Thursday, March 19, 2015

Who Is Your Main?

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?

And – furthermore and cutting to the heart of the original discussion – how many characters do you have, and how many of them reside in each area of space?  I know I have four in high-sec, one in null, and one that shifts between null and low-sec.  What about you?


  1. My main is a high sec PVE character. I like security and the option to not login or participate in any corp activity for a month without repecussions.
    My current corps are very understanding in this regard but I stil feel guilty for not showing up when something does happen so I am gravitating more towards my personal solo corp again.

    Right now 2 characters in high sec and 2 characters in null. (with 3 unused PI alts in a C1 WH plus the mandatory high sec freighter alt.)
    But going to put all my characters in one place and then pick shorter projects/goals.

  2. I think you got to the heart of the matter with this:
    "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."

    Your main is the character you identify with, for me (and I think for most people) it's the character you first started the game with, you watched your skills get higher painfully slow and every finished skill gives you a lot more satisfaction on this character than on any other. You evolved as a player while your character's skills evolved. You invested far more than time and money into this character, you learned who and what you want to be in Eve with him.

    Most alts on the other hand are born out of necessity, mostly to make money (station trading alts, mission running alts) or to go where you can't go (transporting alts for tradehubs). These alts mostly afk train, their progress is necessary up to the point where they're able to do what you want them to do, but it is hardly satisfying. You create the character, you know exactly what you want him/her to do and how to get there, you buy the skillbooks, you put 50 skills into the queue and then you wait.

    I have 2 characters, my main is Jonathan Atruin. He is the one I started the game with, and he became what I identify as in the game: a dirty lowsec pirate, an asshole, a guy who lives in faction warfare space just to shoot faction warfare people (even though i'm not in a faction warfare alliance). And still, half a year after I created the character I tend to my skillqueue with love and affection, giving the question "should I go for tech2 light missiles or tech2 hammerheads first?" hours of thought, and spending hours more perfecting my fits.
    And then I have my alt. She was born out of the necessity to go to tradehubs, which was made impossible for me by wardecs and sec status. I also decided to train her into a Rattlesnake to run lvl4's for money. And every time I log her in for a supply run I see the "11 skills completed" notification, something that on my main would make me giddy with joy, but it means pretty much nothing. She exists, and she has jobs to do, but she doesn't really mean anything.

    So even though I spend hours mission running and ratting, or flying my blockade runner from tradehub to lowsec home and back that's not what, or who, I am in the game. I am a pirate. If it moves, I shoot it. If it doesn't move I shoot it to see if I can make it move. And then I shoot it some more. And I think I'm lucky to be able to do that for multiple hours a day.

  3. What’s the difference between Love and Infatuation? If it lasts.

    Much the same can be said of the contrast between ‘dabble’ and ‘top playstyle’. Accordingly . . . a little history.

    My first character spawned in May 2009: Similar to so many others, a Hi-Sec mission runner.

    My second character spawned in September of that same year: Faction warfare PvP.

    My third character spawned in January 2010: Value added manufacturing.

    One could say these are my three mains. I’d be hard pressed to assert one is more central than the other as one of the great joys I find in Eve is each of them contributing their part to the overall endeavor. I don’t have a main, I have a family.

    Character two dabbles: touch of faction warfare, stint as Mission Bear murdering ninja looter, spell as a suicide ganker, mercenary stretch. She’s currently unemployed (but the ship on ship PvP itch returns – something’s about to change).

    Character three began and remains an industrialist: By my count her industrial business has undergone four top to bottom reorganizations since early 2010 (Crius alone generated two of them). History would say this is my primary playstyle. Over five years of unrelenting, no pause production.

    Character one, the oldest of the set with by far the most skill points, appears to fade into the background but don’t you believe it. He supports both character two (scouting, spinning command link) and character three (freighter transportation, optimal npc standing reprocessing). If a character is me, he’s the one; the central hub the other characters circle around.

    Family Spokesperson,

  4. I am Tur and Tur is me. Period. I never had an alt until this year and that came about only because a good friend left the game and gave me (some) of his stuff... 15b ISK. At that time I could 'afford' and alt and so took the plunge... but... I have never 'needed' or really even wanted an alt before.

    Oh I have the 2 Alts on my main account, Hiril and Angel, and have over the years dabbled in this or that with them... Hiril spent time in RvB and Angel was my holecard scan alt in our various homeholes... but now Angel is my hisec hauler alt (and CEO of our mothballed home corp, HBHI)... and Hiril... she sits in Dodi doing naught at'all...

    'Adan is my foray into a 2nd account alt... he has been focused trained as an L5 scan alt, holecard and scout and he has also been skilled as my secondary PI guy assisting Tur's main PI efforts...

    Tur is me and I am Tur... my alts are other 'people' not me... they are employees, friends, family who work and fly with me/Tur... (and yes it gets very weird in my heard when logged on as one of them...)

    Something funny...
    When I first created Angel, my very first alt, I once used EVE Voice chat... and the ingame voice changer... (yeah, I did...) and contacted my CEO and son as though she was (1) a real other noob player and (b) a RL fem...

    We had just been through the Massacre at Soshin and I contacted AI as though I was a noob and had seen the battle and was wondering what it was all about... when we got on voice chat... well, it was hilarious... both of my sons thought I was a real fem and, well... I kinda played it a bit until I simply broke down laughing and told em it was me...

    Strigon simply "X"ed the client and AI went off about how "That is just WRONG man!!!" and logged off... they have been touchy about that ever since... =]

    1. Wow... Eve in-game voice chat... that takes me back. I used that only once when I was in Imperial Legion and we flew with some non-alliance folks. It's actually a pretty good effort to bring voice communication to folks who can't/don't have access to Mumble or Teamspeak, but it just doesn't hold a candle to those two!

    2. Yeah... I thought EVE Voice was pretty cool effort on CCPs part.

      One point I forgot to make in the above... Tur does not have ISK making alts. Tur makes his own ISK, himself. Granted I know some player's actually have to PLEX their accounts, I am lucky that I don't... I can afford to CC mine so whatever Tur makes ingame is his. But this also means I have always looked at PLEXing for ISK as a cheat.

      Nowhere IRL can you spend a dollar and get $1000 back (yes in gambling and the stock market you can 'sometimes' do that, but not with any reliability or everyone would be rich...).

      But that is, to me, the greatest difference... In Anoikis I can relaibly make enough ISK to play the game... to afford my losses and keep flying and fighting and having fun... without alts.

  5. To me, my main is the character that I identify most closely with, regardless of actual activity. To that end, I've been a highsec mission runner and miner, null sec sov warrior and renter, FW pilot, and w-space denizen. My alts were created to allow me to acquire the isk to do what I wanted on my main (whatever that happened to be) and at time my alts were more active than my main, but my main was always my main.

    Even when my main went to null and my alts stayed in w-space (because flying almost alone is no fun), I considered myself both a null pilot and a wormhole pilot. Now I'm back almost exclusively to wormholes, with a single highsec alt that doesn't really do anything.

    Like many, though, my main is my first character; non-optimized, a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, but fully me.

  6. I'm going to blatantly hijack a wonderful line from the rebooted Battlestar Galactica for this.

    "My name is Druur Monakh. I'm a pilot in New Eden. Whatever else I am, whatever else it means, that's the pilot I want to be."