At Fanfest, we had the chance to sit down with the man himself - CCP CEO and veritable legend Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, aka CCP Hellmar. After establishing the Hellmar bounty, we took the opportunity to ask him your questions. His answers were as philosophical and insightful as you’d expect from a man who has dedicated twenty-three years of his life to the greatest sci-fi MMORPG of all time.
Just About: We’ll start with a question by Melicien Tetro: EVE Online is ten games in a trench coat. Vanguard makes that 11. What other games or concepts would you like to be a part of EVE by its 30th anniversary?
CCP Hellmar: There’s no way to answer this without creating disappointment in ten years’ time. The fertile ground for speculating about these issues is the adjacencies in what EVE players play outside of EVE. When I look at the data, roleplaying comes out strong. I like the idea of making a narrative-driven RPG born from the backstories of EVE. There are so many exciting moments in the races’ histories. Minmatar in particular comes to mind.
It would be a single-player, open-world RPG experience and so very different to what EVE is. The sandbox narrative of EVE is so driven by the players that character-driven content often doesn’t fit well. So while that isn’t necessarily adding another game to the trench coat, it would be adding experiences to the wider EVE IP, like we did with Gunjack and Valkyrie. But maybe this is all because I’m playing Baldur’s Gate 3 right now.
The next question is from Keacte. If you were to review the first 20 years, what five words would you use to describe the journey?
Here’s four: Oh, my f*cking god.
And here’s a follow-up from Keacte. Have there been any moments in the last 20 years that you wish had gone differently?
Sure, but I’m not a great believer in trying to save scum your way through life. If you go about your life trying to make everything perfect or regretting every mistake you make, it slows you down so much. You’re hesitant to move; you’re held back by regret. I’m a big believer in increasing speed, not decreasing it. Which means more mistakes are made, but also more good things are made. And as you live your life, through every mistake, you just become better at what you’re doing. Move forward.
That said, there is one thing I would do if I had a time machine. If I could go back and whisper into my nerdy little ear at the beginning, I would say this: “Start the intern programme sooner.” Because when you have 20 years, you can create world experts in any field. We started the intern programme at CCP too late, but now we have it, and it’s amazing. We have an extreme talent bank, and we have grown through it.
So less ‘move fast and break things’ and more ‘move fast and make things’?
Move fast and make things, absolutely! The intent is not to break them, it is to make them even if they are not always the right things. Always getting it right is an impossible standard. I follow the ‘perfection is the enemy of excellence’ philosophy.
Rdog had a similar question. If you could add a feature to EVE now 20 years later that you’ve always wanted to add, what would it be?
Okay now I’m going to contradict myself, kind of. Because if I could magically wish for a feature in EVE, I would choose time travel. I have no idea how to implement it, but it sure would be cool.
The next question is from MacGybo: Please can you commit, even in the face of extreme pressure, to keep cat ears out of New Eden. I should add, before you answer, that we had the opposite question from Brother Grimoire, who asked: Would you consider adding additional paid cosmetics to increase cash flow, such as cat ears?**
When there’s a conflict in the community, I’m generally a big believer in finding its resolution within the community too. So when we talk about cat ears, this is a conversation about identity. It’s not a question about OP guns, titans, or weapons of war. It’s ‘I want cat ears, and you don’t.’
I believe in resolving this either through the economy of the game or through the conflict resolution mechanisms of the game. So in that spirit, if we were to add cat ears, we would at the same time add a way that people could create cultures and anti-cultures around cat ears. Because that’s the interesting bit. I reject the attitude of not engaging with it because it’s too controversial. I love the controversy around cat ears. I think it’s fertile ground to create a kind of identity and culture in the game.
The next question is from Salartarium. Which EVE mission has your favourite tidbit of lore in it and why?
The Guristas Epic Arc, hands down. It’s very dark. It takes place in Nullsec. And the systems are well known, which means that it’s super hard because of player predators preying on those trying to complete it. I love the idea of being a tiny mouse in a forest full of wolves, trying to finish this little mouse adventure.
That reminds me, I watched the Making of EVE documentary last night and want to know if you ever got the Thorax back to your friend.
I’m proud to say that I did.
This question is from Kane Carnifex. What’s your feeling on the current state of time dilation?
Time dilation is the output, and the input is fed by performance. Slowly but surely, we have been improving EVE’s performance over the years. And you can very much see that if, for example, you look at Jita. In the past, 1,000 people in Jita would make the servers creaky. Now we have thousands of people and nobody notices it.
But there always comes a point where people break the improvements we make. We make improvements, they bring more ships. We make improvements again, they bring even more ships. And this is a beautiful thing. So time dilation is actually a good tool to manage that situation - the interim when we’re catching up with the player base.
So on the state of time dilation, I’d say that the state of performance has improved. It’s not improved enough; we need to improve more and we will continue to do that. But we’re already ten times beyond any game ever created. So I’d continue to ask for patience while we continue to break our own world records, which are undisputed by a factor of ten.
Will CCP ever again sell 3D ship models, directly or through third parties? That’s from Keacte again.
Will we in the context of ‘ever’? I’d say yes. We have seen massive innovation in the field of 3D printing. Just a few days ago there was some magical 3D printer launched under an acronym I can’t repeat. People in the office were getting giddy about it. We have a nerd for all things in the office.
Given the pace of 3D printing innovation, we’re quickly approaching a time when the quality of the models and the ease of distributing them will almost guarantee that it’s economical to sell high-quality spaceships at scale.
This one is from Brother Grimoire. Given the growing popularity of esports, the projected growth of its market to over $1bn in revenue by 2025, and the unique niche that EVE Online occupies that no other game can successfully imitate, would you consider increasing support for competitive play outside of the Alliance Tournament and promoting competitive play at the collegiate level?
We’re already doing that. Our various ways of organising the Alliance Tournament have been ever improving. And the last few months have been amazing. We will continue that.
We’re also supporting other tournaments, and we continue to improve the format of EVE esports. The UX can make it difficult to understand what’s going on, and sometimes EVE gameplay can be a little… esoteric. But I think chess has shown the way. If after 4,000 years chess can become an esports TikTok influencer phenomenon, I’m sure we can do it for spaceships.
So yes, and chess is the inspiration.
Here’s a question from Keacte to which I suspect the answer will be ‘both’. But what is local - a chat channel or an intelligence tool?
It is, unfortunately, both. But it should not be an intelligence tool. That is a failure of the game’s UX, to not provide a more gradual situational awareness tool that doesn’t go from knowing nothing to knowing the employment history of everyone in the system.
It’s very black and white, we need more gradience in between. You see that gradience in wormhole space where there is no local chat. We need to bring that sort of situational awareness, that grayscale, into the rest of the game. Local as an intel tool is just too binary. That’s not a good design. And I can say that, because I’m guilty for not having come up with something better. I don’t think we fully realised how important the local chat channel would become.
We just about have time for a four-word question from Brother Grimoire, although I suspect it’s one you’ll be asked in several formats today: Walking in stations, when?
Well given that we’ve now announced Vanguard, I say: ‘walking in the dirt with a gun, before’.