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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What would Eve be without Goonswarm?

Is Eve a great novel? Is it a book you just can't put down? All of you are reading this because, to one degree or another, you feel that Eve is a great story you can't put down. So what makes that happen? Why are we sucked into this game to the extent we are willing to spend much of our free time not only playing it, but reading about what else is going on in New Eden? To answer that question we need to understand what makes a great story. Then we need to apply that understanding to Eve.

Though there is some debate about this, and the specifics can be hotly contested, there are four basic elements that make a great story. They are plot, characters, setting, and theme. These four elements are the threads from which all great novels are woven.

As an example, let's analyze how these threads intertwine in the Science Fiction classic Dune, by Frank Herbert.

The plot of Dune goes something like this. The duplicitous Emperor Shaddam IV plots with the evil House Harkonnen to wipe out the noble House Atriedes and seize the planet Arrakis, called Dune, with all its Spice wealth for themselves. They lure House Atriedes to Dune where, with the help of a traitor, they defeat it through villainous treachery. Fortunately, the Duke's son and his mother escape, find hundreds of thousands of other repressed citizens (most of whom are trained warriors) and eventually retake Arrakis, kill the Harkonnens and reveal the Emperor’s illegal role in the war forcing him to abdicate. This is a very rough plot outline but it is accurate.

To make this plot work, Dune has many memorable characters. There is the noble Duke Leto Atriedes and his devoted concubine Lady Jessica. There is his intelligent and gifted son Paul, known as Maud Dib. There is also the nasty Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and his equally horrid nephews Glossu “Beast” Rabban and Feyd-Rautha Rabban. There is the go-lucky troubadour Gurney Halleck, the serious spy-master Duncan Idaho and the traitorous Doctor Yueh. These are just a few of the memorable characters in Dune, all of them necessary actors to move the plot forward.

Then there is the setting: Arrakis, desert planet, Dune. It is a vast and pitiless desert inhabited by God's Faithful and protected by the giant sandworms. No rain has ever fallen on Dune. That alone makes it stand out as a setting. Then there are the vast seas of sand and the fortress like rocky places. The entire planet reinforces the dire nature of Paul’s and Jessica’s struggle to reclaim what is rightfully theirs and exact revenge on those who took it from them. As the Fremen say, "God created Arrakis to train the faithful." Frank Herbert uses Arrakis to highlight the righteousness of his protagonist's struggle.

Then there is the theme. Without a theme all other elements are meaningless. There must be a point to the struggle. The theme can be as simple as good versus evil though both those concepts are relative. In Dune, one could say that is the theme. It is perhaps more accurate to state the theme as righteousness overcoming injustice. There are also many sub-themes in Dune. Great stories are chock full of various themes; each explored to one extent or another.

When it comes to Eve Online, we make the plot up as we go. CCP does not do this for us. We are also the characters, though there are a few notable exceptions like Sansha Kuvakei. The only aspect of this story that doesn’t directly involve capsuleers is the setting. CCP provides the 5431 known star systems and 2498 wormhole systems as our setting. Lastly, there are themes. CCP provides the kernel, the start, of some themes. I believe the most notable would be Faction Warfare. Beyond this though, it is completely up to us, the players, to set the themes. That is perhaps the truest measure of a sandbox environment.

And when you grok all this, you have to realize the question really isn’t whether Eve is a great story or not. The question really is what have we done to make Eve a great story? We are the characters of the book. We drive the plots. We determine the themes. If we do nothing, Eve is nothing. Like all other MMOs, it will eventually grow repetitive and we’ll all walk away from it as some of us have done dozens of times before.

So like a great novel, like Dune, there must be struggle. There must be an antagonist and a protagonist. All plots, all scenes, all themes derive from that confrontation. The confrontation must have ramifications that extend beyond the primary characters. There must be something huge at stake. Failure must have dire consequences. If Paul “Maud Dib” Atriedes had died when he drank worm bile, all space travel would have been subject to the diseased and disgusting Harkonnen’s merciless administration. No one really wanted that, not even the Emperor. He went along with it because he could control Vladimir Harkonnen where he could not control Duke Leto.

And that’s were Goonswarm comes in. They are the current Harkonnen threat in our great novel. Once you have the arch villain, the hero matters. Without an arch villain, the hero is just another guy trying to make a buck. There is no story worth telling. This struggle against Goonswarm has spawned dozens of sub-plots. You read about one of them here.

Before Goonswarm set their sights on my livelihood by forming the Technitium Cartel, I was just another carebear laboring in obscurity somewhere in Empire space. I eked out an existence that few cared to know about. Then an antagonist confronted me. They made it impossible for me to turn a profit by their market PVP that they themselves characterize as griefing. (See my last post. Does that answer your question Gevlar?) I decided to resist. The Goons lowered the proverbial boom on me. Suddenly I’m in a David versus Goliath themed sub-plot. Soon other capsuleers start to notice my plight - not because I was any different from before but because there was now a plot, some “interesting” characters, a setting and a theme worth reading about.

This happened again in the Delve war. The plot thickened as they say in the industry. More characters became involved. The setting changed, it became larger. The theme was still David versus Goliath but it was also more. How many of you desperately wanted to see Goonswarm and TEST fail? Now it appears they are moving on Catch and possibly Providence. How many of you are now even more determined to stop them? We are driving our own story to greatness because of Goonswarm’s depredations.

That’s how it works. I stand against Goonswarm. I do so because great stories need protagonists to cross foils with the antagonists. If we all became Goons, Eve would be just another ho-hum MMO from which everyone would eventually walk away. But Eve lives and we are immersed in fascinating times. No one yet knows how this will end. Will capsuleers unite to counter Pax Goon or will the known universe fall? Must we bow down to The Mittani? We don’t know yet but I for one am eager to forge ahead and find out. That is what makes Eve real and Goonswarm, as the antagonist, is integral to the greatness we’ve created.

Fly Careful


  1. I think setting yourself as the 'good' guy in EVE can be a little silly. To reference a popular similar story, I would compare EVE more to Game of Thrones, and perhaps the Goons are more similar to the Lannisters, tons of money, tons of influence.

    As anyone knows who's read further in the books, just because you're against the 'bad' guy...doesn't mean things are going to end well for you. On the same note, not everyone who is part of that faction is such a bad person.

    The beauty of the story of EVE, and A Song of Ice and Fire, is that there are no pure good or evil characters, such a setting gets repetitive and boring. The good guys don't always win. Everyone is in a different situation and trying to figure out how best to play the Game.

    1. Antagonist connotes neither good nor bad, merely in opposition to the protagonist. Protagonists are not always good or moral. Case in point, Thomas Covenant from The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever. He was the supposed savior of The Land yet his first act was to rape someone. That is not 'good' in the traditional sense but the character was most certainly the story's protagonist. That is why I mentioned that themes of good and evil are relative. It depends on which side you take. To some carebears I am 'good' for speaking out against Goonswarm. To Goonswarm members I am 'bad.' It is totally relative. In fact, who is protagonist and who is antagonist can be relative as well. It all depends on the point of view (POV) of the story and who the narrator is. When I am narrator and the story is told from my POV, I am the protagonist. When The Mittani writes, he is because it's his POV.

  2. that would be cool. mittens as the evil emperor (aka star wars) cackling away.

  3. Before Goons Eve was very much a game without plausible good guys/bad guys. Sure people did evil things to each other but nullsec war was about red team/blue team and the other side weren't morally or culturally inferior, simply the opponents in a game.

    Mittens et al have tried very hard to paint Eve now as a cultural and moral crusade, partly as propaganda, partly to encourage recruits.

    But truth be told, I suspect anyone not deeply invested in Eve still would see it as red team v blue team, whether it's CFC v SoCo, null v high, miners v gankers or whatever. It only acquires meaning if you're in the thick of it and even then you have to really talk it up.

    Except of course for heroic little Mabrick Enterprises valiantly resisting the slings and wardecs of the Evil Empire. :)

  4. Bro, why are you calling us fat?

  5. Mate, fair enough OTEC (which is way more than just Goons and TEST btw) is making your little carebear life difficult. Hell, hulkageddon/burn Jita would too, if you wanted further examples. But trust me, when it comes to Delve, the HBC and CFC aren't the bad guys.

  6. Is this blog about Goonswarm or industry? Seems like 50% of it Goonswarm related.

    1. Currently it's about the difficulties faced by high-sec Industrialists trying to earn a fair living. Those difficulties are fairly well summed up in the term Goonswarm. However, I feel ya. I'll see what I can do.

  7. One of the problems with EvE is that there is no incentive to be a 'hero' but many to be a 'villian.' No one ever got far by being a good guy in EvE.

  8. There are two very important differences between a game and a novel that weaken your admiration of the Goons' role in EVE.

    The first: the characters of a novel do not have the choice to leave when the odds seem overwhelming. When the Harkonnens have taken over and Paul and his mom are stuck out in the desert and things seem hopeless, if Paul and his mom had had the option, "hell with this, let's go to another story where things aren't so bleak", they might have taken it. That's the problem with the way the Goons are treating at least some of their enemies. They may be "the great villain", but the result is that some folks are not finding the game fun any more. In an epic story like Dune, the triumph at the end is much more meaningful given how much the characters suffered earlier on. In an MMO, not only are the characters not sure that the triumph is later coming, but also they have the option of just quitting the story when it's not fun any more. And, indeed, one possible outcome of what's going on with the Goons right now is that they succeed in their stated goal of ruining the game for everybody else, turning all of EVE into their playground where they dominate every aspect, at which point it's not fun for them either any more and the whole thing falls apart.

    The second difference between a novel and an MMO: in a novel, the reader is different from the characters. As you describe it, the characters *are* the reader here. In a novel, if a sympathetic character is killed, it can help drive the story, it can provide additional value for the reader. In EVE, if somebody leaves the game because of being excessively targeted for grief by the Goons, the story is now over for them. They don't keep reading and see the protagonists continue their struggle against the big foe; they're just done. And that's not a lot of fun for them. In novels, deaths of sympathetic characters can be great things for stories. MMOs and novels are not the same thing.

  9. I have given a name to my pain as regards EVE as it has become, finally.

    The one thing that gets me--in fact, drives me right up the fucking wall--is that our "story's" GREAT AND TERRIBLE VILLAINS(TM)!!111oneone!...



    ...Really aren't all that great :/

    They are, in fact, thoroughly repellent, and I don't mean in the kinda perversely-cool Valdi-the-Fat-Guy way, either. That hideously fat pig...he had style, man. He had cachet--I tell you, he had a perverse form of class, I repeat: he had style, maing (It helps to have a severely warped sense of humour to see it that way, though, I grant.).

    The Goons? They have no style. No charm. No complexity, no depth, no class. No, as it were, character (/me grins darkly). And all their pathetic lick-spittle little wannabes/yes-men/ass-kissers are even more...well...disgustingly typical, totally dirt common little follower meat-bots slopping, herf-blerfing, shit-posting, and stinking their way through all MMOGs, sooner or later.

    EVE--our beloved, brutally ruthless, fiendishly complex, dark, so addictive, and so, so rewarding Mistress...She is worthy of better than these emotionally-immature, narrow-minded, easily-led little Philistines, this rabble of so-prosaically trashy little Internet-cliches.

    EVE needs proper villains again:

    The Guiding Hand Social Clubs, The Suddenly Ninjas, the M0o Corp's...the Eminences Nior that "the Russians" of the old school represent in the minds of many Westerners--can't help it, us Slavs are just cool like that :)--and so many others over the years.

    Where have they all gone? Why have so many never come back? What will it take to make them want to come back?

    I don't want my EVE to turn into just another MMO full of little twats--you'll find plenty of them on both ends of the "Carebear<--->griefer Spectrum" nowadays, believe me--just being little neckbeard twats. Our sandbox is worthy of better.

    If I wanted just "Goons," then I could play any second-rate pay-to-win mess of an FPS.

    EVE is so much better than these fuckbags, I wish more people would see this.

    Fly safe, bru. But not too safe, because that's boring :)

    [/existential-angst rant]


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