Thursday, August 8, 2013

EVE Lore: Blog Banter 48

This month's topic is a request from CCP Sisyphus who wants to know how important is Lore in EVE Online?
How important is “fluff” in Eve online? Would eve online be the same if it were purely numbers and mechanics, or are the fictional elements important to the enjoyment of the game? Would a pure text, no reference to sci-fi or fancy names still be an engaging game? Should CCP put more or less emphasis on immersion?

For more entries, see here.

Eve, being digital, leaves no traces behind.  We are long on epic events but short on chroniclers of the times.  As in the real world, the landscape of New Eden changes.  Powers rise and fall, pirate empires ply the void for a time and often wink out in a moment, as if they never were. ... Over time the collective memory of New Eden remakes itself, shifting and degrading what was in favor of what is.  And there are no artifacts and only limited histories left behind to lead players to inquire who and what came before.

    - Fiddler's Edge: Wine in the Ruins

Strictly speaking, game lore isn't lore at all.

Game lore is commonly understood to refer to a game's back-story, the larger narrative framework in which a role-playing or video game is played. Depending on the game, that framework may be more or less rich and detailed. It may also be more or less important to the execution of game play depending on 'attitude and latitude'; the attitude of the player and/or the latitude the developer allows the player when it comes to their in-game actions.

By necessity, game lore is documented and maintained by the company that owns the game. This is done both in order to provide a consistent framework for all members of the player base and to maintain the integrity of and control over the intellectual property represented by the game's back-story.  The result is an official (or 'canonical') version of a given game's lore. New game lore that does not conflict with existing lore can be added easily. Making changes to established game lore is, in most circumstances, undesirable for financial and aesthetic reasons.  

Lore in the real world is, on the other hand, less given to consistency. It is an informal body of traditions, stories and knowledge held by a particular group and traditionally transmitted orally. Often the details of lore matter less than the larger stories or lessons they transmit. As such stories in lore traditions are rarely fixed, changing over time and distance as they pass to new generations of a group or to new groups altogether.

Real world lore is, by definition, public domain. Once it becomes property, it ceases to be lore. This is quite the opposite of game lore, which is not game lore until it has been recorded and formally identified as such (and, by coincidence, copyrighted) by the owning entity. 

EVE's game lore provides the origins and political/social structure of New Eden and the context for play. It provides narrative texture, particularly for groups of role players and PvE players. For most players the framework influences early skill establishment and, from a design standpoint, the strengths and weaknesses of the four major ship families. However, in large part EVE game lore has little impact on player decisions in game and player decisions in game have even less impact on EVE game lore.

Consequently, for most long term EVE players, game lore fades to the background and provides little more than a bit of color on EVE's starry backdrop. EVE players have developed a culture and lore completely separate from that written and controlled by CCP.  This is EVE player lore and, from a practical standpoint, EVE player lore has superseded EVE game lore in importance to the larger player community. 

Player lore occupies a middle ground between game lore and real world lore.  In games where the players' freedom of actions is limited and acts are closely integrated with game lore, player lore tends to consist mainly of tips and tricks for navigating the game and odd bits of game-related filk-music, fan fiction and fan labor.  In EVE, however, players have exceedingly broad latitude in their decisions and actions, and this has resulted in an exceptionally rich body of player lore completely detached from official EVE game lore.

I tend to break EVE player lore into three major categories: Player instruction, player entertainments (Fan Fiction, Videos, Songs and Whimsey) and player chronicles.  Each type of lore informs the larger EVE player culture in its own way.

EVE's legendary steep learning curve, coupled with CCP's decision to bypass providing sufficient documentation of play mechanics has resulted in the creation of a great deal of player lore in this area. In short, CCP relies heavily on fan labor to maintain nuanced how-to instructions. Player instruction lore is diverse in its depth, quality method of delivery. A great deal of instruction is delivered player to player in game. Hints and tips can be found in some player bios. There are websites and blogs that are either dedicated to the ins and outs of a particular aspect of of EVE play, or provide links to player-created instructional content. And, of course, there's the odd meme, story, joke or bit of song that delivers nuggets of instruction in a more oblique manner.  

The entertainments a culture produces provides important insight into culture. In this sense, EVE player entertainments are a body of player lore in their own right. They provide functional value to EVE players as transmitters of instruction or history. Above all, our entertainments speak to the EVE player culture and give insight to who we are as a community.

Unfortunately all but the most large scale events in EVE Online tend go unchronicled and even then there is only a small body of lore that describes such events in a comprehensive (as opposed to episodic) fashion.  Lore having to do with player deeds and politics outside of nullsec are largely maintained orally within the player populations of corporations and alliances. Consequently as time goes by and older players depart to be replaced by new players, this lore is lost.

This is particularly true outside of nullsec where activities that are chronicled tend to be limited to individual encounters, lacking a larger backdrop to provide them context. As Rixx Javix recently pointed out, both on his website and in his Crossing Zebras interview with Marc Scarus, lowsec PvP entities may fight for and effectively control territory, but there is no mechanism in the game that records their achievement. Further, written histories that provide the larger picture of who's who (and where) in lowsec and the battles and relationships between various PvP entities are few and far between. Again, the player lore is often maintained orally or diffused across many sources and incomplete, making such lore exceedingly transitory.

As  I wrote in 'Wine in the Ruins' it would be good for both the players and CCP if CCP were to provide a means to leave histories and artifacts behind to tell future players who and what came before. At the moment, the wall between EVE game lore and EVE player lore is impermeable. Perhaps it's time for CCP to recognize the value it receives from the latter and allow selected player lore to cross over that wall.


  1. Well said and I couldn't agree more.

  2. Eve needs historians. I think an organization like Eve UNI would be a logical repository of written histories. I just wonder how many would step up to write.

  3. somewhere in 2011 CCP had this nice website of
    Here an Article referencing it:

    It's been a while since I have checked that side but I think they had a time line there where players could add there stuff. Propaganda, posters, videos, stories, everything into a time line full of events.

    The true stories effort now is aiming in that direction too but I think it looses the greater context. Not everything is worth a story but many things that aren't worth a story play there role in a bigger picture.

    The time line from eve could be very helpful to even keep the small stories alive as there are reference points to get.

    And thanks for those different views on the different kinds of lore.