A few media students in Sweden have decided that the players of EVE Online deserve their own documentary, a la Trekkies. Their project, A Tale of Internet Spaceships, will travel to Fanfest to examine the players of EVE outside of New Eden. If all goes well, they intend to wrap up post-production in the fall of 2013. The team has set up an indiegogo site to solicit donations, with a goal of $6000 USD, to finance their documentary. In addition to donations, they are also asking for those with strong opinions about our beloved spaceship game to get in touch, as they want to get as many voices into the film as possible.
I contacted Petter Mårtensson for the details. (Interview by email. Many thanks to Petter for talking to us.)
Firstly, what prompted you to decide to do a documentary on EVE Players? What differentiates them from other fan bases that makes a documentary worth while?
Personally, I’ve been interested in virtual worlds and communities for a long time. There’s been a lot of research done on these topics, but most of it is centered around games like Everquest or World of Warcraft. What sets the EVE, and in extension the community, apart is twofold. One, it has a conflict with meaning. Sure, I can sign up for battlegrounds in WoW, or can get repeatedly ganked on a PvP server, but it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. In EVE, conflict - be it through war or economy or whatever - has impact on more or less all aspects of the game. It creates bonds between players, be it friendship or hostility, in a way that you don’t see in most other MMOs.
Secondly, and more importantly for us, is the special relationship between the players - the consumers - and CCP - the service provider. Monoclegate was a perfect example of how volatile that relationship can be. Who has the power? Who is in control? The Jita riots were incredible. Pure consumer power inside the actual product, using the means given by the service provider. That’s fascinating and something I hope academics and game researchers will take a long, hard look at.
You're going to Fanfest. Any other player meets? Example, there is one in London coming up (author's note: this already happened) soon and others that happen on a semi regular basis around the world.
That comes down to the budget, really. While I’d love for us to go both to the London meet and, say, EVE Vegas, that’s not really a possibility. While we won’t be able to cover every aspect of the game at Fanfest, it’s a great opportunity to get a cross-section of the community. Also, CCP HQ is there, which allows us to interview more people from the company at the same time. Fanfest is a natural starting place.
Do you have any cooperation from CCP? Have you approached them about this at all?
Yes, we’ve cleared it with them. We need their cooperation, not only because of interview but also for press access and stuff like that. We’ll need access to Harpa and the company itself in a way we wouldn’t be able to get if we went there without talking to them first. We’re still independent though, and CCP doesn’t have any say in the editorial process. They’ve only given us access.
You're asking for $6000 USD. That's quite a bit of money. Can you explain a little bit in more depth what that will go to? i.e. what kind of cameras you intend to buy?
Actually, it’s not that much, especially not compared to other Indiegogo-campaigns. We don’t really have any margins to work with, especially if we don’t reach our goal. Of course we’ve planned everything to be scaleable, in case something goes wrong, but I actually expect us to lose money on this. Since we’re not a startup, we won’t be buying anything. Every piece of equipment will be rented.
We’re not going to run around at the event with handheld camcorders and ask people questions, we’ll be using as good equipment as we can possibly get and/or afford. We’re still looking at different solutions, but as soon as we have finalized exactly what kind of tech we’re using, we’ll send out an update through Indiegogo. But then there’s post-processing, studio work that we will have to do, etcetera.
Of course, $6000 is still quite a bit of money, no denying that.
Can you explain to me how this project came about? The indiegogo says that you all are film students. Is this for a class?
No, this project is completely private, even if relates to our education. We’re not film students, we’re media students - in other words, we’re primarily academics and researchers. Most of us met through school though, and most of us have worked together in the past on more practical film/web-TV projects, both for school and privately (the web-TV project is sadly still in post-processing). I pitched the idea to Philip, who loved it, and then we pitched it on to Elin, who we had worked with as a producer in the past. Then the team grew from there - we are eight people working together right now in various roles. We expect to grow a bit more before all is said and done and we have a few people in consulting roles outside of the actual team. The current plan is having two of us at Fanfest, but we hope to be able to put another pair of boots on the ground.
How many of you are EVE players? The indiegogo site says at least one.
We’re two. There’s me and there’s Mat Westhorpe, who is working with us as a researcher (and who will help us out at Fanfest as well, when he’s not taking care of his games journalistic duties). The rest have a long list of reading material, videos and forum browsing in front of them...
What are your ingame names?
I’m currently busy ship spinning a few jumps from Jita, primarily on Fisher King, the CEO of my alt corp (even if I’m mostly playing Dust 514 right now). Mat is Seismic Stan, who runs the Freebooted blog and the EVE blog banter. (Author’s note: Fisher King is a 2008 character and Seismic Stan is a 2003 character.)
Will the film be made even if the goal is not met? Is it an all or nothing deal on the fundraising, or if a significant amount is raised will an attempt will still be made?
It all comes down to the gear we can rent. If disaster strikes and we feel that we won't be able to secure a good enough quality of equipment, and thus make a film that simply won't live up to the standards we've set and that the community and our supporters expect, we will have to refund the money donated. That's a worst case scenario though and isn't something we expect will happen. We're 100% dedicated to this project and will do everything in our power to reach the goal.
There's a long road and lots of work ahead, with $5000 USD still to raise and then the actual filming. Capturing the essence of EVE and its fans in a single documentary will not be an easy task. However, the Tale of Internet Spaceships team seems to be up for the challenge.