Originally published on Crossing Zebras

We are not the gods of EVE … We are her janitors.”
– CCP Games employee

“This statement accurately reflects the empowered position of players within EVE Online and the role of CCP Games as the chaperon of player’s creativity.”
– Jedrzej Czarnota

So begins Jedrzej Czarnota’s essay about EVE’s co-creation process, titled Do EVE Online Players Dream of Icelandic Spaceships? It sounds impressive and in many ways it is impressive, but there’s frustrating slipperiness to the term ‘co-creation’. What it means to one entity may not match what it means to another entity and that very slipperiness can be seen in Czarnota’s opening quote and first sentence where he equates ‘janitor’ with ‘chaperon’. A janitor keeps the premises clean washing up messes after the fact. A chaperon is a responsible adult who accompanies and oversees young people. Janitors are your servants, chaperons are your supervisors. They’re not the same at all. Not really.

ccp’s *not* your janitor

You’ve seen this before. A player will proceed to some EVE discussion venue, maybe r/Eve or perhaps the EVE Forums stating confidently that what EVE needs is doodad X. With doodad X 37 different problems would be solved and subscriptions would flourish. CCP will grow rich, rich, rich and our game will finally be fantastic. I’m aware some time will have to be expended programming doodad X into the game (I’m no fool) but when you think about it, programming is your job and this idea requires very little tidying up. Everything’s done but the work. You may now praise me.

Of course, no one praises them, least of all CCP. Cheap ass ideas tend to be two-bit donkeys and CCP are not our servants. We players don’t authoritatively decree and CCP doesn’t meekly comply.

ccp’s *not* your chaperon

You’ve seen this before too. A player will proceed to some EVE discussion venue, maybe r/Eve or perhaps the EVE forums, stating confidently that CCP needs to crack down on miscreant behavior X. If those X partaking miscreants were expelled 37 different problems would be solved and subscriptions would flourish. CCP will grow rich, rich, rich and our game will finally be fantastic. I’m aware some time will have to be expended kicking these players (I’m no fool) but when you think about it chaperoning is your job and, considering the benefits, this task is well worth the effort. Everything’s done but the work. You may now praise me.

Of course, no one praises them, least of all CCP. Tin-pot dictating only reveals delusions of grandeur and CCP is not our boss. They don’t authoritatively decree and we players don’t meekly comply.



ccp’s co-creation is something completely different

Several months back the family took the grandkids and friend to the Children’s Museum where, tucked away in a back corner, lay a bunch of Imagination Playground’s Big Blue Blocks. Delighted, the kids waded in. Equally delighted, I waded in too. As I began to build my masterpiece the youngest grandkid sidled up to help me.

“I need more of these,” I said wiggling a blue foam tube.

“MmmKay,” she said departing to scavenge.

Soon another hopeful kid showed up asking, “You need this?”

“Oh, yes, I need those too,” I replied examining the gift. And so I had two scavengers. And then four. And then six. An adult in the Big Blue Blocks garners lots of attention.

Soon the two oldest tired of working for me and struck out on their own declaring they were going to build a mighty fort. This complicated things as I now had to keep an eye on two structures making sure our disparate teams weren’t competing for similar materials. Accordingly, the fort builders got the big blocks while my little tykes garnered the dangly tubes and connectors.

It went well. The fort they built was stout. They even put a roof on it and included carefully placed port holes to squint through. Meanwhile I and mine assembled a surprisingly tall floppy structure I deemed “Jenga Squid” that wiggled and squirmed as the breeze caressed it. Somewhere along the way the middle grandkid had wandered off (long attention span not being his strongest skill).

Stepping back to admire our cephalopod, I heard the growling return of the middle grandkid just moments before he plowed headlong into Jenga Squid attempting to tackle the creature. After some forty five minutes of work my initial shock was laced with fair bit of irritation but, lucky for us, shock was the only expression I displayed before noticing the beady little eyes of the two oldest peering out of their fort at us. No doubt they’d put the kid up to it. He hadn’t wandered off, he’d been co-opted and you always send your youngest in first.

Smiling inwardly I dropped to my knees in supplication moaning, “What have you done? Jenga Squid, she may not survive!” which handed the two oldest license to storm over the ramparts swinging giant blue battle axes near as tall as they were. (I kid you not, hidden away in the depth of their fort the two oldest had assembled battle axes.) Meanwhile my little scavengers stumbled about in confusion until they figured out which direction this narrative was going, switched sides, and tore into Jenga Squid with glorious abandon egged on by my histrionic, “Won’t somebody think of the cephalopods!?” laments.

None of this was planned by me (I didn’t know the older kids were hatching malevolent scheme). Nor was it planned by the Children’s Museum (they merely opened a space and tossed some purchased blocks into it). Even Imagination Playground was unaware of where things were going (their blocks don’t come with detailed instructions). Sure, we all hoped something might emerge, but what exactly it would be remained absolute mystery until it happened.

*This* is CCP’s co-creation. It’s not about janitors. It’s not about chaperons. It’s about who writes the narrative, and who provides the pencil.

living co-creation

It’s often been said that CCP never intended for players to live in wormholes. As explained by CCP Greyscale, “The existence of long-term occupation of WH systems by players is an emergent behavior of the system that we very much applaud, but don’t have an explicit design policy for.” Read that quote closely. Not ‘designing for’ doesn’t mean ‘designing against’. CCP, at least at that time, had no specific intentions about living in wormholes one way or the other. Rather, CCP introduced wormholes and wormhole players interacted with the new and old game mechanics as they saw fit. Eventually, long-term occupation emerged. Of course things have evolved since then and these days CCP is much more inclined to take permanent wormhole occupation into account and that attention shows: EVE’s first Keepstar dropped in a wormhole.

There’s important lesson here. Early wormhole dwellers didn’t ask CCP if wormholes were intended for occupation, they just up and occupied them. As occupation grew into a lively area of gameplay, CCP started paying more mind to it. Yes CCP intended from the get-go that wormholes would become a crucial part of the game (where else would T3 tech arise?) but they didn’t know how it would play out. Players decided that. There’s your co-creation. It’s neither janitoring (though CCP does clean up a lot of messes), nor chaperoning (though CCP supervises too), rather it’s CCP dropping some blocks and the players doing with those blocks as they wish.

With one glaring exception (getting hired by CCP), we players aren’t junior developers. Even members of purposely built focus groups and/or the CSM are around to provide constructive critique, not initial design. Consider this from a recent Dev Blog, “The CSM was trying to find a way to abuse this but so far has not succeeded, please let us know if you do 😊”. Similarly, see this from a recent dev post, “After some discussions internally and with the CSM we agree with one of the major points many of you are bringing forward: that the removal of the extra jumps before refueling feels too painful.”

There may have been a time when CCP used ‘junior developers’ to spin game design but that it was long ago. Now we players provide feedback. So, if you really want to co-create in EVE, don’t expend great effort developing the game for CCP (they’re busy doing that on their own), instead play the game as you please. Co-creation in EVE isn’t designing CCP’s slide for them, it’s climbing their carefully crafted slide backwards. You’ve seen kids do that and you’ve seen their parents chide them for it but you know better, you play EVE.