Interview with Mike “Campion” Wallis, Producer

As the new path of development in EVE Online focuses on iteration of old features we thought it would be appropriate to re-release an old interview with the Producer that shipped EVE Online back in 2002. Its old, and its nostalgia in pure form, but we hope you’ll enjoy this stroll down memory lane.

This may seem like a silly question, however it’s one of the toughest to answer. What exactly is a game producer?

A producer’s primary responsibility is directing the ongoing development of a project–everything from budgets to schedules to driving the creative vision. Additional tasks include providing leadership on market trends, patterns, and customer requirements, acquisitions of potential hit titles, communicating plans and schedules to the other departments within the company such as marketing, PR, and sales. Something like that was on my job description.

How did you break into the industry? Word on the street is it’s a pretty tough gig to get.

I broke into the gaming industry many moons ago as a customer service representative and worked my way into the production group through quality assurance.

I don’t believe the industry is as difficult to get into as people say; people need to understand that oftentimes they will have to put in their time at the entry level jobs before they can transition into other roles.

Aside from EVE, what other titles have you worked on?

I currently have an Xbox action arcade shooter called Seablade wrapping up final approvals at Microsoft right now. We should see it in stores shortly. Other projects with Simon & Schuster Interactive I shipped include two Star Trek: Deep Space Nine games: The Fallen in November of 2000 and Dominion Wars in June of 2001. The Fallen was nominated by Computer Gaming World as one of the top adventure games of the year. In all, I have directly managed the development of over 10 shipped products, and have participated in shipping over 25 products throughout my career.

If I wanted to become a game producer, what advice would you give me? What kind of study or training should I partake in?

Play lots of games. Don’t just play them for the sake of playing them, but try and understand why things are done in the game. For example, why is the interface flow process the way it is? Why does a game restrict a player to saving at only certain points? Everything is done for a reason, be it design, technical, or playability. Understanding the motives behind why things are done is very important.

A producer must manage teams of people as well as have a strong business sense. Therefore, I’d recommend studying business management in college, for not only will you be taught key managerial fundamentals, but you will also learn the essentials of marketing, finance, economics, and corporate communications. It’s an all-encompassing package.

How did you first hear about EVE?

I first heard about EVE from a good friend of mine who sent me an email saying, “Hey, check this game out-they don’t have a publisher yet.” My buddy knew I was on the lookout for products for Simon & Schuster Interactive to acquire, so he clued me into EVE. That was back in March of 2001. From there, I contacted CCP’s CEO and the first conversations between our two companies began at the E3 show in 2001.

What was it about the game that made you want to become involved?

Besides the amazing visuals, which are what will initially attract everybody, I was very intrigued by the promise of a pure player-based economy. So many MMOGs out there promise player economies, but as yet, none have delivered anywhere close what EVE is on track to accomplish. You can pull out the player crafted items and economies in existing mmog’s, and the games will function almost the same as they are right now, but in EVE everything is created by the player-from the ships you fly, to the missiles you launch, to the weapons you fire. The aspect of involving the player community at that core level is what sets EVE apart from the rest of the pack.

Do you steal from the rich and give to the poor?

Only when wearing a green tunic and carrying a bow and arrow. 🙂

Someone mentioned on the forums that they saw an advertisement for EVE in a magazine. Have we seen the start of the advertising campaign, and what can we expect to see in the future?

We launched our first set of ads, that is correct. While the first ads were “teaser” or “coming soon” ads, our full campaign will begin in February with broad print, web-based, and cross marketing campaigns. Everybody knows about our a huge press event in San Francisco back in August, and Peter Binazeski, our PR director, has more in store for EVE. Future plans include developer chats, designer diaries, production updates, interviews, game previews, and of course contests for EVE merchandise on gaming sites such as Stratics as well as on the official EVE website.

Events like ECTS, E3 and the media event in San Francisco have really increased the gaming public and gaming media’s awareness of EVE. Can we expect to see EVE at more of these, and will there be a European press event in the future? The major media events for EVE have for the most part ended, although we cannot rule out any of our PR Director’s future plans, as he is always pulling great ideas out of his sleeves. What that means is we will continue to have a steady stream of EVE publicity. EVE certainly won’t vanish off the gaming radar, but we also don’t want to create an obnoxious saturation of publicity that is enough to make people sick. Our European publisher, Crucial Entertainment, will make the determination whether they will hold a European press event. Since our publishing agreement with Crucial is still relatively new, I can only assume they will have a strong EVE PR movement put into motion within the next several months.

It was recently announced that EVE’s release date was postponed until Q1 2003. Can you tell us a little about why that decision was made, and how such a decision for any title is made as well?

It was a joint decision made by both CCP and Simon & Schuster Interactive. Our goal all along has been to ship EVE only when it was ready, and we felt at the time (the decision was made in late September) that the remaining two months before the game hit the stores wouldn’t be enough time for us to put the final polish on an otherwise stellar product. We still had some major features which needed solid testing, and we still needed to stress test the code thoroughly. Therefore we made the decision to move the release date towards the end of Q1, 2003. Yes, we know it meant missing the Holiday Season, and while most publishers would want to rush a game out to help make their year-end financial numbers, Simon & Schuster fully supported the decision to delay EVE. We are in this for the longevity and overall success of the product, not for a quick quarterly revenue boost.

The delay of release has been welcomed by most people, especially fans in Europe. It’s been said previously that while the game itself will remain in English, user manuals and installation instructions will be translated. Have you decided on which languages will be covered? And will other EVE related material (eg. strategy guides) also be translated?

The final decision to localize will rest with our European publishing partner, but I would guess they will localize in the major markets: French, German, Italian, and Spanish. EVE has a large Scandinavian following, so perhaps Swedish and/or Norwegian as well. The localization of an EVE strategy guide would depend on who we finally decide to go with to create the guide. We are talking with two separate strategy guide publishers at the moment.

Are there any current plans to release downloads or retail add-ons to EVE that will add new areas to the game, post launch?

The EVE Live Team has plans for additional content to be released through regular patches. And while add-on/expansion packs have been discussed, those are still out a ways into the future. Our first task is to ship a great game, then we will start seriously thinking about expansion packs.

Any last thoughts for us?

Come join us in the world of EVE: The Second Genesis. Where the universe revolves around you.

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