Tuesday, 20 November 2012

BB40: Breaking the Fourth Wall

Today on the Jace Rants About Whatever The Fuck Show: Interstellar Blood Sports!

In this edition of the EVE Online Blog Banter, the question, posed by CCP Phantom, is as follows:

There is no finer spectacle in the universe of EVE Online than the explosive dance of weapon-laden spaceships in combat. The yearly Alliance Tournament is the jewel in EVE Online's eSports crown and the upcoming New Eden Open should deliver the same gladiatorial entertainment showcase.

Given the scope of the sandbox, what part should eSports play in EVE Online and what other formats could provide internet spaceship entertainment for spectators and participants alike?


To be blunt, I think combat tournaments like the Alliance Tournament and the New Eden Open are Good Things, in principle. They're fun, popular, and perfectly fit what a capsuleer would do (or watch) for entertainment. Things explode, funny people commentate, the servers crash, and honour, reputation, and of course ridiculous amounts of ISK, are at stake - precisely what EVE is about.

Where the issues arise is in the Fourth Wall-breaking nature of the New Eden Open.

If you're unfamiliar with the Fourth Wall, here's a brief summary: the Fourth Wall is that border, the page or screen, between Real Life and whatever fictional universe a story is set in. For more in-depth stuff, try Wikipedia or TV Tropes.

The NEO blatantly breaks the Fourth Wall. Advertising for the tournament openly touts the $10,000 (real money!) prize for the victor. Unlike the Alliance Tournament, which, while it has secondary prizes of PC gear (which aren't mentioned a lot, and don't seem to be considered the Big Deal), is primarily about the fights and the unique Alliance Tournament ships, the NEO is designed from the ground up to be fuck-the-lore eSports. This, in my humble opinion, is a Bad Thing.

The way I see it, EVE has the potential for great stories, cluster-spanning arcs of treachery, deceit, and friendship that can carry on for years. Many of these exist. The problem is when this doesn't happen. I don't mean when a player simply carries out an uneventful life in New Eden, or just plays the game without getting involved either way (respecting the lore but not being an RPer); I mean when a player is all up with the naming-corps-after-internet-memes and the lol-RPers-are-fags crowd. They play it as a game and nothing but a game, and don't even consider the lore, or the rich opportunities to carve out your own story in that lore. These are the min-maxers, the FPS-multiplayer crowd, the in-it-for-the-lulz-and-tears people. And the NEO encourages this mindset.

What's worse is that this seems to be a trend; this dev blog mixes Real Life and lore with painful abandon, and is just generally worrying. We used to get Chronicles and Short Stories, and each expansion had a wonderful story to it. Now we get this.

In summary: tournaments are good, but not at the expense of maintaining immersion. Sci-fi simulator, not leet-space-pee-vee-pee simulator.

As this is an EVE Online post, please credit references to Jace Errata.

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