During my FozzieSov analysis post, an reader named DireNecessity and I started discussing my claim that null-sec sovereignty was the quintessential Eve gameplay feature. By that, I meant it was the iconic “big idea” behind Eve, the mechanic that best represented the sandbox elements that make Eve unique.
Dire brought up the disproportionately large number of characters in high-sec, which led me to make the “long-term HS are alts of low/wh/null players” point. And that raised a very interesting set of questions.
What defines a player’s “main” character and top playstyle? At what point does earning isk in HS, for instance, change from being a necessary evil to the way you most often play the game? What criteria should you use when trying to identify whether players are high-sec players, or null-sec or low-sec players who also have operations they perform in high-sec?
The Perfect Test Case
The only observations we can ever be certain about are about ourselves. So, I’m going to use myself as an example.
When I started playing Eve in 2009, I got into it at the suggestion of my brother-in-law. I would log in once or twice a week, and hang out exclusively in high-sec. I subscribed for a few months, training a hodge-podge of skills that roughly sent me down a Drake track, but which I was absolutely certain was leading me to a Raven. I knew nothing about mastering one ship class before moving to the next. Nor was Eve a particularly interesting game to me.
I was a high-sec player because the other areas of space (WHs weren’t around yet) seemed too dangerous and unfair. Why do players get to control – and lock out others from – specific areas of space? That seemed like CCP was cheating, or creating content only for a select few. It felt WRONG. Sure, I’d never stepped foot outside of CONCORD-protected space, except for the occasional hauling trip selling livestock between regions (that was my main isk back then… scary…).
But I eventually left for about two years. After my department was eliminated in 2011, I came back, dipped my toe into a null-sec renter corp. Since I first stepped foot in null-sec, I was hooked. Null was still a little scary, but familiarity breeds contempt, and I was starting to become quite familiar. In Imperial Legion, we didn’t really fly doctrine ships, and my love of kitchen sink fleets was born. We would fly in small gangs (2-3 pilots) in low-sec near Geminate, and would fly in larger fleets (20 or so) around our constellation. Jump bridges weren’t really a thing to us, but I did live in null full-time, but I did do some mission-running to grind standings to create high-sec jump clones.
Then I joined Razor, back when they only had a land-grant of 5 systems in Pure Blind from the CFC. From that point, I was a null-player, spending all my time with the Reconquista of the North and on deployment with the coalition. I became a CFC pilot in every real way. But I still loved low-sec fighting, getting into small scraps, and absolutely adored fighting by myself – with a backup of two friends a couple jumps away – and looked for those opportunities any time I could.
Then I joined Repercussus. They were everything I wanted. A perfect blend of low-sec and null-sec. Small doctrine fighting (which was sadly lacking in Razor) as well as large fleet doctrines. A simultaneous match of every size of engagement you could want, in every area of space I was interested in (everything but high-sec). Even before I left Razor for the first time (before my brief WH stint), I flew with RP a lot, and became an RP pilot in spirit.
In the end, I became a strange combination. A member of the most powerful alliance in the most powerful coalition in the game, yet appreciating and hunting out smaller-gang combat, traveling through all areas of space fighting, fighting, fighting.
But That’s Not the Whole Story
What I just described is a history of my identity… how I view the game. It follows my character Talvorian’s perspective. Sure, I have alts, but I don’t identify with them the way I identify with Talvorian. Talvorian IS me, as far as the parallel can run.
And that’s interesting to me, because a lot of what I – the player – do in game doesn’t involve Talvorian, and doesn’t involve PvP. I rat in null-sec, mostly cosmic signatures. I collect tags from clone troopers (admittedly, mostly for Talvorian’s use). I used to run a moon-mining corporation in low-sec. I market trade. I transport all my stuff across the galaxy to sell, including loot from all those activities. I trade characters, and have to train them up between Buy and Sell.
And all of that takes up a lot of time. I’d argue it may take up a majority of my time. In particular, the ratting eats up time. I’m often dual-boxing with my ratting character while active with Talvorian doing PvP. Scanning down sites, moving ships around, resupplying missiles…
And yet, none of that is important to me the way PvP is. I’m not a ratting player. I’m not a market trading player. I’m not a hauling or moon mining player. I’m a PvPer. No amount of time I spend doing those other activities will change that. Even if I spend only a couple hours a month PvPing, I will still be a PvP player.
The Hierarchy of Needs
The reason for that is because, based on my desires, expectations, and sources of satisfaction, the element of Eve that provides me with the greatest satisfaction is PvP. Everything else enables or supports that. Ratting shoves isk in my wallet so I can PvP with it. I keep a surplus of liquid isk in case all my assets are locked in a deadzoned station or stolen in some fashion. For me, it’s all about the PvP, no matter how much time it takes.
In the same way, for a football player, it’s all about that championship game, even though he may reach it only once or twice in his life. All the years of training, the hours of workouts, the piles of tape he watches… it’s all meant to hone him for that big moment in that record-making game. That is the goal. All else is support, no matter how much that support outweighs that goal.
And it’s the same in Eve for all of us. Sure, what that intrinsic goal is may vary, but I’d argue that for each player, his or her identity – which person he/she considers the “main character” has nothing to do with time, isk, or value. It’s not about the quantities… it’s about the quality. And quality comes from the elements of the game that keep us playing. It varies by person, of course, but that, to me, is the source of identity.
So, what is your identity? Who is your main? Do you spend the majority of your time doing your preferred activity, or do other, necessary steps get in the way?