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BB48 – The Dystopia Effect

August 10, 2013

This month’s topic is a request from CCP Sisyphus who wants to know how important is Lore in EVE Online?

“How important is “fluff” in Eve online? Would Eve Online be the same if it were purely numbers and mechanics, or are the fictional elements important to the enjoyment of the game? Would a pure text, no reference to sci-fi or fancy names still be an engaging game? Should CCP put more or less emphasis on immersion?”

 

Almost every great (and not so great) sci-fi show or movie has a dystopian element to it. The same with great games. Odds against the hero or small band of them. A source of tension between what we perceive to be right, and the harsh realities of a heavily skewed potential future.

Dune. Star Wars. The Terminator. Aliens. Battlestar Galactica. Babylon 5.

Every one of them had a background, an underpinning or bedrock that enabled that tension to be built upon, creating moments of dramatic intensity and release. Something rather unlikely to occur in, as example, a first person shooter. It is not possible to create that same leverage by just shooting stuff. As far as games go, the last of us has been earning rave reviews. If it was a simple zombie FPS, without the evolution of the storyline, without that human element, and struggle against the odds, would it have received so much praise? No imho.

Likewise with EvE. If you yoink the backstory, the lore (the “fluff” if you like), EvE becomes a rather complex, space simulator/FPS. Fine in and of itself, and it covers those bases extremely well. But you’re also not going to get those HOLY @#$%! moments. Wormhole space and sleepers. Sansha Kuvekai and incursions. If anything, imho EvE needs more of these to help retain and grow its subscriber base. Not less.

It should be acknowledged upfront that it is extremely hard to do without upsetting the applecart in some way – and we all know how utterly mercenary EvE players can be when it comes to gaming a flaw in design. CCP would be treading very carefully before making any widespread changes. All of that said, where is their timeline for the future as far as the lore goes? The dynamic building and release of tension? Where is their Gorash 7?

One of the things that I always loved about EvE were the little hints of things to come, mostly via the short stories. Precursors to an awareness that there was a lot more going on behind the scenes, somewhere deep in the underlying structure of the New Eden universe, great forces ebbed and flowed. Sometimes resulting in conflict. Sometimes not. But there was this frisson of excitement that something titanic was poised to happen.

Immersion is a powerful thing. Gamers invested in the story are likely to be long term subscribers. Gamers whose socks get absolutely knocked off when an unexpected shift in the tectonics occur are possibly THE best source of word of mouth advertising. So, yes, I think there should be more “fluff”. The kind of dark, twisted fluff that makes you sit back in your seat and go “Whoa. I did NOT see that coming”.

To reduce EvE to pure mechanics takes away that structure, that story. Those universal themes of love and loss. Sinners and saints. Glory and despair. All painted against a backdrop of stars, and in a universe much colder than that of today. A dystopian future where immortal post humans fly the most powerful engines of destruction ever created…. or so we would like to believe…

 

For other banterers  – go here

 

Travel safe,

 

H

 

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From → Eve Online

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