Icelandic developers CCP are based in the northernmost capital city in the world; tiny, friendly Reykjvik, with its black mountains, expensive beer and icy seas. It's a geologically dramatic backdrop for a community whose continued success is doing much to redefine the landscape of MMOs. This is not a project that has relied on predefined templates for its success, and CCP are forthright in their opinions as to the significance of the directions their project has taken. Now independent and publishing online, CCP are writing their own future with the beautiful and foreboding EVE Online - a game whose beauty, like Iceland itself, is something of an acquired taste.
Answering our many questions on the growth of the iconoclastic space RPG was Nathan Richardsson, who left Iceland Telecom, the company that handles CCP's server hosting and customer support, to become senior producer on the EVE project in early 2004. He first talked a little about the origins of CCP's attitude toward game design – an attitude that has created a game in which real losses are possible.
"The founders had two passions which they wanted to join,"explained Richardsson. "The sci-fi feel and vastness of space from Elite and the social interaction of massively multiplayer and player vs. player gaming from Ultima Online. I should also add that they were quite active PvPers in UO and this is the main reason for our emphasis on PvP. We feel that the emotions involved with losing something of value is just as important as gaining something of value, it makes a very immersive experience. There have to be lows to make the highs more enjoyable. PvP allows us to achieve that."
It's worth noting that EVE has two strands of character development: one that simply adds skill points hour by hour as the character gets older, and one by way of actively building up assets in game. Learning can only be erased in the very worst situations, but losing assets is all too easy. Huge losses, potentially setting back the accruement of wealth by days, or even weeks, are a regular feature of gaming life in EVE(eve isk). For this reason alone, the game has seemed awkwardly intimidating to many gamers.