Eve Online’s infamously steep learning curve asks a great deal from new players. It’s a prerequisite that has ensured a uniquely invested community of pilots, pirates, bankers and council members. But another career path open to New Eden’s populace is one of a writer: contributing to official Eve Online magazine, Eon.
Published by Massively Multiplayer Magazines, and launched in October 2005, back when Eve’s player base numbered only 50,000, the quarterly magazine has shifted somewhere in the region of 150,000 copies to date and has a subscriber base between four and five thousand. Not bad for such a niche publication.
Editor-in-chief and former PC Zone writer, Richie Shoemaker, explains that while he plans each issue and writes around a third of the content, it’s Eve’s players who are responsible for the bulk of the magazine. As a result, much of Eon consists of player-written fiction relating to New Eden’s ongoing Machiavellian machinations.
“It’s written by fairly famous players who are bloggers and like fiction,” Shoemaker adds. “They’re not journalists, so it’s very much a community magazine.”
But the writers are not paid with realworld money. Instead they’re paid in ISK, Eve’s in-game’s currency, and Eon also allows individuals, alliances and corporations to pay for advertising in its pages – for recruitment or offered services like ship insurance, for example – using the same method.
Not that everyone pays up, however.
“We’ll work with pirates, whoever – as long as they pay their advertising costs. Sometimes they don’t, but that’s just part of the game; if they scam us, they scam us! We don’t rely on that in-game money, we have enough to pay the contributors and that’s all it’s there for. We won’t allow someone to advertise if they’re promoting something that they actually sell, though. But if someone’s running a bank and it turns out they scammed everyone out of their ISK, that’s nothing to do with us!”
Fan fiction, often illustrated by CCP's artists, makes up a great deal of Eon's content.
We wonder how the standard of submissions measure’s up to Shoemaker’s previous work on magazines: “Better than you would expect; some of them are very, very good writers! You expect fanfic to be atrocious, but of all the stories that have been submitted to us, there’s only been a handful that I’ve turned away, and mostly that’s because they tread on elements of prime fiction that’s a bit too risky, or they’ve written about a certain player in order to malign them, for instance. One guy had written a piece of fiction and it was purely designed to malign his enemy – you couldn’t even change the name because you knew who it was! But most submissions hardly need to be touched, some are better than Charlie Brooker’s [laughs].”
While Eon reports on both in-game and game-related events, the transient nature of online MMOGs means that the magazine now also represents a historical record of the evolution of CCP’s game over the years.
“We’ve profiled all the corporations and alliances that have grown and died in terms of how they came about and how they developed, as well as the famous players,” explains Shoemaker, “it’s all about the community and making heroes of those who either create the game or play it.”
CCP Games takes an active interest in the magazine, approving all pages before they go to print. But, Shoemaker stresses that the developer remains nobly hands-off when it comes to content, only stepping in should a quote reveal too much or stray off-message. The same remains true when it comes to player dissent, CCP’s famously open relationship with its players underscored by the planned increased coverage of the Council of Stellar Management (CSM), the game’s player-elected representative committee.
“The players have their own opinion and we publish that,” says MMM publishing director, Ian Bond. “Sometimes there have been instances where we’ve published a column that a player has written that said, ‘Wouldn’t the game be great if it had this, that or the other?’ and CCP has taken that and implemented it. So an awful lot of the things that happen are as a result of what players have said or suggested. In exactly the same way that the CSM exists to act as this conduit between the player base and the developers – Eon has had the same effect over a period of time as well.”
It’s difficult to imagine such a focused magazine working as effectively in any other MMOG; both Shoemaker and Bond attribute much of Eon’s success to the ‘single shard’ nature of Eve Online, which means that every player occupies the same universe, rather than one of many different servers.
“Whatever we write about is directly affecting them, and whatever they do will directly affect everyone else in the game in some way, shape or form,” says Bond. “Okay, there might be a war going on in the north that the people in the south aren’t interested in and vice versa, but anything that actually happens in game is affecting everybody.”
And as a result of the passion exhibited by players, Massive Multiplayer Magazines has also been able to publish an A-Z atlas for every system and route in the game, and is about to release a detailed guide book – both projects were initially created by players. By straddling the real and game world, and allowing itself to be assimilated into Eve’s economy, Eon has become an integral part of the fiction it covers, ultimately providing a prong with which CCP’s game can reach a little further into our reality. In doing so, Eon underscores CCP Games CEO Hilmar Veigar Petursson’s bold assertion at last weekend’s Eve Fanfest: “Eve is real.”