Update from EVE Fanfest 2018: Project Nova is coming sooner than you think!
As PlayStation 3 exclusive shooter DUST 514 was officially shutdown last year, fans of the EVE Online universe were given hope in the form of a PC-based successor prototype in Project Nova (previously Project Legion). This new shooter was playable at EVE Fanfest 2016 but never heard of since. Until now.
CCP Games CEO Hilmar Veigar took to the stage at EVE Fanfest 2017 yesterday in Reykjavík, Iceland to address questions from fans and to confirm that Project Nova is still in development and that they are absolutely committed to making their boots-on-the-ground EVE shooter.
Project Nova was first revealed as a PC title built on Unreal Engine 4, a new attempt by CCP of gaining a foothold on the ground-based combat arena, something they currently don't cater to with other EVE products (starship, space turret, and vsports VR experiences). It would again be based around the idea of immortal New Eden mercenaries - fully embracing the lore of EVE Online - and build from the learnings of DUST 514 with the aim this time to simplify progression and class selection and to get into space (battling on ships and stations as opposed to just on planets) alongside much faster and more precise combat. That was in 2016 and things have changed since Project Nova's first playable reveal at last years's Fanfest event.
Let's back up a moment to look at how we got here. EVE Online is a unique and popular MMO, arguably the most unique and most hardcore of any MMOs. The spacefaring, social-focused MMO takes place in one massive and growing shared universe. Everyone exists in that one universe as opposed to different servers or "shards" and players control everything. Everything!
From being able to manipulate the in-game markets and the economy through mining resources, stealing them, or interfering with mining operations, to having spies work undercover in opposing alliances for years, just to betray them once they gain command of key assets. The universe of EVE Online lives and breathes based on what its loyal and dedicated community decides to do. And if you're a gamer, you've no doubt heard of the battles and surprise attacks that costs thousands of real-world dollars and that took weeks, if not, months of planning. For many, just reading about the in-game, player-driven events is more interesting than the gameplay itself.
CCP decided to expand beyond the PC-only starship game into the console market with the 2013 release of DUST 514, a game that was oddly only playable on the PlayStation 3 (when the entire EVE fanbase are PC gamers), but it connected to the larger EVE Online world through the ability to decide control of planets and summon orbital strikes from starships commanded by PC players playing the MMO.
It was an ambitious idea and an exciting premise but DUST 514 didn't deliver on the basics: shooter gameplay and the actual connectivity to the larger EVE universe. So, people just didn't play. It was boring. The next time around, CCP would bring a shooter to PC based on their learnings. Project Legion was announced but was canned in 2015 and replaced by Project Nova.
Project Nova is the latest codenamed title in development at CCP Shanghai (where the mobile-focused EVE Gunjack VR games are also made) and was shown for the first time to the media and public at EVE Fanfest 2016 in Iceland. Since then, CCP has been radio silent with only a few words here and there over the last year confirming that the game is being worked on.
Here at EVE Fanfest 2017, CCP was finally ready to provide another update. They fully understand there are a lot of interested players eager for new information. During a chat with Game Designer Steven Clark before the opening ceremony and keynote presentation, it was hinted to me that things have changed with the game and we can expect a mention during the event.
And the fans in attendance or watching the Twitch livestream got just that during the EVE Fanfest 2017 Keynote from boss man Hilmar Veigar, who says they aren't ready to show more of the game until they really have something to show, but I managed to get a few more hints from having a long chat with Jean-Charles Gaudechon, Managing Director CCP Shanghai.
"We're still very much committed"
Gaudechon joined CCP in 2013 and helped with DUST 514 and then Legion (which became Project Nova). There is no official title decided upon yet for what Project Nova will be called when it releases and it likely won't be decided upon into the game is near done.
From player feedback last year, Gaudechon laughed while telling me that learned "a lot" from player feedback last year at Fanfest where they took note of everything that was relevant, joking that "helicopters" are maybe not part of the plan.
Project Nova isn't viewable or playable in any form at EVE Fanfest 2017 and the reason is that they want Fanfest to focus on main EVE more than before. More importantly for Project Nova, something Gaudechon says he and Hilmar are 100% committed to (they very much want a grounded set game), they want the team focused on the work. And there's a slight change on this front with them moving from CCP Shanghai to CCP HQ in Iceland.
"The idea is really to get closer to the best MMO on PC ever done," says Gaudechon referring to bringing the shooter devs in closer contact to those who know the EVE universe best. This move will help with the "MMO layer... to make it truly boots on the ground in New Eden because that's very much the goal."
How Does Project Nova Connect To EVE Online?
Does that mean Project Nova will be even more embedded within the EVE Online live universe than DUST 514 was? Not at all, at least at the beginning. Gaudechon acknowledges that this feature was a drawback on DUST 514, how it didn't feel like an EVE game at times, but their priority is to make a great game first with Nova and go from there. It'll have "probably less" links to EVE in terms of direct connectivity.
"The reason for that is, first it needs to be a great shooter. It needs to be a game that stands on its two legs before we start thinking into that. And it can grow that way, absolutely! And should grow that way, closer and closer to EVE, but it has to work standalone. It has to be an amazing product for what it is.
So the first thing for me is to make it a shooter within New Eden which makes sense from the lore, from the moral reasons for you to be fighting - like all the stuff from who you are, what you do - we need to know that. And at CCP we always like to have a little bit of debate on why you're doing this, et cetera. So we need to know this stuff then we can go on having more and more ties with EVE."
Project Nova May Not Be Free-to-Play
When Project Nova was described during EVE Fanfest 2016, it was touted as a free-to-play PC shooter but as hinted to us by everyone at CCP we spoke to about the project, that may not be the case anymore, again, giving more reason as to why CCP isn't showing Project Nova anymore until they have a more concrete product.
"There's nothing to announce on if it'll be free-to-play or not, it's not a bad model. As you can see, EVE [Online] successfully transitioned to it and it was actually really good. There's a way to make free-to-play work... it's an option for sure."
Project Nova hasn't changed much in direction, but it's certainly changed in quality and polish from what they were ready to talk about in 2016. As for timelines, CCP will only release this one when it's ready. They're not focused on a date and if they have targets in mind, if Project Nova needs more time, it'll get it.
Gaudechon explains that they aren't blind to the fans asking for more info though but they don't want to start buzz too early, something they know they've done before at CCP.
Some of the key things from last year's limited Project Nova showcase remain very on course, like the variety in playable environments beyond planet surfaces.
"One of the big decisions made already was again, this sense of 'how much can this feel in EVE?' so, on the ground, absolutely. But ships is actually everything for EVE, right? So, if you can be inside, on top, or anything around [on] really landmark or recognizable ships."
Could Project Nova Have Single-Player or Co-op Modes?
Project Nova has only been seen as a multiplayer game, with a 6 vs. 6 PvP competitive mode playable at EVE Fanfest 2016 and a mention that it can go up to 16 vs. 16 at the time. Does a story campaign or co-op mode fit Project Nova? "It actually does," says Gaudechon who obviously can't confirm if Project Nova will feature single-player or co-op at this time.
"I can't remember if we touched on this last year but it doesn't have to be just PvP is basically what I could tell you today. And I think there is, you know, not in a linear story because New Eden is not about linear story anyway. So it's more kind of your story, your story with other people, your acts and what you do matter in this world. These are things that are really key to EVE which needs to be really key to Project Nova in that case. Absolutely. It should be, I think, just PvP.
We're not talking about the launch scope. Things can still change but yeah, there's room for more than just PvP."
CCP is still figuring out the optimal player counts. "I would say more the merrier, but no, it really depends on the game mode," Gaudechon jokes. And in terms of the class-based system and progression, the goals is to give players more choice.
"The decisions you make really matter in who you become in the game and what you fight for."
The team can't give a straight answer on the specifics of what this means in terms of unlocks but it "could be" things like weapons and armor unlocks. "It has to matter" was the message being emphasized.
As for when you can expect to hear more? "It wouldn't be two years" says Gaudechon. It could be EVE Fanfest 2018 or maybe not. We'll see Project Nova when it's ready to be shown.