Sunday, 5 February 2012

BB32 Summary: Non-Consensual Combat Restrictions

On an approximately monthly basis, the vibrant EVE "blogosphere" engages in a Blog Banter - a single topic discussed by bloggers from assorted communities across EVE society.

The most recent question posed was this;

"A quick view of the Eve Online forums can always find someone complaining about being suicide ganked, whining about some scam they fell for or other such tears. With the Goons' Ice Interdiction claiming a vast amount of mining ships there were calls for an "opt out of PvP" option.

Should this happen? Should people be able to opt-out of PvP in Eve Online? Should CONCORD prevent crime rather than just handing out justice after the event? Or do the hi-sec population already have too much protection from the scum and villainy that inhabits the game?"

The "echo chamber" responded vociferously and with over forty respondents offering their opinion, I was concerned putting together the traditional summary of the conversation was going to be a tall order. However, Blog Banter reader Jeff felt that the topic had no legs;

"Can we get some interesting blog banters which actually have some discussion in the future please? This one is horribly one sided... reading 30 extremely similar blog posts just makes one wary of reading anything with a BB in the title. Not the reaction I presume you want." - Jeff

Splatus (A Journey Through the Mind) could see the bias too,"Sounds like an easy topic. All I have to do is to pick the side of the tough and rugged PvP fighters, make the few obvious points (but forcefully and with cussing!) and throw in a handful of hopefully insulting and derogatory terms like “pubbies” or “carebears”. Then I head to FHC and in like-minded company revel in my superior intellect. Or I could spend some time in the attempt to unravel what this about. But that would take work."

So did Jeff have a point? Would he be forced to dodge "BB"-titled posts in future? Did Splatus and every other blogger just rant then shuffle off to a forum somewhere? Or did "unravelling" occur? Fortunately, unlike Jeff, the forty bloggers chose to look deeper.

[Note: Whilst the following quoted snippets are taken directly from each individual banter, they are not necessarily indicative of the entire context of that author's blogpost. This review is intended to give a overview of the conversation and entice the reader to investigate individual blogs further.]

THE PROBLEM WITH NON-CONSENSUAL PVP

So what is the issue? Why exactly would anyone have a problem with the PvP parameters as they currently stand in EVE Online? Azuall Skoll (The Altruist) explains, "This is a debate which has raged a thousand times before, and I'm sure you can already hear the oft repeated arguments in your head - a binary clash between the griefer and the carebear, each with mutually incompatible visions of what Eve is meant to be, and both trying fruitlessly to impose their view upon the other."

Myrhial Arkenath (Diary of a Pod Pilot) offers this possible explanation, "...a lot of MMO players are in fact quite casual, either because they do not have a lot of time, or because they’re not around that long yet."

These potential new EVE players are destined to encounter a resident player population described thusly by Xero Shifter (Gathering Space Dust) "There is a saying among some capsuleers: "In other games they are called griefers, gankers, and jerks. In Eve Online, we call them Subscribers."

Keyanu (Muppetninjas) points out "EVE isn’t designed to be easy is it?" and Urziel99 (Urziel's Eve Chronicle) supports this by stating "That Thrasher that just undocked beside your industrial could easily lock you up and poof, no more industrial. ...the problem isn't pvp. It's the holes in place that minimize and eliminate risk and consequence." suggesting that current players are largely content with the system with some minor caveats.

However, the current state of the New Player Experience is one that might hurt subscriber numbers. As Kirith Kodachi (Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah) posits, "How many subscriptions are lost because of suicide ganking, a practice in which players with so much ISK to afford to throw away ships on a constant basis "just for the tears"? How many new players quit in disgust when they are trying to mine to start out and a Thrasher comes in and pops them before CONCORD shows up?"

Logan Fyerite (Eve Opportunist) thinks similarly, stating "I know that business sense says that you should expose your product to the largest audience possible, so that might mean that CCP offer some option to allow those really risk adverse players an option to play Eve without risk."

The survival and growth of EVE Online's subscriber base is also a consideration of Shalee Lianne's (Living a Lie) "Games need to make money to survive, to thrive. Games need to appeal to a wide demographic, not just a sliver of humanity - those who are psychotic, evil, and ruthless."

The Scientist (A Scientist's Life in EVE) examines when an opt-out flag would be used, "Let’s say that I could set “no” to PvP. When I’m mining, obviously I’d set that. When I’m missioning, again clearly I’d set PvP to off. When I’m moving my freighter – definitely yes."

But the Darwinian nature of EVE Online is something that should perhaps be preserved, "Those who appreciate a challenge stick to it. Those that don’t will inevitably rage quit in an explosion of forum outrage, clamoring for change when it is not the game that needs changing, but their own expectations of how such a game should act." says Marc Scaurus (Malefactor).

The risk should not be optional agrees Kuan Yida (Random Posts From Auga), "...that adrenaline rush created by the ‘real’ danger of combat that can occur at any time, even in hi sec. You are never 100% safe..."

Lukas Rox (Torchwood Archives) supports this view, "By signing up you have agreed that EVE is a PVP game, and that PVP exists everywhere in the game, even in high sec. If you decide to fly a paper thin ship that mines Ice, it is your decision in the first place."

That said, the interpretation and implementation of this non-consensual environment is what some feel is the cause of acrimony. "One of the hardest parts to understand - for inexperienced pilots anyway - are the aggression mechanics. This allows older, more experienced pilots to can flip or can bait newbie pilots... I find very little to defend in this practice." opines Sered. (Sered's Lives)

But Drackarn (Sand, Cider and Spaceships) feels that the tools available are sufficient, "There is enough protection in high-sec already IF you engage brain first!"

Many bloggers were quite certain in their stance, dismissing the need to consider a change. Harrigan VonStudly (Gun Turret Diplomacy) says delicately, "There is much I can rant about when it comes to the dweeb, head up the ass faggotry that is the carebear mentality... I can only tell you that your carebear mentality is a minority. And if it turned out to be a majority? Fuck you we'll blow up your shit and steal you blind anyhow." Corelin (Haberdashers Run Amok) is equally hardline in his view, "Whine all you want, EvE is a PvP game. Everyone vs. Everyone."

Seeing the defensive nature of an ecosystem under threat, Seismic Stan (Freebooted) wrote "Less resistance to change would do EVE Online the world of good. It's all very well the existing elitist playerbase demand that all possible new players be put through Hell Month just like they did, but those self-serving campaigners are simply the spoilt children who don't like poor little Ed because he smells funny and still wears a nappy."

However Aiden Mourn (Finders & Keepers) saw through this argument and was not taking the bait, "Seismic “The Troll” Stan (I see what you did there) whether serious or not, expressed a fear on his blog that Eve players violently resist change, or anything they view as more structure or alteration to their sandbox, and I think he’s got a point. And even though I can call myself guilty of this at times, I think this is one of those major pillars of Eve that really can’t change."

Perhaps the reason why things must stay as they are, as stated by Kat Robspierre (Chasing ISK) "Those whiners sitting at the bar were forgetting the most basic rule in New Eden: if things don’t burn, there’s no reason to do anything else."

However Truen1ght (Shall We Not Revenge) sees things differently, "The standard argument...that the moment you undock, you've agreed to PvP, whether you know it or not. I call bullshit. Even CCP says that if you grief people on trial accounts, you stand a good chance of being perma-banned. There's your PvP: you versus CCP."

Crash (Obfuscated Reality) takes a broader view, seeing a similar phenomenon in other areas of the game, "In EVE, stability is achieved somewhat artificially in High Security space... Some areas of Null Sec space have also achieved this level of security for its members... residents of those areas are as risk adverse as the so called 'carebears'."

"No. NO. ABSOLUTELY TOTALLY NO opting out of PvP or buffing CONCORD. ...I feel what we really need is improvements to the middle ground of lowsec and NPC nullsec." says Myrhial Arkenath (Diary of a Pod Pilot), agreeing that there are concerns beyond the high-sec bubble.

"While I don’t think Hi Sec should be made safer, I also don’t think it needs to be made more dangerous." says evehermit (Evehermit's Blog).

"EVE is nothing without risk. Removal of non-consensual combat removes that risk, and then EVE isn’t EVE. One of its unique selling points is gone." is TG3's opinion (Through Newb Eyes)

Kaeda Maxwell (Maxwell) sums up a common misinterpretation of EVE thusly, "Playing EVE 'because you like space ships' and then complaining there's PvP is like joining the army 'because you like guns' and then complaining when you find you have to serve the interests of your country through violent means."

THE VOICE OF THE CAREBEARS

Surely the established "carebears" would be the ones to oppose any systemic victimisation. Cle Demaari (A Citizen in EVE) discusses the idea of opting-out of PvP. "I'm a dyed in the wool care bear and even I know this would be a "very bad thing"."

"I am a two year carebear...So, do I think there should be an “opt out of PVP” option in Eve Online? NO! Please put this subject back where you found it Drackarn, and don’t start giving the Vikings any ideas." demands blastradius1 (Blastrad Tales)

"I’m a carebear but I do not want to opt out. I want the right to shoot back, to maybe take a few of them with me." says a defiant and optimistic Mike Azariah (A Missioneer in EVE).

So even the "carebears" seem content with the status quo. Although it should be noted the only carebears playing EVE are ones that have either overcome the ragequit hump, or have yet to experience it. How many subscribers have been lost. Should this be a consideration?

THE SOLUTIONS

Some banterers, whether playing devil's advocate or genuinely supporting a shift in the PvP ecosystem, offered some interesting and imaginative tweaks and game features addressing the non-consensual PvP issue.

Xero Shifter (Gathering Space Dust) thinks the punative system needs revision to protect bling-fit PvE ships, "...punishment appropriate for the crime is at least in due order. If I smash up your Lamborghini, the police smashing up my 1980's Astro Van is not in proportion, nor is it appropriate punishment."

Madame Thalys (Emergent Patroller) supports NotalotofNews podcast's campaign for vigilante justice, "In the most recent episode of Notalotofnews, Erin suggests that there should be a possibility for players to put their kill-rights on the market after getting ganked. I would actually go and fly around in highsec again for other things than shopping if I could make ISK by shooting people on behalf of victimized miners."

Kirith Kodachi (Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah) goes all mad scientist with a true invulnerability field, with conditions, "The idea is that the active Isolation Matrix will allow a player to experience Eve without the threat of immediate annihilation...". Orakkus (2nd Anomaly From the Left) discusses a similar concept."...have a period of “invincibility”... in high-sec, the time would tick off at 1x... In Low-sec and Null-sec, the time would tick off at 5x times... PVP actions would immediately open you up for attack..."

"True Sec status needs to be implemented universally across the board in all systems.... ...In order to "gank" someone in Hi-Sec the attacking party would have to manage their Sec Status, pick systems on the borderline of True Sec Hi Sec, and hunt only when those two things matched up." Rixx Javix (EVEOGANDA) sets out a proposal that could show promise without opposing the ethos of EVE Online.

Mabrick (Mabrick's Mumblings) reviews these ideas; "I like Kirith's idea of an Isolation Matrix. However, it may be too difficult to implement and it will surely be gamed to death... Using True Sec per Rixx Javix is perhaps a more workable solution. It'd still be a pain to implement, monitor and control. And the gankers would still figure out how to use it to their advantage."

Susan (@Gamerchick42) expresses her maternal instincts with a heartfelt examination of the tenderness that EVE players deserve to be shown. Especially some of her commenters. "High-sec should have no pvp whatsoever... It should be like a 'friendship' zone of sorts where people can get away, be friends, and take a break from the war struggles around them."

For Mandrill (I Am Keith Neilson), the solution lies in his fellow player, "...non-consensual PvP makes up part of the social glue that makes EVE the game it is. If you’re not sure who to trust, it makes the bonds to those you do trust that much stronger."

For Cobalt Snake (Year of the Snake), the solution is a lot simpler, "What EVE really needs to deal with players upset about nonconsensual PvP, is a change in player attitude."

SUMMARILY SUMMARISING THE SUMMARY

In conclusion, it seems that existing players largely agree that non-consensual PvP is fundamental to EVE as one of its Unique Selling Points. Whilst some are able to identify that minor improvements and tweaks may assist with new player retention, there are few that would like to see an absolute PvP opt-out flag.

Some more wise words from the community:

"...consensual PvP always ends up creating an environment of safety. That bubble, no matter how molecularly thin, means that the battles within are shielded from the need to rely on your fellow pilot for a shared cause. Without consequence there is no risk. Without risk there is no reliance."
- Ned "CCP Manifest" Coker @ A Gaming Manifest

"EVE, upon even the laziest amounts of inspection, is just a big playground. People should maybe look into the game they are thinking about playing, rather than just starting it and then crying..."
- Brent "Adainy Gwanwyn" Jones, Hot Lead Space Bomb

"New Eden is not safe and it can be very, very harsh at times... sometimes for us, and sometimes for those who cross us. but it is always WORTH it and it is NEVER boring. Please... please don't ever make it boring by making it safe."
- TurAmarth ElRandir, A Carbon Based Life

"EVE Online prides itself to be more than a game, it wants to be a simulator of a society beyond most rules and laws. Expecting fairness is a gross mistake."

Anabaric (Inside My Skull, So Many Demons) leaves us a a snapshot of an anodyne and stagnant New Eden where there is no hi-sec PvP of any kind. When attempting to undercut the market with a competitive price the following message might occur;

"*Error Concord mechanics are in force, no PvP action may occur in highsec*
This is for your protection.
Have a nice day."

Thanks to all participants for making the conversation varied and entertaining. I wonder if Jeff made it this far?

8 comments:

  1. Excellent summary of a highly emotional topic. I love Anabaric's snapshot. That's why people say be careful what you wish for.

    As always excellent work Stan.
    Cheers

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  2. http://www.geneticanomaly.com/RPG-Motivational/slides/rule37.html

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  3. A great summary of views on a very important topic. As a casual player who never Pvped in EVE I think the problem is not non the danger or the risk adversity. The main cause of peeps quitting over PvP is caused by jerky attitudes that this kind of activity brings out in people. Those who enjoy griefing and tear are similar to soldiers who join army because they enjoy killing, unstable individuals, who want to harm others under the guise of doing their job and to get away with it. There should be a way to bring those to justice, this game needs that kind of justice as well to recognize evil for what it is and make it pay. Kill rights sounds like a good start, maybe making players part of concord and having more ways to recognize ganging than any UI can. This game needs more law enforecement, but in such a way that it should not be as easily corrupted as CSM.

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  4. I don't read many blogs, but I enjoyed this one. Good read.

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  5. Excellent Summary.

    I think that the discussion is an interesting one. However, in terms of new player retention I think that a lot of Bloggers, or perhaps CCP, are looking at one part of the puzzle.

    The New Player Experience, whilst improved during Incarna, is abysmally poor. It does grant a new player a working knowledge of game mechanics (tracking, aggression, PvP, contracts etc) and assumes that these will be picked up from out-of-game websites. Not everyone reads Eve Blogs, Guides and Wikis as veraciously as I do.

    If the NPE actually furnished New Players with and involving and comprehensive working knowldge of Eve in ALL of its aspects, not just how to live in HighSec, player retention would be much higher. Additionally, New Players would be much more likely to migrate to other aspects of Eve that are currently marginalised.

    Just my two cents,
    Reten Kell

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  6. I <3 you.

    ~Susan

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  7. On New Player Retention and Water Weight Gain...

    (OK, ok, just the noob thing) When I was noob, back right after Incursion was rolled out, one of the first times I was, “Unexpectedly Killed Without Prior Provocation”, I was going to get a book I had bought in another system… a .4 system… I was killed and podded on gate, Wha? Huh? Damn… I was convoed by the guy who popped me and when I asked why, his answer was, “You didn’t move, you waited too long.”

    Was I depressed? Was I upset? Yea… I was. I had lost a Thrasher I could not ‘afford’ to lose, I had been podkilled for the first time… yea…. But, I never got mad. I mean, it’s a game where everybody has heavily armed spaceships. I had read enough warnings during the tutorials, but, like so many things, the warnings aren’t “real” to you until you personally experience what happens. When someone says “Stop! It’s dangerous out there!” in a game, or real life, most people wonder what do you mean by ‘dangerous’? One man’s extreme fear is another man’s adrenaline rush.

    There are those in this game who, and I directly quote from a blog, “I’d discovered that the character search (not in EVE) would not only tell you who was online – on the opposing team – but where they happened to be at that very moment. This made it easy to follow the same player all over the game and shoot him over and over.” This should be discouraged… This kind of playstyle is openly intended only to drive new players out of the game and CCP should, in its own best interests, deter this kind of game play. I am sorry to say I have no idea how to effectively stop it other than petitions and a strong response from CCP to said petitions that griefing New Players “in order to cause a rage quit” is not allowed. It has to be better, business wise, to permaban one griefer than allow one griefer to cause the rage quit, and loss, of how many potential subscribers? (Italics mine)

    Outside of that, there are two parts to retaining new players in EVE:
    (1) There are a lot of people who will NEVER play EVE after the first gank or pirate attack. To them, NCPvP is simply not fair and should never be allowed.

    We cannot do anything to retain these players in EVE short of breaking EVE as it is. NCPvP is an integral part of the fabric of this particular MMOG.

    (b) How to retain those who might find they enjoy the challenge of an NCPvP environment while keeping griefers from getting their “Rage Quit FTW!” when they grief on noobs? My ‘idea’ is to ease noobs past the first couple of NCPvP experiences using the Tutorials:

    (A) As long as you are in a tutorial mission room, you are in a ‘closed’ room. IE You cannot be ‘scanned down’ in a tutorial, period. I am not advocating this type of safe passage “anywhere” except in the noob tutorial mission rooms.

    (2) Create a set of ‘graduation’ missions as NCPvP prep missions. Start with a normal mission profile, but add the warning, “Pirates infest these areas and prey on the pilots we hire, BE AWARE!” There should be a basic discourse on std. PvP tactics and counters (spamming Dscan, not taking the ‘bait’ if wreck flipped, an explanation of griefer’s goals). Then in the mission, have (Sleeper level or better ) NPCs (simulating real player names in PvP fitted ships) attack in simulated NCPvP can flipping, wreck flipping, and ganking attacks.

    These attacks should be as close to what the new player ‘will’ experience out there as possible. The new player must LOSE a few ships. The ‘after action’ interaction with the agent or Aura should include a basic discourse on NCPvP in EVE and its consequences.

    CCP needa to teach the basics of NCPvP “before” the New Player has to experience it ‘out there’. Right now the tutorials do nothing to prepare a new player for NCPvp or PvP in any form, and they should.

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  8. Madame Thalys' kill rights idea has legs for high sec. The current bounty system is flawed, allowing the convict themselves to claim it.

    Merging in one of the other ideas, what if the kill right duration was proportional to the crime. Gank a newbie frigate, 1 day of kill rights for sale. Gank a tech 2 battleship in high sec and that's a month of kill rights or multiple kill rights for the same agressor, so multiple "bounty hunters" can be on his trail.

    Whatever happens, null and low sec should be unaffected. They get a warning not to go there. That should be enough :-)

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Lay it on me.