Banter 48: Lore

 Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 48th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are visit the Blog Banter page.
This month’s topic is a request from CCP Sisyphus who wants to know how important is Lore in EVE Online?

“How important is ‘fluff’ in Eve online? Would eve online be the same if it were purely numbers and mechanics, or are the fictional elements important to the enjoyment of the game? Would a pure text, no reference to sci-fi or fancy names still be an engaging game? Should CCP put more or less emphasis on immersion?”

Late to the party as always! I know, I’m terrible.

Why Lore Sucks

The majority of players don’t care about the back-story, what the NPC factions and corporations are up to, or what the hell a Khumaak is.

There is a minor caveat to the above statement, which applies to story-backed gameplay mechanics, such as wormholes and incursions, but again, the emphasis is on the gameplay funtimes it brings rather than a genuine interest in what’s up with them there Sleepers, or where exactly this whole Sansha Kuvakei thing is going.

In fact, while less so in the last few years, there’s still an element of stigma attached to ‘roleplayers’, who are seen as crazy in the head, living in a fantasy land, and terrible at everything in the game. Regardless that these three statements are no more or less applicable to roleplayers as they are to non-roleplayers, there’s still a lingering element of ridicule attached to the label of ‘roleplayer’.

But why? Because these people just want to blow shit up. Preferably in space. Which is perfectly fine; I’m not knocking what anyone does in-game as long as they don’t exploit.

So it could be seen as a complete waste of time for CCP to keep up with the back-stories, the chronicles, the novels, and all that jazz. But there’s always two sides…

Why Lore Doesn’t Suck

Let’s take a look at incursions, with a quick run-down of the changes you could expect if there were no lore-type stuff:

  • Sansha – this are just a name associated with the blips that show up on your overview so you know they are from the incursion (yes, I know they are also present over in Amarr space, shush).
  • Incursions themselves – just happen because CCP decided it was a fun way to pass the time. There’s no reason behind them happening, they just do. You read about it in a devblog – so you could test it out on SiSi and prepare – and that’s all the matters.
  • Sansha Kuvakei – doesn’t exist. Hasn’t been referenced anywhere. There’s no rumour of an evil dude who loves prosthetics and implants a little too much. He just never existed.
  • Sansha Loyalists – also don’t exist – there’s nothing for characters to empathise with, so nobody roleplays it. There’s nothing to it at all in fact, so there’s no serious groupings of people determined to ‘stop it from happening’ and ‘free us all from the tyranny of the unknown assailants’. Just doesn’t work.

Without the ‘fluff’, there would be a lot less roleplayers in the game. Sure, they would still be about, interacting with each other and creating their own stories, but without a decent background to the universe and many of the things in it, there’s nothing to use as a springboard to develop your character.

And yes, we’d still have all the wonderful stories of nullsec battles and sov wars, of espionage and thefts, but wouldn’t it be terribly dull if this was the story of Eve? Super-entities battling out for a bit of virtual real-estate that they’ll hold for a couple of months and their members will never see the benefits of. Cue another big battle and repeat. Yawn.

Isn’t it more interesting to have those ‘crazy’ roleplayers whose characters are secretly being controlled by rogue drones through their implants; or have aspirations to kidnap other pilots to run hideous experiments on the nature of immortality; or for ridiculously complex, but fascinating reasons sympathise with obscure, fanatical NPC factions? Isn’t that more interesting than “Dude X killed Dude Y lolfail”?

I find learning about people – their motives for things they do, and understanding where they are coming from utterly fascinating, and I transfer this fascination into virtual worlds. If Eve really was just about who killed who, or which alliance has the best log-off tactics, then I’d have no reason to play. I may as well go play Call of Duty on a console or something; because that’s basically the same thing.


Who doesn’t love buts (lol)?

What I find makes things truly magical, is the combination of the player-created stories and history with the CCP-created stories and history. It creates such wonderful depth and colourful diversity to the universe. So much so, that I know a number of people that don’t play – would never play – but they love reading about the back-story and what happens in the game. Not just the huge battles and world record virtual thefts, but about the world itself; the NPCs, the factions, the alliances that have formed up around ideals rather just pewpewing for the hell of it.

Eve is a living, breathing organism. Its wonderful yet terrible, beautiful yet despicably dark, and all at the same time. But it couldn’t be this way without the ‘fluff’.

Not the Greatest Thing Ever

I’ve had some reservations about writing this post. I suppose the best place to start is to say that I have the utmost respect for everyone that worked on bringing us Alliance Tournament XI. I also have a high respect for everyone that fought in the matches – providing us with spaceship-explosion-based entertainment. Thank you.

I’m trying to understand the frothing fanboy-esque enthusiasm for this being the ‘best alliance tournament ever’, but I keep drawing a blank. I’m struggling to find many reasons that this year’s event was better than the last. In fact, I’m faced with quite the opposite; I have reasons overflowing from my cup of disappointment as to why it was inferior in almost every way.

This isn’t an angry rant. I’m open to discussion on why I’m an idiot for thinking what I do, and I’m poised to change my mind should someone provide me with a compelling argument of why I’m a moron.

What the Hell is Your Problem?

Lets break it down:

  • Bland set design compared with X.
  • Very little guest rotation at all.
  • No real juicy tidbits about things “just around the corner” in-game.
  • No featurettes at all.
  • Painfully long breaks.
  • Painfully long periods of theorycrafting.
  • No co-presenter.
  • No IC coverage of the matches.

Now, before I continue, I’m going to point out that I don’t begrudge CCP that any of the above were lacking. I’m sure it was because of reasons. I’m merely confused as to how so much excellent stuff can be trimmed or dropped and it somehow be ‘better than ever’.

Set Design

This year felt cold and sterile. The backdrop was flat and uninteresting.

ATX set

Alliance Tournament X set, with an understandably chuffed Anne.

This was last year’s set, complete with a stunning nebula background. Lets quickly compare it to this year’s:

This year's uninspired set.

This year’s uninspired set.

The desk is sat on the floor, rather than an elevated stage, so along with the bland background, there’s no nifty under-stage lighting to convey a sci-fi theme. The logo casts a heavy dropshadow where previously there was the lovely red glow, symbolising combat, fire and explosions – which is what the event is all about, after all.

The improvements between 9 and 10 were leaps and bounds, even looking at the quality of the build of the desk. Between 10 and 11 though, so much just feels lacking.

Guest Rotation

Go re-watch some of the last tournament and tell me you don’t see at least 3 or 4 more devs, a few GMs and more experts around discussing not just the tournament itself, but in-game tactics, available career options for rookie pilots, and answering questions fielded via IRC and Twitter. Much more engagement between the audience and the team.

It felt more like we were there in the studio with them as a proper live audience.

This year there was a disconnect. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t notice any questions being answered from Twitter or IRC. A lack of queries taken and a lack of information given, which leads me to my next point:

No ‘Bonus’ Info or Featurettes

Everything is convention-centric these days, but its always nice to be rewarded for your loyalty to a virtual world; sitting for 8 hours watching a load of people you don’t even know explode pixels belonging to other people you don’t know. Hearing devs talk about soon-to-be features and improvements, even with massive flashing disclaimers of “might not actually happen” is awesome. Talking about already released devblogs doesn’t generate quite the same buzz.

Another thing that I lament the loss of in recent tournaments (not just this one) is featurettes. Short interviews with CCP peeps about what they do, their team, their involvement in past expansions, their team’s favourite feature/proudest moment. It conveys a human side to CCP, and shows how much they care about their game universe. We longer-term players know how much they care, but for the rookies, again, there was no indication of this at all from the streams, and featurettes could have helped with this.

Featurettes could have helped with the next thing too…

Painfully Long Breaks and Theorycrafting

The system of ‘best of’ matches was interesting to watch when the matches were on, as each team would try to second guess the other based on their ban-selections (another great feature, I should add), but it left us with huge amounts of time between some of the matches. At one point, I think we waited 45mins for a match, and then immediately afterwards we had a 50min ‘short break’. Seriously?

This was to be expected in a way, but its far from entertaining on the last day of the tournament – the finals – a day that’s supposed to boast loads of action and explosions.

There were 13 matches in this final day compared to 15 last year, and they still managed to finish somewhere between 1.5 and 2 hours later than scheduled.

With the ‘best of’ mechanic, we watched the same four teams all day long, compared to last year, were we saw 16 different teams duke it out. That’s a huge difference in the potential variety of setups, with 16 different team leaders, and up to 160 different pilots, everything is a lot more dynamic than with 4 leaders and 40 different pilots. Its no real surprise that by the middle of the final day the commentators were saying things like “this is the setup as they used 3 times before” or “this is the same setup x team used earlier today”.

And talking of setups, when you have four teams, all bringing one of three (or so) setups and fielding them multiple times in the same day with hour long gaps between some matches, and nothing else to talk about during those breaks, things get tired. Fast. I feel sorry for the guys in the studio as much as (if not more than) the viewers – having to say the same old things about the same old setup and why they brought it, or spend half an hour discussing why PL banned this ship or HYDRA banned that ship.

[Bittervet] What’s with the references to heroes in MOBA games? Things were a lot simpler when we had spider tanking – that’s what it looks like. I had zero frame of reference for what a ‘Tinker’ or ‘Enchantress’ setup is. You can explain it once a day if you like, but if I miss that info, I’m fucked. I swear, I spent the first day trying to work out WTF they were tinkering – were they playing with the setups each match? Bringing ship setups that are completely out of left field? I didn’t have a clue! Its almost as bad as people who insist on calling characters ‘toons’. Grmbl [/Bittervet]

I enjoy a bit of theorycrafting; discussions about setups, and about the metagame for which EVE is so famous, but I was getting bored. And if I was bored, the cluster of potential EVE subscribers were definitely bored. Its almost as if they didn’t realise that these huge gaps would happen, and were forced to repeat themselves over and over again just to stop there being dead air. Those poor bastards.


Understandably, CCP Sunset was not able to co-present this year due to tenancy issues. But I find it hard to believe that there was nobody else in the Reykjavik office willing to offer some banter between matches.

Co-presenters in this sort of show format are absolutely critical – its a chance to unwind in those unavoidable long gaps between matches.

Chat with the commentators about their thoughts and feelings on the match, rather than just the guys in the studio – its always interesting to get different opinions, especially when your company paid cash to fly some of these EVE experts over there. Its a wasted opportunity to milk an asset.

No ISD Coverage

For tournaments 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, the Interstellar Correspondents (a division of the ISD volunteers) provided detailed break-downs of the fights usually within a very short time of them finishing, along with glorious high resolution screenshots of the action.

If you weren’t able to watch the matches for whatever reason – work, slow connection, etc, then this was an excellent way to still be part of it all. You could read all about the action (almost) as it unfolded and see the explosions thanks to their happy-snappers.

ICs engagement in the tournament has dwindled a little over the years, as can be seen by many missing reports (and screenshots) on last year’s website, so perhaps this played an important part in the decision (or lack thereof) to not utilise the reporters this year. Who knows? Maybe we’ll find out though:

I live in hope for a more entertaining tournament next year. The first few days were great this time around, but it really fell, and fell hard, at the final hurdle, regardless of how exceptional the final match was (and it was a doozie).

I still want to say thank you to everyone that took part, as well as everyone in front of and behind the cameras for making it happen. We could have had no tournament at all; that’s actually happened before! I’m not trying to undermine any one person’s, or group’s effort in making this thing a reality, just expressing that – in my opinion at least – this year was nowhere near as entertaining as the last.

What’s New, Pussycat?

So everything has been quiet around here. In fact, the last twelve months have been a bit sparse in content. Just look at the yearly post counts:

  • 2010 – 44
  • 2011 – 24 posts
  • 2012 – 14 posts (including this one). Embarrassing really.

My time in-game has diminished quite substantially as well. As some my remember, I intended to take a break from my build cycles for six months while I focused on developing better tools for managing the processes involved. Thanks to my laziness, that didn’t work. Coupled with this, I had a bit of an accident shortly after starting the builds again, which put me off doing any more for a while. Not that I would whine about it; it was my own stupid fault.

So What Have You Done Then?

I have used the time to work on this blog though. I’ve documented the layout and theme on the About page. But its more than that, as I’ve been digging in my old archives of documents from the history of the game, and declassified a lot of content from the 2003/2004 era. You can find these things in the following pages:

Its not a lot, but there is a lot more to come. There’s also alternative themes for both PRM and AWEI sectional content, but they weren’t quite ready by the time the rest of the site. I’ll talk more about those when they are ready.

As for content, I know its sparse, but I’ve got ideas for a few different series. These will mostly focus on historical documentation of stuff from EVE’s rich history, since that’s what I’m quite good at blathering about.

That and old EVE comics from 2004-2006, since they should probably have somewhere semi-permanent to live.

So, until I have new things ready – and let’s be honest, nobody knows when that will happen – I wish you happy spacetrails!