Having met Jeff at EVE Vegas, I already knew he was a friendly, warm guy who is very enthusiastic about this project. That came through even more so as he chatted with us. In fact after he left, we joked gently about him bouncing on the edge of his seat from excitement during our entire session. I will venture to say that his visit inspired enthusiasm on our side as well. Let's see if my semi-senile brain can recall some of the things we covered (thanks to Orion Sa-Solo for the memory jog!).
Breysyth Asythe asked how the novelization would deal with or represent the impact of players' different time zones on in-game events. "Oh, haven't gotten that question before!" said Jeff and then mused off the top of his head about whether it would be plausible to explain nonavailability in-game as the result of ship maintenance/repair delays due to high demand or work schedules affecting worker/facilities availability.
A few of us asked how New Eden's backstory and lore issues might be woven in, particularly as it related to the Pirate Factions operating in the same area as war prep or engagements. Someone observed that what capsuleers are up to--especially having big wars--would likely be noticed by various NPC factions and very possibly affect their supply lines, agendas, etc. The living work of science fiction that is EVE is after all not *just* about capsuleers but also incorporates the environment and and the societies of which we capsuleers are only a small part despite the potential enormity of our impact.
Conversation then transitioned to the capsule...how it works, how it might feel to be plugged so intimately into a ship, how limited one's perception might feel when not in interfaced with a capsule, and so forth. The hope was expressed that Jeff would explore the potentially different reactions capsuleers have to being in--or out--of their capsules, how their psyches are affected, and more about the physical, mental, and emotional details of actually being and functioning as a capsuleer.
My impression was that Jeff had not yet dug much into the lore and backstory of New Eden but we provided him links to the Chronicles, Zendane's reading of them, Hydrostatic Podcast, and the #lore channel on Tweetfleet Slack as a start.
We talked about name substitutions that had been considered and how that would even work, and Jeff said that he was rethinking his position on that one due to player pushback. He mentioned that some names which might involve copyright infringement or refer to celebrities would have to be change to avoid legal problems, but changing names for "politically correct" reasons was being reconsidered. This is just one example he cited where feedback from players has changed his mind about how to approach something in the novel. In fact during his chat with us, several ideas were mentioned that he wrote down to explore more during his writing process.
Someone wondered whether or how being a demigod affects a capsuleer's emotional landscape. How do we react when our loved ones die? Do we even maintain connections to them after becoming a capsuleer? Do we marry, have children, have "normal" if exceedingly wealthy lives outside our capsules? Do losses of family or ship crew favorites distract us and affect our performance inside our capsules? We wondered if Jeff planned to infuse the personalities of the characters he was writing about with emotional depth. He said he hoped to, as much as was possible and practical. It's pretty clear that while he is writing about a war, he knows that well-developed characters are vital to making a compelling story.
We talked a bit about possibilities if the current Kickstarter doesn't meet its funding goal, since it's clear we players love stories about ourselves and our impact and activities in the game. Ideas were bounced around including short story collections that focus on smaller groups or individuals, maybe contributed by a variety of authors. Or maybe some collaborations between writers and artists. Jeff was very enthusiastic about the prospects however things turned out.
We asked about his writing process. How was he managing all this complexity? Did he realize at the start just how complex it would be to not only weave together the facts of war-related events with fictional elements, facets of the New Eden environment, and the game itself? He said that challenge was becoming increasingly clear and that he hadn't foreseen that it would be quite as complex as it was turning out to be. A great deal of research is involved in fact-checking and follow-up, but he is really enjoying that. He also talked a little bit about the challenge of writing plausible reasons for actions or constraints imposed by game mechanics. He encouraged folks to keep sending their stories, ideas, and process questions related to the Fountain War Book to him at email@example.com.
Our hour with Jeff flew by; we could easily have spent another couple of hours talking. Hearing his enthusiasm in puzzling out answers to some of the questions we posed was really fun. Hearing him exclaim "Oh, that's a great idea!" or "Whoa, hadn't thought of that angle!" gave us the sense that the conversation was worthwhile for him, as well. As a bonus, his affable demeanor and sincerity won over at least one doubter. My friend Orion Sa-Solo reluctantly attended, bringing with him a pre-conceived notion that this was just a Goons propaganda project. However, Jeff's frankness, willingness to listen to players, and dedication to telling the story of the Fountain War as accurately and as interestingly as he can made Orion change his mind from doubter to supporter.
Regardless of what the more practiced tinfoilers in our community may claim, you can't come away from a conversation with Jeff Edwards about this project without being convinced that he will do his damnedest to create a story that not just EVE players but lots of sci-fi fans will enjoy.
Whether he gets the opportunity to do so funded by the current Kickstarter remains to be seen. With just 12 days to go, pledges are at roughly 25% of the funding goal. That is shy of an ideal situation. Still, Kickstarters often see a big surge of pledges in the last few days of their projects. This one would need a huge boost to close the gap between pledges and goal. That seems unlikely unless someone with deep pockets is waiting in the wings.
Not helping matters is the raging drama and vitriol aimed at this project and its organizer Mittani Media from certain segments of the EVE community. I am appalled at how eagerly people seem to fall into mob mentality and jump on the Goonhate bandwagon instead of taking a moment to rationally assess a creative endeavor on its own merits. I see it on Reddit, on Twitter, I've even seen a whiff of it in my own corp. It is irksomely everywhere.
When I am feeling cantankerous, I like to call people out on their "Grr Goons" mentality. Some may think this marks me as a Goon supporter. I'm not, particularly. I'm neutral if anything. Or more accurately, indifferent. But here's the thing: I simply can't understand haters who pull out all the stops to smother something potentially good in the cradle rather than look for even a single good reason to help bring it to life. Well-intentioned creative works often end up having a greater positive impact than was ever envisioned by those who launched them. Doesn't Jeff's book, a first-of-its-kind project for our community, deserve that chance? I think it does and I will remain optimistic about it getting funded until the last minute of the Kickstarter--both for Jeff's sake and for the sake of projects that this one's success could inspire down the line.
Want to hear more from Jeff on this project? We didn't record our session, but TEST recorded theirs and there is also a video with CCP Falcon and Jeff discussing the project. To learn more about Jeff, visit his Web site.