Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Highsec EVE: the most anti-social game ever

When even Jester speaks out against ganking in EVE, we are probably facing a problem. When everyone tells EVE is too harsh on a new player, something is wrong. Not necessarily the way they think, but it's surely wrong some way.

I started exactly like the the newbie mentioned in the horror stories: no knowledge of the game and no friends, and pretty late, less than a year ago. Others known the game inside-out years before my character was created. They owned titans before I owned by first destroyer. According to the myth, I was set up for failure and only a miracle could save me. Instead of failure, I gained titanic wealth, I was not ganked once after the initial noob mistake of driving a Badger II to lowsec, I was not scammed and I experienced nullsec on my terms. And on top of that I got these so easily that I spent several blogposts whining how easy EVE is and how disappointed I am because of that.

Let me recite my motto: I do not believe in personal awesomeness. I'm a solid believer is that whatever I do can be repeated by an average person. Every time we see someone doing something unbelievable, we don't face an extraordinary man, we face an average guy using some knowledge we do not own yet. When we face a large group of people failing in something where we don't, we see equal people who are poisoned by some bad belief.

Since I never had to make serious effort for my achievements, I never felt in a cut-throat competition with equals and gaining my wealth rather looked like a 5-800M/hour grind than awesome winning, it's rather the second case. It's not that I know something right, it's something that the average EVE player does wrong. I've read another article of Jester several times because I felt it's important but didn't know how. The mistake of the average EVE new player was right there, explicitly stated:

CCP Solomon: The strong prey on the weak, but the weak aren't responding, and nobody's getting particularly fun or nourishing game play out of this. Is that a failure?
Seleene: Well then maybe they need to get more friends and they need to learn to defend themselves better in a PvP game.

Seleene, CSM head tells exactly what every successful and powerful player would suggest a newbie: get more friends and learn PvP. This answer is fundamentally and completely wrong and any new player following it is set up for failure, poverty and ragequit.

They don't give this advice because they are evil, but because their highsec newbie memories have long faded. Or they never was a highsec newbie, they are probably "community born" who podjumped to their out-of-game friends to nullsec on day 1. Nullsec mechanics favor blobbing. A fleet of 200 defeats the fleet of 100 unless extreme difference on their skill and/or ISK. Also, the fleet of 200 can force the fleet of 100 to fight by taking their space assets: moons, stations, systems.

Highsec (and somewhat lowsec) is completely different from nullsec and not because of bubbles, cynos and doomsdays:
  • Everyone can dock everywhere.
  • No one has significant space assets that he'd care to lose.
  • Neutrals are everywhere.
  • Shooting neutrals is expensive due to Concord and faction police in case of low sec status.
  • NPC corps can't be wardecced, player corps can.
  • PvP between NPC corpmates is equal to shooting neutrals, PvP between player corpmates is allowed.
Between these mechanics a blob helps you little to win. If the enemy sees it, can dock up anywhere. If you are neutral to someone (and no kill rights or suspect or whatever), you need to sacrifice overwhelming resources to kill him assuming the target isn't stupid or AFK. No one ever had a positive ISK ratio in a suicide gank against a non-moronic target. If there are 1000 people wanting to kill me but has no right to, I'm not forced to dock, I can easily wage a 90-95% ISK ratio war on them by undocking gunless, max-insured, max-tanked battleships into their blob or easily find a straggler, scan him with a neutral alt and drop a hard counter on him.

Highsec, where the most new players start their EVE life is the most anti-social game ever: the mechanics actively penalize having friends. The more friends you have, the weaker you are. Every new corpie increases the chance of you being awoxed, scammed, robbed or wardecced. If you have zero friends and you are not oblivious to the basic game mechanics, you are practically invincible.

The newbies are devastated not because the game is harsh or unbalanced, they are devastated because they come with a strong, wrong belief that is reinforced by the veterans: "the strongest EVE ship is friendship". No. If you are in highsec, it's equal to self-destruct. CCP knows this, this is why wardec costs scale with target size, to somewhat protect the people with lot of friends from being obliterated. Remember the one time when Goons ran to CCP to save them: when Jade Constantine caught them in a highsec forever-war against practically every highsec PvP-ers. You can't blame Goons for having no friends or being shy of PvP, still they couldn't handle it.

I didn't progress despite of having no friends but because of it. I naturally played solo so did not even encounter the limitless amount of traps the average newbie falls. I couldn't be wardecced, I couldn't be awoxed, no spy could get into my trust and no bad player leeched on me. Joining a highsec corp is like taking from the "Gift for newbies" container.

Let me make a simple suggestion that makes EVE much more newbie-friendly: ban player corporations from highsec. Something like "the Empires has fed up with the destruction caused by capsuleers, so they decided that every capsuleer who do not pledge their allegiance to them are no longer protected by them", making every player corp member perma-suspect. Of course give a huge "if you get into this corp, everyone can freely shoot you in highsec" warning for the application interface. This would mean exactly what is already true for members of larger nullsec alliances: you are safer in your own sov-null than in highsec. Hell, player corp members would be safer in lowsec too. This way social players would go to low/null, while newbies who did not learn the game yet would be safe in Highsec from the largest danger: the siren song of noobcorps. Make every corp post a warning like this:
and let only those corps to survive that can do so in low, null or WH. They can be good homes of newbies, unlike these horrible idiocy-hives in highsec.

21 comments:

Terion Ceravie said...

Good post goblin... After 10 years of EVE I find your logic here to be spot on. However, one of the things I like about EVE is that it has a steep learning curve. Since the start of online gaming, games are too easy. Take WOW for instance. Its impossible not to succeed in everything you want. All you have to do is make friends and spend enough time.

It is not that easy in EVE and I endorse that. The fact that the players control the mechanisms of the game in more ways than any other games I know means that we all are part of what the future of this game will become.

Bloggers like you, Jester, and many more provide information to the EVE community that will help those who seek information to better their gameplay, make their lives in EVE easier and more efficient.

For the very same reason I decided to start a blog myself today to share all my experiences. Like you it is not about skill, but knowledge and preparation.

Thanks for a good blog goblin...

Regards
Terion

Hivemind said...

First off, most players in an MMO are socials; they want to form a group with other players and have some shared identity. That's why there are always so many hisec corps out there that offer much the same thing as each other and always so many newer players willing to join even after being burned before. The fact that you aren't social doesn't mean that the path you took is going to increase long-term subscriptions from the majority of new players.

Second, CCP have player retention data that shows that it's the players who do join social organisations like larger corps and alliances early on, even hisec-bound ones, who are more likely to become long-term subscribers. New players are chased out by griefing actions like awoxing and wardecs that take advantage of their naivety and lack of skill/resources, but they're also lost purely because they don't engage with other players and never get into the complexities of EVE. You can discuss why this might be the case and how it could be changed, but as it stands right now removing corps from hisec is not likely to help with player retention.

Third, "I didn't progress despite of having no friends but because of it" is a bit disingenuous considering that you've been receiving copious amounts of feedback from veteran EVE players on your blog, practically since you started. Certainly you and your commentors aren't friends and a lot of that feedback has been "Your idea is wrong" but some went further and pointed out why you were wrong and how you could fix it. Feedback on this blog has helped you to refine and improve fits, pointed out dangers that you weren't aware of and given you direction when you had none. I remember when you were considering leaving EVE because you couldn't find anything to do and players here and in Goblinworks chimed in with suggestions. On top of that, if memory serves you found your old trade hauling partner through this site, you got into TEST through here and you were pointed towards the New Order from here. This is the kind of support and guidance that a good corp, whether in hisec or not, should be providing to new players and it's where the veteran players' recommendation that newbies join the community comes from. Your own path of starting out in EVE as an already-known blogger with readers who are EVE veterans isn't exactly going to be available to everyone.

Gevlon said...

@Hivemind: my suggestion was somewhat sarcastic. I'm aware of the wish of social people to have a "we" group. My point is that highsec mechanics penalize having a group and if you are solely after ISK or kills or whatever in-game "winning", you are better off alone if you are in highsec.

The help this blog gave me is available to everyone, simply by reading it. The sites, forums are all open to everyone, the information is out there, from reliable, expert sources instead of getting it from some corpie who is just as dumb as the guy asking the question.

Hivemind said...

"My point is that highsec mechanics penalize having a group"

I'd argue that it's more the case that they penalize you for letting just anyone into your group at the drop of a hat.
It's never possible to make a corp completely AWOX-proof since there won't be an obvious history to find before someone's first AWOX, but a lot of corps miss out on even looking for that history and corps can put in things like a trial period where a player is expected to join corp fleets without being a member that will discourage most random AWOXers who just want to get in and start causing trouble.
It's not possible to provide complete safety from wardecs, but corps can band together as an alliance to raise the cost to dec them and they can avoid looking like targets by minimising stupid losses - the kind of wardec-griefers you need to worry about will be looking at a corp's killboard kills and losses to choose their target, if there aren't any terrible fits on there and if previous war histories aren't full of PvE ship losses then they're more likely to look elsewhere.
It is possible to provide complete protection from leeches because you can just kick them, but you can also build the corp to avoid leeching by actually building around newer members instead of just having them tag along; a veteran player who can solo L4 missions in a Marauder is losing out on income if a newbie tags along in a Drake (bounty split 50%, Drake will not double completion speed) but if they build a fleet around newbies in T1 support ships and veterans in high DPS glass cannon ships (instead of each player in a ship balancing tank and DPS) they can increase completion speed to counter the income split. Mining ops are even more obvious - veteran miners providing boosts to new players in exchange for some of the ore the newbie mines due to those boosts, or newbies hauling ore for veterans (indies being lower skill than barges or exhumers) in exchange for a cut of the ore.

My point is that the risks you always cite as correlating to being in a hisec corp are actually things that can be managed, even if not avoided 100% - they're certainly not inevitable. Obviously there is a huge distinction to be drawn between "good hisec corp that manages risk and provides useful guidance" and "horrible hisec corp that just wants to bloat up with members" but the fact that the current system produces both indicates it needs improvement rather than scrapping.

"The help this blog gave me is available to everyone, simply by reading it."

Yes, and that's great if people have exactly the same problems that you did. The difference is if they don't they can't just write a blog post and get people chiming in to help or correct them, as you can and have.

"The sites, forums are all open to everyone"

Which includes people spreading misinformation for lulz and people saying "You don't know THAT?!? What an idiot!". Oddly, because of the additional bar of entry from us having to come to you, you filter out a lot of the noise that crops up on the official forums due to their more accessible nature, though I know you still have to filter out unhelpful comments as well. My point is the forums can be as unhelpful for a new player as bad corps.

"the information is out there, from reliable, expert sources instead of getting it from some corpie who is just as dumb as the guy asking the question."

You realise that most of those reliable, expert sources are in corps? Some of them even in hisec. Not everyone in a hisec corp is a noob or a moron. Again, the system isn't working as well as it should be, but it's not completely broken either.

Gevlon said...

@Hivemind: you are right that with serious effort you can avoid awoxers, most wardecs, leeching and so on.

But the fundamental problem is WHY? What is the benefit against these costs? What can a highsec corp give at all? To have a useful group you need a task that needs a group. For example taking sov needs one, so nullsec corps/alliances/coalitions have a purpose. But what task needs a group in highsec? Missions are designed as solo content, mining group bonuses can easily be reached by a few alts.

What motivates a GOOD player to filter out awoxers, thieves, wardec-proccing fails? If he does all the effort, all he gets is a corp that is just as good game-wise than the NPC corp plus a chat channel.

This leaves corp leadership to idiots who form around the guidelines "lets get together friends and have fun"

Anonymous said...

@Gevlon

"What can a highsec corp give at all?"

There are a lot of answers, but there is the most important one - socialising with other people. That thing is more valuable then all the ISK you can make.

Gevlon said...

@Anonymous: This is a stupid answer as Facebook is definitely better in that.

Anonymous said...

@Gevlon

Can you socialize AND play EVE on Facebook? No. Can you do that in EVE? Yes. My argument stands.

Gevlon said...

If the in-game browser can load facebook, yes you can.

I'm not trying to be smartass here. I really don't see the difference between playing EVE and Alt-tabbing to some chat program vs playing EVE and chatting with corpmates.

The external chat program and the corp chat both provide socialization but neither have much to do with your EVE gameplay.

Anonymous said...

@Gevlon

"If the in-game browser can load facebook, yes you can."

I'll interpret this as a joke...

"I really don't see the difference between playing EVE and Alt-tabbing to some chat program vs playing EVE and chatting with corpmates."

Well, that's because you have antisocial attitude, which you confirm yourself. That's not necessary bad, but it biases your view. Therefore your whole post is just your opinion. Most players play EVE to socialize. CPP realizes that and pushes players to socialize at the earliest opportunity. You don't care for that; others do. For those people you don't really make much sense with your arguments.

Gevlon said...

Let me explain more clearly:

Farmwille, the facebook game rewards you for socializing. The more friends you have, the more freebies you get for your farm.

In WoW having (average skill) friends means no change in your progression, the LFR raid or dungeon will give the same outcome if you go in with friends than it would if you'd go with randoms. I'm not saying it will FEEL the same, but the pixel results will be the same.

In EVE having friends means being open to wardecs, awoxes, leeching.

pirate said...

Gelvon.. your argument is spot on, that is if you talk about robots. Indeed there is very little advantage or in some cases as you mentioned - disadvantage to be in corp of HS. Facts are facts, but you never seem to take into equation human factor. MOST people need to belong somewhere. They need a circle in whatever they do. Even if they engage in some shitty solo PVE, they need some interaction to feel in MMO. Psychology 101. You don't count as an example due to blog popularity and social interaction outside game client which compensates social shortcomings.

Now when it comes to awoxing and griefdecs, as much as I love tears, I think this one is a big cancer of EVE. However this gameplay is somewhat a trademark of EvE (watch butterfly trailer). I agree it has huge impact on newer players, but it's difficult to put a line. This might actually be hardest fix to come up.

Lastly a comment on "winning" eve or being successful or whatever you want to call it. According you ISK is the main measurement. You keep bashing people that do ineffective stuff regardless of their interest, while quoting your trading success as a benchmark. Try being successful with completely new char in anything other than industry without capital and see how it goes. You will not do it because it is stupid and waste of time and I don't blame you.

If game closed down tomorrow, what will you remember? Your ISK number in the wallet or all those interactions you had which gave you no benefit? Exactly.

Hivemind said...

"You are right that with serious effort you can avoid awoxers, most wardecs, leeching and so on"

I honestly wouldn't call the efforts involved serious - about the only difficulty will be the trial period to deter awoxers also deterring straightforward applicants as well. Most of the rest - getting members to cooperate for tasks, getting them to fit ships appropriately etc - are things that any corporation leaders should be expecting to do before they found their corp, or before they turn their personal tax shelter into a player corp. Yes, lots of leaders don't do that - I've said before that the corp system is far from perfect and needs to be improved - but some do, and benefit from it without considering it to be extra effort.

"What motivates a GOOD player to filter out awoxers, thieves, wardec-proccing fails? If he does all the effort, all he gets is a corp that is just as good game-wise than the NPC corp plus a chat channel."

OK, I understand that you are asocial and I get that you recommend people being asocial because you think it works (though I do wonder if you'd have quit EVE months ago if not for commenters and Goblinworks...) but I don't understand why you insist on discounting it for other players; you've admitted most MMO players are socials, yet you keep on ignoring that.

As the anon commenter has said, people like building social constructs; a corp allows a shared name and a shared banner, even attaches their corp ticker to their wrecks to say "These people killed this". That's not something you get from an NPC corp even if you have a dedicated chat channel for your friends - you still have their banner instead of your own, and that banner is shared by thousands of people you've never met. There's also a social stigma associated with being in an NPC corp - "Post with your main" on the forums for example, that many seek to leave behind. Even a good idea is less likely to be noticed on the forums if the character suggesting it is in an NPC corp.

"This is a stupid answer as Facebook is definitely better in that."

Except if people want to socialise purely with people they play EVE with, about EVE. Using external social networking tends to bring in real names, IRL social groups like non-gaming friends, work colleagues, family members etc. Many people playing MMOs prefer to keep their ingame persona strictly seperate from their IRL one. There's also the question of immersion - even if a player and all their EVE friends make Facebook profiles for their characters, loading up an IRL social networking site and seeing invites for farmville, receiving pokes etc will break their immersion in the dystopian space-future that is EVE.

"I really don't see the difference between playing EVE and Alt-tabbing to some chat program vs playing EVE and chatting with corpmates."

Well, for starters the New Order will shoot you if you try that while mining.

"In EVE having friends means being open to wardecs, awoxes, leeching."

As I said, these are risks that can be reduced or controlled. Having friends also brings with it the possibility of pooling skills/resources - maybe one player can bring a maximum boost Orca to mining operations, one has a freighter, one has the skills and standing to refine ore perfectly, one has the skills and standing to sell the minerals for maximum profit, one has skills and blueprints to produce items from the minerals that sell for more than the minerals would alone. Yes, a single player could achieve this all themselves with sufficient alts and/or training time but not everyone can afford/wants to have a dozen accounts, or to spend 2-3 years training all of that on 1 character. A corp can allow for division of labour for mutual benefit.

And once again social players will find the accoutrements of a corp - tag, logo, bulletins etc - more attractive than just being a group of people in NPC corps who work together.

Von Keigai said...

Very well said, Goblin. I've said before how my small newbcorp of RL friends struggled to find any isk-earning activity in EVE in which our numbers actually helped. There are none.

So basically we played as solo players, each doing our own thing 6 nights a week. The seventh we'd try to do things together, which usually ended badly. (I.e.: lowsec exploration should be profitable, right? No.) At best, it was fun to be together and we did not lose any ships. But I could have always earned more by leaving the group and doing solo highsec exploration.

The lack of substantial group-benefit in highsec is a problem. Most people are socials. We do want to retain them in the game, and getting them in corps is the way to do that. Ideally we want to get them in corps that actually own something, and that can actually do something as corps.

I agree with Hivemind in the criticism that you are much better informed than the average highsec newb. Also you are smarter. Fully half the population has double-digit IQs! (Eve probably has a higher average than 100, but not that much.) Also, the average player plays a few hours for a few nights per week. He does not spend anywhere near the time you did. No, the average player cannot do what you did.

Anonymous said...

The only reasons I have a corp with RL friends/friends I have known in Eve for 10 years are:

Corp Hangars
Corp Wallet
Corp Market Orders
POS
Corp Contracts

Now, I do not let anyone in my corp aside from these RL friends, but that is the same in WoW, EQ2, AOC, LOTRO (insert game name here).

I have been in high sec corps that are social, and this is how I made some of the people I trust most in Eve (Strangely in a high sec piracy training corp)

Unless you are going for sov, there are no real advantages to being in a corp with a lot of randoms anyway. Want to be a renter? Make an alliance, then you get to be in your small friends corp, and still take part.

The shared identity "fun" is the same as having "Made by X" on an item in other MMOs, its like having your Uni name on a t-shirt, or having a band t-shirt, its something others see when you are flying around.

Eve can be very overwhelming for some, which I try to help with when I am in Rookie Help (for my sins). Not everyone has a blog with traffic to it that they can put random ideas up on, not everyone is aware of the user made chat channels.

TBH, I get the same benefits from a corp in Eve as I do in any other game, but then my definition of "winning" a game is different than yours, and rarely requires others to be involved, but, that doesn't mean I do not see the benefits of having real time chat with others without needing to have skype open all the time, or be on voice.

Some people enjoy hanging out on IRC with their corpmates, some enjoy the assistance, especially when it comes to "What skills should I train", and the access to corp fits for ships avoids rookie mistakes when planning ships.
Corp mails allow for sending round fits and skillplans, and corp chat can be handy for collaborating on markets/building.
I am in a few market channels, but I am unlikely to pass the info I pass to my corpmates in the same way, and I am equally unlikely to get the same info from the user channel.

So, the answer to "what do you get from a corp" is, whatever you get in other games. Few people join guilds to pwn, otherwise there would be a higher % of hardcore raiders than there is.

I am asocial (got a label and all!) yet can see the advantages of it. An anti-social like yourself should be able to clearly see it. You do not have to understand something to see the appeal

Eaten by a Grue said...

Hivemind, you are getting sidetracked and missing Gevlon's main point, which is high sec corporations hurt new players. Sure, with care and effort, the disadvantages can be mitigated, but it still speaks of bad design.

But seeing as people want to be social and want to form corporations, maybe instead of banning corporations in high sec, as Gevlon suggests, maybe CCP just needs to come up with high sec activities where groups are advantageous.

Anonymous said...

"I started exactly like the the newbie mentioned in the horror stories: no knowledge of the game and no friends, and pretty late, less than a year ago."

I thought I remembered your earlier business reports having a few hundred million in donations?

Anonymous said...

I have to say there are lots of PVP noob friendly corps in highsec, eve uni , RVB, even Noir academy once you get to a certain skill point level. All you need is more corps like these , and on top of that the revamped FW has been a huge boost to low sec pvp involving low SP ships .

Hivemind said...

@ Eaten by a Grue

I disagree with the point that highsec corps hurt new players inherently. I get that they expose them to additional risks but tbh awoxing is not actually all that common in highsec corps, it just tends to draw a lot of attention when it does happen. Likewise wardecs are rare - 99% of the time a hisec corp will not be at war. The problems only crop up on the
occasions that wardecs or awoxers cross paths with new players. On the other hand, I might be underestimating new players here since it's been a long time since I was one but even if the corp members are fairly new they're likely to be able to provide some useful advice for a new player, if only in the form of "Don't do what I did when I was new". They're not going to be great fountains of information on every topic in EVE but generally during their first couple of weeks a player will pick up on quite a few things that would have been useful to know when they started that they can share with other new players who have just started. Corps aren't essential for that, but the closer relationship to a player corpmate than to someone in Rookie Help or a public chat channel or NPC corp does help.

That said I do agree with you and Von Keigai that EVE could benefit from more group content, in particular content that would teach players to work together in the kinds of roles they'd need for gang PvP - even if they never fight other players there's an almost class-based skillset needed for the roles that would help players coming in from other MMOs get to grips with EVE, plus it should provide some enjoyable gameplay. The hard part would be presumably making it open to newer players and profitable enough to pull them away from solo activities, without also opening up an ISK faucet that veteran players can take advantage of solo.

I'd also like to see L5 missions added to hisec, with the income dropped to being slightly above L4 missions per pilot for an average group but skewed less to raw ISK and more to LP, as a form of group content that would keep veteran players involved. Lowsec would still have the attraction of notably higher rewards, plus the option for people to solo them in carriers (not sure if anyone still does that these days) for people willing to risk it, just as the option is there for L4 missions.

Anonymous said...

In EVE having friends means being open to wardecs, awoxes, leeching.

the first 2 can be mitigated with common sense and diplomacy.

The 3rd is purely a construct of your twisted (and demonstrably idiotic, I'm sorry to say) objectivist philosophy, so I will ignore that point.

Wardecs - keep your head down, hire mercs, be diplomatic, pay off your aggressors...or, you know, fight. Most wardec grief corps are small number, low SP bullies. Actually undocking and costing them a shiny ship or two will have the war retracted quickly in most cases. In cases where it doesn't you have other solutions (all of which require and rely on socialization).

Awoxers can be mitigated through a proper recruit screening process. You wont catch all of them but you will filter out the obvious ones. You can also limit this by recruiting real life friends to form your corp instead of randoms.

Socializing actually solves the only 2 valid risks in your argument.

I ran a highsec corp for the better part of 2 years. We were wardecced less than 10 times in that entire 2 years. Only 1 wardec ran the distance as it was a merc contract against us, not just some drive by bully.

The problem is not nearly as large as you make out which in turn makes your entire argument weak at best and another example of your lack of common logic at worst.

Maxim Preobrazhenskiy said...

Don't like the suggestion to remove player corps from highsec.

You are essentially killing highsec group gameplay that way, turning it into lowsec group gameplay.

The problem that you see is that highsec group gameplay turns people into carebear morons. And i agree that it does. The solution, however, should not be to kill highsec group gameplay, but rather make it more skilled.

You (Gevlon) were able to make this much money in Eve in this little span of time, because, plain and simple, highsec Eve seems to lack real traders and industrialists. As such, there is a lot of room for an efficient trader to play the market, and playing the market game itself is a low-risk play with high revenue to loss ratio.

Now, normally players quickly home in on low-risk high-reward plays and use them. However, the problem with Eve's highsec trading play is that it is apparently simply not fun. It is fun for you, because it is a vehicle for pushing your higher level agenda, but it is not inherently fun for a player without a higher level agenda.

Instead of outright abolishing player corps in highsec, a better suggestion IMO would be to take a good long hard look at some of the real trading MMOs out there and incorporate some of the mechanics that make their trading game actually fun into Eve's highsec play.

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