The vast sandbox MMORPG EVE Online is never far from our thoughts at MMOGames.com. That’s why, every month, our Head of Content Alex Sinclair-Lack sits down for personal, intimate, and outrageously nerdy conversations with EVE’s Creative Director Bergur Finnbogason and Brand Director Sæmundur Hermannsson.
In this month’s conversation, we discussed advice for finding work in the games industry, their proudest in-game achievements, the incredible citizen science achievements of EVE’s Project Discovery, and the perks of working on the greatest sci-fi MMO ever made.
Alex: So tell me, what are your own proudest personal achievements when playing EVE Online?
Bergur: Wow. When I first started playing EVE Online, a co-worker gave me a tonne of assets in an old corner of space. Somehow, I managed to fly there and pick up some loot, but halfway back I got gate-camped. Over the years I tried to get back there again because it had a few huge ships including a Tempest that I really wanted. So first I had to train up so I could fly it, I had to locate nearby camps and work out a safe way in. And more importantly, out. This was huge money for me, and it must have taken me five years to complete the mission by retrieving all those assets. It was a huge undertaking, and it took me half a decade to solve, but boy was it a satisfying achievement.
Sæmi: Maybe mine sounds a bit lame in comparison, but I started work at CCP four years ago and my first big project was Project Discovery - Exoplanets where Bergur and I first met. I’ve had the privilege of seeing that come from concept to life. I would say I am the best bad player in Project Discovery. I’m an amateur but I’m a really good amateur, and my own proudest achievement is getting a Marshal blueprint for my efforts – an endgame reward.
Bergur: It’s a pretty remarkable achievement.
“Scientists have had to continually push the bar of difficulty because EVE players are so incredible at their work.”
Sæmi: Project Discovery [Eve Online’s real-life player-led scientific initiative] is really something special. As you probably know we started with protein mapping, then we moved onto exoplanets which is something Bergur has been leading since the get go – driving forward this concept of citizen science in EVE. I find it amazing to this day, it’s so fricking cool. Scientist always have their mind blown when they discover it. Firstly, their minds are blown by the speed of game development – they’re used to four years of acceptance reviews and bureaucracy and we come along like, “Hey we’ll have it live in a month.” And secondly, scientists are blown away by the accuracy, speed, and quality of our players’ discoveries.
Bergur: Just as true for our latest Project Discovery project with Covid 19 – where our players are mapping out flow cytometry simulators to help decode the pathogen.
“I went from ships and graduated into spaceships.”
Sæmi: Exactly. Scientists have had to continually push the bar of difficulty because EVE players are so incredible at their work.
Alex: I saw that your latest Project Discovery had saved scientists 330 years worth of research! You’ve also touched nicely upon my next question. Sæmi you mentioned you’ve worked at CCP for four years, how did you each start working for CCP and what was your journey to where you are now?
Sæmi: I am an economist, and when I was younger, I had aspirations of becoming a hot-shot econometrician – thinking about stats and macro economies – maybe working in a central bank or whatever. Thank god that didn’t happen! After my studies, life took me towards Iceland’s fishing industry where I did pretty much every fishing-related job imaginable until I ended up as a brand and product manager for all marketing, materials, and logistics for the biggest fishing company in Iceland. By pure coincidence, I saw an advertisement for an associate brand manager in CCP. I’m a huge gamer and have been since I was sneaking onto my dad’s PC as a kid. It was like a dream job, I applied, somehow I got it, and I’ve been at CCP ever since. I’ve loved every day of it. I went from ships and graduated into spaceships.
“I get to work on the biggest sci-fi MMO in the history of mankind with inspiring people and a crazy hardcore community.”
Bergur: My story is a little different. I’m an old friend of one of CCP’s founders and over the years he had pitched me all sorts of great ideas to convince me to come and join him. I’d always said “no” because I had suspicions about whether gaming was going to be a bit of a fad *nervous laugh*. I studied to be an architect; I had a few buildings under my belt already. I was wrapping up some studies on architecture and developmental aid when I received a call from that CCP friend asking if I could go to Atlanta and help them design video-game architecture for three months. Eleven years later, here I am. In my time here I’ve moved from architect to environmental art production to management. I’ve really had a lot of jobs here, sometimes simultaneously, and then I graduated to Creative Director almost three-years-ago.
Alex: What’s the best thing about each of your jobs? And do you have any advice for people who want to get into the gaming industry but don’t know where to start?
Bergur: The best thing about the job is that it’s really creative. We get to affect people’s lives quite dramatically with EVE Online. I firmly believe that EVE does a lot of good. It creates incredible moments and memories for its players. We also get to talk about this universe, theory-craft, and build this incredible parallel universe and reality. When kids ask me “What do I need to do to get into the gaming industry?” I usually point them towards mathematics and physics, not because 2+2 = 4, but because maths and physics encourage and train the abstract creative theory that underpins so much of what we do here. If you want to join the industry, you need to gear yourself towards being able to master the abstract. You’re going to have to be able to debate the game system endlessly. And then once the human spice is added to it, everything gets so unpredictable – nearly everything we do is creative. Take our engineers, they might say they’re not creative, but they are, incredibly so – they’re constantly figuring out solutions for the impossible projects we send their way.
Sæmi: I get to work on the biggest sci-fi MMO in the history of mankind with inspiring people and a crazy hardcore community. That’s awesome. Every day there is something new to solve or to learn and that’s what I love about the job. I could go on, but in terms of advice for getting into the industry – one piece of advice that I think is fundamental is to play a variety of games. As you play them, put yourself in the shoes of the developers, constantly ask yourself why the game is fun or successful; “What are they doing that’s different or unique?”, “How are they marketing it?”, “What does the steam page look like?” My brain is constantly in analysing mode when it comes to anything like that. Make sure you’re following industry PR too, knowing what is coming out greatly helps. When I’m conducting interviews, that’s always something I’ll pick at – how much the candidate knows about the game and industry in general.
Alex: Great advice. Thanks, as always, for your time. Next month, let’s dig into some sci-fi theory.
We always stay up to date with CCP and we’ve amassed an impressive catalogue of interviews. To read our previous EVE Online directors’ interview on meme-based propaganda wars, click here. Alternatively, to browse all our incredible EVE interviews from the past year, click here.
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