EVE Spotlight: Mercenary Coalition's Seleene

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EVE Spotlight: Mercenary Coalition's Seleene
EVE Spotlight is a new 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.

It's said that PvP is the force that drives EVE Online, forging demand in the markets through destruction of assets and adding much of the unique political conflict that lies at the heart of EVE's gameplay. If war is EVE's driving force, then mercenaries are its swiftest vehicles. Contract killers by profession, mercenary corporations will take up arms against anyone for the right price. No mercenary group in EVE has ever been as feared and admired as Mercenary Coalition. Famed for being perhaps the single most destructive influence in EVE, MC has turned the tides of wars and shattered entire regions and alliances through brute force. At the alliance's highest point, the mere mention of its name was often enough to postpone war.

The group officially disbanded in 2008 following a drawn-out war with Band of Brothers alliance in Delve. Late last year, Mercenary Coalition made a comeback with the announcement by founder Seleene that the group was looking for new members and contracts. Although the future now seems less than certain for the infamous alliance, MC's founder Seleene has certainly had a long and colourful history in the game -- first as a player and then later as a developer for CCP Games. Under the name CCP Abathur, Seleene worked on EVE for over three years before eventually leaving the company on good terms. Having been both an EVE developer and an avid EVE player, he now has a rare perspective on the game and its development.

In this EVE Spotlight, I talk to Seleene about his career as the head of EVE's biggest mercenary outfit and his career as an EVE game designer.

We asked Seleene whether he had any videos that he feels shows off what he's done in EVE. Choosing between the a talk he gave at 2009's fanfest and MC's many famous war trailers, he elected to show us one of MC's most popular videos. Made by the producer of the incredible video Day of Darkness II, Tortuga Lacrimosa is a sight that no-one could forget. This was the last of MC's last big videos before the alliance disbanded, designed to send a clear message to EVE that MC would forge its own destiny:

Massively: Your mercenary career began with Body Count Inc taking on a number of empire wars in 2004. Do you prefer today's warfare or would you rather go back to those golden days?

Seleene: I often wish that we could have had today's technological improvements in place back then. Aside from that, I believe the game has made too much progress overall to turn back the clock. Even the "terrible" parts of EVE today are either better than what existed before or at least have the potential to become so. It's just a matter of CCP taking the time to iterate on what exists and re-focus on the "spaceship" parts of EVE.

As for the "golden days," that term means different things to different people. EVE has scaled up so much over the years that many players just wish the game would feel larger again. The EVE of today is small compared to what it used to be back in the beginning. The sense of awe and wonder at seeing a new ship or exploring a new area of space is long gone.

What was your favourite mercenary contract, and why?

That would have to be our campaign against the Northern Coalition in 2007. The North Reloaded contract was the culmination of everything we'd done up until that point, and it generated some of the most memorable and fun battles I've ever been a part of. The scale of things was smaller than today in terms of number of people involved, but there were so many unknowns with regard to capital warfare and strategic logistics that it was no less nerve-wracking. Everyone involved was just making stuff up as they went, and even our enemies managed to have fun from time to time. EVE itself felt like much more of a "game" back then.

Back in 2008, you decided to disband Mercenary Coalition. Can you tell me a little about why it came to that?

Toward the end of 2007, the MC faced a turning point in how we wanted to operate. Our relationship with Band of Brothers had steadily deteriorated, and the alliance was split down the middle as to how to handle it. Half the alliance wanted to just pull up our tents and base in another area of EVE, and the other half wanted to take their frustrations out on Band of Brothers themselves. I was in favor of the former solution, but history shows which path we eventually took.

In the end, after nearly four years of being some sort of director or CEO, I was ready to take a step back and not have 20 MSN convos blinking at me every time I turned on my computer. I was also under increasing pressure from CCP to reduce my profile in EVE, so when the "Tortuga" experiment failed, that seemed as good a time as any to lower the flag.

Last year the Mercenary Coalition reformed and made its return to EVE. Has the new alliance been successful, and what have you been up to since reforming?

Upon my return to EVE as Seleene, I found my corp a member of our long-time nemesis Against All Authorities [-A-]. I was warmly welcomed into my new home, and I met many new and old friends there, but eventually the old mercenary flames began to burn in the hearts of my corp. After over a year and a half in AAA, we bid farewell and set out to attempt to re-create our old alliance.

I've found over the past few months that while the desire is still out there to reform MC as it once was, the issue we were having was that we couldn't find equally strong groups of players that shared that same passion to continue what we'd started so many years ago. Be it problems with certain gameplay elements or people wanting to do different things, the timing just wasn't right.

It is my firm intention to raise the flag again eventually and approach the problems we faced differently. There are other parties interested in making a go of it, but -- pardon the imagery here -- until we have our four Aces and Joker card ready to go from the start, I'm not in any hurry to kick things off again. So for now, we've put the MC on hold in order to refocus our efforts on just having fun with the close friends we've made over the years in the EVE community.

During the three years you worked for CCP as CCP Abathur, what was your favorite project and why?

When I first started at CCP, I was all fire and brimstone about null-sec space and fairly dismissive of the other areas of EVE. That changed in a hurry as I was put onto projects that allowed me to see in great detail how vital all the gameplay elements are and how interconnected everything is. Being exposed to such a wide variety of thought processes from so many different gameplay backgrounds made quite an impression and still affects how I look at the game today.

I thoroughly enjoyed working on the Apocrypha expansion. The design team was myself and CCP Greyscale, with Associate Producer CCP Whisper playing designer as well from time to time. We had some very good programmers and QA working through it all. It was new stuff. Nearly everyone in the company got to work on something that moved the game forward in some way. It was very exciting and an awesome time to be there.

Did any projects you worked on at CCP ever turn out badly?

I will simply say that I believe there is a lot of work left unfinished on some very important elements of the game that I'd like to see completed.

You've announced your intentions to run for a spot in the sixth CSM. As you've already been a developer for CCP, can you tell me about your motivations for running for CSM?

I spent years on the "inside" fighting uncountable battles on a wide variety of issues, some of which I helped win and others which remain unresolved to this day. I want to continue the fight, so to speak. When the concept of the CSM was first announced internally at CCP, it was something I followed with great interest. Over time, and especially due to the efforts of the last two elected councils, I believe that the CSM has become a force for actual change within the EVE community.

While some question whether the CSM has any potency, it has become clear that, as stakeholders, they are getting CCP's attention more than ever before. The CSM's ability to help focus community attention on issues and actions taken by CCP cannot be denied. In some ways it is very much akin to a child coming into his own -- CCP may have birthed the CSM but now they have to deal with their creation as it continues to mature and assert itself.

Is there anything else you'd like to get out there while you're interviewing with us?

Don't let anyone tell you what you can't do in EVE! There are no professions or classes other than that which you make for yourself! EVE is more than just a game. We all may have different fun factors and sometimes challenges with it, but at the end of the day, it is important to fight for it because it is worth it! CSM 6 candidates will be announced on March 2nd, and voting begins on March 9th. I hope people will start thinking now about whom they will support with their votes, and I hope I can earn yours!

Thanks for interviewing with us!

Thanks, it's been great. I look forward to talking with you again sometime!
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