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Saturday, February 17, 2024

EVE Online studio CCP Games is making a blockchain game

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EVE Online studio CCP Games has announced that it is working on a new triple-A game set in the EVE universe, and I am very sorry to say that it is a blockchain game.

“Since its inception, CCP Games’ vision has been to create virtual worlds more meaningful than real life,” CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson said at projectawakening.io. “Now, with advancements made within blockchain, we can forge a new universe deeply imbued with our expertise in player agency and autonomy, empowering players to engage in new ways.”

The announcement is really about the funding for the project, rather than the game itself: CCP got $40 million in development funding from Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm founded by Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen. CCP did say, however, that the project will “leverage smart-contract blockchain technology, focusing on persistence, composability and truly open third-party development to create a new relationship between virtual worlds and players.”

I’m honestly not sure what that’s supposed to mean, and unfortunately the Andreessen Horowitz announcement isn’t any more informative. 

“This new AAA title will combine CCP’s 25 years of game design experience with the latest in blockchain technology to enable a new frontier in player agency and autonomy, and will also be set within the EVE Universe,” it said.

“Together, we share the belief that player ownership and governance within an open platform can be a key source of fun that serves to amplify great gameplay and captivating game design.”

There is one interesting note in there: Andreessen Horowitz said CCP “has already made great progress in product development and we’ve been very impressed by the playtests thus far.” It’s more than just empty promises and other people’s money being thrown around, in other words.

Still, I have questions. Despite announcements like this one, blockchain-based game development seems stagnant, perhaps because so few developers are actually interested in it. GDC’s annual developer survey found that only 12% of respondents were in favor of using blockchain tech in games, compared to 56% opposed. Worse, I’ve never seen anyone explain what a blockchain-based game is going to accomplish for players that conventional technology cannot. And there’s been real pushback against blockchain and NFTs in videogames, although I’m starting to think our declaration that they’ve been bullied out of mainstream games might have been a bit premature.

The reaction to Pétursson’s tweet from crypto enthusiasts and blockchain developers is predictably positive, but it’s somewhat more mixed from other quarters:

Going to throw up pic.twitter.com/hPcNvi3qvRMarch 21, 2023

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Speaking for myself, I don’t see the point of throwing around meaningless buzzwords to hype a game that, for all intents and purposes, does not exist beyond a funding announcement. But this is how it always seems to be with blockchain game announcements: We hear about the money, but not the games. Of course, there’s no guarantee that this project will ever see the light of day anyway, as CCP seems to have trouble making anything that isn’t EVE Online.

Pétursson has previously expressed some enthusiasm for the “untapped potential” of blockchain technology, but also acknowledging that there’s “a lot of work needed” before it’s ready to be used in games like EVE Online. He stated explicitly in 2022 that “we have no plans to add blockchain technology into EVE Online’s global server Tranquillity for the foreseeable future,” adding that “for us, NFT stands for ‘Not for Tranquility’.” 

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