Sunday, August 16, 2015

Searching for the Structure Fight

I’m an odd sort.  I spend my game time like Diogenes with his lamp, looking for an honest engagement.  I’m very particular about the kind of PvP that I enjoy.  I try to keep in mind that I’m intentionally choosy about my content.  I want high-quality content, and I’m willing to spend a lot of time to achieve it.  On the other hand, there’s a lot of PvP content I find of little value.  Thousands of those kills don’t balance out even one great fight.

But I wanted to share a little about myself to help you understand what I mean.

I play chess.  A lot.  Since replacing my phone four months ago, I’ve logged 629 games of chess on “Chess with Friends”.  The rules are simple, but when you include all the meta tricks and psychological warfare involved, it becomes an intense, personal game.  I feel ashamed and undressed when my strategy is dismantled, and it pushes me to innovate new ways to respond.  Recently, I’m on a French Defense kick, which I’ve found to be incredibly powerful.  I’ve even started being able to beat the computer on level 5 of 6 recently.

I take chess very seriously, and refuse to play with people I know.  I can’t, then still be friends with them.  I play a very aggressive, demoralizing game.  I set people up to think they’re winning, only to spring my trap and shatter their hopes.  I cut people apart piece by piece to demoralize them.  My goal isn’t just to win, it’s to cut their heart out as I do, so I have an advantage the next time I play them.

When I’m being beaten, though, I try to calm myself.  I get myself caught in a fork and lose my queen in exchange for a knight.  I take a deep breath and keep going.  I don’t resign unless a) I really need to go, or b) my opponent has demonstrated that he knows how to take advantage of his overwhelming lead, and the rest of the game is truly academic.  Losing a queen isn’t an immediate resignation.  In fact, I look to trade queens as early as possible because I’m much stronger with my ancillary pieces than my queen, the opposite of most players.

I watched a movie a few months ago that got me interested in the Red Baron.  In the movie, it depicted Manfred von Richthofen as adhering to a strict code of attacking only pilots who could shoot him back, and that he never attacked pilots once they had crash-landed, or who were injured and attempting to disengage.  That appealed to me. You can imagine my surprise when I learned that the real von Richthofen would exploit any tactical advantage he could, including shooting pilots – not planes – on the ground and finishing off wounded enemies.  I still respected his innovation of hiding his attack vector in the sun, though.

Chivalry, the pirate’s code, the word of a noble, the busido code… each time I heard of these codes of beavhior, I was fascinated by their adherents… until I learned that the reality was far more mundane.  Chivalry never existed.  Pirates would happily murder each other.  Nobles lied all the time.  Samurai would murder all sorts of people without cause.  Each of these supposedly honorable codes were simply myths.  I took that very hard.

I enjoy poker, and I’ve written about how it compares to Eve before.  You have to be careful, effectively gauging the actual strength of your opponent before you cross your Rubicon.  It’s an intensely complicated game, prone to disruption by any idiot with a stack of chips.  And that makes it delightfully unpredictable.

In Star Trek, I felt the Maquis were right.  The Federation had abandoned them and their principles for the sake of convenience.  I respected the fact that they scrounged, stole, and invented their own strike craft.  I don’t blame them at all for their attempts to poison the atmospheres of former human worlds to force the Cardassians out, while leaving it safe for humans to breathe.  That seemed eminently sensible to me, particularly in light of what was clearly Cardassian brutality.  My heart was always with them.  They didn’t deserve to be slaughtered like cattle by the Dominion.

You see, for me, the struggle defines the satisfaction.  I’m not interested in automata.  Fifty should always crush 10.  There’s no honor in being part of the fifty… you’re expected to defeat the 10, and you only have room for shame by failing.  But if you’re one of the 10 and you can find your way to victory, you’re actually accomplished something worthwhile.

I don’t get that dopamine drip from empty accomplishment.  But when I’m flying a Merlin and I see a T3D I’m soloing explode… that’s intensely satisfying.  Or when my gang of six or seven scatters a gang of 15 while under fire.  I feel as if we’ve accomplished something deserving of pride.  When my hands are shaking and I can feel the adrenaline surging through my body as either myself or my opponent’s ship explodes… it’s delight.  The experience is what matters, not the result.

Twenty pilots dropping on a single T3 cruiser?  The logical conclusion is that the T3 was destroyed.  Shame on you if you didn’t kill it.  There’s no skill in that for the victors.  The Persians did not take anything positive out of Thermopylae.  And Xerses is remembered as a buffoon.

That’s my ideal.  It’s not one I always fulfill, or I always find, but that’s what I’m looking for.  A lot of players might call it stupid.  “Why do you take a fight if you know you’ll lose?”  “If you don’t use links, you’re basically giving up at the start.”  “You can’t find fights like that anymore.”

Then again, a lot of players believe the value lies in the record of victories.  For me, it doesn’t.  It lies in experiencing a meaningful victory.  Without context, any trophy is meaningless.  I’d rather earn eighth place than be given first.  It’s the clawing through mud, fighting against your own stupid habits and biases, and overcoming everything they throw at you that provides the greatest satisfaction.

I’m not the best PvPer out there.  And I don’t have to be to be satisfied.  I just need to keep looking for the “structure fight”, where one leaves on fire and the other doesn’t leave at all.  That’s enough.

It’ll never end.  There’s no achieving that goal, no ending that search.  Because, you see, the value lies in the searching, not the destination.


  1. Magnificent! One of the best reads I've read on the nature of PvP in EVE and in general! I see something in EVE that other games can't have, a game where even as the loser you can have "fun", the level of mastery and thinking the game asks for makes that every fight can give you an opportunity to "fight well" but at the same time losing is still something meaningful. I wish EVE would more to promote that aspect of its PvP instead of the griefing aspect...

    Anyway, I like your read, very insightful.

  2. One of the best posts I've read from you in a while, at least in my opinion. I love these kind of posts, and I hope you continue to make them.

  3. This really chimes with me, very interesting post.

  4. How about a followup to this? Share some of your favorite moments, what led up to them, how you stumbled onto it or hunted it down? Like your previous commenters, this piece struck me in a place that resonates very loudly and I'd love to see how you've accomplished your most valued experiences in New Eden.

    1. Do a search on this blog for posts with the "Lessons" tag. They all contain things I learned from exciting fights. I'll keep posting them as I have them and as I learn new things.

  5. Expanding your chess reference. Imagine that you frequent a local chess club. Casual play and friendly atmosphere. You can drop in and get a game because the members are comparable strength. After a time, a group of masters join. Now its some professional play with a smug undertone. Your defeats are publicly published and ridiculed. An immediate tactic would be avoid engaging the masters. The game changes, a few of the masters now capture all of the opponents pieces - way past the point that check-mate. "I am making legal moves and my opponent can resign at anytime". "well maybe this game is not for you, draughts is in the next room down the hall".

    This is what Eve has become. A place with a sub-set of players that conduct the game professionally. When many just desire a casual, relaxed standard. Not much point to make a challenge which cannot be won.

    1. That's a good point, and it's one of the reasons I really like the jump fatigue and "farm your fields" sov concepts: it regionalizes superpowers. You've got a bully on the block? Well, under Fatigue and FozzieSov, that bully is going to be (mostly) bottled up in one part of space: just stay away from there and you'll be fine.

      And let's face it, the bully everyone's talking about now that N3 collapsed is the Imperium. And it's been probably a good year since the line members enjoyed a really good, major invasion. They're becoming less frequent, even as the content for smaller entities increases and expands. That's a good change in my book.