Countdown to EVE Online Fanfest: Laying Down the Lore
Continuing on from yesterday's look at the new development structure driving the EVE Universe's fortunes into the second decade, I am personally very happy be able to examine the recent revival of EVE Online's rich backstory after a long period of neglect. EVE's dystopian science fiction universe is one of the elements which has underpinned my continuing enjoyment of EVE Online and the prime fiction is certainly seeing the benefit of CCP's new groove.
The nature of EVE's open-ended gameplay and player-generated content makes integrating day-to-day player activity with EVE's epic interstellar backdrop of political intrigue and hi-tech war a difficult challenge for CCP's writers. EVE Online is a player-versus-player game at its core, and portions of the playerbase argue that the backstory is unnecessary window dressing, preferring the real events of EVE, driven by entirely player-generated drama.
However, the EVE player demographic is diverse and there are many who also enjoy the flavour and character which can be found in EVE's prime fiction.
In real time, EVE Online has ten years of player history to draw upon, but in terms of the backstory there are thousands of years of intricately woven storyline threads. The cataclysmic tragedies and unlikely triumphs of mankind's colonisation of the New Eden star cluster has been extensively documented in several novels, multiple chronicles and a wealth of other literature, both canonical and fan-generated. A fantastic new interactive timeline is a great starting point for interested sci-fi enthusiasts.
Surely there is a way to please all of the people some of the time? The power of good science fiction is undeniable and without it, EVE would be a far emptier experience. Yet for some time it seemed as if CCP just weren't interested...
Prime Fiction On Ice
Sadly, lore was one of the first casualties in the aftermath of the Summer of Incarnage in 2011. As CCP reeled from player backlash and laid off 20% of their staff, they were forced to focus their resources on long neglected gameplay mechanics, leaving narrative aspects of New Eden to wither.
However, here and there, the fiction flame was kept burning. As well as in-game channels like The Summit and The Skyhook, there were roleplay communities, blogs and podcasts all showing a quiet but persistent passion for something more than the latest bragfest of whose thousand-man fleet whelped whose.
A few developers also managed to find the time to appease the fictionheads, with CCP Dropbear and CCP Headfirst masterminding the Arek'Jalaan Project, an involved non-combat interaction experience which resulted in a permanent site being constructed in the game universe, filled with player-character material. Sadly, even this initiative eventually waned.
A Logical Solution
There is no doubt that EVE Online's then ailing fortunes were bolstered under the sterling leadership of Jon 'CCP Unifex' Lander, but he was very much a man of science and logic—at Fanfest 2012, he was introduced as a former biologist who had helped develop a crop which had saved humanity from certain starvation (or something along those lines).
I spoke to him at a player meet in London last year and he seemed disinclined to champion the lore or the provision of developer-led content, instead underlining his belief that “the players are the content”. However, he has clearly had the nous to see others appointed who do have a passion for a certain amount of stage direction.
With the fires put out and EVE's survival ascertained, Lander let slip the dogs of lore...