The 'Eve Online' Galactic News Network Is Better Than CNN
Fair and balanced news coverage of a massively multiplayer online game.
Did you know that the partial withdrawal of N3 coalition forces from Insmother and neighboring space regions has led to a power vacuum that's triggered opportunistic assaults in the area?
You probably didn't, but if you watched The Scope, an in-character news show that covers what's happening in the massively multiplayer space game Eve Online, you would.
The "Galactic News Network" videos cover the big events: Stellar anomalies, sightings of new factions, and conflicts between the game's biggest alliances, which sometimes erupt in huge battles involving thousands of players.
Ragnar Ágúst Eðvaldsson, senior media producer at CCP, which makes EVE Online, told me he got the idea for The Scope after the biggest battle in the game's history. You may have heard of it because it made headlines beyond the games press last year.
Eve Online's in-game currency, ISK, which players use to buy anything from materials to spaceships, can be earned by playing or by buying it with real money. This means that there's a fuzzy exchange rate between ISK and real world cash, so publications like Forbes led with the fact that battle caused around $300,000 in damages, mostly by destroying expensive Titan-class ships.
"It always pissed me off that we had a lot of attention due to this event and we never explained it to people," Eðvaldsson said. "The mainstream media picked up on the highlights, how much real money was lost, etc, but if you were someone who knew nothing about Eve you wouldn't really know what was going on."
At the moment, The Scope is mostly Eðvaldsson's one man show. The first reports took him months to produce, but he's improving his production pipeline, and in the last five weeks managed to release four reports that involve more journalistic legwork.
The most recent report includes a quote from a Red Alliance representative about their hostilities in Insmother, and Eðvaldsson told me that the report that he's currently working on will include players' voice chatter from a battle, which they recorded and provided to him upon request.
What came to be known as the bloodbath of B-R5RB—and The Scope by extension—could only exist in EVE Online.
The most popular MMO, World of Warcraft, peaked at around 12 million players compared to Eve Online's measly 500,000, but World of Warcraft's millions are scattered across numerous servers. Everyone's playing the same game, but they don't share the same space, instead existing in parallel worlds.
In Eve Online, all players share the same universe and dynamic economy, where one person's actions can have dizzying effects. When a player forgot to pay the rent on the B-R5RB region of space, he left it open to attack by every alliance in the game, which is how you get a bloodbath with over 7,000 players fighting for control at the same time.
Eðvaldsson started at CCP as a programmer, but was asked to move over to the marketing department after putting on a Chessboxing match between CCP developers at the company's annual Eve Fanfest. Fans loved it.
The Scope is a great bit of marketing as well, but just like the real news, it's also meant to inform players.
"When we're making these, we're not making trailers," Eðvaldsson said. "When something's happening in the Ukraine or Iraq or whatever, you're not expecting crane shots like you see in Black Hawk Down, it's a completely different set of standards. It's not crap, but you're watching the news."
In the future, Eðvaldsson plans to stream The Scope within Eve Online, so players will see the reports on screens within space stations or when flying by a giant holographic billboards.
"Players are extremely happy about it because it's a news network that just covers what they're doing in the game, but at the same time I think it's pretty good from a marketing standpoint. It gives people like you or whomever is curious about Eve a window into what's it's all about. It's kind of hard to explain it at dinner parties."