Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Real Life™

Aiden Mourn wrote up a post on his blog titled, "The Way You Are Playing Is a Reflection On How You Really Live Your Life." It's his experience with an angry carebear who got their ship blown up. There are plenty of carebear tears about how all people who shoot other people in Eve must be vile, wretched, no-good scoundrels in real life and how innocent miners and missioners who keep to their own business are automatically altruistic, wholesome people. Aiden's view on the subject is that what you do in Eve has absolutely no bearing on who you are outside the game.

I agree and disagree with both at the same time.

I'll attempt to illustrate what I mean.

A friend is someone you can trust with your life.
A true friend is someone you can trust with $5.

What makes the difference? Any sane person has social inhibitions preventing them from attracting negative social attention by doing something grossly outrageous. Those are the "beat up an old lady, rob a bank, and lie on my taxes" sort of things. There are all sorts of psychological and neurological reasons for that. Someone else can tell you about them. But those same social inhibitions don't apply as strongly to smaller, socially unacceptable acts. Someone who wouldn't think twice about lying to call in sick to work when he is not would not put himself in a position to lie to his wife to cover up an affair.

But at the same time, the more we ignore those weaker inhibitions, the easier it becomes to ignore the stronger ones. This is manifest by such things as gateway drugs leading eventually to addiction and an overdose on harder drugs or by anger and a grudge festering long enough to eventually turn to violence and murder. By no means am I implying that by being angry at someone you're inevitably going to murder them. Most all of us have enough self control and stop before we get to that point. But at the same time, most all of us live constantly somewhere in that gray area.

That's where the concept of integrity comes into play. The word integral connotes 'whole' or 'complete'. An truly integrous person can not live two lives. They can not be one person and act one way before one group of people and circumstances and behave differently before another. Again, most all of us are duplicitous to some extent. We do or say things when at work or with friends that we would be ashamed to repeat in front of our families or vice versa. But that is purely determined by our choices. I truly admire those people I know well who have demonstrated true integrity.

Now how does this all apply to Eve? Going back to the analogy at the beginning, the impact of interactions in Eve are the $5, small and relatively insignificant. The impact of interactions outside the game are much more important and far reaching. On an external, societal level. Your neighbors, family, and coworkers aren't going to know, much less care, if you were the one behind Phaser Inc. and scammed over a trillion isk out of thousands of people. You're just changing magnetic bits on a hard drive platter in a server rack. It's just a game, after all.

But the one thing that many people seem to gloss over is the internal impact on your own personal character (not player character - you know what I mean). Whatever the interface, be it face to face, over the phone, in the context of a business deal, or driving on the road, a human interaction remains a human interaction. Although you may be protected by the anonymity of your vehicle, the anger felt and expressed as you release a few choice words toward someone who cuts you off is no less real than if it were to be expressed face to face to someone you know well. The interaction is just as real from behind your keyboard and a wall of text as it would be spoken from across the room. There is an often made false distinction between Eve and Real Life™. What you do in the game is a part of your Real Life™.

I won't take a holier than thou attitude and look down my nose at you and call you to repentance or condemn you to fire and brimstone. I do the same things sometimes. For example, last week I saw a drake pilot just off my corp's wormhole on the high-sec side. After he warped off, I started a convo with him, pretending to be completely inexperienced with wormholes to try to lure him in with me. As we chatted over the course of 10 minutes or so and got to know each other, he turned out to be a pretty cool guy. Realizing that I was building up trust that I was immediatly planning to break, I almost gave it up and told him what I was planning to do. But I followed through with my original plan. He fleeted me and jumped into the wormhole with me. I told him to warp to me at a sleeper site while in reality I was sitting outside our pos bubble with a scram fit. A few seconds later and our pos had its first kill. I did feel a twinge of regret at being so blatently deceitful and decided to explain myself and give him a bit of isk to compensate his loss. We parted on good terms with each other. It is a game, after all. I did, however, feel somewhat uncomfortable with the whole affair. I try to be honest in my dealings with others. And the time I spent purposefully deceiving him didn't sit well with me.

Suiciding a thrasher to kill a hulk in a .5 system, ganking an industrial in low-sec, and can flipping miners and missioners are all activities I have no qualm with. This is Eve. It's a game built on the fact that you can lose what you work to earn. It's dealing strictly with game mechanics. But when it comes to more personal human interactions such as corporate infiltration and theft or my instance with the drake pilot I mentioned above, I can't reconcile my efforts to be honest with others and treat them with respect outside the game with those type of actions in the game.

So is "the way you are playing a reflection of how you really live your life?" I believe the answer is both yes and no. It is quite possible to isolate how you act in game from how you act out of game. But by doing so, you create an alternate version of yourself. A lie, if you will. A distortion of who you really are. And the more fragments of yourself you create in that way and the more divergent they become, you will slowly lose track of which parts are real and which aren't. And in the end, whether meaning to or not, those fragments of you and your actions determine who you will become. This is how Real Life™ works, after all.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Incursion Headaches

I just moved in to my new place last week. I can use voice comms later at night without disturbing people, which is when I've had time to play lately. So after clearing out the singular anomaly in our C2 and tidying up my PI, I decided to go run some incursions, something I haven't done for months.

Now, incursions are great for making lots of isk. I haven't found anything better. I'd like to build my wallet up enough that I can invest in a loki and a couple different T2 cruisers and not feel completely poor. I pop out of the wormhole and take a look around. There's a helios right next to me who promptly cloaks up. I probably could have waited inside to chase him down, but I only had an hour and a half to an extended downtime for Incarna 1.1, and I didn't want to waste any of it. Amarr was 4 jumps out, so I head over there, pick up my scimitar, and start dropping my ship fit in various incursion channels.

It seems like people don't really care about running sites these days. It's more important to have the shiniest fleet. "Looking for T3 and faction battleship 800+ DPS" one advert read. "Basilisk lvl 5 needed" read another. Back in the day, my hurricane got me through probably hundreds or sites and has killed thousands of sansha ships. But today, I'd have a hard time finding someone to let it into their fleet. Elitist, every one, it seems. But hey, I don't have to tell anyone that I'm secretly logi 4. It doesn't matter really as a scimi, I guess. I can run 4 large reps as easily as the next guy. So I get an invite as the 11th guy to a fleet up in Gallente space, 13 jumps away.

Off I go, on my way to seek riches from Concord's deep pockets. In 10 minutes or so while mindlessly jumping gates, the fleet doesn't do anything. That's not really surprising. But hey, I'm here to make some isk, so let's get moving! Wodo Prophet, the one barking orders, is sitting on gate in his vulture with a couple battleships and three (!) other logis. When I say barking, I really mean something more like mumling through static and cutting out. He didn't have his stuff together, but few do. Leadership, people! If you're going to set up a fleet, take charge and get going.

I'm three jumps out when Fox Andromeda warps in with his 2-3 billion isk nightmare. The logis and other battleships warp in after him. Then half a minute later, Wodo seems to notice that he's all alone. He snaps. Goes on an on about how people warped into the site (an NCO, of all things) without him saying anything. Blaming Fox for the loss of the fleet. Saying how long it was going to take to finish the site with only 6 people there. *sigh* When I arrive, he's still sitting on gate, refusing to join the fleet inside. I jump in to find the site nearly completed. Wodo gets worn out from whining and just drops fleet. Paycheck #1. Running a site, even slower than normal, is much better than running no sites.

I assume de facto control of the fleet, not that there's much to control. Just go with the flow, shoot stuff, don't let people die, and make isk. I warp to the other NCO in system, followed by another scimi, a pair of basis, and a maelstrom. Ok, this is ridiculous. As I head to reship to a hurricane (yay!), I leave instructions with the 4 on gate to get started and the others to join as they arrive. "But we at least need a tank ship to warp in first," the maelstrom pilot says. You're in a maelstrom! Fighting frigs! With 3 logis to back up you! How dense can you get? Anyway, while I'm gone, someone thankfully decides to start the site. I get back to finish clearing it out. Paycheck #2.

There's a minmatar battleship wreck sitting there on the field. Some ignorant fool who warped into the site alone, probably. (Yes, they do still exist.) With my standard salvager on board, I head over to make the best of it. About 10 mil worth of mods and ammo are promptly transported over to my cargohold. Nobody else took it first, you ask? Well, this is what happens when you fly with Scared Bears™.

"Who took the wreck?!?" they all ask, angrily.
"I did."
"Who took from that wreck? You're putting us all in danger!"
"I did."
"Check loot history. We'll find out who it was," someone else chimes in.
"Guys. Calm down. I took the wreck."
"You did?"
"Yes, I've been saying that." And to calm them down I add, "And if you lose your ship due to aggro from me, I'll pay for your ship. Don't worry about it."
"He's going to come back and shoot us."

By this time, the whole fleets all cowering like a bunch of, well, cowards. Pointing fingers at me about how I'm risking the entire fleet and what not. Did anyone else bother to check the wreck? It belonged to someone in an NPC corp who wasn't even online. 1 against 10? "He'll destroy us all!" That's the Scared Bear™ way of thinking. And it drives me insane. I have no problem guaranteeing the safety of that 3-bil isk nightmare because there's nothing to be afraid of. Nobody else seemed to get it. Man up. Take risks. That's how you enjoy yourself.

With 20 minutes left before downtime and 9 people in fleet, Fox (who's mic suddenly works again) decides to call off the fleet, saying we won't have time enough to run the OTA where we're sitting just outside. An hour later, I'm 20 mil richer. But with the childlike whining, elitist snobbery, and cowardly tendencies, I'm not sure it was worth it. I'm remembering why I quit running incursions. I guess, like everything in Eve, it's about the people.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Big Bad Wolf

A perpetual topic of conversation on various forums and a favorite gripe for many is that low-sec is broken. I thought I'd do the obligatory weigh-in on the subject. Now, I'm not going to give any crazy ideas on how to fix it, just share what I've seen.

I've come to be of the opinion that the reason low-sec has the problems it does comes in large part because of perception. Since new players are so strongly warned by others to avoid low-sec, they do. This avoidance creates a mystique that further serves to reinforce the belief that every low-sec system is full of blood thirsty pirates just waiting to blow up your ship. However, earlier today I had an experience that changed my opinion on the matter.

I had logged in and found myself in the Orvanne constellation where the night before we had finished up an incursion. Orvanne is a high-sec pocket in the Solitude region. The two routes out are about 30 jumps including 10 through null-sec or 40 jumps through mostly low-sec. I myself have no qualms traveling through low-sec and had come in through the latter route without incident. But I was looking for a wormhole to save me some time on the trip back out of the pocket back to my home wormhole. Not finding anything useful, I decided to fit up a PvP hurricane to take through the null-sec route and look for some action along the way. Sadly, I came across a few bubbles, but no ships watching them and very few in local. I docked to log for a bit in Reblier, a .4 system transitioning from 0.0 to high-sec, my last chance to find a fight. Logging back in a bit later and undocking, I saw two retrievers and a cormorant on scan. One retriever bugged off as soon as he saw me, but I quickly found the other two ships after hopping a few belts. I docked up and fit an extra point to grab both of them, half expecting them to have fled the scene. I warped back on top of them and... *pop* *pop*. It wasn't much of a fight, more like an execution. But I'll take what I can get, I guess.

The retriever pilot quickly filled up local with laments of how I was "out to ruin his day," how he had "given up hope of finding decent people in Eve," and that he hoped to "never meet me again." But the interesting thing is that he also said he would "never leave high sec again." Especially since he was playing on a year-old char. Did he miss the memo? Low-sec is dangerous, buddy. There are nasty pirates out to get you. Haven't you heard? I'm usually the one who gets attacked, but this time, I was the big bad wolf. Waiting out the GCC, I gave them a few tips on how to stay safe in low-sec and after I docked, I told them I'd give them a 3-minute cease fire to take a hauler out and collect the ore from the can with an admonition to be more careful next time. I gave them another warning at 2 minutes, 1 minute, and again when I undocked. Yet the cormorant-turned-iteron pilot was still in the belt! I locked him up and thought about ransoming his ship, but decided instead to give him a few mil to cover his loss and let him go, hoping he had learned his lesson this time. I didn't want them to have a completely bitter taste on what appeared to be their introduction to low-sec life. But if they don't come back to low-sec any time soon, so be it. If they're not expecting to get hunted and shot at any moment, they don't belong there.

Contrast this to my own introduction to low-sec, which basically involved me getting a few hundred mil isk worth of ships blown up over the course of a week running outside of high-sec. The money was well spent in lessons learned on how to watch d-scan for probes and ships, to check local constantly, how to avoid gate camps or extract myself from them, and when to run and when to fight. (Hint: if you're alone, the correct answer is nearly always to run.) I admit that most people aren't nearly as reckless as me, but I had nobody to teach me how to survive, so I had put myself out there to learn on my own.

Honestly, the retriever and cormorant kills weren't what I was looking for. They were too easy. And I felt a little bad about driving them away. The two players I shot obviously have different goals in Eve than I do. They don't want the rush of PvP to prove their supremacy over another player. They just want to build stuff. I eventually ended up heading back into 0.0 until I found a drake pilot who was more like minded. My lack of gunnery skills were quite evident during the fight, and even though I lost with the drake at 60% structure, it was a much more satisfying experience than my first.

So back to how the perception of low-sec is the real reason it's broken. When something is broken, it doesn't work as desired. But do we really desire low-sec to be full of inexperienced players who won't put up a decent fight, or at least a decent chase? Full of players who are, in a sense, playing a different game than those of us looking for PvP? I don't think so. High-sec was designed for those playing the spaceship version of Sim City. When they get bored of missions or mining veldspar, some will come to learn and love the low-sec experience. Some of them never will though. And that's fine.

If all the gripers were granted their wish, low-sec would be somehow more active and populated with all different types of players. But in a high-sec without Concord, nobody would be satisfied. Those who don't want to play the low-sec version of Eve would just get frustrated from being chased all over the place, and those who do the chasing and shooting would soon find a distinct lack of satisfaction. Low-sec is sparsely populated because it is dangerous. Like it should be. And high-sec is more populated simply because there are more people to whom appeal the more casual aspects of the game.

Is low-sec broken? Maybe not. I'm starting to think that the biggest problem with low-sec is that we believe there to be one.