Now that I’ve been playing again for a few days, I’ve naturally added the EVE subreddit to my news routine. And very quickly I’ve noticed how insanely hostile the users posting there are towards CCP – it feels on par with the dislike that usually tends to go towards the Electronic Arts and Mobile publishers of the world.
Their posting behaviour feels strange when I suspect on the other hand that hardly any game can create the same bond as EVE. I don’t have numbers on this, of course – but EVE feels like a world that won’t let you go, IF you’ve been caught once. That’s a very big “if”, I’m not underestimating that. EVE is inaccessible and unwieldy, the tutorials are still not very helpful despite the new NPE. Without external sources and the help of more experienced capsuleers, probably only an absolute fraction of all new clones find prolonged motivation. Still, my career is not rare, many players seem to return to New Eden every now and then.
In that context I ran across this tweet from Neovenator, which I agree with – more than that, the “This is EVE” trailer is in my opinion one of the best video game trailers of all time, period. Because it shows what makes games special – interactivity and the resulting agency: as a player, I influence my environment through my actions. This is exactly why many “Storydriven Singleplayer Experiences” fall very flat for me very quickly – the scenery-ness is impossible to miss as soon as you deviate a little from the pre-designed path. The NPC carriage in Red Dead Redemption 2 doesn’t care one bit that another NPC carriage was brutally robbed by me at that very intersection not two minutes ago. And with that, my impact on the game world feels very limited and artificial.
Other food for thought for this post was the latest episode of the Declarations of War podcast – interviewed was bogeyman/godking/nerd “The Mittani”, CEO of Goonswarm. He chats in his persona about the history of Goons in EVE – propaganda for sure, but entertaining and enlightening. Again and again he comes back to the motivations of rank-and-file members of the Goons, and talks of evolved emotions and the cultural memory of his organization. Big words for a video game – but for me just another argument for the specialness of EVE.
In that very podcast, they also talked briefly about the Empires of EVE book. It’s been on my radar for a long time, and I finally bought it (the Kindle version can be had for cheap). So far I’m only about halfway through, but it’s entertaining and a good read – thumbs up, recommendation. And at any point it feels it might as well be a book about 17th century Central Europe (or any other time in human history when people lived together in some form of tribe) if it weren’t for the spaceships.
I think history books and a belief in the specialness of games as a medium were the building blocks that fueled the crazy, maybe alcohol-driven idea of EVE Online sometime before 2003. I can literally see the Icelandic nerds sitting together, eyes blazing, “head-birthing” this game. “Yeah, and space stations…” “With hangars for the Corporations!!!” “Declare war anytime!” And I don’t envy the CCP team for a second having to transform this vision into a game with minute-to-minute gameplay that somehow works or even is enjoyable to play. The idea is simple and understandable, making a game out of it a monumental undertaking – regards go out to Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen. The special feature of EVE is and remains that this universe is only waiting for stories that are written by us players.
And I have a feeling that this feature of EVE is sometimes lost in discussions about it. The discussions about changes by CCP and also about the game in general often seem insanely mechanistic to me – while it is and never was the pure game mechanics that make EVE special, but always the actions of the players. If players would throw themselves into their personal storytelling with similar energy as they do onto the next patch notes, EVE would probably grow again.
What am I actually trying to say? Something along the lines of “embrace your inner roleplayer every now and then” and detach yourself from efficiency analysis, ISK per hour, optimal fits, etc. Not black and white, never completely – but maybe once in a while. Unleash your inner Istvaan Shogaatsu. Is EVE perfect? Of course it isn’t. Is CCP doing everything right? Just as little. But with a little calm, the idea of EVE is still as strong as it was in 2003.