Friday, May 13, 2016

Mercenaries, Pirates, Samurai, and Vikings

What is it about playing the spoiler that I love so much?

Generally speaking, my approach to PvP is pretty much "shoot all the things". I tend to care only if I'm in high-sec (I've lost a Proteus to Concord by accidentally killing a scanning Buzzard on the other side of a wormhole, not realizing it was a high-sec hole). And every time I try to boost my sec status up again, it's back down below -2.0 within a week or so.

A lot of folks are nervous about attacking targets on gates. For them, gate guns are a frightening prospect that will obliterate your ship in a couple shots. Part of that may come from the old gate gun mechanics, but I think most of it stems from the uncertainty of another opponent shooting at you. Risk aversion, and all that. On low-sec roams, I shake my head in surprise when PvPers - I mean really good ones, too - worry so much about gate guns when taking down a single target. And nearly every time I roam while I'm above -5.0, I pass a gatecamp that isn't willing to attack me on a gate.

All of that surprises me, though I honestly get it. Losing a ship is an expensive undertaking, and on top of that injury is the insult of having to source and import a new ship to replace it. But, we're conditioned to cultivate our killboards and assess skill in terms of killed/loss value. Our eyes bulge out by huge losses, and only some of us take the time to pull up the related kills and see how many opponents that huge loss took out before exploding.

It puts me in a strange position. On the one hand, the Eve roles I tend to fit into are "pirate" and "mercenary". But at the same time, I don't measure success according to the same benchmarks.

So what am I?

Granted, these kinds of categorizations really don't matter much. I like what I like, and so you each of you. Nothing written here will change that. I'm honestly more curious about what makes me tick. After all, only by knowing myself will I really be happy.

Of all the aspects of Eve, PvP is the one that really moves me. But it's not unqualified PvP in all its forms.

Hotdropping fails to capture the decision-making aspect of the game I love so much. At its core, hotdropping is about taking a reasonable situation and making it unreasonable. Your target has to believe you have a chance of successfully attacking him, only to have his reasonable decision-making rendered useless when you cyno in backup. It's certainly a part of the game, but in my mind, it eliminates a key part of what makes Eve great.

I'm also not a fan of high-sec war-deccing, though that activity seems ideal for the piratical types. After all, with a neutral hauler, you can rack up the isk looting your targets. Piracy is really about profit. But there's really no challenge. Nor does covops hunting, blobs, gatecamping... all of them involve some skill, but they all lack something critical: true risk.

Yes, something strange can happen in each of those cases, but generally speaking, the killmails you get from those activities all start with a bad setup.  "Our fleet was gatecamping and killed this one guy...", or "I tackled this Drake as bait and lit the cyno for our 35 dudes," or "We just kept one-shotting ships off the Jita undock while our neutral MTU looted them all." It's hard for anyone to really be impressed by any of those; in each case, you're expected to win.

For me, the only PvP that's really satisfying is when you pull out a victory that wasn't foregone, when you jump into an engagement where there's a high chance something could go wrong. I like the small gang battles where the enemy keeps bringing in more reinforcements. I like the Machariel fleets where you're outnumbered 3:1 and still win. I like the whaling excursions where you take down your target just as a dozen interceptors lands, and you warp out in the space between yellow-boxing and red-boxing. Those are the stories I like to tell. The stories like single-handedly breaking a gatecamp by killing seven frigs in my Harpy and flying off into the sunset. Like killing a Proteus solo and escaping his Ishtar friend. Like fighting Snuff Box with mid-size gangs with RP last summer.

I wasn't always this way. At first, I joined a jack-of-all-trades corp that introduced me to null-sec (BOMIC), and after that, I joined an established, strong sov-holding alliance because I wanted to dive into fleet combat (Razor). But when I joined RP, I fell in love with low-sec small gang roams. That was the day I became a fan of small gang PvP, and when my heart shifted over to low-sec.I didn't realize it at the time, of course - that wouldn't happen for a couple years, but sovereignty really doesn't do it for me anymore. Being part of an alliance with its name on the map... meh. If it generates fights, that's great. But I don't use sov space for isk-generation anymore, and it just doesn't mean that much.

And yet... even though I'm "pirate flashy", I'm clearly not a pirate. I'm not risk-averse enough, and don't limit myself to - or even seek out - one-sided engagements the way any good pirate should (no such thing as a fair fight if profit's involved!).

I used to think I was - and people derisively called me - a space samurai. After all, I actively dislike the idea of using links. I can't blame anyone for seeking victory through any means available to them, but I guess i'm looking for noteworthy victories I can be proud of, and using links immediately renders any victory unworthy of being proud of. After all, if you use links, you should win; your advantage is the equivalent of an all level-5 pilot fighting a fresh newbro (at least in a couple aspects, and usually the aspects that directly speak to the way that particular ship is flown). Yes, you won the fight, but can you honestly and unironically gloat in "Bringing Solo Back" about a 1v1 where you had links and the other guy didn't? You can, but only with a healthy degree of self-deception.

Does that make me follow "space bushido"? I don't think so, not really. After all, I'll attack anything, including newbie ships, haulers, miners, ratters... anything I come across. Granted, the samurai were more often used to harass peasants than other samurai - just like the knights of European history - and the reality of their lives was quite different from the bushido myth we hold of them, particularly in the West. But even the idea doesn't hold true.

Now, I'm trying my hand at being a full-time mercenary, with a blue list that shifts with each contract. So far, I've observed that White Legion expects and trains to fight outnumbered, cultivating the skill to make decisions on your own. I like that. I remember my opinion of Black Legion changing over time as I watched them consistently fight against the odds, and I see a lot in this new alliance that matches that pedigree.

Still... I don't feel particularly burdened to fight for the honor of whoever holds our contract. For me, it's a means to enjoy ourselves. You want me to shoot Alliance A instead of Alliance B? Sure, give me targets and I'll happily pew. This is a game, after all, not real life. It does suit with my tendency to offer my respects to a skilled opponent. Now, who knows if that pilot might not be an ally in the future?

What I like is different from being a soldier because I don't want to win at all costs. It's different from piracy because I don't feel the need to profit or avoid risk. It's different from bushido because I won't hesitate to attack any target in front of me. And it's different from being a mercenary because I don't care much about the objectives of an employer.

No, at my core, I'm none of these things. I'm a Viking, pursing battle for the sake of the glorious victory, searching for a way into Valhalla by one day demonstrating skill worthy of the gods. I'll profit from it where I can (I always loot), but have been known to be reckless for the same of a good fight. I'll work for others, but only because of the opportunity it gives me. Like the Vikings, I won't arm myself with plate mail (or links) to stay safe at all costs.

What good fortune for me I play a game developed by Icelanders!


  1. How do you feel about a merc using links? After all, the merc is hired to kill targets not get a PVP rush...

    1. I'm okay with it, given the objective. I suppose I make a distinction between alliance skill and solo skill; they involve different things.

  2. While I respect you as a space-bro... Your playstyle, IHMO, is not that of a mercenary or a Viking.

    "'s different from being a mercenary because I don't care much about the objectives of an employer."

    Mercenaries do not 'care' about the objectives of their employers, they care 'only' about getting paid.

    And while the Vikings fought for glory, that was not the only reason, nor the primary reason... they mainly raided for supplies, slave, women and gold.

    You fight solely for glory and the thrill of victory, especially victory won from long odds... no, you fight primarily for, if you will, the Sport of it all.

    No... you're not a Viking or really even a Merc... you're a Sportsman. =]