Something unexpectedly thrilling happened on Friday, during CCP's annual Eve Fanfest event in Reykjavik. Following last year's death of an in-game leader of the Amarr Empire faction (think very angry, very ruthless space monks with a fetish for lasers), players were tasked with representing the various fictional sub-factions hoping to fill the resultant power vacuum. The outcome of a series of matches between these representatives would determine the in-game heir to an empire.
There's a scene in the US TV show The West Wing where Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman, under pressure and about to lose a key Senate vote, is calmly reassured in the Oval Office by his boss, the President of the United States. "You know what the difference is between you and me?" President Bartlet asks. "I want to be the guy. You want to be the guy the guy counts on."
Deep into Season 4, Josh is a political fixer slowly coming to terms with the fact he can't solve every mounting problem the Bartlet Administration faces. The lasting appeal of The West Wing is its focus on the characters that form the machinery inside the White House - the stuff you usually don't get to see. It allows you to watch these unsung heroes toiling to achieve remarkable things.
As an Eve Online player, the experience of being a small cog in a bigger machine feels familiar. The ageing sandbox spaceship MMO has seen great player-run empires rise and fall as rivalries unspool over many years. When you read about the epic space battles of B-R5RB, 6VDT-H or Asakai, consider for a moment that everything must be player-built, that wars are not scripted plots but are groups of pilots in their thousands emerging into conflict. The sheer scale of the logistics involved boggles the mind and - if you are someone so inclined, like me - the appeal of Eve Online is being able to play a role in enabling these epic arcs to occur.
From the archive: With this year's Eve Fanfest just around the corner, it seemed like a good moment to revisit this piece from April 2015 about last year's event. With CCP adopting a more workmanlike commitment to Eve Online's future - rather than the wide-eyed ambitions of old - its annual jamboree in Reykjavik had never felt more like videogaming's TED conference.
Nearly a year ago I stood on a roof terrace in an unbelievable location, surrounded by icy blue seas and snowy mountains, breathing crisp Arctic air - and I was getting an absolute roasting. At that moment in time I didn't want to be in Iceland anymore. I didn't want to be at the Harpa building for Eve FanFest 2014 anymore. And I sure as hell didn't want to be talking to Alexander bloody Gianturco anymore.
Ten years after its launch, Eve Online is in a strange place. It's a game with just 500,000 players, nothing by most MMO standards, yet one whose stories, heists and controversies regularly spark interest in a wider audience that would never actually dream of playing it. On Twitter, I asked my followers what would make them give it a shot at this point. "Nothing," was the standard answer. "A complete reset," answered a couple more. Perhaps most notably, "Any change that would make me want to play would stop it from being Eve."
To understand Eve Online, you need to visit Reykjavik. It won't help with mundane details like which battlecruiser to aspire to, but the ride from Keflavik airport to both CCP and FanFest's home town is an eye-opening experience. Simply knowing that Iceland has a hostile interior is nothing compared to actually seeing it - not merely how small its patches of civilisation are amongst seemingly infinite emptiness with no trees and often nothing to see but the remnants of volcanic activity covered in moss, but the kind of community it takes to handle it.
What do you get if you combine Eve Online with the Oculus Rift? A loud enough whoop to knock the roof off this year's FanFest in Reykjavik, followed by the kind of queues God himself has never seen to have a go. I'm actually writing this in advance of the announcement, but I'm quietly confident. One of the most beautiful space games ever. Virtual reality. 1500 people who travelled to Iceland to celebrate Eve Online. There will be whooping.
CCP has just flicked a very important switch. Today - shortly before this article was published - the Icelandic company's PlayStation 3 shooter Dust 514 entered open beta testing, which for a free-to-play game like this is as good as a soft launch. It's the moment the game's digital doors are thrown open to the public. Although CCP is 15 years old, this is only its second game launch. It's a big day.
Free Eve Online expansion Retribution sets CCP up to make its famously impenetrable MMO accessible, the game's executive producer has said.
Retribution, which launched yesterday, improves existing systems such as Crimewatch and the user interface to make them easier to understand, John Lander told Eurogamer. But he insisted Eve Online will not be dumbed down now or in the future.
It's important to look at some of these features with a certain context, he said. Eve has always been thought of as a notoriously tough game to get into. There's a great graphic about the learning curve of Eve.
Today, gritty science fiction MMO Eve Online is famous for many things: its player-driven, emergent gameplay, its complex virtual economy, and, perhaps most of all, its daytime telly quality drama. But nine years ago today, Eve Online was famous for nothing. It was a fledgling persistent world made by a little known Icelandic developer with big ideas but no guarantees. Since then, every year, it has grown. And now, Eve is on the cusp of becoming something even greater: a PC MMO that interacts with a console first-person shooter spin-off.
A child has just keeled over from exhaustion on my factory floor. I could have stopped it; when they get to that state you can give them a glass of water and they get straight back to the production line. But I've found it's cheaper to give them training instead of water. If a kid's looking peaky I can spend a little cash to have him trained up. He'll get over his exhaustion and he'll work faster. It's a win/win situation. If I let them work to the cusp of collapse before training them I maximise the amount of time they can work. I don't have to hire new workers and I don't need to waste money on a water fountain.
Check it OUT! God DAMN! We're SLAMMING Eurogamer Podcast 106 out right now! BAAAAAM!
Eurogamer's news editor Wes once said that if Hunter S. Thompson were alive today - and writing about video games rather than the counter-culture of the sixties and the politics of America at a crossroads - then he would surely be covering the extraordinary sight of the digital gladiators descending upon Las Vegas to celebrate their shared obsession and do heavyweight battle with each other at the Mecca of fighting games, the Evo Championship Series. Impenetrable to the outsider, all-encompassing to those on the inside: a place where worlds collide.
Earlier this week, CCP announced an estimated 20% reduction in its global workforce in the wake of continued controversy surrounding its development ambitions. The company has offered little official comment since the controversy began earlier this year, and so what follows is a lengthy interview with Hilmar Pétursson, CEO of CCP, conducted yesterday evening.
Earlier this week we reported on a statement from Alexander Gianturco - leader of Eve Online's Goonswarm Alliance, and Chairman of the player-elected Council of Stellar Management - that was intended as an Alliance update. It outlined the Council's concerns surrounding the current state of the Eve universe, perceived shortcomings of the recent Incarna expansion, and the Council's plans to increase awareness of the issues they consider to be damaging the game. We've since spoken with Gianturco for further insight into the CSM's position.
It was Oblivion's horse armour that set the alarm bells off for me. There was a mixture of amusement and incredulity, which quickly descended into horror as the numbers started rolling in. It was the beginning of a fragmentation from the boxed product you'd scurried away from the shops to greedily indulge yourself in, towards one where a breadcrumb trail of further expenditure lay between you and completion of an adventure.
It should have been a triumphant week for CCP.
Although EVE Online is considered by many outsiders to be populated by the more Machiavellian, sociopathic elements of humanity, there's a surprising amount of camaraderie uniting the players who have travelled to the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik for this year's Fanfest convention.
Torfi Frans Olafsson, the creative director of EVE Online, doesn't answer to a board of a dozen faceless suits. He answers to 330,000 paying subscribers and their elected representatives, the Council of Stellar Management.
It's Eve Fanfest time! To celebrate, we've dusted off John Bedford's story about Lollipops for Rancors, the Eurogamer readers' corporation in Eve Online. This is the tale of how a relatively safe, "carebear" Corp came to embrace espionage, theft, treachery and revenge in the world's most merciless online sandbox. It was originally published in July 2010.
Someone asks Atli Mar Sveinsson if DUST 514, the console shooter that will share a universe with sci-fi MMO EVE Online, will have character classes. You know, like engineer, medic, or assault. "That stuff is for computer games," the game's creative director says, dismissively. "This is not a computer game. This is a world. If you want to be a medic, take some stuff with you."
EVE Online's Apocrypha expansion launched this week and implemented sweeping changes across the whole arc of the space MMO, from unexplored space and new technology to epic mission arcs, much of it detailed in Monday's interview with senior designer Noah Ward. Along with the expansion is a determined effort to open up the famously complex game to a new audience, with a new boxed copy in the shops and a revamped introduction.
Apocrypha is almost upon us: the EVE Online expansion which actually expands the game's galaxy via wormholes goes live tomorrow, March 10th. Exploration will no longer simply be about spawning missions across the existing star systems; instead it will be a plunge into the unknown, and a battle against previously unseen enemies. In conjunction with this new frontier, Apocrypha is laden with improvements and enhancements designed to make things smoother for the veterans, and more exciting for the newbies who will inevitably arrive via the new retail box version of the game.
The battle report is an age-old rite of EVE Online. Because of the open structure of the game world, player-versus-player battles happen in all kinds of contexts and situations, and the sheer number of variables means they can make for a great story. Explaining who did what, and how, and where, makes EVE a constant source of one of the best things about gaming: stories you can tell your mates.
The developers at CCP aren't like other boys. Neither are the fans of its space MMO EVE Online, which we would probably describe as "cult" if a quarter of a million subscribers worldwide didn't make it a bit bigger than that.
There aren't many MMO expansions that change a game wholesale when it's over five years old. There aren't many that introduce entire new methods of interaction, environment types, mini-games and meta-games, graphics and more. There certainly aren't many that offer all that as a free update to subscribers. That's what Walking In Stations, the update that will bring interiors and avatars to EVE Online for the first time, proposes to do.
For those strange people who are interested in crafting, trading, and other non-violent MMO activities, there is no finer or more complex game than EVE Online. Part of EVE's principles of human interaction is that it's the players who have to produce most of the traded goods in the game world. Rather than relying on NPC spawns and loot drops for the majority of its weapons, ships, and ammunition, everything in the game world has to be manufactured by players. There are still some rare item drops, of course, but the day-to-day ship construction and the general shopping done by the masses has to be provided for by the, er, masses.
If it's the job of soldiers to fight wars, then it's the job of politicians to start them. EVE Online has no shortage of leaders and demagogues in its ranks, particularly among the ranks of the player-driven alliances. One of CCP's biggest achievements in designing EVE Online was to give the players free reign in running their own affairs. Corporations recruit as they see fit, and set allies and enemies as they see fit. Everything is decided by the leaders of the player corporations - who to trust, who to declare an enemy, who make peace with, and what part of the galaxy to call home. They even get to set their own tax rates.
This is the second of a series of articles about the arcane world of player-versus-player combat in EVE Online. The first covered the basics; this month, we look at the large-scale battles that break out between player Alliances.
This is the first in a series of articles about combat in EVE Online. In this instalment we're going to look at the basic principles of killing people, which are rather unlike those of most other MMOs. Then we'll look at more advanced combat, faction warfare, and the philosophy and politics of conflict in EVE; and, finally, we'll examine the ambitions and tactics of EVE's huge military alliances. While the economic and industrial side of EVE is huge, player-versus-player war is the absolute core reason to play EVE, and understanding it will decide whether this game is for you.
The latest update to the EVE universe has arrived in a blaze of in-game fiction and an ensuing bout of carnage that put the player-versus-player realms of other games to shame. The big change for this expansion is the faction warfare, which creates zones of conflicts between the four main non-player races, and allows players to fight across the border regions via new "militia" missions.
We've just entered a two-week voting period in EVE Online, in which every subscriber is being given an opportunity to vote for their choice of representatives from the player-base. This democratic process allows players to decide which of the 31 candidates gets to represent them in the regular Reykjavik summits between developers CCP and the inaugural Council of Stellar Management (CSM). Nine councillors must be chosen.
There are plenty of reasons not to get involved in EVEOnline. The ludicrous length of time required to make the most of the game, combined with the general trickiness and hostility of the universe don't really help out. Of all the games likely to trip you over and then steal your shopping, it's EVE Online. And yet there's something in this game that can be found nowhere else. It is, as a number of people have claimed, essentially incomparable with other MMOs. It might seem incredibly daunting as you start out, but I want you to keep your eye on the big picture, and to tell you what it's possible to achieve in the EVE universe.
In December 1964, Che Guevara delivered a classic speech to the UN General Assembly in New York. The South American revolutionary effortlessly did what revolutionaries do best, inspiring, threatening and posturing, rising to his historic occasion with vehemence and dignity. It was his time and he took it neatly. During a withering diatribe focused almost exclusively on US foreign policy, Guevara said, "Cuba, distinguished delegates, a free and sovereign state with no chains binding it to anyone, with no foreign investments on its territory, with no proconsuls directing its policy, can speak with its head held high in this Assembly and can demonstrate the justice of the phrase by which it has been baptised: 'Free Territory of the Americas'."
Iceland is aptly named. But I wasn't there simply to freeze to death in the November storms, I was there to drink pricey booze and, incidentally, attend the 2006 Eve Fanfest. This third annual celebration of getting over-involved in the all-encompassing space-MMO was held in the capital city of Reykjavik and hosted five hundred gamers and at least half a dozen bored-looking girlfriends in a splendid Eve-draped convention centre. The three-day event revealed who were the best PvP players in Iceland that weekend, as well as what the future will be for CCP, the Icelandic company that set the virtual stars in motion.
Eve Online recently hit 130,000 subscribers, which is about 1 percent of the total MMO market. Even as a regular space-pilot I find it a bit difficult to reconcile the obscure and anti-populist game model with its ever-increasing success. People really do seem to want something beautiful but unforgiving. Eve originally evinced such groans of disgust and disbelief from my gaming peers that I expected it to fail utterly... It didn't. It has simply become more popular and more versatile. Eve grows bigger, stronger, more terrifying, and routinely pales even the mightiest of MMOs with its creative achievements. It is a game that does not seem to have made any concessions to tradition, and somehow that tenacity has paid off.
As if by way of illustrating what a cruel game Eve can be, I just lost a fight in my most expensive, well-to-do battleship only minutes before opening up this page to write these words. The ship is dust and I'm royally pissed off. Way more pissed off than I would be at dying in almost any other game. While other MMOs might have coddled me with just a bit of money lost, or a few XP as punishment for my pitiful death, Eve has created several hours of concerted work. It's a bitch.