The indie documentary examining the MMO EVE Online that began in early 2013 as an ambitious but underfunded Indiegogo crowdfunded project was finally released over the weekend. The team of Swedish media students behind it are still reeling with surprise at gaining over 30,000 views in its first 48 hours.
Petter Mårtensson, Philip Raivander and Elin Thedin wanted to find an interesting take on the unique relationship between CCP and and the EVE playerbase during a visit to the 10th anniversary celebrations at Fanfest in Iceland last year. When the team interviewed folk about the so-called 'Summer of Rage', the topic invariably drew impassioned responses and opinion, moreso than any other subject - in no small part because events surrounding it had a more significant impact on CCP employees and players than any other event in EVE's history.
It was evident that it was a story that wanted to be told and, despite some recent negative comments regarding the the decision to focus on the events surrounding the Incarna release, I think it was entirely the right choice as The Tale to reflect the highs and lows of CCP's relationship with their Internet Spaceship community.
Supporting the ATOIS Team
|Interview in progress (L-R): Elin Thedin, Mat Westhorpe, Petter Mårtensson, curious journalist, Hilmar Petursson.|
My involvement has been an enjoyable, slow-burning experience which started some time before Fanfest 2013. It was an exciting and ambitious concept led by the three Swedes including my sometime fellow EVE player and journalist friend Petter Mårtensson.
Somehow, I became charged with bugging various Fanfest-bound EVE personalities until they agreed to be interviewed by the team and I recall Fanfest 2013 being an exhausting experience. The entire time in Reykjavik I rushed around like a man possessed trying to make things happen, not only for the ATOIS team, but also for another documentary team lead by Keza MacDonald (then of IGN, now Editor-in-Chief of Kotaku UK) and also fulfilling my obligations as a correspondent for GameSkinny. Somewhere in all that I was trying to be an enthusiastic EVE player and catch up with friends too.
|ATOIS narrator Breki Tomasson.|
An Ambitious Challenge
|Philip and Elin interviewing in the Harpa Centre.|
Further challenges arose from the fact that the $3000 raised had meant that equipment sacrifices had to be made, especially with the echoing background acoustics of a space-nerd filled Harpa centre often polluting the interview audio.
|Alex 'look into my eyes' Gianturco.|
However, the team persevered and on the 11th July 2014, they held their premiere in their home city of Malmö. I was fortunate enough to attend and unfortunate enough to have been press-ganged into their last-minute frantic preparations.
On the morning of the premiere, final touches were still being added to the film. I joined my host Petter on a cross-town trek to Philip's apartment where the glassy-eyed video editor had been working on the film through most of the night.
|Brendan Drain's technically challenging beard. ;)|
The final cut seemed to take an age to render and compress, with hours of progress-bar watching leading me to make the unkind remark that it was starting to feel like EVE gameplay. Eventually we headed out to the venue of the premiere to set up.
|The crowd files into the STPLN premiere venue.|
|No you fool, it's 'break a leg'.|
But the show must go on.
As the clock ticked down, the audience started to arrive. Petter was distracted by pain and Philip was resolving the last-minute technical issues. With minutes to go and no film to play, further pressure was applied when we discovered the father of CCP's Senior Producer, Andie Nordgren, was in the gathering crowd, who were now taking their seats expectantly. Nerves mounted.
|In hindsight, I wish we'd decorated the place like a launch tube.|
When the film was over and the audience launched into unprompted applause, we breathed a sigh of relief. Many had even laughed aloud at one interviewee's quip about French monarchs. They had enjoyed the fruits of our labour (or were being terribly polite) and there was cause for celebration. There was of course an after party, sadly CCP Seagull's Dad didn't stick around, but she has since assured me on Twitter that he and her brother enjoyed the film.
The next day, as I was flying home to the UK, Philip was working feverishly to release the film online while Petter was presumably laying around in pain.
Philip's humble expectations had been to get a some thumbs-up on YouTube and a few hundred views, but only two days later more than 30,000 people had seen and (mostly) enjoyed A Tale of Internet Spaceships. Comments across many sites have been fascinating to read, invoking a broad spectrum of opinion.
You can't please all the people all the time, but I genuinely think the ATOIS team have every reason to be proud of their achievement in capturing a story which can serve as a cautionary tale and an industry fable for a long time to come. I'm personally very proud to have had the opportunity to assist three talented media students manage to make a pretty professional first-time documentary on a shoestring budget.
Now we just need to teach Petter how to use stairs.