Community Spotlight: Tigerears
Life in a wormhole is unlike any other in New Eden. Constantly watching the directional scan without the benefit of local to tell you when a hostile might appear, fighting without the threat of a hot drop or the potential backup of a supercap wing, and doing battle against the deadly and mysterious Sleepers can prove to be a harrowing but thrilling experience. It is not something everyone gets to experience. For those who don't, there is a prolific wordsmith who brings daily tales of daring-do in unknown systems to the masses.
PJ Harvey's blog, Tigerears, relates the adventures of Penny Ibramovic in Anoikis (that's wormhole space, or w-space, for those who aren't lore nerds like yours truly). If you've never heard of it, set aside a healthy chunk of time. You'll be reading for a while.
The Before Time
PJ's writing career goes way back. Before coming to EVE Online, PJ kept a personal journal which related experiences in various games such as World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, and other games that were compatible with CrossOver Mac. PJ had heard about EVE Online, but at the time no Mac client existed and once it did, it was not compatible with the non-Intel based Mac PJ owned at the time.
However, the release of the EVE Mac client provided a great excuse for PJ to upgrade (we'll claim it was the main reason even if that's not true!), so suddenly the world of New Eden was opened. A sci-fi setting was something PJ had been looking for, so EVE was a natural fit. Penny Ibramovic was born and the universe was ripe for exploration.
Of course, one never just plays EVE Online. One becomes invested into the game and the world. And so it was with PJ. The more time spent in EVE, the more experiences had, the more there was to write about. PJ's adventures in EVE were taking up more and more of the blog.
Originally, PJ approached EVE as a fairly standard MMO. Run missions, train for a bigger ship, upgrade, and run more missions. One day while mission-running in a Drake to earn enough ISK to upgrade to a Raven, PJ realized that didn't really feel like a step forward. Rather than continue down a path that was unfulfilling, other comfort-zone rattling options were explored. Eventually, PJ decided on finding a corp that could teach PVP.
A corporation was found, but in the process of moving, PJ's Drake and pod were destroyed by a gate camp due to a poorly configured autopilot. Not one to be halted by such a setback, PJ got back up and got to the corp's home base on the second attempt. However, before any real combat, the corporation was invited to null security space. Not yet comfortable making that leap, PJ left the corporation feeling somewhat dejected.
Going in completely the other direction, PJ decided to try out industry. A gift of a missile BPO from fellow blogger Kirith Kodachi came at the same time as an invite to an industrial corporation purely on the back of the strong blog posts. Kename Fin took an interest in PJ and offered the use of the corporation's high sec towers for manufacturing and research. All this seemed too good to pass up on, so PJ took down the new path of an industrialist.
Down the Hole
When Apocrypha was released, PJ was already well into the world of manufacturing and initially saw ships like the Tengu as nothing more than a distant dream always beyond reach. However, two members of the corporation decided they wanted to get their hands on some of that sweet, sweet Sleeper loot. Plans were drawn up and people prepared to move to wormhole space. PJ risked being left behind, but then decided to speak up and ask to go as well.
Permanent residence was not immediate, but PJ gradually became more comfortable with the realities of living in a wormhole where the exits might vanish at any moment. Learning how to keep from being trapped has never been the sole or even most present of dangers in a wormhole, of course. The corporation quickly became targets in the hostile, insular world of Anoikis.
From Prey to Predator
At first, they tried to hide. But they quickly realized that wouldn't make the hostiles go away. In an effort to, as PJ recalls it, “sate their bloodlust,” they bought a bunch of cheap cruisers to put up a fight with, or at least explode gloriously. That moment was when they began to become a real wormhole corp.
PJ says the most important step in Tigerears' evolution came when the decision to move permanently into wormhole space was made. Suddenly, the posts were no longer about missions, quests, or dungeons that everyone else was doing. Instead they were about PJ's personal stories, stories that no one else could tell because they were not happening to anyone else.
One of the defining moments was when PJ decided to train to fly the Onyx. A ship that one does not just accidentally skill towards, PJ quickly became a focal point of the corp's fleet fights. Its ability to hold down enemy ships and their pods proved it to be a highly desirable point ship. Of course, sometimes it held the corporation's ships in place to be killed as well. But once PJ started tasting blood, there was no turning back. Finally, the PVP experience sought so long ago had been found.
Guides and More
But writing engaging stories about life in wormhole space is not the only thing PJ features on the blog. There are also a number of guides to help those new to wormholes understand the vagaries of Anoikis. They came about when PJ realized many players new to wormholes had no idea what type of space a wormhole would lead to. Though it was always possible to simply explain to them after the described what they saw, or tell them what color equals what type, PJ quickly learned that perception of color can vary from person to person.
Eventually, PJ realized it would be easier and more informative to produce a set of images a player could compare to what they were seeing. The guide was initially conceived as relatively simple, showing only each destination system color. Then PJ realized that each wormhole had colors not only from the destination, but also from the origin. This complicated things fairly strongly, as colors could bleed and confuse which one the player was seeing.
This meant more work for PJ, who had to collect images for each combination of connection. With six classes of wormholes, this meant 36 images. While this sounds relatively straightforward, in actuality it can be quite difficult. One does not simply
walk into Mordor find a Class 6 connected to a Class 1. PJ needed to get very lucky, not only to find the first system, but then to scan down a wormhole that connected to the type you wanted. This often meant waiting for an opportunistic shot stumbled upon during other activities.
From conception it took nearly 4 months for PJ to collect enough images to begin a work-in-progress post. From there, it took another 18 months before the final connection images were able to be made. The last two images even had to be donated by a kind redditor keen to see the guide completed.
And the guides have not stopped there. PJ has further guides on wormhole types, how to scan them down, how to scan inside the wormholes themselves, and others. For a newcomer to wormholes, the guides can be invaluable.
Process and Statistics
PJ began writing about EVE Online in July of 2008. Since then, an estimated 1.4 million words have been written on the topic. Yes, that's right, 1.4 million words. To put this in context, War and Peace, renowned for its length, sits at 580000 words or so (depending on the edition). The longest novel ever written is In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust at 1.2 million words. This means PJ's output has surpassed the epic output of some of the most celebrated authors of all time.
Those 1.4 million words come over 1600 posts. So how does PJ go about writing all of these posts? Well, the process begins when PJ logs in each day. The opening sentence is already being written as the system loads, being jotted down on a notepad. Depending on the circumstances of the system, this sentence can change, but the chaos of intrusion is rare. From there, PJ takes notes as the night progresses.
The staccato, baseball-like pace of EVE Online is especially conducive to the process. When there is action, PJ's full attention is on EVE, but during lulls (such as during a warp or between fights) there is plenty of time to capture actions, details, and emotion.
During the session, PJ will also take screenshots of anything that seems interesting, is obviously relevant to the narrative, or will simply provide a bit of color to the text. After each session, the images are culled until only the best ones remain.
PJ then takes the notes and creates a draft for the post. It is usually done within a few days of each playing session, but can take up to a week if PJ is busy or playing more often than normally. This allows a buffer of posts to be built up, meaning it never feels as if PJ needs to write. Instead, the creative process is allowed to be more organic.
After finishing a post, PJ puts it in a self-addressed e-mail, both to provide a backup copy and leave it queued in a chronological state. From there, the post is copied to WordPress, where PJ rereads and copyedits it for typos, style, and flow. A few days later, PJ will add images, usually in a paragraph break placed specifically for it. With the images in place, one last read through is done, and then the post is scheduled for publication.
Approximately what most of us will look like once we finish the backlog.
Life as it Is
A large majority of what goes on in PJ's day-to-day playing goes into Tigerears. While this doesn't always lead to the most exciting stories, it does provide an unapologetic look into life in Anoikis. It's not all small gang PVP or raking in the Sleeper ISK; some days are spent endlessly scanning down a chain only to find dead systems or running into decaying wormholes.
PJ believes writing about everything helps with the craft of writing. Action creates its own story; but it takes a true creative mind to turn a quiet, unassuming night into something worth reading. The success of PJ is evident. The wormhole colors guide, in particular, has been shared, linked to, and distributed across the web. And while comments can be rare (as a personal tale tends not to evoke a strong desire to leave a reply) they have for the most part been full of praise. In game, Penny even gets recognized from time to time. Hopefully with this spotlight, well-earned additional recognition won't be far behind!
About the Author
In EVE Online, PJ plays the character of Penny Ibramovic, a member of the Wormhole Engineers corp, who can often be found scanning for targets. Who winds up being exploded in this case can vary from story to story. Industrial-minded corpmates tend the towers, gas harvesting, and mining, which leaves PJ to find PVP for all of them to enjoy. It is a good, symbiotic relationship.
Outside of EVE, PJ has a variety of interests, some of which are occasionally featured on Tigerears as well. PJ has been a gamer since the day a C64 was brought home (something yours truly has in common!), leading to an eventual dedication to every Nintendo console to date. PJ's Super Mario Bros. Skills resulted in a prize of an NES at one gaming convention, while in another staff stood watch as every hidden block, shortcut, and beanstalk was revealed during an interactive retro gaming session.
PJ has made attempts at playing the guitar and the drums, to mixed success, and has recently started to learn kung fu to stay in shape. Attending indie gigs, the smaller the better, is a passion that gets brought up from time-to-time on the blog. To round things off, PJ watches plenty of films, attends a regular RPG session which has been chronicled on //slain-by-elf.org/, and reads plenty of philosophy after having attained a Master's degree in the subject last year.
If you haven't already dived into Tigerears, do so now. There's plenty of material to keep readers interested for months, with new posts arriving daily (or more!) For people interested in wormholes, there are also many great guides to pore through, with the potential for more to come. PJ is already working on expanding the Wormhole Colors guide to include the colors specific to each region in New Eden.