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.

But...

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.

Co-Presenter

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!