Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sandbox Jenga: BB38

"In his recent "That's just the way it is" post on Jester's Trek, blogger Ripard Teg posits that the established EVE player-base has come to accept many of EVE's design idiosyncrasies, rarely questioning their purpose or benefit. Conversely, he also suggests that new players might not be so forgiving of these "quirks". In an interview with Gamasutra, Senior Producer CCP Unifex describes EVE Online's developers as "relatively hands-off janitors of the virtual world", underlining that he has only four content developers but "a lot" of programmers and engineers.

Has a culture developed where CCP has started to take player effort for granted - expecting the "social engine" to fulfil tasks that might otherwise be CCP's responsibility? Or should this culture be embraced as part of "emergent gameplay" with these quirks accepted as the catalyst for interaction?"

I was a little perplexed by this month's blog banter. I sat staring at the question, reading and re-reading trying to make sense of how the individual pieces fit together. Ultimately they don't. It's really just a pile of pieces that sorta go together and sorta don't. A big, disjointed mess, like a fallen Jenga tower or David Hasselhoff's career.

See, this issue with this month's topic is that it is actually comprised of several smaller issues whose roots and stems aren't co-terminant but aren't mutually exclusive either. The engine propelling the game forward is comprised of many different pieces. Pieces which go together to form sub-systems. Subsystems that work together to create energy and then harness it to create motion and ultimately forward progress. Maybe that's why the banter at hand seems so opaquely mysterious; I'm not much of a car guy.

That said, you don't need to be a mechanic to know that in such a complex apparatus as a motor vehicle, each subsystem depends on various other subsystems performing their tasks in order to accomplish their own. The complex player-developer relationship and all of the various Hasselhoff-shaped Jenga pieces included in that relationship are no different as players and developers rely on each other in order to accomplish their goals.

Even in a sandbox, perhaps especially in a sandbox, players need developers to maintain and iterate on the virtual world they occupy. Every day we capsuleers rely on these hard-working men, women and possibly farm animals (don't know, never been to Iceland) to clean the sandbox, make sure all the toys are in it, and make sure there's enough sand to play with. When the customary games the players devise for themselves become stale, we rely on the developers to give us new toys to play with or to change the way the old toys work. This in turn allows us the ability to create new games for ourselves or to make the games we've already created more fun.

In the Gamasutra article quoted in the blog banter question, Jon "CCP Unifex" Lander referred to CCP as the "janitors" of EVE. I would have used the word "custodian," because I imagine it's exactly what Lander meant. The distinction is subtle, but important. Whereas janitors merely clean and maintain the property of others, custodians are also entrusted with the protection of that property. As players, we entrust CCP with our game. Among a vast number of other duties not listed here we trust CCP to maintain EVE and to protect her against threats of imbalance and of stagnation. We entrust them to protect our markets and opportunity to earn profit by aggressively ferreting out RMT'ers and botters. As players we are capable of assisting in these tasks but ultimately they are the charges of our digital custodians.

However, a custodian's role goes only so far. As the custodian does not own the property he or she has been tasked with cultivating, the ultimate decisions regarding the present and future state of the property rests with the owners. I've said this before, but it bears repeating here. EVE Online might belong to CCP, but this game belongs to us. For those unfamiliar with my thoughts on this, I'll clarify.

EVE Online is very much the sole and exclusive property of CCP Games. It is intellectual property CCP has spent over a decade developing and at this point millions of dollars investing in. The infrastructure is theirs, the tools they have created within their digital realm are theirs. But the content, the "game" of EVE Online belongs to the players. It is content the players have spent nearly a decade developing and iterating on and have invested millions of dollars in. It is my contention that in describing CCP as the "janitors" of EVE, this is exactly the relationship Lander was attempting to portray.

Bearing that in mind, it becomes trivial to respond to the second part of this month's blog banter. Of course CCP relies on us to mitigate, adapt to, and bitch about the quirks. Not only are they the catalysts for interaction, they are the catalysts for change as well. After all, this is our world. CCP's just designing it. But what about that pesky first question? Are the true "content" providers being taken for granted? Or worse, taken advantage of? 

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the player-developer relationship is the tension that arises between the two and the root causes of that tension. The tension that exists between EVE's custodians and its architects arises from a lack of understanding of roles and responsibilities in a shared universe. Based on Lander's comments in the interview, it seems that CCP understands it's place in the EVE universe very well. I find it absolutely fascinating that the players are the ones who seem to be struggling to comprehend theirs.

The friction that arises as a result of that struggle has brought into sharp focus the relationship players and developers enjoy with one another. Are they taking us for granted? Are we doing the same to them? To a degree it conjures the ghosts of BB37 but with the question rephrased, "Where does the sandbox end and the game begin?" The responses to that question will vary as widely as the people who answer it but one thing remains constant. Despite the friction, one couldn't exist without the other. And together, we've built an truly incredible and immersive experience.
It's ironic that maybe the most critical aspect of this interplay would be the easiest to gloss over, but it must not be overlooked or forgotten. It is the vital element that sets EVE apart from every other MMO out there. And it is this: the relationship between player and developer is not unilateral.

As capsuleers we have an unprecedented level of access to and influence on the people who maintain and iterate on our sandbox. I'm fairly certain there isn't another company in the world that flies a team of player representatives to their international headquarters every year. CCP developers engage us on the forums and on Twitter. They read our blogs and listen to our podcasts. They actively solicit our feedback and use it to become better custodians of the game and content we've created. And even though it might take some convincing, if we call CCP out for taking a mis-step they're willing to change course in service of a vision other than their own.

Try finding THAT level of interaction in a theme park MMO. I'd pull a Jester and say, "go ahead, I'll wait." But I hate waiting, and in this case I'd be waiting for a VERY long time. Put another way, if that's what you call being taken for granted, I'd be damn curious to see what being appreciated looks like. 


Friday, July 27, 2012

Ascending the Learning Curve

By now we've all been a part of and been made painfully aware of EVE's steep learning curve. Hundreds of posts have been written about it. Devs are furiously iterating and re-iterating upon the NPE. Newbies fall victim to it every day. Some of these intrepid souls drag themselves up out of the clone vat and into another ship to have another go. Some just go.

The how and the why of EVE's learning curve have been discussed nearly to death, and I see no need to heave another rag into the laundry basket. But I took part in a particularly enjoyable evening the other day that got me pondering the when of that curve. As in, at what point do you know you're closer to the top than the bottom? For some I'm sure this is a gradual realization. For me it was an epiphany, occurring on the night in question.

Our alliance has been on the move, having recently departed SpaceMonkey's Alliance and the CFC in a bid to become full-fledged members of the Honey Badger Coalition. Part of this process involved a logistical move out of Branch and into a staging system to facilitate the transfer of our alliance assets to the exact opposite end of the galaxy. The initial staging system was in lowsec, where, by the way, you're still allowed to shoot people in the face. After chasing off a gate camp to secure our pilots' ingress, I whipped out the ol' scanboat and got to work on nailing down some extra-curricular activities for the boys in system.

By that point, most of the mates had logged for the evening and those that remained were committed to station-bound activities or making supply runs. So the alliance XO, myself and one other took to some PVE boats to take advantage of our opportunities for making some last-minute iskies before the final push into our new home.

The first plex was accomplished in short order, with a decent score of faction mods and a Gila blueprint for the effort. Our third companion docked up for the evening but the XO and I labored on. As we were half-way through the second plex, however, a new contact entered local and a Drake popped up on d-scan.

"Drake," I reported.

"Keep an eye on local, he may not be alone..." was the reply.

We kept at it for a few more minutes until another contact, and then another entered system.

"We're in PVE boats. Better safe up for the moment." the XO suggested. So we docked up and I switched up for something a little more appropriate for the occasion. And as my Ares burned clear of the undock, the two new contacts either logged or left system leaving only the original drake.

"Drake's still here, mate..." I relayed, the excitement and anticipation of what might be a satisfying kill slowly building in my voice. "Let me see if I can get a bead on him."

"Roger that. Getting into the Tengu now. Call point if you get it."

I've been putting some work into my d-scan skills as of late so I had the location of the Drake narrowed down pretty quickly, though my heart sank as I resolved it to be at one of the two towers surrounding the third planet in the system.

"Balls! He's in a tower." I defeatedly called out as I began warping to the towers to get visual confirmation of the Drake's position. Which, for some reason I couldn't quite comprehend, I was failing to do.

I double-, then triple-checked my d-scan settings trying to figure out why the Drake was still in view of my instruments but not my eyeballs. Frustrated with my obviously fail d-scan fu, I aligned for the station when some other possibility finally occurred to me.

"No way..." I thought to myself. "There's no *&^%-ing way he's at the planet. That'd be impossible."

Sure enough.

"POINT!!!" I hollered into comms as I frantically began coordinating the cavalry's arrival. The Drake offered only slightly more resistance to being destroyed than did the pod, eating only 2/3 of the way through my shields while the XO did the heavy lifting.

"YARRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!" My first lowsec kill. Now a T1 exploration-fit Drake isn't exactly the shiniest trophy to hang on the wall but it's a trophy nonetheless. It's my trophy. Riding high on the achievement and the later destruction of an afk cyno-pilot (and pod!), I logged off for the evening proud of my minor accomplishments. I had successfully d-scanned, tackled, and destroyed a neutral in lowsec. And taken my sterling 5.0 security status all the way down to -0.2 in the process. Lowsec is dumb like that.

It was while replaying the events of the prior evening in my head the following morning that I achieved my epiphany. "I've done it! I've graduated from TOTAL noob-dom and gained admission to LESSER noob-dom." I've climbed a great many rungs on the famous curve, with many more to come.  But the Drake kill drove the whole point home for me; my EVE-prowess is growing.

As wonderful a feeling it was to finally realize I was no longer the worst player in the game, one question nagged me persistently. What the *&^% was the Drake doing on that planet?! He HAD to know better. And if he didn't know better, why not? I already knew the Drake was exploration-fit based on the killmail, so I knew WHY he was in system, but it wasn't until I checked the pilot's employment history that the rest of picture filled itself in.

The pilot was in fact a newbie, 6 months old. Ever so gently, remorse began to set in.

Please don't misunderstand me; I'm not the least bit remorseful for the space violence. Although I didn't start out this way, I've come to like exploding other people's spaceships. It's a challenge and a rush unlike any other. But as I was contemplating the explosion of this particular spaceship, I recalled the day of my first loss in lowsec and my introduction to the harsher side of EVE. I had just learned to fly a Catalyst and was proudly burning around highsec belts in my shiny new destroyer when I thought I'd poke into the island lowsec system next door. I warped to the top belt looking for rats. I didn't find any, but I did notice a ship land 30km off me and start locking me. Ignorant of what my attacker was trying to achieve, I warped to a different belt in search of rats, and again was soon joined by the aspiring pirate. Only this time he landed on top of me. There would be no escape this time, and while I was sat in my pod confused by what had just happened to my shiny new ship the pirate offered a bit of advice in local.

"If someone tries to tackle you when you're not ready to fight and you get away, don't give him a second chance."

A sage, if obvious, piece of advice that wasn't so obvious to my tiny, greenhorn Eve-brain. But it's advice I've heeded ever since. And it's why I felt remorseful for violencing the obviously green Drake pilot back to his med clone station.

Whether or not he would have listened, it was incumbent on me to pay forward the favor paid me all those years ago.

We're all steadily climbing up the EVE food chain. Step-by-painstaking-step we're all STILL ascending the learning curve. And whether you like it or not, you are part of someone's learning curve just as someone else will be a part of yours.

You may shrug that off. But it's our duty and responsibility as capsuleers on our eternal trek to the "top" to help others along the way. This doesn't mean we all have to hold hands and sing "Kumbaya." But it does mean that when you're in a position to help someone learn something about this game, it's your obligation to make that moment as instructive as possible. We don't just owe it to the newbies, we owe it to New Eden. And if we truly want EVE to continue to grow and to flourish, we owe it to ourselves as well.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Retreat to Move Forward

Heads up: This post is going to seem a little out of context unless you read this post by Emergent Patroller. Even then, this response is pretty squarely directed at her but posted here as it was going to be an overly large comment.


I find it sadly ironic that I only learned you were to be a member of our proposed alliance by reading your post today. I have a tremendous respect for your writing and always look forward to seeing a new post of yours pop up on my radar. Had things gone as planned and our two entities merged, I might never have uncovered that you were flying amongst us. Now I know you're not, and that makes me sad.

From the tone of your post it seems you have a decent read on the situation, though with a few discrepancies. I'd rather not publicly air the laundry, but I can comment on a few things and would like to do so here.

First and foremost, there is a great deal of sadness on the part of the null-sec wing having to part ways with the worm-holers. I certainly can't speak for everyone, but personally I bought into the vision of "unifying" different aspects of New Eden under one roof. It is a beautiful dream and one I have no doubt we will continue laboring to achieve, albeit through different avenues than originally intended.  It is with a heavy heart that those of us pursuing our goals in 0.0 move forward alone, but based on the events preceding the schism and the response to those events on BOTH sides of the alliance, moving forward alone has become our only viable option. I can also assure you that NO-ONE is taking this loss harder than the man who worked so hard and gave so much of himself in service of the alliance he created.

I have never lived in wormholes, but I do love vacationing there. The rich content and group-centric game-play wormholes demand appeal to both my love for EVE and my love of the people who play it. And I would absolutely have loved to have spent time with all of you, either in space or on comms or both. I was looking forward to excursions into the deep as well as hosting those of you who would liked to have gotten a taste of sov 0.0.

While I agree that wormholes and nullsec cater to different styles of play, the demands placed upon individual pilots and the organization as a whole don't diverge by as large a degree as you might think. Our challenges are different (I certainly don't envy you your POS management headaches), but the means we rely on to meet these challenges are the same. Both wormholes and 0.0 require a dedicated group of individuals working together to advance the corporate agenda. Both arenas require its devotees to be willing to fight to the end for what they believe to be "their" space. And they are both extremely lucrative and extremely dangerous. And because of these similarities, I still believe the original vision of "two arms, one body" can and will be achieved.

Also, ironically, all of things you are relieved not to have to take part in, sov. politics, CTAs, blobs etc. are aspects of the game the wormholers would not have been expected to take part in. The wormhole branch and the null-sec branch were intended to remain firmly entrenched in their respective corners, the twain never intended to meet. Unless, of course, they chose to.

The emotional response will vary from pilot to pilot. Some of us began our careers with the alliance in wormholes. Others have been recruited with a focus strictly on the nullsec side of things, myself included. Having never met any of you, you'll forgive me if the "break-up" metaphor is a little lost on me. But I know that is not the case for all of us in 0.0. I don't have any firm evidence, but I do believe there are a few pilots from the nullsec branch that will be remaining with the wormholers and vice versa. We've even seen a few members depart from the alliance to remain with our former alliance-mates in Branch.

These comings and goings can and will happen in such a vast universe. From the perspective of this nullsec pilot, while we mourn the loss of company our focus does not waver. Our goals do not change. We are here to achieve sovereignty. And we are doing exactly that.

I can't speak for the alliance, but personally I bear no grudges nor do I wish you ill-fortune on your path forward. To the contrary, I hope you and your mates experience unqualified success now and in the future. To me, all this really means is that if I find you in our space or in yours, my guns will be hot. And regardless of the outcome of that encounter, you'll have a 'gf' in local from me, and an oh-seven as I speed your clone on its way home or the other way around.

Therein lies the beauty of EVE. In any aspect of the game, either in service of our allegiances or in spite of them we're going to play and have fun together. And THAT is really what the vision was all about.

o7, Mate.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Full Market Alchemist

So, this morning CCP Fozzie made his devblog debut with some announcements regarding changes to the production of technites. Remember that technites are produced by reacting technetium and are the principle material involved in T2 production. Technetium, of course, is that super-rare moon-goo that exists only in the North and is currently the focus of a price-fixing cartel known as OTEC. OTEC at present is comprised by the ClusterFuck Coalition, NCDOT, Pandemic Legion, Test, and probably someone else I'm leaving out. But those are the big ones. For the rest of this post, you probably only need to remember that the CFC includes Goonswarm, since that's all most people tend to focus on.

The reactions to Fozzie's post have fallen into three relatively predictable categories: A) Yay! Prices are coming down! B) This is market manipulation and potentially game breaking. C) Fuck Goons.

Let's address these quickly. I'll have more to say about it a bit later, but in the interest of getting a "inb4 Jester hogs all the angles" post up, I'm opting for brevity.

    "Yay! Prices are coming down"

Probably. The changes announced are intended to be a pressure-release valve for the currently sky-high tech market. The only issue with this is the looming possibility of similar lockdowns in the markets across the other materials in the alchemical matrix. Already, Jita has been completely cleared out of Cobalt, one of the most efficient alchemical reagents currently being proposed. Whether or not this will prove to be a lasting shift in the demand-supply curve or a temporary market shock driven by speculation will remain to be seen. My money is on a relatively swift market correction once these changes go live.

    "This is market manipulation and potentially game breaking."

Actually, these changes should prove to be neither. Fozzie makes a good point in his post that currently the EVE market doesn't mirror real markets in that opportunities for innovation in response to market factors doesn't currently exist as a mechanic available to players. Instead, the devs have to step in once in a while and provide it for us. The reason such a deus ex machina-type action isn't game breaking is that given the tools to do so, players would already have done exactly the same thing. Only they would have done it two years ago. In other words, we're being given the tools to decide what the market for tech should be, based on supply and demand factors that already exist in the EVE market. Again, more on this later.

    "Fuck Goons."

There's always a healthy dose of this kind of sentiment in basically every thread on the forums, so seeing it here as well isn't all that surprising. The interesting thing about this, though, is that a lot of players who think this spells the end of the CFC don't realize that The Mittani has actually been advocating for these changes for a long time. He realized how imbalanced the the technetium situation would be at its introduction and knew it would inevitably be changed, either through liberal use of the nerf-bat or through the introduction of new game mechanics. So why not take advantage of it while the opportunity existed? If there's one thing EVE players are good at, it is finding and exploiting opportunities. Mittens is no different.

The second part of the "Fuck Goons" sentiment that is being overlooked on the forums right now is that despite the proposed changes in technite production, harvesting moon goo is still going to be VERY profitable. Just less so.

So, as I said before, I have other thoughts on this, but in the interest of expediency, I'm going live with this post now.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Questions of Character

I tripped over a curious line of thinking while I was constructing my response to BB37.

You see, I was pondering how the game, the meta-game and the exo-game go together. The game and the exo-game are the easiest to define. The muddy, murky meta-game much more difficult to do so. But why? Venn diagrams are simple enough to understand, right? You've got your one circle, you've got your second circle, and they overlap each other in places. And for most uses of such a diagram, that's all you really need to see. You don't really need to see why they overlap, you just need to understand that they do.

For this particular exercise, though, I had to really drill down to understand the lines that define those boundaries. And even though it didn't make it into the piece, I spent a lot of time considering the concept of role-play and how it fits in to the game at large. More precisely, I had to deconstruct the mechanics of role-playing to determine exactly how and where real life and character life part ways.

What hit me funny was that despite all of the smack most players talk about role-players and how strange and ridiculous they are, I think it's the rp'ers who are actually the most effective at drawing the line between their exo-game identities and their in-game ones. Going back to the Venn diagram, if you were to create two separate diagrams, one for role-players and one for non- role-players, you would see that the area of intersection between the game and the exo-game is much smaller for role-players than it is for everyone else. It's completely counter-intuitive to think in these terms, but amazingly, it is the role-players who are most effective at drawing the line between the game and real life.

The reason for this is the way the role-player plays the game. When he or she enters the game-space, the rp'er has to consciously separate themselves from their exo-game identity to inhabit and portray their in-game one. They may share a lot of qualities and idiosyncrasies as their character, but they are always firmly aware that they are "in character" and that everything that happens in the game is happening with regards to that character and not the person behind it. And when the time comes to log off and return to the exo-game, it's a conscious return to their human identity.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting by any stretch that there isn't some ego-confusion involved and I have to imagine that in a lot of cases it is a difficult thing to remind oneself of. Hell, role-players sperg in local, too. It's just that when they do it, they sperg in character. For the most part though, I'd be willing to wager a lot of ISK that no matter what happens in the game-space, when they log off for the day or for a few hours, the rp'ers have mentally 'logged off' more completely than most.

Others, myself included, have a much fuzzier line. Those of us who are heavily immersed in the meta-game of EVE, the bloggers, the pod-casters, the streamers, the propagandists, the third-party devs, etc. tend to blend EVE and real-life to a greater degree. To use myself as an example of a non- role-player, I don't create or exhibit qualities that don't exist in my exo-game persona in Firstly. If you were to have a conversation with Firstly on comms or with Rick at the bar, the conversation would very likely be the same. That said, I take a lot of the game with me when I log off for the night. I spend a lot of time considering things using Firstly's frame of reference, whether that is time spent reading blogs, writing my own, studying ships and doctrines to improve my piloting skills, having conversations with other players on Twitter, whatever. The point is that more often that not even if I'm physically logged off, mentally I'm still very much engaged in the game. And all evidence suggests I'm not alone in that regard.

It's an intricate and nuanced concept, to be sure. And when you consider whether or not Firstly is actually meta-living while Rick is busy meta-gaming, it gets downright scary. But you can leave that alone for now. While you're at it, leave the role-players alone, too. They're more like you than you might think.     

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Trichotomous: BB37

"EVE Online sits on the frontier of social gaming, providing an entertainment environment like no other. The vibrant society of interacting and conflicting communities, both within the EVE client and without, is the driving force behind EVE's success. However, the anonymity of internet culture combined with a competitive gaming environment encourages in-game behaviour to spread beyond the confines of the sandbox. Where is the line?"

When I first read this month's Blog Banter I thought it would  be a fairly straightforward question to answer. "Bah, I'll whip up a response when I get home from work tonight," I naively thought to myself. But when I sat down and really began to consider this question I was amazed at the vast complexity that unfolded before me. The more that I thought about it, the more complex the issue became. Down the rabbit hole I tumbled furiously grasping after a solution that seemed ever further out of reach until finally, I had it. Now I'd like to share it with you, because this is truly an issue that affects all of us.

You'd be forgiven for thinking this can't be that important. After all, EVE is only a game, right? 

It's true; EVE is only a game. But if you feel this way, please do me a favor. Please take a moment and go read the White Rose Conventicle blog. 

Yeah. You can't. 

The events leading up to and including the demise of WRC are really what this question is all about. Where does the game end and real life begin? When do we stop being capsuleers and start being humans? 

EVE is one of the few games, and may in fact be the only game (I really don't know) in which the trichotomy of game, meta-game and exo-game interact quite so frequently and so directly with one another. Thousands of pilots are locking horns in systems all over New Eden trying to explode each other's spaceships. The conflict in Delve is predictably spilling over to the meta-game in the forms of innumerable propaganda Photoshop jobs and even a song by Sindel Pellion of #tweetfleet fame. An EVE-blogger found her website the victim of a DDOS attack. How are these related? How should they be related?

To understand where the line truly is, that is to say where the sandbox ends and real life begins, it might help to define the game, meta-game and exo-game a little more clearly. Fair warning: it's about to get philosophical up in here.

The 'game' occurs in or rather occupies the space we as human participants enter as soon as we log in and assume the identities of our characters. For instance, I'm not technically Firstly until I enter my password into the client and hit 'Connect.' 

Until I do that, I'm Rick. No half-quotation marks necessary. That is who I am. I will never be forced to define the terms of my physical reality to the game or even the meta-game, as Rick exists and is able to exist independently of the game. Rick exists in the exo-game.

That's not true of Firstly, who does not exist and is not able to exist independently of the game. Firstly's existence is dependent on the game. No EVE, no Firstly. Pretty simple. How Rick and Firstly are related is more complicated.
The transition from Rick to Firstly begins when Rick begins to ponder Firstly's existence as Firstly. That is to say, as soon as I change my frame of reference from Rick's frame of reference to Firstly's I leave the sphere of the exo-game and enter the meta-game. I still may not have logged in, but I'm contemplating life ON the inside from the perspective of someone IN the inside. This blog, and all other EVE blogs, exist squarely in the meta-game. Flying Silent is an activity undertaken by an exo-game entity using an in-game frame of reference, the potential consequences of which occur in either the game or the meta-game. 

In this way each piece of the puzzle is defined by three characteristics: relative identity, theater of operation, and theater of consequence. Add intent into the mix and not only do you now have the line, you have everything you need to determine whether or not someone has crossed that line. Allow me to elaborate. Or don't. I'm elaborating anyway...

The Mittani and the FanFest 2012 Alliance Panel fiasco is a truly illustrative example of how these concepts work together. Here you have a guy named Alex suggesting other pilots engage in game and meta-game activities to effect an exo-game consequnce. And this is why such an example is so instructive; it was an exo-game entity acting on behalf of his in-game entity in a meta-game environment encouraging in-game actions to effect an exo-game consequence. Whether or not he was serious is irrelevant. The line was crossed when the consequence being hinted at would transpire in the exo-game. Had the consequence being encouraged been something inherently bound to the game, such as getting a pilot to vacate a system, or something intrinsically bound to the meta-game such as encouraging said victim to stop posting to the CAOD forums, The Mittani would likely have received a 'pass.' As the consequence explicitly expressed as the desirable end result of in-game pilot actions was to transpire in the exo-game, this was a blatant and irrefutable crossing of the "line" we bloggers are openly contemplating the direction and velocity of. 

It really wasn't my intention to impose quantum mechanics on metaphysical interactions, but sometimes you just have to play the cards you're dealt.

The point of all of this is clear, even if my effusive prose is not. Actions that have consequences within the game are on the 'right' side of the line. Actions that have consequences within the meta-game are on the right side of the line. Actions that have consequences within the exo-game, that realm that exists and is capable of existing independently of the game, are not. So where does intent fit into that mix?

Attempting to determine whether or not a particular action was intended to have only in-game or metagame consequences can be a difficult task, but not impossible. Any actions we take, either as humans or capsuleers automatically undergo a test of "reasonable expectation." That is to say, can our actions be reasonably expected to have consequences in the game, the meta-game, the exo-game, or some combination of these elements? And that's really what helps define the boundary of the sandbox.

Those actions that can be reasonably expected to have consequences in only the game, meta-game or both can and must be allowed to occur. Those actions that fail such a test must be condemned swiftly and decisively. I'm certainly not suggesting that this is an easy standard to apply. But in the absence of a more concrete one, it is a framework that allows for a definition, and more importantly an enforcement of the lines that define the game, the meta-game, and the exo-game. 

EVE is a beautiful game. You might even go so far as to call it a virtual reality. Flying in space can be a breathtaking escape from the rigors of our day-to-day lives. But in the end, it must remain a game. Its reality must remain virtual. Because eventually, escapes that become too 'real' become something else entirely: distant memories.