EVE Evolved: Making EVE history

EVE Evolved title image
EVE Online has the odd distinction of being one of the only MMOs in which the developers have almost no control over the active storyline. There have been plenty of fiction articles written about the game's backstory, and the NPC factions occasionally butt heads in short news pieces, but none of it feels very real. It's only when these events actually occur inside the game world that they become real, and when that happens, the outcome is at the mercy of players.

2010's spectacular Sansha abduction live event was the perfect example of this, with thousands of players becoming immersed in a very real emerging storyline. The story was fluid and evolved based on what players did, and so it made the NPC factions come alive in a way that fiction never could. While the scripted NPC portions of these storylines certainly constitute part of EVE's history, the most interesting tales follow the unexpected actions of players and alliances.

The fascinating thing is that the audience for these stories extends far beyond the playerbase itself, with news of high-profile events occasionally taking the global gaming media by storm. But for every 3,000-man battle and 200 billion ISK scam that's reported, there are hundreds of smaller events that would be just as interesting to read about or watch a video on. Most of these events have been lost to the mists of time, kept secret or talked about only among those directly involved ... until now.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at the types of NPC-based and player-run stories that happen regularly in EVE and speculate on CCP's upcoming plans to document and preserve that history.

EVE Evolved side imageLive events bring the NPC story to life

The Sansha storyline showed that it doesn't take much to get players involved in the NPC plot. The idea of taking part in a unique in-game event that will never be repeated is a pretty strong motivator, and the possibility of causing havoc at such an event is an even stronger one. The most surprising thing about the Sansha story is that players didn't just participate in scripted events; they steered them and collectively decided the outcome. New organisations and intelligence networks emerged to rapidly respond to the Sansha attacks, players debated the plot on the forums, and some players were even allowed to switch sides and become Sansha slaves.

The recent NPC storylines haven't been played out in-game, so they've passed largely under the radar so far. The Amarr empire has discovered a unique implant in a sleeper stronghold that can transfer consciousness at the moment of death, giving ground troops the same immortality as capsuleers. This storyline will tie DUST 514 into EVE, following the wars between the empires following the introduction of this new technology. CCP has promised to run these stories as actual live events inside EVE and DUST, and I personally can't wait to see how it all turns out.


EVE Evolved side imageThe best stories are player-driven

There's no greater advertisement for EVE than news of the latest high-profile theft, exploit, or big political twist in-game. The gaming public always seems to love watching the latest EVE trainwreck unfold in slow motion and letting out a collective "Ouch!", but there are hundreds of awesome smaller-scale events each week that aren't really recorded anywhere. I've been lucky enough to have a platform like the weekly EVE Evolved column in which to share some of my own stories and experiences, but most players don't have that kind of exposure.

Last week, CCP revealed to Massively that it's working on a new way for players to document their own exploits for posterity, a kind of digital historical repository for the game. The official EVE Wiki kind of started this by letting notable corporations write up corp histories, but it's only really accessible if you're googling for that corp's name to begin with. What we really need is a tool that puts all of this information at the fingertips of every player, even new players stepping into New Eden for the first time or prospective players looking to find out what the game is all about.

EVE Evolved side imageWhat could the new history tool be like?

If we are to get a new digital repository of EVE's history, I would love it to be a publicly editable timeline of the game with big events like scams and landmark battles marked off. It could even feature an interactive map of the game's 7,500 solar systems with key moments in each system's history documented in videos, screenshots, and articles. Player-made map service Dotlan Maps already provides a historical record of things like sovereignty changes, but those changes aren't put in any kind of context. It'd be great to look up the battle in which a system changed hands and find out about that war and who was involved.

I'd be even more impressed if the interactive wiki were integrated into the actual game client. Imagine flying through solar systems in EVE and being able to quickly pull up videos and screenshots of all the awesome things that happened there. Future players could be passing through the innocuous lowsec system of Akasai and find out all about the intense 3000-man battle that happened there due to a titan pilot accidentally clicking "Jump" instead of "Jump Bridge." This is all speculation as we won't find out the details of the historical record tool until Fanfest, but I'm really hoping for something with this level of interactivity.

EVE Evolved side imageActive recording and livestreams

Any new history database will need an effective way for players to add new content, but not every big heist or battle is currently recorded in video and sometimes nobody takes a screenshot or bothers to write up a public report. What we need is tools to make capturing and sharing current events easier and where possible from the game client itself. Screenshots can be easily embedded with location and timestamp data that would make adding them to the database as simple as uploading them, and it shouldn't be too dificult to permanently record and verify all the kills that happened around the time of a submitted event.

As long as I'm wishing for crazy tools we'll probably never see, it would be amazing if CCP were able to add in-client livestreaming to EVE. It should theoretically be possible to employ camera clients that can log into a player's character at the same time as he's logged in, just as happened with an old bug that allowed two people to log into the same character at once. If that's possible, it could lead to a new camera service that lets players record their action without using their own bandwidth. Other players might even be able to see currently active streams on the EVE map and spectate on the battle after a delay. Players already stream big events when they can, but having a publicly accessible stream that can be used to a create permanent HD record would be incredible.

EVE Evolved title image
The greatest advertisements for EVE are the awesome stories and videos of hilariously dodgy things that players get up to in the sandbox. One or two quirky EVE stories hit the global gaming media each year and spread like wildfire, but many more go completely unreported. If CCP is able to create a good visual repository for EVE's history and can get players motivated to recording all the awesome battles and events they take part in, it can only be a good thing.

While I may be getting a little ahead of myself in wishing for a fully interactive EVE map tool with integrated livestreaming, I do hope it's a possibility that we could see at some point in the future. Lots of people already use EVE as a glorified chat room, sitting running missions or tending to market orders while chatting with corpmates or locals. Trade and mission hubs currently light up with conversation about big events like battles and tournaments while they're happening, and it would be pretty awesome to be able to watch it in action.

Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to brendan@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.