Monday, February 22, 2016

Wrong Us, Shall We Not Revenge?

The Nosy Gamer recently took on the subject of gambling sites in Eve and the new power they're exerting within the game. In it, he highlights the undeniable fact that sites like IWantIsk are exerting a significant influence on in-game politics.

His article raises some good opinions.  Allow me to quote some choice passages that (I believe) maintain the intention as well as the verbatim:
"I really wonder if allowing an entity to raise trillions of ISK outside of the game world and use the funds to punish political enemies is really in the spirit of the sandbox. ... If SMA continues to lose systems and members, I wonder how CCP will view the situation. Up until now I don't think gambling sites have ever really played a major role in null sec sovereignty warfare. If a vindictive gambling site operator makes CCP take a second look the in-game effects of such sites, then IWANTISK's thirst for vengeance could wind up ending the devs tolerance for gambling."
However, his conclusion is quite a bit different from my own opinion on the matter.

First of all, one cannot really deny the reality of the situation he describes. IWantIsk (IWI) accused a couple SMA members of stealing a significant amount of isk. The members in question admitted that they took the isk (some of which was in the form of assets), but claimed it was justifiable retaliation for certain slights. Regardless of the truth behind who's responsible, some SMA members were a lot richer, got high-fives from SMA leadership, and left IWI with a reason for vendetta.

So, sitting on trillions of isk, IWI did the only logical thing it could do to strike back... it hired mercenaries to declare war on SMA. Highly effective, ruthless mercenaries by the alliance ticker of TISHU - Psychotic Tendencies.

As a result, TISHU descended upon SMA's fields of Fade like a swarm of locusts, destroying everything they could find. They camped 24/7 in some cases, dropped on anything that moved, and demonstrated the extreme inability of a null-sec alliance to cope with any sort of persistent threat against its space.

In SMA's defense, they responded honorably, trying to contest TISHU. More often than not, they paid for it. They won some battles, and Goonswarm's Theta Squad dropped some of TISHU's black ops ships, so they scored some good victories. However, in the end, SMA was fighting on their own turf, and it severely disrupted their defensive measures. ADMs dropped across the board as ratters and miners docked up rather than risk loss. Whereas TISHU's losses were all paid for by IWI's mercenary contract fee, whereas the CFC doesn't typically reimburse ratting losses.

In short, TISHU exerted pressure where it hurts members the most, and forced SMA leadership into exposing their inability to combat the threat consistently across the board, and in general exposed all the difficulties null-sec alliances have defending their space under FozzieSov. From IWI's perspective, the campaign has been a spectacular success.

SMA's member could has dropped significantly as a result of the disruption. The chief advantage of CFC alliances is belief that they have safe space to rat and mine. While that may seem debatable to some, the existence of ADMs and FozzieSov have made PvE-focused pilots much more valuable to null alliances, and the safest of those was the CFC. This campaign is challenging that perception.

So, yes, a gambling site - IWantIsk - is exerting influence on Eve politics by getting alliances to attack SMA through generous stipends.

But is this a problem? Nosy says yes; I disagree. And this is where you get into the nature of the sandbox.

For Eve to truly be a sandbox and give players options about how they engage with the game, you need to establish means for all kinds of playstyles to exert power over each other. Without that, you're creating hierarchies, and those hierarchies define value. In Medieval Europe, the clergy and nobility could be said to be equals because the clergy could influence the king through fear of damnation and public shunning - which could cost them their power - while the nobility could always break into and slaughter the lot of the clergy.  The serfs, however, had no power whatsoever, for they never exerted influence on anyone.

If trading or manufacturing cannot exert influence on PvPers, is it truly another equal option, or does it become a lesser option in every way? I would argue that IWI's business model is similar to those - through providing something players want, IWI accrued wealth. It was gambling. Does it matter? It involves isk, uses the Eve API, and is managed through in-game characters. It's prone to scamming by actions of players that can only be undertaken while in the game client. So, it positions itself as being able to be disrupted and victimized by IG actions. Spies can infiltrate and exploit the IG structure of IWI to steal significant sums of money from it.

To me, that means it's irrelevant whether the actual service being provided is related to the Eve mechanics or not; it's entirely dependent on those mechanics. It is internal to the game.

So why should IWI be forbidden or condemned for promoting retaliation for when it feels wronged, particularly when that retaliation is of an in-game nature, just like the theft that afflicted them? If you take away their ability to do so, or if CCP condemns them by shutting them down because of it, you effectively minimize the value of innovation and emergent gameplay. "Develop new things, but God help you if they exert an influence!"

To me, that's contrary to the nature of the sandbox. Even if IWI decides to lord it over everyone and crushes every alliance in the game, is that in any way different form the CFC crushing any force that opposes it militarily? Shouldn't we all be able to use whatever resources are available to us to strike down our enemies?

The Crest API is a thing, and all of the touchpoints with the game IWI uses are available to anyone to use. Does it matter if people are transferring isk to IWI for gambling purposes? What if they transfer isk to an individual player for a corp lottery? Does scale really matter?

I argue it doesn't. IWI provided a solution to something players wanted - an alternative way to make isk that contains increased risk. It addresses in-game needs with solutions that hinge upon in-game mechanics (the API check and wallet transfers) and involved incredible amounts of dedication and time. It provides something interesting to the game world, which results in players remaining subbed and logged in. All of that is a positive to the game.

Doesn't IWI have the right to use the resources available to them to strike at an enemy. There is nothing more "Eve" than that.
"If you prick us, do we not bleed?
If you tickle us, do we not laugh?
If you poison us, do we not die?
And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?"

[Ed. note: Diana Olympos pointed out that the Crest API does not interact in any way with what IWI is doing. Thanks for the clarification!]


  1. I agree with your points and nice quote btw

  2. This is how in game weatlth should be used.

    Have an enemy and declare war on them.

    If anything, eve needs more war over personal slights.

  3. if they cant use their profits for revenge or other in game activities what other use is there? Why is this behaviour so foreign to the other wealthy groups like the Goons? Are they so used to RMT that they believe it is the only acceptable use of ISK?

    1. I don't believe they think there's anything "wrong" with it per se. They just recognize the power of thought leadership, and are trying to get others to believe they're the wronged party, particularly CCP. When you want to turn others against you, you don't necessarily worry whether you believe anything you're saying; effectiveness is more important than truth.

  4. You misunderstood him. His problem isn't that he is exerting influence with his ISK. (Otherwise he'd have problem with me too).

    His problem is that his ISK is not from the game, but from a gambling site, therefore SMA can't retaliate inside the game, just by hacking his site (which they did by the way). The problem is that the line SMA can only retaliate to TISHU but never to IWI. (They can at least theoretically retaliate to me by either 0.01-ing me into no profit or by ganking my transport, the costs be damned).

    1. Right... only I'd argue that his isk IS capable of being disrupted with in-game action. IWI depends on bankers - so do what you did and position spy bankers within his organization. Disrupt through theft.

      SMA has also tried to undermine the trust in the site by connecting him to RMT and suggesting the games are rigged in favor or against certain individuals. That's another "meta" way to attack the myth of trust, in the same way that people attack the myth of faihtfulness in the CFC.

      Ultimately, the means are different, but the battle is the same - undermine the support structure and crush your opponent.

  5. Just to be clear : IWI can not use the CREST API. It is barred for any use close to gambling in it's developer's agreement.

  6. Tal you should do some analysis around the number of pilots leaving SMA as it will give you a good picture of the % of pilots in the CFC that are nothing but null bears. People who actually PVP would count the TISHU (and now PH) invasion as a blessing. Additional data points would be the % of members that left BAT and RP when they exited the CFC.

    In regards to IWI, I really have no problem with anything they do with their isk in-game as long as CCP allows them to operate (implying they are not breaking CCP RMT rules). In turn, SMA is similarly free to head hunt IWI employees in-game, plant spies within IWI to steal isk, circulate RMT rumors, boycott IWI's site, etc.

  7. I was most amused to see that TMC Shareholder The Mittani has tawaken time off from preparing his latest Kickstarter to brand this Fade campaign "The RMT War."

    This is intended as a slight on IWI.