Archive for August, 2010

Hands Off, My Blog!

Posted in EVE Online on August 24, 2010 by cailais

Welcome to the twentieth installment of the EVE Blog Banter, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed to crazykinux@gmail.com. Check out other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

“With the recent completion of the 3rd installment of the Hulkageddon last month, @CyberinEVE, author of Hands Off, My Loots!, asks: “Griefing is a very big part of EVE.  Ninja Salvaging, Suicide Ganking, Trolling, and Scamming are all a very large part of the game.  What do you think about all these things?  You can talk about one, or all…but just let us know your overall opinion on Griefing, and any recommendations you may have to change it if you think it’s needed.”

“Griefing”, as a term, is one which I think is largely misunderstood by many players in EVE.  I think that’s largely because peoples perception of what is griefing and what isn’t vary quite widely.  At its most extreme griefing can border upon a form of virtual harassment and there is at least an underlying sense that its ‘end state’ is to provoke an extreme emotional response on the victim (“moar tears!!”) with getting the victim to quit the game completely as the pinnacle of success.


Of course the point where said victim breaks down sobbing at their keyboard will vary by player – and the majority will never do so.  Some will however and as a generic player type they are likely to fall into those personality types that become more emotionally involved in the game, perhaps more immersed – whereas the ‘griefer’ is likely to profess their detachment from the game as “just a game – its not real!”

What muddies the water however is that within EVE some forms of ‘griefing’ are also potentially quite profitable and a route to ‘easy ISK’.  Is that player scamming to provoke wails of anguish from their victim, or just looking to make a fast buck?


At its core griefing is a deeply social interaction, but seeing as MMOs are by definition ‘social’ games should we really apply a term to that? You could argue that griefing is ‘unwanted social interaction’ but then you could say the same about PVP, or gate camps and yet these aren’t normally described as ‘griefing’.

Obviously there is something more going on here and when we scan across Cyberin’s question we can see a general common theme.  All the examples Cyberin gives are ones where the ‘rules’ (if you can call them that) are being somehow distorted in a way a victim may not appreciate or even realise. Scamming is a simple example – you expect a contract item to be fairly priced and a ‘genuine article’ – not a Raven when you thought you were buying a Navy Raven.  EVE is unusual in that the rules that apply in other MMOs are no longer applicable and that for some can take some getting used to.

I think most MMOs operate on a ‘grief’ scale.  At one end of the scale is ‘total care’: the player is protected against harm to all intents and purposes – i.e they never lose progression due to defeat and they cannot lose out on access to progression through the actions of a third party.  Guild Wars 2 shows much of that ‘total care’ approach, WOW is another albeit slightly further along the ‘grief’ scale as it is possible to ninja loot drops from a player here.

At the other end of the ‘grief scale’ is total loss, perma death and open PVP everywhere.  I’m struggling to think of a game that exhibits those attributes so we have to shift left a bit along the ‘grief’ scale until we find EVE Online.  Because of mechanisms such as ship insurance, clones and aggro mechanics EVE still has some “safety nets” – at least in certain areas.

Interestingly the closer to ‘total care’ the more popular an MMO seems to become.  I think this drives very much to the core of what players perceive as ‘fair’.  We are, as a group, are accustomed to single player games and don’t expect to be cheated out of a reward or our own progression through the act of a third party in those single player games.  That’s a tough psychological barrier to break through, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth breaking through and here’s why.

CARE <——————–>GRIEF

Whilst the care/grief spectrum (above) is one factor within MMOs it is also directly proportional to another scale:

CONSTRAINTS <——————————————-> FREEDOM

The more freedom to act as you wish within a game universe the greater the players range of choices, ‘career paths’, styles of play and expression.  EVE does not comprise wholly of PVP players and PVE players, it also has scammers, thieves, spies, pirates, con artists and all the blends in between.  This is something that makes EVE unique amongst its peers.  Being more freeform also allows players to transition freely between many of these styles – todays spy may be tomorrows industrial corp CEO.  In many respects our avatars are defined not by a ‘class’ or by an attribute but by what we actually do in game.

That’s the ‘big’ part of griefing – not how wide spread it is, or the scale of a scam or the length of a troll post: the big thing is that its possible at all.

C.

Related posts:

  1. [OOC] Blog Banter #13: Distressing The Damsel
  2. [OOC] Blog banter #14: Things I want to do
  3. [OOC] Blog banter #11: Strategic frigates
  4. [OOC] EVE Blog Banter #5: Metagaming
  5. [OOC] Blog banter SE: Why we love EVE
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Wonderlust

Posted in EVE Online on August 11, 2010 by cailais

Following a EVE – O forum post, and a subsequent blog by Helicity I thought I would wade in on the subject of the loss of ‘wonder and awe’ in EVE.

Of course its all perceptual, something new and difficult to comprehend in terms of its scale will engender a feeling of amazement.  Once we are accustomed to sensation and are better able to comprehend the phenomenon we are observing so that sense, or feeling, begins to wear off.

Of course this is a common problem for all MMO developers – that initial ‘OMG!’ sensation pulls us in and the desire to explore to comprehend holds us there, at least initially.  The challenge for the developer comes however when that sensation passes.  For most traditional MMOs the only solution is to add more and more content – additional feature packs with new realms to explore and new quests to complete.

That in turn creates additional problems – each subsequent expansion needs to be “bigger!”, “more epic quests!”, “HUGER monsters!” in order to re create that ‘OMG!’ moment.

And we’re not talking here just about the size of the universe but also its scale and depth.  EVE isn’t just x number of star systems, its also x number of player corporations, x number of market transactions, x numbers of modules, x numbers of ways to play.  That last one is key – the feeling that not only can you roam across thousands of star systems as a pirate but you could (if you were so inclined) do the self same thing as a trader.  Or a smuggler.

Possibly the biggest pitch CCP have made to date to recapture that ‘OMG!’ moment has been the introduction of Wormhole Space.  The uncertainties of travel, coupled with the removal of the local channel really help to create the sensation of space being a vast and unknown quantity.  Sadly in some respects CCP just fell short in my view of what it could have been.  Because w-space is the ‘sleeper’ version of EVE it is, well rather predictable.  When I arrive at a wormhole that tells me Im entering ‘unknown space’ although actually, from prior experience, I really already know a great deal about it.

It will have sleeper drones and sites, no outposts, perhaps a few player POS and …erm..well thats it.  I wont stumble across a isolated sansha outpost, or ruined station where I can dock and wonder at why all the services are still running.  I wont find a dark system full of asteroid belts but devoid of planets.  In short I am ‘exploring’ but my destination is already known to me.

To what extent Incarna changes that feeling of finding something new is hard to judge – that spike to the brain that makes you think ‘whoa…this universe is BIG!’ because it is so different from one locale to the next.  If I dock in a station in Verge Vendor how different will it look to any other station environment in the region? Or to the region next door?

If, and its a big ‘if’, these stations develop and are customizable internally to the extent that they become ‘places’ in the real sense of the term then CCP will probably have pulled it off.  Perhaps that station in Fensi will become renowned for its gothic decor and dubious residents? Whilst one in Ansur a haven for industrialists and miners – gritty dark but functional: the main hall statue a tourist attraction for the whole cluster?

If, on the other hand, one Incarna environment is well, pretty much like the next, then I think its appeal will be limited and that sense of wonder and awe one which soon fades.

C.

Perplexing Complexities

Posted in EVE Online on August 9, 2010 by cailais

You may well have noticed that amongst the rioting and wailing on the EVE O forums about CCPs apparent abandonment of the game we all love the community is ever ready to share in the pain and tears of its fellow pilots and this week is no exception.

Our hapless victim this time is “aystra” whose kestrel was lost with all hands and her cargo of 74 Plex Codes in Jita.

Here though is something of a moral quandary.  A plex code is an in game item, created by converting a 30 day game time code (purchased from CCP) into a plex.  Someone, somewhere, paid CPP ‘real life’ money for these codes at some stage at $17.50 per card. So this means that CCP has profited to the tune of around $1,294 without having to provide any ‘game time’ to anyone.

Or at least so runs the theory.  Of course its slightly more complicated than that.  Once converted into a Plex this game time assumes almost quantum particle like properties.  It is both an In Game Item (like any ship, module or implant) and potentially Game Time.  As a In Game Item it is of course trade able to other players and a 30 day card has a rough market value of about 300mil ISK.  In this way we can see that Aystra lost either around 22billion ISK, OR 2,220 days in EVE (just over 6 years worth of game time).

Clearly Aystra took a pretty big gamble in attempting to move such a high ISK value item but many will argue that losing such a amount of ISK is not uncommon in EVE and plenty of players have lost equivalent cargos or expensively fitted ships in the past – and this incident is no different.

Or is it?

Whilst players across New Eden have lost equivalent ISK values in the past it could be arguable that the Plex is a rather different commodity.  It is, currently, the only item that can be traded back to CCP to create game time – and therefore holds the closest equivalent to ‘real life money’ (the alternative being to purchase a Game Time Code or subscription with real life money).

A plex cannot be manufactured, researched or harvested – it can only come into existence once a player at some stage pays CCP for a GTC and then converts it.  Equally the Plex only has an in game value because it can be converted back into game time – and its value in ISK being a player market valuation on how much that “game time” is worth in ISK.

Personally I am slightly uncomfortable with this as a system.  Firstly because CCP have chosen, quite deliberately, to make the Plex a vulnerable commodity – i.e one that can be destroyed.  They need not have done so – merely allowing them to be moved automatically from station to station as required by the players.  By making such a desirable  item vulnerable and tradeable CCP will of course know that they will be paid for the (as yet) unclaimed game time – but will never have to provide it when said Plex is lost.

In essence money for nothing.

Many will argue that CCP have provided something (a plex) and that if a player chooses to act recklessly and lose that item its their own stupid fault.  Of course such an argument is quite correct  – the question is rather should CCP enable such a loss as financially it benefits only them for little or no service rendered?

“Hold up Cailais! I can sell a plex, buy a battleship with the ISK and lose that! What’s the difference!?”

Essentially in pure game terms there is none – but what you cant do – at least directly – is sell that battleship back to CCP as game time.  All you can do is, sell the battleship – buy a plex and trade that for game time.  Throughout the process the Plex is still ‘there’ in its quasi ISK/Time$$$ state.

The question that troubles me is whether CCP should be offering a service that, as a company, it gets paid for that, though its own game mechanics, can be destroyed without CCP having to provide the implied game time as a result.

In terms of a marketing and financial stratagem of course it makes perfect sense – I’m not disputing that; but is it morally right?

Currently in “MMO world” the Free to Play concept is proving extremely popular coupled with micro transactions for revenue.  If you’re not familiar with this the concept is quite simple – your MMO is free to play, with no monthly subscription fee but if you want access to special content or in game items you pay for those individually. LOTRO, and DDO being two stand out example in the genre.

In many respects the Plex represents that revenue ideal – someone somewhere buys with real life cash a GTC, converting it into a Plex makes it a item you can sell for ISK to another player and you can then spend as you desire.  In itself its a necessary and sometimes desirable feature.  It helps cut down on RMT ‘ISK farmers’ and their dubious practices and allows players who are ‘real world rich’ but ‘game time poor’ to circumvent the grind for cash and head directly for the good stuff.

As a dad of two kids, with 1 dog, 1 cat and a wife who permanently threatens to chuck the PC from the nearest window I can readily sympathise with those who can’t get online for hours at a time to mission or mine for ISK but want some new shiny. For such players the GTC is a welcome addition.

For others who have less disposable income but who have the canny knack of making ISK again the Plex allows them to stay in game and online for…well nothing but their time.  Again this strikes me as a a fair trade – money for time: it makes sense to me.

I can’t in all honesty though support this idea when one or other of those elements of the equation are ‘broken’.  Players who macro/sweatshop or otherwise automate the process of collecting ISK to be financially recompensed in RL cash (like ISK farmers) is wrong.  It destabilizes the game economy and cheapens the efforts of those doing it ‘the hard way’.

In the same fashion someone who gains financially without having to honour the other side of the deal (I’m looking at you CCP)  equally cheapens the efforts of those doing it ‘the hard way’ with their real life cash.

Yes, yes I know some will point and say ‘oh they have honoured their side of deal – CCP provided the Plex!’ – but in doing so knowing it could (with a bit of luck and a dim witted kestrel pilot) be null and void on their part?

Well somehow that just doesn’t feel right.

C.