Adapt or die

This week featured the most fascinating article on  It described the alternate universe of Serenity, the EVE Online instance that serves China exclusively.

One of EVE’s primary draws is that every player, from the lowest veldspar mining newbie, to the leaders of coalitions, all play in the same sandbox galaxy (that is, the Tranquility server). However, that’s not a completely true statement; there exists another EVE Realm, named “Serenity”, that hosts the Chinese playerbase of EVE. Angry Mustache

I have always wondered how our society evolved if EVE was started new today, i.e. no previous information leak from our existing society to the newly formed.  The reason is my long standing interest in evolution in the broadest sense, not just how man descended from a monkey (1).  Without stretching, many all evolutionary mechanisms can be found both in the biological world and in society and it is astounding sometimes just how easy the world becomes when one consequently thinks in these terms.

The assumption was that Serenity was formed and then populated largely in isolation from Tranquility.  Under this assumption, it did not “bud off” and taking a population from Tranquility with it that could generate the starting gene pool and e.g. form Jita as major trade hub – a fresh start with only small injection of old genes from visitors like the one who wrote the article.  In a very large genepool, a small injection of – even superior – genes can get washed out pretty quickly as well.  Lets also assume that the physics and the game mechanics are the same.  I.e. missiles fly at the same speed and cause the same damage on Serenity versus Tranquility (2).  What differs now are only the mindset of the people who play it.  Also – the number of people and I think this is hard to gauge in this case.  With a lower population and therefore fewer friction points between societies, the dynamic of the server must be different as well.  It would be ideal to compare Serenity to Tranquility when it had the same population but that of course is not possible (3).

But lets step back for second and look at it from the biologist’s perspective.  Why should  Jita be the main (only!) tradehub on Serenity?   Jita is neither the only possible or vastly superior tradehub in New Eden  – and certainly not 4-4.  This means, there is no evolutionary pressure to have the tradehub there, many other systems could work.  If there are many possibilities, nature often agrees on arbitrary standards.  Light switches in the US are “on” when “up”, in the UK its the other way round.  It simply doesn’t matter. from the functionality point of view but society has accepted one form over the other (4).  For Serenity, many other tradehubs would have worked equally well but the selection of Jita strongly suggests that Tranquility-educated players created it and made it the de-facto standard.  Why not change?  Why do migrating birds land on the same nesting ground every year, even if a better one can be found a few miles away?  Well, the society provides protection and the relative advantages of a different nesting sites needs to be translated into every bird’s behavior.  Switching costs are not just an economic term, they apply to evolution as well.  So, I don’t think Jita as the main hub was random – the chances of that would be very low.  What I found more interesting that a trade hub exists at all.  With very independent nullsec corporations and extremely long supply chains, I would have assumed that several more diverse tradehubs exist, i.e. that Rens / Dodix and Hek become more prominent, not less.  There may be a good economic reason for it – critical mass and all that – but I find that curious.

The apparent similar boundaries of the EVE map may well have been forced by the pressure of stargates and their enforced routes. Like mountain ranges with passes, they are natural barriers for the migration hence lend themselves as demarcations of different societies.  I am not a nullsec player but I would not be surprised if the majority of the borders coincided.

What would interest me, is why these blocs are generated in the first place, how they claim to be different from each other (are there EVE goons?) and what their aspirations are.  If the ratting rank and file for example is not exposed much to fleet combat, how can one power bloc take on another?  Small skirmishes train for larger wars and select the players that are fit as FC, snipers, scouts, logistics etc. There is a reason why the US seems to desire an active war at any given time – to create the evolutionary pressure on the soldiers (5).  So, while I would not be surprised if an elite squad of the Rooks and Kings would draw even with an elite squat of any Chinese bloc, I would be very surprised if any of these blocs would offer serious resistance to an onslaught of an equal number of goons.

Lastly, what would really be interesting to me would be how the different the corps function on Serenity as compared to Tranquility.   Even within EVE, there are pockets that are highly isolated from each other and many players only get to see a small subset of possible ways of doing things.  Wormholes are famous for shutting themselves off from the outside world and each corporation has developed their own way of doing things, similar to how birds and bats both evolved wings to fly.  Bookmark naming conventions come to mind.

My alliance shamelessly stole the Bookmark naming convention from pjharvey’s blog and it worked well but recent recruits have mutated the structure a bit.  It will be interesting to see if the new structure becomes dominant and effectively drives the old structure into extinction.  The issue with that is that both our C2 and our C4 corp use the same bookmark convention for the reason of interchangeability of pilots. Separation by corp structure and WH space fosters the success of mutations that – in a larger and homogeneous gene pool – would be suppressed.  Letting mutations foster will lead to the separation of species.  Comparing fleet doctrines in Serenity and Tranquility, I would be surprised if there were not very significant differences that would only come to a test if the two fleets met in combat (CCP, make that happen, it would be awesome, like a tournament)

Anyway, this was more of a rambling post – I put these together in my head on my 1 1/2 hour commute and apologize if they are a bit disjointed…

Next post hopefully will be about my experience so far in FW.  If I get time to log in and play, that is.


(1) yes, I am kidding here.  Its more complicated.

(2) it would be cool, if it didnt.  Evolution is ripe with examples where the external forces change and create new species.  Thats really the adaptation.

(3) it would negate (2).  The various expansions (wormhole space, FW etc) would make a true population and time-corrected comparison meaningless.

(4) thats actually really common.  All of language development is like that, whether you make a clicking sound to communicate the presence of food or say “steak” doesn’t matter.  Both work equally well.

(5) I do not mean, that the bad soldiers get killed, making space for the good ones, even I am not that cynical.  I mean that the reality of combat trains leaders, strategy and tactics more than any simulation.


4 responses to “Adapt or die

  1. “My alliance shamelessly stole the Bookmark naming convention from pjharvey’s blog”

    No we didn’t. Nobody involved in the decision was reading Penny’s blog at that point. I do know our way to determine c4a vs. c3a is different to WHEN’s. That possibly just helps prove the point you were making.

  2. I found the article on Serenity interesting as well. Culture has a big impact and chinese tend to group, go for stability and are happy just being a small cog in a big well-oiled machine.
    Wonder if Serenity has it’s own Mittani, Makalu or other polarizing characters.

    • Thanks for the comment – I agree culture has a big impact, this can go both ways as well. I always wonder how a decisively Western game like EVE impacts players from very different cultures. I.e. do people scam? Use real names as character names etc?

      I am very hesitant to use country as a stereotype though. The Chinese I know – expatriates in the US and Canada – are as individualistic as any other American of European descent. Granted, I have never been to China but my experience overall makes me shy away from quick cultural judgment. Germans are supposed to be highly organized and have no sense of humor. Ask my wife if that is true…

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