Understanding Incarna


Following a multi-month outbreak of real life, I returned to EVE only to discover the place on fire. It seems we’re in the midst of a second Summer of Rage – r/eve even spawned a tag for the event: 

Wow, in addition to the “Summer Of Rage” tag, a Trump inspired manifesto! I’ve returned just in time. But sadly, Summer of Rage 2017 is proving a disappointment. Despite concerted grudge nursing, it’s difficult to stay worked up over a couple of “rorcarrieratting” nerfs.

As best I can tell these cathartic tantrums bubble to the surface every 18 to 24 months. Sometimes, like today, they’re directed at CCP. Sometimes, like the Casino’s World War Bee over a year back, they’re directed at in game groups like the Goon’s Imperium. Always, they’re quite the pageant.

When my assistant arrived at work a few days ago he looked unusually harried. As he explained, his three year old daughter uncorked a 45-minute tantrum triggered by her milk carton’s color. Mind you, I’m not talking about the color of the milk itself (when you’re three, strawberry pink, chocolate brown or plain white are highly consequential flavor decisions), no, the carton containing the milk had a blue picture on the back instead of green. Further aggravating my assistant, as soon as he dropped the raging daughter off at daycare she waltzed into the premises twirling her hair as sweet an angel as there ever was. I found myself recalling the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem:

“There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.”

“Welcome to your own special EVE,” I thought. “While your daughter will grow out of her tantrums, we EVE players seem less likely to do so. In EVE you see, tantrums are kind of the point.” This may take some explanation.

For those of you not around for the original Summer of Rage, when June 2011’s Incarna expansion went live things did not go well. If you want a good overview of the noisy, Incarna-triggered, torch-laden pitchforking, I suggest David Matterall’s “The 2011 Summer of Rage”. For CCP (the target of that year’s tantrum), things went so foul that CCP ended up laying off some 20% of their staff. For players like me, however, it was strangely illuminating.

As those of us who were around for Incarna are supposed to have our “What were you doing when Incarna Dropped” story, here’s mine:

eve was growing into a different game for me, a game centered on the existence of other players.

I began playing Eve in May of 2009 which puts my Capsuleer birth solidly within Apocrypha. In my initial months I played exclusively with a real life local friend. This meant that although I was aware that there were other players in the game, they were only so much background as I was mostly interacting with the flesh fellow sitting near me. This isolated interest approach to Eve carried me through my first expansion, Dominion. The real life friend and I ended up going our separate ways late in Dominion meaning I solo-ed through the next expansion, Tyrannis. By the time Incursion dropped I had technically linked up with a very small group of in-game friends, if only by 27 days. Importantly, the in-game friends and I, unlike my previous play, hunted other players. Eve was growing into a different game for me, a game centered on the existence of other players. Accordingly, when Incarna dropped I’d be prepped to see expansions a little differently than I had in the past. Even so, when Incarna actually arrived it was nothing like I was expecting.

My most stark memory of Incarna isn’t connected to the game itself but rather to chatting with my real-life-not an-EVE-player brother over lunch about the absolutely astounding player revolt that the expansion generated. Even including crazy ass things like virtual monument shooting in game riots. Though I’d been playing EVE for slightly over two years my view of the game had remained very small — a real life friend and I, myself solo, I and a few space friends. Incarna changed that. Incarna introduced me to ‘the meta’. Incarna made EVE big for me. When the expansion dropped, for me EVE truly came to life.

There’s something slightly addled about logging into a game to display your displeasure about how that game is evolving. “I’ll show you, I’ll play in your sandbox. That’ll teach you!” And that, dear reader, gets at why EVE will continue to have its cathartic tantrums. I hope CCP understands this. I suspect they do.

In a May 2016 interview with Polygon, CCP Seagull, as she often does, winnows down to the heart of the matter: 

Consider your starkest EVE memories. How many of them circle around mastering a mechanics change and how many of them circle around interacting – sometimes cooperatively, sometimes competitively – with other people? There’s reason underlying why CCP keeps returning to the same set of mechanics currently deployed in this spring’s Rogue Swarm event. Even in highsec where I run these events in a Gila (meaning I’m in no great danger), I’ve a series of decisions to navigate. If there are other players in the sight will I contest for the drop? If I’m going to contest for the drop, how will I improve my chances? If they generate the drop, will I attempt to filch it? If I generate the drop will they attempt to filch it and go suspect on me? If they do, will I pop a shot at them? Even in highsec (a solo-ish player’s heaven) events like Rogue Swarm function as interaction engine where “maybe half the experience is defined from what other players do.”

We’ve had enough of these events that slight mechanical differences between them now mush together in my memory. An event or two back, a random player and I kept running across each other as we worked our preferred pocket. Rather than continually contesting with each other we instead linked up to run the sights together and split the loot, all the while bantering as we went.

My starkest memory, however, is not the cooperative linkup (though that was enjoyable) nor the competitive tussling as we dropped in on other pilots to contest those sites (which we quickly grew adept at). No, my starkest memory was a tantrum delivered by one cranky individual who had ponderously deployed a Mobile Tractor Unit to pull all those mostly empty wrecks towards his boat for eventual loot and salvaging. Only to have my newly met space buddy and I warp into the site, pop the boss, grab the only piece of worthwhile loot to be found and then flutter off like moths in a hurricane. Mobile Tractor Unit was none too happy about this development and read us the riot act in local critiquing our poor manners. It was classic ‘woe is me’ lament grounded in vehement complaint about how we’d made his MTU preparatory work irrelevant by stealing the boss’ loot drop.

well more that half the *memorable* experiences arise from other players.

Technically, we hadn’t stolen anything. We popped the boss, meaning game mechanics assigned the boss’ drop to us. Still, people are different and Mobile Tractor Unit didn’t see things that way. It was all very EVEish. It was all very meta. Importantly, the tantrum wasn’t about the mechanics. No, much like my assistant’s daughter’s unpleasant discovery that noisily imposing her will didn’t magically change the color of her milk carton, Mobile Tractor Unit’s tantrum circled around a similar unpleasant discovery that he couldn’t casually impose his will on the players around him. With a sea of silicon granules and some tools, sandbox games are like that. While maybe half the experience is generated by other players, well more that half the *memorable* experiences arise from other players.

I’ve been playing EVE for eight years and over that duration, there have been any number of mechanics changes. I don’t fly all the same boats I used to. I don’t pilot the boats I currently have the same way I used to. With a little work I can dig up memories about adapting to mechanics changes but it’s a dull, uninspiring exercise. Meanwhile, I’ve dozens of stories about interacting with other players. Much like you, I can shake them out of my sleeve at moment’s notice. In EVE people matter, mechanics merely facilitate.

In the long run, Incarna’s Summer of Rage proved a tremendous service – everybody finally got clear on what EVE was all about. Walking in stations, at least as presented, didn’t generate human to human interaction. Costly NEX store purchased goodies, at least as presented, didn’t generate human to human interaction. Protest chants aside, EVE isn’t even about spaceships, despite those spaceships being both the literal and metaphorical vehicle to what EVE is about. EVE ultimately isn’t about wizbang mechanics, as gorgeous as those mechanics may be (and oh we play a *gorgeous* game). No, EVE is about people. Ugly, difficult to predict, wonderfully antagonizing, gloriously cooperative, beautiful people. Tantrums, among so many other human interactions, are EVE’s goal.

So if this is your first ragey summer, welcome to EVE. Lacking other targets, 2017’s tantrum points at CCP. It had to point somewhere. The tantrums must flow. We pilots produce quite the show, no?

Tags: DireNecessity, incarna, Summer of Rage

About the author


A soloish long-term casual player since 2009, sporting a troubling history of preying on the good people of highsec, these days DireNecessity enjoys the gentle pleasures like manufacturing, grandbabies and formal dining.