So there have been a few posts recently about Lore, since that was the topic in the latest EVE blogpack. Now I’m not currently subbed to EVE online, but I still read along. I have long since discovered that EVE is a game that I have more fun with when I am not subbed up. I was a little surprised to see, that the topic of in game lore seemed to turn immediately to a glowing praise of what players had done in the sandbox and how little actual lore was in the game itself.
Mostly, I had severe cognitive dissonance when official company lore was only said to be effective when it impacts “in game realities,” according to Kirith Kodachi, the new headmaster of the Blog Banter (which is a very good thing!). Wilhelm seems to, consciously or not, echo the sentiment when he pokes fun at the oft forgotten idea of crews in EVE Online.
(One a side note – Jester’s crew size chart is egregiously bad. Kodachi’s Project Athena is better, but still off the mark. Official game lore sets the crew size for an Apocalypse class battleship at a minimum of 6,314, with capsuleer.)
And yet…when we turn our bright shining spotlight on player created lore, this primary metric – impacting in game realities – almost seems to get tossed to the wayside. So long as it is player generated, it must be lore! Even if it has absolutely no impact on a significant portion of the playerbase.
And that is my bone to pick. I agree that lore is not really lore in any meaningful sense, unless it impacts the game itself. And player generated stories never will in anything more than a secondary fashion, if that. In this primary metric, they can’t hold a candle to even the most basic (or troped) lore that is written for the game itself. You can poo-poo or denigrate in game lore all you want to, but you are just cursing the chair that is currently bearing your weight. Its doing its job, whether you appreciate it or not.
That is not to say that I don’t enjoy those stories. I have followed the Goon-TEST war with great interest, curious about who would win (while also asking in the back of my head the silent question we all ask: when and how (and if) Goonswarm will one day fall? But for all that enjoyment I got from reading, hearing updates, seeing screenshots – none of it impacted my in game reality as much as when CCP decided to reinforce the lore of Amarr being secondary drone users by turning the Prophecy and Armageddon into drone boats.
You can, absolutely, most assuredly, impact some of the playerbase, some of the time, with player actions. Particularly in a game as sandbox as EVE is, where it is easiest (and one could argue, for a successful sandbox, most imperative) to do so. And yet what drove those stories in the first place was the in game lore of wealth that comes from moons and sovereignty of who controls them. I would be willing to go so far as to say that player generated lore is not possible without the foundation of game/developer generated lore.
Though he never came out and said it directly, I believe that was the underlying thrust of what Tobold was getting at when he was trying to dismantle the common euphemisms of “sandbox” and “theme-park”. There is no pure sandbox because you need the lore of the theme-park to provide the “game” of the “world” that players are happily playing in.
Again, this is not to cut down what players do. It has great value and enjoyment. It can be voluntarily adopted by individual or even groups of players – an action commonly known as roleplaying, thought I’m sure some of the hardcore null-sec players would be amused at the thought. And there is a sense in which player generated ideas that don’t have an impact on the game – can still have an impact on ones gameplay experience. Kodachi’s Project Athena, mentioned before, has no affect on the game of EVE Online – and yet, reading the backgrounds he put together (using gamer/developer generated lore as a starting point!) enriches my experience every time I log into EVE Online and see some of those ships in action. It fires my imagination and makes opening fire in the game that much more exciting for me.
So, I guess in the end I’m willing to broaden the definition of lore a bit, personally. But if I do, I will be allowing the developers the same standard that I am letting players hold to. For example, my character in EVE Online is an Intaki Reborn. If I am going to consider player initiatives like Project Athena as lore, I am also going to lift up the same consideration to the vestigial race system in the game.
But I will not be saying that developer lore has to impact the game, while at the same time allowing player lore to be exempt from that standard. Either both will have it or neither. Your mileage may vary.