Thursday, May 2, 2013

Blong Banter 46 : The Ties that Bind

With the return of Live Events such as the Battle for Caldari Prime, clearly the prime fiction of EVE is back in favour as part of this new thematic approach to expansions. However, EVE's story is very much a tale of two playstyles, with an entirely player-driven narrative unfolding daily in parallel to the reinvigorated backstory. Often, they do not mix well. How can these two disparate elements be united or at least comfortably co-exist in a single sandbox universe?
-FreebootedBlog Banter 46, The Main Event
When this blog banter came out I had no ideas for it. My mind was a blank and the topic not one I had any opinion on.  And then I saw the Origins trailer at Fanfest. I found it to be a creatively powerful trailers that causes ideas to bubble up and flow over in a torrent of images and possibilities. It is not the just the deep thrum of the ships engine as it spins up to accelerate into warp or the echoing click as canister of hybrid ammunition are loaded into the blaster magazines. No, it is the mercenaries as they plummet to the ground and land with predatory grace amplified by mechanical power that snaps through the body even as they smoothly draw weapons and begin to lay down repressive fire across a landscape rent by fire from both above and below. It is the possibilities that suddenly swept into existence as Eve's universe was given the extra flesh that it needed to turn it from the back story of a video game into a fully realized science fiction universe.
While Eve has a rich and deep lore it was completely disconnected from the players. The missions, the basic 'quest' of the game where the largest amount of lore would be consumed due to the tasks given to you by the NPC character's that populate the world were shallow and dull. The Epic Arcs, richly detailed, were mostly out of reach for extended periods of time due to faction standings or their locations in the deepest depths of null. It was as if Eve's lore was a side thought and so to me it was also a side thought because it did not matter. No matter what I did, I was disconnected from the world. Things might happen but it was no different then what my neighbor chose to eat for dinner that night. Nothing that concerned or affected me.
Yet, when CCP picked up the ball again with the live events that slammed into each other with their interaction with Dust 514 and Eve and crashed the Titan that had sat around the planet into the planet, changing its landscape they set off a chain of events that showed that there should be change. Not the script of the live event with a preknown ending. No, it was the door that opened fully with the Origin trailer where they speak of the empire's losing control and the rise of the capsuleers.

That was a story line that a player could get behind without losing the individuality of the player driven social conflict that has made Eve so interesting. With the capsuleers position as an immortal powerhouse pressing down upon the empire the story suddenly made sense. The player's have never been tools but by choice of the NPCs. Only in the restrictions of game mechanics do some people interact with the game. Our empires rise and they collapse upon our own whims.
But, in the end, it was the Dust mercenaries that make the last leap. They gave a face and a physical connection beyond that ship bodies that the capsuleer is truly represented by. But the lore cannot stay secondary. It must start to enter the game. Through NPCs and missions, through tasks and the news, on the billboards and in the command quarters, across the news reels and upon the billboards it must enter. It cannot stay outside of the game but it must be within the game and not contained to live events. It is not a tightly woven story with neat steps to be repeated over and over again. It is a vast wave of possibilities that flow and change with the pressure of an unknown tide.

I have complained of late about the neglect of the mission system. Its lack of new content is frustrating  It is not that new mechanics must instantly be made. It is that new missions with new mission notes and local chatter should happen. Ones that reflect upon what the game is and what is to come. The game itself cannot stay stagnant while the archives alone grow. To pull a player in early is to seep them into a deeper game, one where they learn the back story even as they learn to play. One where they will assume that their future is conquest and reach for those things.

Players want to make an impact on the game. It is shown by the participation in live events. It is laid out in system after system in null sec in the form of stations. It is in the simplicity of naming a POS and the agony of debating a corporation ticker and name. The permanence of placement, of action and of deer calls deeply to a player. It vests them. And in a way, in what I can only hope is more then a whisper of hope and a trickle of possibility, CCP is making that offer. They are giving the future to tht players and picking up the past to record and save.

If Eve is Real and we are There everything that we do is a legitimate piece of game history that can be used. That should be used as the foundation for the future story. As the player story flows so should the games story. A progression of parts that will give Eve an individuality like no other game out there. One that cannot be planned, that is not neatly scripted but resounds with the true reality of the power and weakness of humanity.

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