Project Awakening Preview: Eve Online Crypto Game ‘Literally Wants to Kill You’


Eve Online players are notoriously hardcore.

Fans of the outer space role-playing game have spent the last two decades filling the persistent universe with epic-scale battles, launching in-game corporations with over 10,000 players, and developing community lore so extensive that multiple books have been written about it. They’ve also deployed extensive tools and data platforms around CCP Games’ creation, plugging holes and expanding on the game in ways that the Icelandic studio hadn’t conceived of.

CCP Games founder and CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson told Decrypt’s GG that half of the activity on Eve Online’s database is now generated by externally developed code.

Eve Online players embraced the decentralized ethos before Bitcoin was even a twinkle in Satoshi’s eye. But it was built as a “traditional” or Web2 online game by a centralized game studio. CCP has done its best to give the community access to data through APIs, which Pétursson calls “functional tools,” but there are limitations and shortcomings.

“Of course, we continue to do this. We’re developing our API. We’re developing our infrastructure,” he said in a recent interview. “But is there not a better way to do this? Fundamentally, just accepting the premise that the game was going to be programmable by players and developers and everyone, by default?”

Project Awakening concept art. Image: CCP Games

Pétursson said he first became interested in Bitcoin and the potential gaming applications for blockchain nearly a decade ago. He spoke with Decrypt in 2020 about the future of crypto gaming, clearly interested in the possibilities but concerned about the small potential market at the time along with the complexity of it all.

He expected that it would take five to 10 years for a “killer app” to emerge in a space that he called a “niche of a niche,” but he kept tabs on crypto gaming. When he speaks now about the challenges of developing and sustaining an online economy, you can sense awareness of Axie Infinity’s play-to-earn challenges in his words.

It was Dark Forest, an experimental and full on-chain Ethereum strategy game, that apparently helped give CCP the push to create the kind of blockchain game that Pétursson had been noodling over. Justin Gilbert, who co-founded the team behind Dark Forest, is a key collaborator in bringing Project Awakening to life through his startup Lattice.

Project Awakening is a game that will demand collaboration from players to survive in an unforgiving world, and it gives CCP Games an opportunity to develop a new kind of Eve experience using the tools of today.

Here’s a first look inside Eve Online’s crypto evolution.

Collaborate or perish

Announced in March 2023 alongside a $40 million funding round led by VC giant Andreessen Horowitz, Project Awakening is CCP’s first blockchain game built in the Eve Online universe. It’s not attempting to replicate Eve Online’s well-established approach, Pétursson explained, nor is it meant to replace the enduring online simulation.

Project Awakening won’t be an epic-scale massively multiplayer online (MMO) game. Instead, it will be a more focused, survival-centric experience that fully embraces the crypto ethos of decentralized development. CCP will develop and “really, really polish the hell” out of the core game, Pétursson said. The community can handle much of the rest.

And it sounds like they won’t have a choice but to collaborate—if they want to survive.

“In the beginning, the world is like a massive beast to be tamed. It’s angry, it’s primal, it’s evil—and it’s out to get you,” he said. “The world of Project Awakening literally wants to kill you.”

How can you evade death in a space game that’s out to get you? Players will need to “band together to survive in the first days,” he explained, which will entail developing “coordination tools” within the game. But Project Awakening won’t simply be a game for programmers, he stresses.

“Not all of the tools involve programming. Some of the tools are more like composable things you can piece together, more of a Minecraft-like experience,” Pétursson added. “Obviously, it’s not voxel-based, but you’re piecing together infrastructure to survive in this evil world.”

To emphasize the apparently lopsided conflict in Project Awakening, he adds, “In the beginning, you are a tiny little human monkey trying to survive in space.”

So Project Awakening won’t just be Eve Online with crypto tokens stapled onto it. But while the game has been through two playtest sessions already, with another ahead, we haven’t seen the game in action—and participants have been bound by non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).

Pétursson confirmed that Project Awakening will be a “new, modern spaceship experience” built on the team’s 20 years of development on Eve, albeit with “cool, newfangled” tools created in collaboration with Lattice. The startup powers Ethereum-based, on-chain games using the Optimism scaling network’s OP tech stack, and CCP is using Lattice’s MUD framework.

Going on-chain

How exactly will Project Awakening use blockchain, though? If players are expected to create tools and systems in a world governed by a decentralized ledger, then how much of that output will be represented on-chain? Dark Forest’s fully on-chain approach—and the apparent sway it had on Pétursson’s vision for Project Awakening—potentially gives some clues.

“I think people will be shocked to find out how the game is architected when it comes to what is on-chain and what is not on-chain,” Pétursson told Decrypt’s GG.

Regarding player-created content, which Lattice’s Gilbert described as “user-generated logic,” he said that such content “will be on the EVM,” or Ethereum Virtual Machine. In this week’s announcement of the next playtest, he described Project Awakening as an “autonomous world bound by digital physics,” further calling it a “universe where actions have consequences, which exists on rules as concrete as our own reality.”

“People come in and not only just make some assets,” Gilbert told Decrypt‘s GG. “They’ll really take the rules of the world and put them together—some through programming, others probably using tools that other people made—in order to be able to express themselves and survive in this world.”

And there will be on-chain crypto tokens, though Pétursson bristles at the idea of calling them “tokens.” It’s a clash of descriptors, really. To him, as a veteran of MMO games, they’re digital currencies; they don’t serve as a “token” to represent anything. But there will be “several currencies” that can be traded like other crypto tokens.

“A ‘token’ sounds incorrect. That’s an abstraction to me. It’s not a ‘token’ of anything. It is a currency in a virtual world or in a game,” he said. “Mentally, I think of them more like currencies; low-level, they’re implemented exactly like tokens, and we’re using token standards to make them.”

Like other Web2 online games, Eve Online has illicit black markets where players trade currency outside the game since it’s not allowed by the terms of service. Eve Online continues to try to root out such efforts, but Pétursson admitted that it’s impossible to snuff out entirely.

“‘Life finds a way,’ like Jeff Goldblum said in ‘Jurassic Park,’” he said. “You can fight it, you can hate it, you can dislike it—whatever. It’s gonna happen.”

But with a decentralized ecosystem, Project Awakening provides another path. Pétursson said that CCP Games is looking forward to figuring out how best to implement bidirectional currency flows using crypto tokens—which means money can not only be put into the game but also taken out of it.

“The bidirectional flow of value in and out is something we very much want to figure out,” he said. “How Project Awakening can participate in the international trade of sovereign nations is something that excites us.”

Phase III nears

Project Awakening’s release doesn’t appear imminent, but the continued push of playtests suggests that progress is being made. The Phase III closed playtest will begin on May 21, and will include an online hackathon that will see the winning teams sent to CCP headquarters in Iceland to show off their creations.

CCP Games also announced this week that it plans to open-source its multi-platform Carbon Development Platform, which has been used by the studio for more than a decade across games. That’s billed as an evolution of CCP’s collaborative approach to date with the Eve Online community, alongside its push into blockchain gaming.

So far, Pétursson said that the Project Awakening playtests have “blown our expectations out of the water,” with users developing rich on-chain tools and elements. During a two-week playtest in December, he said, one alliance launched its own token and religion system, while someone developed and deployed a “fully-featured corporation operations suite” from scratch.

The Phase III playtest will be the longest yet, with more players involved. As a result, Pétursson expects to be pleasantly surprised by their ingenuity all over again, just as he has been for over 20 years with Eve Online.

“We are expecting our brains to be blown even more by our players,” he said. “And every time our minds get blown, we have better ideas—and we get closer to the ultimate potential of this experience.”

Edited by Ryan Ozawa.





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