Creating an online multi-player VR game as complex as EVE: Valkyrie is no simple task. Getting the play mechanics just right takes an enormous amount of time and effort. We examined the challenges of balancing a game like Valkyrie in a recently published article, but with the upcoming Wormholes update and the changes to Com Alerts, it’s a good time to go into a little more detail on another vital aspect of the development process, namely, the crucial feedback we get from our community of players.
We spoke to Lead Game Designer Andrew Willans (aka CCP Roo) to find out how he works with the community to get Valkyrie just right.
Hi Andrew. The changes to Com Alerts in the Wormholes update look pretty cool. How did the community help to shape the tweaks that have been made?
Mostly via the forums. We had a lot of feedback about how players used the feature – what they liked, how much they used a specific com alert, what was most useful in different combat situations and what they would like to see added to the feature. Once an idea gets sufficient traction, we look more closely into how we can develop it further. Com Alerts is a key social feature for cross platform play, so it’s appropriate that our community helps us to define how and what we iterate on in our quest to polish and refine it.
Is this a new thing or have you always sought input from the players?
Always. From pre-alpha trials and demos to this very day. Everyone has a different idea of what perfection looks like, but to create something that engages with as many people as possible, you have to talk. And talk openly. We have very passionate players and we are very passionate about what we create. Maintaining a strong dialogue with our community has always been an important part of the development process. We definitely share a lot more information than I’ve experienced on any of the previous titles I’ve been part of developing.
To what extent is the player experience considered when planning whole new features like a new map, for example?
It’s the first and last thing we think of, and everything in between. Gameplay, and specifically the players’ experience, is key to creating compelling content. We almost always start from a position of sensations rather than a fully realized concept. If we want to create a map that focuses on interiors, for example, we examine what sensations we want players to experience. What kind of gameplay is best suited to that environment? What kind of ships could benefit from the reduced space, or tighter navigational requirements? Once we have a good understanding of these elements, we start to conceptualize the space we need and how the fantasy fits within our universe. For example, are we within a giant ship as part of a fleet somewhere in space? Are we within a super structure based on a planet or moon? Essentially we follow some classic design rules in these instances – “form follows function”.
What's the best way for players to offer their opinions?
Forums. 100%. Either jump onto a thread, or start your own. Most posts generate healthy debate and we always keep an eye on the hot topics. Don’t be shy… jump in.
Any guidelines for players in order to more reliably get their voice heard?
Honestly, if you have a suggestion, try to cut down the waffle and highlight your main points. Sometimes we get these huge threadnaughts that have really great suggestions buried deep within them. Personally, I just don’t have the time to read someone’s life history only to find out they think the Dominator should have a tighter turning circle to make its primary weapons more effective (for example). Thankfully we have CCP Redcape, tirelessly watching over the threads like the all-seeing eye of Sauron. Just kidding, Redcape! But seriously, she does a lot of the digging to make sure we don’t miss any sweet gold in those posts.
Thanks Mr Willans, and indeed, CCP Redcape. Off the back of that fascinating insight into the development process, we would strongly urge you all to sign up to the forums if you haven’t done so already and be part of shaping the future of EVE: Valkyrie.
Also, be sure to check out CCP Roo's introduction to tomorrow's awesome Wormholes update.