Along the way, Jade has made some enemies, but clearly some allies as well, having garnered the most votes in the Council of Stellar Management (CSM) election. As Chairman of the CSM, Jade Constantine is a magnet for controversy, but as an elected delegate, is also in a unique position to deal directly with CCP Games and potentially change EVE. Massively recently spoke with Jade on the state of roleplaying in EVE Online, the challenges that the CSM faces, and what it's like to be under the magnifying glass.
Most EVE players roleplay only to the extent that they're corporation pilots in New Eden. You've taken this much further in founding Jericho Fraction and espousing the grander ideal of being a capsuleer in a New Eden free of constraints, elevating roleplay in EVE to a new level. How would you describe the state of roleplaying in EVE at present?
It's always a difficult matter to judge in EVE really. On the one hand we do have a very creative player-base capable of producing wonderful stories and backgrounds and interaction with the Prime Fiction provided by CCP, but in opposition there is a lot of anti RP sentiment from some of the largest and most vocal organizations in game. This tends to confuse CCP sometimes I feel, -- at heart they have this amazing living universe with superlative artwork, fiction, factional backgrounds and incredible design talent and some players prepared to interact with it on those levels, while in 0.0 space they have a 5000 man alliance with significant real world economic clout responding to all matters roleplay with "lolrpfags11111!" in local – talk about mixed messages!
But in my opinion what is really missing from the roleplaying ideal in EVE is consequence. We need interaction with the npc factions and events that really have teeth and importance to the setting, we need ways for players to become part of the story and influence the arc plotlines and we need ways for corporations, alliances and individuals to actually face lasting impact from the decisions they make. I think that CCP has been "burned" by past scandals and corruption explosions and has now recoiled from allowing anything that could look "biased" or "fishy" but the sad impact of this is that they are now a bit less adventurous and less inclined to run genuinely interactive events that make waves in the player sandbox. I'm hoping that one of the things the CSM can achieve in EVE is to give CCP the confidence to be bold again.
Do you think that the expanding backstory and factional warfare in the Empyrean Age are providing new roleplaying opportunities, or are they ultimately limiting players to scenarios envisioned by CCP?
Empyrean Age certainly got more players talking about the background and roleplay motivation of their characters but it has had the effect of channelling people into nationalist stereotypes because the "new content" involves characters aligning with the traditional four imperial powers. I think it was a shame that Faction Warfare didn't come with a "declare against" option. And of course it's also lacking choices for pirate faction players, 0.0 players, and indeed players from several of the most notable nationalist RP alliances in the game. There is also a big undercurrent of "we're not roleplaying we're just here for the pew-pew" from many of the participants in faction warfare.
For example, since the inception of FW, Star Fraction alliance has been practising its anarcho-capitalist revolutionary principles by selectively wardeccing player corporations who have chosen to support the Caldari militia FW forces in Black Rise. A few realise what is going on and respond on a roleplay level, but most tend to see it as harassment or "griefing" and simply can't make the connection between their character's willing voluntary support for the fascist dictatorship of Tibus Heth (the Caldari State Tyrant) and the fact that anarchist free captains are blowing up their ships and publicly executing "enemies of freedom" in Nourvukaiken local. Again I think CCP could definitely help here with much more support and visibility for the embedded IC reporters in the Factions and many more news articles covering the wars.
What is it like to uphold ideologies and thus a play style that, in some ways, runs counter to the way EVE is designed, particularly in terms of game mechanics like sovereignty and holdings?
Well the frank answer is we attract a better standard of recruits by appealing to staunch individualist heroes with an interest in confronting mob-mentality and hive ethics in the virtual space of EVE. Star Fraction has never been a place for conformists or drones, we want people with the guts to take a stand and be something more than just a number in the endless blob fighting of 0.0 sovereignty conflict. I guess it's a taste thing end of the day, but I've never really understood how people can enjoy working the cubicle environment of the modern office during the day only to come home and get told what to do by some jumped up "space manager" in the evening too! Horrible, and my message to all those willing EVE-slaves is to rise up and throw off the shackles, strike out on your own and realise that you don't have to line up in ranks at 06:00 for POS defence just because some jumped up space control freak tells you to.
The CSM is a new idea in EVE. Indeed, it's a first in the gaming industry itself. What is it like to be in a position where most everything you say or write is analyzed and responded to, sometimes vehemently, by the very players you represent?
Can be annoying to be honest, it takes a lot of patience and the biggest challenge is to remain engaged with the player base on the forums rather than just recoiling from the abuse and ignoring the good with the bad, I guess it's a lot like community management really. That said it can be very rewarding too, and while the EVE forums have become a very hostile place for most discussions, a lot of good conversations and positive feedback occur in private chats, in community forums and other venues.
Some members of the EVE community believe the CSM will not make a difference. At the same time, another camp of players feels that the CSM will in fact make a difference, just not a positive one. Admittedly these views may be coming from a rather vocal minority, but do you think players expect, or want, the CSM to fail?
Some of them do certainly. But it's generally a form of jealousy or displaced self-loathing on the part of particular players. The CSM election process was a pretty serious and nerve-racking business, I think the challenge and scope of the thing caught some people by surprise and some veterans who felt they were "owed" a place on the CSM realised that they would have to work very hard indeed to win a seat and ducked out from fear of failure. After the event this leads to resentment and a desire for the thing they felt "excluded from" to fail. Seriously, there has been a lot of negative comment from a minority of players on the EVE forums but 99% of it is froth and bitterness without any basis in fact whatsoever.
You've taken a lot of of heat in recent weeks regarding your role in the CSM, with tempers flaring from involved parties on issues ranging from the powers of the Chairman to infighting amongst the CSM. Do you think things could have, or should have, been handled differently by yourself and the other CSM delegates?
I'm not going to say anything about my opinions of the other CSM delegates because ultimately they got elected and were chosen by their electorate and I don't think it's helpful for delegates to be publicly commenting on each other's behaviour in office. That said, sure, I could certainly have handled some of problems in this inaugural session better but hindsight is 20/20 as they say. Ultimately though I'm a five year veteran player of EVE Online and people did know what they were getting when they voted for me. I'm passionate about this game and if I ruffle feathers it's because I'm probably a little too honest about my opinions to be genuinely tactful – still you don't vote for a hardcore PvP space revolutionary with a history of shattered enemies and broken territorial empires if you want a shy retiring CSM chair to kiss babies and be nice to every forum troll in the game! Still, other people will get their chance to show us how it's done in the future and history will judge how good we were.
What do you think that you and the CSM will ultimately accomplish during your time as delegates, and how do you envision future Councils interacting with the community and CCP?
Well the biggest accomplishment has been making the process work at all. We literally invented nearly everything by hand in the three weeks prior to the face to face meeting. We hit the ground running and took thirty good community Issues to Iceland for productive discussions with CCP in the full glare of media attention. What we'll be giving to future CSM groups is the groundwork we've done in this session, the process of defining and advocating issues, the voting conventions, the submission formats and prioritisation, hell, even the way we interact and provide feedback on outcomes. All this was thrashed out in those early tempestuous meetings that our detractors would like to describe as "failures and embarrassments".
Speaking personally, what I'll take away is the fact that I gave something back to the community and the game that I've enjoyed for five years and performed the role of CSM Chair during the founding six months of the institution as well and diligently as I could. End of the day I don't read too much into the mini-scandals and forum froth. People with an axe to grind will always be louder than those broadly happy with the way it's worked, and it's a mistake to take anything on the internet too personally. When my stint as CSM chair is up I'll be back to full-time spaceship revolutionary and who knows? If I find any CSM detractors in the cross-hairs of my starship I'll smile a little as I reduce them to tumbling debris and sparkling explosions in the void. That's the joy of EVE as a hardcore PvP game, if people annoy you on the forums you can always blow them apart and scatter their assets like dust on the wind.
Now that's entertainment!
Thanks for taking the time to speak with Massively, Jade.