Thursday, August 7, 2014

Gevlon Pushes the Wormhole Safety Button

Gevlon Goblin put out another article today, this time talking about how the changes to WH space will be a positive thing for the gameworld.


Let’s get the “Damnit, Gevlon…” stuff out of the way.  Good writers who talk about Eve are up front and honest about their biases, and they call them out directly when they propose a change that benefits their perspective.  Personally, I’ve been pretty clear that I believe small gang PvP is the pinnacle of the Eve experience, since it blends both the social aspect and the thrill of having your actions influence the result.  When I propose changes that benefit this playstyle, I actively call it out, and I try not to propose changes that advance small gang at the expense of other play styles.  And I’ve certainly written about the virtues of the other playstyles, too.  Hell, the purpose of this blog is to make PvP more transparent to players making their first forays into PvP.

Gevlon makes no such effort to state his biases.  He’s a WoW player who uses charts and graphs to try to plot the optimal way to “win” a game.  He obviously applied this methodology to WoW, and he tries the same with Eve.  That, in itself, demonstrates that he just doesn’t get Eve.

He writes, “Because C4+ WH space is as far from the original design as it could be. It was meant to be a great unknown, where unexpected things happen, due to the random connections. This randomness was destroyed by the “ragerolling” process.”

This represents an absolute failure to recognize the very nature of Eve.  WH space isn’t what CCP intended… who cares?  CCP sure doesn’t.  Nor does anyone who “gets” Eve.  Similar real-world examples of this line of thinking:  “The abuses of power and inequality in communism isn’t what Marx intended.”  “Businesses dropping benefits in lieu of Obamacare isn’t what Obama intended.”  In all cases: consequences are not related in any way to intentions, but by facts, human nature, logic, and emergence.  Only a fool looks at consequences and cites intention.

He seems to wholly miss the essence of Eve: emergent gameplay is the whole point, not an aberration.  Whatever a player CAN do within the mechanics is a positive aspect.  It is wholly impossible for players to RUIN the game with their actions; the game IS their actions.  If there’s a problem, it’s a consequence of insufficient coding and mechanics (note, I didn’t say failure; no one can predict everything, though the programmers do a good job of trying to).  If there’s a problem, the code needs to be adjusted, not regulations added.

Why?  Because of the slippery slope.  If you start limiting emergent gameplay to only those elements you favor, you’re exercising despotism.  “Why can we not do this?  Because I said so.”  That very line of thinking negates what Eve is about.  Either Gevlon doesn’t realize this, or he doesn’t see a problem with this tendency.

I have to put this disclaimer in lest some reader believe Gevlon’s perspective is in some way balanced.  I was one of those readers in the past, and made the mistake of giving him the same benefit of the doubt I give everyone I read; the deception inherent in his thinking can easily be overlooked.

For the Argument’s Sake

Deep breath.

Yes, when Gevlon writes something, I’m naturally opposed to it.  I can’t help it; the intellectual dishonesty and shameless bias he demonstrates, coupled with his despotic tendencies, triggers a natural revulsion and urge to obliterate it.  That said, I try very hard not to conflate the value of ideas expressed and the value of the individual expressing them.  So I’m going to try to overcome my own bias and consider his ideas on their own merit.

I’m not quite sure what point of the author’s analysis is, to be honest, other than “more people doing PvE is good.”  To some extent, I agree with that conclusion, but only as an instrumental good, not an intrinsic good.  PvE is valuable as a pass-between – to make isk to fund war, to provide content to hunters, to provide resources to be used in PvP – but CCP’s data has shown that players who only engage in PvE burn out and provide lower total value (interactions times subscription duration) than players who engage in PvP as well.  The ideal PvEr is the player who will jump into a home defense fleet to fight off invaders.  That behavior presupposes social connection, engagement with multiple aspects of the game, and emotional investment in something one wishes to protect.  All of those are good for CCP, Eve, and all of us.

Further, I don’t see the internal logic of the argument that WH space “was meant to be a great unknown, where unexpected things happen, due to the random connections. This randomness was destroyed by the ‘ragerolling’ process. In this a ganker group repeatedly overloads their static wormhole with capital ships, creating a new one, until they got which they wanted.”  When I spent time in a WH corp, rolling wormholes was as much about defense as it was about finding targets.  We’d purge our home system of random WHs and maintain only the static, so we could control the number of entrances and exits to make PvE more secure.  Yes, sometimes we rage-rolled connections to identify possible targets, but most of our targets were found by exploring our chains.  Moreover, we tended to use plated battleships with active MWDs to close holes, not capitals, and it didn’t take that long regardless.  I honestly don’t see how rage-rolling a dead system will be that much more difficult, or will take more time.

Perhaps this comes from a failure to understand how you rage-roll.  When a new static appears, you send your probers to it.  They jump through, do a quick scan of that WH, then identify the location of the various WH signatures in system to see if there’s any value in continuing beyond the static.  This all takes a few minutes, even with multiple probers.  If they find nothing, they come back, you calculate the mass  with your WH mapper tool, then bring your plated BS fleet in, flashing MWDs until you close your WH.  You can usually do this in a single pass-and-back.  Most of the time involved is spent scouting the new connection.  Closing it is relatively quick and easy.

Ironically, making it more difficult to roll a WH will only hurt those groups trying to defensively close a WH.  If you and an enemy fleet are fighting on a WH, the only time you want to close it is if you’re losing or are outnumbered.  Doing so under the new mechanics is much more difficult, since you’ll have to burn back to the WH to escape.  After all, if you’re winning the fight, you want it to stay open as long as possible, don’t you.  Kill orgies are best enjoyed to excess.

So, this change isn’t going to really make it more difficult to roll statics, it’ll only make it more difficult to close a WH behind you to cut off a superior force if you’re getting your face kicked in.  If anything, this aspect favors the superior force (or, in Gevlon’s parlance, the “gankers”).

The rest of the article makes some confusing claims about WH life.  It argues that, “Currently ratting in C4-C6 is like ratting in nullsec, one jump away from the staging system of every serious Null group, with multiple neutrals on local.”  I’m not even sure what he means by part of it, but the part I do understand is his presentation; the claim is made as if the current state is a problem needing correction.  But, I fail to see how “returning” WH space to that “great unknown” state, where “unexpected things happen, due to the random connections” would be achieved by making it safer to rat in higher-class WHs in the first place, nor how any of the changes in the dev blog could make WH ratting safer.

If anything, the changes seem to introduce instability – additional WHs that cannot be closed due to limited jump mass and regenerating total mass restrictions, additional statics to create “crossroads C4s”, delays in K162 wormhole visibility until a ship passes through initially.  I honestly fail to see how “ratting should be easier”, “WH space was meant to be unpredictable and unsafe,” and “gankers and PvP pilots should have harder jobs” can all mutually exist within the same philosophy.

I’ll share my own take on these changes in a separate post, since I’d really rather not mix illogical arguments with logical ones.


  1. "He seems to wholly miss the essence of Eve: emergent gameplay is the whole point, not an aberration. Whatever a player CAN do within the mechanics is a positive aspect. It is wholly impossible for players to RUIN the game with their actions; the game IS their actions."

    AOE cruise missile kestrels. Permatanking/evading concord. Yulai superhub. Unscannable deep safes. Pax Amarria nocxium price cap. Something from nothing starbase reactions. Biomass cycling suicide gank alts. FW LP dubstep. Convo bombing. Server tick POS bowling. FW mission blitzing under old tiered discount payouts. Suspect baiting in newbie systems. etc etc.

    There have been plenty of cases where emergent behavior that didn't match CCP intentions have led to people unbalancing and even outright ruining the game for others. If emergent behavior in all its forms was the point of the game, then none of those underlying mechanics that permitted such behavior would evern have been patched out, or in the cases where they can't be patched out such as suicide alt biomass cycling, server tick POS bowling, or baiting newbies in starter systems, they would never have been explicitly forbidden through GM fiat.

    You may have different opinions compared to Gevlon on what emergent behavior is good for the game, but the idea that just because the game encourages emergent behavior, all such possible behaviors must be good is a flawed one. There have been plenty of past examples that show it to be demonstratably false.

    1. All of your examples are players using the tools provided. That's how the game's supposed to be played. CCP made a mistake, and the players exploited it. Let me put it to you a different way; if you leave a Bowie knife sitting on the floor and your toddler comes up and stabs herself with it, the fault lies with you, not your toddler.

      Changing mechanics is one thing; it's CCP providing players with tools - and adjusting those tools - to establish a universe with set rules. But saying, "Though the mechanics allow you to do this, you aren't allowed to," is moralizing. It's something other games do, not Eve. The very appeal of Eve is that the GMs do NOT moralize.

      By all means, CCP should adjust the mechanics to achieve balance. But what Gevlon wants is for CCP to dictate playstyle through any means they can. That's the very apex of totalitarianism.

    2. Gevlon is someone whom I read but what they say is just background noise. His crusade against Goons and their allies is to the point of boring and laughable but he does occasionally make good observations.

      That said I agree fully with your last paragraph in the comment Talvorian Dex, he wants the gameplay to be dictated by CCP not the players and this is totally opposite to how EVE was designed and is played.

      The changes that have been suggested are good, especially the use of capital ships to close holes. I really like that one and it suggests that in the future we may see something similar for cyno's (if you take a small leap).

      Players have been up in arms about these changes and the fear and anger displayed in some of the forum comments are laughable. Pilots will adapt and new gameplay styles will come from these changes, its a good thing.

  2. What difference does it make how another person thinks?

    In general, no matter how a world developer alters that world, players will tend to gravitate towards pursuing mechanics that put them at the least risk, even if those are engagement mechanics. In a competitive game, the developer generates the most adaptation by making that move more expensive than it was previously. Adding a little more risk to WH jumping or anything else can't really be a bad thing. In an universe where the only real permanent consequence of suffering is wisdom, risk makes sense, even if we can't objectively convince ourselves to seek it out most of the time.

    1. Good opinion. I tend to agree with you, but to your question: it matters a great deal what another person thinks. CCP's decisions are indeed influenced by the narrative and the tenor of discussion among player circles. A voice with a strong reach can influence that narrative.

      Words have power. Writers are a self-policing lot; when we see someone trying to pull one over - linguistically, argumentatively, or logically - on someone, we can't do anything but respond. We know that a bad idea can take root and become an epidemic of poor thinking. And so, we try to stop it as soon as we can.