We bring you a series of interviews with some of the guys and gals that make the squeeky wheels in EVE Online less squeeky by generously donating their spare time to make your spare time more enjoyable.
The Interstellar Services Divisions (or simply ISD) are the voluntary players that fill out a variety of roles in EVE Online. Read on to find out more about the STAR (Player and New Player Support) and find out more about their day-to-day responsibilities!
The STAR Division of the ISD‘s handle player support. They are the ones that when you join EVE Online, helps populate the different help channels. If you’ve ever had a question in a help channel, there is a good chance that one of these guys have answered it.
The requirements for joining the program is as follows (TL;DR version). No nubs, no trolls. Awesomess required. This time around, we’ve managed to secure some pre-interview responses from a former member of the STAR Team which has their NDA expire. Hopefully the questions should reflect the knowledge gained from our special insider
Please bear in mind that all volunteers are still obliged to adhere to the NDA so they may be unable to confirm or deny some of the questions. Obviously those responses will therefore reflect that.
Without further delay, here is the interview!
Vince: What ISD name do you usually go by?
Libertina: I am Libertina, currently heading the STAR division of ISD.
Vince: For how long have you been on the Player Support team?
Libertina: I have been with ISD since 2003, almost since the start of the player support team at the launch of Eve Online.
Vince: Have you been part of other ISD programs before you joined the STAR team?”
Libertina: No, I have always been part of the player support team, even before it got to be known as STAR.
Vince: We’re aware that the voluntary programs require you to each donate some of your own free time. In our interview with the Bughunting Team they mentioned on average 3-4 hours a week. Is this also the case with the STAR team or do you have another minimum requirement to work with?
Libertina: Being a volunteer has always meant to part with some of your time otherwise spent playing, solely for the good of the volunteer program and in the case of STAR, to support mostly newer players. To allow for a maximum freedom, we here at STAR ask our volunteers to aim for 12 hours of their time every month instead of a weekly quota.
Vince: Are you aware of any volunteers that use an exceptional amount of hours in comparison to the minimum requirement? Anyone that goes beyond their “call of duty”?
Libertina: Yes, over the years there have always been examples of exceptional volunteer work done by single members of STAR. We have volunteers who constantly spend more than 30 hours each month; others dedicate way more than that for single months. From time to time we also receive emails from new players, praising the exceptional help of a STAR member, easing their way into the game and helping them to survive the huge learning cliff we all know about. We have set up an in-game medal just for this occasion and those who deserved it, wear it with pride.
Vince: What are “the special perks”? Do you also get a pointy ship, or is it just a *cough* free account *cough* to play around with?
Libertina: In addition to a great bunch of people from all around the world to work with, there is this nice, almost indestructible and very pointy ship.
Vince: So outside of being a regular player – what does a regular day of player support consists of during the busy days? Are there anything else involved than the very transparent player support that is the helpchannels? Perhaps the occasional playtesting of new features?
Libertina: There are two main tasks the STAR volunteers perform. One is, as you already mentioned, providing support in the numerous Help channels, especially the Rookie help channel which is mandatory for every player for their first 30 days. If a volunteer feels capable of providing support in any language other than English, they can also be found in other languages Help channels. The second main responsibility is what we call ‘Meet and Greet’, where we provide a one-on-one experience for new players on trial accounts, trying to help them find their way into the game.
Just recently, we started trying out new ways of providing support to newer players in the form of Seminars as can be seen here: http://wiki.eveonline.com/en/wiki/ISD_Seminars. We hope that this will increase our presence amongst the newer players as well as cater to players who might want to give something back to the community as a future volunteer.
Vince: There seem to be some degree of knowledge of human dynamics or straight up psychology involved as well. Has there been cases where you sensed that you were able to defuse a situation before the player frustrations reach the boiling point?
Libertina: In a game like Eve Online, where the loss of a ship or clone can be a serious setback, emotions run deep and are displayed in all likely facets. Quite often, all a new player needs is an understanding word or showing them the small positive aspects in everything that happened. Yet sometimes, others have to be reminded that their display of emotion is inadequate for a public channel and while we strive to resolve any kind of situation through communication, we have the appropriate tools available to end situations if we must.
Vince: Obviously it would be almost impossible for any one player to know all there is to know about EVE and be able to help everyone with everything. Do you each handle areas of expertise? Do you have a mentor or a developer oncall to help with anything that isn’t obviously apparent?
Libertina: You are correct. It seems impossible to know every little detail about every area of the game but combining all the volunteer knowledge, I’d say we have a pretty good grasp of the game features. At STAR we run an extensive mentored training program to both unify our situational approach and to build a team spirit.
It is obvious that the best knowledge of the game comes through experiencing it. We have all sorts of player types in the team. It is very well possible that the cautious miner in the next belt, the industrialist driving you out of your market pocket or the pirate you lost your ship to when you last entered low sec is helping you with your questions in the Help channels the next day.
To prepare ourselves before changes to the New Player Experience we try to experience and influence it through the various test servers before they reach the live server.
Vince: Even though the area you all cover is very specialized it’s easy to imagine that you could have some regular interaction with GMs or Bughunters if anything was raised in a help channel that you could pass on. Is that the case or do you work fairly secluded in the role?
Libertina: Knowing who to ask or where to look if you are unsure how to answer a certain question is a key point in player support. We are not alone; there are volunteers of every other department online at almost any given time as well as members of the GM, QA and developer teams.
Vince: What are you currently training?
Libertina: I was born with all the skills and abilities I needed to perform the tasks of a player support volunteer. The remaining basic skills, which were given out at the character generation back in 2003, have been maxed out a very long time ago.
Vince: As a player, what would you say has been the most rewarding experience in EVE Online for you?
Libertina: It is the sandbox feeling really. You have to set your own goals. Reaching those was for me the most rewarding experience. From mining for my first Tempest for a ‘Bring-your-own-Minerals’ deal back in 2003 to setting up my first multi starbase reaction chain – and subsequently losing it to a warring corporation – all have been little goals in itself. For me the game really is what you make of it, I cannot imagine anything better than reaching your own high expectations.
Vince: Do you have any other interesting stories that you would like to share?
Libertina: As I already mentioned, it is the little goals which make the interesting stories, both those reached and those which failed miserably. If I need to buy a Battleship today, I take one of the hundreds available in Jita; remembering how hard I worked for the very first one is still worth it.
One time I recalled that I had two years’ worth of Research Points to cash in for five agents only because I read an IC news story. That evening I could easily have become a follow-up on that story since auto piloting your spoils to Jita and having a friend over for a beer unfortunately didn’t work out and resulted in one less freighter and no additional ISK at all.
Vince: Some topics of interest on the forums seems to be the upcoming winter expansion, FiS vs WiS and the the relationship between Dust514 and EVE. While some of the topics are still somewhat contentious it would seem that a lot of the frustrations may have been defused with the recent apology from the CEO. What are your thoughts on these topics, personally?
Libertina: I personally think that the Eve lore supports a lot of possibilities to explore new ways through WiS and Dust514 besides FiS. However, any expeditions into such new areas should always keep in mind how to make a meaningful link to the existing FiS experience, forging a real relationship between different gameplay experiences instead of developing an alternate reality to FiS. In that way, I am really happy to see a lot of development on the FiS part as of late while I am still looking forward to see how meaningful the Dust514 to FiS link will become. Should there be ideas to develop another such meaningful link between WiS and FiS at some point in the future, it too has the potential to expand the universe as a whole instead of creating a hollow box to walk in.
Vince: What are you looking forward to in the next year of playing EVE Online?
Libertina: Definitely the winter expansion! Seeing how many different, small and large changes are possible in such a short time, I can’t imagine what the Eve universe will look like within a year. Some of the long term projects I am really looking forward to is the null sec development plans as well as the Dust514 link.
Vince: Why do you play EVE Online
Libertina: It is Eve Online, a whole universe for you to shape with your very own actions!
We’d like to thank Libertina for graciously donating the time to answer our questions!
If you want to get involved in being a volunteer, you can apply to the ISD program here. If you do not qualify for the ISD programs, you can still teach or mentor new players via teaching corporations dotted around New Eden as a permanent or guest lecturer. Read more about those organisations in our article here.