Nov 25, 2015

Jeff Edwards' Conversation with Signal Cartel

Not quite two weeks ago, Jeff Edwards dropped by Signal Cartel comms to talk with us about his Fountain War book project. I have been meaning to write this post up since then but...blame RL for getting in my way. Anyway, several Signal folks and friends joined in for a lively chat...more of a brainstorming session really, since some questions brought up issues Jeff hadn't thought about yet and we got to bounce ideas around with him for how he might address them.

Having met Jeff at EVE Vegas, I already knew he was a friendly, warm guy who is very enthusiastic about this project. That came through even more so as he chatted with us. In fact after he left, we joked gently about him bouncing on the edge of his seat from excitement during our entire session. I will venture to say that his visit inspired enthusiasm on our side as well. Let's see if my semi-senile brain can recall some of the things we covered (thanks to Orion Sa-Solo for the memory jog!).

Breysyth Asythe asked how the novelization would deal with or represent the impact of players' different time zones on in-game events. "Oh, haven't gotten that question before!" said Jeff and then mused off the top of his head about whether it would be plausible to explain nonavailability in-game as the result of ship maintenance/repair delays due to high demand or work schedules affecting worker/facilities availability. 

A few of us asked how New Eden's backstory and lore issues might be woven in, particularly as it related to the Pirate Factions operating in the same area as war prep or engagements. Someone observed that what capsuleers are up to--especially having big wars--would likely be noticed by various NPC factions and very possibly affect their supply lines, agendas, etc. The living work of science fiction that is EVE is after all not *just* about capsuleers but also incorporates the environment and and the societies of which we capsuleers are only a small part despite the potential enormity of our impact.  

Conversation then transitioned to the it works, how it might feel to be plugged so intimately into a ship, how limited one's perception might feel when not in interfaced with a capsule, and so forth. The hope was expressed that Jeff would explore the potentially different reactions capsuleers have to being in--or out--of their capsules, how their psyches are affected, and more about the physical, mental, and emotional details of actually being and functioning as a capsuleer. 

My impression was that Jeff had not yet dug much into the lore and backstory of New Eden but we provided him links to the Chronicles, Zendane's reading of them, Hydrostatic Podcast, and the #lore channel on Tweetfleet Slack as a start.

We talked about name substitutions that had been considered and how that would even work, and Jeff said that he was rethinking his position on that one due to player pushback. He mentioned that some names which might involve copyright infringement or refer to celebrities would have to be change to avoid legal problems, but changing names for "politically correct" reasons was being reconsidered. This is just one example he cited where feedback from players has changed his mind about how to approach something in the novel. In fact during his chat with us, several ideas were mentioned that he wrote down to explore more during his writing process. 

Someone wondered whether or how being a demigod affects a capsuleer's emotional landscape. How do we react when our loved ones die? Do we even maintain connections to them after becoming a capsuleer? Do we marry, have children, have "normal" if exceedingly wealthy lives outside our capsules? Do losses of family or ship crew favorites distract us and affect our performance inside our capsules? We wondered if Jeff planned to infuse the personalities of the characters he was writing about with emotional depth. He said he hoped to, as much as was possible and practical. It's pretty clear that while he is writing about a war, he knows that well-developed characters are vital to making a compelling story.

We talked a bit about possibilities if the current Kickstarter doesn't meet its funding goal, since it's clear we players love stories about ourselves and our impact and activities in the game. Ideas were bounced around including short story collections that focus on smaller groups or individuals, maybe contributed by a variety of authors. Or maybe some collaborations between writers and artists. Jeff was very enthusiastic about the prospects however things turned out.

We asked about his writing process. How was he managing all this complexity? Did he realize at the start just how complex it would be to not only weave together the facts of war-related events with fictional elements, facets of the New Eden environment, and the game itself? He said that challenge was becoming increasingly clear and that he hadn't foreseen that it would be quite as complex as it was turning out to be. A great deal of research is involved in fact-checking and follow-up, but he is really enjoying that. He also talked a little bit about the challenge of writing plausible reasons for actions or constraints imposed by game mechanics. He encouraged folks to keep sending their stories, ideas, and process questions related to the Fountain War Book to him at

Our hour with Jeff flew by; we could easily have spent another couple of hours talking. Hearing his enthusiasm in puzzling out answers to some of the questions we posed was really fun. Hearing him exclaim "Oh, that's a great idea!" or "Whoa, hadn't thought of that angle!" gave us the sense that the conversation was worthwhile for him, as well. As a bonus, his affable demeanor and sincerity won over at least one doubter. My friend Orion Sa-Solo reluctantly attended, bringing with him a pre-conceived notion that this was just a Goons propaganda project. However, Jeff's frankness, willingness to listen to players, and dedication to telling the story of the Fountain War as accurately and as interestingly as he can made Orion change his mind from doubter to supporter. 

Regardless of what the more practiced tinfoilers in our community may claim, you can't come away from a conversation with Jeff Edwards about this project without being convinced that he will do his damnedest to create a story that not just EVE players but lots of sci-fi fans will enjoy. 

Whether he gets the opportunity to do so funded by the current Kickstarter remains to be seen. With just 12 days to go, pledges are at roughly 25% of the funding goal. That is shy of an ideal situation. Still, Kickstarters often see a big surge of pledges in the last few days of their projects. This one would need a huge boost to close the gap between pledges and goal. That seems unlikely unless someone with deep pockets is waiting in the wings. 

Not helping matters is the raging drama and vitriol aimed at this project and its organizer Mittani Media from certain segments of the EVE community. I am appalled at how eagerly people seem to fall into mob mentality and jump on the Goonhate bandwagon instead of taking a moment to rationally assess a creative endeavor on its own merits. I see it on Reddit, on Twitter, I've even seen a whiff of it in my own corp. It is irksomely everywhere. 

When I am feeling cantankerous, I like to call people out on their "Grr Goons" mentality. Some may think this marks me as a Goon supporter. I'm not, particularly. I'm neutral if anything. Or more accurately, indifferent. But here's the thing: I simply can't understand haters who pull out all the stops to smother something potentially good in the cradle rather than look for even a single good reason to help bring it to life. Well-intentioned creative works often end up having a greater positive impact than was ever envisioned by those who launched them. Doesn't Jeff's book, a first-of-its-kind project for our community, deserve that chance? I think it does and I will remain optimistic about it getting funded until the last minute of the Kickstarter--both for Jeff's sake and for the sake of projects that this one's success could inspire down the line. 

Want to hear more from Jeff on this project? We didn't record our session, but TEST recorded theirs and there is also a video with CCP Falcon and Jeff discussing the project. To learn more about Jeff, visit his Web site.

Nov 4, 2015

Generosity and Gratitude

We all know that our community is a generous one. Stories of ISK and in-game items being gifted to to players abound. EVE players donate to PLEX for GOOD to aid in various causes, support auctions and raffles at player meets and FanFest to benefit Child's Play or other organizations, and donate money to help buy pizza for all of CCP or assist a fellow player in need. Like many in our community, I have done lots of little things both in game and in real life to help make an EVE comrade's day a little brighter. Given ISK or other in-game items, handmade or purchased gifts, Rixx Javix posters, Signal Cartel swag, books, a collection of (the now defunct) EON magazine, and more over the years. Sometimes an opportunity presents itself and it's just nice to do something special for someone--maybe as a thank you for something they've done for me in-game or in RL or maybe just as a Random Act of Kindness.

And every once in awhile, what goes around comes around. And boy oh boy, has it been coming around lately.

First there was the amazing poster that Johnny Splunk had made for me by a fellow corpmate, Forcha Alendare. This poster was to commemorate Signal Cartel achieving 400 members and arrived around my birthday back in July. I posted about it on Reddit but notice that I never did blog about it as I intended. The amount of effort that went into its creation still astounds me.

It hangs above my desk and makes me smile every time I look at it. It's remarkable that Signal is now almost double the number of members we were back then!

Hint: Click the images to see them larger.

Next came EVE Vegas and all the awesome swag I received, including a pink Neocom polo shirt from Protovarious, lovely handmade earrings from Kira Tsukimoto, a Total EVE t-shirt from Dirk MacGirk and Wiggles, and fat bee pin from Sion Kumitomo, BRAVE patch and penknife from Dunk Dinkle, and much more. But the best of all was a grungy pink Astero 3D model given to me by Johnny Splunk. You know him: a founder of EvE-Scout, partner in Signal Cartel's founding and leadership, and one of the nicest and best persons I've ever had the pleasure of befriending or working with in game or out. I don't mind telling you that my jaw dropped in amazement when I opened the box. Later on when Johnny had the chance to tell me about the process and effort that went into the creation of this 6" long, highly detailed and complicated form--from the struggles to get the forms to 3D-print correctly to the fantastic work on the custom paint job--I was even more amazed. And frankly, humbled that someone thought I was worth of such a gift. Then to top it all off, he also included an SOE trim kit for my Jeep--or at least, that's how I used those awesome decals

They say good things come in threes. You may recall that I did a portrait of Jamwara DeCalicoe Ashley not too long ago. We have chatted here and there since then. And then...last week, she direct-messaged me on Twitter. (Aside: I don't know Jam in RL so just go with the character's gender for pronouns.) Seems that when Jam ordered a copy of EVE Universe: The Art of New Eden LIMITED EDITION, she was sent (and billed for) two copies. She held on to the extra copy and recently decided to give it to me "because you've done so much for the community".  MIND BLOWN. The regular edition was already on my wish list, but holy crap, who knew that wish would come true like this?! The book arrived in today's mail, still in its original shrink-wrap. I almost didn't want to open it until I could do so with a couple of hours to just get lost in it. But I had to get pictures for this blog post, right?!

This is a gorgeous book and a splendid addition to my collection of EVE and art books. As an artist, I know I will spend many, many hours studying and enjoying the work and the words it contains that define and describe the art of EVE Online.

Wow. I don't even know what to say in response to being the recipient of the kind of generosity I've described in this post, not to mention the time, effort, and talent that others have invested on behalf of Signal Cartel because they believe in the corp or because I asked for a favor. A simple thank-you hardly seems adequate in comparison to my appreciation for such generous acts. It's not always easy to gracefully accept gifts even when freely given in friendship. But then I remind myself of everything I've done for other EVE players and that makes it easier to accept such generosity as karma or good deeds being paid forward. Regardless, my gratitude is sincere and enormous.

It is truly something special to be a part of the EVE community. It hits me right in the feels every time one of us does something helpful, thoughtful, kind, generous, or amazing for someone--and especially when that someone is me. A heartfelt thank you to everyone.