Thursday, April 12, 2012

Growing Up

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?

Any discussion of the Eve community is tricky.  When you think of Eve from the inside, there are myriad groups all work with and against each other.  How do you succinctly capture a community that includes the CFC, R & K, Rote Kapelle, Tuskers, Faction Warfare, RP junkies, pirates, miners, inventors, manufacturers, wormholers, carebears, and traders?  Then add the flavors of each in all the various parts of space.  Then look at the meta community, which adds yet another layer. 

I suppose the common theme to all the players who keep coming back is one of involvement.  The only way to succeed in Eve is not play, but if you ignore that, you reach a semblance of success by being involved.  Involved with other players, with the markets, with whatever your chosen niche of the game is.  On to the questions: Is the perception of Eve as a suspect community deserved?  Should the Eve community care about this? Will Dust 514 impact either of these things?

"You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.  We must be careful."
-Obi-wan Kenobi

The gaming media loves Eve.  It seems the pace of scandals, scams and general player outrage have picked up pace over the last year.  Some of these things were intended by CCP, some… not so much.  But Eve is the juicy steak at the MMO table, the friend who you don’t remember inviting to the party, but always shows up and everyone remembers that one thing he did.  There are two sides to this reputation. 

Almost every person I have talked to who is a gamer says “Hey, I heard about that crazy Guiding Hand thing…” or “Wasn’t there some ship blown up that was worth a lot of money and people made fun of the guy for being stupid?”  If the conversation continues, my companion usually eithers says something along the lines of “That’s awesome!” or “I would never play a game that risky!”.  This is a good thing.  Eve requires a level of devotion not seen in other games, and the people who say “Awesome” are the players we, and CCP, want playing our game.  They add to it, and help create the story that is New Eden.

The other side of the coin is “cyber-bullying”, photo-shopped Tyrano-Dictators, racism, sexism, terms like “spacejews”, and the unsavory RMT/Botting/Espionage events that happen in the client and the meta-game.  Some of those things are good.  Espionage, for example, is a great aspect of the game.  Some of these things, like racism and sexism, are not Eve-centric, but rather afflict gaming as a whole.   I’ve written about some of these habits before. 

The gaming media is more than happy to jump on these events, and often “Our Eve” and what the rest of the world sees as “Eve” can be very different.  Accurately portrayed or not, the gaming media is where a lot of players get information, and informs where players put their paychecks.  Eve thrives on players, and alienating the gaming public at large is not good for growing the subscriber base.

“This speaks to a larger point. We need to revise how we showcase the culture of EVE… …This solemn effort has already begun. Time for us to grow up a bit.”
– CCP Navigator

CCP has acknowledged the power of the media in the wake of Fanfest.  As a company CCP has always taken a very broad view of acceptable behavior in the sandbox they run, but things change.  Creditors are owed money.  Subscription bases need to grow.  Business partners may not have the same attitude towards the perceived behavior of the player base.  When Hilmar fell on his sword last summer, it was done late but well, and contrition was and continues to be delivered to an audience in the hundreds of thousands.  When The Mittani fell on his sword, he did not have any meaningful way to prove his contrition, and his offense happened on a larger stage – the stage of media relations and corporate interests.  CCP responded as harshly as possible without passing a death penalty.

This new approach means that the Eve community does need to care about the perception of Eve to others, because CCP has decided it matters.  A sandbox full of danger can exist without being offensive.  The players have a lot of power in this.  How you carry out an action is often more important than the action itself.  Take piracy as an example.  You can be a cut-throat fiend of the spacelanes without being a douchebag.  It involves not saying things you would never speak to another human in person.  Danger and abuse are not the same things.

“The drink will flow and blood will spill
And if the boys wanna fight, you’d better let ‘em”
-Thin Lizzy

Dust 514’s integration will be very interesting in light of recent CCP’s response to Fanfest.  FPS players are a bit of a different breed, and I hope there is no crouch button in Dust.  The games are still somewhat partitioned, as Dust Bunnies won’t be chatting in space with the Pod Jockeys.  But CCP will have fun with the chat language used in the common console FPS.  If anything, I imagine there will be two standards, one for each game. 

Also, with no PC integration for Dust, the player bases may be different enough, and partitioned enough, to not really have an impact on each other.  The genres are completely different.  FPSs and MMOs tend to draw from very different player groups, as comparing an MMO to an FPS is like comparing French to Russian.  Aside from Sony money, not launching on the same platform as ALL of your existing users is a bold bet that a lot of non-Eve players are going to jump on the New Eden train.

Most of the arguments to which I am party fall somewhat short of being impressive, knowing to the fact that neither I nor my opponent knows what we are talking about.
-Rodney Dangerfield

The short answers to the questions: Eve’s reputation is partially deserved, but only if you consider that all games have the same knobheads in them and Eve just gets the bad press of late.  The players should care about this reputation, both as humans and in regards to keeping Eve and ongoing concern.  And Dust is a wildcard, bringing a completely new player base into contact with serious internet spaceshippers,  As it stands Dust needs to stand on its’ own.  Only if the game is worth playing will the perception of Eve matter.

Oh, and the button on an Eve keyboard.  I would make a special key that tabs only between Eve instances. Call it the "FAIL" key.

1 comment:

  1. "You can be a cut-throat fiend of the spacelanes without being a douchebag. It involves not saying things you would never speak to another human in person."

    I so completely agree. Take a good look at The Tuskers. Now THAT is a pirate corp EVE can be proud of...
    But on the flip side, take a look at Suddenly Ninjas or Skunkworks... I seriously Paul Clavet or 'Morris' are going to 'play nice' ever...

    This,, is why EVE has such a bad rep... and they aren't going to change thier game play to help out a bunch of mouth breathing pubbies, I quote:

    "..our victims are beneath us. That is to say that it’s okay to fuck them over because they are pubbies."

    Yea... with corps like them, we deserve the rep we have.