Functionality allowing players to walk around space stations in MMO EVE Online is being added for "flavour and fun", CCP marketing boss Magnus Bergsson told us at the company's offices in Reykjavik, Iceland, last week, and will also open the game up to more female players.
"One of the key things what we don't want to do is to create a game in-station so people don't have a reason to undock," said Bergsson. "That's critical for us. The game is still outside. This is more flavour and fun. It really is. It's not supposed to be like a first-person shooter at all."
EVE Online is CCP's four year-old space-based MMO, in which players currently spend all their time in spaceships and never see their characters interact. The new feature of being able to meet face-to-face with other players will be added to the game in 2008, but Bergsson was keen to point out that the addition will be primarily concerned with social networking.
"You can still just dock and do what you're doing today without having to step outside your spaceship, but there's going to be stuff in the space stations," he said. "For instance... there are going to be specific stations with recruitment centres, where corporations can have someone representing their company... I remember when I was at college in the US, and they had these career days. It's basically that."
Players will have the chance to remodel their characters' faces when the new features are added, because "a lot of people put these really bumpy faces on the character with jaws out here and eyes like this," Bergsson added, contorting obligingly. "You don't want to be walking around like this all the time. So, you may want to fix your face a little bit, pick your clothing, and so forth. Customisable clothing should be quite unique. You also might want to have a corporation outfit. That might actually be really cool as well."
Another reason for letting characters interact in stations is to increase the game's appeal to women.
"One thing we found out is that women don't want to be spaceships," said CCP CEO Hilmar Petursson. "I've shown EVE Online videos to lots of girls, and their eyes just glaze over... but I show it to guys and they're like, 'Hell yeah!' Our research in to this, by hiring more girls into CCP and asking them what they want to do, shows that they want to be people. They don't want to be spaceships. For the past two years, we've been adding people into EVE Online. This is something that we plan to release next year."
Bergsson was quick to point out, however, that bringing more women into EVE is a fringe benefit, and the primary reason for the addition of character interaction is to increase the game's level of immersion.
"It's a side benefit," he said. "I mean, we did not sit down and say, 'How do we get women into EVE?' That's not how it happened. We actually wanted to create more immersion and more of a connection between you and your character. But then, we also know that women like to see full characters. They have different needs to men in regards to gaming experiences, so we know they'll enjoy that more than playing around in a spaceship. But we did not sit down and say, 'This is how we're going to get more women into the game.'"
Watch for a feature detailing our visit to CCP, including full details on the features to be included in the upcoming Revelations 2 update, later this week.