CCP Games' MMO Eve Online and first-person shooter Dust 514 are part of an ever-evolving universe that is more of a webservice masquerading as a game than a closed computer game, according to CCP Games senior technical producer Andie Nordgren.
Speaking during a panel during GDC 2013, Nordgren said she was drawn to work on Eve because to her it was a "webservice that thought it was a computer game."
"The game universe is not just storing your play session in the cloud, it means we're giving you a universe where you can have your own experience and other players will have an experience that changes based on what you do," she said of the shared world of Eve Online and Dust 514. "This is always going to be one single-shard world that we keep evolving."
Nordgren said it's been a "long-held vision" at developer CCP that it was always the company's intention to create an evolving in-game universe with real-world connections. Nordgren said the annual Eve Fanfest convention and player meetups play a large role in world of Eve and Dust, linking players across the game and in the real world.
"We learn so much by looking outside game development."
Internet communities have also been instrumental in the maintenance of the game's universe. Wiki pages, fansites and guides established by players have helped other players navigate the world, read up on the games' lore and essentially create a deeper experience for all involved, said Nordgren.
Nordgren said CCP engages with its players on three levels: and built its technical architecture to serve players as customers, dedicated players and as the in-game character they play as. This engagement includes helping players set up and manage accounts and deliver updates or features in a smooth and helpful way. Nordgren said that CCP had "botched" these engagements before and have since learned what players need to work through issues.
"I think in many games the distinction between the player level and character level are as clear as the one we have," she said. "But I think it's a useful exercise because it will help you see if you need different people to focus [both]."
CCP's "border services" grouping includes systems for in-game virtual goods, account authentication and account management. Nordgren said it's important to integrate and run these key areas smoothly.
"We learn so much by looking outside game development," Nordgren said, stating it's a good idea to step out of the industry to get a different perspective on what could work for online games. "It looks us about two years to transform from running one game to having an actual universe. I would respect the time it takes for these type of transformations. There are tools and tricks for doing it."