Asymmetrical Risk and the Need for Escalation


(Garresh) #1

So, I recently returned to Eve, and there’s something that’s been bothering me since I got back. It was initially hard to put my finger on. As someone who straddled the line between griefer and carebear, I simply had some vague feeling of wrongness. Ninja salvaging was mostly dead, and mission runners often ignored their own loot and salvage. Can flipping appears to be dead from what I’ve seen, as I have not seen a single jetcan miner across any of the belts I checked. And the watchlist change meant that small scale harassment and hunting was also nerfed. It seems like highsec had been made safer, which was sad.

Yet, something about this didn’t feel right. This didn’t tell the whole story. Something else was wrong, underneath this assessment. So I kept playing, hoping it would come to me. I did some missioning, I got back into station trading, I did lowsec and nullsec exploration, and just a few nights ago I went out for a lowsec roam and did a little pvp. I kept looking for an opening for my old griefing preferences, but I did not see any.

On a whim, I bought an Orca in Jita, and decided I’d send it down to Rens and maybe get into ore hauling for funsies, from the area near Rens. I was over a friends house while I was getting this set up, so I made sure my hold was empty of any valuables, threw it on autopilot, and kept an eye on it while we watched a movie. Unsurprisingly, as I hit Uedama I started getting bumped by Code, setting up for a gank. I confess, I was ambivalent. I had a miner bumping ship 2 jumps out, but on the other hand watching the efficiency with which my Orca was being pushed away from the gate enthralled me. Besides, even if I brought my bumper it was a slim chance of escape. “So I’m about to get suicide ganked” I said, and my friends leaned over to watch the fireworks.

A few minutes later, a swarm of catalysts descended on me, and my Orca was no more. At first, I was impressed. The coordination was nothing short of excellent. And the fact that they targeted an empty hauler further amused me, as they were clearly putting up resources to gank simply on principle. Griefing for its own sake is something I can respect. That is, until I looked at the character histories.

All their characters had by and large the same names. Same profile pictures, same creation date, same everything. I’d certainly be inclined to believe this was organized by them, but I wasn’t so sure. If they were using alpha clones to gank, wouldn’t that be technically dodging security status loss? CCP ruled almost a decade ago that deleting characters with low standings and reusing that slot could be considered a form of exploit. And if they’re using alpha clones, what are they really spending, in terms of risk? There’s no risk of sec status, no threat of slot loss. There’s not even the wasted training time, as they are using an unaffiliated account.

In short, there was no longer any risk to this form of griefing. Absolutely none.

Eve has gotten safer for some, but much less safe for others. Mission runners have lost any threat to their income, as all of their income is now via mission rewards and bounties. Hell, they don’t even have to worry about objective stealing half the time, as many missions deposit it directly into their hold. Low and nullsec exploration can be done in a cheap frigate. Gone are the days when I needed to fly a pilgrim to clear lowsec sites.

The thing is, griefing in the old days had a fundamental difference from griefing today. That is, the concept of escalation. PvE players had an optimized strategy for income, and that strategy fundamentally left them open to retaliation or aggression. There was a tradeoff. An escalation of risk in exchange for greater rewards. A mission runner needed to defend their wrecks to optimize their income. An explorer needed to front a cloaky cruiser and maybe faction scanning equipment to go into lowsec. A miner who wanted to optimize income would jetcan mine, with additional risks either in doing so far from a hub(but pulling less income or hauling farther) or choosing to mine closer.

Currently, there is no escalation of risk, nor is there any gradient. Some forms of PvE are INSANELY safe. And the soloist griefer has many doors closed to them. Meanwhile, other forms of PvE have become significantly riskier, due to the prevalence of alpha clones. Now I’m not saying that miners or haulers should be allowed to play without risk. Far from it. Eve is a game where safety is an illusion, and there should be risk everywhere.

But why is it that things have gotten so much easier and safer for mission runners, explorers, and “active” PvE types, while “passive” PvE has borne the brunt of the changes in safety? This asymmetry isn’t healthy, for a multitude of reasons:

  1. By removing the risk gradient, protecting against griefing becomes largely a matter of luck, rather than a calculated risk. When hordes of alpha clones are the norm, there becomes absolutely no reason to tank your ships. Sufficient firepower will be brought either way, so there’s no risk/reward calculation. Just be lucky, or choose relatively inactive playtimes.

  2. The removal of methods of escalation makes the game more boring for everyone, as all forms of PvE have no interaction with their griefers any longer. A grief was a highly variable event. How it went down could vary considerably based upon the risks the mark was willing to take. Sometimes they shot back, then jump cloned out(Yes I’ve had it happen). Other times they just logged off. In some cases, they shot back, then brought in friends and counter-ganked me. Good times all around. As is, forms of griefing involving suspect tags are largely dead, while criminal tag griefs are up all around. I cannot stress how incredibly bad this is. Binary mechanics without any back and forth or escalation are pretty much universally bad in every genre of game ever.

  3. This asymmetry combined by loss of mitigating factors may actually be driving players away from the game. I’ve been a career thief in many games. A bit of wisdom commonly shared among my lot was the importance of not over-hunting your game. If you target one particular group and hunt them to excess, their numbers dwindle to extinction, either because they switch careers/regions, or leave entirely. This isn’t just an IRL ecosystem thing. It happens in games. As such, in other games I routinely rotated my grief style so the number of targets could repopulate. Currently, about 2/3 of the PvE population suffers from almost zero risk, while the last 1/3 bears significantly increased risk over the old days. I don’t know if this is a factor of the allegedly dwindling subscriber base, but it certainly seems to be unhealthy in my perspective.

And I haven’t talked about the massive changes in risk/reward for low class w-space. There’s a lot of risk/reward problems right now with regards to both PvE and PvP, and it’s seriously bothering me.

Tldr; Alpha clone ganking is a problem. Missions and exploration are too safe. PvE has a griefing asymmetry problem which needs fixing.


(Bladewise) #2

Hey Garresh, nice topic. I remember you from the days of old so I figure I owe you a response. I and some of the old Ninja Salvagers still play from time to time and are very successful when we do. If you join the Belligerent Undesirables chat channel in-game you’ll find us there though fleets are growing more rare as time goes on.

So first of all to correct a misconception. You cannot have multiple alpha accounts logged in at once, but you CAN plex your accounts for free more or less by extracting skills. The effect is basically the same so your point still stands.

Anyways, we do actually still ninja salvage but the days of bringing in new players is gone as the initial investment and skillpoints required to be successful at the profession have been bloated exponentially by multiple nerfs over the years compound with massive inflation due to a few brainless PvE activities paying WAY too much and experiencing little to no risk to compensate (incursions, carrier ratting, rorq mining ect.). Furthermore you can no longer be successful and sustainably profitable unless you are in a group and to be perfectly honest, more fleetmates means we’re splitting profit more ways while only gaining the ability to take on larger PvP groups… which isn’t profitable (not that we wouldn’t like to but the incentive simply isn’t there). There are maybe 5-10 true professional ninja salvagers remaining, all of which you’d probably remember from the good ole’ days.

CCP never states it but its understood at this point that high-sec non-consensual pvp activities are delegated to a couple very predictable and avoidable activities (suicide ganking and war deccing) and even those seem to be on their way out judging by the direction of mechanic changes. Other than that they’ve nerfed everything else into oblivion. CCP quite simply doesn’t support player generated content like they used to. Unless of course its some null-blob-warfare that might make the front page of a gaming website and drive profit. But even then their shortsightedness keeps them from achieving anything more than combat out of boredom.

CCP has lost direction completely. This game is a shadow of its former self and its become pretty apparent that CCP is trying to cash it out while scrambling to make some other, much easier to maintain, game. It’s sad really… Eve was the most enjoyable, unique, and all around best gaming experience I’ve ever had.


(Rosov Aulmais) #3

Have you ever tried null? It is interesting to see how my alliance got so many newbies in the past few months and how so many of them die everyday.


(Bladewise) #4

Both Garresh and I have experienced basically every aspect of the game before your character was ever created.


(Li Tavian) #5

If part of the problem is the Alpha-alt griefers, seems like CCP could fix that by just not allowing a new replacement alt for a deleted one for some period, say 30 days.


(Bladewise) #6

Alpha alt griefing isn’t a problem or even a thing


(Teckos Pech) #7

Logging in multiple alpha accounts is most likely an exploit. Chances are they were all Omega clones.

Multiple Clients running at once

Alpha:
Not available, if there is a client logged into an Alpha account, no additional EVE clients can be started past the character selection screen, independent of their state.

Omega
Multiple Omega accounts may be logged in at one time, as long as no Alpha account is actively logged into on the same computer.


(Rosov Aulmais) #8

Wasn’t that change actually natural? People will just accumulate to safer methods, and choose to do things with more certainty if they could.

Take burners as an example. People used to lose ships to burners, but once you find a working fit you can do it over and over again, and there are tons of guides shared on forums and youtube.
https://community.eveonline.com/news/dev-blogs/some-npcs-just-want-to-watch-the-world-burn/

Similarly, it could be the case that players today are more educated about the consequences of escalation and less inclined to take risks.

But on the other hand there is still steady supply of noobs, like careless freighter/industrial pilots, people who have now idea how tough a burner is, etc.

A mission runner needed to defend their wrecks to optimize their income.

Yeah, you should blame the tiercide and gradual depreciation (which happens for almost every new stuff CCP brings into the game, e.g. T3D, T3C, SOE ships, Excavator Drones) of meta modules for that. I still missed the times when meta 4 modules was actually a thing, and some M4 modules had same stats as T2 ones but less fitting need.


(Teckos Pech) #9

PLEX for free…ahahahahahaha. Yes, because your time is worthless. :roll_eyes:


(Coralas) #10

The group of cat pilots aren’t alphas, and people who extract and hold their SP constant and gank are also selling the injectors to the same body of people they get their ganks from.


(Bladewise) #11

I don’t have to sit there and watch my skills train… so yea basically free…

EDIT: Aside from the time it takes to extract and sell the skills, which is minimal.


(Bladewise) #12

The change was not at all natural. It was manufactured by multiple, extremely short-sighted nerfs to PvPers and buffs to the safety of PvErs. These sort of activities had gone on for years and years and there was absolutely no sign of decline until CCP decided they would rather attract WoW players than continue to support long time subscribers.


(Ima Wreckyou) #13

Checking the killboards of those characters will tell you that they are used at a constant -10 sec status and are not recycled, which would be against the EULA. They are also not alpha accounts but PLEXed omega accounts as people already explained.

The only difference to before is that thanks to SP extractors you can drastically lower the price of a PLEX if you have a single purpose account like a ganking account where you simply extract the accumulated SP at the end of the month and sell it to get the next PLEX.

This was predicted the second they dropped the first blog post about SP extractors. CCP was not really interested in any criticism about the feature since it hoped for a big payday, which actually worked out for them. Most players where also not interested in the criticism since they only ever see their personal short term benefit by getting to their goal faster and don’t have the capacity to see the bigger picture.

So all in all everyone was fine with this even when we told them we would abuse the crap out of it.

Also ap is illegal in highsec and get a permit friend.


(Arcanith Lionheart) #14

You mean the multiboxer was nothing short of excellent.


(Black Pedro) #15

Dude, they are not alpha clones. If you look at your killmail (https://zkillboard.com/kill/64866065/) you’ll see that while most incorrectly show a catalyst as the weapon used, a few correctly show T2 blaster as the weapon type indicating they are indeed omega accounts (and we can infer the rest are as well as they did similar damage). Multiboxing alpha accounts is against the rules and trivial to detect, and given how many times those multi-boxing gankers must be petitioned, I am sure they are playing by the rules.

But more generally to your post, sure, there is little room for escalation or nuanced criminal game play anymore. Years of constant nerfs to ganking have continually raised the bar required to be a highwayman to the point they have to bring (often by multiboxing) overwhelming force to meet the CONCORD DPS race. Further, the penalties for being an outlaw are so punitive, there is no room for player interaction between a good guy and a bad guy as the NPCs squelch any opportunity for escalation. Together, this means there is very little room for continued interactions between criminals, potential victims, and the vigilantes.

Fundamentally though, I disagree with you that Eve is a game where “safety is an illusion”. Eve, at least in highsec, is a game where risk is the illusion. There is absolutely no risk to almost all highsec activities with modest precautions. Flying a solo freighter or Orca (and perhaps an undertanked/overloaded hauler) is one of the few situations where you are open to unwanted player interactions forced on you by a determined individual. In almost every other case in highsec, you can just warp away from anyone before they have a chance to inflict loss on you.

And there’s the problem and where I agree with you. You give players that much safety, you give the antagonists the same safety and you don’t have much game play left.

I don’t have an answer. I will observe though that the strategy of constant buffs to wealth and safety, don’t seem to have helped increase player numbers, especially in highsec which is down 40% in activity over the last two years. Perhaps it is time to change course and put some risk back into the game and make some more space for player interactions?


(Garresh) #16

Just to be clear. None of the characters used were alpha clones? They were multiboxed characters funded by skill extractors?

In that case I have no problem with said gank. It’s still sort of a problem that “free” alts via skill extractors are a thing, but that is an entirely different issue.

That doesn’t necessarily negate the fact that other than mining and hauling highsec has become much more safe. I don’t like the serious asymmetry of risk we’re seeing. They haven’t really done what they set out to do. They just made it a lot less intuitive and screwy.

When I got back I made a list of types of griefing I used to engage in. I went down the list and found most of them had been nerfed to obscurity. Ganking shouldn’t be the only real method of griefing, and most of my original points stand, even if I was horrifically misinformed on Alphas. My bad there.


(Garresh) #17

My bad on the alpha clones bit. I confess I’m still getting caught up on specifics. I still think my general complaints are somewhat valid though hehe.

Anyways, 10 ninjas you say? Well screw it. Nerfed to oblivion or not I might as well make that 11. I’ll hop on tonight or tomorrow and join you guys.


(Frostys Virpio) #18

I “mined” the SP myself so it’s free!!!

Yeah…


(Teckos Pech) #19

Opportunity cost…there is always opportunity cost. Always.

Yet another example that EVE players really do not grasp the concept of opportunity cost.


(Teckos Pech) #20

Just quoting this for it quality.

The various changes to HS mechanics over the years have resulted in a situation where if you find yourself being bumped you are probably dead. Not because of cheating, but because players have responded to these changes in an optimal way.

Oh and I found the killmail.

Same corp as the OP. Your fit is kinda bad. Why no shield hardeners? Why not put in a reinforced bulkhead while travelling empty? You could have added another 150k in EHP easily and with overheating double your EHP. And if you are hauling ore…why the cargo hold optimization rigs? Why not go for some other rig that can help with tank? If you make it harder to gank they might look for a squishier target.