WoW is gankbox, EVE is not

And the gankbox discussion continues. What I find most interesting about all of this is that it reveals just how little most people understand about MMO design, or even what they themselves want in an MMO.

Let’s talk about the root of the issue as it relates to EVE; that when you die, you lose your stuff. That kind of design is already fairly rare in MMOs, what with soulbound items being very common even in games that do allow some form of PvP. But not only do you lose stuff in EVE, the game takes 50% of what you lose and destroys it, with the other 50% being left behind to be potentially looted by someone else (or the wreck can be blown up for a 100% destruction result). Other than the brief time I pushed Aventurine to implement this system in Darkfall (lovingly called the ‘SynCaine tax’ by the community), I’m not aware of any MMO that has this kind of mechanic. In old-school UO, when you died, you dropped everything. In Asheron’s Call you dropped an item, but nothing was taken by the game. DAOC you lost nothing.

The game taking 50% of what should drop is a core sink in the economy, and given that EVE has not only the best economy in the genre, but no other MMO is even remotely close, and you would think more MMOs, especially sandbox ones, would have learned this from EVE’s tenure as the top sandbox over the last 10+ years. But here is where the lack of understanding kicks in.

For many, both players and designers, the economy in a game is only important to those who care about it, be they crafters or market watchers. That, of course, is terribly wrong thinking, as the economy impacts everyone, or at least should in a good sandbox MMO. A miner cares about the economy because without it, his efforts might be pointless (how many MMOs exist today where basic crafting inputs or outputs have basically zero value? That’s a game with a terrible economy.) A PvP’er cares about the economy, both because of how much it costs him to replace his ship, and also the value he is killing/destroying from someone else. Explorers that hunt rare sites for rare items can only continue to do so if those items remain rare, and that can’t be maintained without a properly balanced economy. I think you get the point. Without a solid economy, many core systems in an MMO collapse, and this problem is poorly ‘fixed’ by resetting everyone over and over (level increase, or expansion with more powerful items).

Then you have the definition of the term ‘gank’ itself, which originally meant a PvP encounter where one side has zero chance. PvP combat was defined by there being an actual fight, while a gank is a one-sided slaughter. Why the ganked occurred is secondary, and not really part of the definition. Easy examples of a gank are a high level WoW character killing a lower level one, or a gate camp in EVE catching a single pilot. That the gank in WoW accomplishes nothing but wasting someones time, while the EVE gate camp might be for strategic reasons doesn’t change the fact that both encounters are a gank rather than PvP combat.

Now lets bring back the Massively definition of a gankbox:

Gankboxes are sandboxes that place such an emphasis on unrestricted free-for-all PvP that ganking comes to dominate the entire game, to the detriment of the rest of the world design.

Does ganking dominate EVE? Not even close, considering the vast majority of ships destroyed are from PvP combat (fleet battles, low-sec roams, etc) rather than ganking. But even if we ignore that fact, ganking in EVE isn’t a detriment to the rest of the design, it a benefit. Without that sink in the economy, the game itself would collapse. I could easily argue that vanilla PvP WoW servers were far more of a gankbox than EVE has ever been, and this is easily supported by the fact that Blizzard made significant changes to the ruleset to ‘fix’ the problem (no killing of flight masters or quest givers, for example).

So if you have ever raged against an expansion or update resetting your progress, what you are really upset about is that your MMO of choice has a broken economy. Maybe ask the devs to allow some more ganking to fix it?

Now excuse me, I’ve got to get back to multiboxing my ratting carriers in ‘dying’ (with record profits) EVE, while watching CNN, the news networking ‘dying’ while having its highest ratings ever. Might also pre-order Albion, since they are offering an industry-first pre-order bonus. Oh how outrageous of them!

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Asheron's Call, Combat Systems, Dark Age of Camelot, Darkfall Online, EVE Online, Mass Media, MMO design, PvP, Rant, Ultima Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to WoW is gankbox, EVE is not

  1. That post at Massively OP, which came out as “if you’re afraid you might be ganked, then it is a gankbox,” was only topped by the comment thread wherein the majority opinion seemed to be that any game with any non-consensual PvP is automatically a gankbox. There were a few voices of reason in there, but as far as I could tell most people there seem to think PvP is bad unless it is some sort of arena or battleground where they can avoid it and the word “gank” means “to have been killed in PvP.”

    The “PvP is bad and must be abolished” crowd is almost as annoying as the “You must have free-for-all PvP” crowed that shits up the forums of every in-development theme park MMO. Not every single game need to cater to your personal needs.

    • SynCaine says:

      I think the saddest part is many of those who fear PvP actually want what PvP (done right) brings to the table. For example, how many people dream of being an ‘explorer’, yet in most MMOs exploring means going to Google, finding the answer, and collecting your prize. In EVE exploring not only exists, but has value, and does so only because the game also have PvP and the dangers around it.

      But they think PvP means “my WoW character gets deleted when I die!”, so they blindly stay away.

      • When you come from a world where you have one uber set of raid gear the idea that you’re going to lose your ship is terrifying. It took me a while to get used to the idea that I was simply going to lose ships and that it isn’t a big deal. Ships are disposable. The value is in your character is your skill points, which unlocks options.

        But yes, along with exploring EVE Online is potentially the best trading simulator game ever, but since it is real people and not NPC pirates blowing you up, it is bad.

  2. Bhagpuss says:

    Far from raging about an MMO resetting my progress with a level increase or an expansion I positively welcome it. It’s like getting a whole new game each time. Never understood why people moan about it. What I moan about is MMOs that go 2-3 years without a reset. Level increases and/or full expansions should be, at minimum, an annual event imo.

    As for exploring needing risk, I can’t see a connection but then to me “exploring” is a synonym for “sightseeing”.

    • Noizy says:

      I think those who think of exploring as requiring risk liked the Indiana Jones movies :)

    • Amalec says:

      Exploring in EVE usually refers specifically to economic activity: searching out hidden exploration sites scattered around the galaxy and running them. Rare sites in more dangerous areas provide considerably more value than common sites in protected areas. The rare modules found in these sites are constantly in high demand because they are constantly destroyed in pvp. Despite their high demand, supply remains low because you need to take a powerful and flexible (expensive) ship into dangerous regions of space to run those sites. Those two aspects combine to make Exploration incredibly lucrative to those willing to take the risk. Remove pvp and demand dries up while supply explodes, until no one can be bothered to run such worthless sites.

      As for sightseeing, say you want to see the site of an epic battle deep in nullsec.
      Without risk: you spend an hour flying out there, see your thing, and fly home.
      With risk: you spend a few days planning out the least dangerous route, or exploring to find a route through a set of temporary wormholes which will get you past the most dangerous areas, then spend a few hours dodging hostile players and gate-camps to get to your site.
      Which is more interesting? Which has more of a feeling of accomplishment?

  3. Esteban says:

    ” I could easily argue that vanilla PvP WoW servers were far more of a gankbox than EVE has ever been, and this is easily supported by the fact that Blizzard made significant changes to the ruleset to ‘fix’ the problem (no killing of flight masters or quest givers, for example).”

    True, they were. Also had more griefing potential, since (unless someone authoritative decides to drive you to suicide) you don’t really get corpse-camped in EVE. You’re randomly blown up, you’re mostly done with that situation.

    But Syp is right when he talks about culture, as opposed to reality by the numbers. And I think the crux of the problem in EVE is the player’s dependence on other people for content. You don’t really get much non-ganking PvP experience if you try to fly solo.

    • SynCaine says:

      I think you are confusing the actual culture of EVE, and the perceived culture of EVE by people like Syp.

      Also, while ganking is very frowned upon in most MMOs, because the focus of PvP isn’t winning so much as it is ‘gud fights’, in EVE it’s a fact of life, because the rules and outcomes are different. You are far more inclined to push the odds in your favor so highly the battle isn’t a fight but a gank (which occasionally goes spectacularly right/wrong like in B-R) when 300b+ ISK worth of time is on the line, vs in other MMOs where the ‘time cost’ is almost always just the travel time to the battle (which can be near-zero with queues and battlegrounds and all that).

      Ganking with 1000 vs 50 is hard to defend when the ‘cost’ of the battle is a few minutes of a character queueing up. 1000v50 is far easier to defend when the ‘field cost’ of that 1000 is thousands of man-hours of hardware on the field, plus however many millions of man-hours to get to that point.

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