EVE Spotlight: An interview with EVE Travel's Mark

EVE Spotlight is a bi-weekly feature in which we interview prominent members of EVE Online's player community or development team. Every two weeks, we'll be shining the spotlight on a player or developer who has a significant impact on EVE to highlight the efforts of EVE's most influential people.

At the start of this month, the folks at CCP Games updated their Facebook page with a link to a fascinating blog. The aptly named EVE Travel serves almost as a holiday brochure for the many interesting places to visit in EVE. I'm sure some players would look at this as a waste of time, but to me it underscores everything that's great about EVE and sandbox games in general. The number of viable ways to play the game is constrained only by a player's imagination and motivation. Mark and the guest contributors on EVE Travel are all highly motivated to explore the visuals and lore surrounding every interesting thing you might come across in EVE. Where we see a pretty shipwreck, they see an ancient battle with its own motivations and politics.

In reading EVE Travel, I shared in Mark's sense of wonder and excitement about a vast universe that I had taken for granted. That sense of awe, of being lost in the deep and having to learn all about everything for the first time, is something a lot of us have lost over the years. When we run missions or complete exploration complexes, many of us just see the numbers involved -- how much damage we can deal or tank and what rate of ISK per hour we can generate. We look at these areas through the eyes of a player gaming the system, but EVE Travel shows them to us through the eyes of a true explorer. I was even inspired to set out on my own exploration adventure, delving into the lore of places I'd taken for granted and seeing them again for the first time.

In this edition of EVE Spotlight, I talk to blogger Mark from EVE Travel about exploring the collossal sandbox of New Eden and what can be done to help the storyline of EVE come alive.

In his time writing EVE Travel, Mark has visited and catalogued around 66 exploration sites and points of interest. Each article is accompanied by several awesome screenshots that showcase EVE's graphics in all their glory. The gallery below shows one screenshot for each of 21 separate articles at EVE Travel. If you'd like to know more about any of the sites featured in the gallery, head over to EVE Travel and look for the image's title in the right-hand side panel.

Massively: Can you tell us a little about what it is you do in EVE? How do you go about setting out to explore EVE?

Mark: Basically, my goal with EVE Travel is to find and write about all the various landmarks in EVE. This basically entails my flying around to the far reaches of New Eden and taking lots of pictures, while hoping that the locals don't decide that my ships look tasty. As to how I do it, I have a few ships set up for various tasks. My main go-to is my trusty Buzzard "Professor Science" to get me to most destinations in highsec and lowsec. I use it for its cloaking ability and high speed.

If I need a little bit of firepower (as not all sites are particularly friendly to you), I'll take my Drake "Legacy" out for a spin to at least let me tank the damage while I get the pictures I need. Finally, for destinations in nullsec, I have a interdiction-nullifier-fitted Tengu named "Scientia" to get me through any warp disruption bubbles the locals can throw at me. It won't astound anyone in terms of DPS or tanking, but I have yet to lose it.

With so many solar systems, how do you go about picking places to visit?

That takes a bit of research on my part. I'm lucky to have Serenity Steele's EVE Strategic Maps, which marks a number of landmark beacons for the various regions. Beyond that, I pay attention to where the various COSMOS constellations are, what I hear from various friends in game or on the Tweetfleet, or even just the news. The most recent notable landmark popped up after the Sansha live event in Yulai. They ended up retreating to the system of Promised Land (probably making the EVE constellation in Genesis the most densely packed constellation for landmarks outside of COSMOS), and the "wormhole" that the Sansha used is still there. So it's just a matter of watching the news to see what's going on in the NPC world as well or else just listening to the scuttlebutt going on around me.

Which site was your favourite and why?

Oooof, that's a tough one. I have a number of favorites for a number of reasons. One of the first sites I did was the gate-built-into-a-station in Central Point, just because I'm still not entirely sure that the devs meant to actually do that. I love the easter egg that is the monolith in Dead End and the sheer size of the titan in Luminaire (which is also great for grinding if you're not a fan of the Caldari). As for sheer fun in writing, I really enjoyed both the special edition on Incursions as well as Choonka's Ship-Wash. If you're talking about visuals, though, I actually have a great one that's going to be coming up in the next few weeks, and I'd hate to ruin the surprise. I guess I can't pick just one. There's a number of fantastic landmarks out there if you know where to look, and that's the entire point of EVE Travel in the first place.

Some of my favourite places to visit have been in EVE's unique COSMOS constellations, each with its own stories to unlock and riddles to solve. What do you think of COSMOS and is it the kind of thing you'd like to see more of in EVE?

COSMOS is an interesting idea. I like the concept of it as well as the visuals. There are some fantastically put together sites out there, and I haven't even made it to all of them yet. But I wish that they integrated a bit more to the broader EVE lore. They mostly come off as self-contained stories that don't really connect to the broader New Eden. But at the very least, I'd love to see more places for me to visit!

What tips would you give anyone trying to follow in your footsteps and really lose himself in EVE's lore?

Just go. That's honestly the best advice I can give. Fit up a covops or whatever and just get out there. Let yourself wander around and take in the various sights out there. EVE is a gorgeous game that can often be ignored when you're just focused on the spreadsheets aspect of it. Taking time to appreciate the stunning visuals in game can really help to remind you why we all played this game to begin with.

CCP has been making more of an effort lately to link EVE's backstory with the game through live events. How exciting has this been for explorers?

I'm really excited for the amount of effort CCP has put into the storyline. I loved the live events and how they just led so naturally into the new Incursion mechanics. Unfortunately, the live events seemed to rarely happen when I had free time available, but watching the news develop and getting involved when I could let me really feel like New Eden was an actual galaxy, even outside of the nullsec space where players control.

I'm also excited for the lore revamping that they've been working on. The game apparently has evolved quite a bit since the original backstory was put together for most of the scientific articles, and they're working on revamping them and other articles to match up with current practice. As a canon-geek, I can't help but get excited about that, but any time that you can add some realism should help any and all explorers out there.

What could CCP do to really immerse players more in the game world and make the story come alive?

We need more connection between the New Eden of the NPCs and the New Eden of the players. It's a rare time indeed when anything that, say, President Roden of the Gallente does actually has an impact in game. Obviously, CCP is trying to have players determine the direction of New Eden, but you're dealing with populations of billions, if not trillions, that are governed by the day-to-day happenings of the various empires, and that's bound to have an effect even on us capsuleers. I'm hoping that the canon revamp is a step in that direction, in integrating the ingame lore into what we players actually see and do in New Eden.

That's not to say, of course, that I want the player-driven stories out in nullsec to disappear or even change, but more interaction between the player New Eden and the NPC New Eden would be fantastic in my view, at least in how things are run in empire space as opposed to nullsec or even lowsec.

While there are aspects of fiction and roleplaying to your form of exploration, some of the places you've catalogued are player-created sites steeped in a very real history. Do you find these more enticing than the areas CCP has created?

In terms of actual backstory, certainly. The Steve Memorial out in C9N-CC is a fantastic example of a well-put together site that has a great history to it. Reading back on the history of Steve, the first titan ever built and the first titan ever destroyed, really immerses you in the player side of EVE. This was an actual monster built over hundreds of hours of player-dedicated efforts, brought down in one of the massive battles that EVE is so famous for. Seeing the remains of this Titan, taken out in the most EVE of fashions (both through in game and meta-game mechanics) is an amazing example of how the mighty can both rise and fall. Though I can't really picture how it would work, I'd love to see more examples of player-driven landmarks even beyond what we have now.

You've printed a few entries on EVE Travel from guest editors. If someone wanted to contribute his stories of exploration to the blog, how would he go about doing it?

The most important thing is to contact me early on in the process, just so I know not to write about the topic. You can either email me or contact me ingame. I have only a few ground rules for submissions. They have to include a basic description of the site at some point, they must be written in-character, you should include your own pictures, and you have to include any pop-up text that accompanies a site. I'm not looking for in-depth character roleplaying or anything, but I don't want to see "and then I hit ctrl-f9 to hide the UI" either. Hopefully those aren't onerous requirements for anyone, and they allow people contribute in a variety of ways.

Is there any message you'd like to get out there?

Even if you're not interested in writing your own guest entry for EVE Travel, if you find anything notable that I haven't touched on yet, please pass it along. I'm always on the lookout for new sites to cover.

Thanks for interviewing with us!

Thanks for having me!
This article was originally published on Massively.