A Sense of Home

In the summer of 2009, when I first started playing EVE Online, I blundered through the career tutorials and then wandered around for a few days near my starter system of Bourynes, not really knowing what to do next. The novelty of flying a starship was fun, but I had no clear goals established for myself. Having joined the game on my own, I didn't really know what corp would be a good fit for me. It was like moving to a new neighborhood, but not yet knowing anyone there. I considered dropping from the game.

Then I read about the newbie-friendly EVE University, and I suddenly had somewhere to go that made sense. I still recall making the 15-jump journey to E-UNI headquarters in Aldrat, which seemed like a long trek to me at the time. As I got closer to my destination, I felt like I was going to the right place - somewhere I would belong.

My original plan was to stay at E-UNI for a few weeks to learn how to survive in New Eden, and then find another corp that might find my newly developed skills useful. But it never worked out that way. The more classes I took, the more fleet ops I joined, and the more ships I flew, the more I realized how little I understood the depth of EVE Online. At E-UNI, I could happily develop my understanding of different facets of the game to whatever degree that I desired. And so, my stay in EVE University stretched from weeks to months to years.

When you hang around somewhere long enough, you eventually get noticed, and the E-UNI teaching director at the time, Dierdre Vaal, asked if I'd like to run a class or two on some EVE fundamentals. That's when I discovered how much I enjoyed teaching, and helping new players find their own place in New Eden. I became director of education myself (twice, in fact), and was an active part of E-UNI for five years. 

Eventually, I grew weary of the administrative burdens inherent in a large corp, and I left E-UNI to become an independent industrialist in Metropolis (and actually undock once in a while). But I didn't resettle very far away. I was still teaching the occasional E-UNI class as a guest lecturer every few weeks, and besides, I was now very familiar with the systems between Aldrat and the nearby trade hub, Hek. I didn't see any reason to migrate too far.

In short, E-UNI gave me a sense of home in New Eden, and I liked it there.

Who moved my E-UNI?

For the last year, life has been good in my little corner of Metropolis. It felt familiar and comfortable. I would visit Aldrat from time to time, and I always enjoyed seeing a couple hundred blue crosses show up in Local chat whenever I entered the system - lots of new students attending my alma mater.

But then E-UNI established extended campuses in every type of space - wormholes, low-sec, null-sec, even a new one elsewhere in high-sec. They hosted a campus for miners in Amarr space, and another for explorers in the remote Solitude region. The population in Aldrat dwindled. The last time I went there, only a half-dozen blue crosses appeared on my overview.

It was a smart move by E-UNI's leadership. The extended campuses enable new players to experience every type of space in New Eden in a relatively well-supported environment. As a result, E-UNI has continued to thrive. But over time, only a few UNI's based themselves in Aldrat, the official headquarters.

EVE University's new home in Slays, in the Placid region.

EVE University's new home in Slays, in the Placid region.

And so, I was not surprised to see Azmodeus Valar's announcement that EVE University was moving its base of operations from Aldrat to Slays, in the Placid region, in order to be more centrally located relative to its multiple extended campuses. 

Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.
— Stephen Chbosky

It feels weird going to Aldrat now. None of my old corpmates are there anymore. I'm reminded of when my parents moved out of my childhood home. Even though I had left there many years previous, it felt odd to think of other people now living in "my" old room. Similarly, when I now fly by E-UNI's old headquarters station, I can't help but feel a little abandoned, even though it was I who left them some time ago.

Suddenly, my old stomping grounds in Metropolis feel a little less like home.

In search of a home

I have long wanted an opportunity to build a valuable base of operations in EVE Online - a place that feels permanent and useful to maintain - but I have been frustrated by the limitations of the game mechanics. Practically speaking, the current capabilities do not really encourage players to build a base that they want to grow, develop and defend - someplace they feel invested in personally. But I have some hope for the future.

When I decided to become a serious industrialist, I worked hard to earn the standings and skills needed to set up a Player-Owned Starbase (POS) tower in high-sec space. It took a considerable investment in time and effort to accomplish, and when I was finally able to anchor my own tower and get it online, I hoped that my ugly stick in a bubble might become my true abode in New Eden.

Since then, I've learned how silly I was. I've put up and taken down towers so many times and in so many places, they no longer feel like anything other than a tool - a more efficient device for industrial production. You can't live life in a bubble - and the same is true of POSes in EVE Online. They don't feel like a home at all, much to my disappointment.

When mobile depots were introduced, I got a little more excited. I hoped they might become the foundation of a new series of structures that might provide a way to build a base with some sense of permanence. But mobile structures were never intended for that grand a vision. They, too, are simply convenient tools for remote ship fitting and other tasks. Handy, but much more like a pup tent than a real home.

And so it was great anticipation and delight when I watched CCP Ytterbium's presentation at Fanfest about structures, earlier this year. Finally, it appears that a way to build something that feels like a place to live and work may be possible soon - a place that players will want to invest in and defend. A place that matters - a home.

Will this become my new home in New Eden? I certainly hope so.

I have high hopes for structures. In fact, I hope they eventually replace most, if not all, of the NPC stations we currently see in game, but that may be too much to reasonably expect anytime soon. Structures look like something that can be developed and defended, and which can be configured to suit a wide variety of purposes. Because you will be able to locate them anywhere, and that you will be able to dock in them, tells me they should feel like a residence in space. I can't wait to establish my own structure in "my" space.

Perhaps, someday soon, I may finally have a place to truly call my own in New Eden.

The emerging value of home

Though we have yet to see whether Fozziesov is a success in null-sec space, I am encouraged by two changes affecting the sovereignty system. First, the jump drive limits of Phoebe effectively expanded the relative size of 0.0 space, and made defensible territory and borders more important. Second, the establishment of designated capital systems now provides for a central rallying point for every 0.0 alliance - a place that becomes an useful anchor for developing an sovereign empire.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but I suspect that more players will begin to think of their part of 0.0 as "their" space - their homeland, in effect. This has always been true to some extent for some alliances, but due to the fluid nature of 0.0, it has not been uncommon to see whole corps and alliances pull up stakes and relocate across the cluster if it suited their interests. If Fozziesov encourages players to develop more personal affinity and affiliation with certain regions of space - if they begin to think of that space as their natural "home" - then I suspect we may see 0.0 shift its emphasis from skirmishes between wandering tribes to more wars between nation-states over territorial disputes.

People are often motivated to fight if their home is threatened. If Fozziesov establishes more of a sense of home for 0.0-based organizations, I suspect we'll eventually see a lot of emotionally invested people engaging in some very significant and interesting fights - and not just a lot of trolling of structures with Entosis Links. The introduction of very large but potentially vulnerable structures, and their eventual replacement of POSes and Outposts, may further enhance this desire to defend one's home against interlopers.

Home is where the heart is

Now that E-UNI has moved, I feel a little displaced. I still have my modest industrial operation in Metropolis, but I don't feel quite as grounded there as I once did. Perhaps it is time for a change. I have no rational way to explain this - it's only a feeling that I need to find a better place - a new home.

I'm not sure where that is yet, but I'll figure it out. I'm confident it's out there - somewhere.

Fly safe! o7

 

We Do It for Love

My mobile phone pinged at me this afternoon, and I saw that it was a Twitter post from the ever affable Crossing Zebras podcast host, Xander Phoena:

That made both of my eyebrows spring upwards in curiosity. So I opened up the dev blog page in the EVE Online community site, and found a wonderful write-up on my corp by CCP Eterne, Community Representative and Live Events Author for EVE Online.

Go ahead and give it a read, if you haven't seen it yet: http://community.eveonline.com/news/dev-blogs/community-spotlight-eve-university 

It's very nice to be recognized for good work, and also a bit humbling. Thanks, CCP Games, for the recognition of the UNI's contribution to the community. We do appreciate it very much. 

More is Better

Probably not coincidentally, CCP Eterne is also leading a series of new pilot training sessions, and the EVE University leadership has been talking with him about ways we could support this initiative. Now that he's run a few training seminars, I'm sure he realizes the amount of work required to do them well - something that we in the UNI have known for a long time. It's a lot harder than it looks.

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When CCP Eterne first announced that they were going to offer public training sessions, I received a few messages and tweets from players, asking what the UNI was going to do about it. Apparently, some people thought that the CCP seminars represented some kind of mortal threat to the survival of the UNI.

My reaction - and that of all the UNI management - was the exact opposite. We can't have enough classes and events to educate EVE Online players, and we really don't care who does them, as long as they are being done, and done well. In fact, we were very pleased to see CCP's initiative. "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery", as Charles Calem Colton once said - and that is certainly the case here.

We're very sincere in supporting CCP's efforts to host more training events. We've offered instructors, replacement ships, fleet commanders, and squads of pilots to spar with. We've offered use of our public Mumble channel, like we provide for the CSM Town Hall meetings, and other UNI resources, if needed. We've not yet arrived at any firm plans, but I'm confident that we'll be involved somehow.

Teacher's Pet? Hardly.

At last year's Fanfest event, a couple EVE Online players asked me why CCP Games gives EVE University "special privileges". I almost did a spit-take on my beer.

"Ha! What special privileges are you talking about?," I inquired, amused. 

"Doesn't CCP send all the new players your way?," one fellow asked. "Yeah, and didn't they fix the wardec system to protect the UNI, so no one can afford to attack you?," another asked.

"No, sorry, we don't get any help from CCP," I replied, while doing a quick mental count of the many wars since the Inferno expansion changes.

"Oh, yeah, sure," they said, with knowing smiles. One of them gave me a playful little nudge and a wink. "I understand - can't say anything official in public. We get it."

I hear this sort of thing from time to time. I don't know why, but there are some EVE players who think that the UNI enjoys favoritism from CCP.  And no amount of denial will deter them from their belief.

In fact, CCP seems to goes out of their way to avoid doing anything that might even appear like favored status for the UNI. Make no mistake, they like our corp. One CCP dev told me at Fanfest that their statistics show that if a new player joins the UNI, they are far more likely to continue subscribing, compared to other corps. The UNI is good for CCP's business. But that's as far as it goes.

And that's why the community spotlight from CCP Eterne was unexpected, and so much appreciated. It's nice to be recognized for good work, every once in a while.

We do it for love

Last week, a former corpmate asked me why I returned to the UNI to once again take on the burden of director duties. To be honest, I simply missed helping people, and the UNI provides an opportunity to do that. When I really think about it, that's where I have found the most satisfaction out of "playing" the game: giving those new members of our community a helpful hand.

I know that probably sounds like carebear gibberish to those players who see New Eden only as a place to assert their power and dominance in a cutthroat and hostile environment. And I agree - it certainly is that kind of universe, and I wouldn't have it any other way. But the harshness and difficulty of EVE Online just makes having a group dedicated to nurturing the interests of new players all the more special.

Those who make the UNI what it is - the staff and teachers and mentors - do it out of love for the game. And because they want to help others love it, too.

If you want to be part of that, as a teacher or as just a guest lecturer or fleet commander, let me know. I guarantee you will like it. 

Fly safe! o7

EVE University Opens Classes to Public

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As Teaching Director of EVE University, I coordinate a dedicated staff of teachers and lecturers to provide educational classes, events and resources to our students, so they can learn about and have more fun playing EVE Online. 

Up to now, almost all of our classes have been reserved only for our students. But starting on July 15, that changes. 

Henceforth from that date, almost all UNI classes and lectures will be available to everyone who wants to participate - membership in the UNI will not be required. Our classes will be available on our public Mumble server for anyone who wants to listen. 

This is an exciting change, and we hope that we'll see lots of interested non-UNIs joining our classes and lectures. We think it will be good for the entire EVE Online community. 

For all the details, see the official news release: http://www.eveuniversity.org/2013/07/eve-university-opens-classes-to-public/

I hope to see you all in class! 

Fly safe! o7