This entry is written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss EVE’s storyline development. And perhaps why most of my posts are ‘OOC’…
Back in the ‘good old days’ EVE had a continually evolving and unusually interactive storyline that was played out as much in-game as it was by written chronicles, news articles and forum posting. Ok, maybe it wasn’t, but at least it felt that way. 😉
Consequently, EVE had a pretty vibrant and active role-playing community. Even at its peak the RP community was of course a minority compared to the non-RP’ers, but it still felt fairly sizeable and lots of stuff happened.
The high points (and sometimes lowest points) in an RP’ers game often centred on live events in which they had an opportunity to directly impact EVE’s storyline. Most live events were small scale and of minor importance, but they could often create very memorable moments that players could then spin their personal stories off of leading into wars, rivalries and player run events which sometimes even prompted further official events in response to player actions.
Sadly, things aren’t really like that these days. At the time of the infamous T20 scandal (when a developer was caught cheating in-game by spawning himself T2 BPO’s) CCP made the decision to close down the sometimes controversial volunteer event program, Aurora. Aurora was an ISD department of player volunteers (working under NDA’s) who liaised with CCP storyline dev’s to write and run events ranging from the very minor up to assisting on the earth shatteringly world-defining moments.
When Aurora was closed down, the live events stopped entirely for years to come. It wasn’t until the run up to Incursion that a new dev-staffed live event team formed and started to play out EVE’s backstory in-game again. Unfortunately, the events team turned out to be really small and working as volunteers, which perhaps inevitably meant that it was not going to prove very sustainable.
There was a commendable flurry of Sansha live events running up to the release of Incursion which earned CCP some high fives at fanfest 2011 along with a commitment by them to continue bringing the love as the events had been pulling in crowds of hundreds of players over months.
Although most players would not consider themselves to be RP’ers, many players do love EVE’s backstory and enjoyed the ‘moments’ and spectacle of these events. Although alot of people like to mock the ‘nerdy RP’er’, we’re all gamers at the end of the day and most secretly enjoy this stuff (yeah, you do).
The Sansha events were quickly followed up with the Arek’jaalan Project run by the people’s champion of storyline, CCP Dropbear. It started well with much of the RP community going nuts for it and climaxed with the completion of ‘Site 1’; the deployment of a new outpost landmark site in Eram.
Then, for months, absolutely nothing. Now it appears that CCP Dropbear has left CCP for personal reasons. Its hard to say when that happened, but the re-launched live event program has been silent since Crucible 1.0 back in November, some 4 months now. And it had been notably less busy in the months prior to that.
The problem with volunteers who are also holding down a day job is that their time is limited. When their day job is working on EVE, I imagine they’d like/need to do some stuff that isn’t EVE-based after hours. So its understandable and you can’t give volunteers much grief for not ‘working harder’ (particularly given that CCP has been in post-Incarna panic mode).
So we’re not getting much happening in-game these days, and if you consider the Incursion run-up to be a ‘blip’ then we’re back to the status quo going back to before Empyrean Age in 2007. Except as I mentioned before, storyline is moved by other means than in-game. It moves in chronicles, novels, news articles and forums. When Aurora closed, it was reformed as a fiction team called Mercury. Mercury wrote in character news, but were re-tasked at the same time CCP Abraxas stopped writing his bi-weekly chronicles. Together they went to work on the Fiction Portal.
The news feeds stopped updating, the last article was posted in October 2010 (there were some CCP written pieces in the global news more recently, the last being in July, over 8 months ago). Chronicles are now only appearing in support of new expansions to introduce new content such as customs offices and Tier 3 battlecruisers.
All in all, this has not been doing the RP community many favours. The storyline support coming from CCP is very far down the priority list, despite being one of EVE’s finest features; its setting. Without fresh developments in the story, or indeed even the occasional anecdotal news piece, it becomes difficult to use an otherwise static game world to enhance your gameplay. Yes, I do realise that I just called the great sandbox ‘static’, this might hurt your brain/epeen a bit but outside of null sec the world is static, as FW was created consequence-free there was really very limited interesting RP material to be found there either once the initial novelty wore off and the storyline around it ground to a halt.
There was a time when EVE’s storyline had a pulse, and the backstory was used to fuel emergent gameplay which, sometimes in those rarest of moments, would then feed back into the official cannon of the game. And those moments were more beautiful than killing any supercapital. With Incursion we glimpsed the possibility that EVE might recapture that forgotten spark and return relevance and life to the storyline and with it, the RP community.
Factional Warfare is going to be revisited in Inferno for the first time in nearly five years. And Dust514 is coming. Maybe, just maybe, RP in EVE might have its chance for a jump start. The Amarrian god knows we’ve been missing it.