"One thing we found out is that women don't want to be spaceships," Petursson said in an interview with Eurogamer. The corporate chief of Icelandic developer CCP, Petursson has overseen development of EVE from its conception. "I've shown EVE Online videos to lots of girls, and their eyes just glaze over... but I show it to guys and they're like, 'Hell yeah!' Our research in to this, by hiring more girls into CCP and asking them what they want to do, shows that they want to be people. They don't want to be spaceships."
Petursson (pictured left) got his start with software developer OZ Studios, helping to design a 3D Van Gogh Exhibit before leaving to lead in the development of EVE Online. The single-server, space-based game is now entering its fifth year of operation, and has enjoyed steady growth despite strong competition in the genre. CCP recently merged with RPG designer White Wolf Publishing, and is planning on releasing an MMO based on White Wolf's World of Darkness franchise in "four to five" years. In the meantime, development of EVE continues, with major content expansions on the horizon.
While players can design character portraits in EVE, the whole of the game is currently played from the perspective of a spaceship. This differs from most MMOs, which often allow for a personalized avatar with which female gamers can more readily identify. To remedy this, CCP will eventually be allowing players to climb out of their spacesuits and stretch their legs in docking ports. These new congregational areas will become a way for players to network on a more social level when they are added sometime in 2008. "Customizable clothing should be quite unique. You also might want to have a corporation outfit. That might actually be really cool as well," Petursson added.
Gaming companies are increasingly targeting the female demographic with socially-focused games. Last year, a survey by Nielsen Entertainment found that almost two-thirds (62 percent) of all active online gamers are female, while women account for almost a third of all gamers (30 percent) overall. Despite the fact that the study was not limited to retail games, it still reveals a growing market that companies are keen to exploit.
Developer nDreams last week announced Venus Redemption, a Sims-like episodic series that will present "powerful storylines, deep characters, emotion-based interactive conversations and exciting adventure gameplay." The company pointed out the game's casual nature, noting that it will be "extremely easy to play, requiring only the ability to move and left-click a mouse" as well as "playable in short bursts."
nDreams is lead by former Eidos creative director Patrick O'Luanaigh. "After many months of development and exhaustive gameplay focus testing, we believe that it will prove a breath of fresh air for the casual game sector, and in particular for female casual gamers. With the technology behind Venus Redemption, we can now rapidly develop immersive and visually impressive story-based casual games that will run on almost any PC," O'Luanaigh said, emphasizing the need for an undaunting experience to keep the attention of female audiences who may have never played a video game.
While more and more women may be playing games, Petursson notes that, like most companies, CCP remains focused on providing new content without regard for a specific gender. "It's a side benefit," he said. "I mean, we did not sit down and say, 'How do we get women into EVE?' That's not how it happened."