EVE Evolved: CCP Games on the future of EVE Online’s PvE

It’s no secret that EVE Online has always been a primarily PvP-focused game, with thousands of players smashing fleets of ships together on a daily basis. PvE requires a different set of skills and ship setups than PvP and is often seen as little more than a necessary grind to replace lost ships. Even with great PvE additions over the years such as Sleeper NPCs in wormhole space or Sansha incursions, almost all PvE ultimately still boils down to shooting at predictable NPC ships that don’t pose a real threat. Players have engineered all of the risks out of PvE, coming up with optimum strategies and ways to predict NPC behaviour.

Things have begun to slowly change over the past year or so with the introduction of dynamic NPCs like the powerful Drifter menace with its advanced AI, Burner missions that in some ways almost mimic PvP, and new high-level capital ship NPCs. We’ve even had several seasonal events that can be completed in PvP-fit ships, turning the event dungeons into unexpected flashpoints for PvP. At EVE Fanfest 2016 we learned that CCP has begun stepping up these efforts to merge PvE with the rest of the game world and adding some unpredictability and engagement back into the game, and two new PvE dev teams have been formed to get the job done.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I talk to game designer Linzi “CCP Affinity” Campbell and senior creative producer CCP Burger about two new PvE dev teams they’re part of, CCP’s plans to integrate PvE more closely with the rest of the game, and how the Drifters were developed behind the scenes.


Massively OP: Can you tell us a little about your roles at CCP?

CCP Burger: My name is CCP Burger, and my title is senior creative producer, and that means that I do a lot of senior creative production things [laugh]. I’ve actually been with CCP for six years and started out in Atlanta, and now I’m back here a couple of years ago. I’ve been working a lot with Linzi and the lore team, and working on the UI and Project Discovery, and all sorts of things. Now I’ve been asked to form a new team around tools to build lore. What we want to do is basically figure out ways to make more dynamic content that uses local parameters to react to the universe and what’s going on.

CCP Affinity: I’m CCP Affinity, I’m a game designer and I’ve been at CCP for nearly six years now. I’ve been working with PvE for that entire time, and I also work on the lore, and for the past 18 months I’ve been working on the AI. I also started working on ways to start bringing the lore alive through PvE, and we’re calling that live PvE now. That’s stuff like the Crimson Harvest, Operation Frostline, the Citadels event, and so on. It’s ways that players can engage in PvE that’s currently live and use it to shape both the landscape of the universe and the ongoing narrative.

Have those events (crimson harvest etc) been popular? I know they got me logging in more, but are there any internal stats that show their effect?

CCP Affinity: Yeah, they’ve been really popular. Crimson Harvest, for example, which was the one we did around Halloween about the blood raiders, 33,000 dungeons were completed per day. We’ve just started looking a bit more deeply into the data from these events, because what the team want to do is use the data from events to broaden our horizons a bit. We’ve just been focused on putting the sites into the game and getting players congregate around those.

They’ve been very successful because people want to do the PvE for the rewards, but also they bring PvP opportunities. We want to branch that out, so if you’re not interested in running sites or engaging in PvP around those sites maybe you’re interested in mining or manufacturing? There are so many different professions and I think live engagement and live events shouldn’t just stop at one site. We want to take what we’ve learned and turn the dial to 11.


So there are people who don’t really consider PvE and don’t have any active engagement right now in these events, and you’re looking for ways to involve them too?

CCP Affinity: That’s the plan! I’m not going to say, “Yes, we can definitely do this,” because we haven’t done it yet, but that’s the plan. I think that for so long PvE has been secluded to just missions or sites that are static in game, but we want to bring some new stuff every couple of months to give people something new to do. We also have to give new players a way to feel like as soon as they log into the game they’re valuable and they can interact with other people.

CCP Burger: It feels like in the last 18 months there has been a bit of a shift where we’re actually starting to focus more on PvE and the great things that can come from PvE. There’s even PvPvE or the PvP that kind of triggers from PvE.

“We sort of boxed ourselves into this idea of exactly what PvE is and I want to get rid of that and let’s start again. Let’s redefine PvE.”
CCP Affinity: I think we want to break down the boundaries. We sort of boxed ourselves into this idea of exactly what PvE is and I want to get rid of that and let’s start again. Let’s redefine PvE.

CCP Burger: We’ve been looking a lot at how the players interact with the world. Mining is a PvE tool and oftentimes people will say “No! PvE is killing NPCs” but PvE should be so much more. EVE’s not only about blowing stuff up, so it’s about how we can use PvE to reinforce all these amazing aspects of the game.


So the new PvE teams that have formed around this, is this all very recent? Can you tell me more about the teams?

CCP Burger: It’s very recent, we actually just settled on a name on Tuesday. We’re Team Phenomenon.

CCP Affinity: While PvE for the past year or so has just been living solely on one team called Space Glitter, now there’s going to be the two teams. The team CCP Burger is working on will focus on how we create content, and the different ways that we can use the AI and take that to the next level.

CCP Burger: So using all the amazing parameters we have in the world to drive content and how we can with minimum effort create content and free the content creators to actually spend their time on epic, awesome content. We used to spend a lot of time on things we sometimes call wallpaper stuff, like the things that are all around you, but we have such amazing creatives at the company and we want to use them in creating amazing things.

“I don’t really envision us creating content that will last forever. I think for a while we were obsessed with the idea that every system we added had to last forever.”
CCP Affinity: So while they’ll be focusing on that, I’ll be on a team called Astro Sparkle, and we’re going to be doing exactly what the name suggests — making the universe sparkly. We’re going to be creating live content and I don’t really envision us creating content that will last forever. I think for a while we were obsessed with the idea that every system we added had to last forever. That’s why when we did the Throne Worlds drifter incursions now they’re gone, it wouldn’t make sense for them to be running while we had the Amarr succession trials at Fanfest.

We want to focus more on putting in stuff that matters to the narrative in the here and now, because EVE is a living work of science fiction and you can’t have that without the living part. We have to keep the narrative going and we don’t want to just sit in a room coming up with a long storyline for EVE and pushing it out via news articles. We want players to see it all happening in-game and we want them to be able to influence it, and if they can’t influence it then why are we doing it?


CCP Burger: Over the past 18 months, we’ve been experimenting with so many different things. For instance, having The Scope react to what’s going on in EVE and react to player hypes and propaganda, and to in-game events and lore. Around the whole Jamyl Sarum story arc, there was a good amount of people who attended the events but The Scope managed to really elevate it and it was getting a lot of coverage, which makes me excited.

“CCP Loki — that’s our Scope creator — he very much has a doctrine of ‘If it doesn’t exist in the game, I will not Scope about it.'”
CCP Affinity: CCP Loki — that’s our Scope creator — he very much has a doctrine of “If it doesn’t exist in the game, I will not Scope about it.” We’ve asked him a few times to make Scope videos for things, and he’s asked, “Can players go and visit this after they’ve watched the Scope video?” and we say, “Well no, not really,” and he won’t make it. It’s nice that he’s stuck to his guns on that.

I’ve been asking everyone this, but what is your take on the War in EVE right now?

CCP Affinity: I love the drama. I feel like in the past 12-18 months, EVE has just taken on a new lease of life, it’s so vibrant and busy and there’s so much stuff going on. Everywhere I look on the internet, there’s people talking about EVE and that’s really exciting for me. I think this is a great time to be a new player in EVE because there’s so much buzz and hype.

CCP Burger: I LOVE the propaganda! I hope /r/eve actually publishes a book on this, even if it’s just an e-book. Someone needs to pull this together; it’s crazy.

CCP Affinity: I can’t wait to see how citadels affect the war. I wonder will either side buy a palatine. I don’t think anyone’s going to do it.

I remember at the EVE Vegas roundtable you put forward ideas like procedural generation and roaming NPCs interacting like players. Have any of those moved forward in development?

CCP Affinity: The AI is continually worked on, and I know procedural generation is something we still have in our vision and we’ll get there/ The tools have come a long way in the last year.

“The drifters were kind of a test-bed for the new AI, so they were almost tested Live and we got feedback kind of live. I think it’s a little slower way to develop stuff like AI but it’s a very healthy way to develop it.”
CCP Burger: It’s amazing to me the leap that the AI has taken in the past year. What was really exciting in the development of the AI is how it was developed was really interesting. The drifters were kind of a test-bed for the new AI, so they were almost tested Live and we got feedback kind of live. I think it’s a little slower way to develop stuff like AI but it’s a very healthy way to develop it and we can try it and get feedback.

It fits with the narrative as well, that the drifters are learning from us, doesn’t it?

CCP Burger: Yeah, definitely. When we changed stuff with the drifters following the feedback it was like “whaaaaaat?” And when the Circadian Seekers started flying around and scanning stuff.

CCP Affinity: Yeah, and I think people forget that the Circadian Seekers were the first step at AI. Then we thought “what else can we do?” and so we created the drifters and they evolved over time, and now there are new Drifters that Team 5-0 are working on and they’re completely different. It’s pretty exciting for me to see other teams and other developers taking on the work we’re doing.

From an EVE player’s perspective, all we saw was these weird NPCs and awesome storylines playing out in-game. So behind the scenes, this was incremental tool development?

CCP Burger: Yeah, and this is my favourite way of developing. It’s so easy to just lock yourself in a room and work work work for years and then roll something out and hope it works, but we’re developing by doing a little bit here and a little bit there and getting feedback. The best thing is if no-one notices, or people claim the new behaviour as a bug or people claim like “of course the Drifters have always behaved like this” then you know you’ve done something really good.

CCP Affinity: When we first put out Defense of the Thone Worlds, the Drifter Amarr incursions, we got loads of bug reports saying “The NPCs are attacking each other!” because it had never happened before.

I heard a very interesting story from someone earlier about how they’d managed to make Drifters blow up a starbase. Apparently they got the drifter to follow them and tried to use the starbase guns to kill it, but after a while it starts to fight back.

CCP Affinity: I think people don’t tell me these things! Sometimes when I hear people talking about the drifters like here at Fanfest and I walk up they go silent, like “shhh, she might change it.”

EVE has the biggest evil geniuses in the universe, and nothing surprises me anymore. We roll something out and in hours they find a great awesome way to mutilate it to their advantage.”
CCP Burger: EVE has the biggest evil geniuses in the universe, and nothing surprises me anymore. We roll something out and in hours they find a great awesome way to mutilate it to their advantage. We shouldn’t fight it, we should embrace it. If they figure out new ways to use our tools, awesome. We’re just creating a canvas and a set of tools for players and it’s in their power to do what they feel.

One last big question — What are you guys most excited for?

CCP Burger: So many things! New pirate titans!

CCP Affinity: Yeah, the Serpentis capital stuff. I think the next event my team will do will be around the Serpentis and Angels and it’ll feed into the capital ship stuff that they are doing. There’s this really nice sort of funnel within the teams at CCP at the minute, like we have the new player team coming up and then my team figure out what to keep people doing when they’re online, and then CCP Burger’s team are going to be doing tools in PvE, and then we have the sandbox team that are going to be dealing with all the veteran players. I feels like we’re going in the right direction.

CCP Burger: There’s a nice thread going through everything, like how they’re building new titans that fit into the storyline, and we’re all kind of aligned on the same stuff.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us!

EVE Online expert Brendan ‘Nyphur’ Drain has been playing EVE for over a decade and writing the regular EVE Evolved column since 2008. The column covers everything from in-depth EVE guides and news breakdowns to game design discussions and opinion pieces. If there’s a topic you’d love to see covered, drop him a comment or send mail to brendan@massivelyop.com!

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Smiggins schmidtcapela 
Then you want either Star Citizen, Elite Dangerous, or Valkyrie.

The caveat is, without being able to fit thousands in a single battle you need instancing. Which in turn makes blockades and territory control tricky, to say the least. Or else to break the game into multiple shards, with a limit on the number of simultaneously logged players and potentially queues.


Smiggins schmidtcapela I think you got lost on the way to a Star Citizen thread.


adecoy95 LordSolarMacharius Congrats on proudly being part of the problem, I guess? Whatever, EVE has looong since gone past the point of no return on the “catering to assholes only” front.


Calfis Smiggins Well Alterec Valley was a battleground so it was meant for PVP but it included all kinds of NPCs that did different things. Some were on your side some were on the other teams side and some were neutral. To describe it all would be a wall of text. But Blizzard destroyed it to cater to PVEers who just wanted gear out of it. They would join and go afk, you still got some credit for a loss so they just farmed losses while afk. So Blizzard instead of removing credit for losing they removed almost all the NPC on the map except the 2 that trigger the win states for either side, which makes the game terrible. All so the little babies could farm whatever it was they were farming.

Oleg Chebeneev
Oleg Chebeneev

schmidtcapela Oleg Chebeneev Damonvile As always in EVE, higher risk = higher reward. Want to be safe, sit in Empire and get low income. Want big isk? Risk moving to lowsecs


Calfis Smiggins Enlist your kid brother.


“…roaming NPCs interacting like players…”

Yeah. EVE is one of a few games that actually might pull off something like that. Best place for it. Something ‘Privateer’-like.

NPC ships might have some AI options for doing this and that, that’ll be nice. From decoration to creature. And I don’t mean some heavy scripted stuff with a lot of storyline background, I mean NPC that have simple life. Well, NPC ‘heroes’ possible too, but NPC ‘common folk’ will make game much more lively. Flying here and there, sometimes interacting with players in some simple manner amd vice versa.

I understand why developers so afraid to give any freedom to NPC nailing them down, but in EVE AI NPC might actually work. Might even start something new. Ahem… Well, ‘new’ – idea is old. EQNext was supposed to, but never did.


Smiggins Neo_Wolf adecoy95 And that’s cool too, I dare say there would be others who feel as you do. 

but in my experience most players aren’t fans of both, they tend to drop firmly in one camp or the other.  PVE’ers who also like PVP are probably far more of a niche group.

Not that that is a bad thing but if they are doing this with a view to increasing EVE’s overall appeal then they will probably be looking at things that give a wider appeal.  But then we don’t really know why they are adding more PVE yet.  so its hard to second guess where they are going with this idea just yet.


Smiggins Boardwalker schmidtcapela How ironic coming from the person who posts the same negative comments in every EVE article.


Smiggins Does this mean I will have to manually control my dps ship, my logistics ship and my scout ship at the same time on three different clients with one keyboard? :(