Updated Wed, Jun 20, 2007 by Cody Bye
Over the last few weeks, a gladiatorial duel has been waged between two opposing factions, each of which believes that they are in the right. The two combatants are the game development studio, CCP Games, and their in-game customers, the GoonSwarm alliance. Their chosen arena is EVE Online, and each side is determined to win this battle. If you haven't been following the ongoing chronicle of EVE Online, there's a bevy of information available on the Internet, everything from accusations of developer misconduct to previous responses made by CCP. Everyone seemed to have an opinion on the matter, including some of the Internet's most prominent bloggers and news sites.
Just as things were beginning to die down, the hornet's nest was kicked again when the Ten Ton Hammer staff published an interview with CCP CMO, Magnus Bergsson, which held a brief statement about the conduct of a portion of their player base. GoonSwarm, enlivened by the remarks made by Bergsson, issued a formal response with Ten Ton Hammer. To make matters fair, we also asked CCP for a follow-up response to the GoonSwarm statement. As always, if you have any thoughts on what you read below, please feel free to email us or talk about it in our forums!
The recent scandal was a response from the EVE community as a whole. EVE is billed as a "sandbox", created by CCP but always with the intention of being developed by the players. Customers create characters and venture into the "box" to shape the metaphorical hills and valleys in the "sand". Whether it be through conflict or peace, destruction or production, we as the entire collection of people who play EVE wish to be in charge of our own direction.
Developer misconduct has occured in the past, a fact admitted by the company. Direct communication between players and members of CCP's volunteer team which handles forum moderation, in-game bug hunting and storyline development has occured despite the rule that members of the volunteer program should under no circumstances reveal who they are to anyone, a fact admitted by some of the players and members of the volunteer team in unison. Both instances lead to the perception that biased influence is being injected like a virus into the "sandbox" which strips away some of the freedom people log in to experience.
We all play this game to have fun, whether it be to rise to power as a space-controlling alliance, to corner a part of the player-driven market and reap the financial benefits, or simply to undock and fly off into the darkness looking for a target to point our guns toward with the expectation that no favoritism from an outside and infinitely powerful entity exists.
Resentment occurs when the assumed level playing ground begins to vanish, regardless of which side it appears to favor. The scandals existed and exist whether Goonswarm plays or not, to paint it any differently is to hypocritically deny that there has ever been a problem. While a collection of members within Goonswarm made a loud racket (primarily a knee-jerk reaction to the perception that misconduct still exists even after CCP's creation of an Internal Affairs department to stamp out such issues), the voices of hundreds and hundreds of other unaffiliated players rose up from all corners of EVE's universe to express their equally shared dissatisfaction.
EVE Online is an amazing source of entertainment with a vast market, constant conflict and heart-pounding PvP combat always at the hand of, and created by, the players, using the systems set up by the developers. The space for metagaming within the conflict between powerful groups and alliances of players with respect to internal disruption and spying is by far one of the best "features" which has come about, again due to the actions of players interacting this way within the unbiased construct of the game. Many people play the game solely for this aspect and the desire to lay waste to whatever opposition bars their way, or to stand up and fight against the well-established old powers of veteran characters.
It's not about winning or losing an intergalactic space war inside an imaginary universe on the internet, it is about feeling secure that whatever we do is the direct result of our own efforts free from the assistance or impedance of a guiding hand. To view the events that transpired as unwarranted outrage or to claim that a certain group of people behaved in a manner purely because of a conflict within a computer game is to ignore and discard the feelings and opinions of many thousands more who wish to see EVE shine in its full capacity and enjoy the ride.
The increased interest in EVE Online, not only from gamers but multilaterally – even from those who have never actually played the game – illustrates the extraordinary characteristics we believe set us apart. Just because it's a game doesn't mean that everything related to it is virtual. It's compelling, aggressive and provocative, and those core elements are not only what makes it interesting but also what can evoke real emotion from the players who delve deeply into it. They have a genuine sense of ownership within the gameworld that we want to encourage. Moving beyond the confines of the server lines to discuss in-game matters with gusto and fervor is as much a part of the game for them as hunting NPCs or building a battleship. It's that passion that inspires us as developers and makes us strive to continue to push the boundaries of what EVE is and all that it can be.