CCP Shanghai on Serenity, Gunjack

EVE Fanfest is an annual event in Reykjavik hosted by CCP Games where fans of EVE Online from all over the world come together. The universe of EVE Online is harsh, cruel and one of the most brutal and predatory worlds someone could enter, though the opposite is true of the fan community when they return to Earth from their intergalactic wars and piracy. Jean-Charles Gaudechone is the Managing Director of CCP Shanghai, and spent some time with Hardcore Gamer discussing some of the uniquely eastern features of EVE Online and the CCP Shanghai developed Gunjack games.

[Hardcore Gamer] What differentiates the Shanghai servers (Serenity) from the Tranquility servers?

[Jean-Charles Gaudechone] One thing we’ve noticed is EVE players are pretty much the same across the world, EVE tends to attract a specific type of player. You could say that the Chinese players consume content faster, but they are the same type of keen, super committed community on Serenity. When it comes to running the servers it is pretty similar, but from a regulation standpoint China has to have its own server so that is why we had to create Serenity. We even have a couple people from China at this Fanfest. A couple years ago we did this super cool event called World Collide which was the best players from Serenity against the best players from Tranquility and it was super super exciting. The best players in the world seemed to be on Tranquility but they also had the opportunity to be around longer and build up better ships but that’s not to say there aren’t some amazing players on Serenity. The Chinese players actually pulled out something crazy in the first match that shocked everyone and they ended up winning that match. It was very cool to see these guys play, and Tranquility and Serenity were both very similar in how they played the game.

That’s interesting since China, Iceland, America, and all the other countries that play EVE have very different cultures but it sounds like they all adapt the same behavior patterns in game.

It is. I think it’s because EVE attracts a certain type of player, and it is a smart game that requires more organization that other games. Being a sandbox game also attracts a certain type of player, but they also have to be able to function in the corporate structure that is in EVE. I think it just attracts a very specific breed of player, whether you are in the U.S. or Germany and it’s similar people converging to a similar experience.

When you did the Worlds Collide event did that build any sort of rivalry between Tranquility and Serenity players?

There isn’t a real rivalry between Tranquility or Serenity players, that was just something created by us for fun to watch the best players in the world compete against each other. More realistically they probably would support each other and give people on the other servers different ideas on how to play the game. Ideally everyone would probably prefer to all be on the same server.

When did Serenity come into existence?

I don’t remember exactly but it was a few years after EVE Online came out. I think it’s been around ten years but can’t remember exactly how long it’s been around. I blame the pub crawl.

(laughs) I think everything is hurting a little today from the pub crawl.

That will be the new answer for every question. When was the thing – pub crawl (laughs)

I think my boss might look at the interviews I did yesterday and the ones today…

And be like what happened? (laughs)

I got trolled by CCP. Okay, back to the job. Other MMOs have a bit of black market for people who spend long hours gathering resources and equipment. Is there anything like that in EVE Online?

Not so much in EVE since it is pretty difficult to do that with how the game is set up where there is already an in game economy that mirrors real world corporations and economies so it’s not as big of a thing as some other MMOs. There is some but it’s not to the point of hurting the game. EVE is a world where there is more freedom of what players can do and the community is balancing and policing itself so that also prevents some of the behaviors we have seen in some of the other games. So with the exception of CONCORD everything is in the players’ hands.

Going off topic, but since you mention CONCORD is it even physically possible to create a ship powerful enough to engage CONCORD and destroy them?

I don’t know actually. Andie might be a better person to answer that question. CONCORD is supposed to kill you when they show up with no hope of the player winning, but it might be possible. I haven’t heard of anyone actually doing it. But the way we like to do things at CCP we don’t like to use claymores or red button and you’re dead type of thing, we like to balance things out where it believable so you may be able to destroy them. Someone wanting to take on CONCORD would like the Blood Raiders stuff we are going to be releasing. There are a lot of powerful things you can get from them but they will come at you relentlessly. That’s going to be some pretty cool fights. It’s going to force some players to band together in order to beat them.

There have been some cool battle stories from the Tranquility servers, like the Battle of Asakai where one wrong button press turned into a disaster or the 21 hour Bloodbath of B-R5RB. Do you have any stories like that from Serenity?

Hmmmm. We have some huge wars on the servers but what happens in China tends to stay in China. I can’t think of any headline worthy events from Serenity. Even though there are some huge wars I don’t recall any stories like that. They happen since that’s how EVE is but they tend to not make the news.

Regulations require that China have its own server for EVE Online. Besides the server are there any major differences in the game between Tranquility and Serenity?

There are some regulatory differences but not to the core mechanics of the game. There are some specific things like they are only allowed to play for a specific time and then you have to stop, those are some specific things that occur in China but aside from that the game remains mostly unchanged.

I noticed that Gunjack and Gunjack 2 were developed by CCP Shanghai which seem like the defensive counterpart to the dog fighting of Valkyrie. Did you oversee the development of those games?

Yes, those games are playing the last line of defense to protect deep space mining ships. In this case one of the big decisions was not to get into movement but have the action come to the player, to feel like you are being attacked by things in an arcade experience where we tried to bring a cinematic experience and emotions of being attacked to the player. That was the goal with the Gunjack franchise.

What changes were made in Gunjack 2 from Gunjack?

It’s the evolution of Gunjack. We added the use of the controller which we found very appealing. The controller separates where you want to aim to shoot from where you move your head to look around so, so you could look at different areas but still get your shot prepared, that opened a lot of doors game play wise. In the first Gunjack where you looked was where you shot, your head was basically the gun. In Gunjack 2 you are able to focus on multiple things at once with the head and gun being separate. The second area was on the cinematic level which was adding scenes where you are following a story that started every mission. Lastly, we made the gameplay deeper and added some multiplayer. And we just tried to make the gameplay better, bigger boss fights.

Would a typical Gunjack 2 mission be defending against several incoming ships and then taking on a very powerful ship for a boss fight?

Yes it would be fighting off waves and waves of ships and then minibosses would come before the actual boss. It’s very arcade and the point was to embrace that arcade feel in the game which is super cool whether it is at an arcade or in VR. 40 years after the creation of video games arcade action is still fun and the marriage of VR and arcade could be very fun. You can’t innovate on all fronts so the idea for Gunjack was to take the arcade formula that we know works and port it to VR. Turret gameplay is proven to work well in 2D gaming so we wanted to try it out in VR.

Gunjack is designed from mobile devices. What are some challenges that are with making mobile VR compared to the larger devices?

Input is a major thing to consider like where the button placements are on the headset and trying to add a controller. Optimization is an issue since mobile devices are less powerful than the machines that run an Oculus or Vive so we have to keep that in mind with the graphics and how many things are going on screen at a time, and with VR everything has to be rendered twice for each eye. Mobile devices are increasing in power quickly so we are going to be able to move which is very cool but they are still more limited than the other VR devices.