Over its almost 13 years of operation, sci-ci MMO EVE Online has gained a largely undeserved reputation for antisocial behaviour. EVE is built on the fundamental principle that players can do whatever they like within the bounds of the game world, which naturally allows more antisocial behaviour to surface but also leads to the creation of incredibly close-knit communities. When the cost of betraying someone’s trust in-game can be the fate of an empire, that trust is much harder earned and a lot more meaningful than in a typical MMO. EVE‘s gameplay makes co-operation with others almost a mandatory requirement to succeed in many areas of the game, and the bonds forged in common struggle are enduring.
At no time are we reminded more of this than during the annual EVE Online Fanfest, when thousands of players from around the world gather on a frozen rock in the arctic circle to meet in real life the players they rely on each day in-game. It’s here we see most clearly that the rare but terrible low points in EVE‘s community history when players have stepped over the line into real life harassment are counter-balanced by hundreds of thousands of friendly and decent pilots. Many welcome new players with open arms and the patience of saints, and some make their marks in the real world through incredible schemes like the PLEX for GOOD donation drives for natural disaster relief, the Broadcast for Reps suicide prevention initiative, and the Care 4 Kids campaign.
I sat down during EVE Fanfest 2016 for a brief chat with EVE universe community manager Paul “CCP Falcon” Elsy to talk about organising Fanfest, managing the EVE community, and how CCP responds to online harassment both inside and outside EVE.
MassivelyOP: For people who don’t know, can you tell us a bit about your role as EVE Universe Community Manager?
Paul “CCP Falcon” Elsy: I’ve been with CCP Games four years now, just about, I celebrate my fourth anniversary in the Fall. As EVE Universe community manager I basically people and project manage the community team across EVE, Valkyrie, DUST 514 and Gunjack. So I have 8 guys and girls on my team, and the vast majority are based in Reykjavik but there’s one guy in Shanghai, and our newest addition to the team is Stevie Ward who is in Newcastle. She used to be with EVE TV and we had a few really good candidates but in the end she was just the perfect choice for the job.
On top of that, I also people-manage the localisation team at CCP, and I also work for IP development so I’m writing a book right now — The book that was talked about in the EVE keynote, Frigates of EVE, so myself and Torfi Frans are working on this along with Will Burns the artist. On top of that we also have CCP Affinity and CCP Delegate Zero also contributing from our backstory team, so it’s the three of us who work on it. Yeah, so it’s a busy life!
Speaking of events, so you were just mentioning before that this is the first Fanfest that you’ve been the co-ordinator of. How has it been?
It’s been great, the tech team here at Harpa are amazing and they’re so quick to get things done. It’s kind of a split role, organising Fanfest, we have CCP Curtis who takes care of all the build management type things, all of the contracts, the very thorough business side of things and all of the technical stuff. For me as Programme Director, I deal with all the content, so all the presentations, roundtables, panels, making sure all the presenters have all the technical requirements in the rooms like number of microphones and seats for each panel, that sort of thing.
I consider myself less program director and more Fanfest dogsbody, because I’m just like running around with USB sticks like crazy trying to get things organised. But it’s been fantastic, really busy in the run-up but once the three days actually arrived it’s gone super smoothly and that’s in big part to the preparedness of the guys who have been presenting plus the team at Harpa have been amazing.
With this being so close to the Citadel release, has that messed with anything?
Oh god, yes. It’s been really busy and we’ve shifted everything around sort of internally so that the release is already ready and it’s a case of going into the office on Monday and publishing our patch notes and the last bit of messaging for it, and taking a bit of a breather before Wednesday rolls around and we have to deploy it. I’m super excited for citadel, I hope it’s going to be amazing.
One thing I’m really looking forward to is seeing if a citadel is placed in the correct position and grows to be a big enough Trade hub that it competes with Jita, Rens, Amarr and Dodixie. That would be phenomenal to see an actual kind of player Tortuga in EVE that was just a big freeport where everyone could go. I think if I was a player that’s what I’d be aiming for.
CCP describes itself as the caretaker of EVE and has a largely hands-off approach to players, but then you also need to cover the in-game events because that’s the big draw. Does that cause any conflicts?
Yeah, I mean sometimes. The thing that we try to do is we try to kind of step back and take n objective look. For instance, we actually started using our Updates website to cover player events and we put the first page up for the war that’s going on right now. What we tried to do was balance the content so that we had news articles from both sides, a couple of propaganda videos from both sides, the Verite sovereignty map and a couple of screenshots from each side showing off fleets and stuff. We try to stay as balanced as possible, but of course metagaming is a very powerful thing in EVE.
Sometimes you don’t know if what you’re seeing is really the truth or the result of a co-ordinated campaign of propaganda?
Exactly, so we have to be really careful and on the other side as well our players sometimes deliberately try to drag us in to antagonise the other side. We just have to take a step back, and I think we’re pretty good at trying to stay neutral and we have a few members of staff, myself included, who are pretty well versed in what’s going on politically and the kind of metagame and people we’re involved with so we’re able to advise our PR department and development, and art for instance with the backdrops in the war.
Generally, we’ll all have a sit down and we’ll decide what’s the best course of action and what we think we can do in terms of really showcasing what our players are doing. It’s a very mixed bag of people who do this from across disciplines at CCP, with some people in development and some in community, and a couple of guys in art. who are really well versed in politics. CCP Quant is also an incredibly active player, and I think that’s great that it’s reflected in his presentations. He has a really good point of reference for why things are occurring in-game, and why the economy is behaving the way it is.
What’s your take on the current war in EVE?
What’s my take on the current war? I think it’s fantastic! I’ve been sat back just rubbing my hands with glee, you saw yourself in the presentation slides the amount of damage that’s been done. It’s incredible, and this is shaping up to be one of the most damaging conflicts in the history of EVE. I just think it’s one of those things that’s been building for a while, there’s bad blood and rifts between people in-game and people starting shooting at each other. It’s all part of EVE‘s politics and it’s just great to see so much activity. We had a really quiet period there in nullsec where people were waiting for the new sovereignty system and when it arrived they had to really change up how they fight.
People have the impression that EVE is a harsh dystopian universe where everyone is trying to screw each other over, but then on the flip side we have things like PLEX For Good and Broadcast for Reps. Do you think that challenges people’s opinions, and do you think it’s helped?
Yeah, I really think it has. Some of the charity events that our community does have really made me proud. There’s the whole Broadcast for Reps initiative, there’s Care 4 Kids, there’s Best of Us for military veterans. You’ve got PLEX for Good as well and it’s hosted by us but without the players there would be nothing — they’re the guys who put the meat on the bones, we just give them a way to donate. They’re always good but their generosity in particular over the last two, they’ve raised over $300,000, it’s phenomenal. It’s unbelievable.
When people get into EVE and they play the game, the gloves are off. Quite frankly, EVE is hard and it’s a game where the toughest survive and there’s a lot of internal conflict, metagaming, spying and espionage, people screwing each other over. But then you come to an event like Fanfest and you see guys who have been enemies for the last eight to ten years sat down, having a drink, talking together. You see this at player gatherings across the world, where people who yesterday might have been shooting at each other and wrecking each other’s shit are now sat down and they’re laughing and joking about it, sharing a drink and eating their lunch together.
Over the years, there have been instances of harassment, in fact one actually happened while we were at Fanfest. How do you handle instances of harassment that is done outside of the game and official forums?
We have pretty robust policies on what happens within our game environment, what happens in EVE Voice and what happens on our website. We’re always there for support if there is someone being harassed, even if it’s outside of our jurisdiction so to speak. What we can do is to best advise people on how to deal with it, and we can put them in contact with the right people as well.
So what should someone do if they are harassed in real life over something in EVE? How would they go about reporting that?
They can contact the community team via a support ticket, or contact customer support via a general ticket and they will forward this to us. We’ll look into it and we can give people best advice if it ever became out-of-game harassment, like “we think you should do this, this, and this and if you think you’re being harassed then maybe you want to contact the police. Maybe you want to talk to someone, and obviously we’re here.” There’s a dark side of a lot of MMOs that you do have to deal with, and occasionally things do get out of hand. When it’s outside of our jurisdiction, we’re not the police and we’re not a court of law so there’s not a lot that we can actually do, but we can best advise people how to deal with the situation.
The internet does do that to people, and I think everyone at some point in their life is guilty of that kind of “BLAAARRG” on the internet kind of behaviour. In EVE, because of the nature of the game and the sense of loss that you get when something bad happens, I think tensions do run high at times. We’re there to make sure people follow the few basic rules that we do have, but if things do get out of hand (rare that it happens), we’re there to support them and advise as best we can.
We’d like to thank Paul Elsy for taking the time out of his busy schedule of running around with USB sticks like crazy at Fanfest to talk to us about the EVE community!
Massively Overpowered was on the ground in Reykjavik, Iceland, for EVE Fanfest 2016, bringing you expert coverage from EVE, Valkyrie, Gunjack, and everything else CCP has up its sleeve!