Game talkReadingThe EVE upset

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Feb 112009
 

Edit: I don’t actually play EVE, just watch from afar. I’ve corrected some errors below that players of EVE mentioned to me. :)

A few days ago, everyone wanted me to write about the massive destruction of the Band of Brothers alliance in EVE Online, and how Goonsquad GoonSwarm finally triumphed via an act of betrayal.

But honestly, another day, another giant EVE scam. Ho hum. Is there anything really good to say about this?

For the uninitiated: there was a huge aliance named Band of Brothers. There was another clan named Goonsquad GoonSwarm who hated them (edit: well, everyone, really) and worked against  them, but was not nearly as big or powerful. Goonsquad GoonSwarm would recruit BoB members in order to scam them. A BoB member joined under these false pretenses, but then chose sides and rather than be scammed, asked to join for real — and offered up BoB as his price of entry. He was a high-level admin of BoB, and he basically disbanded the whole thing, destroying it from within, and Goonsquad GoonSwarm made piles of virtual money.

The most intriguing aspect of the whole thing to me isn’t the way it happened, but the overall social dynamics of it — the fact that it was completely inevitable. There’s been lots of talk about how this was basically a sort of exploit, that one person should not have enough power to destroy the work of thousands. But I’ll make the case that this is exactly what CCP should want to have happen.

Band of Brothers was an alliance, a network of networks, so to speak. It existed within a preferential attachment system, meaning that the clans of EVE are a system whereby the big tend to get bigger. A new entrant into the system tends to attach to an existing, larger group, over time.

Because of the external pressures of sheer survival, you tend to try to join a clan of a reasonable size, and then the clan gets drawn into alliances of a certain size, and so on. There is safety, and strength, in numbers, and the game system is essentially zero-sum for any given conflict. And given the way in which time equals power in EVE, there is a natural tendency towards growth, solidification, and continued existence.

What you end up with is an ecosystem with a classic power law distribution of social group sizes, a scale-free network which is extremely hard to destroy.

This isn’t the first time we have seen this phenomenon in competitive virtual worlds. Famously in Shadowbane, single guilds would tend to come to own entire servers, because the game system there was also zero sum. The result led to boredom, because in a game premised on conflict, the notion of a single eternal empire is dull.

Scale-free networks are notoriously hard to kill. In fact, mathematically, if you start randomly removing connections in the network, you have to remove a ridiculous percentage of the total to make it cease to exist as an entity. This is how guild social structures can survive for years.

But there is a way. The characteristics of a scale-free network are that there are hubs. And the hubs are the vulnerable spots in the network. Take out hubs, and you can make the network fragment to disconnected bits, because the hubs hold subgroups together.

Band of Brothers was a hub, and the before-and-after images show clearly that separation into component pieces, each then no longer indomitable.

This was good for the game under its own terms, because the game is premised on conflict. In any PvP scenario which has a temporal component — even one as simple as leaderboards — you need to “overturn the anthill” or else you will end up with a static power structure. The guy who held the record will hold it forever. The top guild will stay the top guild, etc. This is why you often see leaderboards offer different time spans — “best today,” “this week,” “all time,” etc. Otherwise, it’s hopeless to compare yourself against statistical outliers who always win.

In the case of something like a PvP-centric team-based game, there’s really two ways to accomplish this overturn. One is to wait until the empire rots from within (security breeds carelessness, inattention, and eventually vulnerability). The other is to aggressively force the rot, by attacking the hubs and attempting to co-opt them.

This has been used as a business tactic: World of Warcraft consciously pursued the guild leaders of the largest and most influential guilds in its successful attempt to dethrone Everquest. By recruiting them over to the new game, they managed to harm the social fabric of EQ while also creating a ready-made community within WoW.

In the case of a self-contained (and richer) simulation like EVE, there’s assets to worry about. The loss of one director might be a blow to BoB, but the real blow is the destruction of its assets, largest of which was the alliance itself, the group’s identity, but which also include the money, ships, and so on. Without those things being scattered to the winds, there would be no overturning of the empire.

So unless a traitor can empty the bank accounts and disband the alliance, it’s very unlikely that BoB would fall. And the game, as a game, does want BoB to fall, because from a purely mechanical point of view, what is fun about EVE is the struggle, not the victory condition. The victory condition is boring.

Lots of folks lose their livelihoods when an empire falls, and players invested in BoB are likely upset that years of work were lost. But EVE is not a game about the height of the Roman Empire. It’s a game about the sacking of Rome by barbarians, so that they can become the next short-lived top dog. BoB existed to be torn down, and anyone who dreams of permanent glory in a game like that should understand that their destiny is to be taken down by the next upstart, in a dog-eat-dog world.

If anything, the fact that it takes a betrayal by a single high-level user with extraordinary powers reveals that perhaps the network is a little too strong; it should have been easier for Goonsquad GoonSwarm to take BoB down, because the system as it stands now means that political intrigue is where the excitement lies, and that leaves out (in a power-law distribution of clans and alliance sizes) the majority of the users.

And for once, wouldn’t we love to hear an EVE story about the single newbie who found a way to destroy the dominant political body through sheer cleverness and determination? Because the same-old-same-old stories of well-organized mafias taking each other down gets repetitive. :)

  54 Responses to “The EVE upset”

  1. The EVE community has buzzed lately with talk about how this has rejuvenated PVP in null-sec (the space with no security restrictions whatsoever) as well as the importance of keeping a closer eye on permissions and such. I’ll avoid all the wonky discussion of why this is a great example of how sovereignty mechanics need a revamp.

    But I’d also like to point out that BoB has reformed because those connections didn’t just exist in game mechanical terms. The players still have their relationships and connections, and in fact this might draw many of them even closer. The primary “replacement” alliance, KenZoku, consists of the larger part of the old alliance, and many people are talking about the Goons’ inability to exploit this opportunity as KenZoku has begun to re-establish itself and, at least to a degree, try to defend its space.

  2. Yes — the social network is still scale-free. So BoB will continue to exist as a social group of great power. It would take removing a lot more heads of the hydra to really make it disintegrate.

  3. “wouldn’t we love to hear an EVE story about the single newbie who found a way to destroy the dominant political body through sheer cleverness and determination?”

    What, like the guy who killed Lord British with a well-timed magic spell? When I look for a story of an individual toppling empires I turn to singleplayer games. Isn’t one of the strongest features of an MMO to be part of something larger than yourself, to achieve feats such as this through cooperation and being part of that “well-organized mafia”?

  4. Michel, the issue is that the nature of the games where that is possible from a PvP point of view is one of eventual ruin, always. And while cooperation is great, requiring a large group to do stuff means that the individuals can be left out of play altogether.

    I have had a design for an ongoing civilizing game for ages, but never actually implemented it…

  5. I just finished reading Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress; the classic SF-political novel features prominently the mechanics of the clandestine cell system. Could such a security measure have preserved the integrity, and thus the power, of BoB? Or would the constant pressure added by the cell system strain the social networking aspect and give rise to decided un-fun “war weariness”? Or, as a third option, do you think it would be possible for a powerful group to maintain both an open social system (for non-sensitive interactions) and a clandestine cell system (for military-commercial operations) and thereby dominate both realms?

  6. So do a post with the basics of the “civilizing game” design. Who knows, maybe somebody can use it as a base for a project in Metaplace.

  7. Hello Raph,

    First, my bias – I’m a member of GoonSwarm, have been for almost half a year. I am not a member of GoonFleet (Fleet is Something Awful forums only, and is the primary corporation in Swarm). My view is also biased by the fact that I only read my corporation and alliance forums – propaganda and all that.

    So, the first nit pick is that there is no GoonSquad. There’s GoonSwarm (alliance), and GoonFleet (corporation).

    Goons scam anyone, preferably people they refer to as pubbies – pretty much any corporation or alliance member that isn’t from the Something Awful site. Players in other corporations in GoonSwarm are also referred to as pubbies, though Goons don’t normally scam them, or members of other alliances who are blue (friendly) to the GoonSwarm alliance.

    The assault on Band of Brothers wasn’t for hate alone, nor for in-game money. It was for the chance to upset the players in the BoB alliance – Goons refer to it as ‘sweet pubbie tears’. The fact that the Swarm gets a new home, in some of the most profitable space in EvE, is just a nice bonus. It also gave Goons a chance to rub the nose of BoB about an old statement where BoB as an entity declared that ‘There are no Goons’.

    As for the recruitment of the BoB director – yep, the original intent was to scam him of ISK (currency) and/or ships. However (as the story goes at least on the Goon forums), the corporation that he had joined with an alternate character was so friendly to him, that he decided to offer up BoB on a plate. Long story short is that he did, and Goons have en-masse picked up from our current home and assaulted the space where BoB used to have sovereignty.

    And yes, victory is boring, conflict is what drives EvE.

  8. The assault on Band of Brothers wasn’t for hate alone, nor for in-game money. It was for the chance to upset the players in the BoB alliance – Goons refer to it as ’sweet pubbie tears’.

    Yeah, in terms of my analysis, motive really doesn’t matter very much. :) If anything, the anarchistic nature of the Goons actually helps the dynamic!

  9. Whenever I read stories like this, I want to play that game. I checked out the screenshots of EVE, but the game looks purely about civilization/space conflict (i.e., no individual characters running around on some alien world.) And subscriptions are a tad expensive. (But I’d also love to join my Goon friends… Hehe.)

  10. [...] Raph Koster breaks down the recent Eve hoohah. Lots of folks lose their livelihoods when an empire falls, and players invested in BoB are likely upset that years of work were lost. But EVE is not a game about the height of the Roman Empire. It’s a game about the sacking of Rome by barbarians, so that they can become the next short-lived top dog. BoB existed to be torn down, and anyone who dreams of permanent glory in a game like that should understand that their destiny is to be taken down by the next upstart, in a dog-eat-dog world. [...]

  11. Excellent writeup of this. I was about to post something along the same lines on my blog but you beat me too it. Damn server in my house crashed and I couldn’t get to it. To me, the most fascinating aspects of these events is the social dynamics at play. The more we see them, the more we can design systems in our games that can enhance or suppress them making the future worlds richer and more in-depth as a result.

  12. So can someone point me to a place where I can read a more specific account of how this was done? I wanna hear the details..

  13. I take it more like this: CCP designed the game in way that makes it impossible to legitimately take down entrenched empires, such as BoB. So, players instead resort to out of game exploitation to take each other out.

    Great for outsiders looking in, but a horrible blow to those that pay to play daily and have their actual in-game activities destroyed by a few seconds of out of game LOLitics.

    Actually, this exact scenario plays out weekly when one player gets bored with a side (or the game) and moves on, and just because they can, they go ahead and take out everything else with them.

    Empires can’t rule forever, but CCP has to do something to prevent a single player from being able to unravel the work of hundreds of players and thousands of man hours in a matter of seconds. I just want EVE stories to be legitimate instead of another big scam.

  14. Forget user generated content. EVE has something far richer and more enduring: user generated drama.

    It’s like an online reality show–Big Brother in space.

  15. First, let me express my own bias, I hate BoB. I used to run with Reunion (hi guys) and even when we managed to beat the Bobbits back they managed to come back with more BPO’s and Titans. It was well known on the forums that certain high ranking persons in BoB had close personal ties to the Devs. This continued to make fighting the good fight against BoB incredibly disheartening. I quit because I realized, I’d go out every day in a new BS (because yesterday’s had got blowed up) and no massive treaty between AAA, Goon, IAC, RA etc. would ever put down BoB.
    I am glad to see Goon has triumphed. I gave them a big round of applause when I heard the news. They fought the good fight in their dastardly way and I love them for it. Not to mention the fact that Bobbits picked the fight with Goon in the first place! When an alliance thinks they are so powerful that they think they can stop Goon from holding territory, that is when they have reached the height of hubris.
    However, I hope against hope that they will not rise into BoB’s former position. It wouldn’t be a good fit anyway. They are runners and gunners. Bad mouthed SOB’s who love having a girl in teamspeak. Stick to what you guys do best.
    Further, espionage is an integral part of EVE. There are entire skill trees devoted to it. Spying is not an exploit! It is a necessity as much as mining and PvPing. Don’t be a QQer because the power house of EVE has been brought to it’s knees. Applaud the day that countless hours spent by thousands fighting the menace that WAS BoB had their efforts come to fruition.

  16. I take it more like this: CCP designed the game in way that makes it impossible to legitimately take down entrenched empires, such as BoB. So, players instead resort to out of game exploitation to take each other out.

    “Out of game” is only relevant when talking about roleplaying or the exploitation of bugs. That’s not what happened here. This is a legitimate way to destroy an empire; the entire point of EVE is intrigue and backstabbing, as was pointed out over and over again when this old scandal first came up.

    Forget user generated content. EVE has something far richer and more enduring: user generated drama.

    Raph would say drama IS-A content. :P

    It’s like an online reality show–Big Brother in space.

    Even better: it’s not on TV.

    I’d go back to playing if I had people to play it with. I never got very good at piloting, though, so I’d mostly be deadweight being dragged along. I’ve still got a Myrmidon sitting around, though.

  17. So can someone point me to a place where I can read a more specific account of how this was done? I wanna hear the details..

    http://www.offworld.com/2009/02/ragdoll-metaphysics-good-grief.html

  18. So, players instead resort to out of game exploitation to take each other out.

    Games are never played in a vacuum.

  19. I thought CCP’s reaction was perfect.

    “Yo, we broke 50k simultaneous users! Woot!”

    ’cause the whole drama is what got so many folks online at once, and they know it. From their perspective, this is probably the best thing that’s ever happened to their game in quite a long time.

  20. Stories like this are what I love about MMOs – be it EVE or my current favourite Lineage II. These are the games where the main content, and the only thing that ultimately matters, is other players.

    I wish there were more of them instead of the next re-iteration of DikuMUD with 3D graphics.

  21. Oh, I would have wished a story about “a single newbie who found a way to destroy the dominant political body through sheer cleverness and determination”, but sadly this is not one. This one contains little determination and absolutely no cleverness (in fact theres seems to be indication that it will end up as a rather foolish move.)

    I have no love for BoB or any other major alliance as I play EVE entirely on my own. But I have no expectations of the power status in the wild regions of EVE to change just because BoB lost its name. In fact, this properly just encouraged them to fight on and in half a year KenZoku will standing as strongs as BoB ever was.

    I fear more for Goons though. Their anarchistic nature properly means that they will lose out sooner or later when another MMO title pops up and grabs their attention.

  22. First, let me express my own bias, I hate BoB. I used to run with Reunion (hi guys) and even when we managed to beat the Bobbits back they managed to come back with more BPO’s and Titans. It was well known on the forums that certain high ranking persons in BoB had close personal ties to the Devs. This continued to make fighting the good fight against BoB incredibly disheartening. I quit because I realized, I’d go out every day in a new BS (because yesterday’s had got blowed up) and no massive treaty between AAA, Goon, IAC, RA etc. would ever put down BoB.
    I am glad to see Goon has triumphed. I gave them a big round of applause when I heard the news. They fought the good fight in their dastardly way and I love them for it. Not to mention the fact that Bobbits picked the fight with Goon in the first place! When an alliance thinks they are so powerful that they think they can stop Goon from holding territory, that is when they have reached the height of hubris.
    However, I hope against hope that they will not rise into BoB’s former position. It wouldn’t be a good fit anyway. They are runners and gunners. Bad mouthed SOB’s who love having a girl in teamspeak. Stick to what you guys do best.
    Further, espionage is an integral part of EVE. There are entire skill trees devoted to it. Spying is not an exploit! It is a necessity as much as mining and PvPing. Don’t be a QQer because the power house of EVE has been brought to it’s knees. Applaud the day that countless hours spent by thousands fighting the menace that WAS BoB had their efforts come to fruition.

    As I read this I can only help but think of the great Winston Churchill. “History is written by the victors.” The social dynamics of this and Eve’s other events are fantastic and parallel reality pretty well. If its citizens regurgitating the propaganda of the victor to justify the war or the losers complaining that the victors were not fair it’s all player-generated content. Even better, it’s in-game content that is cared about (good bad or indifferent) on a level that no player of WoW/LotRO will understand. I’d play Eve if I enjoyed space games which I don’t. I’m still waiting for the high fantasy version of Eve to be released/funded and no Darkfall is not it.

  23. I´ll write it from the Band of Brother´s view (since its the alliance I´m in):
    I play EvE now for more than 6 years (thats a lot of time for a MMORPG)
    and I like it becouse storys like this happen.
    As an entity, BoB still exsist as a big network of people, that like to play together. BoB (in EvE) is older than the game itself. Most of them played together in other MMORGPGs and therefore will still play together.
    So ingame maybe there are ppl in entities that think, by klicking a few buttons you can destroy a whole alliance; thats just wrong.
    To remove BoB from the game, you would need to shut down the game itself, since there is no way, that someone can remove the relationship of these people.
    And I think this is the case, why lots and lots of former Goonmembers quit playing the game, becouse they never can claim vitory ingame. And if you cant claim vitory, theres no point in playing a game, from their perspective.
    Lots of them took the game more seriously than BoB actually did and so they stepped into their own phase of depression and made the game for themselfs “un-winnable”.

  24. “I fear more for Goons though. Their anarchistic nature properly means that they will lose out sooner or later when another MMO title pops up and grabs their attention.”

    There are goon guilds in every single MMO currently on the market from UO Gray Shards to ATITD to WoW. They’re not some migrating entity.

  25. There are goon guilds in every single MMO currently on the market from UO Gray Shards to ATITD to WoW. They’re not some migrating entity.

    Out of personal interest … which clan/alliance are they on L2 NA/EU? And on which server?

  26. If your aim as a designer is to divide the player base into xenophobic tribes who barely trust their own members, much less anybody else, then yes, something like this is a good development. And perhaps that dystopic vision is perfect for the world of Eve Online. I won’t discount it as a valid design choice, but I do think it will consign you to a particular niche in the market with no real hope of gaining a more general audience (admittedly a big plus to some players).

    Otherwise you might want to explore solutions less likely to make existing players quit in disgust and send potential recruits fleeing. This could be as simple as opening new territories tactically removed from existing empires; balance it so the existing empires can’t take the new lands without overextending their defenses and making themselves vulnerable on both fronts. And if a special resource in the new territories reduces demand for the economic output of the old empires, then you’ve presented them with some interesting choices.

    I believe there are elements of this in Eve’s next expansion. How it will play out remains to be seen. But properly balanced, a system like this gives small, nimble groups a foot up on the organizational inertia of big empires, shifting the balance of power with much less angst and drama.

  27. I play EVE and I’m a member of RKK one of the core BoB corporations.

    Raph got it slightly wrong in that most of BoB’s assets are still intact. He’s right though that turning over the anthill doesn’t hurt.

    He’s also got it wrong when he assumes the BoB members are bummed out about the current state of events. We’re not thrilled with how it happened, but we do relish the constant conflict occurring on our doorstep. It is a pvp game after all.

    We’re facing a huge challenge and a far tougher challenge that we’ve had for quite some time. We may very well not win this, then again it’s very possible we can — games where you have no chance of losing are boring.

  28. [...] MMO-theorist Raph Koster theorizes the event. [...]

  29. [...] Raph’s Website — The EVE upset "… what is fun about EVE is the struggle, not the victory condition. The victory condition is boring. Lots of folks lose their livelihoods when an empire falls, and players invested in BoB are likely upset that years of work were lost. But EVE is not a game about the height of the Roman Empire. It’s a game about the sacking of Rome by barbarians, so that they can become the next short-lived top dog. BoB existed to be torn down, and anyone who dreams of permanent glory in a game like that should understand that their destiny is to be taken down by the next upstart, in a dog-eat-dog world." fun empire politics power simulation sociology socialgraph socialnetworks networks defection espionage parasitism competition gamemechanics hacks socialengineering eveonline gaming mmorpg virtualworlds metaverse [...]

  30. I do think it will consign you to a particular niche in the market with no real hope of gaining a more general audience (admittedly a big plus to some players).

    And to some designers. Remember the maxim that designing for everyone results in a mediocre product.

  31. I got into the Darkfall beta and let me tell you- It will hold no candle to Eve. It’s a disappointment and a failure in everything that people like us hoped it would succeed in.

  32. Remember the maxim that designing for everyone results in a mediocre product.

    Designing for the lowest common denominator results in a mediocre product. There’s no reason you can’t design a superior experience for multiple audiences, if you’ve got the chops to deliver for each of those audiences.

    Look at Pixar. They’re working with old media, linear storyline, and a fraction of the toolbox that an MMO designer has to reach out to a diverse audience. But by dint of clever writing and visual artistry, they make movies that work on multiple levels, able to charm and delight both young children and hard-bitten movie critics alike.

    It’s a valid choice to target one audience (such as hardcore PvP enthusiasts) and deliver an experience that’s accessible and relevant only to that audience. There’s a body of work in all mediums that is utterly incomprehensible to most anybody other than other artists and scholars (I would include art patrons in the mix, but most of them are faking it so they can look cool to their peers).

    The pitfall is beliving that because you’re part of the exclusive group who really “gets” the works in question, that means the group is elite, the work is superior, and the unwashed masses are worthy only of scorn. I’ve seen this dynamic play out in theatre, painting, music and even comic books. It’s no surprise to encounter it in games.

    Drinking that Kool-Aid may let you sit at the table with the cool kids, but it doesn’t make your product any better (or worse) that the designer down the block plugging away on the next expansion for the hugely popular blockbuster. It does, however, provide more opportunities to pepper your conversation with words like “subtext” and “nuance”. I guess that’s something.

    Sorry for the rant. But equating “broad appeal” with “mediocre” is one of those buttons that puts me into lecture mode.

  33. I’m a EVE player. I’ve also played most of the other MMOs on the market, starting with Island of Kesmai, Gemstone, UO and on and on to present.

    I think Raph’s in depth analysis of the social dynamics of EVE is compelling. But I take some issue with his opening comments that suggest “another EVE Scam…ho hum”.
    EVE, as many will tell you, is probably the most complex simulation/MMO on the market today. Even if you don’t care for the harsh PVP or the Sci-Fi genre you have to be impressed with the intricacy of the game itself.

    But the true value, the real driver of what keeps players sticking around EVE for years and years is the humanity of it all. Yukon Sam seems to suggest, eloquently, that the MMO market would benefit from a game that pursues a more utopian interaction from players. I personally find some aspect of that kind of play in ATITD. But what keeps me coming back to EVE is that the game has found that blend of qualities that endear it to the true human spirit. Conflict is part of humanity. Tribes (clans, corporations, alliances) are what we, as humans, do. Exploring the good, bad and ugly of human interaction is one of the best parts of multiplayer gaming.

    The ability to ‘scam’, pirate, steal, etc. in EVE gets a lot of press. But, regardless of how often those things happen, there is a great deal more communication, trust, community development happening in this game. It’s just that the more morally ambiguous behavior garnishes the public response.

    What happened to BoB is terrific. Not because it happened the way it did but because it is yet another step forward in the social sandbox of EVE. I disregard the notion about ‘in-game’ versus ‘out of game’ mechanics. EVE inspires ‘out of game behavior’. EVE TV, EVE Radio, Killboards, blogs, interaction at every level is what MMOs should be about. How GoonSwarm did this is not as important as is the fact that they DID THIS. Of course, BoB isn’t ‘gone’. The players are still there and the alliance will be reborn. But the anthill has overturned and the interactions generated are so great for the game.

    Rome fell. Europe and the British Empire evolved because of it. Machiavellian politics and plots happened. We all should appreciate the wealth of human interaction that arises from our inherent xenophobic Tribal tendencies. It is our base urges toward conflict as well as our occasional insights into the value of cooperation and charity that make us human. The Jailor’s dilemma, isn’t it?

    I love EVE because it embodies the best place in the current gaming market to explore all of this human content.

  34. Yukon Sam seems to suggest, eloquently, that the MMO market would benefit from a game that pursues a more utopian interaction from players.

    I’m trying to order my thoughts as I wax eloquent, so my position may be mutable, but my primary thesis is that there’s an inverse relationship between conflict and socialization in a game.

    In a free-for-all environment of total warfare, the largest practical group is the tribe or fire team. Larger alliances are too fragile to sustain for long, if any element can be betrayed or sacrificed for tactical or strategic advantage.

    In an environment with little or no overt conflict, the only practical limitation to the size or complexity of social structures is logistical. Intricate relationships between groups can develop, but they can also crystalize in ways that are cliquish and exclusive.

    In practice, players militate against either extreme. In open conflict environments, players will build coalitions and social bonds in “safe areas”… if such aren’t present in the game, players create them on the web in the form of message boards and other social spaces. In social environments with no game element, groups can and do generate their own conflicts, sometimes in ways that are infinitely more personal and destructive than the bloodiest zerg.

    So I’m not seeking Utopia, so much as I’m trying to understand that balance point between conflict and socialization. I think a mixture of both is necessary to sustain an environment in the long run. It’s entirely possible that Eve Online resides at a different place along that continuum than recent stories have led me to believe.

  35. Yukon Sam said,”…there’s an inverse relationship between conflict and socialization in a game.”

    I must respectfully disagree. I do not see conflict and socialization as diametrically opposed. Wikipedia defines it as, “The term socialization is used by sociologists, social psychologists and educationalists to refer to the process of learning one’s culture and how to live within it.”

    Wiki goes on to say of Conflict,” Conflict is a part of discord caused by the actual or perceived opposition of needs, values and interests. A conflict can be internal (within oneself) or external (between two or more individuals). Conflict as a concept can help explain many aspects of social life such as social disagreement, conflicts of interests, and fights between individuals, groups, or organizations. In political terms, “conflict” can refer to wars, revolutions or other struggles, which may involve the use of force as in the term armed conflict. Without proper social arrangement or resolution, conflicts in social settings can result in stress or tensions among stakeholders.”

    My point is that conflict is an integral part of how we socialize and learn about our culture and how we live within it. Confict is a vital method of resolution of differences between humans. Conflict does not have to result in demise. In fact, in the context of online gaming, true character demise (perma-death) is a very rare outcome. Thus, conflict becomes a direct and compelling method by which we learn.

  36. Yukon Sam said:

    Sorry for the rant. But equating “broad appeal” with “mediocre” is one of those buttons that puts me into lecture mode.

    Convincing, too. I’ve been listening to Eolirin rant about the necessity of getting as much money as possible for too long and I missed that nuance. Thanks for pointing it out.

    You did misread me, but you’re right and I’m wrong. :)

    Diametrix said:

    Wikipedia defines it as, “The term socialization is used by sociologists, social psychologists and educationalists to refer to the process of learning one’s culture and how to live within it.”

    This isn’t what we’re talking about when we say socialization. It has a different meaning to multiplayer game developers than it does to sociologists. Sociologists see it as “integration into society”, whereas we see it as the “creation and maintenance of community”. MMO socialization is something socialized people do, if they feel like it.

    I’m not prepared to agree or disagree with either of you on this point, though.

    Yukon Sam said:

    So I’m not seeking Utopia, so much as I’m trying to understand that balance point between conflict and socialization. I think a mixture of both is necessary to sustain an environment in the long run.

    I think that asks the question of what you mean by a long run, and how you want it. Are you talking about the longevity of the place, the community, or the customers?

    And then there is the point that conflict and socialization are two parts of a cycle, each causing and effecting the other.

  37. @Akjosch As far as I can tell there is no goon presence in retail L2. A few dozen goons play on a private server called L2Ownage.

  38. A thing to note about the Goons (and my disclaimer: I’ve been a SA member since 2000 and was briefly a member of Goonfleet): they consciously adopt your core argument that conflict is more exciting than victory. When GoonSwarm isn’t at war, they will seek to start a war because it’s more fun. I’ve often heard members say that if GoonSwarm were to ever ‘win’ EVE, it would immediately break into multiple competing factions, just to sustain the conflict.

    This tendency to start conflict also manifests in the things that people hate about them: the contempt for pubbies, the willingness to scam and abuse anyone not a member of GoonSwarm. But those behaviors are intimately tied to their larger philosophy of starting trouble to generate fun.

  39. I think that asks the question of what you mean by a long run, and how you want it. Are you talking about the longevity of the place, the community, or the customers?

    They’re all interconnected in my mind. Players get burned out or frustrated with too much conflict, and they get bored with too little, and they move on. That impacts the community – too much player turnover, and the community never gels with a distinct identity; too little, and it calcifies into an insular clique. And that impacts the longevity of the game — a game without a strong community can evaporate when the next big thing comes along, but one with a cliquish, insular community dies a slow death of attrition with insufficient recruitment to replace members lost.

    “The term socialization is used by sociologists, social psychologists and educationalists to refer to the process of learning one’s culture and how to live within it.”

    I apologize… I’m not a sociologist (virtual or otherwise) and my terminology was sloppy. I’m referring less to the process of learning culture and more to the process of creating culture, specifically how we create and maintain social bonds beyond the family/tribal/street gang level.

    By definition, conflict drives people apart, just as social bonds draw them together. It’s something like a satellite; too much velocity and it flies off into space, too little and it crashes down to Earth. To keep it active and in motion, the forces have to be balanced.

    And that’s why I’m more than a little wary of organizations who want to fire all the rockets and see if they can sling the satellite out of the solar system because they hate gravity. Trying to harness anarchy to help maintain equilibrium… well, look up Altamont to see how that goes.

  40. Yukon said,” By definition, conflict drives people apart, just as social bonds draw them together. It’s something like a satellite; too much velocity and it flies off into space, too little and it crashes down to Earth. To keep it active and in motion, the forces have to be balanced.”

    I would contend that EVE, more so than most of its market peers/competitors has successfully achieved this kind of social bond building/competitive balance.

    The game is as, if not more, complex in terms of content options than any other current MMO. This allows for player preference when it comes to desired levels of hi vs. low conflict gameplay.

    Additionally, EVE’s social building and maintenance mechanics (Corporations/Alliances/Fleet/chat/eve-mail) are some of the most complex and diverse in the MMO community. The breadth and depth of what is offered in these sociatal mechanisms contributes to the complexity of the community as a whole.

    Yukon stated that by definition conflict drives people apart. I would argue that conflict divides groups of people according to the choices they make. But part of that division includes the formation of tighter social bonds along the dividing lines.

    Conflict is that antagonist. It is vital and necessary to good social interaction and evolution. I concur that too much of it will disrupt the growth of a game and that a balance must be achieved.

    My point in this discussion is that I believe CCP has achieved that balance in a more meaningful and lasting way with EVE than any other current MMO.

  41. Whether this defeat of BoB is ultimately good for the game or not can be debated, and in this sense I agree with Raph. If the Patriots went undefeated for the next 10 years, and blew out every team they faced, nobody would care about the NFL anymore. Having the top spot being contested is a good thing, even if it won’t last beyond the short-term.

    On the other hand, I think there is a very strong point to be made about the means by which this took place. Basically, this is the equivalent of convincing a rival WoW guild officer to /gkick the roster and loot the guild bank dry. Or to stick with the football analogy, it’d be like bribing Pat’s owner Bob Kraft to fire Bill Belichick and cut Tom Brady & Randy Moss.

    Is this ultimately a good thing for the game? Probably. Should they change the mechanics of the game so that this cannot happen the same way ever again? Absolutely.

    Bring the noise.
    Cheers……….

  42. I just read this on the website of a well known EVE corporation. I believe it represents the kind of synergy between conflict and community that I attempted to portray in my previous posts.

    “Eve Uni Prepares for Influx of New Students
    KORSIKI, THE FORGE — With Eve Online’s latest expansion, Apocrypha, hitting shelves this March, students, teachers and directors alike at Eve University are ramping up their efforts to prepare for the influx of new pilots to hit the space lanes of New Eden. Assisting this push has been two months of peace and prosperity, putting the University in a prime position to deal with the rush.

    We asked Kazzym, the Recruiting Manager at Eve University about the upcoming player surge. “Typically we’re dealing with 30 applications a day but with Apocrypha coming out, we’re expecting much more than that. For all those new pilots out there looking to join, come along and join the “Eve University” channel. However if nobody knows about us, and what we do to help new players, many of those pilots will quit in frustration, unable to find help. This is why we’ve been working on advertisements targeted at new pilots into Eve.” The advertisements, which have already hit EON magazine, are expected to hit Eve Online soon.

    Chief among the improvements have been a continuing revamp of the mentor system by Mentor Manager Aehara. Applications developed within the University allow students to request mentors catered to their specialisation and playtime, who will guide them, one on one in their first steps into New Eden. Automation and other improvements in request handling have allowed most requests to be processed in less than a day.

    For the more advanced, Wolf Vanberg has announced the opening of “Division 6″, Eve Uni’s advanced low sec training program, designed to aid older students in operating in low sec and wormhole space, whilst emphasising self reliance and small gang warfare. Response from the students has been strong and enthusiastic, and it is hoped that Division 6 will prove effective now and long into the future

    Perhaps most heart-warming however, has been the support of the New Eden community. Sinqlaison, of Capital Builders Inc. has graciously agreed to donate 1 billion ISK each week, much of it going to fund those who have achieved the position of “Student”, demonstrating that even in New Eden, a world of power struggles and corporate greed, a true spirit of community can be found within its pilots. Within the Uni, newly appointed Loans Officer Calamoures is restarting a loans program sponsored by an industrial corp, NAGA with the intention to provide students the cash flow needed to get a head start in Eve.

    Other help has come from unexpected places. When HPC Larry led his first fleet operation, composed of over 50 ships into the notoriously dangerous system of Rancer, and was involved in a battle with pirates, he was surprised to receive 100 million isk each from two members of the pirate corporation who will remain anonymous to protect their nefarious reputations. One explained that “Our guys were very impressed with the training Eve Uni was giving, and all the Eve Uni guys comported themselves admirably. Would fight again.”

    Meanwhile the University’s 5th anniversary is rapidly approaching, and while details are under wraps, the leadership in Eve Uni surely has something special planned.

    –Cazzah,
    Managing Editor,
    Eve University

    Eve University is a non profit, neutral corp devoted to teaching new pilots in Eve Online. If you are interested in joining, or just need help and advice, join our channel “Eve University” in game.””

    Eve University is just one of many many player built enterprises that embrace the social growth and benefit that can be achieved in EVE Online.

  43. I’ve decided, belatedly, that I shouldn’t comment on Eve Online without ever having played Eve Online.

    So… how should I fit out my new Navitas?

  44. I have succeeded in recruiting yet another pod pilot. My work here is done.

    The rest of you…you know not what you miss!

    Yukon, I am Diametrix in EVE. Send me a message and I will assist you greatly.

  45. While four days in Eve Online does not qualify me as an expert by any means, I do have a few things to report:

    - I’ve been attacked only once. The attacker hit me with an impressive alpha strike. Fortunately I had an impressive amount of armor and was able to warp out, singed but intact.

    - The autopilot will happily route you through “low-sec” space (non-guard zones). If you run missions or just like to explore, this can happen quite frequently. See above; I’ve only been attacked once thus far by a solo gate-camper. I’m advised that this risk can be minimized by forgoing the autopilot and navigating manually.

    - I specced for mining, and have been happily harvesting, manufacturing, and running missions. I’m not compelled to PvP (apart from remaining alert and knowing how and when to run), and the economic game is pretty engaging thus far.

    - Despite strong economic and security incentives to group up, the solo path appears to be viable (assuming, once again, you’ve got no issues with running from a fight).

    My not-quite-a-week assessment is that there is a resemblence to pre-Trammel UO, but spread out over a much larger area and with finer resolution to the zoning. You’ve got a good degree of control over the degree of risk that you’re comfortable with, and it seems to be well-balanced with the potential rewards. If you don’t mind rabbitting out now and then, and you’re conservative with your ship investments (i.e. don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose), this is not a terribly hostile place to be a carebear.

    But… somewhere in the back of my mind is an essay brewing about the differing impacts of structured vs. unstructured conflict on the development of virtual societies. In the meantime, I’m just gonna keep on flying :)

  46. - The autopilot will happily route you through “low-sec” space (non-guard zones). If you run missions or just like to explore, this can happen quite frequently. See above; I’ve only been attacked once thus far by a solo gate-camper. I’m advised that this risk can be minimized by forgoing the autopilot and navigating manually.

    FYI, when I was playing, the autopilot could be configured with various settings including “Don’t go through places with a low sec, don’t go through places where recent bad things have happened” and so on. I’d be shocked if it got taken out.

    But… somewhere in the back of my mind is an essay brewing about the differing impacts of structured vs. unstructured conflict on the development of virtual societies.

    Share when it’s ready, yo. :) I want to hear this.

  47. [...] Koster nailed why this keeps happening in [...]

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