After taking July off, our monthly EVE Online interviews are back and as epic as ever. As always, our Head of Content Alex Sinclair Lack, CCP’s Creative Director Bergur Finnbogason, and CCP’s Brand Director Sæmundur Hermannsson sit down for the inside scoop of the happenings in New Eden.

Alex: One of your most eye-grabbing events in recent months has been The Grand Heist, what made what made you want to give away $210,000 dollars?

Bergur: This is a really important step in a longer journey than we’ve been on where we’re trying to get a firmer grip on the economy and the faucets in-game. Back in July we implemented a similar injection of cash as a post-war stimulus package. Now that we finally have our hands on some economic control, we can start to run really exciting events like The Grand Heist. It’s part of a change to how bounties are paid that we initiated earlier in the year. A part of the bounty that you get for killing an NPC essentially goes into a central bank that can be tapped for small amounts…or via the use of a special key, for these very very large amounts.

Alex: So, is it safe to say that these additions will be long-lasting?

Bergur: Absolutely, so the ESS – this system we have that pays out the bounties – is now an evergreen system. We have over 20-trillion ISK in the reserve bank, so this is a super dramatic moment that a lot of players have been waiting for. They’ve seen these banks grow and grow, and now it’s like a pressure valve has opened up and been uncapped – creating a lot of interest, potential, and excitement.

Alex: Another addition that has been received really well by fans and critics alike is EVE Academy. What can you tell us about this new-player-experience venture?

Bergur: We've been on a journey since EVEsterdam in early 2019 wherein we've been talking very openly about the intricacies of joining this highly complex universe. We spent a lot of 2019 and the first half of 2020 looking at the current experience and trying to improve it as much as possible. Midway through 2020, we hit a point where we realised that we couldn’t really move much further with our then-current setup – there is only so much turd-polishing one can do. Instead, we stepped back, looked at things more holistically, and took stock. We realized that new-player experience could not be a single team’s problem to fix, it needed to be everyone’s problem. You can’t fix bad UI with great lore; crap UI will always be crap UI. The same goes the other way around.

Bergur (continued): This also pulled in marketing and publishing, and the EVE Academy website is the first step in this shakeup. In September, we’ll be rolling out a new version of the new player experience where we’re looking not just at the first 10-20 minutes of gameplay, but also the core progression systems and how we recommend content. And later in the year, we’re looking at interactions in space, leading people into more interesting content, and how we can map players’ behaviour to apply those to other recommendations. EVE Academy is a super impressive awesome testament of what happens when we all come together with a shared objective to make the game the best it could possibly be.

Sæmi: It was awesome to launch EVE Academy; it was a lot of work because as I’m sure you know, content is king. There are a couple of people who deserve a particular shout-out. Jessica (CCP Aurora) from the community team who deserves great praise as well as EVE player Ashy in Space. The writing quality of their work is awesome, and you can see that in the reception from the community. It’s really great to see but obviously it was stressful to launch something so big. It’s something that has been done before by others on a different scale, take EVE University which is super detailed and super deep. EVE Academy, by contrast, is more of a curated introduction to grab your interest.

Sæmi (Continued): We’ve been adding new content every week since and that’s not going to stop anytime soon. There are big plans to continue adding to it to make it bigger and better. We’re seeing great engagement numbers with people staying on the website for 10-15 minutes per session.

Alex: That gives us a run for our money.

Sæmi: The overall goal is to have this in-game. Now we have a good proof-of-concept we can look to do that moving forward. Luckily, EVE Online is a PC game so players can easily switch between game and browser for now. We’ve already begun adding some of the videos from the Academy into the game, so we’re already a few steps in the right direction of our big plans.

Alex: “Big Plans” seems to be the name of the game at the moment.

Bergur: We’ve been doing a lot of work on this front over the last 12 months. There have been so many conversations about how we can use our skills to improve the experience of early players and really get them into the ranks of the big corporations and the ranks of EVE Online – to really better their lives and contribute to the progression of this awesome universe.

Alex: We also clocked your new graphical overhaul. It is looking stunning. Has it been well received?

Bergur: It has been very well received. It’s another part of the Foundation Quadrant which has been all about strengthening the core pieces of the game. We’ve been in this resource depletion and rebalancing mode for a while, and now we’re finally getting to a point where all these pieces are in place. We wanted to make a Quadrant where we could go quite wide and fix a lot of these foundational pieces so that when we build something upon them, we’d be building on solid ground. We’ve been doing that on the narrative front and really strengthening the core leaders of its empire; the audio and graphics team have been doing the same.

Bergur (continued): We had a lot of small things that needed tweaking, so we packaged them all up in this rather colourful expansion. I’m super excited about it, but of course there is always more you can do. When you have 7,700 systems multiplied by the amount of assets in each system there are going to be possibilities for bugs and whatnot, and we’re still working through some of the issues that came out of this. But it is setting us up for some really exciting opportunities this winter that we’re working on right now.

Sæmi: For the team working on this, as you can imagine, it’s a nauseating feeling. As Bergur mentioned the 7,700 systems multiplications, and these are big in your face changes, literally in your face. So, what helps in these circumstances is getting it into the players’ hands. In fact, it’s impossible to do it ourselves; it expedites everything we do to be able to get feedback and thoughts from our players.

Alex: What is your main forum for player feedback for these sorts of things?

Sæmi: We have a bunch of avenues for player feedback. But for things like this, it’s largely the ISDs, the bug hunters, that help us. For something like this, you have to go wide due to the pure mass of it. It’s screenshots of things looking weird on forums, it’s bug reports, etc. We also have a fantastic community team that does really well at aggregating all discussion and boiling it down into conclusions for product development.

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