For some time I have been meaning to start an interview series of blogposts. rather than just speaking with the CEOs, Alliance leaders and CSM candidates of EVE, it is my hope to give voice to a varied array of players from every echelon of EVE life.
In a coincidental and serendipitous moment, I had the good fortune to be contacted in-game by Sevidra who, it soon became clear, represents the very zeitgeist of EVE culture at the moment. She is indeed a 'she' and is also new to EVE, so I couldn't resist asking to interview her in the wake of the Women of EVE Blog Banter and also Tobold's controversial and very public blog about being a new player in EVE.
So on with the inquisition:
Seismic Stan: Sevidra, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. First off, what kind of gaming background do you come from?
Sevidra: Well, I've played a lot of games over a long time. In MMO terms, I've played most of them - City of H/V, WoW, LOTRO, Asheron's Call, EverQuest (I, not II), Entropia, and so on. In single-person game terms, I've also been all over the map. I played the Heavy Gear and Mechwarrior series. I've played Oblivion (and Daggerfall, even when it crashed, literally every 30 seconds, on my machine), Hexen and Half-Life, Fallout, many of the Sim- games (including 'The Sims' and its spinoffs), every Civ game I've found... the list goes on. In addition, I've been a pencil-and-paper gamer for ages.
Seismic Stan: In a recent Blog Banter, many EVE bloggers have suggested that CCPs marketing is very male-centric. Despite this you are playing EVE, what attracted you to the universe of New Eden?
Sevidra: Partially my husband. He was looking for a game in which he could get intelligent, skill-based (not game-mechanic or loot-based) pvp combat. I myself am more of a pve player, so it's definitely a step I might not normally take. The trailers and ads are very much aimed at a pvp, killer-achiever type crowd. People who like to 'be the best', or 'be the strongest' - honestly, it kind of reminded me of the recent Army ads in the USA. Not my cup of tea, normally.
Seismic Stan: But still you came. What expectations did you have when logging in for the first time? Can you tell us how that first session went and what your first impressions of EVE were?
Sevidra: I was nervous. I was honestly terrified that I'd be facing gankers, even in the newbie areas. So many pvp games suffer from griefers! The desire to leave your mark on the population (which is part of what causes griefers to do what they do) is what the EVE ads seem to be aimed at. Logging in, though, I was impressed with the tutorial. I got a lot of free stuff in the first couple of days. All of it was _useful_ stuff.
The newbie missions gave me a lot of the skills I needed, and helped me sort out how to do things. Heck, I even taught my husband how to scan, after having done the missions he hadn't had the patience to bother with. I really enjoyed those. I wish the scanning had given me something a bit more nifty and unique, but it was fun anyway.
I like to collect stuff. I'm one of those players who had every gun in Fallout, as well as hoards of ammunition and all the junk for the workshop. There's a lot to collect in EVE! So that's definitely been a high point so far.
Usually, the biggest draw to a game for me is exploration. My two favorite MMO's so far have been Asheron's Call and Entropia. The worlds were immense. There was always something new to find, some place to explore, some new items to see or locate. I'm a touch worried about that here, because most of the exploration seems to be discouraged by people 'defending their territory', or just plain ganking folks. And I certainly am not strong enough to go into a wormhole yet. So we'll see ...
Seismic Stan: You are not alone in your concerns. Tobold, a prominent blogger in the wider MMO world, has also recently started playing EVE. A few of his EVE-related posts compare and contrast EVE to the more traditional WoW-type MMOs. He suggested that EVE's game design encourages "bullying" and promotes an unfair gaming environment. What are your thoughts on this?
Sevidra: Hum. In certain ways, he's right. From what I've seen, CCP does not police its population in any real sense. So scams and other means of taking advantage of stupidity (or even ignorance in some cases) are definitely encouraged. I've seen a higher degree of paranoia - and with good reason - here than in any other game I've played.
....and I've played Paranoia.
Seismic Stan: What have you enjoyed the most about your EVE experience so far?
Sevidra: The fact that even a new person can make money, and the tutorial missions. I've found a little group of folks who weren't as paranoid, who were willing to walk me through things and hang around, and who have been helping me out. That's been really important. Honestly, as an explorer, there hasn't been a huge amount to keep me here, but I'm still here for my husband and the folks I've met. I have hope that I'll get to explore and really get excited eventually.
I kind of consider it to be the 'grind period' you get in so many MMO's before you can really go anywhere. The only game that didn't have that was AC, way back in the beginning... and that was an extroardinary situation.
Seismic Stan: What has frustrated you the most? What what you like to see changed or introduced?
Sevidra: There's a lot that's boring, and a lot of real nastiness on the part of some of the players. I'd like to see more that's unique and fun to explore, and to feel safer with the idea of exploring things in general. I'd love to have an invulnerable ship that couldn't see players or their stations (so it couldn't be abused for scouting), and just go romping around seeing the sights of New Eden.
Seismic Stan: I like this 'invulnerable ship' idea. It could perhaps work as a more immersive version of the world map, enabling an extra level of depth beyond the solar system map. It could include collectable data and reference material, a bit like Warhammer Online's Tome of Knowledge. Maybe accessible from in-station as part of the upcoming Incarna interface. Perhaps it's worth submitting a proposal to the CSM in the Assembly Hall section of the EVE forums.
Have you heard of the Council of Stellar Management (CSM)? It is a player-elected body than has the opportunity to communicate directly with developers to address issues and suggest changes to EVE Online. Did you know that elections have recently opened. Historically, new players have been under-represented in the voting, which is a shame. Would you/have you/are you going to vote? Who for? Why?
Sevidra: I saw the incitement to vote on the opening screen of the game. I didn't know what they did or why I should bother voting for them. What do I know? What if I vote for someone and they turn out to be an idiot (or worse, someone who supports scamming and griefing, and will push for those to be even more widely available)? I don't feel I have enough information to vote for or against any of them.
Seismic Stan: It really is a great system that allows players to have a real say in the development of the game. There's a very helpful vote-matching site here that helps you narrow down candidates that would best represent your interests. Go here to view candidates and vote.
Moving on, what are your future plans within EVE? What do you hope to get out of your experience?
Sevidra: A collection of one of everything in the universe would be nice (Yes, I'm like that). Real exploration would be nice. But since I don't expect to actually get that here, I'll just keep playing other games for it, and play EVE to collect. If EVE ever wanted to really become my first choice in gaming it would have to make _real_ exploration (where the final goal isn't stuff or territory or anything, but knowledge and experience - and maybe screenshots of it) a serious possibility.
Seismic Stan: Well it's been great interviewing you and I think your answers just go to prove that new players are often an underestimated force. I'm glad you are enjoying your EVE experience and not being overwhelmed by it. Subsequent to our in-game meeting I was concerned that an anonymous post from an apparently disillusioned female EVE player on the 'EVEquality: Rise of the Female Gamer' article might have been you. If it wasn't I hope she is still reading (and playing) and maybe your comments might help.
Anyway, that just about rounds the interview off I think, is there anything you'd like to add?
Sevidra: I actually read that blog post you were talking about, since it was in the News on the first page on logging in [to the EVE client]. I was tempted to answer it, but there was something about having to have your own blog and post five others after you... so in the end, I didn't bother.
It's not just _women_ EVE needs, I think. It's Explorers and Socializers. EVE needs more content that isn't dangerous, places to go to play around and not be afraid. It needs sights that are unique, reasons to visit new systems you've never been to before (and a method to do that without being instakilled by pvp'ers in big ships). And they need to advertise it! If they do that, more women will show up (along with more explorers and achievers).
Seismic Stan: I agree that more could be done to market EVE to a different audience and perhaps Incarna will offer a lot in that regard. However, I think part of EVE's individuality is in the fact that you are never entirely safe and the possibility of real loss makes gain all the more satisfying and tangible. I would be wary of diluting what makes EVE unique.
With regard to exploring, I think it is certainly possible to explore just about everywhere with the minimum of risk if the right preparations are made. High-sec is clearly pretty safe and low-sec in an agile frigate is pretty do-able if you keep moving. It's only null-sec and it's interdictor bubbles that present a real navigational hazard for the unwary. Mark726 of EVE Travel manages to visit all sorts of strange corners of New Eden without too much hassle. Maybe he could provide some guidance to other would-be explorers as to how it's done...