EVE is Dying and We’re the Ones Killing ItAshterothi
EVE Online has always been a harsh cold reality, filled with those who wish to undermine and harm anyone who seeks to build within it. This coldness is one of the things that makes EVE fairly unique in the gaming world. The harshness makes accomplishment even more meaningful, as you know you’ve earned every step you’ve taken in the universe of New Eden.
Not all harshness is created equal however, and while the in-game actions of EVE are highly competitive, for years the EVE community has been one of the strongest communities in gaming space. Many have theorized that players take their aggression out inside of the game, making their out-of-game actions a part of the most generous, effective, and supportive communities in the world. While there have always been some who fail to separate game conflicts from real life spite, overall the community worked together to build, grow, and communicate, both with each other and with the developers. This is important, as CCP has always struggled to give the players what they want. Locked away in their icy fortress, historically CCP has been oblivious at best, and hostile at worst, to the community needs, and while some of this can be attributed to cultural differences, much of it lies on the feet of our community’s inability to clearly communicate with the developers of our game.
a strong shift towards listening and responding to feedback was enacted
This point was exemplified in the events of Incarna and the Summer of Rage, which served as turning point for Hilmar, and the rest of CCP. No longer were they forging forward in spite of the naysaying of outsiders, and a strong shift towards listening and responding to feedback was enacted. Year after year the quality of discourse improved as CSM were trusted more and more, and additional sources of feedback were used to communicate between CCP and the player base. CCP Seagull expounds the concept of “design by participation” and communication through things such as Tweetfleet, Reddit, and the official forum has gotten better year over year.
That is of course, until this year…
It seems as if the hostilities of the game have spilt over into the real world. Breaches of trust in the CSM gave way to a hostile takeover of the system, followed by near silence. This is one of the most uncommunicative CSM since the 5th, Tweetfleet Slack is all but abandoned by the devs thanks to the vitriol spread there, /r/eve has forgone communication and information for just raw shitposting and circlejerking, and more and more real life attacks and accusations are emerging as core community exercises such as lotteries are coming under fire. The community I once loved, the supportive and strong community, has all but fractured itself, and it is seemly getting worse rather than better.
Kickstarting the Problem
While many will argue the seeds to this problem were planted long ago, and many will argue over the various faults of the project, it is obvious that the failed Kickstarter of the Fountain War book stood as a turning point for the EVE community. The Kickstarter was first presented at EVE Vegas, an official EVE gathering now ran and organized by CCP, during the Keynote address. By all accounts this should have heralded a new era of fan content and CCP content coming together to make awesome things for everyone, following up from the previous success of Rixx Javixs posters.
It is easy to blame one group or another, and one reason or another for why the Kickstarter failed, and the Imperium has made no shortage of enemies over the years. What can be said is within a week or two it was clear that the project was suffering, and the detractors picked up steam, using this an an opportunity to levy all kinds of grievances to the organization famous for saying “We are not here to ruin the game, we are here to ruin your game.” Many of the detractors used mediums such as /r/EVE predominantly because it was out of Imperium control. Years ago, TMC was banned from Reddit for vote manipulation, and while that relationship had mended some, their power over the outlet was minimal.
The whole situation may have been resolved here, but the Imperium, specifically Sion, reacted to the hostility with his own, dismissing the “community” and creating a strong “us vs. them” mentality that had already been a strong current within his organization. Thus began a blitz by the Imperium, aggressively striking out against the “outsiders” both in game, and in various social media outlets. By this point the Kickstarter was doomed, the relationships between CCP, Imperium, and the non-Imperium playerbase was galvanized like never before.
The War Of Social Media
While many of the pieces were already in place, over the next few months various social media outlets and other out-of-game services chose, or were forced to choose, sides. Pandemic Legion leveraged this opportunity to be an organizing force for the counter-Imperium movement. Eventually every sub-community based on social tools (Twitter, Slack, Reddit) had been transformed into propaganda machines for either empire. This process finally culminated in the otherwise neutral gambling site “I Want ISK” transforming into a resource for the greatest war EVE had seen in almost a decade.
World War Bee was unlike previous wars that EVE had seen. The in game component of ships and explosions and territory took a back seat to out-of-game attacks, media smear campaigns, and accusation of foul, potentially illegal practices from both sides. In this war the target wasn’t only the Imperium and the Money Badger Coalition, but CCP itself.
House of Cards in EVE Online
Soon the war found a new ground to take their conflict: the CSM campaign. The CSM had already been struggling under the scandals of the year before, and it was announced that Sion, the defacto leader of the Imperium’s CSM efforts, would not be allowed to run for the CSM. This was just one in a series of vollies that seemed to come from CCP and TMC as companies, as opposed to a function of the game itself. Regardless of the cause, the Imperium felt that CCP had become openly hostile to them after the events of the Kickstarter and because of this the solution the Imperium went with was to bring doubt to the whole process and accuse the CSM of impotence. As a result, the election itself had the lowest turnout in years, and Pandemic Legion managed to secure far more positions than was originally expected. Meanwhile, the in-game war was not going well for the Imperium as the sins of the past seemed to continue to haunt them, instead they often opted to play a victim card. By this point the overall message from the Imperium was that the game was broken, unfun, and the system was in ruins. They were not altogether wrong.
The result of the election was an all-time low faith in the CSM, and as a consequence we have gone from one of the most communicative CSMs, to having almost no word from either CCP or the CSM on the state of the organization.
Signal VS Noise
Also during this time was the ramp-up to the Citadels expansion, the first EVE expansion in over two years, and the initial deadline of the two year plan CCP had been following since CCP Seagull took over as executive producer. However, the quality of the conversation involving feedback was reduced to ashes as the war raged on. Between social media takeovers by the warring factions, and feedback that was more focused on destroying enemies than constructing a good system, CCP slowly retreated from most of the tools that had been using for public feedback. Around this same time more and more features became delayed, dismissed, or left to radio silence as CCP failed to get players excited about new features thanks to the rage consuming all sources of news.
Make no mistake, this is not to say that this degradation is the Imperium’s fault, or PLs, or even CCPs. Each faction blamed each other, which is the very reason why the system is not only destructive, but self referential. The shift in focus has gone from in game entities fighting over in-game resources, into a real life struggle for control of the message. While this has always existed in EVE, the tendency to seek advantages by suppressing the other voices is at an unprecedented level.
The Fallout of War
It is time for all members of the community to take a step back and gain some perspective
With the Imperium in full retreat, we now have the formal end of World War Bee, but the damage is already wrought. The true victim of the war has been the community. The trust in each other, and in the company that builds the game we all purport to love seems lower than it has been since Incarna. It is time for all members of the community to take a step back and gain some perspective. Ruling over the ashes is no fun, and the creativity and power of the community is stifled. We can either allow this and continue to blame each other for the broken state of our community, or we can each attempt to do our part to allow all EVE players to have a voice by supporting creative efforts, and ensuring powerful and clear channels of feedback both from and to CCP.
During the course of this war, and its surrounding “meta conflict” we have seen the attack of the Drifters, the release of Citadels, Valkyrie, and Gunjack, the addition of real life biological science into the game, and much much more. However, for all the awesome things that have been done and built, it all seems overshadowed by this descent into bitter rivalry. While obviously not all of the blame can be placed on us, one must wonder what would have happened if the energy used to tear each other apart would have been used to build up excitement for these features. Where would we be if the library of Alexandria was never torched thanks to the inability for man to come to terms with one another?
This war, and the fallouts from it were not about territory, or resources, or membership. It was about a playerbase that failed to empathise with one another. A playerbase that chose animosity over creativity, and spite over forgiveness. These are seeds that have been planted for many years, but now more than ever these qualities are damaging not only the entities within the game, but the very fabric of the game itself. Even the projects such as Rixx’s have been put to rest, and probably not in small part thanks to the growing animosity. Regardless of fault, the world and EVE is an objectively worse place where creative people cannot get the support to bring their creations to others. The Kickstarter failing so spectacularly makes any future endeavor more difficult if not impossible. The suppression of news and feedback to silence one another makes the game and our community objectively worse. In the end, it isn’t falling subscriptions, or dailies, or even bad balance that will kill EVE. Rather, the enemy is ourselves.