Tuesday, January 14, 2014

streams versus blags

Over at Kane's blag, he posed a question regarding the upswing of live and recorded video media, and the steady downturn of blagging.  I have a lot to say on this topic; I'll try to do my best on addressing each point rather than rambling on about the merits of each exhibition medium (live video, recorded video & journal).  I've copied his query here for review:

Is blogging about EVE still relevant?

My thoughts have been veering towards this more often as EVE streaming picks up steam, eve videos have become almost the norm, is it human nature to pick the easier, more bling route of entertainment? All flashy lights and for the most part crappy music.

Is blogging, like solo piracy becoming something of myth and legend?

Video recordings of fights, often accompanied with voice communication recordings have become a lot more common than 3-4 years ago. I'd attribute this to players having more knowledge and resources available to them on the subject - better recording software, better editing software, ease of encoding and hosting. However, these presentations all to often do not share the story of the engagement, or include any kind of battle reporting. Indeed, I would say there's been a general decline of narration in videos, with more focus on highlighting engagements than explaining the fight. With this in mind, I never thought recorded videos competed with EVE journals.

Streaming's the latest gaming fad that's had some success with EVE Online, similar to journals just a few years ago. However, there are many limitations to streaming as a broadcaster: the need for high bandwidth, a modern computer and viable content. The first two requirements are often only partially met; many would be streamers have one or the other, but not both, due to personal income or regional limitations on internet providers. This alone heavily regulates the population of broadcasters, unlike journals. The final requirement of content is entirely variable, but in my eyes the most important.

There are many different forms of content; these can be grouped into game content and broadcaster content. Game content would be focus on aspects of the game, such as PvE content (incursions, DED sites, mining), PvP content (FW, solo, gang, griefing), highsec versus lowsec versus nullsec, focus on end game high SP/ISK/knowledge related content or novice friendly content. Conversely there is less focus on the game, and more on the broadcaster and viewer community. This includes podcasts, viewer fleets (PvE & PvP), polls, games, themed events and general dialogue.

Successful streams strike a balance between the two forms of content; I'll use mine as an example. My stream is a PvP focused broadcast, which of late is exclusively focused on FW. I roam FW regions and look for fights. My PvP content usually involves low to medium ISK investment fittings, and the broadcast attempts to be new player friendly, while engaging in high SP/skill fights. However, given the common downtime between fights, I do my best to fill the gaps between engagements with music, talk about the game, dialogue with viewers, and quite often take requests for ship/fitting selections.

If a broadcast favors a less balanced approach to content, and heavily favors one aspect or another, it tends to have a much harder time picking up a viewership. This is especially true for unpolished presentations, which throw caution to the wind in favor of getting their content live, similar to submitting a journal entry without editting.

So, with regard to content, live video media tends to mimic journals in terms of scope - there are a lot of broadcasts covering most aspects of EVE. Live video which successfully incorporates the broadcaster is as personal and individually unique as writing styles for journals, and often enough can develop, embellish and portray content as a story as well as a journal entry. However, where the great disconnect occurs, and where I feel journals win out versus recorded and live video is with how the game is portrayed.

When I broadcast, and for the majority of PvP streams I know, I focus on generating game content quickly, versus intelligently. I focus on regions in the game, and ships selections which best deliver consistent engagements, versus what I truly enjoy or how I'd rather take a fight. Streamed PvP more often than not is STAGED: many engagements are knowingly taken in an 'unrealistic' manner for the sake of viewer enjoyment, and many aspects of the game are ignored (cost effectiveness, acquiring and usage of intelligence, use of alt accounts for scouting, gang PvP & voice comms). What a viewer sees on a typical EVE PvP stream, and what they'd experience once they hop into game would likely be pretty different, as they'd have to play the game in its fullest, with all its 'boring' nuances and quirks which so often are hidden.

Conversely, EVE journals often focus on the little details that are left out from live video: scouting a target, history with a target, how an engagement developed, with intricacies such as use of alts, neutral friends, outside forces, etc playing part. Even more glaring is the use of strategy, tactics, ship selection or gang compositions which are too inconvienent, risky, gimmicky, inflexible or otherwise 'not fun' for the immediacy of live content. A personal example is the use of ganglinks - I usually refrain from using them while streaming, as moving the alt and setting up links is a time consuming and distracting process which the viewer can't take part in, and is not in any form fun to view. Conversely, stealthily setting up a link alt before a fight occurs could be a high point in a journal entry.

With all this build up and comparison, I think live video won't, or indeed can't replace journals, as the two mediums are not synonymous for portrayal of content. As long as there are members of the community interested and willing to work each form of media, both will exist. Frankly, what I feel is more disasterous for both types of media is how the game evolves with each expansion. For instance, my stream used to focus a lot on solo BC/BS primarily in lowsec and nullsec entry points. However, due to changes in the game, with sentry mechanics, ship balance changes, and changes to ship warp speed, it is no longer viable to roam solo in BC/BS, ESPECIALLY in a live format. Even if I was willing to endure the stream ghosting, stronger gangs, and weaker sentries, BCs and BS in particular are so slow to move across regions that its not fun to watch or talk about. So, like solo piracy, solo BC/BS PvP has gone the way of the dodo.

To me, the more EVE Online shifts towards group gameplay, and less from solo gameplay, the less you'll have individually created and focused content such as journals and live video. While it'll still be out there, with diehard masochist enthusiasts taking on one or another 'dead' aspect of the game, I feel the media will shift towards community hosting, such as RvB or Mittani streams and blags. Individual blaggers and broadcasters will widen the scope of their craft, taking on other games and pursuits or quit.

Or so it tends to go.