Saturday, September 19, 2015

And Who We are?

Soon, I'll be checking out and heading to the airport.

Before I leave, I'll lay out a question that I presented to CCP Seagull and Eve's Producers.

"Is Eve a dark, cold, dystopian universe?"

Note, I didn't add harsh in there. A lot of Eve is balanced around the ability to lose what you gain and fail what you try. The question is not about Eve being a hard game of challenges where effort does not automatically save ones virtual efforts. Nor do I believe that harsh is a one sided word. It does not mean loss or destruction although those are some of the greatest motivators.

What I asked them was to look at what, Eve is. We have a game where we celebrate groups that rise up to help other people. We create as much as we destroy. We adopt new players, create complex social networks, and buy yellow jump suits when available.

Is Eve a dystopian universe where there is no hope and only an oily, slick death in hallways that reek of the set from Aliens. When I write creatively about Eve should my prose be soaked in despair and regret as everything around me crumbles?

In 1999 and into 2000 as Eve was conceived, the science fiction environment was a bit different. Harshness does not have to come with a lack of hope. When players log into the game do they take a deep breath and go, "I shall regret every moment, fail every task, and have no potential to ever succeed. Then I shall die to some horror movie villain and never a shaft of sunlight shall piece the clouds."

There is a cohesiveness that the environment lacks. I feel we often speak to antiquated platitudes. Over and over this week I have listened to people reference some of the largest battles in the game. Their words are not about loss and despair. They are about the efforts and energies that were put out and the successes and failures that came from that. It seems to be the knowledge of what could have been and what almost was that drives people on. The pressure of the edge and the face of the void motivate.

I'm a nothing in Eve. A single player in a big universe. I am often alone and have nothing more to leverage but myself. It is easy to ask why I play and what motivates me to Eve. Its always been the potential. I've never been promised anything but a possibility. I've only been promised that I can try. If I aspire to it, it is my job to reach it.

If Eve is a universe without hope, joy, light and color, how can it encompass the hope, joy, help, success, effort, energy, and passion of its inhabitants?

A single, throw away line of the most dramatic and echoing prose no longer contains the game. It no longer defines the players. It no longer speaks to what is and what is not.

I asked them to look at what Eve is. I did not ask them to define it. My game is not your game. Your game is not the next persons. But the universe that we play in, vast and richly textured as it is, deserves a definition that encompass what it has been. Perhaps, when conceived, the dark, wet, universe was what Eve would be. It was before the rise of Eve Uni and efforts of groups like Estel Arador Corp Services. It was before we celebrated groups like Brave Newbies and during a time when a trailer like 'This is Eve' had never been envisioned.

It is 2015 and 2016 is sitting around the corner. As the game is updated and refined the definition and physical vision of the game world has to keep pace.

16 comments:

  1. I always appreciate our different thought processes Sugar. Your ability to collect, collate and then cohere large disparate quantities of information fills me with awe. I tend to do much the opposite by searching around for a single sharp moment filled with complexity which I then unpack. Though we occasionally end at similar destinations, we nearly always take different routes getting there. Accordingly . . .

    “It is easy to ask why I play and what motivates me to Eve.” Though most likely not intentional (you probably mean ‘to Eve’ in the sense of ‘towards Eve’) the sentence works extraordinarily well in a verb sense – ‘to run’, ‘to jump’, ‘to Eve’. For me, the dark sinister backdrop of the game is well-nigh required because for me ‘Eveing’ is often all about conducting an ongoing battle against despair. Eve, for me, should remain a dystopian universe that we immortal pilots alone among the masses rise above. This means, for example, that I’m all for more vibrant color as exhibited by some of the recent ship skins but I tend to think that that vibrant color should be reserved for the only true humans in the game . . . us immortal capsuleers.

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  2. This post and its line of thinking is semantics only. Yup say what something is IS to define it according to every major discipline. Establishing the bounds of a thing defines it.

    And without this distinction, you're engaging in exactly the same line of questioning that made youso angry when i did it a month ago. At the time, you argued that Eve is something different to everyone, so efforts to answer the question of what Eve is in any definitive way are inappropriate.

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    1. Interlocutor: So this is what irritates you about Tal?

      DireNecessity: “Irritate” is too strong a word as he no longer gets under my skin. No, these days Tal mostly makes me sad. He’s a bright fellow and it’s troubling to see fine intellect go to waste. Tal, you see, brings a PvP centric approach to everything he does. Accordingly, when an idea, question or thought comes before Tal battle immediately commences to determine whether the idea, thought, or question is to be accepted (i.e. wins the fight) or discarded (i.e. is crushed in ignominious defeat).

      Interlocutor: So you’re saying he’s wrong?

      DireNecessity: Oh my no. To say that would be to embrace his PvP centric approach and while it certainly has its appeal (the binary purity of a true/false, right/wrong universe can be very appealing), it feels emaciated and colorless to me. In Tal’s PvP centric universe there is no opportunity to wear another idea for a while and let that donning enrichen your experience, no chance to take delight in other people’s unique peculiarities, no space for aesthetic joy.

      Interlocutor: So you’re saying Eve would be better without him?

      DireNecessity: Oh my no. Tal’s presence in Eve improves my experience. I, on the other hand, am at best irrelevant to his. I’m comfortable with this state of affairs.

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    2. It may help to borrow an observation from Theodor Adorno, that a work of art is begun by an artist and completed every time it's observed.

      In this particular case, EVE is the art and the players are the observers. So Sugar is asking CCP what sort of art they are bringing out while reserving judgment on how people complete that art as a matter of principle.

      By analogy, people who play The Police's "Every Breath You Take" at weddings aren't stupid or Doing It Wrong(TM). The Police released a song intending to portray a creepy guy unwilling to let go of his ex, but the people getting married heard it, took something else from it, and completed the song in a way the artist never intended. That's not dumb or wrong, it's a creative act by the audience.

      EVE celebrates the creativity of its players, and Sugar defends it in all of its forms. But neither voids or contradicts or even addresses the question here, of what sort of mood CCP wants the players to react to.

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  4. "Is Eve a dark, cold, dystopian universe?"

    According to whom? Our experience as players in that universe is that of the one-in-a-million Capsuleers who only interact through masive war machines.

    We don't know what kind of human are Capsuleers -we don't have the tools to do that ingame.

    We don't know what do the ordinary peoples.

    We just have the Chronicles, and they certainly favor the grim. Capsuleers are regularly out of their mind, either naturally or as a consequence of their life-death-resurrection cycle. Ordinary people suffer and die regularly too.

    I think that the "cold dark dystopian" universe is just a background. EVE, after all, is a videogame. Capsuleeers behave like people playing a videogame.

    The ships they fly, the characters they use as avatar, the things they do, all is just a game.

    So, what kind of universe is New Eden? A fiction populated by uninvolved characters disguised as spaceships and playing games.

    And shall we remember: all of it belongs to CCP. So, in real life, New Eden is a commodity owned by a company...

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    1. What you say it true... but it's not fun and it is NOT what Sugar was asking... and you know it.

      Enough with the negative waves Moriarty... =\

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    2. I thought it was a good comment. None of it is contentious, and it is accurate.

      What I remember of the chronicles, and what I miss, is the sense of possibilities. This is the future, they say, this is what Man might become. This is what we are, and how we remain.

      This is the future, and you must take what you can.

      "There can be no other destiny but our own."

      - CCP Games, 2006.


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    3. Rob, I did say it was all truth... but not in the spirit of Sugar's query and as such was a negative response.

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    4. I tend to agree that what the players make of New Eden has to be factored in to New Eden.

      Ladies and Gentlemen: the Dixon Cox Butte Preservation Society.

      What could be more dystopian than to have thousands of demigods--more accurately, immortal super-warriors--running around acting as if they don't really care about anything? How much damage can people do simply by being minimally invested in the world? How enabled is the current Drifter storyline by the simple fact of years of wholesale slaughter, for ISK, of the Sleepers? How many thousands of people die in-game every time some mission runner rescues the Damsel?

      I understand the objection--"dark and harsh" is so facile that any writer using it can be confidently accused of laziness. All it is, in practice, is a shorthand way to handwave away the problem that actions only have consequences when the author wants them to, and the (anti-)hero is so ruthless and violent that the conceit is necessary. And the Chronicles are, frankly, full enough of that kind of laziness that I've rolled my eyes at more than a few of them. "Oh, there's a woman. She's impossibly hot, and she's going to get raped and murdered so that the author can show off how totally edgy and hardcore they are. And you are too, reader, for reading it!" Blech.

      And yet, CCP's problem is that there are people who painstakingly built and grew a corporation, recruiting members, arranging ops, running logistics, and all of the real work that goes in to building such a thing in EVE, and they gave it the 7th grade name above. How do you work with that?

      It seems that the baseline rule has to be that there is opportunity. The Empires are still there, and there are opportunities within them, but there are more the further you get away from them, too.

      IMO the biggest problem with EVE right now is that it's basically a war simulator. Corporations really aren't (and a lot of corporations fail badly because people believe in the bad metaphor it offers): they're military entities, best run as military entities, which necessarily have the focus and the mission of military entities. Logistics are fundamentally military; industry is wholly yoked to fueling militaries. Mining exclusively supplies engines of war. Even solo mission runners are fighting an endless battle against pirates. One of the huge things missing especially from sov null is that you can't "live" in your space. There's no civilian life. You're a soldier in an army on a perpetual war footing. If you're not waging war, you're probably building up the reserves necessary to eventually wage war, or you're planning it. If you don't realize that then before long you'll find yourself with a lot of reserves and no ability to defend yourself.

      I'm going on about this at length because I can't know where I'm going if I don't know where I am. It's worth it to ask where EVE is, however accidentally, before asking where it should go.

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    5. +1 to your whole post. Excellent thoughts there. Often I consider the RP community to be an outlet of 'civilian' behaviour, though much of it is combat based. The breakdown comes from the fact that Capsuleers are soldiers. The first capsuleers were soldiers, and we've never really moved away from that base. 'Real People' have no places in our narratives: they're cargo, not humans.

      Any attempt to bring 'humanity' into the game, of which teams were the latest, is probably* doomed to failure, because in an MMO the players, not the game, should be your challengers and competition.

      *I don't know. CCP could come up with a really great interpretation or idea. The problem remains: numbers have no agency. No interactivity or relationships. Maybe NPC Haulers will improve this, maybe not. If they are like lambs to the slaughter, what is the point?

      Tur, what is the spirit of Sugar's query?

      Onions' comment was an answer to "Is Eve a dark, cold, dystopian universe?" I thought it was a pretty good one.

      (I was gonna put some metaphorical questions about who defines the 'spirit' of a question, but I got beaten to it :P)

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  5. Dystopia or Utopia is a question of viewpoints. Some would look at what humanity has achieved in New Eden and call it a flawed utopia. Others would look at all that creepy cloning and copying of memories thing and recoil in horror from this dystopia.

    So really, CCPs viewpoint will just determine how much EVE will change into one or the other extreme, but they can't actually go full-on 100% dystopia because that would make even the players so cartoonishly evil player-count would probably drop by 89%. Going into the utopia-direction is of course equally absurd. :V

    At least EVE is a sandbox where you can mostly ignore CCP's viewpoint about the matter if you strongly disagree yourself, SF-novels have it harder: They're essentially hit and miss. If you agree with the author's opinions or can at least accept them, all is well. If not, well the best the author can hope to achieve after that is unintentional comedy and farce.

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    1. [ARRRRRRRGH!!! Gods I wish we could EDIT comments!!!]

      EVE is what we the players make out of the tools and 'sand' CCP gives us. The descriptions 'Harsh and Hard' do not in any way deny hope, joy, help, success, effort, energy, and passion.

      EVE is a sandbox with history.
      The sandbox is the no-end-game aspects combined with a player controlled manufacturing and market at a scale never seen before in a MMO.
      The history is the Lore + emergent player activity.

      WE the players make EVE either dark, dystopian and deadly or light, hopeful and filled full of fluffy bunnies... it's up to each of us what we bring to the game.

      Personally, I believe EVE is neither one or the other, but both at the same time. The same as real life...

      Because its full of real people living out their virtual lives in a 'verse without end... I love the very real variety that is EVE.

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  7. If Eve is a universe without hope, joy, light and color, how can it encompass the hope, joy, help, success, effort, energy, and passion of its inhabitants?

    I have mentioned this before. I have occasionally seen Eve compared to Chess. Yet in Chess the Brilliance, the Sacrifice and the Novelty have a much greater significant presence over the Blunder, the Defeat or the Tragedy. For Eve, it is the reverse - and the more humiliating equates somehow to "better content". The culture of schadenfreude which permeates the game, it is most damning aspect.

    In War: Resolution. In Defeat: Defiance. In Victory: Magnanimity. In Peace: Goodwill. Winston Churchill.

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