Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Day of Thanks

First and foremost, Happy Thanksgiving to all of my brothers and sisters-at-arms, my friends, my internet spaceship family. I know that a relative few of you are actually celebrating the holiday with me, as it is an American tradition, but that doesn't prohibit us from sharing the meaning of the day. And within New Eden, I have much to be thankful for.

I am thankful for my alliance, Li3 Federation. 9 months ago I was adrift in a sea of stars, plumbing highsec for its treasures but searching for direction more than anything else. Li3 has given me the opportunity to experience EVE on more levels than I could have imagined, and allowed me to forge some incredible friendships.

I'm thankful for Jade, who took the time (LOTS of time ;) ) to talk with me late one Spring evening, who has challenged me to think about this game in new and exciting ways, and who gave me the chance to become the pilot I am today.

I'm thankful for Patrick, our alliance XO, who has become one of my best friends in-game or out. Even though the package never made it to Canada (trust me, that's code for something) I look forward to talking with you every time I log into EVE, and to sharing many more Tengu-Ares kills. Please give Christy and Stephanie my best today.

I'm thankful for Shooter, my exploring partner in crime. I wish you, the missus, and Bubs all the best and I can't wait to talk to you again when I get back.

I'm thankful for Thrace, my trading mentor, who taught me the ins and outs of being a successful station trader, and freed me from having to spend my time grinding away ISK rather than enjoying myself in fleets looking for trouble.

I'm thankful for all of my friends in Li3, who have given me the support network I desperately needed but didn't tell anyone about these past six months. Your humor, relentless ball-busting, and keen debate has been a continuing source of enjoyment and entertainment. You lads and lasses are amazing and are truly the reason I log in to the game. Also, thanks for not blowing up my faction-fit Proteus when I fell asleep at the gate.

I'm thankful for Mat Westhorpe aka Seismic Stan for taking an interest in my humble essays, and supporting me at every possible opportunity. You have extended the warmest invitation to be a part of the blogging community I could have possibly imagined, and for that I am eternally grateful. You continue to be an inspiration, my friend.

I am thankful for Marc Scaurus for his continued efforts to not only coordinate the blogging community but to celebrate it as well. I've never won an Ebee (but I got nominated!) and I've never been selected to the BlogPack, but these initiatives continue to motivate me and give me something to shoot for. Though I haven't gotten to do an official post about it, Marc, I hope that whatever the future holds, you continue to play a huge part in the coordination of our community. Your efforts are often invisible, but never unnoticed, and are always sincerely appreciated.

And last but not least, thank you to CCP Games for creating this wonderful, beautiful, maddeningly marvelous spaceship game. It's been quite a ride over the past few years but you continue to design, improve and innovate upon the greatest gaming experience ever created. You have my eternal gratitude, and USD30 every month. Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving, all. And thank you. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Irrational Fear

Last night, after I had turned in my entry to Blog Banter #40, I went to bed wondering about the state of the EVE blogging community. I had taken a brief break from blogging as I had become hyper-immersed in-game and needed to step back to tend to RL business.

I hate stepping away from the game and from writing, but I took solace in the fact that I would be able to keep up with current events thanks to EVE's robust meta-game. One of the reasons the EVE community in general (and the blog-o sphere in particular) is so strong is that when two or three or four of us take a break at the same time, there are still over 100 hundred blogs and EVE-related sites out there providing new content for our EVE-hungry brains.

What got me thinking last night was the arrival of and what sort of impact it would have on the Blog Pack. If you haven't seen yet, please do go explore. It is an expertly produced source of EVE news and opinion, though as the name of the site might suggest, one that risks running afoul of editorial bias in the stories it runs.

My thought webs traveled roughly along the path of, "I wonder if Scaurus ever got around to putting up the August and September Ebees. Oh man, A Scientist's Life in EVE and Nash Kadavrr are retiring. That's two more legacy blogs on the Blog Pack stepping down. I wonder if some day this blog will become as well known as theirs. I wonder if we need the blog pack anymore, now that we have theMittani. Why go to 30 sites when you can go to one?"

I felt threatened by this thought when I had it. It was a fear that upon reflection revealed itself to be irrational.

In the end, I went to bed feeling positively encouraged about the state of the blog-o-sphere. Which was hilarious, because when I woke up this morning and starting reading over the blogs in my own particular feed, I found this at EVEOGANDA which had been inspired by this post at Malefactor.

Go ahead and read'em. I'll wait.

Now THAT'S a little spooky! One of the criticisms levied at the EVE blogosphere is that at times it resembles an echo chamber in that we all tackle the same topic at roughly the same time and that we all more or less agree with each other. It is true this happens occasionally, but the diversity of content and opinion occurring on our blogs daily pretty much renders the term "echo chamber" useless. Still, it is highly coincidental that there were at least two other bloggers thinking about this very topic over the last day or so.

There is a tendency in our community, and really in human nature, to be threatened by change. Over time we naturally settle into a comfort zone. We become comfortable because we become familiar with our environment and learn how to survive and thrive in it. Change is unfamiliar. A changing environment brings unfamiliar challenges, and even though we rise to meet those challenges time and again, their unfamiliarity makes them scary. Our greatest fears always stem from the unknown. I went to bed feeling good about the EVE meta-game landscape and my place in it, so what did I know?

Two things.

First, no matter how well done or ANY site is, it will never be enough to satisfy the appetite the EVE community has for content. I can typically read through all of the content themittani has to offer on any given day in 30 minutes or less. I can then spend another 30 minutes sifting through all of the updates on the Blog Pack, and if I'm feeling REALLY desperate for more, head over to EN24 to see if there was anything else I had missed. I regularly visit, and that's just for reading. If I know I'm going to have some extended downtime, I can download Lost in Eve, Podside, and other podcasts for listening while I'm away from the computer. It sounds like a lot, but I highly doubt I'm even half as voracious as many other members of the EVE community in my search for content.

Secondly, the issue of bias is one that every editorial site will be forced to mitigate, be they an aggregator or a solo endeavor. TheMittani has it, I have it, EN24 has it. We all have it. The only sites that can avoid such bias are those sites that have no editorial component to them whatsoever and instead are merely feed dumps such as evebloggers. In the quest to understand an issue, motivated readers are going to seek multiple viewpoints from multiple sources. For editorial sites that typically only run one piece on a particular issue at a time it means your visitors will come to you for your insights, but they're going somewhere else as well.

None of this touches on the competitive aspects of producing or hosting content, or the degrees to which new bloggers will be inspired to pick up their pens by the shifting metascape. These are yet further reasons to feel confident that the number of content sources aren't going to evaporate any time soon.

I take great delight in the fellowship that writing about and discussing EVE creates. And I find sweet relief in knowing the "One Ring" we feared was coming never will.  

Glory Hole: BB40

“There is no finer spectacle in the universe of EVE Online than the explosive dance of weapon-laden spaceships in combat. The yearly Alliance Tournament is the jewel in EVE Online’s eSports crown and the upcoming New Eden Open  should deliver the same gladiatorial entertainment showcase.

Given the scope of the sandbox, what part should eSports play in EVE  Online and what other formats could provide internet spaceship  entertainment for spectators and participants alike? ”

Admittedly, the title for this post has very little to do with the topic at hand. It was more for the sake of provocation, and to scratch a minor item off of my bucket list which was to do a post with a shamelessly pornographic title. Then again, maybe the idea of a contrived spectacle in which peens - 'e' or otherwise - are being shoved in someone's face isn't all that misleading after all. Either way, you're reading.

I watched with great pleasure the alliance tournament this year. It was the first time I had followed the event even casually. Watching different setups and tactics at work against each other was fascinating to me as a burgeoning FC and as a pilot ever more frequently exposed to group PvP. I have a few years in game now, but with my move into sovereign nullsec the ability to fight effectively against a variety of opponents using a revolving door of ships and pilots has become an exponentially more valuable commodity. The ability to direct my alliance mates in the heat of those moments even more so and so I sat glued to the screen, cursing the lag-tastic presentation and taking mental notes I was sure to forget a short time later.

This opportunity to watch and learn in real-time, however, was where my fascination with the tournament ended. The names on the jerseys weren't important to me. I didn't care if Pizza or RvB or PL or Rote Kappelle or anyone else won. If the event had been titled "PvP Showcase: Small Gangnam Style" or something equally goofy I would have been just as attracted to the broadcast. The fact is, EVE doesn't need to sponsor a competition to engage me. EVE IS competition. 23/7. Always on. Always live.

eSports have been around for a long, LONG time. They go as far back as the days of Pong and Donkey Kong being on tap at the local coin-op arcade. Only in the last 5 years or so have they accelerated their evolution toward professional events replete with corporate sponsors, significant prize pools and media coverage being noticed and more importantly being accepted by a mainstream audience. Such periods of expansion tend to reward earlier adopters more handsomely, as Blizzard has discovered with Starcraft in Korea and EA Sports is finding out with its Madden franchises in the US.

However even if the current expansion eventually reveals itself to be merely a bubble inflated by corporate hype machines, CCP could be forgiven for trying to participate and position itself as the proprietor of such bloodsport. Successful events like the Alliance Tournament create a healthy and lasting impression in the minds and imaginations of potential customers and as we have all observed at one point or another, EVE needs all the new blood it can get.

So if eSports have a place outside of EVE, how about inside? In a word: sure. I don't think it is unreasonable to suppose that the types of gamers drawn to compete in such events are found in greater proportion in EVE than they are in other games. What was that famous demographic that Mittens is so fond of mentioning? "Hyper-competitive, college-educated thirty somethings..." That one. I'd be lying if I said I didn't think that was a fairly accurate description of the majority of capsuleers. "We are EVE players..." we tell ourselves. We're snarling beasts in spaceships, just waiting to unleash hell on anything that gets in our way.

Competitive people will necessarily seek contest. The added allure of an indulged ego and the reward of some sweet hangar queens for a victory in a relatively high-profile competition is naturally going to find widespread support among us. Even among those of us who don't seek out such conflict, though maybe for different reasons.

So what other formats might also find an engaged audience and willing participants? I really couldn't tell you other than to say that if I can learn something from it, I'll probably watch it. After all, when it comes to spaceship porn, for me, EVE is kinda like Playboy. Mostly, I just read it for the articles.