THE DEATH CYCLE OF LOCAL CONTENT

2015-08-14

One comment bandied about when discussing the dearth of nullsec content under the new FozzieSov system is “why don’t you just unblue your neighbors?” It’s a pat statement that doesn’t address the actual issues with the system, but it’s also a statement that seems to indicate a lack of understanding about sustained conflict in Eve. The problem with the idea of “local conflict” is that there is no stable equilibrium.

In American sports and other video games you are often rewarded with a resource for failing. In shooting games your character respawns relatively quickly in a zone near the action and is gifted with a full life bar and (generally) a decently powerful weapon with ammunition. In American sports, the worst teams in the league are rewarded with the pick of the best incoming players. In this way, the groups that perform poorly are rewarded. In European football the best teams make the most money and there is no draft system. It takes a big shakeup (like new ownership or bankruptcy) to change the top teams in a particular league.

In EVE, the losing side does not get any of the benefits that losers in other video games receive. This is part of the attraction of EVE. You know something destroyed is value removed from your enemy. In the most distilled form, your efforts to kill them have stolen time from them, whether it is time they spent ratting, mining, or real world time to buy plex. However, permanent destruction means that, unlike a game of Call of Duty, you can’t just respawn and fight your enemy again. You either have to make more isk to get another ship or your alliance has to do so. Eventually, these resources will run dry.

EVE’s nullsec players often see themselves as empire builders, as part of a giant RTS where they play the role of Protoss Templar #18. This is part of why they joined the game. They heard about the giant losses of B-R or Asakai and how much “money” it cost and they wanted to be part of that. They see themselves as part of an important space alliance and they came for “important” fights, fights that have meaning and consequences. They don’t see themselves as elite small gang pilots nor do they have the desire to be that. In the same way the Roman legionnaire was not a pit-fighting gladiator, their primary identity is as part of a group that builds, controls, and maintains things.

As a practical example: If the Goonswarm Federation just unblued SpaceMonkey’s Alliance today there might be some fighting, even though there is no practical reason to fight over the space currently, but not much. For sake of argument, let’s assume that all-out war was declared: in six months, one side or the other would no longer exist in a recognizable form and the “content” this generated would be gone again. The winning side would absorb the best corps from the loser and the remainder would move off somewhere else to rebuild. They would have lost almost all of their income, most of the space their members used to build personal wealth, and a good number of their best personnel and there is a strong chance they would never come back as a viable group again.

At this point, you would be right back in the place you started, except you have betrayed friends and ruined the trust of your remaining and future allies by attacking someone who you had declared an ally. Your other option is to unblue someone and farm them for content. This will not kill an alliance as quickly as conquering them, but it will sap the will of both the attacking and the farmed alliance. The farmed alliance knows they are just being kept as a content generator and that they have no real chance to win a serious fight. The alliance that is farming gets killmails, sure, but the people who play for fights of consequence realize that these are just more-or-less arranged fights and nothing of importance is at stake so your pilots are not energized. This can be viewed as a toxic form of blueing where you exchange easy and convenient killmails for your fleets in exchange for them being in convenient range to harass and kill your ratters and miners. This is the more “noble” endgame being proffered as the solution to null’s current issues.

Resetting a blue does not solve the problems that nullsec has right now. It might provide some short-term content but ultimately you would very quickly find yourself in the exact same position as before, except with your soft power weakened and your future prospects dimmer. EVE players are rational and those who lead alliances even more so; the kind of Don Quixote players who will tilt at any windmill will quickly find that they have no one left to follow them. Those leaders who position their alliances for future strength are at the tiller and aren’t just going to decide “I should make bad choices now because someone on Reddit said so”.

Thoric Frosthammer’s excellent blog entry showed some of the reasons why null players are less interested in combat for combat’s sake. Players in nullsec have to make numerous decisions that players outside do not need to consider. Right now, the logical steps lead to two obvious choices: maintain friendly relations with your neighbors to protect your investment or give up sov and feast on those who have built things. The nomadic lifestyle is very appealing, all you must do is maintain your Khalasar: keep them horsed and the sheep people can be slaughtered. If you are a sheepherder your only protection against these nomads is to build walls and guard them and to do so with enough people that you can repel these nomads. If you start tearing down your walls to fight amongst each other you will very quickly find yourself consumed by someone who has no skin in the game while you risk everything you’ve built (yeah I just dropped a solid Game of Thrones analogy in an article about internet spaceships, I’m reaching nerd critical mass).

EVE used to be a game that attracted a player who was an empire builder. These kinds of players don’t care about “dank frags”; they want battles of consequence and narrative meaning. That is why they are here. The current designers at CCP are building a model designed by people who like dank frags and made for people who want them. This is a fine idea for a section of EVE, it’s basically what lowsec was made for. However, to ensure the future of the game CCP needs a strong nullsec built for the kind of players who want to be in nullsec, not one forcing nullsec players into a lowsec lifestyle.

Special thanks to Sixx Spades for spelling the word ‘personnel’ aloud on comms for me and KlM KARDASHlAN for notes and thoughts.

(Editor’s Note: Many of our submissions come from players in the EVE Online community who are not staff here at TheMittani.com. This piece comes to us courtesy of Imperium FC and head of the Reavers SIG, Asher Elias)

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