“The pleasure in this world, it has been said, outweighs the pain; or, at any rate, there is an even balance between the two. If the reader wishes to see shortly whether this statement is true, let him compare the respective feelings of two animals, one of which is engaged in eating the other.” – Schopenhauer, Studies in Pessimism
The wolf eats the deer. The wolf is sated and, for a while, suffers no sensation of hunger. The deer is destroyed utterly, and suffers pain and terror in the process. This is not a zero-sum game. The pleasure in the moment is vastly outweighed by the pain.
Any experienced player in Eve will recognise the parallels in the game, however muted, to the situation described by Schopenhauer. When Bat Country’s Warr Akini, leader of the Ministry of Love (Goonswarm’s highsec ganking division) leads an op that kills a freighter packed with the entire, unworldly goods of some unwise industrialist, he probably feels a momentary rush of pleasure; his fleet probably enjoys for longer the feeling of being tolerably richer; but the target, facing the loss of a year’s wasted life, of hundreds upon hundreds of hours that would have been better spent on his family, on improving himself or simply on better games, is plunged into despair. And hopefully into self-reflection.
All of which is as it should be. No argument from me on that one. I was one of the infamous Nync’s first targets when I jumped a rorqual to a POS many years ago and found myself staring down the business end of a sieged dreadnought. He was probably reasonably pleased and I was very upset at losing what amounted to a good third of my virtual possessions. But that’s a PvP game for you and I got over it.
But that’s life at the individual level. CCP face the difficulty of maintaining customers in a game where each loss is potentially a lasting tragedy and each victory is a source of at best fleeting pleasure. And they have consistently gone with making it harder to lose. This is a mistaken approach which harms the hunters without really helping the hunted.
Eve PvP: Hunting in the Desert
Take a small fleet through hostile space these days and you will find it difficult to catch ratters, even in the fastest interceptor. You’ll catch a few – Bat Country does so on every op, so I’m not whining – but between local chat, highly dispersed space (where a neutral or hostile immediately stands out in the otherwise-sparse list of presences), fast align times, profitable cruiser platforms even a heavily-used region is still a fairly barren ground in which to hunt.
The easy availability of logistics mean that far less is in space to attack: jump bridges and jump freighters themselves are the obvious elements here, but even more sweeping is that most people don’t import from empire any more. Like most nullsec players in established groups, if I want something from Jita I contract it to one of the alliance jump-freightering services and it arrives safely in Deklein or Querious with me never having to stick it on a gate, and the JF pilot never ending up further than the undock of a station. What used to fly around in hundreds of Badger IIs and Mammoths – or blind, beacon-jumping rorquals like mine! – now magically teleports into peoples’ hangars.
Go on a fleet op and the bloody losses of earlier Eve are often balanced out by massed logistics, which scales rapidly with both numbers and ship size meaning that a fleet of supercapitals will only die over the space of a full day’s fighting, as occurred in B-R, and then only to a bigger fleet of supercapitals, but that is a different topic). Even the EHP of ships have increased: dreadnoughts have 500% more hit points than they used to, and on top of that are rigs and other defensive modules that did not exist in the days of 20-minute dreadnought fleet fights.
The Tightly Clenched Fist
One overarching problem confronts CCP in considering the design – and the redesign – of Eve Online: in a PvP game, based in conflict and destruction, how do you balance the joy of the killed with the misery of the victim? CCP have adopted a consistently miserly approach, driven by their economist’s advice: you cannot risk inflation! Players cannot have spiralling amounts of cash! Clamp down on the money supply! Scarcity drives conflict! It is a game controlled by misers. Every competent government knows that inflation is not just tolerable but desirable at controlled levels.
By starving attackers of kills, especially at the micro, roaming level, CCP ensures that much of the glue that holds small social groups together – in weekly corp roams and the like – is dissolving. CCP should make nullsec more kill-rich in both predator vs predator and predator vs prey fights. But they should also make nullsec sufficiently attractive that the sheep (for Raph Koster showed us in Ultima Online that sheep are needed in a healthy ecosystem) feel that the odd fleecing is worthwhile due to the rich and sumptuous grazing.