Back in April we announced a collaboration with MMOS and CCP Games. The idea was to insert humanitarian work into EVE Online. While we shared many ideas collectively, ultimately we came to the conclusion that the humanitarian use-case was not compatible with EVE Online after all. Naturally we are disappointed, but we did gain valuable insight as to IRL’s future. In addition, the challenge we faced and our attempt to overcome it we feel were quite interesting, so we decided to write about them.
The challenge, as we mentioned in our previous blog post, entailed fitting our humanitarian micro-tasks into a fully fledged video game environment. In this case EVE Online, a game world set in a far-distant galaxy, many thousands of years after earth has been destroyed, and all knowledge of it has been forgotten. With this in mind, inserting images of post-disaster devastation from earth would be a slight stretch for the game-lore, one that the game developers are not willing to let slide.
Originally we thought that we could spin the lore somehow to state that artifacts from Earth turned up in the EVE Online world, only to be explicitly told that the gateway/wormhole to Earth was destroyed, that there’s no feasible way of contacting Earth’s solar system, and that the ensuing years of struggling to survive erased the planet from everyone’s memory.
With that in mind we figured that the disaster images that we planned to use in the micro-tasking must now originate from the alien planets that inhabit the EVE Online universe. It was also stated that the images that we use could not resemble Earth in any way. So now our task was to have them appear “alien”.
The idea which instantly popped into our minds was to warp the images. However, actually taking the image and changing its contents would not work, since the micro-tasks rely on tagging the locations of objects in the pictures. Any serious warping would distort the accuracy of the results on our end. There was one idea however that did stick out.
Why not simply change the color of the images? The effect would essentially look like adding a filter to a photo, but with freedom to create unique color combinations. After a few initial tests in Photoshop, we discovered that aerial imagery, looking down at the earth, actually creates natural contrast between buildings and the surrounding ground/foliage. Changing the color curve did not seem to affect a users ability to tag buildings, but on the contrary actually caused the buildings to stand out more so than normally.
As we intended, some of the color curves drastically changed the look of the pictures, some of them with rather alien and sci-fi looking results. For example, a color curve could be applied that made the images look like they where taken using infrared sensors. We thought that this would be perfect for fitting the images into EVE Online, where a vast amount of sci-fi technology exists and lore could be built around the tagging.
The lore could state that these images were taken on martian planets, using advanced sensors not known to humans today. And on our end, we could quickly use batch processes in Photoshop to apply color curves to entire sets of images quickly and easily. It seemed like a surefire win at the time!
Alas, there was one inescapable fact that remained. While color shifted, these images still contained imagery from Earth, from Vanuatu in particular for our proposal. Things such as palm trees and cars were clearly visible, albeit a different color.
The EVE Online lore states that the humans who were not killed when portal to Earth collapsed managed to survive on the planets that they had already begun terraforming. According to Wikipedia, “Terraforming (literally, “Earth-shaping”) of a planet, moon, or other body is the hypothetical process of deliberately modifying its atmosphere, temperature, surface topography or ecology to be similar to the environment of Earth to make it habitable by Earth-like life”.
We basically made the assumption that these terraformed planets would resemble earth, in terms of foliage, technology such as automobiles, and even architecture. Unfortunately it seems that this is not the case, and thus our proposal still did not fit within the EVE Online game world after all.
This experience definitely allowed us to re-evaluate the purpose of IRL. We have some ideas which we will share in the future, but for now we hope that our proposal to EVE Online and the thought processes behind it prove to be interesting. We’ve added some of the color shifted photos from our proposal below as well. We thought that some of them came out pretty neat.