Friday, August 12, 2022

There's No Place Like Home

 Recently Dunk Dinkle and Rixx Javix have shared their thoughts on the current state of EVE and what it may portend for its future. Find Dunk’s piece here and Rixx’s counterpoint here. They have different points of view but they are extremely experienced, passionate and knowledgeable pilots whose point comes from long years of experience and from a genuine desire to make EVE the best sandbox it can be. 

I support a lot of points both of them make, I feel they do not address a fundamental problem with EVE that is not solved by merely reseting the server or finding a way to make do with the tools we have at our disposal. 

Dunk maintains that since EVE players have min/maxed all game loops in EVE there is little in the way of compelling content to keep old players around and the challenges facing new prospective players are so great that many of them will quit soon after taking their first steps never to be seen again.

Rixx’s position is that EVE being a sandbox, you make the EVE you want to see and that you have to figure out how to get there and make your own fun.

Both have a point. What I feel they don’t do is to address a fundamental problem with EVE: we do not have the tools to do more than wage war.

EVE is an amazing place that allows for many new experiences if the pilot can bestir themselves to give them a try and become good at the content of their preference. Though this is true, there are other considerations that have not been adressed and of which I feel they are material issues with the sandbox that have sofar not been adressed.

1. It’s all work and no play

Mostly, all activities are geared towards enabling the next war to take place. All industrial activity is aimed at producing the capital assets required to wage wars. Which will sit well with the crowd that maintains that EVE is a PvP game and that making war is the whole point of the place. This means that most of what people do in EVE is geared towards waging war, at whatever scale and price point is comfortable for any given party. There is no room for those who do not need to be engaged in forever wars to give their own expression of the sandbox.

The sandbox is supposed an expression of everybody’s best idea of what happens there, but what happens there in actuality is that people wage wars. War should be the rare occasion where conflict is resolved through violence. 

Speaking from my own experience, not nearly as illustrious as Dunk’s or Rixx’s, but after that same amount of years: I’ve been in corporations that were in alliances and those alliances switched allegiances so often and so fast that it was impossible to keep track of who we were at war with in any given week. Leadership was not responsive and it was near impossible to keep track of what to do (other than pew pew). As an industrialist it was extremely hard to ply my trade because there was no telling who was going to come after me. A single war would be a manageable situation and easy to fit into the daily reality of a capsuleer’s life. Run on wars made it impossible to update the mental map of where we were war-wise at any given time. I’ve been in Brave, Pandemic Legion, the Goonswarm and other alliances. Often out of my conscious control, but as a result of decisions made at the alliance level I was not privy to. But the kicker is: I don’t need all that much war, I can happily live without it and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. 

2. There’s no place like home

I have been voicing a concern for quite a number of years now that the pod pilot in EVE, at the top of the New Eden social stratum, does not have their own address. We are the ship we fly in, we may own a station, we still do not have a home. And that station? It may not be there anymore the next time you log in. The Captain’s Quarters were the closest approximation for pod pilots to have a home in space and as homes went they were sparse, uniform and they were to cozy what a meal ready to eat is to gourmand dining.

The point is: there is no personal home for the pilot to connect to, no place that serves as a hook to lure the pilot back. What could be a perfect environment as a third place does not allow the pilot to carve out their own niche in space and call it home. This home could take all kinds of form and be subject to the conditions that make New Eden the place it is, with some special conditions applying. Logging in to New Eden should be a way to come ‘home’. There is no upper limit to the shape and size that could take, some homes would become a rich source of lore in their own right. How amazing would it be if we were able to build our own cities in the sky and festoon them with all manner of goods and services sourced from all over the cluster.

3. Lore versus them

New Eden is based on a large body of lore. Lore that many people passionately enage with. The lore round table at Fanfest is typically one of the most densely packed rooms. People crave story. What better way to give them story than to make their choice of faction have deeper meaning, have a stronger impact on what they can and cannot do but with the added benefit of having privileged access to that lore that is tailored to their faction. Stories would be told, culture could be established, nurtured and broadcast to the wider world. 

Lore would serve as the cement of New Eden, explaining why things are the way they are and serving as the driver for all manner of interaction. Be it war, working or weddings. Everything under the suns of New Eden would happen because it had a foundation in lore. Customs and culture would drive interactions, would serve as a genuine casus belli and would give the player a reason to study the culture of New Eden and the best way to interact with it.

Pilots have already established that lore is the driver for some of the most meaningful interactions they have in New Eden. The important thing would be the possibility for a pilot to establish new culture that could be adopted by the wider community. And once established would serve as a cultural reference, establishing yet deeper identity, a new compelling reason to log in and join the tribe.

Many such expressions already exist and are widely followed and enthusiastically acknowledged:

  • the statue to Katia Sae recognises a grand endeavor
  • the memorial at Titanomachy 
  • the statue to Chribba celebrates one of the greatest personalities in New Eden 
  • the statue at Molea is our hope that are fallen friends find their way home 
  • the celebration of John Bellicose’s life is one of our finest traditions
  • the shot up statue at 4-4 commemorating the Summer of Rage 
  • the exquisite pod pilot license created by Greygal establishes a deeper identity for us as pod pilots 
  • Bob as the god of wormholes 
The list goes on. 

What New Eden needs is the tools to express more than a desire for yet another war. We need tools that help us build things, that help us create new methods and technologies and find an expression for the ideas that live within us and that inspires others to so engage with the rich opportunities New Eden has to offer that it may even become a reference outside of the client.

It would be beyond min/maxing because it is not about extracting the most value out of a cultural idea; it is about using the tools of the sandbox to build sandcastles of the imagination that stand as monuments to our desire to express ourselves in our preferred third place and that weave the culture of New Eden into the rich quilt of ideas and customs that we can establish, build and nurture.

In so doing we build a stronger identity for ourselves as pod pilots, the nec plus ultra of the best New Eden has to offer; we answer the question: what keeps you logging in; we can show new pilots: this is why you want to be here, this is why EVE is the best place on the internet and, by all means: do carve out your own place and make a name for yourself.

EVE can be forever when we have the tools and the means to make the sandbox our own.