Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Blog Banter 35: The Society of EVE - 2400 years in the making

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?

[Unrelated and random bonus question sponsored by EVE News 24: What single button would you recommend be included on an EVE-specific keyboard?]

I'm very happy that this is my first blog banter. I'm here because I've decided to get more involved in the EVE community and I am very proud that my How can we help? blog was an influence on the 35th question for the blog banter.

I want to start with something that might seem off topic so please, keep the "Noob! That's now how Blog Banters work!" to a minimum.

None of what I propose below (or in the previous blog) is in any way shape or form a request for CCP to change the game. EVE is hard. EVE is tough. EVE is unforgiving. I do not want this to change. If this changes then the very fabric of the EVE universe will change. In my mind the questions for this blog banter don't even suggest altering the game where as some other bloggers have decided to approach the questions from the view point of change and change management. To me the questions speak of a larger more transcendent element of the EVE universe that goes far beyond game play, beyond meta-gaming and reaches into the very core of social constructs. The identity and formation of a society. Philosophers have been thinking and writing about this for years because it's as much part of being human as eating and sleeping.

And it's a HUGE part of EVE.

“States (societies) are as the men, they grow out of human characters.” 
― Plato

Some 2400 years ago Plato wrote about society in his greatest work, The Republic. In The Republic, he designs (through Socrates) a society in order to discover the meaning of justice. Along the way, he compares elements of his society (a utopia, Greek for “no place”) to the three souls: The peasants are the foundation of the society. They till the soil and produce goods, i.e. take care of society’s basic appetites. The warriors represent the spirit and courage of the society. And the philosopher kings guide the society, as reason guides our lives. [Reference]

Seem familiar? 2400 years ago! He could have easily been writing about EVE.

“The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” 
― Plato

Perception is subjective. It is the formation of an opinion based upon intersection of information provided and ones own experiences.  And in our case the perception of EVE IS deserved. The events that have led to these perceptions are not fictitious. They happened. And in the absence of any other information people will form an opinion based on that input. With no counterbalance to the stories of treachery, lies, deceit, and ruthlessness the image and perception of EVE moves quickly beyond the drama we all love to follow and into the realm of uncomfortable ideals and memories.

To be indifferent to the impact of negative news and the lack of a counterbalance means a further strengthening of the perception that EVE is ruled by evil men and women.

"Our object in the construction of the State (society) is the greatest happiness of the whole, and not that of any one class."
- Plato

The Nation, nay, The Society of EVE is THE owner its own identity. We build the society. We write the story. We are the stakeholders of our future. It is our identity that will determine the future success of this wonderful universe of EVE. While EVE and CCP has enjoyed an unheard of consecutive nine years of growth, like all things in life, nothing is guaranteed. Past growth is not an indicator of future growth. At some point, this game will end. The question is, when? I want that to be many, many, many years from now. I want to be a 90 yr old grumpy old man blowing up the Titan of that punk kid down the street who keeps throwing my morning paper in the bird bath. I want to go on epic roams with my grandkids so we can laugh about the goons whelping a fleet of battleships to our T40 frigates. And the concern should be for all of EVE to prosper so we can continue to help grow the game we all love to play.

I want to make sure I'm clear here. I'm not advocating "cleaning up EVE" or removing the evil part of EVE. I am however talking about how we tell our stories. Quoting from my previous blog: The dark side of EVE is as much a valid part of the game as any other area. It is a necessary part of the beauty of EVE. Without it we would not have the complex ever changing world that we love to participate in. That can't change.

"We must reform society before we can reform ourselves."
- George Bernard Shaw

Mr. Shaw is reflecting on the fact that we are products of our surroundings. In the case of a game we are bringing both the Society of EVE and that of our real life into the game. I believe one key element in improving and taking the marketing of EVE to the next level is to turn the community stories outwards from inwards. The double edge sword is that our internal society will be judged and gauged by the outward society of the audience (which of course changes depending on where they live). While George maybe talking about true reform of society, I'm admittedly taking creative license with the quote and talking about reforming how we tell our stories and how we communicate with the larger gaming communities. Change how and more importantly what we communicate and the image will adjust. Subsequently the perception will adjust along with it.

“Those who tell the stories rule society.” 
― Plato

If we change how we communicate as a society it will in turn influence all individuals. EVE needs to improve in celebrating the good stories and developing counterbalances to the bad stories. This is even more important when focusing the stories outwards. At CCP there are only four community members responsible for helping us get our stories out yet there are 350,000+ of us. Now out of the 350,000+ people I would hazard a guess that only a small portion are responsible for "negative press". When approached from this angle one of the most powerful solutions is one of the most simple in nature. 

Tell more positive stories!!

Stories of helping other pilots, of achievements in space or economy or manufacturing. Lore, fiction or role play stories. Feel good stories of comebacks, against the odds victories, etc. The sheer volume of all the good things in EVE easily overwhelms the bad. EVE players are a smart, clever and creative group of people. I'm darn sure we can collectively come up with positive stories. I'm just waiting for someone to come up with an in game response to the CCP Skyward Sphere! Come on now, be honest, will the person who has already made a Hal Sagan character please identify yourself!

It has been proposed to CCP to provide features in the game to make it easier to tell stories but the key there is "easier". Easier is nice and we would get more stories but nothing is stopping EVE players from working on promoting EVE in a positive light. As an example, I found this following video on the Intergalactic Summit:

I don't know how hard or easy that was, but someone took the time to put it together. There has to be many more people like that in EVE.

Here's another one by my fellow -A- member Nashau who also happens to be DJ Starstream on EVE Radio:

All awesome stuff! Additional tools to make it easier and to increase participation in story telling would be nice for sure but in the meantime that should not stop us from working on promoting the other eighty percent of EVE. (That is a total guess based on the good old 80/20 rule, nothing more scientific than that.)

That's all I have. After all that deep thinking it boils down to telling more positive stories. Flood the world with good stories of EVE to counterbalance the negative. In the end, people outside of EVE will perceive EVE based upon the stories they read. Will the negative stories go away? No. I don't even propose we stop telling them. They are as needed as the positive. It only needs to be balanced to be an honest representation of the society of eve.

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” 
― Plato

Onto Dust 514. Frankly, I don't know. I can speculate and hope all I want, we'll only really know once those people start doing the same things we do. Building videos, blogging, podcasts, forum posts, etc. What I hope happens is they are as enthralled and immersed as we are. I hope they are excited about 7 years worth of training and of being part of a single Society. And I hope they add lots of positive stories along with negative ones. I think existing EVE players can help set the tone of much of this in the beginning but if there ends up being many times more 514 players versus EVE players then their stories will be the norm. I can also speculate that most people are wise enough to realize that while we share a universe that the two player bases are not the same. I hate to cop out on this but time will tell. And I'm darn sure we will know fairly quickly after it all goes live.

[Unrelated and random bonus question sponsored by EVE News 24: What single button would you recommend be included on an EVE-specific keyboard?]
After all that writing, this one is easy. A button that will record my video. A "frap this" button!

Thanks for reading. I can honestly say I have no clue what the next blog will bring! But I will leave you with one last quote.

“He was a wise man who invented beer.”
― Plato

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The EVEolution : How can we help?

As I stated in the previous blog: I have a desire to do more. I want to promote this game.

I love EVE and want every gamer on the planet to play EVE.

I want to help make David Reid's vision of EVE being the world's largest gaming universe happen.

As a player in a sandbox game I believe it is upon us to dictate how we are seen as a community. It's not sufficient enough to shrug our shoulders and say "That is CCP's problem". No. It's not. It's our problem. CCP is a business. If there isn't enough of us to sustain the business then good bye EVE. Poof. Gone. And we all lose.

They can only say so much and do so much precisely because it IS a sandbox. They would have to remove the sandbox element to be able to have full control over the game universe to the degree where they could dictate the vibe of the community. Look at other MMO's as examples. I don't want EVE to go down that path. EVE is hard. EVE is tough. EVE is unforgiving. But EVE is ours. Every CCP employee from Helmar and David Reid on down has talked about the EVE community, the uniqueness of our universe and how WE WRITE THE STORY. They are telling us we ARE stakeholders. And as such we as the community have to take ownership and act as stakeholders for the success of this game. Yes, in the end CCP and their investors are financial beneficiaries of our game play. But we also enjoy a benefit. It is what brought us here and keeps us here: To enjoy ourselves.

Every action has a counter reaction.

In the context of EVE an event at fanfest reinforced a perception about EVE that the majority of EVE players know not to be true. The natural response is to counter that perception. The dark side of EVE is as much a valid part of the game as any other area. It is a necessary part of the beauty of EVE. Without it we would not have the complex ever changing world that we love to participate in. I for one am looking to tap back into the energy of the community and of CCP in a way that supports David Reid's vision of EVE being the world's largest gaming universe.

It boils down to a simple question:

How can we help?

One of the first steps in my mind is to get all the bloggers, podcasters, radio people, etc. to come together. And then identify the correct people at CCP who should be working with us. Aradus Gunnell of T.E.N. tv started a great forum post to that end. Please go find it here on the EVE forums and speak up with your support and ideas. I have also posted some ideas but I want to be clear about one thing: I don't want the thread to turn into a pissing match about who's ideas are better. Lets just farm ideas! Then we can start working with CCP on what is and isn't possible.

Of course we should also start working on what we want our image to be. A large part of our community energy, messages and our information flow has been focused inwards towards existing members of New Eden. That is already dramatically changing with the inclusion of Dust 514. For EVE to be the largest gaming universe we now need to focus our attentions outwards. Towards those people who just don't know it yet that they will be pilots in New Eden.

What is our message outside of EVE? Our image?

I'll start: EVE Online is full of good people.

Please share your own thoughts and ideas! More next blog!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How did I get here? Confessions of a fanboy!

I don't know when or how it happened but I've developed a serious man-crush on EVE Online. It has slowly been developing over the last couple years because a few things have fallen into place. Well, ok, more than a few things.

Perhaps this will be boring or even a bit of "so what" for you. In fact, it will probably verge on TL;DR. Please hang in there! I think it will be important to know how I got here. Here's a rough timeline of how I became an EVE fanboy.

I stopped playing Everquest. I had started my EVE life a few years prior to this but didn't really play for three years. I was at least smart enough to realize I couldn't be hardcore in two MMO's. There were a number of factors that lead to the decision (fuck you Charsi) but overall I guess I was looking for more. I wanted more control over my game time and wanted more control over how I interacted with players. Don't get me wrong, EQ was fun. I played it for 8 years, 4 accounts, hard core raiding, all that good stuff. But I just wanted more. I always loved how I felt when playing EVE so it was clear where my gaming time was going to go.

I hooked up with an EQ buddy who had first sent me my trial invite, got into his corporation and off to the races we went. We did lots of things. We were focused but not at the same time. That was partially my fault because I wanted to experience all of EVE. We did the mining bit, both ore and ice. We ran some missions. Tooled around in Low Sec where I lost my raven on the gate back to high-sec because I thought I was being smart sitting with the door to safety at my back. Of course, that door was locked. We did wormholes the first day they were out and we learned lots! I like to think that because of the efforts of our corp and one specific pilot that we helped unlock a secret or two of wormholes because I know he was passing on things we learned to the community. Then we went to 0.0. Providence to be exact. I loved the lofty and idealistic goals of NRDS (Not Red Don't Shoot) policy but saw first hand the challenges of not being NBSI (Not Blue Shoot It). At the time there was lots of action in Providence and I got a taste of blood and I wanted more.

I did my research and saw a couple corporations were consistently responsible for the kills in the area. So I did the only rational thing in EVE. I stole a billion isk from my EQ buddy's corp wallet, contacted one of those top corporations, played spy and helped coordinate a strike against my current alliance and then joined the enemy. (To be fair, I did pay back my buddy with a full 1 isk extra. But man the tears were sweet up to that point.) That was a couple years ago. Becoming part of an amazing corporation that has forced me to work on being a better pvp pilot (jury is still out as to if it has actually worked) has been a big factor in the flight to fanboy status.

About a year ago we joined Against ALL Authorities which allowed me to see an amazing series of events across the south from losing almost all our space (/waves from the Dead Alliance) to gaining it back and then some. It also allowed me to experience a large number of situations, events, fleets, and fights than I had before. I can't say yet that I've done it all but I'm a hell of a lot closer than I was a year ago. It's been an incredible time for AAA and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Skill point accrual crossed the point where I now have enough to get into ships that really catch my attention. This has driven the interest in getting them blown up while trying to blow up the rest of you! By the way, I think this is a critical point for CCP to consider as they look at ship balancing and even introduction of new ships. Sure T1 ships can be fun but there is an attraction to having bigger and better bling! Ships and modules are the hooks that drive serious interest (and subscriptions). Don't make all the cool ships so far down the chain that new players can only get to them after years of training. They are heading down that road with Crucible and Inferno.

CCP & Crucible. I can't underestimate how important this expansion has been to my man-crush. First off it re-energized most of EVE and with that came more fleets, more fights, more opportunities to play, more blogs, more podcasts, more tweets, more developer blogs, and so much more I can't list them all. End result was more love for EVE.

Twitter and the community at large has all been energized by Crucible. I decided to start a twitter account and quickly found myself surrounded by others who share the same passion for the game. Most days it's odd if I don't get my dose of daily stats from CCP_Diagoras. I've started to read more blogs too. I keep my eye out for posts from other CCP employees and CSM members. And if that doesn't fill a few hours of my time I can always get involved in a any of the ongoing conversations that are happening right now in real time.

One of those tweets was Jade of Lost In EVE looking for a co-host. I had been toying with a few ideas concerning my own podcast or even looking towards eve-radio as an outlet. I saw the tweet and jumped on it. Hopefully you have all listened to the result of that decision. I find myself just giddy with excitement over this opportunity and it's only thrown more gas on the fanboy fire!

As if letting people listen to my opinion wasn't enough I decided to start a blog. Again, something I had been thinking about for a while. Really not much else to say here. (Well, maybe thanks for getting this far!)

So what does it all mean? Why outline all this? I can assure you it's more than just me blabbing about who I am. I'm hoping there is some commonality in who I am and who you are because I have a desire to do more. I want to promote this game. I want to be part of the success. And I hope you do too. In other words, how can we help?