Header art by Redline XIII
“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.” – advertisement in a London paper for the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, according to legend.
Antarctica is probably as close to an unforgiving, frozen hellscape as one can get. In the vast desert of snow, hypothermia was the expedition’s constant companion. To cross the Antarctic continent by land would take a lot of preparation, teamwork, and determination. However, all the preparation in the world didn’t help Ernest Shackleton and his team when things went straight to hell.
All of the men selected were determined. Out of the thousands that had volunteered, Shackleton had narrowed his teams down to 28 men each on 2 ships. There was not a weakling among them.
However, when the first ship got caught in ice and sank, Shackleton knew they would survive together or not at all. When a seaman named John Vincent was reported to be bullying some of the other members on the crew, Shackleton demoted him.
The greatest story of camaraderie, still retold a century later is about the spilled milk of Lionel Greenstreet. Milk was essential for the men in the expedition. All the food was. It takes calories to keep warm. So, when Greenstreet spilled his milk one day, seeing all of go away on the snow and ice, he became quite upset. Silently, and without prompting, each of the 7 other men in the tent rose to poor some of their milk into Greenstreet’s mug. Each of them had a little less, but they all had the same amount.
The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition failed in its goal of crossing the Antarctic continent by land. Despite that failure, it remains one of the greatest feats of human endurance in the history books. Not a single man under Shackleton’s command died, despite the loss of their ship.
Okay. Great. What Does This Have to do With EVE?
“EVE if up to me, would be a very harsh, dark, dystopian place where bad stuff happens; EVE should be an absolute hellscape of terribleness.” -CCP Falcon
EVE Online has been traditionally called a “Sandbox MMO” by the players. Unlike the “Amusement Park MMOs” like World of Warcraft, in a sandbox MMO, the game is there and players can do what they want with it. Players set their own goals, go where they want, and do what they want. In an amusement park MMO, like WoW, developers keep having to add in content as the old ones get beaten. It takes a lot of developer time to do this. If EVE was not a sandbox, CCP would not have been able to throw money away on other failed projects because they would have had to pay more developers to keep adding in more content.
EVE has sometimes taken on some amusement park qualities, like Incursions and Abyssal Sites.
In a sandbox MMO, most of the content has to come from interactions with other players. It has to. There are always more players than developers. Anything a developer designs, assuming they do it honestly–i.e., there is a solution–a player will solve. I know from experience; I used to run Drifter Hives with a small group of really good pilots. Once CCP found out from one of my pilots (who was bored at how easy it was) how we were doing it without losses, they changed the AI. Which really didn’t stop my group, to be honest.
Because of this sandbox quality, any awfulness in the game needs to come from other players. This is actually a pretty good plan. People are awful to each other. EVE encourages this further by allowing, even encouraging scamming, theft, lying, spying, and more. Someone made terroristic threats about cutting off another player’s hands in the real world, and some EVE players thought a ban was too much of a punishment. We are all awful players in an awful game.
Engineering Human Behaviour
CCP has two choices in order to make EVE an absolute hellscape of terribleness. Either the players make it a hellscape, or the game does. CCP has been trying to go the latter route. First, they introduced Drifters attacking structures all over null sec. After that, they introduced the Blackout.
There are two very telling results from these changes. The first one is that all the null sec power brokers got together in a discord room for the first time and worked together. CCP had attacked all of null sec, and nothing makes for better friendships than spending time in the same foxhole. Of course, there is not likely to be an outbreak of total peace in null sec, not yet. The second result is a huge drop in the Peak Concurrent User numbers and null sec activity.
When faced with adversity, like Shackleton and his team, humans tend to come together, work more as a team. A company from Iceland–not exactly a land flowing with milk and honey–should know this. When the land is trying to kill you, no one has time for murder. When Drifters are reinforcing structures all in null sec, no one has time for wars.
When faced with adversity, some people just leave. Not everyone has the stamina or desire to continue on. EVE Online is a video game; it’s entertainment. It’s supposed to be fun. There are certainly activities that are difficult, and everyone likes overcoming challenges. Plenty of rich idiots climb Mount Everest every year, after all. However, a hellscape or terribleness doesn’t exactly sound fun. As the joke goes, no Warhammer 40k fan wishes to go to that universe.
If CCP does introduce game mechanics that make the game a hellscape, players will fight the NPCs and game, rather than each other. If they make the game a hellscape, players will leave.
However, if CCP makes living in null sec easier and wars more rewarding, like I said before, there will be more conflict. I am not talking about the idiots in cloaky, nullified Lokis flying about that get upset when people warp off when they come into system; I am talking about actual wars.
Fuck Small Gang. There. I Said It.
Null sec is not for small gang PVP. If people want to do that, go someplace else. I hear low sec is nice this time of year. As I wrote before, sov null is for civilizations. When a group of armed bandits show up in a country and start shooting things up, they get introduced to the military. See: Pancho Villa. When a small gang shows up to kill ratters or miners, the local super fleet shows up.
This is working as intended. It’s very easy to get PVP in null sec. Anyone at all can get into a supercapital fight with really no effort. It’s simple. Go to Delve, tackle a supercapital ratter or some Rorquals. Once that has happened, wait for the cyno to go up. Some supercapitals and other caps will jump in. After that, light your own cyno and jump your own super fleet in. That’s the next B-R5 battle right there.
Null sec is not safe. CONCORD doesn’t respond when PVP engagements happen. Any security that one might perceive in null sec exists as the dedicated result of players spending manhours to keep it safe.
While I am going to give the blackout a pass on judgement, I am going to point out the Emperor’s saggy ball sack when it comes to the new cyno changes. Capitals and cynos are not oppressive; not everyone deserves a chance of victory. If someone is willing to drop 500 billion ISK to save a Rorqual, then buddy, pony up the same.
PANIC is not perfect; supercapitals need a balance pass. However, anyone that thinks they and a few other pilots can bumblefuck around null and not get hammered by overwhelmingly-powerful defense fleets should fuck right the fuck off.
Recently, CCP Hellmar—aka CEO Hilmar Pétursson—has been playing EVE Online. This is fantastic; more CCP developers should play their game. However, all the changes so far have been to make null sec more like wormhole space: no local and less cynos.
With no respect to wormholers: you do not matter to null sec. To use my previous civilizations analogy, wormholes are like barbarian camps; they show up and make life a little inconvenient until they get closed. Even our low sec neighbors matter to us more than wormholers. For me personally, if wormholes were removed from the game entirely, I don’t think that I would notice at all. If I did notice, I certainly wouldn’t care.
That said, making null sec more like wormhole space is some pants-on-head stupidity. Wormhole space already exists! If players want to play with those rules, they can move to wormhole space. I don’t give a shit if Hilmar thinks wormhole space is the cat’s pajamas. No part of the game is for everyone. Removing CONCORD from high sec to make it more like low sec would be just as dumb as removing local from null sec.
I am sure that a CEO like Hilmar has heard of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Briefly, the Dunning-Kruger Effect says that a novice will rate their knowledge and ability the same as an expert. Someone with a middling amount of experience realizes how much they don’t know.
After 6 or so months of playing EVE in wormholes, Hilmar has come to the forefront to make drastic changes to EVE. Dear reader, I leave you to your own conclusions there.
Right now, CCP Hellmar is doing his best impression of Mel Brook’s character from Blazing Saddles, Governor William J. Le Petomane: “We’ve got to protect our phoney-baloney jobs, gentlemen! We must do something about this immediately! Immediately, immediately!” He’s admitted in public interviews that he has no idea what the proposed changes will do. He’s also reportedly admonished CCP Rise for soliciting feedback from the community about changes. There are circumstances where doing something, anything, immediately is called for. However, with almost 6 thousand less on the Peak Concurrent User number, blind jumping might result in catastrophe.
Generally speaking, people will always act in their best interest. If CCP doesn’t recognize this, players will lose their interest in EVE. CCP has it within them to fix EVE, to make it better than it ever was. However, it’s going to take the humility of one CEO to do this. CCP Hellmar is not an expert when it comes to EVE Online, and he never will be. He should stop having opinions on the game and stick to running the company. No one actually cares what his twenty year old vision for EVE was. Players always have and always will forge their own path.
UPDATE: CCP Rise has clarified that Hilmar’s reaction regarding the cyno announcement was not in any way an admonishment or disciplinary. As Rise is someone who has been working tirelessly to make EVE better, and done his best to be responsive to player concerns, for his entire tenure at CCP, this is welcome news here at INN, and we thank Rise for that clarification. -Ed.