The ecosystem of communities in EVE is labyrinthine, with vast player-run organisations dominating the landscape and driving conflicts. But nestled amongst these galactic behemoths with memberships in the thousands are multitudes of smaller, independent corporations who have chosen to blaze their own trails through New Eden. It is in the ranks of one such corporation that I have been embedded for the last month. As a member of Aideron Robotics I have learned that in EVE Online, whilst there is always strength in numbers, that doesn’t have to mean the membership.
As always, the two-fold purpose of this column is to explore an aspect of EVE’s community whilst investigating a particular play-style. To this end, I was invited to join Aideron Robotics ostensibly to fulfil my manufacturing play-style experience. However, I soon learned that a successful operation of any size has to be a little more flexible and there is much more going on beneath the surface.
Having met Jason “Marcel Devereux” Parks at the last two Fanfests, there was already a sense of community connection before I had even joined his corporation. Jason is something of an EVE celebrity, as well as being the figurehead behind Aideron Robotics, he is the mastermind responsible for the immensely popular Aura; a multi-featured EVE companion application for the Android smartphone platform. At time of writing, Aura boasts nearly 150,000 downloads with over 43,000 current users enjoying an Aura-enhanced EVE experience. Aura is entirely free to download and use, but for those of a grateful disposition, he does accept donations in either in-game ISK (Interstellar Kredits – New Eden’s main currency), US dollars or beer.
With the official listings showing Aideron Robotics as having a membership of 75, in his Corporation CEO role, “Marcel Devereux” explained to me that – as with most EVE corps – those numbers are not an accurate indicator of active member players, with many of that number made up of “alts” (secondary – and sometime tertiary – characters controlled by one player). The true number of contributing players was approximately half that. Even so, that would be a respectable head-count in most MMO guilds, despite being considered small by EVE standards.
I found the smaller community environment refreshing. After being one of hundreds in EVE University and Red vs. Blue, logging on to regularly see the same players in the Corporation chat channel created a much more relaxed and personal experience. But what really impressed me about Aideron Robotics was the degree of organisation. Especially the internal corporation website, which included an impressive array of web tools. By utilising EVE Online‘s extensive API output, Marcel had built tools allowing every member to see their progress toward fulfilling their weekly quota, all of which was automatically monitored. There was also a timesheet page detailing ISK earned according to a fixed tariff. It was clear these folks really did mean business.
Learning to Build Spaceships
The manufacturing process in EVE is an incredibly complex interaction of countless blueprints, materials, components and a host of other items and it is one that I still find bewildering. There are different methods required according to the level of the technology being invented or built. In addition, each process requires specific skills to have been learned by the manufacturing character. I’ll not go into detail here as there are many guides already available, but suffice to say that without the Aideron Robotics setup, I would have been totally out of my depth.
When I first applied to the corporation, my character skills had been assessed to see what I could contribute to the team. On Marcel’s advice, throughout the previous month with Red vs. Blue, I had set my character, Seismic Stan, to learn some industry-based skills. This highlights one of the advantages of EVE’s passive skill progression system – unlike many other MMOs, a character isn’t required to repeatedly “grind” a task in order to improve at it. In fact, he doesn’t even have to be online. In the case of my character, whilst he was busy blowing up Red Federation spaceships, he was also learning how to co-ordinate ten manufacturing plants at once. If only it were that easy in real life.
Despite my month of preparation, which further improved the basic industry skills I already had available, I suspect I was very much the junior in the manufacturing chain and had been given a job in which I couldn’t do too much damage. When I checked my task list, I found I had been assigned the job of building several hundred of the various Tech II weapons upgrade modules as well as “inventing” more blueprints from Tech I copies in order to replace the ones I would consume in the build process.