Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A Game for the Sith

In response to a comment on my last post, a player voiced a complaint I hear often about my perspective on Eve. For context, it’s pretty clear that I deem Eve to be a social, PvP-focused game, though recently I’ve expanded that definition of PvP to include more than simply ship combat, but the various ways Eve players thwart each other’s efforts.

The reader responded by citing several stats that show that more characters focus on PvE and industry activities than PvP, that more characters live in high-sec than all the other spaces combined, and by a very large margin, and that there are simply more activities that are non-PvP related – by a wide margin – than all others combined.

Here was my response:

“I won't sit here and claim that sheer quantity isn't on your side in this. I'd just argue that quantity doesn't matter. It takes hundreds of thousands of teen and youth hockey players to distill down into 22 players for a country to compete in the Olympics. Without the multitude, you don't get to the apex.
 “Ultimately, while some folks feel attacked when I claim Eve is a PvP game, or a social game, consider it from my perspective. Eve's PvE is pretty awful, compared to every other console, RPG, and MMO out there. Yet players feel the need to come into Eve and try to make it more about PvE. On the other hand, name one game that offers as pure and powerful of a PvP, Nietzschean, and relentless PvP experience as Eve? One where consequences hurt, where you can actually inflict damage on another player? Where you can exert your will to even a comparable degree?
 “Why must every game be about PvE? This one was designed to be a cold, dark universe where everyone is trying to kill you. Why must we water it down and make it friendly to the casual, the "single player experience", or the protected?
“Yes, some people hate large groups, hate PvP, and don't like adrenaline shakes. I get that they're different. But why play in Eve, then, when you're told by the devs themselves that you should expect survival of the fittest, relentless brutality, and - in honor of May 4th - essentially a game populated and designed to cater to Sith.”

I ended by a simple statement that I wanted to expand on. “There is no other game for us Sith, but the Jedi among us want to make Eve another game where they feel safe.”

It is May 4th, a day in which nerds across the world celebrate Star Wars (“May the “fourth” be with you”, and all that). So allow me to give you a Star Wars comparison that highlights how I feel about Eve.

Pretend you’re a Sith. The Jedi are these sanctimonious do-gooders, arguing that everyone should act groovy and get along. They’re all about everyone playing by the rules – regardless of whether those rules are actually any good, fair, or just. The fact that they are “the rules” means they’re right. They go around the galaxy – with the support of weak governments who are interested in keeping the universe in stasis – predictable, safe, and uneventful. They want societies not to change. They want to keep paradigms the same.

When you have a Jedi who’s particularly powerful, rather than being taught to use their gifts to exert power – to create a more just world, to establish a new social order that rewards the kind – they’re taught to sublimate themselves. Don’t be too good. Don’t believe your wisdom is any greater than anyone else’s. How dare you believe you have a better idea than everyone else?

To use Nietzsche’s phraseology, the Jedi seek to mute the ability of the skilled, intelligent, and insightful with humbleness, service, and obedience. The effect is self-denial, subversion of individual will, and elevation of order and stasis over the strength, power, and rights of the individual to pursue what nature tells the individual to do – thrive, excel, grow, and acquire the means to become stronger and more vibrant.

The Jedi are, in essence, the force of order. Over time, the Jedi way becomes the way of society as a whole. It condemns those who think differently, who strive to break out and establish their own selves. It becomes the voice of one’s conscience, constantly telling you what you shouldn’t do, what you shouldn’t believe, and that you’re wrong for wanting to thrive.

But, you’re a Sith. You believe the exertion of your will is the finest activity any individual can do. You recognize that it’s sometimes messy, but that instability leads to growth, appreciation of life, betterment of yourself, and by proxy betterment of society as a result. You seek power to make yourself strong and give yourself the ability to thrive.

To thrive with that philosophy, you need to be strong. You need to be capable. As a result, you tend to look for ways to better yourself. A lot of other people don’t; they buy into the common belief that people should try to be kind, nice, and get along with others. That they should seek conformity, not exceptionalism. So, you tend to be more capable than everyone else.

You’re looking for somewhere you can build a society of your own. You find a nice planet. Let’s call it Korriban. You start to build a society focused around your ideals. You realize you need someone to build, repair, produce, and transport all the things you need for your society, so you import some folks who don’t already agree with your ideology. But not only do they accomplish all the things needed to keep any group of people functioning, but some of them have the stuff to become Sith – a natural pool of candidates.

But because the people needed to do the work and keep the basic functions of your planet running are more populous than the Sith, the Jedi start sniffing around and trying to insinuate themselves, convincing the population that because they’re more populous, they and not you should be calling the shots. They’re subverting the one planet in the universe you call home, where your ideology can take root.

Why do they do this? Maybe because they can’t tolerate the possibility that something in the universe isn’t for them. Maybe because they want everyone to acknowledge how wonderful they are. But regardless, what they’re doing is a sort of aggression, even though the rest of the universe praises them for trying to civilize Korriban. “We’re just catering to what the majority wants,” they cry. Even though this was your planet, and it exists in the first place because of what you did, what you believe, and what you sought to make manifest: a whole world where Sith ideology could run rampant, creating the excellence and unfettered freedom of will that you wanted.

From your perspective, they’re trying to destroy the one place you have, to make it just like the useless, worthless, lifeless balls of rock out there in the universe. Patterning it into stasis again, the same passionless muck they’ve created out of the rest of the universe.

You feel attacked, though no bombs have gone off. You feel invaded, though no troops have landed. And you know they’re doing it on purpose. You start to believe that your way of life depends on eliminating theirs, since that’s the only way to stop them from crushing the unique experiment you’ve created.

So, you lash out. You’ll make them pay for their arrogance, their meddling necessity to make your planet just like all their other awful, ordinariness. You rage out of Korriban and start raiding their peaceful mining operations, destroying their outposts. When they build up a military or enlist aid and destroy your fleets, you turn to more insidious methods. You infiltrate their corporations and sabotage them, turn them against each other.

But you remember. Every other planet in the universe is home to their sick, empty way of life. Only on Korriban does the vibrant, rigorous, vital Sith creed hold sway. It’s precious, and it must be defended at all costs. For, they clearly will not give up on destroying you, so you have no choice but to destroy them first.

For, my friends, just like the Sith, Eve was created to give human nature full sway, to bask in the full complement of human motivations. To drop the safeties that bound our daily lives in the real world. To create a universe in which the law, the system, and civil society will not save you. Only you can save yourself.

Why must we try to tame the unique spirit of wildness that is found nowhere else, and is core to Eve’s very nature?


  1. Nice. And those people who cry over RW analogies will be stuck because you went neck deep into Star Wars. Which they obviously cannot dispute, because it's Star Wars and that would be un-nerdlike. Well played, sir. Well played.

    1. Can dispute it, just not worth the time. Korriban had 3 major populations on it. Sith Lords, Sith, and Slaves. Which is actually a pretty good analogy for Eve if you factor in NPCs as Slaves. But I don't feel like writing a 5 page rebuttal on Sith society, or the Old Sith Wars.

  2. "On the other hand, name one game that offers as pure and powerful of a PvP, Nietzschean, and relentless PvP experience as Eve? One where consequences hurt, where you can actually inflict damage on another player? Where you can exert your will to even a comparable degree?"

    My issue is with the statement that PvP in EVE is different or somehow more "dangerous" than PvP in other mmos. How? If you lose a fight you lose your ship. That's it. Or if you put down a pos or whatever maybe you lose that too. But the fact is in EVE you only ever lose what you're willing to risk. How is that any more hardcore than the next game?

    See I grew up playing games on these old obselete things called BBS's and games like MajorMUD or TradeWars or other games where when you lost a fight you literally lost everything. Your gear would drop, or you'd just lose your shit, you'd respawn (in some games a day or week later) and have to start over with pretty much nothing. Maybe you had some cash in the bank, but it'd never be all that much you started over with. In a game like Trade Wars you could stash away ships or even tons of money but it could all be ultimately taken by another player - minus like trivial amounts you could hide in a protected bank.

    Modern MMOs all have their roots in these old games based on BBS' but they changed the rules on how death was handled. They took out the element of everything you had could be lost. Why? Because it drove away players in the long run. Players need to be able to feel they are accomplishing something and building up assets or else they just feel like they are wasting their time is what it comes down to in the final equation. Even EVE does this. It's touted by people like you as the most hardcore PvP environment imaginable because you can actually lose your "gear". But the fact is it's designed with so many safety features for hiding assets - and your money is 100% secure just like any other MMO - that it's an illusion.

    So EVE to me is as harmless as any other modern MMO by comparison. Sure I lose my ship, but my money is safe. My assets - provided I understand the basic mechanics outlined in even a paragraph of an EVE-Uni page - are completely untouchable. Even the new citadels are designed with a "don't worry your stuff is safe" feature.

    That's where my issue with EVE being this hardcore PvP paradise comes up. If you want a cold dark universe with real consequences then why are you creating one that's specifically designed to protect against real casualties. Real losses? To put it in Star Wars terms, as seems appropriate given it's the fourth (or was when this was written). It's like playing Star Wars The Old Republic, choosing Sith, and then realizing as you play out the story you can't actually be evil, you can just be petty and emo.

    1. " you play out the story you can't actually be evil, you can just be petty and emo."

      Though I find EVE PVP the best of any MMO I've played its also true that most evil characters are, at best, just being dicks.

    2. I played a game called "The Eternal City", an online text-based RPG in which you were forbidden from breaking character (else you get banned). I met and played some fascinating characters there, all of whom were very tightly RP'd.

      I've found that when you're dealing with human beings, there's very little possibility for "evil" characters. Everyone is a hero in their own mind, and everyone has a perspective and agenda that they're working towards.

    3. Now imagine EVE if everything was nullsec, and we could only live in POS structures, with only a few locations to clone out of, and could only store assets and ships larger than a shuttle or nubtub inside of a POS also. Everything manufactured, sold, or stored out of POSes, and everything traded via the barter system.

      I'm not trying to make a point - I just think it's interesting.

      Though I don't doubt someone will take my words, twist them, and make a comment about trudging uphill, both ways, in the snow, without shoes or coat, while needing a wee.


    Even the Sith had rules and conventions at one time or another.

    Throw off your chains, but too far...

  4. While I agree with some of the points, I don't think anyone is trying to "take your planet". Think of it like this: more folks trying the Jedi way, more people to tempt to the dark side and more chance of finding your much desired "talent".
    And if not, more wobbly-kneed wimps to prey on.

    1. I completely agree. This emerged as a thought exercise about what led to such an us-versus-them mentality we see in Eve.

  5. Us vs Them.
    Typical human.

  6. Not this again, oh well here we go.

    First things first: If solo to you means that your gameplay isn't enhanced by the fact that you are inhabiting a universe with and you are parallel playing with them you are in fact playing the wrong game. Something else will cater to your needs better.

    On the other hand, if you solo to you means that you can most of the time treat all the other players as part of the environment, but very interesting, unique environment and one that could never be designed by hand crafting. In this case solo is very valid way to parallel play with all the more socially minded players.

    So yes play solo if that is your choice, but I think that for the hundreds of thousands people who try EVE, but don't stick it is likely not a choice. It is a failure of the design of EVE to drop the ball on easing the player into the social play. Extra Credits has a video series that goes through this issue that is critical to EVE Online using WoWish terminology and overrating the socialness of participating in the market, but I recommend it anyway.

    On PVE specifically the hand crafted raid content we know from other MMOs is simply not cost efficient way to entertain anybody. The engagement has to some how flow from the way other players actions effect your experience. Through the market it already does in a way, the best missions to run and best rats to kill are the ones that give the resources that are in highest demand right now. But it's simply not dynamic enough, more interaction is required, but something working as part of the environment in the same way market is, not necessarily something that forces personal interactions.

    Then again high-sec does need ALOT of things that help people along the social difficulty curve. That is a big task for CCP, but maybe it is something the community could help brainstrom instead of floggin the zombie horses of solo vs social and PVP vs PVE.