CZ Minutes: RoleplayXander Phoena
Last week on CZ Minutes, the team discussed our respective wishes for the upcoming summer expansion. This time around, we discuss the concept of lore in Eve and it’s importance in the greater narrative of New Eden.
Xander: How much does the lore of Eve Online matter to you? Do you consider the RP aspects of fighting for Minmatar or Gallente or whatever? Where does the true lore of Eve come from – the players or CCP? Is there any way for the two to harmoniously exist side by side? Have at it team…
Forlorn: I led a roleplay alliance, I had people doing roleplay. I never. The lore consists of some EvE lore and mostly player stories, while most of the player-driven content never puts a mark on the universe, except those few monuments from alliance tournament or the recent Titanomachy.
Marc: EVE’s lore situation is actually pretty weird. There is a nearly endless supply of it – chronicles and what, three books now? – and very very few people care. But, RP in EVE can mean many different things. I once RP’ed while suicide ganking, asking a particularly irate miner for his asteroid mining permit repeatedly. For others, RP can be considered in a very literal sense – for instance, The Mittani is a different character entirely from Alex Gianturco.
‘To me EVE lore is the backdrop, the props, the light show. I enjoy it and I take it in. But in the end I came to listen to the live band on stage’
Niden: Eve lore-lore and player lore live not in symbiosis, but side by side. In a themepark MMO the lore is tied into the main drivers that compel players into action. In EVE players are to a much larger extent motivated by other players – be it PvP, business, industry, community, power or something else.
As the game ages the player generated lore has become the big brother and the world lore has taken more of a back seat..The reason is that the player lore is ‘real’ and many of those that play today can say ‘I was there’. The player world has its heroes, villains, great battles, tragedies, comedies, riots, politics etc.
This is not to say that eve lore is poor in nature. I personally enjoy it very much and have even written a few chapters on a book set in the world of New Eden. But the gameplay that supports that lore is sub-par compared to the massive parts of EVE that drive player interaction.
To me EVE lore is the backdrop, the props, the light show. I enjoy it and I take it in. But in the end I came to listen to the live band on stage.
Joran: To say I think the world lore is useless is an understatement. I know CCP is making some money off of it, or they wouldn’t continue to expand it, but I really do not see the need for it. Even faction warfare would be more interesting if they broke those molds and allowed other factions to fight other factions. Instead of locked warzones, how about the Caldari and the Minmatar teaming up against the Gallente? What if somehow the leader of the Amarr in-game was an actual player instead of an NPC no one cares about? Yes, please, I’ll have more of those storylines, created by the players and their decisions. I think it’s the great strength of the game and what draws most new players. Marc’s kind of roleplay is the only kind I would be interested in seeing more of in Eve.
Marc: I think the push to place greater agency in the hands of players is probably a reflection of just that, Joran – getting out of the business of producing lore. While the universe will always need lore, it doesn’t need to dictate things like it must in other properties. However, removing Concord from involvement in certain things and placing responsibility in the hands of players is a great thing on two counts – give players more to do, take away the overhead of producing more lore to justify XYZ new gameplay feature.
Joran: Absolutely. I’m just not sure how neatly and tightly you can situate these great player stories and the information dictated from the writers. It’s almost clunky, to be fair. Most of us play in a separate world than the ones the devs write about, and why bother with Tibus Heth when we have Grath Telkin? Your point is taken, Marc, that it has to be a process. I just wish they would hurry up with it.
Niden: First of all, doing away with all ‘game-lore’ would be a mistake. It serves it’s purpose in setting the tone and the distinct themes throughout the EVE universe. It also helps define the world for new players. Second, Joran, no they should not hurry. It has to be a slow and gradual process that happens as organically as possible. I think CCP are doing it just right by slowly and gradually shifting the focus over to the players. Ideally we’d be left with a world produced by the players but with lore available as the backdrop, the setting, the props, as well as a vehicle for CCP to launch new features. Not observing due temperance could result in a lopsided and diffuse sense of identity for the game.
Joran: Niden, do you really believe that the tone and themes are set by the game lore? Do you think any but a very small number of players define their world by the written stories? I think if the game doesn’t have a rock solid identity at this point, CCP would be in a spot of trouble. There’s plenty of identity, backdrop, and setting (ten years, in fact). Let’s embrace “Eve is real.”
‘I don’t think that the lore of the game impacts the themes or tone of the game at all’
Marc: Having played for some time, I don’t think that the lore of the game impacts the themes or tone of the game at all. I could be wrong here – maybe someone today comes in because they ran across Templar One or Empyrean Age at Barnes and Noble – but I don’t think I am. The themes and tone are set almost solely by stories of players. Guiding Hand Social Club was a name I knew regarding EVE coming into it – Tibus Heth? I didn’t know his name until much later.
That’s not to say that lore can’t provide some value. It’s nice to know that there is some kind of explanation for the Sansha Incursions, Dust mercenaries, and Tech 3 ships. However, the thing that strikes me is that lore is to EVE what EVE is to the gaming industry. What I mean by this is that, in the gaming community and industry as a whole, you’ll often hear “I don’t like EVE, but I’m glad a game like it exists.” This is similar to the even more frequent refrain of “I could never play EVE, but I like to read about it.”
In this context, I’m glad that the lore exists, but it doesn’t matter much to me. Nor, I think it is fair to say, to most people. I mean, who even cares about the Damsel anymore? How many people who ran that mission even know the storyline of it? For most, it’s a thing in a can they need to pick up to progress. That’s all.
Xander: So at what point does the lore actively work against the overall player-led narrative in Eve Online? Surely from what you are saying Marc, it almost works at cross-purposes to the amazing tales the players create? Should CCP cut the lore in Eve to the absolute minimum necessary to provide some bare skeleton for everything else to hang off? Can the argument reasonably be made that they are actually already doing this with recent changes to the lore and a reticence to host live events?
Marc: I don’t think they ever necessarily work at cross-purposes. It’s more a question of what is relevant versus what isn’t. I have nothing against more lore in the universe – I’m a lore nerd – but if that lore is created by two CCPers in their off time penning a chronicle here and there, all the better. It just doesn’t seem like lore has ever been a particularly compelling aspect of the game, especially when compared to others in the MMO market.