Ever wondered about EVE Online's inspirations? Here at MMOGames.com, we love to know what’s going on in New Eden - home to some of the greatest battles, subterfuge, and strategy in all of gaming history. EVE Online repeatedly beat their own records for largest PvP battles and, studied by economists and military tacticians alike, EVE has forged a reputation that extends far beyond gaming circles. But what are the icons and inspirations that could inspire such a ground-breaking and layered game?
In a recent sit-down with their Creative Director, Bergur Finnbogason and Brand Director, Sæmundur Hermannsson, we discovered an array of surprising muses, including an unexpected love for The Phantom Menace. For a rundown of EVE's latest quadrant and a behind-the-scenes take on their legendary space battle, check out last week's interview.
Alex @ MMO Games: You have your offices based in a remarkable country. In a previous interview, we asked you whether your studies in architecture and economics influenced Eve’s development, now we want to know if you’ve drawn any Icelandic inspiration?
Bergur: Oh absolutely. During the wintertime, it’s dark, it’s cold, it’s windy. The weather changes every minute, it’s unpredictable, exciting, and packed with adventures. And of course, adventures aren’t always fun. Climbing a mountain isn’t always a fun thing to do but being at the top of a mountain is fantastic. I think EVE Online echoes a lot of those things. I view EVE Online as an extension to my reality. In many ways, my EVE life is just as valid as my life on this side of reality. I have real friends in EVE Online, it triggers real emotions in me.
“We’re not afraid to try things out and get our hands dirty tackling whatever is needed.”
Sæmi: And if I may add, Bergur’s keynote speech last year was all about the similarities between EVE Online and Iceland. Culturally, I’d say it also speaks of our attitude here at CCP. We’re not afraid to try things out and get our hands dirty tackling whatever is needed. I think that paints a lot of the attitude that is then reflected in EVE Online: these rapid releases, daring choices, and learning what needs to be done. All of that is reflected in Icelandic culture.
Iceland's unearthly landscapes have long been EVE Online Inspirations - Photo by Author
Bergur: Nobody knows how we learned it, but everyone in Iceland knows how to dig a trench.
Alex @ MMO Games: There are only about 350,000 people in the whole of Iceland. After visiting and seeing how remote some of the settlements are, I believe you when you say that all Icelanders know how to dig a trench. But what percentage of them know and play EVE?
Bergur: I think it’s safe to say that everyone in the country knows about EVE too. We often get categorised as an “exciting start-up”, but then you remind people that CCP have been around for twenty-three years and there aren’t all that many companies anywhere that you could say that about. EVE came out seventeen years ago. The first iPhone only came out thirteen years ago. We were supporting Pentium Pros back then! We’ve been around for so long and we’re very well respected here.
“There’s a reason why people gravitate to sci-fi, why it’s always in the discourse and never truly goes away.”
Sæmi: Iceland is of course an extremely small country, but if we’re talking ratio-to-population, then perhaps Iceland is the most dedicated EVE fanbase in the universe. It probably helps that we’re always in the news; when EVE first launched, everyone in Iceland received a free trial. I remember being a young user on the old Icelandic forums and that was what got me interested in EVE in the first place.
I’ve got some softball questions for you. Have you always been sci-fi fans? Do you have any sci-fi literature favourites that you draw from in your work with EVE Online? And where do you fall in the Star Trek/Star Wars debate?
Bergur: You’re calling these softball questions? Yes, I’m a huge sci-fi nerd. I was brought up with most of the same LPs as most people, but on a more personal level I’ve always gravitated towards the tech-noir side of things. Blade Runner, Escape from New York, also timeless classics like Time Cop, Demolition Man *kisses air*, Universal Soldier *kisses air again*. I have a strong opinion on the Star Wars versus Star Trek debate. One is a soap opera; the other is rather childish but fun… and it’s probably best if I leave it at that.
Sæmi: Have you seen the newest season of Star Trek, Bergur? Can you make those claims after watching that?!
Bergur: Okay, okay. One is a soap opera and the other is a wee bit childish, but soap operas can be great and wee bit childish can be fantastic! There’s a lot of sci-fi that has inspired EVE from the beginning. It wouldn’t have existed without the sci-fi magazine Heavy Metal. The latest sci-fi that really got me thinking was from the Culture series, Iain Bank’s The Player of Games. And I’m also a big fan of the Chinese sci-fi novel, The Three Body Problem. We have a huge Chinese server, so it is fascinating to see how they approach sci-fi there. It’s a revealing window into their culture and that’s what sci-fi is good for, it’s an extreme view into the time and place that it was written in. There’s a reason why people gravitate to sci-fi, why it’s always in the discourse and never truly goes away. There is something poignant about looking into the future and mirroring the now in 25, 100, or 1000 years’ time. There’s my very long answer to this very simple question.
Alex @ MMO Games: I think it’s a really important point you’ve made though. It’s the most common misunderstanding about sci-fi literature in particular, it’s not a commentary on the future, it’s a commentary on right now.
Bergur: Absolutely! That’s why I really enjoy reading old sci-fi books and trying to work out from the themes and issues when the book was written. For me, sci-fi is less about the technology and far more about the human-to-human interactions.
“I view EVE Online as an extension to my reality.”
Sæmi: I grew up with Star Wars, and I actually think the prequels were underestimated. The Phantom Menace is a fantastic movie.
Bergur: Funny story: I am one of the first people in the world to sleep through The Phantom Menace. My best friend and I found a flaw in the system of a radio giveaway, and after a little tinkering we magically “won” two tickets to fly to Halifax in the USA for one of the world premieres. Just as those famous opening credits began, I fell asleep, and continued sleeping through the whole movie.
Alex @ MMO Games: I’m not sure either of you want to admit those things in print.
Sæmi: Hey, what’s done is done. I also greatly appreciate Star Trek. In terms of authors, I usually read at least three of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series every time I go on holiday. I’m a guy who can read the same things again and again. And Hitchhiker’s Guide, the tone and the sarcasm and the characters, it’s hilarious. One of my favourite lines is “He was clearly a man of many qualities, even if they were mostly bad ones.” It just perfectly summarizes the tone of these books.
Bergur: Ah yes, Hitchhikers is just so ground-zero that I didn’t think to mention it. But, you know, “42” has a great role in EVE Online? There are many references to it and it played a great role in the creation of the universe.
Sæmi: I also highly recommend Isaac Asimov’s The Last Question, a brilliant short story.
Alex @ MMO Games: One of the problems that I’m going to have after visiting Iceland is that I’m just going to be recognising sci-fi filming locations all the time now. I was watching that latest Star Trek season while I was there, and every time I watched an episode, I saw multiple places that I’d been in the previous weeks.
Bergur: Oh yeah, that’s a problem. It makes it easier for our art team though, they only need to look out the window for inspiration.
We plan to keep interviewing the EVE Online team on a semi-regular basis, so be sure to let us know if there are any questions you’d like us to ask them. Which other game developers would you like us to talk to?
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