The return of story

This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss the use of official CCP story arcs in EVE-Online.

Many moons ago, when I first got into EVE, one of the biggest hooks for me was the games setting.  I didn’t start playing with the intention of becoming a role player, but from day one for some reason I felt compelled to pick a race and go with it.  I have spent the vast majority of my time in the game only flying Minmatar ships.  More recently I have allowed myself to flex a little and train up the other races but I still have a hangar filled almost entirely with Minnie ships.  It just felt like the thing to do.

I quite quickly discovered the game’s back story and started to read the chronicles as I like to explore the setting of any game that I play which has a setting.  I enjoy exploring worlds, I like for there to be context behind my actions.  After a few months into the game my corp at the time joined Ushra’Khan, our CEO told us that they were into this roleplay thing and I was a bit wary of what that was going to actually involve at first.  I soon got my head around it, then I dived in.  For a long time the RP-scene was EVE for me, and it always has remained important in my priorities for what I did in the game.

Thing was, over the years it became increasingly less of a priority for CCP.  The RP scene has always been a player niche, one that is hard to market and definitely not for everyone.  You can’t point to a chart in a meeting and say that storyline has brought in X number of new players, or that it retained Y amount of subs.  The impact and importance of investment into storyline is difficult to measure and quantify, so has suffered in making its business case over the years.  That led to a long period of stagnation in EVE’s story lines.

The closure of Aurora, the old volunteer run (but CCP overseen) live event program nearly made me quit EVE at one point and led to an increasingly stagnant RP scene as over the next several years storyline progression dried up.  There were no longer any live events being run for players to interact with, news pieces became increasingly scarce as did the publication of new chronicles.  EVE started to lose a sub section of its player culture and that made me sad indeed.

EVE, as we all know, is a player driven sandbox.  Players do things, they interact and stories emerge.  This works very well for ‘non-fiction’ stuff like two null-sec alliances going to war or an elaborate scam or heist being perpetrated, and that’s great.  But it doesn’t work so well for those interested in narrative and blending the games setting with their actual game play.  If you haven’t been involved in RP’ing within EVE (or a setting like it, if you can think of one), you might be thinking that RP’ers just need to be more imaginative and create their own stories.  You’d be half right.

EVE has a long history of ‘collaborative’ feedback between CCP, ISD volunteers and regular players.  There are a number of occasions where CCP have run their storyline only for the players to initiate something unexpected and novel that has been recognized and adopted into the ‘cannon’ back story going forwards.  There is a minor Minmatar sub-faction known as the ‘Bloody Hands of Matar’ who have been used several times in the past to conduct acts of terrorism – they were inspired directly by the Ushra’Khan’s rejection of the former Minmatar government’s policies.

So yes, players can and do initiate story lines and play them out amongst themselves, and for me this is EVE at its geeky best.  A good live event (with CCP involved or not) can be a very memorable few hours of your EVE career indeed.  However, the problem for a long was that the storyline was effectively put into stasis for many months at a time for several years.  Typically the only time anything at all would happen was around expansion launches, an approach I always found unsatisfying.  There was no live events team at all and even the ISD fiction team Mercury had been taken off news writing to work on the fiction portal behind closed doors.  It was a boring time to be a role player in EVE.  When the world you inhabit stops changing or reacting, your options for doing anything that feels fresh diminish.

It is because of all this that I have been so glad to see CCP returning towards investing in the storyline and live events.  In the run up to Incursion there was a small team of devs operating as volunteers to bring live events back to EVE.  Their Sansha invasions of high sec reliably drew hundreds of players time and again and demonstrated to CCP’s management that players did in fact care enough to get involved, and that live events can generate player excitement and activity.

It has taken time, but EVE now has a growing live events team again.  CCP Falcon and CCP Eterne have been highly visible in recent months since joining CCP and lead the charge in bringing back a sense of those times I have been missing so long.  And ISD Mercury are clearly back in action too.  The long dormant fiction news feeds have been buzzing recently with a steady stream of new content pushing multiple story arcs forward and bringing a sense of life back to a static world.

Storyline is back.  And its making me all nostalgic. 🙂

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