EVE Online is a deep and complex game, and even those who've played EVE for years find there are still facets of gameplay they've never mastered. This is compounded by the game's unique nature as a massive galaxy primed for exploration and domination by its players, whose actions and machinations affect one another in a single setting that's never quite the same from one day to the next.
EVE is always evolving, both in terms of the dynamics between players and the game itself, seen as a whole. But unlike most MMOs, EVE Online has an official magazine, called E-ON, which has kept pace with how the game and its player efforts have changed over the years. To flip through the E-ON back issues is to see the documented evolution of EVE Online. In fact, E-ON manages to stay ahead of the curve due in part to its access to CCP Games, but mostly through the efforts of the players themselves whose writing talents make up the entirety of E-ON. The man behind E-ON is Richie Shoemaker, aka "Zapatero." He's the one who's been guiding the publication along since day one, and ensuring its content digs beneath the surface of the game. He's interviewed EVE's players and developers alike, but it occurred to us... Zapatero has an excellent perspective on the game yet is rarely interviewed, himself.
Massively recently caught up with Zapatero in between his continent hopping, and got him to tell us a bit about his approach to covering EVE and what the player community is capable of creating.
How would you explain what E-ON is to our readers who aren't EVE Online players, or those who are newer to the game and haven't read the magazine?
E-ON is like those dorky magazines you see that you occasionally might pick up, flick through and feel dirty about afterwards. Like the official Star Wars or Star Trek magazines... magazines that have interviews with the guy who died 13 minutes into Season #3, or that might profile the mating ritual of the tauntaun. Stuff you don't actually need, but because it has a glossy fold-out of Princess Leia in brass lingerie (*drools*), you feel compelled to buy and take home.
The difference with E-ON is that rather than focusing on the stars and bit-part actors within, we try to focus on the universe itself. The characters we feature might not be EVE's equivalent of the intransigent Kirks and Skywalkers, because the universe is more about players and their efforts, and written with players in mind rather than people who can only watch from the wings. It's very much a glorified fanzine, written by (and in celebration of) the community, but with the added benefits that come with being official.
What is your role at E-ON, and what's a typical day at work for you?
I'm the editor, which basically means I plan each issue, write some of it and try to find others to write the stuff I don't feel qualified to do myself. When they've done that, I go through it and put spelling errors in so that our production editor has gainful employment, then take all the credit after publication. I'm also the main point of contact with CCP, which means that after each issue, when I ask CCP for info on the next expansion, and when they say 'no', I get all stroppy and grumpy and pretend I have a really tough job, when in actual fact it's probably one that thousands would kill for.
A typical day is the usual round of emails, chats and phone calls, interspersed with forum watching, website-trawling and staring blankly at the screen hoping for inspiration to strike.
What's the connection between E-ON/MMM Publishing and CCP Games? I've noticed that CCP artists create illustrations specifically to accompany works of player-written fiction that E-ON runs, which is a nice touch. But how else do you collaborate with CCP Games, and do you maintain editorial control with this arrangement?
"When you consider that E-ON readers and EVE players are one and the same, we're actually working towards the same ends, just from slightly different angles."
Contrary to what some people might think, MMM are not part of CCP. MMM is an independent publishing and design company in London of just a handful of people, whilst CCP are a gargantuan corporate behemoth that straddles the globe -- a shuttle and titan respectively. The relationship is a relatively simple one: MMM make and produce E-ON, whilst CCP manage the online structure in terms of selling it through the EVE Store, and provide items of content that MMM simply can't - such as interviews about the next expansion (assuming I've succeeded in appearing suitably stroppy) and artwork for Chronicles.
CCP are very supportive and not at all dictatorial about what appears in the magazine considering that EVE is their intellectual properly and they are naturally very protective of it. Mind you, when you consider that E-ON readers and EVE players are one and the same, we're actually working towards the same ends, just from slightly different angles. CCP do have the power of veto, but rarely exercise it, and when they do, it's player-written Chronicles that get the most rigorous examination. Understandably so.
Is it difficult put together a publication with an insider's view of EVE, as an outsider yourself?
I don't think of E-ON as having an insider's view, just as something that has privileged access to those inside CCP. If any view is from the inside, it is CCP's. Players write 99.99% of E-ON and I'm happy to class myself among them.