I recently had my first, very frustrating experience with suicide ganking in highsec and I was surprised by both what a low echelon of gameplay gets exposed to suicide ganking, and just how much my enthusiasm for playing the game again was ruined. I want to try to air my grievance here in a way that honors my frustrated feelings while also addressing the common retorts frustrated players frequently hear and being deliberate about taking a structural approach.
I’ve been an off-and-on-again player since 2007, having spent most of my time in 0.0/loswec - so not a stranger to good safety habits (for nullsec, anyway). I had my loss as I was uprooting PI operations in Syndicate to move into Curse, just after I’d cleared some surplus P2 out of 0.0 with a blockade runner. An expanded Tayra flying on autopilot to Jita full of P2 was suicide ganked in Sivala and I was podded. What seems wrong to me is that P2 is not a high level material, and that suicide ganking is occurring at an echelon of gameplay that is fairly basic. This is problematic because suicide ganking conflicts with the basic narratives and structures of the game, and that the bending and breaking of those basic narratives and structures seems like something that should be reserved for players who enter into more advanced echelons of gameplay.
I noticed there are some tweaks to the CCP description of CONCORD that subtly acknowledge the activity of suicide ganking, but there is nevertheless an underlying narrative new players experience in which there is high security space within which you won’t be arbitrarily killed, and then there’s low/null security space within which you can (and will) be arbitrarily killed. As a new pilot you make a choice between staying in safe systems and being restricted to its inferior fruits, or accepting the risks of low/null sec and taking responsibility for your own safety as you enjoy greater rewards. Not nearly as grandiose, but there is also a narrative that if you have cargo to haul, you haul it in a hauler. This universe has ships whose purpose is to have a large cargohold, for when you need to move a large amount of cargo, as opposed to fighting or mining or flying safely in low/null security.
Both of these narratives create a reasonable, balanced and appealing quasi-sandbox game in which players begin with safety and then take on risks in exchange for more rewarding or engaging experiences, and in which there are cargo ships for when you are hauling cargo. I think it makes complete sense for this to start to break down as a player advances to the upper echelons of the game and starts to deal with objects whose value transcends traditional protections - things like deadspace modules, advanced blueprints, high level implants, participation in alliances with active wardecs. It seems unreasonable to me that bulk P2, a very simple partially refined material, is being included as something that transcends traditional protection. It also begs a question I have been building to: why does the universe have large cargo haulers if there’s nowhere you can haul a large amount of cargo without being ganked? It seems like aside from perhaps a mining niche, there is a group of cargo haulers whose capacity is sufficiently large (and tank weak) that they become a valuable target to suicide gankers when their cargohold is completely filled with -anything-. Their presence in the game feels like some kind of cruel joke right now.
The problem, emphatically, is not players’ choices to engage in suicide ganking. Gankers are pushing the envelope of what can be done in the game, which is completely reasonable and the game should be structured around players doing exactly this. The problem is the structural configuration of the game that allows a cost-benefit equation that points to the ganking of these basic targets. One thing that is problematic that gankers do is post strawman arguments in these forums, variously telling people that they should be tolerant of other players’ gameplay styles, that the game is a sandbox, and that frustrated players should stay away from the game. Firstly, nobody here should be telling people off from the game as that is not constructive at all, and the idea that ganked players should be tolerant of others’ playstyles is a lopsided idea of tolerance when there is clearly a playstyle gank victims are trying to pursue and being denied. Secondly, while this game is more of a sandbox than most others, it is not a true sandbox. 0.0 space does begin to approach a true sandbox experience, but it’s supported by a high security area that is curated by a structural design of the game. Myself and other players expressing grievances about suicide ganking I think are overwhelmingly angry with the way the high security space is curated right now, and how their experiences seem unreasonable and out of line with the game’s own narratives.
My hope is that the game can be structurally adjusted so that the cost-benefit equation that determines whether a particular suicide gank is an advantageous activity or not gets shifted in such a way to make it unfavorable to gank a player operating at basic echelons of the game, and restricts the activity of suicide ganking to targeting only players who are toying unsafely with the upper echelons of the game (carrying deadspace mods, very large bounties, etc). I don’t know whether this should be done through faster CONCORD response times, restrictions on movement by low security status characters, better tanks on industrial ships, or what. I just want to emphasize that the current structure of the game is problematic and I think unreasonable, and it’s worked to ruin my enthusiasm for playing this otherwise incredible and unmatched game.