Plans to produce a TV series based on the hit video game “EVE Online” were announced nearly a year ago, with “2 Guns” director Baltasar Kormakur attached to develop the project.
The game’s developer, CCP Games, however, is in “no hurry” to rush the series into production, according to the company’s CEO, Hilmar Veigar Petursson. The Iceland-based company is currently meeting with TV networks and studio executives to find a partner to produce the series and other potential offshoots.
“We would rather do it well than in a hurry,” Petursson told Variety at the DICE Summit in Las Vegas.
Petursson said CCP has no reason to get into the TV business given the success of the massively multiplayer online role playing game. “EVE Online” has more than 500,000 players around the world; they recently generated headlines for destroying $300,000 worth of virtual spaceships during an epic space battle.
The entire “EVE” Universe claims 900,000 players, spread out between the “EVE Online” and “Dust 514” games.
CCP sees linear forms of storytelling on other platforms as a way to engage with both the game’s hardcore fans and newcomers to the franchise — the way HBO has successfully turned “Game of Thrones” into a major hit.
In fact, the eventual TV series will feature an original concept and storyline set in the game’s universe, but in a unique move, the game’s creators are turning to players to come up with many of the tales it will tell on TV.
“We’re now in the process of capturing the stories,” Petursson said Wednesday during the opening panel of this year’s DICE Summit, which attracts the videogame industry’s gamemakers to discuss the latest trends impacting the biz. Event is taking place at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas.
CCP is first launching “EVE: True Stories” as a comicbook, published by Dark Horse, that incorporates stories that fans have submitted based on plots that they’ve participated in while playing the game. There’s also the fan-driven “True Stories From the First Decade” website, hardbound “EVE Online Source” and “Dust 514” books to appeal to players and newcomers to the series.
“This is a property that has been created by hundreds of thousands of people around the world,” Petursson said. “People understand the power of that. It is the biggest story ever written in a way. If we create a story out of that, we’ve created something very powerful” – and a stronger connection with “EVE’s” fanbase. “In the future, they will be able to think, ‘If I do an awesome job it will be in the TV series.’”
To make it more powerful, however, the focus needs to be about people, their relationships and their struggles, Petursson stresses.
“The whole sci-fi aspect (of ‘EVE’) should be window dressing and context,” he said. “The game is about spaceships. We can’t have spaceships talking to each other. You need to visualize the drama behind the scenes.”
“’Titanic’ isn’t about the ship,” Petursson added. “It’s about two people who fall in love.”
But with “Titanic,” Petursson stresses that audiences also don’t like surprises in the stories they experience.
They know that the ship will eventually sink, which heightens the film’s plot and relationship between its characters, for example. “Why is ‘Avatar’ the Pocahontas script?” Petursson asks. “Having the script be a familiar story gives you a rope to hang onto as you’re on the roller coaster ride.”
That familiarity has helped attract Hollywood.
“People in Hollywood have gotten an appreciation for something that (has a hardcore audience) and adding their flair so that it’s more accessible to a mass audience,” Petursson said. TV also is seen as an easier medium through which to engage with fans, he added.
CCP said it needed to think of new ways to introduce people to the “EVE” universe, because it found people were interested in the game and its world but didn’t want to devote the time to play it – or be consumed by it.
“Not everyone wants to take it that far,” Petursson said. “But there’s an audience that’s curious about it.”
And more are getting interested in the property – especially after an in-game war recently destroyed more than $300,000 worth of virtual items players paid for during a 20-hour battle.
CCP has no plans to produce and distribute the TV series on its own and go the Netflix route other produces are now embracing for their original productions.
“Our focus is on making the game,” Petursson said. “We know nothing about making good TV. We watch TV and have opinions, but it’s not the same thing. We don’t want to pretend to know something about what we don’t.”
“It’s helpful to have Baltasar,” Petursson added, “because (the storytelling) needs to go through a level of filtering.”
The comicbook also will be used as a way to “test what works and cuts through,” Petursson said.
The success of series like “The Walking Dead,” “Game of Thrones” and film franchises like “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Hobbit” and “Harry Potter” have encouraged gamemakers to consider expanding their properties onto other platforms.
“Often with computer games, we have been so preoccupied on the technology and the game design,” Petursson said. “The narrative and world-building wasn’t a big focus. But that was a big focus for us.”
The successful transition of genre properties from the book to the screen has also helped Hollywood grasp the potential of games with strong followings, as well.
“Hollywood is getting clued into the power” of the games and their franchise potential, Petursson said. “If you look at things that come out today versus five or 10 years ago, it’s way more authentic and people appreciate that authenticity.”
Peterson said he’s been impressed with studios and TV networks trying to make the adaptations “authentic for the core audience first, not because they’re the biggest part of the overall audience, but that’s where you connect the authenticity together.”
He cites “Lord of the Rings” as the best example of a film series that “visualized the story so that it matched the imagination of the people who read the books” and ultimately made them appealing in the first place. The same is true for “Game of Thrones” for him. “When I watch ‘Game of Thrones,’ I want to go to the wall and be part of it,” Petursson said.
But CCP’s Icelandic roots also don’t hurt.
“Because we’re Icelandic, sagas and world building has always been important to us,” Petursson said. “If you think of it as a cliche, everyone in Iceland would like to write a book, the way everyone in Paris wants to own a restaurant and everyone in America wants to be famous.”