CCP Games - Interview with the EVE Universe Software Director (Part 1 of 3)
This email interview was conducted April 2013. It first appeared on my blog in early May 2013. I've since retired my blog, so I don't want these interviews to become unavailable. I believe these CCP Games employee interviews should continue to be available to EVE Online players and other interested gamers.
CCP Explorer. Many of you know him on Twitter as @erlendur. He's the dude that is always so helpful. Answering what questions he can, forwarding questions off to the right devs. If a dev isn't on Twitter, he does his best to get an answer to a query in a timely manner.
He's one of the most active CCP employees on Twitter.
He's a personable guy who's always looking to help and socialize with the playerbase more. He has an intense interest in making sure players get the answers they need. He has an intense interest in ironing out any misconceptions.
The funny thing is that few people really know what CCP Explorer does at CCP. I thought I had an idea before I began this interview, but really, even I didn't know. He wears quite a few hats. He is a conductor for the EVE Universe, were the universe a symphony.
Before we begin, some definitions and rules of language.
CCP distinguishes between three different management roles: Producer, Director and Manager.
- Producers are responsible for task lists, backlogs, planning, scheduling, execution, etc. They oversee the What and the When.
- Directors are responsible for all tasks being carried out according to all relevant best practices. They oversee the How.
- Managers are personnel managers and are responsible for hiring, performance management, salary negotiation, soft skill training and continuing education. They oversee the Who.
When referring to EVE it is in reference to EVE Online. DUST is a reference to DUST 514. When speaking of the One Universe paradigm, EVE Universe is used.
On to the interview ...
Who is CCP Explorer?
My name is Erlendur S. Þorsteinsson (or Erlendur S. Thorsteinsson for those using the latin alphabet.) I have a B.Sc. in Applied Mathematics and a B.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of Iceland. I then went to the States to further my education, acquiring an M.Sc. and a Ph.D. in Algorithms (Combinatorics and Optimization) from Carnegie Mellon University.
When did you first arrive at CCP? And what was your first role with the company?
I started at CCP in March 2007. My title was "Software Director" and I have kept it to this day even if my role has changed since then.
I started as the EVE Software Personnel Manager and was also responsible for various aspects of the software development as well the live operation of EVE Online. Later I also took over personnel management of EVE Quality Assurance. About a year ago I handed off all personnel management roles to dedicated personnel managers, leaving me currently with four defined roles:
- EVE Universe Software Director
- EVE Online Software Director
- EVE Online Senior Live Producer
- EVE Online Technical Director (one of two)
The Technical Director is responsible for code quality and coding practices (such as code reviews) with a group of Lead Programmers and Technical Leads.
My role within EVE Universe is to facilitate technical communication between EVE Online, DUST 514 and New Eden Services.
The Live Producer is responsible for deployment scheduling and the deployments themselves with DUST's Live Producer and New Eden Services' Live Producer. New Eden Services is responsible for EVE and DUST's joint/shared services, such as Tranquility itself, but only at the level of managing the hardware and identifying what group needs to tackle live issues. The Live Producer is also responsible for all live issues on Tranquility being tackled.
The Software Director is responsible for software project management.
Technical project management and live operations have long been my passion and as roles and responsibilities have been redefined as business needs changed then I have trended towards those roles.
What has been your proudest moment at CCP? A specific project, perhaps?
The EVE Trinity expansion is the one I recall most fondly (yes, despite boot.ini). It was a tremendous amount of hard work but there was joy and excitement in the air at the Reykjavik office. I felt a similar excitement at the Shanghai office recently as the DUST Uprising expansion was submitted to Sony. There have been many other high points but Trinity holds a special place.
Currently, where are you in the CCP foodchain? What people report directly to you? Who do you report directly to?
No one reports directly to me in terms of personnel management [see explanation above]. In terms of technical direction then approximately half of EVE's programming teams. In terms of deployments and live operations then all of EVE's development teams. It really depends on the specifics if I'm responsible and accountable for a particular task getting done and/or correctly done.
I report directly to CCP Unifex, EVE's Executive Producer, as do CCP Seagull, EVE's Senior Producer, and CCP Ripley, EVE's Development Director.
I had no idea you were that far up the foodchain. Just below CCP Unifex and on par with CCP Seagull and CCP Ripley. Which CCP employees do you deal with most often on a daily/weekly basis?
The programmers, the configuration management and build team, the CTO, CCP Ripley, the Live Producers of DUST and New Eden Services are the ones I interact most with, but I also talk to a number of the testers and game designers on a regular basis.
My notion of your job is that you basically manage all the various development teams. My notion could be very much wrong. Please explain what it is your job entails. What important function do you offer into the development process?
EVE's scrum culture provides the development teams with great autonomy to manage their backlogs and time, and the Product Owners and Scrum Masters are the responsible parties there.
The EVE Trinity expansion was a tremendous amount of hard work but there was joy and excitement in the air at the Reykjavik office.
My role within EVE is to follow up on code quality and engineering practices with the senior programmers (who in turn are responsible for their teams), plan EVE deployments with the Development Director, plan (technical) software projects with the Senior Producer and the Development Director and consult with them on technical matters, plan code and data structure and porting with the build and configuration management team, execute EVE deployments, coordinate EVE and DUST deployments with the Live Producers of the other projects, and tackle all live issues that occur on Tranquility with Virtual World Operations, the Live Response team and the feature-owning team(s). My role within EVE Universe is to facilitate technical communication between EVE Online, DUST 514 and New Eden Services, and within the different projects between the Reykjavík and Shanghai offices as needed.