In the deepest of deep dives, Alex, Bergur, Peter, and George discuss ChatGPT, LARPing benefits, technological revolutions, rap battles, and creating individualised player easter eggs.
RolePlay | ChatGPT | Humanity - EVE Online Interviews
We always love to dive-deep in our monthly EVE Online interviews, but this time around we didn't come up for air. If you're ready for a full-fledged nerd out on the philosophy of roleplay and LARPing or the consequences of ChatGPT on both game development and humanity itself, then strap the hell in.
This EVE Online interview features MMOGames' Chief Editor Alex Sinclair Lack as well as CCP's Creative Director Bergur Finnbogason (CCP Burger), CCP Community Developer Peter Farrell (CCP Swift), and CCP's Communications Director George Kelion (CCP Grendel).
Is there a particular community in EVE Online that strikes you as the most dedicated of role-players?
CCP Swift: So there are the four main factions, there's the Amarr and the Minmatar who are regarded as being more adversarial against one another. Then there are the Gallente and Caldari in the other camps. Of course, all four have their role-players and their interconnections, but the most hardcore of our communities are within the Amarr and Minmatar camps; they're really focused on storyline. Some of the oldest alliances in the games are roleplaying alliances. These guys have a storied history that goes all the way back.
CCP Swift: Actually, one of them was at Fanfest and met with Bergur and gave him this giant flag from his Corp. He was saying how he was one of the first to play in that group, that they were the first formalized alliance and the first to take space in one system. Those are amongst the more dedicated fans.
CCP Burger: The cool thing about the kind of roleplaying we see in EVE is that it's a non-binary choice. There's a very big grey area. Many players can dabble with it in a softer way. You can view it as multiple communities. There are the hardcore Minmatar who interact with the hardcore Amarr. But then you also have the people who do weekend excursions in drifter space and get deeply immersed in the story in short bursts. It's fascinating to watch the different styles of play.
CCP Swift: We also obviously have our players that write their own storylines, and our narrative designers have their fun with them. If they're writing a very detailed storyline and they interact with the world in a certain way, then the lore will reflect that. Some of our players have become characters in New Eden as a result. In one of the most famous cases, one of their houses on a planet was firebombed because they interfered with things going on in-game.
CCP Swift: This happened years ago and it's all she talks about. So it's like creating easter eggs for individual players. And many of these role-players are having a great time in Faction Warfare after Uprising now we're getting more people into the fold. Now not everyone has to roleplay; you can name your character after your real name and go completely straight-laced or you can create a backstory as some obscure herb farmer in some backwater village on some specific planet.
CCP Swift: One of the features we've recently announced is Direct Enlistment wherein you can join Faction Warfare to support a Faction without having to leave your Corporation or Alliance. So we're interested to see how players with different playstyles choose to experience that now Faction Warfare is settling into its new mechanics and we know the foundations are sound enough that when we have a big party the roof isn't going to collapse nor the floor give way.
CCP Burger: There are players that I've been flying with who view themselves more like pirates and don their big tricorn hats to fly into Faction Warfare just to cause disruption. It's funny, because those aren't the types of players you'd associate with role-players even though they're definitely playing a role.
That taps into something I wanted to discuss. I think we're all roleplaying to some extent, whether that's in or out of the game.
CCP Burger: Absolutely!
Whether it's neo-fascists wearing military fatigues running around the woods playing Sunday-soldiers or hipster video game journalists writing on typewriters despite it being incredibly inefficient, we all play up to roles in our lives. Those roles can be healthy or unhealthy, and I'd like to hear your thoughts on roleplaying's stigma and potential benefits.
CCP Burger: I think that's a fascinating question. I believe roleplaying in general has gone through a very strange kind of arc over the years. I started playing pen-and-paper RPGs around 1993. Then there was LARPing and a definite high point of D&D. My social circle was one of those that viewed LARPing as being the nerdiest of the nerdy. It was frowned upon in spite of the fact we were playing the most hardcore nerdy pen-and-paper games. It was a line we didn't cross for the longest time, but cross it we did.
CCP Burger: I think I probably did my first LARP in '96. It was a city-wide game of Assassin and I was assigned to kill someone five years older than me. I ended up getting killed by someone 10 years older than me, and I was about 15. I guess it was a bit creepy that a grown man snuck in to "kill me" in the middle of a school day. But my point is, I loved it, and I didn't even realize that this was LARPing until months after the game concluded. And that really helped me break down the stigma surrounding it.
CCP Burger (continued): The interesting thing is that I still feel that reaction from people; they're like "I don't know about this nerdy lore thing, I don't want to roleplay - I'm just me". But as you know, as a Capsuleer, you're flying a spaceship 21,000 years in the future dealing with hyperdrives and lasers and things like that. So, by de facto, you are always roleplaying to some extent. I think especially after Invasion, we've seen the community ease up on the whole roleplaying and narrative elements of the game. Through multiple small steps, there's way more acceptance of participation in the narrative. We saw it in the lead-up to Uprising -- we had a lot of people participating in the events and really having deep debates about, say, the reason Gallente didn't conclude their mission or whatever. People were looking for higher meaning for why mundane tasks weren't completed. Which is similar to how people can use religion, but I guess that's probably a topic for a different day.
CCP Swift: One of my favourite things about meeting people from the game is that you get to see exactly what parts of their personality were part of their EVE character and what were just them. I guess part of the answer as to roleplaying's benefits is that people get to explore parts of their personality in a safe setting...
That they get to unleash their inner warlord or ruthless capitalist without the real-life harm or repercussions.
CCP Swift: Sometimes! But I'm often surprised by how shockingly big the overlap is. Even for players who believe that they're in-game persona and real personality is completely distinct. And it's especially neat to see in EVE because it's a game where you truly have a reputation.
CCP Burger: That's a super interesting thing to follow. Oftentimes you're like, "He's a pirate in EVE, he's a bit controversial on social media, he's a real character on Discord, and then you meet him in person and he's just the nicest person." But then it gets even more interesting because when you start talking about EVE again, an echo of that EVE persona starts to shine through. In many cases I think it's not even something people are trying to do -- it's something they've unknowingly trained themselves to do because it's such a big part of their personality.
From our monthly interviews, I think it's safe to describe you as a technological optimist, Bergur. I'd be remiss not to ask you about your take on ChatGPT and other rapidly advancing AI software. Is it going to change everything and what role will it have on your own game development?
CCP Bergur: You are correct! I have very strong opinions on this whole thing, and they are extremely positive! All of these beautiful pieces of AI software are wonderful tools! And just like with any big new tool, you're going to have people who will freak out; they're going to claim that this is the end of humanity. When photoshop came out...end of humanity. When the iPhone came out...end of humanity. The iPad, the pen... you get the picture. But these new tools all allow us to work smarter, to work faster, and to spend less time doing boring stuff.
CCP Bergur: ChatGPT can only be as good as the person who is prompting it. The output can never be better than the input. Of course, this is super scary for people who are in the business of writing text. Yet ChatGPT is the beginning of a huge unlock. It's surprised me how quickly it's developed in recent months. We previously had such slow progress on it. You saw those sh*tty images of Tom Cruise deepfaked on YouTube, I feel like we've been watching them for 20 years and now everything has exploded.
CCP Bergur: So now we're in a heyday, and in the next two years, we're going to see some really awful sh*t. But behind the scenes, everyone is going to be using it. We won't see all the greatness of these tools yet because every time you have a technological revolution like this, the gimmicks come first. That's exactly what we saw with VR and with NFTs -- gimmicky people coming in and ruining the reputation of the tool. We're going to see some beautifully crappy games coming out in 2023 using AI; we're going to see some truly horrifying YouTube videos and procedurally generated films that no human has ever touched. But by the time we get to 2024 and 2025, we're going to see beautiful little flowers growing from these seedlings.
CCP Grendel: I can tell you that one of the really interesting things about CCP is that [CCP CEO] Hilmar has been actively encouraging us to experiment with it. I've been reading reports online where people in PR are hiding the fact they're working with it. That couldn't be further from the truth at CCP. Some of the stuff the arts team have come up with on Midjourney is amazing, and I think the general tone at CCP is "You're either going to get the AI to work for you or you're going to be working for the AI." Bergur is right, it's all about the prompt...or at least that's what I tell myself.
CCP Burger: But that's what's so beautiful about it. I'm terribly dyslexic so I hate having to write long texts and I constantly find myself writing the same thing over and over. Say I'm trying to write down an answer to "What is EVE Online?" for nine-year-olds. Now I just ask ChatGPT exactly that...I ask it a few times, take the best bits of each answer, and boom! All of a sudden, nine-year-olds understand what I'm talking about and don't lose me in the deep dark corners of space.
CCP Swift: I will say that Bergur did create a EVE Online rap with ChatGPT. It was shockingly good.
CCP Burger: I'm trying to convince Peter that we should do a livestreamed rap battle fully written by ChatGPT. So it's like a Karaoke-style rap battle where one person is writing prompts while getting burned by the other one reading them out in real time. I think it's going to be a beautiful stream.
CCP Burger: And look, there's no point in resisting it. Just embrace its power to unleash new ways to be creative.
CCP Grendel: It's the future. When we were growing up, we had teachers saying "You're not going to have a calculator in your pocket your whole life, are you?" And it's like, "No actually I'm going to have the entire sum of human knowledge in my pocket."
And a calculator.
CCP Grendel: Don't get me wrong, mental arithmetic is always going to be important. It's just not that important. And it's going to be a similar thing with many of the tasks AI will do for us. The real question facing humanity is what's our approach to AI going to be? Is it going to be a Gallente route, an Amarr route or a Caldari route? It can either be incredibly liberating and a societal good or it can just compound existing issues.
Show some love by following all the interview participants on Twitter using: Alex Sinclair Lack, Bergur Finnbogason (CCP Burger), Peter Farell (CCP Swift), George Kelion (CCP Grendel). And if you're interested in a true intersection of EVE Online roleplaying, larping, and indeed religion, we can't recommend highly enough this Audience with the Space Pope.
Oh, and if you were interested in reading the EVE Online rap, you knew we couldn't leave it out:
I'm the master of the spreadsheet game
Excel is my middle name
I can make a graph, do a pivot table
I'm the king of data, don't you doubt it
Excel, Excel, yeah that's my jam
I can do it all, I'm the man
From budgeting to forecasting
I'm the master of the spreadsheet game
But I don't just excel at Excel
I've got another passion, and it's EVE Online
I'm the captain of my own spaceship
I explore the universe, I take some trips
EVE Online, EVE Online
It's my favorite game, I'm never alone
I fight battles and I make some deals
In EVE Online, anything is possible
Excel and EVE, they go hand in hand
I'm a master of data, and a spacefaring man
I can conquer the spreadsheet, and the galaxy too
Excel and EVE, they're my crew
Excel and EVE, they're my jam
I'm the master of data, and the captain of my own ship
I can do it all, I'm the man
Excel and EVE, I'm the king.