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EVE Online Essays

Essays 26 November 2020, 19:39

author: Jakub Mirowski

Will EVE Online Outlive its Creators?

EVE Online is a gaming phenomenon that almost all players have been aware of since more than a decade. Some people might wonder why do people still play this game, but this is a wrongly posed question.

Table of Contents

Citizen, the corporation needs you!

It's an interesting paradox: EVE Online is known to the average player mainly because of these giant battles, losses counted in tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of people waging war and running everything in the game world – the truth, on the other hand, seems to be that at the root of this enormous production are separate, relatively small communities of enthusiasts who gather at night on Discord (often without even launching the game!) to spend time with like-minded people. Many of them are not interested in the great politics.

The articles read nice and the vids look good. But in such battles you're a small ant. You all attack in a huge mass and the skills of a single player are of no importance. And I've mentioned the fact that servers slow the game down, even up to 10%, to deal with such a number of people. The skirmishes turn into a battles lasting several hours, where the only thing that counts is sheer numbers. Targeting a ship can take two minutes, with another few minutes passing before ships actually open fire. You actually can go make a tea, do the groceries, hell, even go to the cinema for an all-night movie marathon. The battle would probably continue anyway after you returned.

– Swiezaq, Useless Idea

Players with longer experience suggest that, as in real life, great battles are best watched on YouTube. - Will EVE Online Outlive it's Creators? - dokument - 2020-11-26
Players with longer experience suggest that, as in real life, great battles are best watched on YouTube.

The very existence of EVE Online's "big ploitics" is, of course, largely due to the unusual complexity of the game itself, offering a variety of career paths – you can, for example, make a comfortable life here only by speculating on the market; you can engage in mining or smuggling, or even become a mercenary, and each role has its place in the local ecosystem. But once again, a completely new dimension has been infused by involvement of players who have gone far beyond what any of the developers expected. Networks of hostile alliances, giant federations, full-fledged diplomatic missions, conspiracies prepared over the years – this is the meat and potatos of the political landscape of EVE Online. "CCP Games is creating a certain universe, but most players don't care about it. The thing that's most interesting for them is what happens between alliances and corporations," says Maciell.

How far can an ideological war between virtual federations go? Suffice it to say that a few days after the unveiling of the EVE Online monument in Reykjavik, Iceland, containing the names of all active players as of March 1, 2014, the monument was vandalized. The perpetrators, identified as four players, erased several nicknames and drew a bee – the symbol of the Goonswarm Federation. They had to pay a fine for their act and, what's probably more severe, were banned for life.

Of course, the game creates an impressive framework, all elements of which have an impact on each other and are somehow connected, but the frame – contrary to the experience of countless RPGs ­– cannot function on its own. As in any other MMO, players are responsible for the rest. But while in ordinary games, the players constitute an ordinary organism, in EVE Online, it grows to the size of a Cronenberg monster with a passion for bodybuilding. And although this anatomical analogy went in a rather chaotic direction, I can assure you that it was a compliment.

I mean, how many other games have their own Ministries of Truth (!), which produce propaganda for individual corporations and alliances? Propaganda, which is not limited to memes, but rather takes the form of vintage posters, militaristic speeches, or films of shockingly high production value. The Goonswarm Federation, an alliance of almost 30,000 members, even had its own anthem, a pretty decent rearrangement of the Beatles' "Let It Be."

And we're barely scratching the surface here. EVE Online has its own diplomats, its own historians (Andrew Groen, author of the Empires of Eve, is probably the most popular of them), even its own war correspondents! There entire additional layers of gameplay that do not require launching the game at all. And the hierarchy of power within it have grown to such an extent that they substitute real work.

"Take The Mittani, Goonswarm's leader, for example. This is a man who, as far as we know, worked in a well-known law firm, was an attorney and made very good money. When he became CEO of Goonswarm Federation a few years ago, he simply quit. Since then, the only work he has done is for the alliance. This should give you a good idea of the money involved in EVE Online."

- Maciell

You can read all about it in The Wall Street Journal. Alex "The Mittani" Gianturco was actually a lawyer in DC, but he quit his job to take play EVE Online full time.

The Goonswarm Federation is an absolute giant, so much of the propaganda is directed against them. /source: Reddit; r/Eve, u/deprydation
The Goonswarm Federation is an absolute giant, so much of the propaganda is directed against them. /source: Reddit; r/Eve, u/deprydation

Limits of the game

CCP Games built the lab, but it was the players who created the monster – this is the easiest way to describe events like the battle that went down more than a decade after the game launched. EVE Online was then the stage for one of the most epic tales of betrayal and vengeance written in video games, and it was written by the players, or the selling of a virtual ship for non-virtual 30 thousand dollars. This game decimates any other MMO in terms of community involvement, and the much greater role and influence of the "human element" generates absolutely fascinating stories.

We defended against a corporation that really hated us – they even hired one of the most numerous wormhole groups to raze us. As soon as the news broke that we were attacked, I checked my contacts, presenting the issue and coordinating the actions of friendly teams willing to come to our aid. And friends soon appeared, in quite a number, revealing a breach in the system control of the invading forces (who try to prevent reinforcements by destroying our facilities). The next day, early in the morning, a significant turn of events took place – the mercenaries left the fray, the reason being, among other things, the unclear reason for the invasion, and incompetence of their contractors in securing the system. A nice spin to the whole story is that it was another large faction that suggested they should break the attack.

Without the mercs, the hostile corpo wasn't able to put up a fight. Just to be sure, we briefed and invited a few allied teams. We had 60 pilots on our side – more than enough to fend off something like twenty attackers. Reinforcements kept coming in via the open link, which allowed the invaders to flee.

But the rescue that I have the fondest memory of was the one delivered by my old corporation, which was at the time much less active than back in the day when I had first joined it, coming from a team run and established by Anoikis Division (which I also managed at one point). He wasn't playing EVE anymore, and only brought a relief force to honor our friendship, flying in one of his last actions.

- Relanium, The Buccaneers

For the most dedicated players, this space-themed-spreadsheet-game is in fact a script generator writing stories in the kind of way that few other games allow. - Will EVE Online Outlive it's Creators? - dokument - 2020-11-26
For the most dedicated players, this space-themed-spreadsheet-game is in fact a script generator writing stories in the kind of way that few other games allow.

This really is a parallel universe, not a substitute thereof – with its own, complicated political system, with its own specific culture, its own nomenclature, history, economy, with its own opportunities and threats. Why do people still play EVE Online after seventeen years? There's no right answer to this, but that's because the question itself is wrong. If you fully appreciate the magnitude of events this video game causes in our own reality, the question should be: Why wouldn't they? It's certainly not a game for everyone, but if someone can enjoy its idiosyncrasy, it has absolutely everything anyone can wish interactive entertainment provided: a myriad of possibilities, colossal challenges, opportunities to experience moments of absolute euphoria and black despair, and, above all, the community of players looking for exactly the same thing. The developers are already admitting that their work could outlive its creators. No wonder. Worlds shouldn't be made with an expiry date.

Jakub Mirowski

Jakub Mirowski

Associated with Gamepressure.com since 2012: he worked in news, editorials, columns, technology, and tvgry departments. Currently specializes in ambitious topics. Wrote both reviews of three installments of the FIFA series, and an article about a low-tech African refrigerator. Apart from GRYOnline.pl, his articles on refugees, migration, and climate change were published in, among others, Krytyka Polityczna, OKO.press, and Nowa Europa Wschodnia. When it comes to games, his scope of interest is a bit more narrow and is limited to whatever FromSoftware throws out, the more intriguing indie games and party-type titles.


EVE Online

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