PAX 07: Interview with Noah Ward


EVE Online is the MMO version of a Cinderella story. They have shown how a company can take a game that quite frankly didn’t have a stellar launch, and completely turn that around. EVE continues to grow, and gain new players all the time. I got a chance to interview Noah Ward, the Lead Designer for EVE while at PAX this year.

PAX 2007: EVE Online
Answers by Noah Ward (Designer)
Questions by Sean Bulger & Matt Lowery

WarCry: Is there an approximate release date for Revelations 3?

Noah Ward: I hate to say exact dates. We would like to get it out before the end of the year. We would like to get it out before people go on family holidays during the holiday season, but when its ready is really all I can say…

WarCry: But you are hoping to release it before the end of the year?

Noah Ward: That’s what we are shooting for.

WarCry: What can you tell us about the upcoming faction conflicts in Revelations 3, and how will it affect existing corporations?

Noah Ward: Well if you really want to stay out of it, you will be able to stay out of it. You can let the empires have their wars, and stay out of it, but if you want to join up and pick a side, you will be able to do that. So originally the design for faction warfare would be like solo members would sign up, but we got such an outcry from the community, that people wanted to stay with their corporations; and we don’t want to break up those social groups. So now we are going to allow corporations to sign up together and pick a side. We are now not going to allow people to be on opposing sides in the same corporation. We felt that just didn’t make any sense. So a corporation has to choose, and everyone has to fit the requirements, and yes there will be some sort of standing requirements.

WarCry: When can we expect the upcoming graphics update to go live?

Noah Ward: Well that’s meant to be in the same upcoming patch; so before the end of the year with Revelations 3. The main 3d programmer, a good friend of mine, he is very pessimistic about it. <laughs> But he is very pessimistic about everything. So he is just going to have to crunch a little harder. The art assets are pretty much ready, the models and everything. It’s just tweaking the engine so that it runs as well as we want, and all the features are working, nothings broken. We aren’t going to release something that’s broken, so if it has to take a little longer it will have to take a little longer, but we are trying to shoot for, before the end of the year.

WarCry: Can you tell us about the new tutorial systems that will be released in the future?

Noah Ward: We have a guy working full time on that, we actually now have a designer working full time on it, and a QA guy pretty much full time. They have a pretty good access to programmers if needed. It’s an ongoing thing. Every expansion that has come out, we tweak the tutorial some, we are trying to make it a balance between giving the players all the information they need, and not boring them to death to the point where they will just close the tutorial and not go through the whole thing.

WarCry: Players will be able to walk in space station for the first time in Revelations 3. This is going to be optional, but will any content be provided in the future, and if so, what kind of content?

Noah Ward: Actually no, that’s not in Revelations 3. It is coming, but its separate, not part of Revelations 3. That will be sometime in 2008. So design is underway with that, art is underway, but that’s not something that is going to happen in the next 3 months. As far as what to expect, it’s more of a place where you will go to socialize. It’s really cool in there, so expect most people will want to do it a bit, but it’s not somewhere you go to get rich, its more somewhere to go and socialize.

WarCry: Any word on when we could be seeing Tech 2 Battle Ships, and what they might be like?

Noah Ward: Well they are not going to be like uber hacks or you know, they are not just going to be just more damage and more resist. We are really trying to have them fill a certain niche, so what we are planning on having for the Revelations 3 patch is Black Ops battleships, which are more stealth oriented, more for getting behind enemy lines, more recon types of things. Maybe some special features with perhaps their own jump drives, and their own jump portals that will only allow certain ships through.

WarCry: That’s really cool!

Noah Ward: The other type of Tech 2 ship we haven’t come up with a name yet, but it’s going to be like a mission runner battleship. A huge number of our player base are not these big PvPers, they are mission runners for their empire, and you know doing their thing. While the ships will be really good at PvP, they will have things like bigger cargo bays for loot. They will have better locking times, better tracking, a lot of utility slots. Things that if you are a mission runner, what would be your ideal battle ship.

WarCry: That’s all of the questions I have. I just wanted to end with saying, that what you have done with Eve is simply amazing. You have shown that you can take an MMO and instead of watching the number of subscribers decrease over time, you have shown how you can really grow your game, and bring more and more people to it after release.

Noah Ward: What I attribute that too, Eve has been our sole focus, and we are really committed to it. It’s not like we just released an MMO and stuck it out there. I think as a player you really want to get behind a game that you think is going to be around awhile. You put a lot of your time and your life into this game, and you want to know that the developers are doing the same thing. I really think our commitment to Eve has really made it the success it is today. I really think that stems from our CEO Hilmar Petursson, and it trickles down to everything we do. Normally in the industry, after you release a game, you thin down your team to support the live game, not with Eve. We continue to hire more people as we go. When I started here they had 30 people, now, in my department alone, I have 24 people with me, in just my department.

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