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EIF: CCP's Petursson On  EVE Online 's People-Powered Universe

EIF: CCP's Petursson On EVE Online's People-Powered Universe

August 13, 2007 | By Andrew Doull, Staff

August 13, 2007 | By Andrew Doull, Staff
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At his Edinburgh festival session, CCP CEO Hilmar Petursson gave the audience a summary of both CCP and its flagship MMO, EVE Online, explaining how EVE's "playground" structure differs from WoW's "themepark", and explaining efforts to break "despotic" MMO rule and decentralize EVE's governance.

Petursson began by introducing his company in greater depth, explaining that the Iceland-based developer was originally founded a decade ago "in a space that didn't really exist at the point in time," also noting that when it was first founded it worked on Icelandic children's TV show LazyTown to fund its startup.

"We began full-force in 2000," he continued, "by raising $3 million, which is about one-tenth of the current MMORPG." Its flagship product, EVE Online has been in development for three years, "the last year of which we had no money, but everyone turned up to work anyway despite us not being able to pay them," he admitted.

"This created a core of people who have gone through hell with us, and helps with the community especially," said Petursson.

"We had publishing problems with Simon & Schuster," he continued, "which resulted in no distribution or marketing, despite having 30,000 players. We ended up buying the rights back at 2002 and going into digital distribution. This has forced us to treat [EVE] more as a service than a product, and using viral marketing techniques to propagate the product out, long before others were doing this."

Petursson said CCP is planning a "massive graphical upgrade to the game," and also predicted that this year would see a total of 200,000 subscribers, after reaching 100,000 subscribers in February of last year.

"We have had different growth than most other games," said Petursson, "because the whole game takes place on a single shard, which allows escalation of power and social equity as the size of the community grows."

Petursson explained that EVE started off as an MMORPG, but has now "become more of a virtual society," drawing a distinction between "themepark" MMOs like World of Warcraft versus "playground" MMOs like EVE and Ultima. "Ultimately, its about the kids who are playing in the sand box," he said. "CCP just has to make sure the sand is clean."

"When you give people the tools, which can be small and not particularly complex, complex behaviour emerges," he continued. "What surprised us was how fast the players came up to speed on the potential of the tools in the sandbox."

"121.573 man years have been put into EVE by the players," said Petursson. "When people play, they are doing something social and its inherently competitively social, which allows you to hone and develop skills which are applicable to real life: incentive plans for employees, using PR to take down your enemy, manage complex logistics, and so on."

He also explained that CCP has "200,000 people who buy and sell resources on an open market, so we have to use natural resource dynamics to ensure that the economy that does not inflate or deflate," noting that the company hired an economist earlier in the year.

"We strive to build the way people relate within an organization within the game," he concluded. "It's like running IBM with 20,000 employees. Traditionally, MMO developers have been despotic. We are now in a big effort to decentralize governance of the world. We want to employ democratic elections to elect representatives to have an ongoing say in development."

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