Recently Gamasutra spoke to CCP CEO Hilmar Petursson about the company's 20 percent reduction in headcount -- the result of a major restructuring for the Iceland-headquartered developer of EVE Online.
Petursson told Gamasutra that after a lot of soul searching -- which prompted him to write a heartfelt letter to the EVE community -- he felt the need to make the change to reposition the company to best serve the passionate player base of EVE Online rather than pursue a "very large strategic product development" for the company.
The move sees the company de-emphasizing development of its World of Darkness MMO, announced in 2006 after its merger with Atlanta, Georgia-based pen-and-paper game maker White Wolf. Here, Gamasutra brings into view more of its Petursson interview, conducted the day after the layoffs were announced.
The Future of EVE
Though clearly affected by the step he felt necessary, Petursson said that it's the right one for EVE. When it comes to growth of the game's player base -- which has been consistent in the eight years since the first launched, he said "really the only cap is our ability to do the right thing for EVE Online."
"I think the value proposition of EVE -- the way it's structured, the player involvement, the sandbox, and all the amazing things that EVE is -- has [led us to] come to recognize we don't really have a cap."
Describing the character creator the team launched this year as an "incredible achievement," Petursson admitted that the company was "unable to deliver" on its other promises to its community.
CCP then "forced [changes] upon our users in a not-so-great way, removing features like ship spinning, which the community cared a lot about," Petursson said.
He also openly described the EVE Online Incarna expansion's problematic virtual item launch as "poorly executed." As a result, virtual goods "will become less of a priority for us." The team will continue "to make small iterations as it makes sense," said Petursson, "based on player responses."
Failure to hit an acceptable quality bar with these features is "just evidence of trying to achieve too many things," he said. "Now we really have to focus as a company on just really showing our commitment to EVE Online, and giving the game the love from CCP which people claim we have lost."
"We are planning for an expansion this winter, which will bring a lot of fresh things to EVE in the classical sense, and then we will continue to just be super focused on that. Because that is the feedback from our community -- that people want us to apply our energy there. And that is now what is about to happen."
CCP Versus The Community
Petursson frankly admits that the developer lost sight of what its community really wanted as it pursued its own goals. The company has an elected player group, the Council of Stellar Management, which it collaborates with closely -- even calling an emergency meeting after the problematic launch of virtual goods.
"One of our strengths has been to collaborate with the community on the development of EVE... but I have to admit... that we have lost that connection in our ambitions to push on these three agendas [EVE, Dust 514, World of Darkness] at the same time. The experience we've now gone through is getting back to the CCP which was much more focused on that, and that is what we hope to demonstrate now going forward," Petursson told Gamasutra.
"I'd say it's in our DNA" to work closely with the community, he said. "I would call this more about going back to our roots," he said -- "behaving like the company that people have come to love and respect, frankly."
He admitted the studio made changes to the game came despite "people inside CCP and inside the community that were calling this to be a great mistake," he said. "It's very small things, which we disregarded as just some noise in the channel, when in fact it was something that was really emotionally important, and something that people are really connected with in EVE Online."
World of Darkness Going Dark?
Petursson told Gamasutra that its World of Darkness MMO is scaling down to a "more focused scope," though development is continuing.
Was merging with White Wolf in 2006 a mistake? "No, I think that was a very good move," said Petursson. The game is "playable inside our company," he said, and "it's an amazing thing."
However, he said, "we will see a more focused scope. Frankly the World of Darkness vision originally was a massive game and, and I think everyone -- in even the team itself -- agrees that it would be much better to do it in more of a phased and staged approach, as we did with EVE," Petursson said.
"If you look at EVE today, EVE is an actively massive experience that has grown over a decade, but it began as a smaller thing, which has now grown in collaboration with the community. We will see World of Darkness take that path more than being a large, triple-A, complete experience launch day one."