Here at Freebooted, we’re normally too distracted by something irrelevant or whimsical to be concerned with Important Events, preferring to leave the commentary and outrage to others.

However, these past few days have been so deliciously exciting, with the meta-gaming and community EVEosphere never looking so war-torn, it’s worth documenting simply for posterity.

Like some kind of bulk delivery from the karmic postman, all manner of challenging packages have piled up on CCP’s doorstep and some of them are definitely ticking. However calm their public face is, I can only imagine the wringing of hands and raising of blood pressures that must be taking place within CCP Towers.

Lighting the Fuse

Allow me to set the scene:

The CCP Controversy Cannons fired their first salvo last week at the E3 convention. There it was announced that DUST514, the stand-alone persistent first-person shooter title innovatively designed to link into the world of EVE, was to be released exclusively on the PlayStation 3 console platform.

There was much gnashing of teeth from the EVE player community (especially those with Xbox 360s). Concerns were raised regarding technology limitations and the fickle nature of the console market. Also on many minds were the risks of getting into bed with the recently beleaguered Sony Corporation, who were still licking their wounds from repeated hacking attacks. The intrusions were perpetrated by an organisation called Lulzsec and the result was a three-week shutdown of Sony’s online gaming network and the details of millions of customers falling into unknown hands.

Nonetheless, CCP weathered the slings and arrows of criticism and soldiered on, picking up an Innovation award as it did so.

Digging In

The following fortnight must be proving to be a resource-intensive route-march for CCP, with their flagship yearly e-sports event, the Alliance Tournament, continuing alongside the imminent release of the much anticipated Incarna expansion.

Incarna is not without it’s controversial aspects, having existed in concept form (or as vapourware if you want to be unkind) for a number of years. Incarna represents another bold strategy from CCP, heralding the expansion of EVE Online into more than just a spaceship game and taking another step toward CCP’s vision of “the ultimate Sci-Fi simulator”.

However the initial release, whilst graphically stunning, risks leaving many players underwhelmed. As frequently vocal EVE player and leading ‘Bitter Old Vet.’ Helicity Boson succinctly stated on Twitter; “Four years; one room, one guy, twelve frames-per-second.”

So the veteran player-base wait, some of them clutching pitchforks and torches, for deployment day when they will undoubtedly rise up to pass judgement.

Artillery Incoming, Open Fire

With staff stretched running the Alliance tournament (some on a voluntary basis) and scrambling to meet Incarna release date deadlines, CCP could have done without the attentions of the aforementioned Lulzsec ‘hacktivist’ organisation who, in the last few days, launched two Distributed Denial of Service attacks on EVE Online’s login servers. Whether this was due to CCPs association with Sony, as a result of an anonymous request or just a random target choice is subject to much speculation. In any case it was the player-base that suffered, with the first attack resulting in the offlining of the main Tranquility server for seven hours. Further attacks are a possibility.

It was during this same period that CCP unleashed a another barrage from their Controversy Cannon onto the EVE Online community. With imminent release of Incarna comes the introduction of Aurum, a second in-game currency that will exist alongside ISK. Obtainable in exchange for PLEX, this system facilitates a real-money micro-transaction model for vanity items.

Always a controversial hot potato, micro-transaction proposals have repeatedly met with resistance from the EVE community in the past, with the consensus being that it would only be considered acceptable for vanity items and not for anything that would threaten the balance of EVE’s divergent gameplay.

So when a recent forum post by CCP Zinfandel suggested that a reskinned Ishukone Watch Scorpion battleship would be made available on the Aurum-driven ‘Noble Store’, the community responded vociferously and subsequent CCP statements have likely been issued from the fallback position of the drawing board.

No Mercy

Despite mounting pressure on all fronts, the CCP Cannons of Controversy belched fire once more, this time smashing straight into the civilian heart of the community.

A devblog by CCP Atlas revealed plans to allow the ‘monetization’ of third-party applications and services. Whilst this potentially sounded like a good thing and was seemingly well-intended, the proposed execution has led many leading community contributors to believe otherwise. Under the draft proposals published, a $99 commercial fee would be required by most application and website developers, podcasters and bloggers irrespective of whether they intended to make a profit.

Rather than empowering their award-winning community, it seemed that CCP were in danger of strangling it by putting a tax on goodwill. More back-pedalling is presumably in progress.

So now, not only do CCP have to contend with the possibility of further DDoS attacks that may hamper their ability to see the Alliance Tournament to it’s natural conclusion whilst having to plate-spin to usher in the Incarna era smoothly, they now they now have to face a slavering, militant community up in arms about a host of emotive issues.

It seems amusingly ironic that at such a key moment in EVE’s history, there is an ever-present threat of Tranquility being taken out in non-consensual internet PvP by a griefer organisation harvesting tears, whilst the nearby community blob is considering resetting their standings with CCP.

It is said to always be the darkest before dawn. So if ever there was a time for CCP to show us how to ‘harden the fuck up’, it’s now.