My Time in EVE Online: A Gallery of Internet Spaceship Memories

A look back at some highs and lows of EVE Online through the eyes of a retiring volunteer community manager.

Looking Back and Standing Down

Last week, I stepped down from a prominent role as a voluntary community manager in EVE Online. Since 2011 I had curated the EVE community Blog Banters via my blog, Freebooted. Freebooted is one of hundreds of EVE blogs and the Blog Banters delivered a monthly discussion topic which helped to create a unified sense of community.

Stepping down made me sad, but had become time to pass the torch to another member of the EVE blogging community. I had been the Blog Banter custodian for two years, an EVE blogger for five years and an EVE player for a decade.

Given the time invested, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised at the genuine sense of loss I felt as I gave away the thing that made me feel the most connected to the strange, eclectic - sometimes spiky - "Nation of EVE".

As I indulge myself in a bit of maudlin reflection, I thought I'd share some of the 3 gigabytes of screenshots I've accrued from my various New Eden activities whilst I try to remember how to HTFU*.

The Picture Above

This one is of my main avatar, Seismic Stan. Here we see him staring out from his Captain's Quarters balcony at his Minmatar Reaper rookie ship in the hangar. I don't recall the purpose of taking this shot, but I'm not surprised he's got a rookie ship - I'd probably got all the better ships blown-up by being bad at EVE.

Despite being a formerly enslaved Minmatar of the Brutor bloodline, the architecture behind Stan is Amarr - the race who did the enslaving and with whom the Minmatar Republic is locked in an ongoing interstellar conflict. Stan's always had a bit of Stockholm syndrome.

Except nobody's heard of Stockholm in New Eden. Sisiede Syndrome?

(*it's an EVE thing - your mother wouldn't approve.)

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Thukk You, Frill Me!

EVE Online's community is not shy about voicing their discontent. In the Summer of 2011, the famed "Jita riots" saw hundreds of players protesting about issues (by shooting at an indestructible monument) regarding the development direction in which CCP Games were taking EVE.

A year later, things had settled down significantly and EVE's development was largely considered to be back on track. But as a playful poke at the community reaction of the previous year (and as a more sombre reminder of the very real 20% CCP layoffs that resulted from the mass protest unsubscriptions), I organised a re-enactment of the the riots based around the latest point of community contention - the removal of a collar-like structure from around the "neck" of the Vagabond heavy assault frigate.

The "Thukk You, Frill Me" campaign saw over 200 pilots perform a mock riot in similarly-designed Stabbers before sacrificially destroying a frill-less Vagabond over the now-shattered monument in Jita (CCP aren't without a sense of humour) then "marching" out to the headquarters system of the in-canon Vagabond manufacturers, Thukker Mix.

A Community Shines

The whole event was largely a success due to the influence of key community luminaries like Mangala Solaris (whose Red vs. Blue connection was largely responsible for the good turnout) as well as bloggers Rixx Javix (EVEOGANDA) and Roc Wieler (Roc's Ramblings), two creative dynamos who produced art and music to promote the Thukk You, Frill Me march.

The picture above was the 200-strong Stabber fleet heading out to cause trouble. I believe my ship exploded shortly after in a one-man suicide charge of the target factory station. Everyone else then went and did something more constructively aggressive in null-security space.

But you know what, they gave us the frill back. Power to the people, brother.

Meaningful Visuals

I have always found EVE Online to be visually stunning (even though this old shot was taken before the latest graphical overhaul), but equally I find it frustrating that, for the most part, gameplay requires you to obfuscate all the beauty.

In order to have any real situational awareness and to maintain any sense of relative positioning, EVE's graphical interface requires the view to be zoomed right out, rendering the fantastically designed ships and other artwork invisible, unappreciated and pointless.

In a blogpost a couple of years ago, I made a case for picture-in-picture functionality (and crafted the mock-up above showcasing my amazing Photoshop skills) which would not only allow players to better enjoy EVE's visual appeal. it would become a useful tactical tool for visually assessing enemy behaviour and armament.

Several months later at Fanfest 2012 in Iceland, Creative Director Torfi Frans Olafsson gave a presentation which included proper concept art of PiP functionality in EVE.

Despite Torfi not buying me a drink for my idea (it's okay, I'm over it), I was overjoyed to see that it was being considered. Sadly, we've yet to see picture-in-picture make it in to the UI, but significant overhauls are ongoing so I've not given up hope.

After all, in the same blogpost (and a couple of others), I put forward ideas regarding more cinematic camera functionality as another way of capitalising on EVE's visuals and that has made it into the game.

I'm still waiting for the royalty cheque.

Lost in a Wormhole: Tech 4 News

One particular passion project which took a lot of my time was Tech 4 News, a collaborative project I led which focused on telling the story of the non-player residents of the EVE Universe.

For several months I was able to corral the mercurial talents of many EVE podcasters and writers in order to write and produce an audio fiction series about the challenges facing unlicensed public broadcasters in New Eden. The site also provided a platform for some creative written coverage of localised news events from around the star cluster, supplied by many of the communities talented fiction writers.

It's a body of work of which I am proud and, although it perhaps didn't reach the audience I might have liked, an emergency audio appeal did inspire several player corporations to scour wormhole space in search of a lost news reporter.

Some CCP recognition was belatedly afforded Tech 4 News with information relating to the launch of EVE's new era of live events being exclusively revealed in-character on the Tech 4 News website.

All Roads Lead to Jita

In late 2011, GameSkinny's community-hosting sister site, Guild Launch, ran an EVE correspondent contest which I was surprised to win against some incredibly strong opposition.

This set me on a path to looking at EVE from a broader, more analytical perspective. Prior to being invited to focus on GameSkinny content, I wrote a regular Exploring EVE Online column which gave me the opportunity to spend some time in various rookie-friendly EVE organisations.

As well as investigating player-run institutions like EVE University and Red versus Blue, I examined the broader "Nation of EVE" from many perspectives. Although out-of-game it seems all roads lead to Iceland (particularly Fanfest), in game it is the star system of Jita that is the trade centre of the universe. Specifically, the Caldari Navy Assembly Plant orbiting the fourth moon of the fourth planet, known as "Jita 4-4".

Commuter Traffic

This shot, taken for one such analytical piece, shows some of the dozens of player-controlled vessels which can be found coming in to dock at the busy Jita trade hub any given moment can be seen. Four of the ships visible here are huge freighters likely carrying billions of ISK in player-made tradeable goods.

To give a sense of perspective, the two smaller ships visible are the battleship-sized transport vessels which were the only real haulage option before the introduction of freighter-class capitals in 2005. There are likely smaller vessels in shot, but are not visible at this zoom level.

The Beauty of Home

The art in EVE Online is sometimes breathtaking. There doesn't even need to be any spaceships in shot and the visuals can still give the viewer pause.

This is the star system in EVE Online which, if any, I suppose I could call home. After ten years I've got assets spread across the star cluster, but this is probably where I default back to as a matter of course.

I love how comfortingly familiar it looks with its blue-green Earth-like planet, yet looks out onto a distinctly alien starscape.

I wonder if it is possible to identify the system and planet? 

As cryptic a challenge as that might seem given New Eden's 7000+ star systems, each region has distinctive nebula clouds which, along with the star arrangements, change according to your precise location. That should certainly help to narrow the search down.

I'll give 100,000,000 ISK (100m ISK) to the first person who can name that planet and post it in the comments below.

Singularity Crossfire!

Given the amount of research I end up doing for EVE-related material to write about, the Singularity public test server is a god-send. It often has a newer, experimental build of the game engine running, making it a fun investigative pursuit trying to determine what they've changed.

This shot was taken to showcase the new missile animations and the addition of shots that visibly miss. Although entirely aesthetic, I appreciate this kind of attention to detail, it makes the experience all the more immersive for me. Prior to these updates (which were implemented in the Crucible and Inferno expansions in November 2011 and April 2012 respectively), all weapon fire appeared to hit, even if the damage notifications said otherwise.

The ship is the updated model for the Caldari Manticore stealth bomber - one of my favourite ships both for style and function.

From Production Lines to Front Lines

My Exploring EVE Online odyssey as embedded journalist eventually found me enlisting with the Aideron Robotics corporation, where I still reside. There I was shown how the countless items of equipment most players take for granted are made.

The Aideron Robotics savants have a really streamlined and efficient setup involving several production lines at player-owned starbases like the one shown above. Here they can produce huge quantities of the items and ammunition regularly exploded on the front lines of the Factional Warfare in which they also participate.

To be fair, it's been a while since I actively participated in any of this, so it may all have changed, but I wish the fellas well.

What an Absolute POS!

Player-Owned Starbases are a uniquely torturous piece of game design, with the worst possible application of EVE's favoured watch-and-wait gameplay mechanic. I've only set up a couple in my time, but the slow construction and constant requirement to feed it fuel is the epitome of EVE gameplay being like having a second job.

I believe this shot was from 2009 when my long-time corp, Greenbeard's Freebooters, was running a low-sec operation involving moon-mining and flogging stuff to the warfront, whilst supposedly defending CVA-claimed space surrounding the hotly-disputed Providence region.

To be honest, we didn't care who bought our stuff and carried on after CVA got kicked out.

I also hauled and set up a staging POS to support my corp when we moved to null-sec a year or so later. It was exhausting.

POSes really are POS. Fortunately, CCP realise this and have made some effort to make them less painful, with a view to a more permanent revision in the future.

Incarna, That Door and the Text Adventure

As much as the "Captain's Quarters" avatar engine found in EVE Online is now considered a developmental white elephant consigned to the history books as CCP's greatest folly, it is very much central to my relationship with EVE Online.

After a period of inactivity, it was rumours of an imminent "walking in stations" experience which lured my friends and I back to EVE Online in 2008. What we eventually got was Apocrypha, but that was okay because it was arguably CCP's best expansion to date.

Following the Breadcrumbs...

However, avatar gameplay teases persisted and were perpetuated by CCP; with talk of player-owned bars with "sockets" for customisation, some kind of underworld-based off-grid subterfuge, a multiplayer strategy minigame and even in-engine walkthroughs and a cinematic teaser.  

Sadly, two years later, what is now called Incarna was unrecognisable from what had been touted. An upgraded engine provided cutting-edge realistic avatars with industry-leading customisation, but everything else had gone. The strategy minigame had been sold off to Sony, renamed "Slay" and included in the Playstation Home social environment. There was also no multiplayer element. Every avatar was trapped inside their Captain's Quarters with "that door" refusing access to the rest of the station.

You could buy clothes for real cash though.

...Led to Calamity and Comedy

The community reaction was well-documented and both CCP and what seemed like the entire player-base suffered a massive sense of humour failure.

I saw an opportunity to point and laugh and so spent a couple of days channelling my schadenfreude and wrote a satirical blog-cum-interactive-story which I called Incarna: The Text Adventure.

It made a lot of folk laugh and received widespread acclaim. It got 60,000 pageviews practically overnight.

The door still won't open though.

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Mat Westhorpe
Broken paramedic and coffee-drinking Englishman whose favourite dumb animal is an oxymoron. After over a decade of humping and dumping the fat and the dead, my lower spine did things normally reserved for Rubik's cubes, bringing my career as a medical clinician to an unexpectedly early end. Fortunately, my real passion is in writing and given that I'm now highly qualified in the art of sitting down, I have the time to pursue it. Having blogged about video games (well, mostly EVE Online) for years, I hope to channel my enjoyment of wordcraft and my hobby of gaming into one handy new career that doesn't involve other people's vomit.