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Eve, Embedded Jim & Human Interaction

With the news that Eve Online is to be re-released by Atari as a retail box, along with a major new expansion named Apocrypha, I thought it might be timely to point out some of the extra-curricula Eve Online writing I've been doing. Then I go on after that to rant about Eve's principles of human interaction.

The Eve words are mostly for Eurogamer's MMO channel, where I've written a series of vague guides to aspects of Eve Online, including industry, politics, combat and the meaning of the big alliance endgame. I've tried to author these bits of writing for people who have little familiarity with Eve, in the hope that it'll give a bit of clearer picture of what goes on within this most forbidding of MMOs. Most recently I conjured up a nu-writerist type battle report from one of our most recent exploits in space combat.

The whole embedded reporter thing is something of an experiment for Eurogamer, and it'll be interesting to see whether they continue with this tact in 2009. Whether they do or not, I've certainly enjoyed being able to write a few things that otherwise wouldn't find they way our of our own blogging corner of the internet. Even if I ignore the recent cash benefits of being one of EG's MMO reporters I can safely say that I've got more out of Eve Online than I have any other game in my life. I've played it on and off for something like five years now, and the possibilities it offers remain the most interesting and entertaining of any game out there. The reason for this is simple: it offers more range for human interaction than any other MMO.

It doesn't matter one fucking jot whether the game is slow, difficult, or whether you think mining is all there is to it, the cold truth is that only CCP have been able to use the technology and the architecture behind the MMO idea to anything like its full potential. Human behaviour, thanks to the open, money-led structure of the game, is given a wide canvas for expression. CCP have done that by putting player vs player, in industry, politics, and combat, at the heart of their game. That's the real achievement, and the one aspect of the game I am desperate to underline throughout all my writing about it. After a year of failure and awfulness in MMO, I really, really want developers and publishers to start focusing on this idea and understanding what it means, and why CCP have been a success. Even the great PvP successes, such as WAR, give us only a single mode of interaction that is derivative from their man-vs-level ladder structure. No-one dares put the person-to-person transaction at the heart. Until some other MMOs start to use the same tricks as Eve, I'm going to find it very difficult to give them my time.

Paradoxically, perhaps, I also cannot recommend anyone play Eve Online. If a magazine asks me to re-review it, as they occasionally do, I make it very clear that the game is a great achievement, a deep, brilliant game, and almost certainly not for you. The reason for this, as I've outlined in intricate depth elsewhere, is that Eve requires massive personal investment if you intend to reap its rewards. What is unique about this investment, however, is that the investment is not simply in time or energy - things that all kinds of games demand in droves - but in interaction with other people. Eve is, I would argue, the only MMO that has set its foundations on the interaction of its players, rather than the interaction of the player with the game.

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