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The Razor’s Edge

 

Guesting CZ today is TheMittani.com’s EVE Bureau Chief Matterall. With an article published both here and on TMC, we are invited to his world and unique view. A walk in his shoes, if you will. – Niden

I’m on a perch with an interesting view right now, and this is what can be seen from here.

I’m a member of Destructive Influence (DICE) corp, which is led by LadyScarlet. DICE formed at the same time and place as Goonswarm (2005 Syndicate Region), but the history between the two groups extends long before that. By the time the early Something Awful-based corporations were combining to form Goonswarm, LadyScarlet was a veteran diplomat for The Five alliance, a major group in the early years of EVE. The contentious relationship between LadyScarlet and Goons goes back a decade, and is a story for another article.

The DICE corp has been around since the beginning of EVE, first as the notable corp Arcane Technologies (ATUK), which reformed into DICE to join a new alliance powerhouse, Band of Brothers (BOB). Three of the five major corps in BOB continue to exist under Northern Coalition (NC): Evolution, DICE, and FinFLeet. As for the remaining two, Reikoku is in Pandemic Legion (PL)., and Black Nova Corp closed in 2011. These five corps led the the opposition to Goonswarm and Red Alliance through the great wars, a bitter time for all of EVE.

“This kind of war happened all the time – in fact, the Fountain War started this way.”

The Mittani insists that BOB wanted “his people” erased from EVE, and still feels persecuted by them after all these years. When he growls through a “State of the Goonion” speech that NC and PL’s junior alliances, Pandemic Horde and Northern Army, are an existential threat to the Imperium, it is based in historical precedent. An NC and PL attack, plus a thousand subcaps as support, could be the Bat-signal that other nearby alliances like Snuffbox, Tishu, and Shadow Cartel, are waiting for. This kind of war happened all the time – in fact, the Fountain War started this way. Fortunately, no one is interested in all out war right now.

Right now, my corp has a unique crossroads of players: Tiberius Stargazer, lead editor at EN24, Lazuli Loto the Northern Army diplomat, Solon101 of skilled blops team Honorable Third Party, and a grand mixture of very seasoned players, all under one of the most powerful CEO’s in EVE: LadyScarlet. She was in control of the largest alliance in EVE, the renters in Northern Associates. It was bigger than the Amarr Empire! DICE comms are full of mature conversations, knowledge transfer and, of course, hazing. Usually directed at me.

NC leadership is aware that I am Matterall, and has already put me on notice. One slip up, and Vince throws me out of NC. As much as LadyScarlet favors me, she won’t stop him. On the other hand, I’m locked out of the Imperium, obviously. So when Mittens addresses the Kickstarter closing announcement to the Imperium, on their forums, I am left waiting for a public leak. I knew it was coming, but was surprised when Xander Phoena brought it to my attention.

This perch might seem like an advantageous position, but it is really a precarious razor’s edge between old foes.

No War in Our Time

EVE’s first decade was all about steady growth and a solid game plan for CCP, but the reliance on “cool features” created limitations. The excuse of “old code” is used as a catch-all for why parts of the game were broken. Crazy workarounds had to be developed by players, which meant advantages to those that knew how to overcome the mechanics, like shooting your own Territorial Claim Unit to protect it.

“Players ignored these conflict drivers and instead fought each other for fun…”

CCP launched this second decade with a push to rebuild the game. A part of this is trying to help generate conflict by giving players things to fight over, like Customs Offices (POCO), Encounter Surveillance System (ESS) structures, and a revamp of the war declaration and bounty system, but that didn’t help. Players ignored these conflict drivers and instead fought each other for fun, “gudfites,” where FC’s would secretly negotiate the size of battles before hand in order to help fights actually happen.

The environment alone was failing to produce conflict.

CCP finally took on sov mechanics last year. The end result locked in a subcapital world, where small ships fought over sov, and wormhole travel reigned supreme. Players would have to wait for structures and capital ships to have their turn. In this state of the game, large alliances adapted: NC kicked around Providence, then moved north to find their fun. PL began taking contracts, started a petting zoo full of newbies, and focused on wormhole travel. The Russians evolved their renting and ISK mining techniques, while some conquered C6 wormholes. The Imperium charged into Outer Ring, and repeatedly smacked empty pinatas hoping to get a piece of candy or two.

“The legacy of subcap goodfites and roaming culture that was hailed as the best way to play EVE a few years back has stalled the epic themes in the game.”

The legacy of subcap goodfites and roaming culture that was hailed as the best way to play EVE a few years back has stalled the epic themes in the game. The absence of large-scale fights was felt as players that had played for years and earned their capital ships were sidelined. Those players had grown up, and had real life take priority. EVE began to be played as a “ping me for fleets” game, where far-jumping capital ships could be brought home if stranded in the middle of a fight. That lifestyle was wrecked by massive jump restrictions and scattered fighting. Now players have to get in the game and stay on the keys, or be lost across the cluster after taking wormholes scouted by others. EVE had become less epic: fights are smaller, less meaningful, harder to narrate. These fights won’t pick up the interest of CNN or BBC, and require more commitment from older players.

The additional work put a strain on rewards, and players adopted a mantra. Despite the trillions of ISK sourced from nullsec ratting and moon mining on a regular basis, the idea that “nullsec is not worth it,” gained a foothold in the capsuleer consciousness. Perhaps the “worth” should not be measured in ISK, but peer recognition. It is hard for reporters to report on small fights more often, unless you are Salivan Harddin of EN24, who seems to have battle report elves working for him.

Without narratives and meaning, fights become repetitive. Even a small corp vs corp war has meaning, and a story behind it worth exploring.

Lacking meaning, all major war plans remain on hold, except for the Imperium, which has shown signs of going on a massive offensive through the recently announced Viceroy system, which is a good test of nullsec’s “major campaign” hearbeat.

At EVE Vegas, all the major announcements for null-sec were out – some say this happened before the event, thanks to CSM leaks. The separation of playstyle between subcapitals and capitals will be erased, with lower HP, no immunity to EWAR, a refitting nerf, and the ability to shoot and be hurt by subcapitals. Supercapitals will be made dockable, eliminating the “space coffin” effect, and allowing supercap pilots and players more flexibility in how they play the game. After this was announced, CCP went straight to work. They have since been silent on the issue.

fax (2)

A Novel Idea

In that silence, the Imperium launched a novel idea, pun intended. TMC leaders fused The Mittani’s cult of personality with a book deal which put all the risk on players. That was palatable to most, as long as it was Imperium members taking that risk. And why not? Everyone would get a nice book to buy if they chose, after it was written. But then the money stopped coming in, and the pitchforks came out on both sides.

CCP snuck away, hoping people would forget that it sanctioned the idea. TMC got more support from other gaming companies for this EVE project than CCP gave, given that it was not mentioned in CCP newsletters or the o7 show, and scarce if any tweets. It wouldn’t have mattered. CCP’s ability to calm the angry masses was hampered by Mittens and Goonswarm years ago when it attacked CCP for bias, and later, being out of touch.

With New Eden still in stasis, the meta-warriors of EVE went to war in public. TMC became a fortress from wherein Sion, content manager for TMC, shot fiery arrows at the wall climbers from r/eve. “Behave you filth!” Before long, Imperium trumpets sounded, and secret messages of support came to his aid. But to those outside TMC, bewilderment that the stoic Imperium leader was taking the role of attack dog, drawing lines between TMC and the non-Imperium readers. Angrier elements objected to Mittens’ raising money, as if he is taking it from the poor reader’s pockets. They forgot that Google is not free, television is not free, and apps are not free. All these “free” things are paid by charging others for access to your eyeballs.

This is a meta war in absence of null war, and TMC is Imperium’s fortress.

EVE Players Are Complex

Last week, I was a guest on the Open Comms show.  I’ve been a listener since they were on EVE Radio, and followed them to TMC Media. In my visit, as portrayed by my in-game self, I felt like newspaper exec, walking down to the mailroom (if they still exist outside of movies) where the sports writer and UPS guy are playing cards, drinking and talking world politics. There’s a “Henry the Fifth” vibe about it gives me a oxytocin rush when I think of it, but it’s all in my head. In reality, they know more about EVE than their humor and antics portray, and I know less than my writing claims.

“There I was, being introduced by Dirk as the new TMC “Beirut” Bureau Chief.”

There I was, being introduced by Dirk as the new TMC “Beirut” Bureau Chief. With my cue up, I tightened my virtual tie and started my proclamations about TMC and values that bored the room to sleep. If you’ve ever screamed in a dream, you know the sound never comes out, it just hits dead space. That’s what it felt like, talking without blinking about who knows what as the string that was pulled winds its way back.

The show slowed down because it became an interview. BC wisely broke it up, like a big brother breaks up a his kid sister’s gaze at the new boy, and off it went right back to jokes and laughter. Later, as one viewer took a shot at the show, calling it a “Goon Show,” Dirk, drunk Dirk actually, lit into the viewer. The place erupted into laughter and picked up the pace even more, ending strong.

Besides reinforcing that funny and edgy are a better draw than straight information, the secondary lesson was about individualism. Being called a drone – in this case, a bee – is insulting. No bright person wants to be co-opted, branded or labeled as a non-thinking follower, but even those are not what they appear. EVE is full of people that want to be told where to warp, what to target and when to shoot. Are they happy to be drones? No. They just have other priorities, like Netflix on the second monitor. Sweeping labels help people comprehend complexity, but they are seldom completely true. TMC writers and producers are not drone bees. This doesn’t mean that TMC is a place where good writers have strong views about topics, and that might generally favor the Imperium if the writers make it so. Editors are generally concerned with truthfulness and correctness.  

Not Your Father’s TMC

TMC staff can write for anyone they choose, at any time they choose. There are no quotas to fill, writers can write as much or little as they please. Anyone is welcome to write, from anywhere, about anything, favorable or unfavorable to The Imperium. As long as the writing is good, true, and in context.

This is why I’m writing this for Crossing Zebras. That said it’s going to be posted on TMC as well, so that our readers can see it as well.

Conclusion

I’m in the odd position of representing a contradiction. Running EVE news for the TMC, while it fully embraces its Imperium community, one that I fight against ingame. If it was an NC guy telling Goons how to be more Goonie, it would be a disaster.

Instead this is an easy decision for me. We’re all friends at Fanfest and meetups because we share a common experience. The game is the game, but in the end we’re all smart gamers, maybe too smart. Walking the razor’s edge, taking cover in the TMC fortress, learning how to entertain and inform from people more experiences than I, that’s just fun. This perch won’t last forever, but for now it is a heck of a view.

 

Tags: Matterall, media, tmc

About the author

Matterall

Matterall is the EVE Bureau Chief at TheMittani.com.

  • Diana Olympos

    I have a question.

    And ? What is the purpose of the piece? The idea behind it? It is just some random piece of informations.

    It feels like it lacks some paragraphs. Feeling maybe?

    • Matterall

      Yes, this is a “day in the life” type of article on the oddness of my current situation. It goes in different directions because there are a lot of contradictions or complications: Goons vs Bob, Comedy vs serious news, the CCP waiting period means war spills out into the meta, The Mittani site changing to be more open… These are all things seen from this unique position I’m in.

  • This piece and Luobote Kong’s from yesterday are fun to read and offer human insights that straight-up reporting just can’t. I would characterize them as “musings”. The approach reminds me of my favorites posts from Sugar Kyle’s blog where she explores what things mean to her and what factors into her perspective, decisions, reactions, and choices. Fingers crossed we see more of this type article. Niden, please add some kind of “musings” tag so such articles can be easily found later.

    • Niden

      A “musings” tag eh? hmm

  • Kamar Raimo

    There are statements in this article which I would contest. CCP did not totally drop the project. Falcon did a whole 1 on 1 show with the author on twitch. That they retreated into silence when it comes to the supercap development is also disputable. After all they created the supercap focus group.

    • Matterall

      I’m pretty sure Falcon did that on his own. Many of those type of things are CCP staff doing it on their own, not as a part of a structured push of any sort. It is very clear to me now that CCP is not a cohesive company. A lot of the best CCP stuff came out of pet projects from employees (tournaments, side projects) – even Quants market reporting is his thing.

      He made that happen. What is surprising is that CCP would stick there neck out, with an unproven project, and then let it sit. Normally they let people take chances and then move it to help out — EVE Vegas, Amsterdam, Down under etc.

      TMC has changed and that needs to be articulated. It hopes to be a community of writers with varied opinions, but it’s audience and supporters are the Imperium gamers — in all games they talk about. Think about what Mittens and Goons have built. Its much larger than a clan that moves game to game.

      It is way more than that. Why neglect that to try to win over EVE players and r/eve that are suspicions and angry at your every move – even genuine mistakes? People who cannot transcend the ingame rivalries? Who would trade your people that follow you into many games for people that don’t like you in one game?

      • Rawwr

        Okay that part about change should of been your final paragraph!

        • Matterall

          It will be articulated soon.

      • Kamar Raimo

        TBH, I don’t care what kind of “community” (or community) they are outside of EVE, except maybe from an academic viewpoint. I play this game and I care about what they do in relation to it.

        It is not much larger than a clan that moves from game to game. Goons are simply an online social group who branch out into different areas of interest and mess around with them based on their affinity. FWIW I don’t have an out-of-game community and I find it fascinating to develop relationships based on the in-game activities I engage in.

        As for the CCP thing, it was surprising how much support they showed to begin with. It was more than Andrew Groen got. I am not sure Falcon did that on his own. He is employed with that company as a community manager. He will have to report to someone and justify the time he spends on things. I also highly doubt that he would go out of his way to support the pet project of one alliance he has no particular affinity with.

        • Matterall

          How well do you know CCP?

          • Kamar Raimo

            On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the view of someone who has only been privy to their public statements and 10 being the familiarity of a repeat CSM member, I would say 4 or 5

  • Liner Xiandra

    I was hoping that this article would be cut / scrapped for release on CZ after reading it on TMC this morning. Its all over the place, trying to shoehorn 3 or 4 articles into one, without making a bit of sense.

  • luv goon, wnt goon

    tl;dr: Can’t we all just get along

    • Kamar Raimo

      “… when you hang from a gibbet for the sport of your own crows, we will have peace.” 😀

      • Arrendis

        I’ve always loved that line, though I prefer the fuller version in print. Theoden getting to vent his spleen at Saruman ranks right up there with Gimli’s ‘I need no map’ speech in Fellowship for me.

        • Kamar Raimo

          I sometimes get the impression that there are people in EVE who really feel like that too when it comes to certain individuals 😀

          • Arrendis

            Oh, there most certainly are. Many of them have never actually had to deal with the people they hate and despise, they just hate and despise them because ‘they’re what’s killing the game’.

    • alfius

      Yah, I wish we could keep the vitriol to a minimum outside of game. I love a bit of tongue in cheek smack talk on reddit after a bug fight but its getting stupid of late.

      • Kamar Raimo

        So enduring especially. Just when you thought it was safe to read EVE news, that recent piece of Sion came. I wonder whether he’ll write a new one when the drama simmers down again.

  • AFK

    EVE is what you make it, and if you make it a ping game, then it will be.

    If you would stop stubbornly resisting for 5 minutes and actually TRY, ONCE, the gameplay that CCP have offered maybe you would actually….enjoy it. In literal step by step terms that means; click “leave corp” on that 3000 man docked up alliance you are currently in, put together a smaller group of people who you actually know and interact with outside pings, set a realistic space goal for yourselves, and do it from scratch. I DARE you to try this.

    Why don’t you, or someone from this site, do this,. and write about it. Isn’t that what journalists do?

    • Kamar Raimo

      Actually quite a few of us here are in small corps and alliances. The rest are in PL … oh yeah and we have Sarin. Our “token Goon” 😀

  • james franklin

    Two things. First thing is, I don’t read TMC as I don’t find them relevant to my game+dude is a ass hat. So I’m sad that a TMC article got posted here. Nice trick. Second thing, TMC is not relevant to a large portion of the player base so we see this desperate need for talking about its self as if it were relevant ether to convince it’s self or others of this befor mentioned non relevance. This is the first time I have been disappointed in a CZ post. Not bad guys, keep up the good work.

    • xanderphoena

      A TMC article was not published on CZ. A CZ article was published on TMC. The article was written for CZ as Matterall says in the piece. We were meant to publish first and that didn’t happen because of a wee communication failure but be under no doubt that this is a CZ article.

      • luv goon, wnt goon

        yeah, that was obviously a “mistake”, don’t be so naive

        • xanderphoena

          I can’t comment as to whether or not it was a genuine mistake or not but I’ve been told as such by Matterall and have no reason to doubt him. I was simply commenting to the original point in that this was an article written for CZ.

          • Arrendis

            I can confirm, it was a mistake. One of our editors basically misunderstood the piece being ‘ready’ and put it into the normal queue slot.

          • Matterall

            To be precise, I offered to write something for Xander, but informed him I’d cross post it so that RMC staff was’t confused. Niden and our editors had passes at it about the same time. Niden was busy IRL, unfortunately. I went to sleep and we ended up posting a few hours earlier than CZ.

            I needed something to go out that cycle, so I rushed it and turned in a 1st draft. In retrospect I’d have taken a rewrite on it, holding it for a day. Then let CZ have a full day with it, before we posted it to TMC. Learning experience. 🙂

            Maybe we’ll do it again sometime.

  • Thank you for the insight. It is a challenging balancing trick you have on your hands there. Tea is better than coffee though. Just saying

    • Matterall

      I agree, tea is good. I’m not British, but tea time has to be the best tradition ever.

  • just a poster

    You’re a PR stunt for Mittens. Maybe you don’t know that yet. He’s rebuilding the TMC/Goons image to sell the damn book. Round 2 is coming, ya know?

  • Inzek

    “EVE had become less epic: fights are smaller, less meaningful, harder to narrate.”
    I agree, structures should be able to be destroyed by a small cruiser gang. Then smaller fights gets more meaningful, hence all is good.

  • Afk forum

    I was disappointed to know that you, Materall have jumped to TMC, guess this happened during Fan fest . I liked what was going on in EN24, some of the podcasts where good and off course those un biased articles, but even you fell for the Something Awful site guys.
    Let me just say one thing,
    Diversity drives complexity which gives us the dramatic universe we pay subscription for. And that was taken away by the very guy you are trying so hard to i-am-with-tmc-justifying thing
    I have been too darn long here to know that not one group (BoB, CFC, PL, CCP, Dom Sov, Greed is good, etc) can be pointed for New Eden being how it is now but siding with Imperium makes no sense now. You where better off at EN24, creating your own narrative, not anymore

  • JZ909

    That is an interesting position to sit in. Have fun looking at the view!

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