Sunday, December 22, 2013

You can't go home again (reflections on a virtual past).

A few days ago I logged into the Space MMO Eve Online for the first time in 3 years.

Some background: For about six years I was a pretty hardcore player of EVE online. It's the only MMO I've ever played, mostly because I love sci-fi, and don't center my gaming life around Tolkien-derived worlds. EVE grew to become a great gaming escape at a time where I was burned out on the industry. It helped me learn to love gaming again.

At the peak, I was the CEO of a fairly notorious PVP corporation called Mad Bombers (11B), founded by my good friend Eagleknight11B. At the core, we were just a bunch of guys who liked to drink beer and blow up spaceships late at night. But given how brutal and unforgiving EVE is, we really bonded and built a small and trusted group of friends.

For years we formed wolf packs and roamed in 0.0 security space, terrorizing sleepy, horrible alliances by taking up residence their systems. The best thing about it all was that when we got into a fight, we worked so well together that we could take on gangs much larger than our own and still come out on top. All of this was coordinated using Teamspeak so we could talk to each other.

Eventually things started to fragment, as we had grown so large that the original culture we'd established got diluted and compromised. As in the real world, group dynamics sometimes seem easy to build, but hard to maintain over the long term. In 2010 I resigned my CEO post and left the game to clear my head of all the noise.

This past week I started to think about EVE, and how the best times in the game were around the holidays because everyone was around. So I decided to log back in and see what had changed since I left.

At first, the usual OH GOD WHAT HAVE THEY DONE WITH MY SHIPS? Months of rebalancing, nerfs, and buffs by CCP meant half my spaceships were broken and needed to be reconfigured. A couple of ships I really loved like the Sleipnir and Ishtar were overly nerfed which made me sad.

But then what was really, really weird was the silence.

My contact list of 100's of friends showed nobody on-line. The community I knew and was a part of had all gone. Over the next few days... still no green lights on my list.

I looked through a dozen comm channels, they were always buzzing in the old days. All of them, dead.

Here I was sitting on billions in assets, multiple characters, and years of experience. And I was totally alone, like it had never happened. What a weird sense of loss, one that I've never experienced with any other game in any context. 

Most of the games I've worked on live for a year or so in the market, then fall off into oblivion as the next game comes out. It must be amazing to work on one game for over 10 years just making it better & better all the time. Especially a game that builds long term communities and the memories associated with them.

What does all this have to do with art process? It is my firm belief that to know games, you have to play them as a gamer (not a developer). To understand what game art means to the player, how they value it, and what works in context of the game play. If you don't play the art, I think you can lose some perspective on the process of making it.

Here's whats left of my EVE history, neatly summarized in statistics:

Tryptic Photon


  1. I miss that game too. Maybe in the Summer time I might give it another shot. The problem with that game is that it is too time consuming. You really have to dedicate more than a few hours per week to make anything happen. Also, you have to basically relearn the game because it changes so much. And do not get me started on the nerfs. Last year I logged in and they nerfed everything that I have learned.

    I just finished my second year of Law School and will be taking the baby-bar this month, and then I am off until next January--so I might have to give it another shot. Cheers!

  2. It's Alive!