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:
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.
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.
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.