Is Eve a great novel? Is it a book you just can’t put down? All of you are reading this because, to one degree or another, you feel that Eve is a great story you can’t put down. So what makes that happen? Why are we sucked into this game to the extent we are willing to spend much of our free time not only playing it, but reading about what else is going on in New Eden? To answer that question we need to understand what makes a great story. Then we need to apply that understanding to Eve.
Though there is some debate about this, and the specifics can be hotly contested, there are four basic elements that make a great story. They are plot, characters, setting, and theme. These four elements are the threads from which all great novels are woven.
As an example, let’s analyze how these threads intertwine in the Science Fiction classic Dune, by Frank Herbert.
The plot of Dune goes something like this. The duplicitous Emperor Shaddam IV plots with the evil House Harkonnen to wipe out the noble House Atriedes and seize the planet Arrakis, called Dune, with all its Spice wealth for themselves. They lure House Atriedes to Dune where, with the help of a traitor, they defeat it through villainous treachery. Fortunately, the Duke’s son and his mother escape, find hundreds of thousands of other repressed citizens (most of whom are trained warriors) and eventually retake Arrakis, kill the Harkonnens and reveal the Emperor’s illegal role in the war forcing him to abdicate. This is a very rough plot outline but it is accurate.
To make this plot work, Dune has many memorable characters. There is the noble Duke Leto Atriedes and his devoted concubine Lady Jessica. There is his intelligent and gifted son Paul, known as Maud Dib. There is also the nasty Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and his equally horrid nephews Glossu “Beast” Rabban and Feyd-Rautha Rabban. There is the go-lucky troubadour Gurney Halleck, the serious spy-master Duncan Idaho and the traitorous Doctor Yueh. These are just a few of the memorable characters in Dune, all of them necessary actors to move the plot forward.
Then there is the setting: Arrakis, desert planet, Dune. It is a vast and pitiless desert inhabited by God’s Faithful and protected by the giant sandworms. No rain has ever fallen on Dune. That alone makes it stand out as a setting. Then there are the vast seas of sand and the fortress like rocky places. The entire planet reinforces the dire nature of Paul’s and Jessica’s struggle to reclaim what is rightfully theirs and exact revenge on those who took it from them. As the Fremen say, “God created Arrakis to train the faithful.” Frank Herbert uses Arrakis to highlight the righteousness of his protagonist’s struggle.
Then there is the theme. Without a theme all other elements are meaningless. There must be a point to the struggle. The theme can be as simple as good versus evil though both those concepts are relative. In Dune, one could say that is the theme. It is perhaps more accurate to state the theme as righteousness overcoming injustice. There are also many sub-themes in Dune. Great stories are chock full of various themes; each explored to one extent or another.
When it comes to Eve Online, we make the plot up as we go. CCP does not do this for us. We are also the characters, though there are a few notable exceptions like Sansha Kuvakei. The only aspect of this story that doesn’t directly involve capsuleers is the setting. CCP provides the 5431 known star systems and 2498 wormhole systems as our setting. Lastly, there are themes. CCP provides the kernel, the start, of some themes. I believe the most notable would be Faction Warfare. Beyond this though, it is completely up to us, the players, to set the themes. That is perhaps the truest measure of a sandbox environment.
And when you grok all this, you have to realize the question really isn’t whether Eve is a great story or not. The question really is what have we done to make Eve a great story? We are the characters of the book. We drive the plots. We determine the themes. If we do nothing, Eve is nothing. Like all other MMOs, it will eventually grow repetitive and we’ll all walk away from it as some of us have done dozens of times before.
So like a great novel, like Dune, there must be struggle. There must be an antagonist and a protagonist. All plots, all scenes, all themes derive from that confrontation. The confrontation must have ramifications that extend beyond the primary characters. There must be something huge at stake. Failure must have dire consequences. If Paul “Maud Dib” Atriedes had died when he drank worm bile, all space travel would have been subject to the diseased and disgusting Harkonnen’s merciless administration. No one really wanted that, not even the Emperor. He went along with it because he could control Vladimir Harkonnen where he could not control Duke Leto.
And that’s were Goonswarm comes in. They are the current Harkonnen threat in our great novel. Once you have the arch villain, the hero matters. Without an arch villain, the hero is just another guy trying to make a buck. There is no story worth telling. This struggle against Goonswarm has spawned dozens of sub-plots. You read about one of them here.
Before Goonswarm set their sights on my livelihood by forming the Technitium Cartel, I was just another carebear laboring in obscurity somewhere in Empire space. I eked out an existence that few cared to know about. Then an antagonist confronted me. They made it impossible for me to turn a profit by their market PVP that they themselves characterize as griefing. (See my last post. Does that answer your question Gevlar?) I decided to resist. The Goons lowered the proverbial boom on me. Suddenly I’m in a David versus Goliath themed sub-plot. Soon other capsuleers start to notice my plight – not because I was any different from before but because there was now a plot, some “interesting” characters, a setting and a theme worth reading about.
This happened again in the Delve war. The plot thickened as they say in the industry. More characters became involved. The setting changed, it became larger. The theme was still David versus Goliath but it was also more. How many of you desperately wanted to see Goonswarm and TEST fail? Now it appears they are moving on Catch and possibly Providence. How many of you are now even more determined to stop them? We are driving our own story to greatness because of Goonswarm’s depredations.
That’s how it works. I stand against Goonswarm. I do so because great stories need protagonists to cross foils with the antagonists. If we all became Goons, Eve would be just another ho-hum MMO from which everyone would eventually walk away. But Eve lives and we are immersed in fascinating times. No one yet knows how this will end. Will capsuleers unite to counter Pax Goon or will the known universe fall? Must we bow down to The Mittani? We don’t know yet but I for one am eager to forge ahead and find out. That is what makes Eve real and Goonswarm, as the antagonist, is integral to the greatness we’ve created.