(Author's note: Actual in-game channel names are underlined on their first use. Acronyms are ones that commonly appear in roleplaying.)
When I first started to play EVE, the only lore I knew came from the short introduction videos that play during character creation. I knew nothing about the game other than it was science fiction; I like science fiction. As I missioned in my first weeks after starting the game, I learned more about the background of New Eden. I learned about pirates called the Guristas, the Caldari were at war with the Gallente (although I did not know why), the Sansha seemed to be invading systems and kidnapping people, and some AI had gone berserk. While that seemed cool at the time, the fact that I was piloting a starship, even if it was an ugly Moa, made my geeky, nerdy heart jump with joy. I told all my friends to quit World of Warcraft and come play EVE. We made a corp and did horrible, newbish things, but had fun doing it.
“You have to have a good story.” — attributed to Alfred Hitchcock
Over time, my interest in EVE seemed to wane. Mostly I attribute this to repeating the same missions over and over for the Caldari Navy in Ichoriya in a Tengu. As I started to train up my ship spinning skill, I turned to one of my favorite hobbies: wiki-hopping. It’s very simple: start on one page, read it, find an interesting link and repeat. This was before the official EVElopedia was as comprehensive and good as it is today, but it was enough to gain rudimentary knowledge of the EVE universe. Suddenly I had a story that I could sink my teeth into.
It was not until nearly a year into EVE that I stumbled onto the RP (roleplay) community. I met another woman in the Women Gamers of EVE (WGoE) channel and looked at her corp description. I was getting bored missioning and was looking for something different. She said it would be okay to join, but that I should know it was an RP corp aligned with the Angel Cartel. By this point, I had done the Angel Extravaganza mission more times than is healthy for one’s sanity and knew who they were: pirates. I made an alt character to join them and began my odyssey into the rather strange world of EVE roleplay.
"All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…" — As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII. William Shakespeare
My story seems to be the typical experience of most roleplayers. They stumble accidentally across the roleplay community or a friend drags them in. The only evidence of roleplay on the sovereignty map is Curatores Veritatis Alliance (CVA) and their pets in Providence. CVA is a very old Amarrian roleplay alliance, the second oldest alliance in game There is also a subforum on the official EVE forums: Intergalactic Summit (IGS). The IGS is the only real evidence that roleplay exists in EVE to a new player. Even armed with that knowledge, getting involved in the community is no simple task.
Roleplay on the forums is not the same animal that roleplay in game is. The IGS is a forum, which is a well-known entity. Roleplay in game takes place in a private player-owned channels. There are two main types of roleplay channels: places and fluid router channels. There are a good number of bars and other shady places that players roleplay in. There are only a few fluid router channels.
“Here’s looking at you, kid.” — Rick Blaine in Casablanca
The popularity of different bar channels changes over time. Some bars are invite only or only allow players of certain loyalties. An Amarrian Holder would do well to stay out of the Minmatar bars, for example. Currently, the most popular bar is The Broken Piano (TBP). The rules and description are in the channel Message of the Day (MoTD). For the purpose of roleplay at physical locations—The Broken Piano is located at a station in M-MD3B—several things in Prime Fiction1 (PF) are handwaved. The infamous door that is unopenable in the captain’s quarters is simply ignored. Capsuleers can go anywhere they want, anytime they want. There are also a few references in The Burning Life (TBL) about capsuleers being limited to certain parts of a station. In EVE roleplay, not only do capsuleers go anywhere on station they like, they often go down to planets. The only limits to where capsuleers can go is reasonableness and the roleplayer’s ability to describe where they are.
For most locations, the character is physically at the location, although some locations allow characters to connect by hologram. In each case, interactions should take place as if the characters are together. They can shake hands, pass drinks, throw punches, etcetera. Since there is no way in the game client to represent these actions, everything happens by text. A player will emote their actions (/me in the chat window) and speak as they would in any other channel. Another thing about locations: it doesn’t matter where the player’s avatar actually is. They can be docked in VFK and roleplay in TBP. It is commonly accepted that characters take “the Interbus” to and from stations. Players can also RP in bars while sitting on titans waiting to hot drop or even out flying. Roleplaying in several different physical locations at once should be avoided, however.
“Mister Watson, come here; I want to see you.” — Alexander Graham Bell, the first telephone call
There are several fluid router channels; the dominant one is The Summit. The Summit is like a giant video conference call. The ins and outs of The Summit are complex enough to merit their own article; there are few actual written rules and many unwritten ones. The moderation makes the Something Awful forums look tame. However, The Summit has often been considered the front door of EVE roleplay. It is usually the first place that a new roleplayer will get their taste of what it is like to roleplay in EVE. The Summit is open to all capsuleers of any loyalty, which can sometimes cause some interesting interactions—and delicious drama and tears. It is also one of the few channels CCP actors will connect to. Remember the tears? CCP actors sometimes get trolled out of the channel! There are other fluid router channels, but those are much more exclusive and do not rise up to the level of The Summit.
“We know drama.” — Advertising slogan, TNT Network
Roleplay channels are the tip of the iceberg for the roleplay community. A good part of the communication occurs in out-of-character (OOC) channels. It’s what keeps the community together since a Minmatar loyalist is usually unwilling to talk with an Amarrian loyalist; the whole slavery thing gets in the way. Also, certain things must be discussed OOC channels. The world may be a stage and the players the actors, but the script is written behind the curtain. Stories are discussed and friendships are made, maintained and sometimes lost in the OOC channels. There are several channels that the community hangs out in. Two good ones are OOC and Red’s District. My personal one is 610 Hangout. OOC channels have different flavors. Players should pick the ones they like.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” — Laozi, Chinese philosopher
Before a new roleplayer can begin roleplaying, they have to develop their character. To begin roleplay, one does not need to have a ten-page biography, detailed family tree and a complete knowledge of their character’s backstory. A basic idea of the character’s loyalties and mannerisms is enough. As the player acts out their character and interacts with other characters, they can develop it further. The simplest way would be to decide which faction, if any, the character supports and continue from there.
When someone joins the Something Awful forums, they are given a good piece of advice: lurk before posing. The roleplay community is full of conventions and protocols that players will find posted nowhere. There are a few guidelines, notably in the EVElopedia RP article. A player new to roleplay would do best to join the RP channels they are interested in and watch for a while. It can prevent an embarrassing mistake. Keep in mind the channel rules. If violated, the operator will kick the offender from the channel. Once the new roleplayer has a grasp on the situation at hand, they should start small. Barging into a channel claiming to be the best pilot or the most powerful man in the cluster will begin a roleplay career poorly. Small comments, introductions and getting to know the people in the channel are the best bet.
While lurking, players new to roleplay should take a moment and look through the EVElopedia Prime Fiction resources. Most of the articles are very well written, clear and concise. Chronicles, the older examples of PF, are generally slice-of-life stories or descriptions of certain things. Read these last. Some of them are downright terrible in terms of writing and storytelling; a new player will be much better served by the EVElopedia.
“Attendez la crème.” — Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds
If EVE the game could be compared to a strudel, roleplay is the cream. It’s a little extra something to add flavor to the sandbox and add some fun as well. The number one rule of roleplay is to have fun. Last I checked, EVE is still a game (or an addiction) and one should have fun in games. If roleplay becomes not fun for a player, because they feel it is restricting them from what they want to do in the game, they should reexamine their roleplay, change something or retcon2. The community is pretty accepting of such things.
This is just the beginning when it comes to the roleplay community. There is enough PF to fill several volumes. There are third-party forums, nuanced disagreements, old grudges (breaking to new mutiny), cliques, backroom dealing, scrublords, uppity pubbies, good PvPers, more cliques, horrible PvPers, and Methodists (!) that all deserve their own article. However, one does not need to be an expert to get started in something. Go forth and roleplay. Remember what EVE is all about, though: committing violence on someone else’s spaceship.
1: Prime Fiction is the collective term used to describe anything that is official from CCP. This includes the three books (like the Mech Warrior community and Far Country, the RP community strongly dislikes one particular novel), all the Chronicles and the official EVElopedia articles. Player-created content also plays a huge factor in the game and roleplay, but that can, at any point in time, be overridden by CCP. Sometimes player-created content will be incorporated into the Prime Fiction.
2: Retcon, or RETroactive CONtinuity, is a term where the roleplayer pulls out their Men in Black neuralyzer and informs the community that what they thought had happened did not and the backstory is changed. It can happen over time as the universe gets larger and more complex. People tend to get upset at retcon when it's major. For the purposes of character backstory, though, it's not seen as a big deal. Say, for example, a character married another one and then that other player quit EVE for whatever reason. Instead of dealing with the fallout, they retcon the marriage and say it never happened.