Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Is Eve heading for a Trammel?

The word Trammel has enormous force with a certain section of the online gaming community.

Ultima Online was one of the first MMOs, arguably the first mainstream one. It was pretty popular. It had a very open ruleset as the developers made it without really knowing what to expect from their players. They had MUDs to look at and Richard Bartle had already developed his famous theory of player types but they didn't know if what happened in MUDs would happen in a 3D setting. They had earlier graphical MMOs to look at but the population in those was very small so it was hard to draw sociological conclusions from the way players behaved in them. So they went into the project wondering what they would find if they made a virtual world that was as unrestricted as possible, a sandbox full of possibilities. What they found was this:

Wolves eat sheep.

That trend, the intersection of the killer player type with the other player types dominated the game experience. Imagine you log on, chat with a friend, buy something from a crafter, admire some shiny armour on a very advanced player then get ganked robbed and corpse camped. You've met a socialiser, an explorer, an achiever and a killer, one each of the 4 Bartle types. Which one defines your experience of the game? The killer.

Now at first people put up with it but then a game came out where the sheep were safe from wolves and masses of players moved over. So in order to save Ultima Online the developers introduced the Trammel expansion, introducing safe play areas for people. And the word has been a curse in the mouths of aggressive pvpers ever since.

In Eve Online the sheep are guarded by a game mechanic of punishment. You're not actually safe in high sec but if you get killed so does your attacker. This is a loose deterrent to pvp that has worked very well so far for the game. High sec is generally safe but each player is likely to have an occasional moment of drama that keeps the heart racing and the game interesting. Sometimes people are very upset to be victimised in "safe space" but it's infrequent enough that the mechanic has worked to satisfy both sheep and wolves.

But maybe that's going to change.

There's been a growing interest in messing with people in high sec. Increasingly Eve corps have been interested in fighting people who don't want to fight. My impression is that pre-Goons people generally saw end game as big nullsec empires which is consensual pvp. And it's not just the Goons - Suddenly Ninjas have promoted ninja salvaging techniques, many corps do can flipping and camp gates around Jita to suicide gank afk haulers. There are two major alliances that just war dec as many corps as possible and camp Jita in the hope some targets will turn up. And of course there's Hulkaggedon, a festival of wolves ganking sheep.

It's escalating.

The Mittani, furious at making a tit of himself over a highsec carebear, seems driven to disrupt highsec. He seems to view nullseccers as a much lesser evil than anonymous high sec carebears. He's been banned for 30 days but will come back on 28th April spearheading a Burn Jita campaign. He and his admiring followers want to cause as much disruption to the carebear high sec playstyle as possible.

So what if they win?

What if they manage to begin the process of shutting down high sec carebearing?

CCP will look at the sub numbers and if they're sharply falling because carebears can no longer play as they want they may institute a Trammel. Make high sec totally safe. I don't see how they could do any different - they want Eve to be a game that allows multiple playstyles, not a game that only supports Killers.

Of course it's possible that a war on high sec will be so interesting it will increase sub numbers in which case it will make business sense to allow the carebears to gradually be replaced by hardcore pvpers. But how long will it be interesting to grief the sheep if the sheep all leave? This happened in Ultima and basically when the sheep all go the bottom rank of wolves become the new sheep and everyone ganks them mercilessly until they quit and then the next rank of wolves become the new sheep.

How feasible is it to shut down high sec? I would say that under the current mechanics it's very feasible. Disposable gank ships are very cheap and nullsec alliances are very rich. If they really went for it they could probably keep their entire player base in suiciding Tornados and Catalysts for several months. If they're organised and loot and salvage the wrecks to sell off for more suicide boats it could almost be self-sustaining, especially if they get some lucky big loot drops.

And of course if sheep leave then there's less sheep. If 100 sheep ganked a day it doesn't matter much if there's 20000 sheep but it's a pretty big deal if there are only 2000. There's a point at which a consistent number of ganks sustained over a long period will thin the sheep out. And of course new players would tend to want to be the killers not the victims.

To add to the complexity of the situation, the player council is likely to support and facilitate the suicide gankers rather than the victims as the hardcore veteran players who run for and vote in the council tend to be pvpers/killers.

I predict a Trammel for Eve in 2013. Areas where players are untouchable.


  1. One thing I remember from past encounters is that there is a certain type of personality whose reaction to other people opting out of a confrontation (whether PvP or iRL) is to get really really really angry with them.

    I remember one player I once knew (who was a tit, admittedly) discussing a time when he'd been shouting at someone and they'd broken down in tears. And he was still furious at the memory because it had meant he had to stop having his argument.

    1. That's almost precisely why Mittani wants to burn down Jita.

  2. I think CCP is smart enough to come up with a nice medium solution if these problems do become a significant threat to EVE Online.

    1. Possibly, Michael, but of course any such solution isn't simply a design matter, it's a political matter in a game where the players have been given stakeholder status in running the show.

    2. One thing I like about EVE is how well it stays within the RP parameters of its own game. It would be possible to think up some RP explanation of a blanket ban on PvP in high-sec, but I hope CCP doesn't take this route. Instead I think their current strategy (of punishing PvP initiators in high-sec space) can be extended. Fines, jail, destruction of clones and so on can make the consequences of taking on Concord much more onerous than the current punishment, loss of ship; while at the same time maintaining the credibility of the Eve universe.

  3. I'd point out that the focus on Jita as the dominant trade hub is not good for the game. It would be more fun and challenging (although more difficult) to be a trader if trade was more dispersed among regional hubs. If care-bears are decide to quit in response to a Jita blockade rather than just trading elsewhere, there is not much point in trying to figure out how to keep them happy. Or even figure out why they play EVE at all.

    1. You know, I keep seeing things like this.

      Eve is a sandbox right? In which players should be free to do what they want, right?

      Does that not include shopping at Eve's equivalent of Lidl (cheap supermarket) and getting on with what they really want to do.

    2. Jita became the dominate trade hub organically. It happens to be located in a fairly centralized location in the middle of the highest-populated race.

  4. "Burn Jita" campaign is the 'reward' for The Mittani receiving over 10,000 votes in the CSM. It is not an angry response to being temp-banned (which The Mittani fully accepts; he is just pretending to be angry to incite all the stupid Goons).

    1. It is an angry response. What's your reason for saying it isn't? That the Goons spymaster said he wasn't angry. Did it ever occur to you that someone who built his Eve career on deception might not be a sure source of facts?

    2. I have friends in Goons, and they were all pushing me to vote for The Mittani. If he got 10,000 votes, then Goons would camp Jita for a weekend.

      Nothing to do with the Alliance Panel scandal.

      The only place you'll find angry language from Mittani about this is in his State of the Goonion address where he is exclaiming that Goons will invade Tenal. He knows how to motivate his pilots.


      Dated: Mar 07, 2012 05:53

      "10,000+: Tornado Weekend in Jita. Entire alliance visits Jita, grabs Tornadoes, alphas freighters on the 4-4 undock, shutting down EVE and unleashing a maelstrom of sorrow not seen since the Ice Interdiction."

    4. What I'm saying is I don't think you should take anything from the Mittani at the surface level.

      I think he's angry but not showing it other than pseudo-ironically in the SotG.

      And yes, it was planned before but it's now become co-opted as a response to his "unjust" treatment.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. I know I took Fanfest as the impetus to unsub my accounts, as per the "look at what players do not say"

      So if it is not the players' attitudes that are keeping EVE subscriber numbers so low, what is it? Too elegant of a UI? It can not be PvP since WoT is 100% PvP and it can get 420k+ users online just in Russia.

      CCP targeting a very tiny market niche with EVE is their biggest strength and greatest weakness. As long as the shareholders are content with the status quo, it is unlikely things will change.

    2. I actually think Eve's numbers are reasonable. When you look at sub mmos, WoW beats everyone by miles but Eve is firmly within the chasing pack. It makes enough money to support a decent size business (400 or so after the layoffs?).

  6. A true way to opt out of EVE pvp would be awesome. But it won't happen, because if it was ever going to it would have already.

    EVE has such enjoyable pve mechanics. PI, the whole crafting system, trading, exploration, min-maxing ship stats, all that! It's the kind of game where you can log on and always have ten interesting things you can do, both solo and in fleets.

    If they were to make a carebear safehaven, the most immediate effect is they'd probably lose say half of those 20% who pvp, while gaining perhaps 2-3 times as many of the 80% of players who want to fly around in space and just have fun. There is a large group of potential players who try it out, fly around a bit, maybe try some mining, and then have some terrible experience with some ass griefing them for no reason except to 'harvest their tears' or whatever, and then quit the game for being too unpleasant. There are even more players who are interested in EVE, but never try it out because they hear horror stories about stuff like hulkageddon.

    The increased subs and revenue from such a change are obvious, but CCP doesn't want to do it. Instead, we get stuff like moving the more profitable asteroids out of empire, limiting where you can set up POS and do moon mining, changing missions and escalations so they throw you out of high sec. These things hurt most of the player base to favor the part of the player base ccp prefers.

    CCP devotes time to figuring out new ways to get pve people out into low/nullsec so that pvp people will have more victims to abuse. Making safehavens for pve people would be nice, but given how we don't already have them given the obvious advantages means that we most likely never will.

    1. You can opt out of PvP by docking.

      I'm not sure what you are asking for, Michael. You want to be able to make enormous wealth without any risk at all?

    2. You can't make wealth in eve, small or enormous, without breaking the terms of service and selling isk for real world money. Making wealth is a non-issue. I want to play the game. :P

      I want to be able to run a challenging level 4 or fight sleepers without having to worry that someone will scan me down and kill me for the lulz. :o

      But that's not the point. My point was that since they'd make more money by making pvp opt-in, but don't, they certainly won't change their minds all these years later. XD

    3. You can run level 4s in high-sec. The only way you are going to be shot down there is if you attack a thief or if your corporation is at war. Don't want to be at war? Stay in an NPC corporation.

      Want to do raid-like content with groups of people? There are large high-sec-only Incursion communities in EVE that keep active blacklists of griefers. You won't be shot down there (by people).

      Wormholes are supposed to be the vast unknown--wilderness--frontier. Don't want to be shot down? Watch your scanner if you are alone, or join a large wormhole corporation and shoot sleepers with 10 other people.

      It is very easy to avoid fights in EVE if you are smart about it.

    4. AND regarding the 'making money' bit:

      Many gamers are angry at companies such as Activision-Blizzard, Zynga, and SOE _because_ they are so profit-focused. CCP is a company that is attempting to stick to its ideals: they want a dystopian sci-fi/cyberpunk universe. And many players do to. For every player scared away by the _potential_ of being ganked, there are more that become excited at the prospect of playing in the sandbox.

    5. "You can opt out of PvP by docking."

      That's a very silly answer. You can opt out of pvp by not playing too but it's hardly how a game should be designed to make players behave.

      "I'm not sure what you are asking for, Michael. You want to be able to make enormous wealth without any risk at all?"

      There's a lot of money in null. Sreegs recently said that bounties generated 4 times the isk of incursions.

      But yeah the game design should reduce high sec income to encourage people to venture out into more dangerous space.

      But that's the point - more dangerous. At the moment high sec is more dangerous than anywhere else according to dotlan. Three and a half times more ships killed in the Forge in the last 24 hours than in the second highest region:

  7. The UO analogy breaks down somewhat because the EVE universe is so big. Unlike UO, everybody plays on the same server and have spread out. If you do your PvE business a jump or two away from Jita, which attracts the good and the bad like any big city, the crime rate is high.

    But there are lots of systems out there where you can safely mine and produce to your hearts content. I spent three years in and around a system in Amarr space... not even a backwater, but a quest hub that always had 30-80 people in it, just a few jumps from the Amarr trade hub, which always has a few hundred, and never got bothered.

    My pre-null sec deaths to other players on both of my accounts adds up to this:

    -Killed in a low sec gate camp
    -Killed when I shot at a much bigger ship that stole ore from my jet can
    -Killed in a low sec gate camp
    -Killed running a mission in low sec
    -Killed in a low sec gate camp
    -Killed in a low sec gate camp
    -Suicide ganked in a .5 system at the height of the suicide ganking, in a system known for suicide ganking, while flying valuable cargo while AFK

    I realize this is anecdotal, but one un-invited PvP action in 5 years does make me look at the claims that EVE is this abusive hell hole for new players with a skeptical eye.

    I would guess that CCP loses more players to things like "it's boring" or "it's too hard" than to non-consentual PvP.

    1. If I could +1 this post, I would.

    2. I would also contest that there is some sort of recent uptick in no-consenual high sec PvP without some numbers to back it up.

      The height of suicide ganking was a couple of years back and we are looking towards Hulkageddon V, which itself is a knock-off of a Goon anti-miner Jihad nearly a year before the first Hulkageddon.

      There is a long history here already.

    3. Hulkageddon is more about combating high-sec bot miners than causing grief.

      No doubt legitimate players get caught in the violence, but their deaths are rationalized as: "Mining is so monotonous that bots do it. Thus all players mining are no better than bots."

    4. Wilhelm, it's so anecdotal it's useless. Based on a survey size of one, I could infer that everyone in the world is male and British.

      You're wrong about the "height of suicide ganking". Basically it was a dark art originally, with early adopters ganking afk haulers in what was widely regarded as "safe space". Then came Kartoon's Jihad. Then professional high sec war dec alliances like the Orpanage started and they've been growing all the time. Every Hulkaggedon has been bigger than the last.

      So over the last three years:
      ganking of afk autopilots > up
      Hulkageddons > each bigger than the last
      Interdictions > a new development in mass suicide ganking that was highly successful
      High sec war dec corps > booming

      Take a look at the stats
      Far more ships are killed in Empire than anywhere else.

    5. Stabs, all your stats are not normalized.

      Far more ships are killed in Empire because there are far more players in Empire. There are 1000 to 2200 players in Jita at any time. Rens, Amarr, Dodoxie: each see nearly a thousand players concurrently.

      Choose any major mission hub, and there are 100 people there. Choose any other high-sec system: 20-40 people.

      Seeing more than 20 people in a low-sec or null-sec system is rare. It is either a station system, and pilots are docked afk, or there is a fight about to go down. Most of these systems are empty.

      Here are some normalized stats:
      * 20% people live in nullsec, responsible for 52% kills
      * 8% people in low, see 26% kills
      * 67% people in highsec, 15% kills

      I will say, however, that I am more fearful moving an Iteron through highsec than I am flying around in low or null. I've had a hauler ganked on a gate, losing about 200mil ISK, and it was very, very sour. C'est la Eve.

    6. >I will say, however, that I am more fearful moving an Iteron through highsec than I am flying around in low or null.

      This is what's sad about EVE. It makes you fearful of other players. Instead of providing a place where you can make friends, enjoy the game, and grow, in even the safest place in the game you still have to be afraid of other random players.

      And because kinder players are dissuaded from playing by this, it becomes that much more likely that remaining players are ones you _should_ be fearful of. Which feeds on itself until the community is so unpleasant and hostile that it becomes almost shameful to be part of it. You can't just say 'I play eve', you have to say 'I play eve, but wait! don't worry, I'm not one of those horrible people :('.

    7. I've made many friends in Eve, and I feel very safe around them.

      You are starting to make commentary on humans in general :P 'Given unknown conflict lines and factions, and a means to combat others, the resulting environment ends up resembling western Europe in the Middle Ages.'

    8. I take your point about the stats but still I find it astonishing that even normalised pvp stats show high sec kills not that far behind null.

      Null sec is consensual pvp, high sec is generally non-consensual.

      It's as if almost as many people got ganked by high level Rogues while shopping at the auction house in Ironforge as died in Warsong Gulch.

    9. Come on, Stabs. You are being a little over the top here.

      High-sec is not a chaotic, gankfest warzone. If you fly around in an overly pimped out ship (we are talking 2-3 bn ISK), expect to get war dec'd. If you move 10 PLEX in an Iteron, expect attempts on your life.

      Do new players get tricked by complex aggression rules, and end up blowing up? Sure. And CCP is iterating on ways to make aggression and criminal flagging a little cleaner and less exploitative.

      But don't paint high-sec as this cesspool of griefing and tears. That makes it sound exciting, and high-sec is anything but. :P

    10. Yes, I SAID my observations were anecdotal, and implying I was saying anything else is setting up a straw man. But because of my experiences, I won't take your statement that high sec is a gankfest without some numbers.

      And speaking of numbers, yes there are a lot of deaths in high sec. Go track where they are on DOTLAN. The biggest numbers will coincide with where the Red vs. Blue operations take place.

      Oh, hey, consensual high sec PvP! Imagine that.

    11. It's currently showing 1006 ship kills in the RvB system with 4110 ship kills in the Forge as a whole. There's tons of kills that clearly are nothing to do with RvB including 377 in Jita and 100 in Perimeter. I don't imagine many of those are consensual.

  8. I have played Eve for years. Normally in a nullsec alliance. Some time in wormholes and some in highsec.
    I think CCP do need to increase penalties on highsec pvp, and remove some of the loopholes and abused tools that allow it.
    For example the "one day wardec" that allows a griefing alliance to run massive numbers of wardecs without paying the isk price for them.
    Wardecs should be limited to use between two rival corps. Not used as a way to bypass the concorde penalty to kill anyone undocking in Jita...

    More generally though, Eve has a much higher propertion of total douchebags than any other MMO I have played. (And I have pretty much played them all.) It comes down to the fact that Eve gives players a lot of ways to completely ruin someone else's day. So all the douchebags play Eve because thats what they enjoy doing.

    I personally like unrestricted, open, full loot, risk V reward, meaningfull PvP.
    However, I dont like playing with the douchebags that these rules attract.

    Early UO was the best experience I have had in an MMO. The douchebag to nice player ratio was very low, due to the fact UO had a captive audience.
    I enjoyed hunting reds, tracking thieves, helping players in need etc.
    This will never happen again, because there is now choice in the genre. That makes me sad.

    1. Now that's very interesting.

      I would love to see a game effectively co-opt players into policing the game against the griefers. It happened in UO, it happened sometimes in Diablo 2 where PKKs went hunting player killers.

      It's not really happening in Eve and the bounty system is rubbish. I guess the closest Eve has are the mercenary outfits.

  9. Wolves need sheep, sheep need wolves. If the sheep leave because they can't sustain their fun and are pushed to extinction, the wolves ultimately suffer by losing their game.

    Ideally, the best game environment balances sheep losses with wolf power. Likely it has taken a long time and some sacrifice for the EVE wolves to build up an arsenal capable of "burning Jita".

    It may piss some people off and even leave some lasting changes, but likely the event will leave the wolves with less power overall, and the sheep smarter and able to recover much more quickly than the wolves.

    I think one of the problems of this discussion is that it is essentially wolves and sheep trying to come to a consensus. Not going to happen. Each is playing a different, although interconnected game.

  10. Pah, sheep don't need wolves. The only thing pvp people offer pve'ers is the constant resource drain of negative sum pvp keeping the economy steady. Without that, the price of damn near everything would slowly decline as resources accumulate in abundance and rarely go away.

    But that could easily be solved through grand engineering projects in high sec! :D I was there when they built the star halo around Rens. I helped seed the star forests of dodixie! I was part of saving Jita from going nova. I built a home of my own on the dyson sphere. I was there, when it was so amazing. At least, I want to be there, if it were to happen. :)

    We never really get to do anything truly grand in eve. No deeds of great renown. It's all just either a bunch of people minding their own business or a bunch of silly kids shouting 'This is MINE! Go away, this is mine!'

    Sheep don't need wolves, but we tolerate them as long as they don't bother us _too_ much. But if there was a pve shard of eve, I'd transfer, or start new, in half a second.