Goons, EVE, and Freedom!

This Wired article is making the rounds on various blogs, and as it focuses on griefing, which is somewhat related to PvP, I figured I would throw in my two cents. Go read the article first, if nothing else it’s an interesting piece.

The biggest ‘news’ out of the whole thing seems to be the intent of the Goons in EVE Online to not only destroy your ship, but to make you quit the game itself. Many people are viewing this as exactly the reason no sane developer would let such PvP exist; who wants to lose accounts and money, right? The somewhat ironic thing is that EVE Online, a 4 year old game that had a horrible launch, no marketing budget, and is limited in its appeal due to being Sci-Fi and terribly difficult to get into at the start, is still growing at a very healthy rate. Go look at what MMOs launched around the same time as EVE, and see how many of them are still growing or even maintaining their numbers.

So how is it that a game which allows players to abuse others and to beat them to the point where they quit is still growing? Has WoW not taught us that unless we give everyone access to everything in a no risk solo manner, we are doomed to fail miserably? Sure the slaughter of ‘sheep’ worked in 98 with Ultima Online, but we have grown since then, all the ‘sheep’ have options now, and they won’t stand to be butchered. As soon as the first sign of unwanted danger arises, they cancel their account and jump ship, leaving that game to slowly rot and die, right?

Yes, some do get frustrated and quit. It would be foolish to think otherwise and clearly this type of game is not for everyone. But how many players have downloaded the trial for EVE because they have heard or read about the incredible stuff players are doing in EVE? How many read the story about the bank heist, or heard about a titan being destroyed in an epic battle, and said ‘that’s awesome, let me give that game a shot’. Can you say the same thing about the first time Onyxia was killed, or the first time someone completed an epic armor set in WoW? How many players signed up for the WoW trial because of some guild’s raid progression or high ranking Arena team? And all those stories are products of EVE’s design, a design which gives such great freedom to its players. Take away that freedom, and you quickly take away every great moment in that games very rich history, a history which has no doubt created more paying accounts than it has destroyed. In gaming, just like in life, freedom is a double edged sword. Some will find ways to abuse it, while others will embrace it and creating unexpected and positive results. The real question is, are you a communist (WoW player) or a free thinking man/woman (EVE)? (bets on who will fail to see that as a joke anyone?)

And before everyone points out that WoW has 10 billion users, let’s just remember that WoW is a phenomenon that is as much a product of timing as it is of game design. A far more accurate comparison would be something like EQ2 or LoTRO numbers, which are still higher, but not in a hundreds of thousands vs millions way. Oh and before this turns into another PvP vs PvE debate, keep in mind I’m not saying all PvE games should be burned and destroyed, but rather that the market supports both styles in a financially viable way. Had WoW not gotten lucky, perhaps both styles would be viewed as equally viable models, but that’s an entirely different post…

14 Responses to Goons, EVE, and Freedom!

  1. Frank says:

    I have a hard time seeing how the Goons phenomenon can be viewed as a good thing. If I could lose everything I have worked for in WoW I would absolutely not play it. Neither would the vast majority of WoW players and you would be right back to a hardcore MMO scene with a tiny market. There may be a market for this sort of game, but how many developers would set out to conquer such a small market when they see the massive success of WoW?

    Perhaps there is a point in between the two where both sets of players can be satisfied while playing the same game, but given the behavior covered in the Wired story I don’t see how that could happen.

  2. mandrill says:

    The reason that the goons can not be as successful in their mission in EVE as they can in other games is the equal footing that EVE puts all players on. The possibility exists for players to beat the goons at their own game.

  3. Bonedead says:

    What mandrill said is right. It always happens in these kinds of situations. Sure the initial perpetrators wreak a lot of havoc, but eventually most of them tire of it and the leftovers get screwed by those who wish to take their place.

    Everyone always likes to remember the “wolves” (to go along with your “sheep”) in UO. But nobody talks about the “shepherds”. Antis, everyone, shepherds are an analogy for Anti-PKs. They existed at one time, they will rise to the occasion when necessary. They are legend.

    Love ya space lady buhbye!

  4. Wilhelm2451 says:

    I do not think you can jump from those subscription numbers to “lose it all PvP is okay” with considering other factors.

    In descending order of relevance (my opinion), you have:

    -EVE is a good and compelling game, even outside of direct PvP
    -There is no space ship/SciFi MMO alternative really, but there is a hunger for such a game (so I think you are absolutely wrong in saying that SciFi is something that holds EVE back)
    -The skill training paradigm means that a lot of people just keep their accounts rolling when they aren’t really playing – I’d love to see the stats for the number of people who have actually left their current station in the last week, month, 3 months
    -CCP actively encourages players to have multiple accounts – they extended their “power of two” campaign until they hit the 300K mark last year

    EVE is clearly a success and CCP has done a good job of keeping it growing by constantly improving the game.

    However, it still hasn’t hit EverQuest numbers (nor LOTRO numbers, if I recall them right) and claiming parity with EverQuest II, a game that has had server merges and disappointing subscription rates, is something of a hollow victory.

    Another stat I would love to CCP would be the percentage of people who cancel their account within 24 hours of losing a given ship. I bet frigate losses would yield minimal cancellations, cruisers would be negligible, but that at battle cruisers and beyond the correlation would start to rise. Would it be significant? I don’t know (and neither do you), but it would be interesting to see.

    On the Goons, they actually sound like they have a lot of fun. I do not see how you can allow such freedom and not expect to have bands of people like that show up. If they were wrecking the game, I am sure CCP would adjust the scales (carefully), to try and fix that, but if you look at the 0.0 space control map, it isn’t like the Goons are going to put, say, BoB out of business any time soon.

  5. Wilhelm2451 says:

    *without considering other factors

    Doh!

  6. syncaine says:

    Actually the Goons and others might put BoB out soon, or at least put a hurt on them, but that is another story :)

    I do agree EVE has a lot going for it aside from direct PvP, but a lot of those other factors (market, mining, transport, invention) are fueled by PvP. By removing 0.0, or even making empire 100% safe, all the other factors would suffer greatly in the long run. It’s a fine balance, and PvP is an important component of that balance.

    As far as the SciFi thing goes, it’s more how it is implemented than SciFi itself. Many people use the whole ‘no character’ issue as a negative for EVE, failing to realize avatars would add little to a game of internet spaceships. Some goes for ‘interesting places to explore’, space just happens to be vast and empty, and so EVE reflects that and instead focuses on its strengths.

    And the open accounts thing has always interested me, since CCP shows you the number of pilots online at all times. I don’t know enough about the average number of users online compared to your entire player base to know what a good percentage is for an ‘active’ base. I will point out that the tedious activities in other games, like crafting, are almost instant in EVE, requiring very little ‘logged in’ time. Assuming you have the ore, you can run a manufacturing and marketing operation in literally minutes a week, while still having a great impact on the world and your personal finances.

    I agree with you on the account closed / ship lost thing, I’m sure it’s a fairly high correlation. The question is is it high ENOUGH to warrant a change? I would think CCP has that type of data, so one could assume that the rate is not high enough to force CCP into changing it, or that the solution would be more costly.

    The comparison to EQ2 numbers was simply to clarify that while EVE does not stack up to WoW in numbers, it is in the same ballpark as the other ‘big’ MMOs out, especially considering the games age, lack of store presence, and harsh newbie experience.

  7. p@tsh@t says:

    Ah Eve. In addition to the hours docked/only skill training persistency effect, really truly, how many Eve players actively engage in PvP on a regular basis?

    I have no basis other than my infrequent visitations and revisitations with Eve, but I suspect that there is a pretty broad base to the pyramid of players in Eve and in that broad base there are a large number of players that churn in and out doing so mostly in secure space, engaging in mostly/only PvE. They come, they go, they come back, they leave again, some never return, etc.

    If one makes it over the hump at some point, then they ascend to the more rarefied air of the upper portion of the pyramid. I suspect that most of these folks are the more hardcore PvPers and live mostly in 0.0 space.

    So the truth is the sheep don’t tend to get slaughtered so much in Eve. Hence the continued growth.

    At least not until the Goon Squad decides to camp Jita and just gank noobs all day despite getting whacked by Concorde, but that doesn’t seem to be their style– they’d want someone in a Titan over someone in a frigate.

  8. syncaine says:

    Well you hit on some aspects of EVE Potshot, but missed others. Yes a portion (perhaps large, but that’s tough to say) are empire-only players. Aside from the fact that PvP effects them as well through the market and such, 0.0 is not ALL PvP-minded players. There are plenty of industrial corps that operate in 0.0, people who have little interesting in PvP but prefer to play the market, but outside the safety of empire. Whether one calls the 0.0 industry people sheep is up to interpretation.

    Oh and the way security works in Empire, no one can sustain random ganking for very long, even using dummy pilots. After only a few kills in Jita (a 1.0 system), your security status drops low enough for Concord to pick you off at the gate. The beauty of the system is that while anything is possible, the more severe the action the more severe the penalty for it.

    Now the Goons COULD war dec EVE Uni for instance, but that would be low even for the Goons, and would cost them too much to make that worthwhile, as all other mega corps would simply war dec the Goons.

  9. Swift Voyager says:

    It’s very rare to find a 100% PvP player in Eve. PvP is very difficult to support financially because even the best PvPers will lose ships, and the more experienced players tend to fly exponentially more expensive ships.

    Most PvP in Eve takes place when people are defending their own little piece of 0.0 space or raiding someone else’s. In between those episodes of punctuated violence, players like me will do PvE or Economic gameplay in order to raise funds and purchase/produce equipment for the next PvP encounter.

    Our little alliance recently had a senior member who had a “meltdown”. He decided that he would be the bearer of ill will towards our nearest and much larger neighbor in 0.0 space. Of course we ended up in a war. So, after figuring out what happened we kicked him and his buddies out of our alliance. He didn’t bother to tell us the truth about what he did, and the enemy of course didn’t want to talk to us, they just wanted to kill us. Now he’s on a campaign to hang out around our neighborhood and make things unpleasant for us. Only now did I really look at his employment history and see that he’s been in Goons most of his Eve life, changing over to smaller corps from time to time and then back to Goons to find another victim.

    Funny how often I read some article here or in another blog, and I’m immediately able to find an example of exactly what they are talking about in my recent gameplay experiences.

    I think some of my allies are trying to get the guy banned but there’s a fine line between legitimately agressive gameplay and true griefing. Either way, it’s clear that the guy’s main source of fun is when he prevents other players from doing what they want. Personally, I have to say that chasing him around and getting chased arround by our neighbors because of him is exciting.

  10. Swift Voyager says:

    Most PvP in Eve takes place when people are defending their own little piece of 0.0 space or raiding someone else’s. In between those episodes of punctuated violence, players like me will do PvE or Economic gameplay in order to raise funds and purchase/produce equipment for the next PvP encounter.

    Our little alliance recently had a senior member who had a “meltdown”. He decided that he would be the bearer of ill will towards our nearest and much larger neighbor in 0.0 space. Of course we ended up in a war. So, after figuring out what happened we kicked him and his buddies out of our alliance. He didn’t bother to tell us the truth about what he did, and the enemy of course didn’t want to talk to us, they just wanted to kill us. Now he’s on a campaign to hang out around our neighborhood and make things unpleasant for us. Only now did I really look at his employment history and see that he’s been in Goons most of his Eve life, changing over to smaller corps from time to time and then back to Goons to find another victim.

  11. Swift Voyager says:

    Our little alliance recently had a senior member who had a “meltdown”. He decided that he would be the bearer of ill will towards our nearest and much larger neighbor in 0.0 space. Of course we ended up in a war. So, after figuring out what happened we kicked him and his buddies out of our alliance. He didn’t bother to tell us the truth about what he did, and the enemy of course didn’t want to talk to us, they just wanted to kill us. Now he’s on a campaign to hang out around our neighborhood and make things unpleasant for us. Only now did I really look at his employment history and see that he’s been in Goons most of his Eve life, changing over to smaller corps from time to time and then back to Goons to find another victim.

  12. Swift Voyager says:

    If the Goons are trying to make people quit the game in Eve, then they are doing a horrible job.

    We just had a run-in with a Goon in our alliance. He infiltrated our high command and then proceded to force us into a war with one of our much larger allies. Now that he’s been discovered and kicked from our alliance, he’s trying to attack us in our own home with geurilla tactics.

    His intent is to cause us pain, but at the end of the day it’s actually been a lot of fun, and the political drama makes for really great motivational gameplay and storytelling.

  13. spider says:

    I really don’t like WOW, in my opinion is a waste of time, I wrote more about it in my blog, but I enjoy eve, I prefer to play solo in eve and to hunt those bad guys in 0.0 :D, I take them one by one, and sicen I am member of a NPC alliance thei can’t wage war against it …lol

    • canabera says:

      I really like wow and eve. In my opinion it is just waste of time to give comments like that. I play Eve for 3 and WOW for 6 years. WOW is different world and pvp in wow is much more based on manual skill of players. Normally wow haters are people who never played that game to lev 85 or was just to bad in pvp. I am now member of big alliance in EVE and can say just that–EVE sucks so much for lone wolf player but is fantastic in mass pvp. WOW is game with so many different lands and fantastic solo pvp. Believe me- i never achive 2300 arena rating in wow, that was to much for my skill but in EVE i have carriers and billions of ISK.

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