It has been a year since we relaunched the Blog Banter initiative to support and encourage the EVE blogging community. I am proud and grateful that it has been a consistent success and has been embraced by the community in general.
I thought I'd take the opportunity to take a look back at a year of EVE Blog Banters, what we discussed and why. Here's the tale of the last twelve months in EVE from the Blog Banter perspective.
Blog Banter 27: EVE Quick Matches
Meanwhile, Crazy Kinux's Blog Banters had been silent for months, leaving the disparate strands of the blogging community to grumble quietly to themselves whilst chasing Panzers. Picking up on Kirith Kodachi's musings about a WoT-like quick-match system for EVE, this seemed like the perfect test case to see if the desire for the return of Blog Banters remained. The question posed was this;
"Kirith Kodachi recently discussed the idea of what a World of Tanks style quick-match element would bring to EVE Online. Would the opportunity for a quick combat interest you? How could it be implemented? Could it be done without having a negative impact on existing gameplay elements? Or does such a concept have no place in EVE?"
Despite little fanfare and no mailing list, 18 bloggers pitched in with wild and thought-provoking ideas and opinions. It seemed the communal desire to chew the cud was as strong as ever. In an effort to get a grand overview of the varied ideas and opinions, a review of all entries was written. This was a well-received addition to the tradition and with the subsequent acquisition of Crazy Kinux's old mailing list, the Blog Banters were reborn.
BB28: The Future of EVE Online, CCP and the CSM
"In recent months, the relationship between CCP and it's customers has been the subject of some controversy. The player-elected Council of Stellar Management has played a key role in these events, but not for the first time they are finding CCP difficult to deal with. What effect will CCP's recent strategies have on the future of EVE Online and it's player-base? What part can and should the CSM play in shaping that future? How best can EVE Online's continued health and growth be assured?"
The explosion of news items, forum posts and blogs was challenging to keep track of, but I like to think that the blogging community response to the crisis went some way to shake off the unkind suggestions that they were simply an empty "echo chamber". Certainly the list maintained became a referenced resource for the very same CSM Chairman who coined the phrase. Summarising the whole series of events and the 39(!) banters was no short order either, running to nearly 2000 words.
But in the end, the community had stood proud and CCP had been set on a new path.
Blog Banter 29: Immersion
"EVE Online is renowned for its depth. Its backstory, gameplay and social aspects are all qualities that draw players in. What does immersion in EVE Online mean to you?"
Twenty-six bloggers took part and, even with the Monocle-Gate hangover still pounding in our brains, the resulting summary ended up being a refreshingly upbeat series of testimonials which served as a reminder of why folk are so passionate about EVE. Still today I find reading this particular summary makes me feel better about my association with internet spaceships.
Blog Banter 30: The Melting Pot
"With the Winter expansion possibly being named 'Crucible', it certainly is a melting pot of refinements and tweaks aimed at making the EVE experience smoother and more wholesome. If the developers suddenly found themselves some spare resources and approached you for an additional feature to include before release, what single concept would you pitch them and how would you implement it?
For bonus points, the one thing lacking from this "patchwork" of iterations is a cohesive storyline to package "The Crucible" together. How could this expansion be marketed to potential new customers?"
In a remarkable coincidence which I hoped was indicative of an increasing synergy between developers and players, shortly after this banter was launched, Lead Designer CCP Soundwave announced a #littlethings initiative on the EVE-O forums and Twitter, inviting players to suggest almost exactly what the Blog Banter was tackling.
The cacophony of fantastic ideas that were produced by the 27 participating banterers was exciting. In a mischievous move, I wrote up the summary in the style of a CCP patch notes release and published it the day before the official patch notes went public. The internet being what it is saw these "fake patch notes" linked elsewhere and even resulted in a sense of humour failure from CCP forum moderators, labelling the summary as "misleading and false advertising".
Blog Banter 31: EVE Online Community Review
"As any games journalist would probably tell you, a true and complete review of a Massively Multiplayer Online game is impossible. MMOs are vast, forever evolving entities with too much content for a single reviewer to produce a fair and accurate review. However, a collection of dedicated bloggers and EVE players (past and present) with a wide range of experience in various aspects of the game might be able to pull it off.
This special 'End of Year' Blog Banter edition aims to be a crowd-sourced game review. Using your gaming knowledge and experience, join the community in writing a fair and qualified review of EVE Online: Crucible. This can be presented in any manner of your choosing, but will ideally include some kind of scoring system.
With each Blog Banter participant reviewing the areas of EVE Online in which they specialise, the result should be a Metacritic-esque and accurate review by the people who know best."
It was a brave attempt and although not every one of the 21 reviewers bought into the 'focusing on a specialist area' concept or even giving some kind of score, averaging out the scores that were provided gave a post-Crucible EVE a score of 82% in the final review. I'd like to make this a yearly tradition so we'll likely take another stab at it post Winter expansion.
Blog Banter 32: Non-Consensual Combat Restrictions
Sand, Cider and Spaceships proposed that we use the Blog Banter to stick our collective fingers in the ever-open wound of non-consensual combat.
"A quick view of the Eve Online forums can always find someone complaining about being suicide ganked, whining about some scam they fell for or other such tears. With the Goons' Ice Interdiction claiming a vast amount of mining ships there were calls for an "opt out of PvP" option.
Should this happen? Should people be able to opt-out of PvP in Eve Online? Should CONCORD prevent crime rather than just handing out justice after the event? Or do the hi-sec population already have too much protection from the scum and villainy that inhabits the game?"
Clearly hitting a nerve, this discussion produced 40 well-reasoned responses, even enticing CCP Manifest to get involved. So what was the general consensus? you'll have to read the summary to find out. ;)
Blog Banter 33: The Capsuleer Experience
"...we want to make the first days, weeks and months in EVE enjoyable and not just something ‘you have to plough through in order to get to the good stuff’" and the newly formed Player Experience team will focus on "...where and why people lose interest in EVE..."
"We invite you to pour your heart (or guts) out and tell us what you think is good or bad with the current new player experience and what you think could be done about the problems."
The response was interesting, with many bloggers returning to the tutorials to review them. At the time of this banter, the tutorial was centred around the Captain's Quarters and heralded the return of Aura's voice and the ability to pace around the room. I found it interesting to compare the findings of the 29 banterers in the summary with the choices made in the current revision of the tutorial. Draw your own conclusions.
Blog Banter 34: The Rise of the Spaceship Politicians
"How would you like to see the CSM grow, both in terms of player interaction and CCP interaction?"
It became clear from the resulting discussion that the two key points of concern were; effective communication and varied playstyle representation. Personally, I think the current CSM ticks both of those boxes.
Despite CCP Xhagen mentioning the Blog Banter and presenting the question in his CSM presentation at Fanfest, only a modest fourteen contributions were forthcoming for inclusion in the summary. I can't think what else everyone could have been talking about at that time...
Blog Banter 35: The Public Perception of EVE Online
Related banter suggestions came from CCP Nullarbor, Rundle Allnighter (Lost in EVE), Bagehi (Eve News 24) and others and was distilled down into this:
"Now approaching its tenth year, the EVE Online player community has matured into an intricate and multi-faceted society viewed with envy by other game developers, but is frequently regarded with suspicion by the wider gaming community.
Is this perception deserved? Should "The Nation of EVE" be concerned by its public identity and if so how might that be improved? What influence will the integration of the DUST 514 community have on this culture in the future?"
The 27 responses were mind-meltingly deep and whilst both myself and Marc Scaurus gave it a look, we both ran away screaming. Later on it would become clear to me that because of my many other EVE and RL duties, reading and summarising every Blog Banter wasn't always possible. With this one, thankfully EVE Stratics eventually volunteered and had a stab at it.
Blog Banter 36: The Expansion of EVE
"With the Inferno expansion upon us, new seeds have been planted in the ongoing evolution of EVE Online. With every expansion comes new trials and challenges, game-changing mechanics and fresh ideas. After nine years and seventeen expansions, EVE has grown far more than most other MMOGs can hope for. Which expansions have brought the highs and lows, which have been the best and the worst for EVE Online?"
Although there were some out-liers and controversial suggestions, the results of this particular discussion were no great suprise. What I found interesting was how people arrived at their conclusions. A Scientist's Life in EVE expertly summarised everybody's entires.
Blog Banter 37: The Line in the Sand
"EVE Online sits on the frontier of social gaming, providing an entertainment environment like no other. The vibrant society of interacting and conflicting communities, both within the EVE client and without, is the driving force behind EVE's success. However, the anonymity of internet culture combined with a competitive gaming environment encourages in-game behaviour to spread beyond the confines of the sandbox. Where is the line?"
Flying Silent did a fine job of sifting through the line definitions of the thirty-two bloggers who shared their inner moral codes with us. I'm relieved to say that there's no obvious serial killers amongst them. Now we've just got to screen the other 299,968 EVE players and we're all good.
On a personal note, I wholeheartedly believe that it is important that as a community, we EVE players keep a check on what is acceptable behaviour. Whilst laws, EULAs and ToS are great at defining a line, that doesn't necessarily tie in with what is socially acceptable or adhered to, especially in such a unique morally-challenging meta-game environment as EVE. Every society has individuals who will push beyond the line of acceptable behaviour. It is then that the society needs to know when and how hard to push back.
Blog Banter 38: Dogma
Ripard Teg and Poetic Stanziel, published posts which presented two sides of a single argument about EVE's "idiosyncracies" at the same time Senior Producer CCP Unifex had made statements about CCP's game design ethics. I attempted to mould these vaguely-related incidents into a single Banter topic.
"In his recent "That's just the way it is" post on Jester's Trek, blogger Ripard Teg posits that the established EVE player-base has come to accept many of EVE's design idiosyncrasies, rarely questioning their purpose or benefit. Conversely, he also suggests that new players might not be so forgiving of these "quirks". In an interview with Gamasutra, Senior Producer CCP Unifex describes EVE Online's developers as "relatively hands-off janitors of the virtual world", underlining that he has only four content developers but "a lot" of programmers and engineers.
Has a culture developed where CCP has started to take player effort for granted - expecting the "social engine" to fulfil tasks that might otherwise be CCP's responsibility? Or should this culture be embraced as part of "emergent gameplay" with these quirks accepted as the catalyst for interaction?"
Still in progress and despite the convoluted question, 21 bloggers have thus far got stuck in with a varied selection of responses. I've learnt a lesson from this one - it's a bit of a hit-and-miss art to pitch a banter question that is broad enough in scope to encourage a variety of responses whilst being focused enough to be clear. This one is perhaps a little too scattershot, but we'll see what comes out in the as-yet unwritten summary - a volunteer for which I'll be needing soon.
A Bantered Year of EVE
So that brings us up-to-date. A year of vibrant discussion and debate all focused around the many aspects of EVE Online. The ever-evolving Blog Banter process is a learning experience for all involved but I hope that we'll have another year at least as productive as the last. It's certainly been a journey that is both rewarding and draining and I look forward to the inevitable madness of EVE's tenth year. One thing is for certain; there'll always be something to banter about and our celebrated community will be ready and waiting.