PC,” Geddes said. “And what we found during that process really was that we were making a completely different game altogether. It’s inspired by Dust, but it’s a new experience.”
But Geddes said Legion is “not an announced game yet. It’s a project. It’s a prototype. It’s something we’re working on.”
For now Valkyrie is still in development too. It’s had a ton of new features added since the first prototype, like multiple ships that fill different roles. A story is taking shape, with Battlestar Galactica‘s Katee Sackhoff lending her voice talents to the game as the helpful Rán Kavik (it’s pronounced like “round” without the “d”). And it feels better than ever, probably thanks to the transition from the Unity engine to Unreal Engine 4.
Across the universe. When these games are ultimately connected, CCP wants it to make sense. There is a narrative explanation: players won’t actually be playing as the pilots or mercenaries they’re controlling, but as immortal beings with the ability to remotely transfer their consciousnesses into clones. “When you’re playing any of these games, you’re actually taking on the identity of an immortal,” he said. “When you’re playing as a mercenary you’re projecting your consciousness into a clone on the battlefield. When you’re playing as a Capsuleer, you’re in a pod controlling the ship with your mind.” That’s the kind of thing the developers discuss over a pint, Geddes joked.
“The idea is you have a single identity, and you can seamlessly move it across all of these experiences,” he said. “When we say ‘Eve universe,’ that’s what we mean.” Still, the exact nature of the connections between the games remains unclear. Will credits earned in Valkyrie and Legion transfer into ISK for Eve Online? Will ships built in the MMO be flyable in Valkyrie? Will the industry Geddes said is at the heart of Eve Online span the other two games as well?
“All these things are really good questions that we’re thinking about right now,” Geddes said. “We know some of the directions we want to go, and we’re hoping our players can help us tell us what they would like to see, and we can then merge our vision with what their needs are.”
He said the developers are aware that some players will prefer to keep their accounts across the games separate, but it’s unlikely they’ll have any trouble eliciting feedback from Eve fans. “They tend to tell us what they think,” Geddes said. “We would have it no other way.”