Exploring EVE Online #5: The Metagame Rabbit Hole
As I continue on my investigative journey through EVE’s communities, the focus of most articles will be on the player organisations which are my monthly destinations. However, this month will be a little different.
At Fanfest back in March, CCP Chief Marketing Officer David ‘CCP Pokethulhu’ Reid coined the phrase “the Nation of EVE”. In line with that concept, this article will be a departure from the usual examination of the corporations and alliances which function as the households and towns within this nation and will take a look at the infrastructure which links them all together. Just as a real-world nation has its TV channels, newspapers, national sports and renowned celebrities, so too does New Eden have its streams, podcasts, blogs, tournaments and celebrity players.
Before I get too much further, I have one caveat; documenting the entirety of a phenomenon as complex as the extended EVE universe is far beyond the scope of a single book, much less a two-thousand word article – so this will be more of a highlights reel. Just as Douglas Adams’ mice in A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy were each just a tiny physical protuberance of a vast metaphysical consciousness into our reality, so too will this piece be a fleeting glimpse of a rushing mammal disappearing into a rabbit hole of impossible depth.
Also to be considered is that each community and site is governed by its own rules of behaviour and standards of content. This gives rise to rich diversity and colour, and exploring many of the sites will undoubtedly reveal astounding ingenuity and breathtaking creativity. But it may also lead the explorer to discover some darker, more offensive behaviours. The wider EVE community, like much of the internet, is unrestricted and those of a delicate or sensitive disposition should proceed with caution. But, with care, the rewards are well worth it and will greatly enhance any EVE player’s experience.
Welcome to the crazy universe of EVE Online‘s metagame. Down the rabbit hole we go.
As with most gaming communities, EVE Online has its own dedicated forum. This is as good a starting point as any for our metagame journey, although you will see later that it is not the only logical launchpad for the EVE metagame experience.
The is linked into its proprietary portal, which provides access to certain in-game functions, such as EVEmail, calendar, voice-comms and a substantial Wiki in the form of the EVElopedia. As such, this requires an active EVE Online account for full access, with every player posting on the forums as one of his characters.
This is the best environment to benefit from one of the unique aspects of EVE Online – unprecedented access and communication with CCP developers. Many development teams scour these forums for feedback and even for leads on what improvements to tackle next. There are subforums allowing discussion of every aspect of EVE Online, including Fiction, and much more. These forums have been increasingly (and controversially) heavily moderated of late, in an attempt to curb an ever-present trolling culture – the war on internet-based behavioural disorders never ends.
However, bad apples aside, the EVE-O forum provides a wealth of information for the community. In order to take a step further into the rabbit hole, two subforums best showcase the world beyond the EVE client; and Out of Game Events and Gatherings. There can be found links to discover the vibrant, inspiring and chaotic world of the unfettered EVE player.
THIRD PARTY WEBSITES
Some dedicated EVE players have poured their talents and time into producing some fantastic web-based community resources to aid their fellow players, enriching the EVE experience. Whilst the EVE client itself provides all the tools necessary for participating in the universe, the publicly accessible API allows dynamic information to be funnelled into all manner of uses.
The combat-centric communities feed their thirst for statistics and competitive bragging rights with sophisticated killboards showing every detail of their fleet engagements. This allows the tracking of EVE’s best – and worst – combat pilots. The most well-known of these killboard sites is probably Battleclinic, but many player organisations run their own to track the performance of their members.
For the explorer, New Eden’s vast three dimensional map can be very disorienting, but Wollari’s makes navigating the stars a simple process. Interfacing directly with data flowing from EVE’s server, a pilot can plot routes, investigate system facilities and check for combat hotspots before heading out into the dangerous void.
Keen traders can monitor market trends and search for the best trade opportunities using the website. In-game, a player is only able to see market prices for their current region of space, but demand and availability can vary wildly from region to region. EVE-Central allows the player to view prices of individual items from across the entire star cluster.
These are just a few examples of the many sites out there and I’m sure someone will point out I forgot site X. These are just the ones I use regularly and I apologise for not being able to represent every site. There is a host of other unique and specialist services available, from mission guides and , to manufacturing assistants. The selfless ingenuity of the EVE player community is staggering and their discovery is as much a part of the adventure as is exploring unknown space.
THE EVE BLOGGERSPHERE AND NEWS
Perhaps I’m biased, but I believe one of the jewels in the crown of the Nation of EVE is the vibrant blogging community. Free of restrictive forums and editorial bias, this ocean of reading material is too vast for any one reader to cross, with hundreds of bloggers telling tales of their in-game exploits, reviewing game elements, discussing socio-political activity or providing new content and ideas. It reflects well on the kind of people who play EVE that they so freely communicate, share and opine. People who, in-game, would shoot each other on sight, read and comment on one another’s blogposts, debate issues and inevitably mud-fling and troll. It all makes for great reading.
Exploring the blogging scene is very rewarding and the use of an RSS reader will allow the interested reader to collect his favourite blogs in one custom-made EVE magazine. But for a more ad-hoc browsing experience, the is a great place to start as it’s a maintained list of many of the blogs (and podcasts) from across the bloggersphere.
For a more spoon-fed reading experience, there are a couple of news sites which provide their own coverage of various in game events. EVE News 24 is renowned for specialising in colourful if uneven coverage of player-driven political activity, but it has also recently started raiding selected blogs from the blogging community for more material. EVE Tribune is the longest-running EVE news-site and whilst not as high-profile or prolific as EVE News 24, caters for a more thoughtful, less aggressive audience. Both the Arcadia News Network and Tech 4 News deliver an in-character, immersive brand of news for those who are attracted by the rich sci-fi lore of New Eden. [Edit: Since this article was written, TheMittani.com has also risen to prominence as a high-quality EVE news source]
For the sci-fi aficionado’s coffee table, is a professionally produced quarterly magazine which provides news, developer interviews and in-depth examinations of many aspects of EVE Online’s gameplay. It features exclusive content provided by CCP and the player community and is available in and traditional . [Edit: Since this article was written, EON magazine has sadly ceased.]
There is a broad spectrum of talented and verbose podcast and internet radio hosts jockeying for your ear on a regular basis. Listening to one of the many EVE-centred news, discussion and entertainment podcasts on the work commute or whilst out for a stroll is a great way for the wall-of-text averse to keep up-to-date with the myriad of EVE developments and shenanigans. Each podcast has its own flavour and pace and I really couldn’t recommend any one over any other, it’s a matter of taste and you should try them all.
There are the long-running old guard in the form of the scattershot Fly Reckless (est. 2008) and the ever-relaxed Jade’s (est. 2009), and some newer kids on the block, such as the impressively prolific fellas of the Tactical Entertainment Network, the velvet-voiced Arydanika on , the disturbingly schizophrenic Angry Monkey Podcast and the irreverent new arrivals . There’s always the amiable rambling from EVE’s old man Kirith Kodachi and his . All deliver their own unique brands of EVE discussion and are deserving of a download – they’re all on iTunes too. If that wasn’t enough for your aural delight, many of these talkative characters have also started getting together in regular live “podside” discussions.
If a more music-led radio-station experience is what you’re looking for, look no further than EVE Radio, a slick and professionally run multi-channel radio station dedicated to the entertainment of EVE players.
In almost every case these dedicated providers of audio entertainment have in-game chat channels and out of game blogs or forums which allow listeners to interact, get involved or just heckle.
THIRD PARTY APPS
Theorycrafting ship loadouts has become an artform of its own, with the complex balancing of individual statistics earning dedicated discussion sub-forums in many communities. A number of player-created programs are available to facilitate these space-age grease-monkeys. The original EFT (EVE Fitting Tool) was long unchallenged, but now PyFA (Python Fitting Assistant) has risen as an admirable competitor. EVE HQ provides similar tools, as well as a host of others including a starbase designer and character monitor. is a popular tool for the monitoring of character skill queues.
Last month I covered the application for the Android smartphone platform, but creator Jason Parks is not a man without his peers – there are many other incredibly talented coders who also work tirelessly to provide up-to-date applications for the discerning EVE pilot. Each app might provide the user with a variety of benefits, such as reviewing his in-game mail on the move, designing a new ship fitting for his next combat, optimising his skill training queue or researching a new manufacturing process.
Whilst Aura dominates the Android market, the iPhone has a wealth of of app options. Artem Shimanski’s (formerly EVE Universe) and Benjamin Scott’s both provide a powerful suite of smartphone-based tools to assist the capsuleer monitor many aspects of his space Empire. is a skill-queue specific tool, allowing the monitoring and planning of any given character’s development and education. There are a number of other apps listed which I have yet to try, but could potentially be useful companions apps for miners (), traders (), pilot identification (), ship comparison and exploration () and more. Windows Phone 7 series has the app which allows character monitoring.
The undisputed king of player-made EVE video is Ian Chisholm’s series, three incredibly well-crafted feature-length machinima movies which are funny, touching and deservedly award-winning pieces of entertainment, now available on . But looking beyond, EVE-inspired videos are strewn across YouTube, from and , to and the hilarious and of player alliances.
Alongside the recent CCP-run spectacle of the – essentially the eSports World Cup of EVE – there has been a rise in livestreaming gameplay from leading players showcasing their skills and demonstrating their spaceship prowess. Tournament commentator and Sylar/Spock stunt-double Kil2 is one of EVE Online’s favourite sons and can often be seen Bringing Solo Back. Sard Caid is another of New Eden’s celebrity space warriors who is .
Mintchip runs a where she primarily (although not exclusively) discusses EVE Online gameplay, news and politics and brings a little glamour to the world of spaceship geekery.
With all this player-generated content and material, it’s surprising EVE players get time to log into the gameworld itself. Truth be known, many players probably spend a significantly larger portion of their time participating in an aspect of this “metagame” rather than actually flying their spaceships. The player culture that has evolved around EVE Online has almost evolved beyond the game itself. Indeed, the more influential players – those who run the huge null-sec alliances – would likely find little benefit to actually being logged in, with the majority of their meta-gameplay being conducted through voice-comms and private forums. Which brings us full circle to our last, but perhaps most critical, metagaming subculture: the forum communities.
These are strange cliques; vast communities of players who, to the outside observer, seem to spend as much of their time trolling each other as they do having valid discussion. But in many cases these very communities are ones which gave rise to some of the most successful and renowned alliances in EVE Online. Goonswarm was spawned by the community and TEST Alliance Please Ignore was the product of (via the Dreddit corporation). More cosmopolitan, but no less effective are the communities of (winners of the Guild Launch EVE Online Best Site contest) and . For the section of the community concerned with lore and storyline development, there is . There are undoubtedly many more forum communities with a focused presence in EVE Online, each likely producing as much content out-of-game as within it.
With the ever evolving nature of emergent EVE communities, it would be a tall order to track every one as they ebb and flow. New communities flourish all the time. In many cases there is a cross-pollenation of users and shared material which is as much part of the natural behaviour of an interacting society as it is a playground for the inevitable network of spies and metagaming information brokers. It is in this arena that some of EVE’s more infamous player-driven stories have taken place and no doubt will again.
Oh, what wicked interwebs we weave.
TRAVERSING THE METAGAME
I hope that this article goes some way toward showcasing the diversity and creativity of the many extended communities of EVE. So varied and widespread is the diaspora of capsuleers that there is a niche for everyone and it is far more engaging and welcoming than the potentially harsh experience within the client might suggest. It’s in this metagame arena that friendships are forged and deals are made. EVE Online really is a giant social networking environment and a creative sandbox – spaceships are just the catalyst. Before you know it you’ll be talking spaceships and drinking beer with fellow spacegeeks at a player meetup near you. Failing that there’s always EVE’s 10th anniversary Fanfest in Iceland next year. That should be a genuinely epic experience.
The EVE Online metagame is a labyrinthine rabbit hole of limitless player content and one which, whilst often misunderstood, should be the envy of other game communities.
It is one of which I am proud to be part.