Sheep, and the numbers they don’t understand.

I always get a chuckle when people misuse the “80% of EVE pilots never leave Empire” stat from CCP as some sort of indicator that even the majority of EVE players don’t like PvP. As anyone who has actually played EVE knows, not only does PvP happen in Empire (be it FW, Corp vs Corp, or ganking), but many players have multiple accounts, and a second/third/tenth account makes for a great Empire-only pilot.

In a way though it’s a compliment to EVE and the PvP community, with EVE now growing to the point it can no longer be ignored or written off as a small niche title in the genre, PvP haters have to find a different approach to try and explain how its possible for a game to continue growing while still allowing the virtual wolves to continue feasting on the sheep.

But lets pretend for a minute that those who try to mislead (or simply misuse) with that stat are in fact correct, and that only 20% of all the players playing EVE have ever PvP’ed; does that actually tell us anything? Does it really show that most players don’t want/enjoy PvP in an MMO like EVE?

Of course not.

First off, if you removed PvP from EVE, you would not only remove an activity that, if you enjoy incorrect use of stats, you believe is 20% of the population, but you also cripple everyone else thanks to the countless side effects. That giant economic sink that is so vital to the economy? Gone. The reason certain materials are rare? Gone. The thing keeping ships like Frigates relevant and the demand for their production high? Yup, that’s gone too. I could go on.

Point being, even if you are someone who played EVE beyond the trial and never got into a single PvP situation, your overall enjoyment of the game would be drastically altered with the removal of PvP, and many of the things you took for granted (like the entire economy) would not function nearly as well. Not to mention it’s highly likely you might never have tried the game in the first place, since so many are drawn by the stories that ‘20%’ weaves.

Perhaps part of the confusion comes from the stark difference between a virtual world like New Eden and the disjoined selection of rides that is Azeroth or its ilk. Just like the teacups at Disneyland, you going on the ICC ride has zero impact on anyone else in the park, and how you did on said teacups has zero impact on your experience with Space Mountain. Each ride is its own little world, one that pops up and shuts down as soon as you zone in or out, and the only residual effect might be the stuffed animal you leave the park with to show to all your friends (who most likely already have three copies of the same cheap throwaway toy anyway).

That is the exact opposite of New Eden, where one event (Hulkagedon) not only impacts those directly involved, but also effects many other aspects of the game (ship prices, ore supply, etc). Every player leaves some mark on the world, and while most won’t be noticed overall, others certainly will. Beyond how many you effect, any one single player will remember an event that happens to them, so while a single Empire suicide gank has little impact on all of New Eden (unless of course you happen to lose a silly amount of PLEX), it certainly leaves a mark on the victim.

It’s that complex web of interaction that really fuels a virtual world forward and creates a ton of ‘content’ for everyone playing. It’s also why the idea of separating all parts of the game, making nothing ‘count’ beyond the scope of that one single instance, is both a boring and unsettling direction to take an MMOs in. The advantages are there of course (easy to design and balance, solo-friendly, instant rewards, etc), but I think I’ll stick with the ‘20%’ and enjoy my virtual worlds in all their interconnected glory.

Chuck-o-the-day: Chuck Norris can stare you down with his back turned.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in EVE Online, MMO design, PvP, Rant, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Sheep, and the numbers they don’t understand.

  1. Mala says:

    The idea of interconnectedness is a good way to describe it. I’ve often tried to express that “PvP” means more than just people shooting at each other in EVE, with things like the market, economic competition and such. It doesn’t need to be spelled out by the game, or even explicitly acknowledged by players to be there. People selling stuff 2 systems over that I want to sell matters to me, it might not have been the intent of that other seller to screw up my plans (or maybe it was!), but the point is that stuff matters.

    I often get the retort that “well, if you say that, then the Auction House on WoW is PvP too” And I don’t contest that point, but the scale, scope and over all integration of game mechanics around it really don’t give the same experience.

  2. Sean says:

    I think you’ve failed to prove your point. You started with:

    “I always get a chuckle when people misuse the “80% of EVE pilots never leave Empire” stat from CCP as some sort of indicator that even the majority of EVE players don’t like PvP.”

    You granted for the sake of argument that the 80% figure was accurate. However, all you’ve suggested is that those 80% of players (or more accurately accounts) benefit from game systems that only work to the degree they do because of the PvP in EVE. You have not shown that those 80% actually like PvP despite their preference for never opening themselves up to it (in any meaningful way). I doubt that a lot of players who linger in Empire space appreciate the degree to which their fun is a function of the PvP that occurs elsewhere. Those that do appreciate this have an oddly schizophrenic existence in EVE: the activities they do engage in are made possible by activities they never have participated in, and by that measure probably prefer not to.

    The point still stands that the vast majority of pilots in EVE are in Empire space, presumably not engaging in the very PvP activities that make their mission running, mining, industry, and trading meaningful. If what they were really after was PvP, well they know where to find it. And they don’t.

    • SynCaine says:

      Are you saying someone who stays in Empire 100%, like say a trader, can’t like what PvP brings to an MMO (and hence prefer an MMO with FFA PvP like EVE)? Or that most of those players don’t realize what 0.0 brings to Empire, either directly or indirectly? Are the people who are playing Darkfall and focusing on PvE doing so DESPITE the FFA PvP nature of the game, or in part because of it?

      There is a big difference between enjoying the actual act of PvP, enjoying the environment that PvP brings, and staying away from PvP all together.

      • Mala says:

        Absolutely. When I played EVE I played mainly in an industrial corporation. We were not based in 0.0, but we had a LOT of POSs in low sec space and when we had to fight and defend them, we did it. We generally went out of our way to solve problems with diplomacy though, as frankly, being at war is bad for business. However, our entire place in the game would’ve been meaningless without the larger context of the game.

        We also also had a people regularly joining PvP corps in 0.0 that we were sort of affiliated with (though not formally allied with). I think there is a fair subset of players who like the environment fostered by a PvP game, even when they aren’t always or ever in the mood for tons of fighting, just because it opens up so many possibilities.

      • Wilhelm2451 says:

        You are mixing your meanings. You start off in your post talking about “liking” PvP. Then you move to talking about “liking” what PvP brings to the economy. Those sounds like two very different things to me.

        A miner may like the fact that the economy is such that he can sell his tritanium for a decent price, but can still dislike PvP when it comes to visit him directly in its usual high security form: suicide gankers and can flippers.

        And, as an aside, I’ll have to go look it up, but I thought the number was 80% of players never even enter a low security system and that those who leave empire space are even a smaller minority.

        In the end though, a PvP player making statements about what carebears enjoy is just as silly as a carebear telling the world what PvP players like.

        • SynCaine says:

          I guess the post was not clear then. The point was that just because X% of EVE players don’t engage in low-sec or 0.0 PvP does not mean they don’t appreciate what PvP brings to their game, nor do they view it as a ‘deal breaker’ when selecting an MMO (and to go one step further, perhaps they view the lack of such a function in a world a deal break itself).

        • Mala says:

          The distinction isn’t necessary.

      • Sean says:

        “Are you saying someone who stays in Empire 100%, like say a trader, can’t like what PvP brings to an MMO (and hence prefer an MMO with FFA PvP like EVE)? Or that most of those players don’t realize what 0.0 brings to Empire, either directly or indirectly?”

        No. I was at first nitpicking about how you opened your post, seeming to imply that those “80%” actually DO like PvP when what you discussed is PvP’s effects on the activities they actually engage in and enjoy.

        To your point though, I find it odd that Empire space players derive benefits from and give their tacit support to player activities they want no part in, as reflected by what they choose to do in the game. The 80% stat is of pilots that NEVER leave Empire space, not the sort of weekend warrior PvPer or the PvPer-of-the-moment as Mala talks about. For the pilots that never leave Empire, what is their experience of EVE’s PvP? Most directly a sense of vague tension that they too could be randomly ganked in Jita. Beyond that the effects of PvP are indirect, serving as little more than a black box that dictates the player economy.

        I think this is your thesis: those 80% fully understand and appreciate the role PvP plays in EVE (or Darkfall, etc) and they find that tension to be a positive and exciting addition to their gameplay.

        My contention: that those 80% enjoy the illusion of EVE’s PvP and like to think of themselves as living in EVE’s ruthless and unforgiving universe. The crucial difference in my case would be what happens when Johnny Jita gets suicide ganked in his Iteron Mark V. Does he appreciate EVE’s PvP then, recognizing his death as a necessary condition of his own enjoyment of the game? Or does he finally realize the cognitive dissonance he had been operating under, rage quit, and stop playing?

        In any case suicide ganks of random players are rare so the vast majority of Empire space pilots will never be confronted with this situation. I would love to see the numbers, though, of how many Empire space players stop playing the game after falling victim to a can flip scam or suicide gank.

        • SynCaine says:

          I think it’s likely a split between those who would ragequit over a gank and those who acknowledge and appreciate what PvP brings to the whole game. We can guess, but the fact that EVE is growing tells me far fewer people ragequit over PvP than are drawn in by it (either to sit on the sideline and watch or jump in directly).

          Now certainly the fact that suicide ganking and other forms of ‘griefing’ are somewhat rare in EVE helps, which has long been my issue with Darkfall: you NEED that semi-safe space to protect the sheep, if for no other reason than the fact that a % of the sheep WILL eventually venture out and experience PvP, and more than a few will take a liking to it. But without that ‘build up’ time, without that initial investment in an MMO world to hook them, the option to quit after one bad experience is too easy.

  3. Jenni Concarnadine says:

    Interestingly (or not), both of the people I know of who have “left the game” have done so because they saw little point in continuing in an environment in which whatever they achieved was negated by having their ships blown apart, even in hi-sec.

    And while I can understand that there *are* some people whose only (apparent) pleasure in the game is to gank others whenever and wherever possible, I would suggest that, were EvE supposed to be like that, then there would be no hi-sec or lo-sec, only null-sec.

    • Mala says:

      I think this actually speaks to another difference between the playerbases. Games like WoW have taught people that “there’s nowhere to go but up.” Losing things doesn’t “negate” things you’ve achieved to many EVE players, its just a peak or valley in a long time line of events.

    • Latrodanes says:

      Frankly, they failed at lesson #1 in EvE – “Never undock what you cannot afford to lose.” If you internalize that rule, then you are far more able to deal with losses as they occur wherever they occur. High-sec, low-sec and nullsec have different methods of mitigating some of the threat, but none of them can ever prevent it. Heck, I was on a hauler alt in high-sec the other day, jumped through and randomly ended up near the blast of a suicide smartbomb attack on two AFK haulers. It dented my shields, but I kept on trucking. Stuff like that can happen anywhere.

      • Jenni Concarnadine says:

        To be fair, Latro, he could afford it, but not in spiritual terms.
        It’s one thing to lose an item :: it’s, I suggest, something different to lose the same (sort of) item *every* time you try to use it, not because you did anything wrong, but simply because a (pardon my french) 14-year-old with limited attention span wants to blow up sparkly things so that he can get his -10 and justify applying to a pirate corp, who will kick him (as all the other ones that he went to with his other alts have) after between 7 and 14 days for using profame language, not honouring ransoms, trying to nick stuff from the corp hanger, and ganking his corspmates when they aren’t looking, ” @cos he’s a pyerate”.

  4. PeterD says:

    Even if that 80% stat is 100% correct (who knows?), it seems like that’s pretty much the way it should be in a game like EVE. PvP has catastrophic losses in EVE — you can literally lose everything you own. Thus the game REQUIRES a strong PvE base in order to keep the PvP side supplied.

    If EVE had a 100% PvP rate, the game would quickly crash and burn, as ships would be destroyed without an industrial base to replace them. It’s not as if you can just run over to an NPC vendor and pick up a new battleship for a few ISK.

    This mimics real life. No nation has 100% of their population in the military. Doing so would result in no ability to support that military. So the majority (regular citizens/PvE players) support a minority (military/PvP players) by providing the funds and industry needed, without ever leaving the safety of “empire space”. You don’t get too many people vacationing in war zones after all. That doesn’t mean you can’t get mugged walking down the street though.

    EVE really does a great job at what it does. It’s not always a great game, but it’s one hell of a great persistent world.

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