The Obsolete Gamer Show: Paul Elsy – CCP

The Obsolete Gamer Show heads to Iceland to talk with Paul Elsy community manager for CCP Games about his early days of gaming and how he came to work for famed computer gaming company. In our talk we learned a bit about the impact CCP has had on Iceland and the people, the gamers and fans and even the difference between gamers in Iceland and those in the States.

Paul shared some insights about his journey from being a classic gamer and his love of games like Dune and Sonic the hedgehog to studying Robotics at University before volunteering with the community and writing fan fiction for Eve before accepting a job offer from them.

The Interview: Ned Coker: CCP

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CCP logo

CCP

So pretty much all of us are fans of CCP here at Obsolete Gamer, many of us were and still are Eve players so when we got a chance to do a bunch of Gamer Profiles from CCP staff we were honored to publish them.

We wanted to go a bit beyond the gamer profile and find out what it like working for CCP and what else is going on in their world. Ned Coker was kind enough to chat with us about himself, CCP and their upcoming projects.

 

CCP: Gravy can baseball

Can you tell us about how you came to work for CCP?

Ned Coker: I was a marketing intern at White Wolf Publishing in 2006 right before the merger with CCP. Upon the melding of the two companies, how could I not continue riding the juggernaut? I got to my current position, being in charge of EVE Online’s Public Relations, after working my way up through the ranks, losing my fair share of battleships in pursuit of “getting to know EVE” and proving my love of our products to those around me.

What game did you first work on?

Ned Coker: The first game that I contributed design work to was a White Wolf product line called Scion.  I’ve even co-authored a part of the Scion Companion book on the Hindu Pantheon.  Once I switched over to EVE PR, I’ve joined my other coworkers in plenty of CCP “open brainstorming” sessions. I still do some stuff for the White Wolf part of EVE too.

What is it like working for CCP, the day to day?

Ned Coker: It’s probably easier to show you a few videos… take your pick.

NSFW Lyrics

Just because you work with games does not always mean you are a gamer however, a lot of people at CCP are true gamers, what is that experience like?

Ned Coker: Being able to share a common “language” is amazing—considering that we all pretty much grew up loving games of all sorts.  From actual playtesting to Halo 2 conference room trash talking to some long standing pen and paper games, it’s refreshing and well, comforting to feel like nearly everyone here is a brother by another mother or a sister by a different mister. Do we all agree that Star Control 2 had one of the greatest multiplayer components of any game ever? No, but not everyone here shares my vision.

Can you tell us about your other games?

Ned Coker: Well, I could talk for years and years about CCP’s game design, the settings etc, but the easiest thing to do is to just reiterate that from White Wolf’s storytelling system to EVE Online and further into the future, we hold several things at the core of creating games. Maximize human interaction. That’s really it.  It’s the shared experience of gaming that makes them wonderful. Sitting around a table or chatting from a thousand miles away. Whether it’s telling cooperative stories about vampires or negotiating economic deals across star systems, all of our games point towards a shared experience on many scales.

 

 

The one-to-one encounters to the thousand person shared experiences.  Leaving the choices and goal-making up to players is also a key tenant in our game design.  Sure, it requires more imagination, but it also provides tremendous rewards. Sort of like a homemade meal just tastes better than fast food because you put some elbow grease into it. These things will never change about our games and in the future you’ll see us trying to innovate with our philosophies as a base.

CCP: After a Friday barbecue

With EVE Online, what was the overall goal you wanted the game to achieve?

Ned Coker: Mazimize human interaction. It seems like a lofty goal for a game, but it’s what’s at the heart and soul of the original game design, why the “sandbox” style was chosen.  A secondary goal would be to create a really amazing Science Fiction experience. EVE has a lot of room to grow to capture all the Sci Fi hallmarks, but the sense of scale and exploration are there. Of course the battles. And, well, with the addition of Incarna next year, we’re taking a huge leap forward.  On a less philosophical level, we are always refining our goals.  As a business, we want more subscribers, but we also want subscribers who are contributing to the game and who will stick around with us because they provide invaluable content for the game itself. We also want EVE Forever. So far, we’re nearly 8 years in and it’s changed a lot and kept growing.

More CCP Downtime: CCP Atlanta’s head chef

Seeing it today with a strong following are you happy with the results?

Ned Coker: There were many mistakes along the way, as is natural with any evolving product, but I can safely speak for the founders in saying that they never imagined EVE would change so much or be so popular. Our players have been really patient and helpful in building EVE.  So, yes, extremely happy.

What was something you wanted to add to Eve Online that you haven’t been able to yet?

Ned Coker: Yes. There’s a LONG LONG LIST. Luckily, there’s room to grow, so it’s just a matter of time.

What is the next major step for Eve Online?

 

Ned Coker: Right now we’re deploying EVE Online: Incursion, which adds a huge new feature in the form of group content.  Up next is really more like a whole staircase instead of a step—Incarna—the name of our technologically massive effort to bring realistic avatars to the game.  Did I say realistic? Here’s a test version video made by a player.


Can you tell us about your gaming background personal and professional?

Ned Coker: Sure. I’ve been gaming since I was really really really young, since my dad worked for IBM.  Nintendo was my first big jump into true nerdery though, and from there I split my interests amongst tabletop, a long stint at Magic: the Gathering and numerous consoles and then getting back into PC gaming after high school.  I’ve always been about world building and roleplaying, and never took my FPS games too seriously. For me, it’s all about the experience of playing with others, so I reveled in Goldeneye 64, roleplaying games, and now the glorious, indefatigable MMOs.

 

Professionally, my “career” really started with White Wolf as a marketing intern. I know, lucky me avoiding the real world (I don’t count shorter summer jobs).  Before that—and after college—I was writing a novel, which I never finished but will eventually.

What are you currently playing?

Ned Coker: Currently I’m all about Team Fortress 2 and EVE Online. They fulfill both parts of my personality. For tabletop, I switch between White Wolf stuff and a homebrew D&D 4E game.

What’s the next major event for CCP?

 

Ned Coker: Fanfest, and the party at the top of the world. I hope you’ll join me there. I’ll buy you a drink!


Fanfest 2011 trailer

John “Loktofeit” Albano: CCP

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Name: John “Loktofeit” Albano

Company: CCP Games

Profession: Copywriter

Favorite Classic Game: Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord

Quote: Wizardry offers fun hack-n-slash CRPG gameplay with just the right mix of story, progression, risk and reward to keep me entertained even decades later.


Misty Matonis: CCP

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Name: Misty Matonis (CCP Fallout)

Company: CCP

Profession: Associate Community Manager

Favorite Classic Game: Seven Cities of Gold

Quote: I’ve been a gamer ever since my mother brought home a classic Coleco Pong console when it was first released. We progressed to the Atari VCS and Colecovision, but my best gaming memories are when we got the steaming hot Atari 800XL 8-bit computer. I spent entire weekends playing Steve Meretsky-designed Infocom games, but my true obsession was with Danny Bunton’s Seven Cities of Gold. This game was absolutely amazing for its time. You are an explorer out to discover the New World and bring back riches to the Queen of Spain. You just can’t sail west and get lucky. The brilliance of this game is the unique quality it had for its time: random maps, but very intelligently done random maps. Rivers would flow from mountains, villages, cities and towns would team on their shores and on coast lines. You can bribe chiefs to get their gold, or enter town swords killing everything in sight, but there was consequence. If you had a bad reputation, natives might not want you around, and getting gold would become increasingly difficult. There was even seasonal changes, and storms that could wreak havoc on your ships when at sea. And the Queen? She was never satisfied. But I always got my promotion. Eventually.

Curt Hartung: CCP

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Name: Curt Hartung

Company: CCP

Profession: Programmer

Favorite Classic Game: Ultima IV

Quote: I spent over a year plumbing this game right after its release, on my apple //c, from start to finish, with no internet or cheat guides or outside help. The minimalist graphics and rich sandbox-like content allowed me to become a part of the story in a way that no other game ever has. I don’t lament the advances in computing and graphics, but would be lying if I didn’t admit that some small part of me pines for the days when the details of epic battles and special effects were supplied by imagination alone. I wager I am not alone when I see modern renderings or updated graphics of those worlds and think “that’s not how mine looks”. It was a game that required note-taking, imagination, introspective thought and interaction that wasn’t “pick one of these two answers”.


Páll Ívarsson: CCP

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CCP logo

Name: Páll Ívarsson (CCP Fear)

Company: CCP

Profession: Senior Game Designer

Favorite Classic Game: Civilization

Quote: I was 8 years old when it came out, and I think I got it about a year later through a friend of my mom’s. I was super excited about it, the concept being “You rule your own civilization” and out of a selection of a few games she had got me, this was the one I needed to install on our new 386 computer. The main problem was that I didn’t speak a word in English (being from Iceland) except a few words here and there and my mom claimed I wouldn’t understand it. But I ignored her warnings, and I’m glad I did. Empowered by English to Icelandic dictionary I spent hours in front of the screen, trying to make any sense of the game. My main problems were with building roads, irrigating my barren lands and what messages I was receiving. But I stood the test of time and by writing my own small pocket book of strategy I was able to play Civ again and again. These moments, and many others shaped me into the gamer and the developer I am today.


Jóhann Haukur Gunnarsson: CCP

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Name: Jóhann Haukur Gunnarsson (CCP 2PIE)

Company: CCP

Profession: Associate Programmer

Favorite Classic Game: XCOM: UFO DEFENSE

Quote: For me this is the golden turn based strategy game. I still play it, even though I have finished this game so often I’ve long lost count of it. The suspense when you wait for your turn as the AI opponent stalks around is immense. The research effort, the amount of content, the strategy behind where you place your bases and what countries you strife to defend give this game a lot of depth. Replayability is an often coveted word, but few gameshave as long lasting value as that game did, and still does. And ahh, I also fondly remember the various ways I could cheat in the game by editing its save-files.


Ned Coker: CCP

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Name: Ned Coker (CCP Manifest)

Company: CCP

Profession: Public Relations

Favorite Classic Game: Mario Kart 64

Quote: This was the only game I played for a year and a half to the virtual exclusion of all others. For someone who has gamed consistently since the Atari days, that says a lot about the strength of this game, it’s staying power and the amount of fun I had with my high school friends playing it—particularly in Battle Mode.  So many memories I’m not sure where to start, but there was just enough “Question mark” luck, strategy, diversity, taunting and “kingmaker” gameplay in it in battle mode to keep every match fresh even for the limited map selection.  Nothing like taking out all three balloons and the bomb with one Star use. Simplicity at its finest. And finally, I reserve Princess Peach as my character if you wish to challenge me.