You're forgiven for not remembering CCP's London studio.
The Eve Online maker set up shop in the UK capital back in 2016 with an office that housed around 40 people. We haven't heard much from this outpost since then, but that changed earlier this year when CCP announced that Splash Damage, EA and Ubisoft vet Adrian Blunt was coming on board as studio director.
Though there have been few public-facing statements about what CCP London is up to, the studio has been in a long prototyping stage testing various concepts for its debut project.
"We set up the studio in order to create new experiences within CCP Games," Blunt explains.
"We've been flying under the radar for quite a long period of time because we were really busy concepting what this new project should be. We kept the studio quite small and have been trying different ideas. That has culminated in us having the time and the space to hone a concept that really excites us and will excite players. It's something we wanted to really just dwell on. Having found that, we're now going full bore with the studio, ramping that up and really getting behind this concept. It's been a long process, but now we're really powering forward."
At the moment, CCP London is still around 50 people strong. Though the studio will be expanding as production on its project expands, Blunt doesn't foresee it becoming a huge venture, not least because of the help it is receiving from external developers, such as Keywords' Sperasoft.
"There's value in staying relatively lean," Blunt says. "How much we eventually grow will be determined largely by the needs of the game and it evolves once it goes live. There's a lot of value in staying small, staying lean and utilising external development to expand up and down."
I want to give the team the freedom to be able to make decisions, unencumbered by anything that we say publicly around the game
As is the case with a large portion of people around the world, CCP London has had to adapt to the new mix of remote and office work due to COVID-19 restrictions. This is something that the studio is going to continue into the future as it expands and staffs up for its project.
Though Blunt says that while remote working does bring its challenges, he has been impressed by the work the team has achieved from their homes.
"One of the amazing things I've seen in this early concept and pre-production phase is the team's ability to work so well whilst being fully remote," he says. "What the team has been able to achieve has been phenomenal. But it's also it's given those insights as to how challenging that can be. Collaboration, for example, whilst everybody has is talking over video calls is possible. It's just hard."
It will be unsurprising to many that offices in central London are far from cheap. So we have to ask: does CCP have any regrets about forking out what we imagine are sizeable sums of money for this space when hybrid working means it probably won't be fully utilised?
"No, not at all," Blunt insists. "Our office space in London is fantastic. Working in central London as a game developer is brilliant. Obviously, I joined during the pandemic, but I remember walking across Covent Garden into the office for the first time felt so great. Having that space, meeting people and being able to interact with other developers in the office is just brilliant. So I have absolutely no regrets."
As for what CCP London is actually working on, the studio is staying pretty silent for the time being. We do know that it is developing a shooter set within the Eve universe, something that has proven a difficult thing to get right in the past.
CCP has previously attempted to make this kind of game with 2013's Dust 514 – which received a mixed reception on release – and the now-cancelled Project Nova. Following in the footsteps of those titles, it's fair to assume that the London team is feeling pressure to really nail the concept this time around.
"I wouldn't describe it as pressure; it's more excitement," Blunt says. "The Eve universe that CCP has created is an incredible playground. Being able to create experiences within that is phenomenally exciting.
"I can see the history of our games. Everything that we've done is a lesson to be learned. We're building on those lessons, incorporating them into our thinking and applying them to this amazing opportunity to create experiences. It's exciting to come to work every day."
We've been flying under the radar for quite a long period of time because we were really busy concepting what this new project should be
Though details about CCP London's project are slim, Blunt does tell PCGamesInsider.biz that it is not intended purely for hardcore Eve Online fans. The studio wants to attract a wider array of players.
"It's for a broader audience," he says. "One of the things that I personally have always been fascinated by is how the Eve universe touches so many different people, even those outside of games. It is an IP that that really captures interest in lots of different areas of life. Being able to create experiences that allow players to experience this universe in different ways feels like such a natural thing to do. So I think a broader demographic of players will enjoy this experience."
Given that CCP London's debut title is still in pre-production – and the company's new approach to discussing upcoming projects – the odds are we won't be seeing much of it for some time. This is partly to keep unnecessary pressure off the development team.
"Before you go into full production, there are a number of decisions that have to be made," Blunt explains.
"I want to give the team the freedom to be able to make those decisions, unencumbered by anything that we say publicly around the game. We are incredibly excited. As I say, we've gone through a very long concept phase of trying a lot of different ideas and we've found something that we're really excited about. We're playing it a lot."
He concludes: "I'm chomping at the bit to talk about it. But right now we can't really say much more."