For the Nation! (EVE Nation, that is)

This post is a reply to the Blog Banter #35.

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?

[Unrelated and random bonus question sponsored by EVE News 24: What single button would you recommend be included on an EVE-specific keyboard?]

Social aspects of massive multiplayer games are a very broad topic. It’s actually the foundation, upon which such games are built, so this could easily be a good topic for Ph.d. in Sociology or Psychology.

One Nation

EVE Online player community is a huge pool of personalities, playstyles and individual treats. The whole community can be divided into alliances, power blocs, groups based on different play styles (with PVP dominating over other types of gameplay) or game world geography (high sec, low sec, nullsec, WH). While opinions will most likely vary, based on which groups a given player belongs to, some of them will be the same for the majority:

  • Microtransactions are bad, mkay?
    • This is an aftermatch of the famous monoclegate, which has changed EVE, CCP and the playerbase as well. Players have united to defend the game they play, love and care about (even if they play merciless killers in said game). EVE community often unites when the changes proposed (or already introduced) by the CCP are not good for the game. It seems as if players knew the game better than the devs. No other MMO developer relies so much on player feedback as much as CCP relies on EVE community. Even if sometimes devs seem to ignore player feedback, they will more often listen to it before (sometimes after) introducing some game-breaking features. If CCP did not care about playerbase opinions, there would be no CSM and we would have 256 monocles to choose from right now. Secondly, many game design changes have been revisited if player feedback did not approve them.
  • Boosts are good, nerfs are bad.
    • This does not unite the community as a whole, but rather specific groups who will suffer from a nerf, or from a boost instead. Whining in groups is always better than whining alone.
  • CCP should focus on spaceships
    • Majority of players play EVE for spaceships, not for avatars, and this is the message that constantly reverberates throughout player feedback. CCP  has shifted their priorities accordingly, but also given the avatar gameplay new, meaningful focus.
  • We are not carebears; everyone else is
    • Dominated by males, EVE community has typical features of a testosterone-based group. Players like to boast about their achievements and don’t mention their failures.
  • We are elite PvPers
    • see above;
  • EVE is a hard game but we have mastered it
    • It is not as hard as it seems, but CCP views it as something that can be marketed, and most casual gamers will likely be overwhelmed with the vast world of EVE. And males who play EVE with more or less success can boast about it. See testosterone comment above.

Players are part of the game now

I have focused on feedback and the player-dev relationship, which in many ways is unique for EVE Online. And I have done so because I think it goes deeper than just that. CCP has created a game world. But this is a statement true for 2003 through 2005, where there was not enough players to complete the economy and fill the world. but players slowly replace the NPCs and become… part of that world. No, EVE is not real and we don’t jack in to a Matrix of sorts (although the game indeed feels real at times). What I mean is that New Eden is not complete without its population anymore. CCP could shape this world the way they wanted when they first created it in 2003, but right now the world can (and will) push back on CCP as well, because players are now a part of it.

Relationship status: It’s complicated

The relationship CCP and EVE players have forged overt the years have been a long and a bumpy ride, but it’s also quite unique in the gaming industry as such. The fact that for 10 years straight EVE playerbase has been growing steadily is a telltale sign that the way chosen by the CCP is a good one. This fact also indicates, that Crowd Control Productions has a lot to its name.

Did you actually understand the banter’s topic, Rox?

Yes I did 😉 This long introduction had a purpose.

Unfortunately the PVP nature of the game, and the fact that over 90% of players are male also causes some misconception about what EVE Online is about. The recent events of Mittanigate would suggest to the outside world, that EVE Online is a game, which goal is to harass other people to the point they commit a suicide. Whatever the reasons behind Mittani’s behaviour were, and despite the fact that he actually apologized to his “victim”, the image of cruelty sticks. Is EVE online a cruel game? For an unprepared soul, it can be, yes. But for a seasoned player dealing with it is just part of the game. Moreover, CCP is using this image to market their game.

I will always emphasize, that EVE has a white side as well – it offers an unscripted experience of players creating the events and being part of a single open sandbox they inhabit. Most reviews of EVE written by people who only played the game for a little mention this very often. The same can be heard from veterans, so it is close to the truth.

Sorry, no Bonus!

EVE is a unique game, and I don’t think it requires a specific keyboard (or mouse) like some other games do. The multitude of actions to choose from in most MMOs make things such as this:

more than just a weird piece of hardware or some twisted nightmare of a gaming gear designer. This can actually be useful for other MMOs, but not for EVE Online.

But if there ever was an EVE specific keyboard, it would probably look similar to this:

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