Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Evolution of EVE Society


I've arrived safely in Vegas after a ten-hour flight which gave me plenty of time to reflect on all things EVE (between preparing myself for a week in the US by watching the inflight movies 'Paul' and 'Battle: Los Angeles').

Community Crisis?

Shortly before departing, I gate-crashed the recording of EVE Commune Episode 28 where I was sad to discover they had just announced that they would be winding the podcast down. Whilst I believe the primary reason for this can be frequently heard in the background of the recording (Caitlin for CSM27!), the announcement led into a conversation about the state of the community and it was suggested that recent controversies had "split the EVE community", damaging it.

I believe CCP expected the release of the Incarna expansion to be the equivalent of throwing a dirty great rock into the tranquil EVE pond. After all, Incarna heralds a fundamental change in the overall EVE Online experience and you can't make an omelette without throwing rocks into ponds. Or Something.

Necessary Change

There were certainly casualties during The Month of Incarnage and although the actual figures of cancelled accounts may not equate to the number of threats to cancel, the Emergency CSM Summit suggests that there was enough of a ripple to justify some damage control. Given the modest nature of Incarna in it's present form, we're unlikely to see it's positive influence immediately but there is reason to be optimistic. The path that CCP are taking is brave, pioneering and with fair winds and following tides, we survivors of The Month of Incarnage may well be privy to a gaming future that will turn heads. Hopefully for the right reasons.

Counter to the idea that recent events were apocalyptic was the suggestion (originally by CCP Xhagen) that EVE is in fact a society comprising multiple communities. Whilst some of these communities may have been adversely affected by recent events, many others have carried on regardless. I have certainly experienced this amongst the community of my alliance - they remain relatively unaffected by Monoclegate and associated drama.

Adapt or Die

Undoubtedly, any society must evolve and adapt to survive an unavoidably changing environment. Like it or not, CCP controls that environment. which has always been an unforgiving and 'Darwinistic' one. The player-driven quasi-media community that includes blogs, podcasts and Twitter is currently undergoing changes. EVE Commune's termination and Crazy Kinux's Blogpack being in jeopardy are just examples of that. It will be interesting to see what happens next, but it is not the end of the world.

When the always provocative CSM Chairman, The Mittani, described the blogosphere as an 'echo chamber' there was a element of truth to his words. Whilst the blogging/podcasting/tweeting community acts as a reflection of player opinion, it is still only a portion of a much larger society. There are many more EVE players than those who choose to be vocal in these circles. To paraphrase and bastardise Frank Herbert, they exist in vast numbers. Vast.

At least that is my hope. With EVE Vegas and associated gatherings only hours away, I hope to gain a better understanding of what a players from a variety of sections of the EVE society think. Also, with access to a number of CCP luminaries, perhaps I can get the heads-up on any future plans to throw egg-based food products into static bodies of water.

Watch this space.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Zapawork's Pleasure Hub


Now here is an exploration site that EVE Travel's Professor Science is unlikely to have careened idly through. Nestled at the heart of the Vegas system in the Nevada constellation is the distinctly Gallente-themed Paris Hotel. This time next week a fleet of thirsty capsuleers will de-pod there in anticipation of EVE Vegas 2.0.

Due to the fortuitous timing of my wife's Las Vegas dwelling friend's wedding, I've been able to wangle attending. As the event draws close I am becoming increasingly excited, with just a tinge of trepidation. Armed with experience gleaned from my Fanfest 2011 experience, I have deduced the best way to blend in may be to start drinking at breakfast. I hope my liver is up to the task.

My EVE journey has been quite a ride since Fanfest back in March. Until that point I was happily commentating on the universe and community of EVE solely from the safety of this blog, maintaining a relatively distant perspective. My Fanfest experience and a subsequent post discussing The Cult of EVE triggered a significant upward shift in my involvement. Given the tone of that article, the irony is not lost on me. Now clearly an acolyte, I've stumbled around the wider community landscape like a drunk Columbo, leading me into podcasting and null-sec adventures. I harbour a little dread and wonder on what impact EVE Vegas might have.

Assuming I can cling to a modicum of sobriety, I do intend to provide a bit of bloggery for the benefit of those not able to attend (and those who have the good sense to stay away). Of all the speakers, the ones that I am most interested in are the presentations from CCP Navigator (Community), CCP Soundwave (Game Design) CCP Dropbear (Content) and The Mittani (CSM Chairman). But I'll try to see and report on everything. I'm also considering putting amusingly large price labels on all my clothes in Dollars, Pounds and Aurum.

I don't think there's many tickets left and I believe today is the last day on which they are available for purchase online. So if you are of a spontaneous and adventurous disposition, why not join us? There's only a few hours left to order so go here now.

Even if you don't make it, let me know if there's anything you'd like me to cover or to find out, give me Vegas survival tips or advice on how to navigate my way through another encounter with hordes of drunken Goons.

One way or another, next week I'll be finding out how real EVE gets.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

I Am an EVE Player

I am an EVE player. I am one of thousands of individuals who make up a society of space-faring tycoons that participate in an endless dance of creation and destruction. In our virtual world there are people I admire, friends I have never met, visionaries who shape our universe and strangers who want to break my stuff.

Whilst the nucleus of my EVE experience is about spaceships and explosions, the real meat on the bones is the interaction with other players that occurs both within the game client and elsewhere in blogs, forums, Twitter and podcasts. Perhaps more than the spaceships themselves, I relish the opportunity to contribute to this extension of our virtual galaxy and I enjoy the contributions of others.

Incarnage

It's odd then that for the past few weeks I have found myself shunning this EVE community metaverse to the extent that this is my first blogpost for nearly a month. I think I have now come to realise why.

My involvement with various social networking metagame elements had allowed me to keep abreast of the turbulent events of the past month and at first I couldn't get enough of the drama as it unfolded. CCP's Controversy Cannons belched forth relentlessly, generating a feast of indignant rage and protest. I hungrily consumed every threadnaught, blogpost and Tweetfleet conversation that covered the various inflammatory topics that were inciting elements of the EVE player-base to apoplexy.

It was an amazing, appalling and unprecedented spectacle (or should that be 'monocle') of drama that shook the community. The combination of mob-fuelled fear of possible "game-breaking" changes and some unfortunate internal leaks resulted in an emergency summit between CCP and the CSM player representatives. The meeting in Iceland bore positive fruit and I was impressed with the impact that The Mittani and co. had.

The Dead Butterfly Effect

But it was about then that I hit saturation point. Something within me just turned off and I could no longer find the motivation to follow the dramatic events. I could not settle on an opinion and no longer cared to. I found the continued complaining and negativity in spite of the damage control to be depressing. It all seemed far too emotionally involved for something that was meant to be an enjoyable hobby. I retreated from all communication channels that could bother me and instead chose to continue playing my EVE in relative isolation.

It was ironic that my previous post had gently mocked the most passionate and vocal of players by suggesting that they were suffering from emo-rage, BOV syndrome and burn-out, whilst I had seemingly succumbed to a kind of community burn-out myself. I'd almost had a 'Mummy and Daddy are still fighting so I'm going to hide in my bedroom' kind of reaction.

Taking a Break From EVE by Playing EVE

But my withdrawal back to the core gameplay elements of EVE led me to rediscover the silent majority. Most of my corp- and alliance-mates were either oblivious or resistant to the controversies. However my metagame-induced motivational slump meant that I found significant involvement a bit of a chore, preferring instead to just keep things ticking over quietly in the background. Despite my malaise, I was grateful for the steadying influence of a group focused on enjoying the positive aspects of EVE Online.

I took some pleasure in the simpler aspects of life in virtual space; designing and producing disposable combat ships for Corp use, engaging in some low-stress PvE and participating in some freighter wrangling (more on this in a future post).

Drama Diagnosis

It gave me time to reflect on why so many people devote so much passion and energy to a hobby with no real world purpose. EVE provides a kind of escapism so open that it is both freedom and imprisonment, both poison and cure. It can become such an all-encompassing passion that for some, it really is worth all the stress. When something threatens the equilibrium of their cathartic stimulant to which they have become accustomed, it is logical to come to it's defence.

What happened in The Month of Incarnage was like an allergic reaction; within the community body a segment of informed and empowered players reacted to a potential threat like an overzealous immune system, causing the damaging inflammation and misdirected resources of community anaphylaxis. It was fortunate that the CSM existed to act as an antihistamine. Hopefully CCP have figured out what the allergen was and will try to avoid it in future.

I feel for those who felt compelled to cancel subscriptions and for those who were banned, but also for the CCP employees who were just doing their jobs. It is a shame that so much grief was caused but there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel (I just hope that it's not CCP's T2 controversy lasers powering up).

As for myself, I think my drama hangover is passing and I am ready to get back into the swing of things. I've got space to roam, comments to tweet, blogposts to write and podcasts to ruin.

Because I am an EVE player.