Archive for the ‘Blog Banter’ Category

Blog banter 35: Public perception, or what the eyes see and the ears hear the mind believes


This month’s Blog Banter is an amalgamation of several suggestions made by CCP Nullarbor, Rundle Allnighter (Lost in EVE), Bagehi (EN24) and others.

“Now approaching its tenth year, the EVE Online player community has matured into an intricate and multi-faceted society viewed with envy by other game developers, but is frequently regarded with suspicion by the wider gaming community. Is this perception deserved? Should “The Nation of EVE” be concerned by its public identity and if so how might that be improved? What influence will the integration of the DUST 514 community have on this culture in the future?”

Having played several MMOs, MUDs and other online games, of different styles and genres, I’ve been exposed to some very diverse communities. And while there is both merit and fault to be found in all, EVE’s community is one of those I really enjoy being part of in my own way.

More than with other communities, it is also one of the two — World of Warcraft being the other one — where I have further engaged in the form of player meetups, and the only one for which I have gone to its official convention. Not something I had thought would happen when I started out in EVE to have something to do aside from playing WoW.

What makes EVE’s community tick in my oppinion is that CCP cares for it, and overall has seen players as contributors to the experience rather than clients who pay a fee each month to enjoy a product. Our oppinion matters and is heard, which makes it people want to share theirs.

This is further enhanced by the fact that EVE is the kind of game where to get ahead, you need to take the risk of playing with others, and it can be a very rewarding experience even on small scale. Risk / reward isn’t just a way of balancing the game, it’s at the very core of what the game is all about.

Of course, EVE has its history of dark tales, stories of betrayal and theft. If you really do not like the fact that this could happen to you then this isn’t the game for you, there are other games who cater to that and neither can they be expected to change their ways because an EVE player would want them to be just like EVE. You might be able to get by in highsec, but even then you have to accept that you need to take a certain set of precautions or sooner or later the inevitable may happen. But heh, space is supposed to be cold and harsh, and the realness of this adds to the charm of the game. It’s not some simulated or storyline stuff. It’s done by real people, who can be a ‘space villain’ if that’s what they want to be.

The EVE community is also very diverse, meaning that if you don’t like certain parts of it, it is both ok and possible to ignore those. You don’t want to play in the ‘endgame’ that is sov space? You don’t have to. Because it’s neither the only nor the real ‘endgame’. And you change your mind tomorrow? That’s fine, you can, without having to restart from scratch.

I’ve heard complaints in the past that the EVE community is a bunch of elitist jerks, and there is a certain truth in that. I no longer follow the official forums closely, but when I started out I felt that even in the newbie forums beginning players were looked down upon. Luckily that has changed, and I think groups such as EVE University, OUCH and Agony Unleashed have contributed to that in addition to the efforts of CCP to lower the curve by doing away with frustrations. My personal belief is that a game should be hard because it provides a challenge, not because it’s tedious, cumbersome, and the interface seems designed to work against you. I’m glad that is something CCP seems to also agree upon. Much love for all the developers who have contributed to the efforts done in this field.

As for Dust 514, its community will be a mixed bag of new players but also of EVE veterans looking for a new or additional way to play the game. Some people fear the unflux of ‘console kiddies’, but I doubt those will be the kind that sticks around. And even if not, I do not believe we should bar the door for these kinds of players, we can certainly learn from them, not to mention teach them a thing or two. If we’re not careful, they might become so damn good at it and beat us at our own game. So a little humbleness and retaining an open mind is certainly in order. After all, for things unavoidable, the best way to deal with it is to accept and make the best of it.

Lastly, this banter came with a rather amusing bonus question: “What single button would you recommend be included on an EVE-specific keyboard?”. In honour of CCP Soundwave, I believe there should be an orbital bombardment button. On a less comical note, probably buttons for functions that are commonly used, things like opening your skill sheet or fitting window. While these all have ctrl or alt + something keybinding, sometimes there is additional convenience in just pressing one button.

Blog banter 32: The problem is in the middle


This month’s Blog Banter comes from Drackarn of Sand, Cider and Spaceships. He has foolishly chosen to poke the hornet’s nest that is the non-consensual PvP debate. Whilst you read his question, I’ll be finding a safe place to hide.

“A quick view of the Eve Online forums can always find someone complaining about being suicide ganked, whining about some scam they fell for or other such tears. With the Goons’ Ice Interdiction claiming a vast amount of mining ships, there were calls for an “opt out of PvP” option. 

Should this happen? Should people be able to opt-out of PvP in Eve Online. Should CONCORD prevent crime rather than just handing out justice after the event? Or do the hi-sec population already have too much protection from the scum and villainy that inhabits the game?”

No. NO. ABSOLUTELY TOTALLY NO opting out of PvP or buffing CONCORD. But neither do I feel that we should move strongly into the other direction and take things away from highsec. Instead, I feel what we really need is improvements to the middle ground of lowsec and NPC nullsec.

First, some numbers, with thanks to CCP Diagoras who’s Twitter is an excellent source of statistics porn. Have a look at this sexy pie chart. That’s a lot of people living in highsec. But see how nullsec is second in that? Well, that to me confirms that people like safe space. Highsec is safest by mechanics, and nullsec by what players can do to secure it. I’m assuming that most of nullsec here is sov space, as there is way more of that, and that from personal experience the population numbers I see in NPC nullsec are kind of like lowsec.

Ok, so why do people like safe space? I thought we had this thing of risk versus reward. Indeed, we do, but there is something else to factor in. It’s called effort versus reward. Ever hear people talking about how they pulled a billion in a day out of a C5 wormhole? That seems like something everyone should be doing then, right, because it pays so much that it justifies the risk. Except lots and lots of people prefer to cling to what is often dismissed as safer alternatives. I don’t believe they’re being chosen only because they are safer. I feel that ease of doing them plays a part too.

Ok, so what makes something easy to do and why do players prefer that? Well, a lot of MMO players are in fact quite casual, either because they do not have a lot of time, or because they’re not around that long yet. So they’re not going to want to deal with the logistics of a C5 wormhole when they can get something nearly as good by pugging through incursions, or running missions. Neither are players going to prefer living in other areas of space which simply do not offer the tools to secure them properly. Hence, sov space is a natural option for someone who’s been around a while. Nullsec is the highest reward versus risk versus ease. You can very well get away with logging in a few hours a week and be a productive asset to an industrial group out there. I do believe this can also happen in wormhole space, and I suspect the population there will creep up, but afaik there are in the end more good sov systems than there are higher end wormhole systems.

Now, I am directly opposed to opt-out of PVP, because one thing should always remain true in EVE: Safest does not equal 100% guaranteed safety. If someone really wants, they can screw you over. Even if you are a pure highsec dweller that almost never undocks. You will have to move sometime. Or you will be running market or industry stuff, and market pvp is a very viable option. I can’t think of a scenario where you can not get back to a player, unless they enjoy paying for spinning their ship all day. I believe this lack of total safety is needed, and would change the game entirely if it were removed, because it would break the pvp sandbox. Right now if someone is an asshat, you can always make them pay for being one. It also forces players to have a certain level of ‘smarts’, else they for example get scammed, which in my opinion breeds a better experience for all. It’s like a “you have to be this tall” sign on a rollercoaster ride so everyone can have the wild experience they want, except in EVE, the sign is missing and you find out first hand what happens if you are not tall enough yet!

Highsec fundamentally is fine in my book. A safest area of space. A starting point. A place to go and rest. Or somewhere to do what you enjoy doing when you like the safest option. It’s much needed for many things in its current form and will always be needed. I also believe nullsec and w-space are fine, and are given ample attention. Actually, instead of talking what is fine, let’s talk about what isn’t fine: lowsec, and NPC nullsec.

When looking at that chart, one would think that the safety of space actually goes highsec > nullsec > lowsec > w-space. While the intended idea seems to be highsec > lowsec > nullsec > w-space. And that is how the game is balanced for in terms of rewards. But in terms of ease, well, the former seems almost true, and it has largely to do with the fact that lowsec neither gives players the tools to keep themselves safe, nor does it help you with safekeeping. There, I said it. But Myrhial, there are gate guns and sec status! Surely they- No, stop right there. Nobody pirating in lowsec really gives a damn. There are plenty of ways around what little NPC protection there is, and there are no ways to go around policing yourself. At least in NPC nullsec, you can put up bubbles and camp someone in perfectly. Where as lowsec station camps will always be subject to locking times.

So what do I propose? Either more mechanical safety in lowsec, or give players more tools. And since this is a sandbox, I’m biased towards the latter. Or we could have a mix of both. You see, lowsec systems still have sovereignty. So I’ve always found it curious there is no faction police defending it. Sure, CONCORD not being there because they are way smaller than the four Empires combined, totally making sense. The CONCORD penalty is too hard for lowsec. But faction police intervening when a lawful citizen is under attack? Would make perfect sense to me. Make them tankable. Heck maybe even go as far as if you are -5.00 with a faction, you can still go to their lowsec space, but you lose out on faction police support. And maybe make it so that if you attack someone in lowsec, you take a standing hit with the faction that owns it. As for giving players power in lowsec, faction standings could come into play here as well, give players all kinds of perks like I proposed for NPC nullsec (see link in next paragraph). Or do something like sov lite. NPCs keep sov but share it with a group claiming the system. I’m sure there are other, possibly even better ways of going about this.

As for NPC nullsec, I’ve written about this during the 30th banter, so I’ll leave that article to do the explaining. Again you can see here that I’d like for standings to matter more. Lots of people say they hate grinding for standings, but honestly, if they gave more rewards, I’m sure they’d be more appreciated and better maintained too. Also, a big step was already taken into the right direction by lowering mission requirements. Now all we need is better newbie program education on pirate standings and how they matter, as well as perhaps more things like the SoE arc, where shooting pirates does not give you standings hits to them. Or just other ways for newbies that want to be pirate supporters one day to survive and thrive without needing to resort to missions for easy ISK.

Blog Banter 31: One does not simply review EVE, but can certainly make a decent try


Welcome to the thirty-first EVE Blog Banter, a community conversation between anyone and everyone with an interest in discussing EVE Online. For more information on how this works, check out this link.

“As any games journalist would probably tell you, a true and complete review of a Massively Multiplayer Online game is impossible. MMOs are vast, forever evolving entities with too much content for a single reviewer to produce a fair and accurate review. However, a collection of dedicated bloggers and EVE players (past and present) with a wide range of experience in various aspects of the game might be able to pull it off.

This special ‘End of Year’ Blog Banter edition aims to be a crowd-sourced game review. Using your gaming knowledge and experience, join the community in writing a fair and qualified review of EVE Online: Crucible. This can be presented in any manner of your choosing, but will ideally include some kind of scoring system.

With each Blog Banter participant reviewing the areas of EVE Online in which they specialise, the result should be a Metacritic-esque and accurate review by the people who know best.”

Before we start the actual review, I’d like to mention that I was recently interviewed by a friend (link is in Dutch) for an assignment about internet journalism. Since I’m a blogger who’s been at it for several years, and generate a nice bit of traffic for something quite niche, I was more than happy to answer some questions. The very first question is “What is EVE Online all about?”. As I tweeted while writing my response, one does not simply describe EVE, because it’s massive even for an MMORPG. Unlike the general and as close as possible to neutral introduction given in the interview, here I will try to captivate EVE as close to my experience as possible.

EVE Online is one of two MMORPGs that for me became a life style. Unlike the other game, World of Warcraft, which I played in a competitive fashion and where I engaged in large timesinks such as raiding and the collecting of achievements, it was the social aspect that gripped me and pulled me in. Not to say that World of Warcraft did not have this, as the last guild I was part of has many out-of-game meetups and landed me friends who continue to care even though I’ve long gone. It’s more that this is an integrated part of the gameplay for me when it comes to EVE. From the things I do ingame, as a CEO, alliance executor and Angel Cartel loyalist to using Twitter, Facebook and Google+ as well as writing this blog for an enhanced social and community experience. And then there is, on top of that, attending Fanfest as well as other player meetups which takes the game right into meatspace.

You see, EVE Online is a “sandbox” MMORPG, where as World of Warcraft as well as the majority of others are “theme park” MMORPGs. The latter means there is a mostly-set leveling path, with areas for each level bracket, quests that lead to more quests so you can quest for quests, and a tier system of equipment. You’re constantly fed with objectives that yield rewards, which are then used to get other rewards and so on. EVE however only has this in very limited quantities, and most of it is optional in one way or another. Don’t feel like doing missions? Well, there’s a ton of other ways to get rich, which draw on a variety of skills and go beyond the scope of what the game offers. You like mining asteroids? You can do just that. You’d rather use your skill as an artist? Well, some do just that and are well loved by the community for it.

The concept of leveling is done away with as well, and while you might not shine from day one, there are those who have challenged this concept and scored great results. Time put into the game is also not required for success, as skills you select will train while you’re logged out. Within days (or even less), you can be a tackler for a fleet, pinning down targets while they’re getting shot down. Also within days, you can be a trader, a salvager, start your first missions or become rich by tricking a careless player with a clever scam.

Scamming, I say? That’s right, EVE Online offers a lot more freedom into what you can and can’t do within the rules of the game, which is a make or break for many players. While some argue it promotes what is called griefing in other games, and that we must all be a big bunch of sad jerks who thrive on the misery of others, actually those scenarios are really a minority. While there is always a risk, and EVE at its core is all about the risk versus the reward, clever players can protect themselves. Not putting all your eggs in one basket, checking that contract really does offer a faction ship and not just a regular hull, not making yourself a target by openly linking your various billions worth ship fitting, doing a background check on who you let in your corporation ect. Some of you may feel this is a drag, that it makes play into work, and then indeed EVE may not be the game for you. But others are thrill seekers, or enjoy that risky things bring such large rewards they are unheard of in all of MMORPG history up until now. And then I don’t just mean some of the record scams, but also iconic players like Chribba, who’s services to the community are living proof that being a good guy in a universe ruled by the shades of grey is very well possible. And then not just by roleplaying a white knight.

Ah yes, roleplay, we’ve got that covered too. There’s a large variety of channels, player-run forums, an official forum section, and the brand new and totally shiny fiction portal which is part of the EVElopedia overhaul (yep, we’re even covered on having a wiki). There’s a few books, and of course the live events, where some players — including me — were recently welcomed into the ranks of those digitalized into prime fiction. And then there’s players shaping the game beyond what could be foreseen, such as the Jita riots leaving a permanent mark with the monument being replaced by a destroyed model.

So is it all sunshine and rainbows? There are features that need to be iterated on desperately, and there are interfaces which are still horrible. And sooner or later, despite all the many things you can do, you can reach the point where the game holds little to nothing new. It’s also a game that has less staff and less funds than some of the large titles out there, which comes with it’s own unique drawbacks. Overconfidence as well as a bursting economic bubble meant that broadening the game from just internet spaceships to dressup dolls online resulted into have to reduce what bases were covered. It happens. It’s a business like any other and sometimes wrong calls are made. But for what it is worth, EVE has proven to be surprisingly resilient thanks to the many people who were, and those who continue to be, so driven to make this game a winner.

To end on a positive note, one amazingly cool feature, and I forgot this in the interview I did, is that EVE is single sharded. There’s no servers per region, or multiple servers to pick from while you have friends scattered all across them. Just one server, with zones of increasing lawlessness, and that’s it. Sometimes, this isn’t so nice, because if the server goes down, well, it’s not like you can hop to your alt on the other server. It also creates unique challenges for lag. But this is something that the developers embrace and strive to perfect, with massive leaps being made where other MMORPGs can draw lessons from.

In short, EVE Online is a pretty amazing and unique game with its own quirks and challenges. It’s got something for nearly everybody, and if it doesn’t, well who knows, maybe at some point it will. You’ll never know if you never try.

Blog Banter 30: NPC nullsec non-Dev Blog


This month’s Banter lets us play Dev-for-a-day, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t have ideas for EVE? My idea wouldn’t be a new one, but rather, I’d start on implementing my favorite part of the 0.0 design goals, namely those for NPC space.

“With the Winter expansion possibly being named ‘Crucible’, it certainly is a melting pot of refinements and tweaks aimed at making the EVE experience smoother and more wholesome. If the developers suddenly found themselves some spare resources and approached you for an additional feature to include before release, what single concept would you pitch them and how would you implement it?

For bonus points, the one thing lacking from this “patchwork” of iterations is a cohesive storyline to package “The Crucible” together. How could this expansion be marketed to potential new customers?”

As it doesn’t state how much room there is for an additional feature, I’ll take this in the broadest sense possible. While I do have experience with project management through my real life career, I’ve never seen a line of EVE code, so if a dev reads this and faints, I’m very sorry to overestimate what you can do. Consider it a compliment as my faith in your implementation skills is that strong! Likely though, this is food for several expansions.

The most basic thing, and I’ve submitted this for the “little things” thread (#littlethings hashtag on Twitter) would be that I’d like to see pirate NPC standings matter (“Owners should matter” from the design goals). This has so far always been the case for Empire factions, and was implemented into Factional Warfare as well, yet sadly does not hold true for the rats we face in missions, belts, anomalies, complexes, and on gates. As I’ve been told the framework is in place, I’m assuming unless there is legacy code involved, that this isn’t that hard to implement. Person has x standing with faction? Rat doesn’t engage unless fired upon. Simple.

What this enables is that people living in NPC nullsec and actively dedicating time to getting their standings fixed — as they are so often ruined from highsec missioning, which is something the majority of starting players will one way or another engage in — have an edge against those living in the region purely to run complex after complex and run their standings into the ground. To give an example, dedicated Curse inhabitants would be able to go into a complex, not get rat aggro, and have a much easier time to take down the capsuleer that is running said complex. This would, to a certain extent, discourage alliances who are using the region as a staging point from messing with the locals. From my experience, these big alliances know they could easily take down the usually smaller NPC nullsec dwelling groups, so making it a challenge on them is justified. It’s not quite an equal to reinforcing your system in sov space, but it’s a start. And, as a major bonus point, it implements roleplay without being intrusive or grating on those who don’t really enjoy the ‘R’ in ‘MMORPG’.

Building upon this, I’d expand the benefits that come with standings (“Local connections yield benefits” from the design goals). Some things already get cheaper, such as tax on refining. But there is loads of room for expansion here. How about less rent for an office, so that rent metagaming — making offices so expensive to rent your enemy will be forced to drop theirs — becomes less of a risk. Or how about cheaper repairs? Perhaps cheaper clones? One thing is though, if NPC nullsec gets this, I feel it would only be fair that this is implemented across the board.

One thing that is not in the design goals, but which could easily be a feature, would be that enemy rats would show up in belts, anomalies and complexes. We have this with rogue drones already, but I find it strange there is never a single Sansha to be seen in Curse, despite Catch being right next door. Now the Cartel is pretty awesome but if Kuvakei can drop his forces left and right in Empire space, I don’t think a few Sansha anomalies and complexes would be so strange. This would come with the added bonus that NPC nullsec dwellers suddenly have more choice than to run missions, which could be a huge draw for players. Sometimes we only have a little time available a day, or players are too young to be running level 4 missions, and they already fly small ships due flying a solo Battleship — because STRACS are a rather large investment — through nullsec being a generally bad idea. Expanding that, Empire rats could also be added, for those of us who really like tags and nuking their Empire standings into oblivion. But it gets a bit harder to make that really attractive unless they do not give standings penalties, or alternatively raise pirate faction standings with the faction controlling the region.

The rest of the design goals are too large to be just features, yet of course I’d love to see them as well. “Collective admin” could be tied in with letting corporations and alliances declare themselves officially loyal to an NPC faction. Just like Factional Warfare. And that then can be combined with letting alliances as a whole into that. Unlike Factional Warfare however, sovereignty of systems shouldn’t be able to be contested, although doing such may lead to finally seeing a form of pirate-FW. But it would likely clash with the “Safeish haven” and “Targeted” design goals. There are lots of options available here though, and I really hope that in the future pirate factions will be elevated to the same level of seriousness as the Empire factions are. And maybe make more of the other little factions matters too.

A last and entirely new idea, which would fit the “Safeish haven” and “Targeted” design goals, is to make NPC nullsec a hybrid highsec / nullsec, where engaging a pirate faction loyalist results in NPC support arriving on the field. This is a bold and absolute overhaul and is likely to send some people into a screaming fit of rage, but it would be sort of neat. It would, of course, only happen when being in that faction’s home region. But imagine how it would change the landscape. It would need a lot of balancing though, because it made be too little risk and too much reward. But with the added logistics that nullsec brings and the fact that it still functions as nullsec — thus, no CONCORD, only pirate faction police forces — it could create a truly new type of space. And this is something that EVE has not seen for ages.

For bonus points, I’d like to think of Crucible as a Neocom software update. It fits why space suddenly looks a whole lot better, why we have a new font, and even why there is time dilation. Expanding upon that, I can see the various NPC corporations in EVE using this wonderful advancement in technology to release new ships, advances in POS fuel technology, additional modules, due the old Neocom just not making them possible. As for better looking ships, well, their design teams were just twiddling their thumbs and needed to be put to work.

This storyline could be specifically used for new players by marketing it in the way that EVE is sprinting to catch up and overtake other MMO’s. See WoW which slowly is upgrading it graphics, but has yet to see an 100% overhaul of the initial looks. Fairly sure EVE is close to 100% when looking at the first final release. And since this expansion is about listening to the player base, it could also stress that bit. Because — forgetting the faults made in the past here — I’ve never been part of another MMO where players had this much impact. And EVE went way beyond the usual with changing the Jita monument. That’s not just listening, that’s honoring your players, which is why lots of us love EVE and even started to play it, and this would be a great trend to continue building upon.

Blog Banter 29: Immersion in EVE


Time for another blog banter. This time, Seismic Stan has something a little less political for us to discuss. This is a topic that is straight up my alley, since being a roleplayer means you really get into the game and your character, through acting out what your experience rather than through controlling a character from a third-person perspective.

EVE Online is renowned for it’s depth. Its backstory, gameplay and social aspects are all qualities that draw players in. What does immersion in EVE Online mean to you?

I think the biggest immersion factor for EVE Online is that every action has a reaction, or the freedom to get one. We see this in security status, standings that drop when others go up, and the fact that scamming, theft and suicide ganking are not banned as they are in more “friendly” MMO’s. Likewise, players have the tools and freedom to strike back against this. And there is the playerrun market, which just like the real market reacts to what large groups of players do. A recent example of that is the new Goonfleet campaign in highsec. Isotope prices — which are the main target — are going up, and PLEX seems to be following in this due to market panic. That’s stuff that makes EVE feel real, because it is real. Yes, there is some form of control, exploits and bots are not allowed (and for good reasons), but you can really ruin or make a players day, and someone else can affect you just the same.

A close second immersion factor for EVE is roleplay as a whole. We might at times feel the backstory progresses slowly or not at all, but it has some dynamic to it and has been build upon since the game release. Yes, in the early days players had a much larger impact, but this is far easier to manage with a smaller playerbase. Still, live events have started again and players shape these events. As admitted by CCP Dropbear at Fanfest 2011, the events don’t always pan out as foreseen either. It might seem like all part of the plan on the outside, but that is only because you don’t see behind the scenes. Also, I was initially critical about the recent Arek’Jaalan event arc, but after deciding to give it a try to test the validity of my beliefs I can now say that credit is given where it is due and that nobody likes drama, and that when it threatens the event it is dealt with, where if players can or want to do it they are always given the preference, which stick true to the principle of the sandbox.

There are some other minor and sometimes subtle ways where immersion happens, sometimes without us even realizing it. Have you ever tried looking up characters from the backstory ingame? Prominent figures, such as Heth, lead the corporations they belong to. And they were even given unique sculpted models rather than the random generator that created the mission agents. It wasn’t there right of the get-go, and that sparked such an outrage, and it is lovely to see that this was taken seriously enough to step in and give the important figures the care they deserve.

Now, Incarna was a bit of a lackluster expansion, and the drama surrounding CCP in the last few months really didn’t do it much good, but I think the Captain’s Quarters balcony is a stroke of sheer genius. We already had a sense of scale in the way that flying a frigate next to a battleship, not to mention something as huge as a titan, makes you feel really small. Old artwork showed us that frigates were already bigger than large commercial airplanes, but now we can stand next to our frigates and see them tower above us. Yes, the sense of scale is a bit skewed because larger ships go further back into the hangar, but you have to realize that hangar is way larger than your little hangout spot.

A last thing that a friend mentioned when I asked around for inspiration is the warning noises on the interface. What, a user-friendly — the ear-friendliness of it being debatable, but it sure makes you pay attention! — UI feature that adds to immersion? Why yes, indeed. We all know warning noises from the real world, if an alarm starts there usually is a reason for it. And yes, there is no sound in space, and EVE has some game mechanics that don’t simulate space as it would work when it is real, but when you regard the game and the interface as a simulation that your character sees to make sense of what is going around him or her, much alike to augmented reality, the pieces quickly fall in place. And that is how you can best explain the Neocom (name of the UI framework) in an in character way. Arguably, science fiction MMO’s have an easier time with this than fantasy MMO’s due to technology being a way to explain a lot, but nothing wrong with getting the most out of what you have. After all, fantasy MMO’s tend to be high magic universes, where magic can explain a lot too! I’m not of the opinion that every last bit of game mechanic should be able to be explained in character, that’s a foolish pursuit as it never totally works, but the less substitution or not mentioning has to happen, the more immersive everything will feel as it all comes naturally.