Blog Banter 32: Non-Consensual Combat Restrictions

EVE Online is a cruel world.  Click “Un-dock” and you consent to be raped, pillaged, burned and mutilated.  If you don’t like it, HTFU or play World of Warcraft.

EVE Online is a peaceful world where you can mine for resources, trade with friends and travel in peace, protected by Concord’s benevolent and ever-present police force.

EVE Online is both.  A place where people can chose their professions and activities, engage others in fair combat with agreed-upon terms and at the same time a place where anyone is always a target for someone else.

Yes.  Time to participate in the blog banter. First time for me.

This month’s Blog Banter comes from Drackarn of Sand, Cider and Spaceships

“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?”  (Drackarn)

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.  Before mum brings me my hotpockets to the basement.

Or I could spend some time in the attempt to unravel what this about.  But that would take work.

The basis

First of, EVE Online plays often think that they discovered PvP.  They are wrong.  Chess is PvP, Starcraft is PvP and even World of Warcraft has a PvP elements that function in principle quite similar to EVE Online.  So what is so different about EVE?

1. Expectations

EVE tutorials are all about PvE and learning how to navigate your ship.  New  players experience “task-saturation” in this phase since the famous learning curve is steep and do not expect other players to actively mess with their progress.  The apparent security and the calming tutorial voice are designed to create a supportive and forgiving environment.  A new player running afoul of a can-flipper here simply is blind-sided.

It gets more complicated when experienced players complain about getting attacked despite being in defenceless ships.  Their expectation is that a) they might be flying in high -security and b) fair fights are what an online games are all about.  They are wrong but the complex non-PvP environment can fill hours of game-play, careers, generate lots of ISK and is – again – task-saturating.  In other words, miners and haulers, ratters and mission runners experience a full game already in which they do not expect the PvP aspect.

2.  Fairness

Chess is a zero-sum PvP game.  One side will be destroyed by the superior intellect of the the other.  The starting conditions are equal and a loss must hence be seen as fair.  Also, implicitly, the rules are accepted.  Additional rooks can not be brought into the game even if purchased.  Fairness is expected as it is  – taught by Western Society as the ideal.    It can be expressed like Voltaire when he refuted the famous saying that Fortune is on the side of the bigger battalions (La fortune est toujour pour les gros bataillons, attributed to Henri de la Tour) by writing “God is not on the side of the big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best.” (Wikipedia).

In EVE, God is always on the side of the bigger battalion.  Fair fights are rarely intentional. The idea is to create such an overwhelming onslaught that the opponent is quite literally helpless.  Sun Tzu absolutely made this clear in The Art of War:  “He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious“.  Sun Tzu here does not talk about fairness,  a fair fight is to be avoided at all costs.  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.

3.  The Human Element.

I hate to point this out but many of those engaging in MMOG really play a single-player game with chat channels.  They see spaceships but they do not see the human being controlling it.  The other person has emotions, experience, angst, aggression and friends and enemies with expectations.  The spaceship is a virtual extension of this other person.  Some will let a hauler fly past, some will suicide gank him.  EVE allows, nay demands that a person shall have influence over another person’s game play. Players who ignore this and just focus on asteroids and PvE totally miss the point of being in EVE Online.  I blame Warcraft and other similar games which de-humanize the game.  The questing system makes other people at best a nuisance but never a real danger or help.  And most people in MMOG (and life) are asshats so reducing the contact is a normal thing to do.  But it does not work in EVE.

4.  Risks.

“Risk” in EVE is always mentioned in the term “Risk v Reward“.  Just staying with “Risk” for now, it means, I have something to lose.  In EVE all progress can be attributed to “time” as being the ultimate resource.  I lose X ISK, I need farm for Y hours to recoup it.  Whereas the ISK is virtual and meaningless, the time is not.  It is “real” time.  Human, meatspace time.  Yes, someone can reach through the internet, through the neocom and affect a real, physical person.  And in this context, PLEX is just time also.  Maybe 3 hours flipping burgers for a PLEX?.  Risk therefore is not an in-game risk (like e.g. World of Warcraft where death is a temporary nuisance without consequence) but has real impact.  That upsets those that are getting killed and fuels those that desire to inflict pain onto a real person.

In addition, new players have little and little to lose.  But a total loss of a newbship to a player seems to reset the clock and time appears wasted at the hand of another human being.  This fuels the aggression that the victim develops towards the perpetrator.  More experienced players should have internalised not to fly anything worth more than 20% of their total net worth.  They routinely do as they see PvP as exception, not the norm.

Putting it back together

CCP has the right approach in letting players decide their play style and I do not think that non-consensual PvP needs to be curtailed.  I do believe though that they could do a better job in the setting the expectations of players and by balancing somewhat the wardec mechanic.

New players could be exposed early to PvP and experience it in a series of escalating duels with other players in roughly similar ships.  So, the first “mission” would be to engage anyone in single combat, maybe without loss of ship.  The flagging mechanism of FW could be used for this as it allows individuals to fight each other in high sec.  The missions would escalate and end up in podding and loss of real ISK.  Further, lvl 1-5 missions could be built to include “consensual” PvP, i.e. real fights, duels, real ship losses in order to accomplish the mission.  Hauling missions may well carry the risk that someone has received a mission to take down a flagged hauler.

Again, this is not about turning PvP into consensual duels but to create the expectation that even in high sec at any time, attacks can and will occur. It would force Carebears into attacking other players and getting used to being shot at and podded.


EVE would not win by making tru-safe zones. It is not in the nature of the game, the backstory, the DNA of the players.  But I do believe that the existing system can be modified to get better PvP and less drama.

Just my 0.02 ISK.


PS.  There are many excellent blog banters written by folks with vastly more EVE knowledge than I have.  Find a list here


6 responses to “Blog Banter 32: Non-Consensual Combat Restrictions

  1. Unfortunately I missed this blog banter round, too bad because I like musing about things like that subject. While I also don’t think there should be an opt-out from PVP in highsec, I _do_ think there should be more opt-in possibilities. Erin on NotALotOfNews offered the possibility to offer kill-rights on the market, which I thought a great idea. Also, it would be nice if kill-rights were corp wide. Or if someone suicide ganks another ship, that his corp mates are free to shoot at for the victim corp. In short, there should be more possibility for vigilante justice and a working bounty system.

    • Mme. Thalys, you did not miss the blog banter after all – I just read your submission and liked your ideas. I think we are on the same page as I too think that the carebears are by game design the victims. Instead, they should – if they chose to – be able to effectively defend themselves. Your changes to the mechanic are a great start, hope someone at CCP picks them up.

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