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Monday, August 5, 2013

BB48: Pile of Bricks

"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?"
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The next time you are in town, take a good look at the buildings around you. Some will be made of glass and steel, if you are in a large enough town, but the vast majority will be made of brick or concrete. If you have the time, walk closer. Get very close. You should see something that looks like the image to the left.

Notice that there is a lot of brick in that wall. However, it is not the bricks which make it a wall. It is the mortar between the bricks that make it a wall. Take away the mortar and all you have is a pile of bricks - a heavy if singularly unimpressive heap of rectangles.

And what of those glass and steel skyscrapers of modern architecture? They have no mortar yet they are massively impressive. Are they held together with only steel girders and glass? No way. They are skyscrapers only because of the rivets used to hold it all together. If you take away the rivets, you have nothing but a pile of oddly shaped beams and broken glass.

In fact, without rivets the modern bridge, the modern airplane and the modern super tanker would not be possible. And without mortar, there would not only be an absence of stout buildings, but bridges and wooden sailing vessels as well. After all, the caulk that keeps them seaworth is nothing more than another kind of mortar.

I could go on and on about all the things we see and use every day which would not be possible without the compounds, devices and ingenuity that hold them together. Without technologies like mortar, our civilization might very well prefer to still live in caves. Civilization as we know it is simply not possible without mortar and it's high tech equivalent the rivet.

So it is when it comes to lore within Eve Online. Without lore, we would not have a need for races. Without races, we would not have a basis for different ship technologies. There would be no need to decide between armor tank and shield tank, blaster boat or laser sniper in a homogeneous New Eden. It would make little sense. Society would settle on what is best and that would be it - period - boring.

And there are other elements within the game that depend on lore to make sense. Incursions would be some sort of nonsensical zombie apocalypse without the lore of Sansha Kuvakei. We might as well be in a fantasy game run by Blizzard Entertainment without that lore firmly setting those events into a framework of past events.

But the mortar which is lore goes much further than that. Just as the invention of mortar made the construction of ziggurats in ancient Ur possible, and everything that followed, so it is the lore in Eve Online has made the great events that have shaped our community possible. And our events are far more compelling than those in the lore. The Gallente/Caldari war was indeed a universe shaping event, but Band of Brother's collapsing because of one spy is legendary. Who would argue that event has not shaped New Eden today more than The Amarr Empire in it's thousands of years for religious fervor and slave trading?

As another example I hold up Jita. Who made Jita the trade hub for all of New Eden? Why not Dodixie or Rens or Amarr? There was certainly some lore to set it up as a Caldari trade hub, but there was considerable immersion at play (centrality for instance) to make it the trade hub for all. That was not something CCP decided. It was done by the players. And it was a result of immersion whether players realize it or not.

And that is fascinating. There is a threshold beyond which our actions become the lore. When that boundary is crossed we call it immersion. Yet immersion cannot happen without the structure CCP's lore has given us. If CCP took away the lore, all we would have is a pile of bricks. And sooner rather than later, everyone would tire of looking at a pile of bricks gathering dust. We'd long to see a cathedral and soon leave the pile of bricks, which would continue to just lay there unmourned.

So yes, CCP needs to continue New Eden lore. It is the mortar that makes the building of immersion possible. That immersion makes us part of the story, not just some spectator. And to be certain, there are technical requirements too because no one likes to "magically" fly through a station (hint, hint.) But we accept it more easily when Goonswarm is Burning Jita and we just want to get to warp as fast as possible. If Goonswarm wasn't there, I'd notice flying through the station a lot more. Do it enough times and it looks just like a pile of bricks.

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