Exclusive Interview with Noah “Hammerhead” Ward


Noah Ward, aka Hammerhead, is a designer for CCP Games. We recently had a chance to do a Q&A with him about EVE Online as we launch our latest little corner on the WarCry Network.

WarCry Q&A: EVE Online
Answers by Noah “Hammerhead” Ward
Questions by JR Sutich

imageWarCry: Since the first Titan was destroyed, will the Dev Team make the wreck a permanent fixture in the universe to commemorate the event?

Noah Ward: That’s always been our plan. There was a huge e-mail thread about it here and everyone was in agreement that it should definitely be done. We’ve got the coordinates to not only the first wreck but the second as well. Titans aren’t destroyed every day so the plan is to make these locations special. There has even been talk of giving the wreck a salvage loot table that scavengers could harvest materials from.

WarCry: Was client/server performance the only motivation behind the decision to alter so many High Sec systems by removing asteroid belts, jump paths, and “school” stations, or was it the fact that AFK mining is one of the best ways to farm ISK with no risk at all?

Noah Ward: It was mostly an issue with server performance. There are certain systems that were causing such a load on their node that it was actually affecting the entire cluster. The initial world was created with complex formulas from chaos theory and crystal matrices. While that creates a very realistic and organic universe, it doesn’t take into account game design issues. Take Jita for instance; it’s centrally located therefore it’s a market hub. The problems arise from the fact it was also a source of minerals, skills, agents AND it was one jump from the most popular starting school system. It was basically a one-stop-shop. So we have new players coming in, heading to Jita and never having a good reason to leave. They didn’t know that the lag they experience in Jita isn’t in other systems. We don’t mind trade hubs but we do mind when everything you’ll ever need is in one system. And if we can stick it to the farmers while improving server performance then all the better.

imageWarCry: With the recent announcement that eBay will no longer allow RMT sales, and the fact that Timecards are still being sold for ISK, this has become a topic of discussion again. Would CCP ever consider selling in game items directly to players for real world currency?

Noah Ward: RMT, micro-transactions and the like are all getting a lot of attention in the industry right now. The suits have dollar signs in their eyes and some games are bringing in big bucks through these business models. As Senior Game Designer for EVE Online, I’m here to tell you with regard to CCP selling in-game items for real world currency: No, not in my game. There has been some talk of ways we could better incorporate the game time cards (GTC) for ISK into the game however.

Let me go into a little more detail about my feelings on the matter, because I feel very strongly about this. I believe that for a game to support a micro-payment business model it needs to be built that way from the ground up. Every design decision should be made with notion that the players will be buying the items for real money. EVE was not designed that way. EVE is a very deep economic simulation with player logistics as the underlying focus. To allow our customers to purchase a battleship directly form CCP, for instance, would go against everything we’ve tried to create.

WarCry: Is the graphics upgrade still on schedule for Revelations Chapter 2 and what’s a conservative estimate of when that will be reaching the players?

Noah Ward: The graphics upgrade was slated for Chapter 3. Factional Warfare was supposed to be the big feature of Chapter 2 but unfortunately it’s being pushed back to Chapter 3 to make way for the underlying improvements that lay the groundwork for Factional Warfare. I was really disappointed to hear FW was getting pushed back because I feel it’s going to be a really fun addition for the casual gamer. Constellation Sovereignty, Medals and Rewards, War Victory Conditions and Starbase Improvements are all features that are part of Factional Warfare but will be coming in Chapter 2. Chapter 2 is slated for some time around June with Chapter 3 coming in before the end of the year. (Subject to change of course)

imageWarCry: In a recent Dev blog, Local Chat is mentioned as possibly being removed. How does the new Voice Comms that is being developed in partnership with Vivox affect this? And does Local Chat spamming really affect client performance to the point where it can cause considerable lag?

Noah Ward: EVE Voice was never going to be available for the local chat channel or any other public channels including NPC corporation chat; however, that’s not the reason for wanting to remove local. The main reason is so it’s not used as a reconnaissance tool. Lag isn’t really an issue. We don’t plan to remove local until we can assure the social aspects of the local user list can be retained. The reconnaissance can be replaced with new scanning tools in the solar system view, but the question is how we replace all those smiling faces in the user list.

WarCry: What is the status of the Mobile Client that we got to drool over at Fanfest?

Noah Ward: It’s on hold right now. It was primarily a project some students were working on at the University of Reykjavik. I’m kind of sad it’s not moving forward because I really want to be able to set skills training, check my EVE mail and update my market orders on the go. I selfishly hope we can devote some developer time to continuing the project because I’d like to see it come to fruition.

imageWarCry: What kind of feedback have you been getting concerning the new ships (T3 Battleships, T2 Battlecruisers) that were introduced? Do you think they have had any considerable effect during Fleet engagements?

Noah Ward: The feedback has been positive. I’ve just returned from a two- week trip to our office in Shanghai, China, and the players there were really excited about these new ships. The Rokh is very popular in fleet engagements as the Caldari have been missing a turret boat. Likewise, the Drake has been really popular with mission runners as the Ferox wasn’t designed as a missile boat.

WarCry: Have the changes you’ve made to the pre-existing ships worked out the way you designed? Have there been any occurrences of player-created fittings that you feel might have found a possible exploit?

Noah Ward: Is this a subtle reference to the “NanoPhoon?” The fix to inertial stabilizers has given speed freaks the opportunity to get some pretty insane speeds but I wouldn’t call these setups exploits. These setups sacrifice all of their tanking for speed so if they are caught they are dead. It just requires players to change up their tactics. That said, there are some battleship setups that use all of the best equipment which can sustain such high velocity we feel it breaks immersion so we’re looking into how we can solve that. We don’t want to nerf players who have worked hard to get the best implants and speed mods so we’re treading lightly.

imageWarCry: How excited are you to be bringing the Revelations expansion to the Serenity server? And how is the game shaping up in China?

Noah Ward: As mentioned above, I just got back from Shanghai. While I was there, I was meeting with Optic, our publishing partner there. I was also writing blogs, monitoring the forums and even had an in-game dev chat. It was a successful trip and I learned a lot. We’ve got some pretty diehard players there but Sci-Fi as a genre isn’t as popular in China as it is in other countries. Also the open-ended nature of EVE isn’t what the hardcore players there are used to. We’ve got some issues to overcome and, while Serenity wasn’t an instant success, I feel with some tender loving care we can grow the playerbase like we did with Tranquility.

imageWarCry: How soon before we can expect to see our first CCP/Whitewolf EVE Offline product other than the CCG?

Noah Ward: Nothing is set in stone and there haven’t been any official announcements yet – aside from the initial announcement at Fanfest 2006 about the World of Darkness MMO currently in the early stages of development — but I can assure you that stuff is in the pipeline and on the way. As someone with a background in pen-and-paper roleplaying games, I can tell you I’m pretty excited to get my grubby fingers on the source books. I’m a sucker for source books. One thing I can comment on is that there is an expansion to the card game coming soon?. The theme for the expansion is going to be the pirate factions. It’s going to hurt me in the wallet, I’m sure. I just have to get rares with foil on them.

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