Sins of a Solar Spymaster #68 - Groupthink and Ganking

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ItÂ’s not often that an MMO company reverses their core development plans, apologizes to their customers for their failings, and proceeds to push out a series of acclaimed, necessary changes to their flagship product. In fact, though my gaming industry knowledge is hardly encyclopedic, I canÂ’t think of a single example of that ever occurring. Yet CCP, despite their infamous tendencies towards obstinacy and overconfidence, has done it.

EVE Incarna

From the CSM excoriating CCP to the CEO himself making a frank and sweeping apology to the playerbase, to new Winter Expansion details and now a critical, overdue rebalancing of supercaps, we’ve had a wild month. Coverage has run the gamut from the minimalist, incisive Lum the Mad to a cringe-worthy gloating piece from Kotaku. Either way, it seems that we may be at last able to bid farewell to the corporate kool-aid and groupthink that led our shark-eating friends in Reykjavik down the blind alleyway of Incarna.

While CCP may have abandoned their illusions, recent events have demonstrated that the average player in hisec still isnÂ’t quite sure what makes the game we play different.

When EVEÂ’s uniqueness is lauded, reviewers often focus on its single-shard sandbox nature, the lack of a leveling system, or the high-risk consequential PvP. But there are many MMOs where you can get rich, kill people, and conquer territory. What makes EVE actually unique is that you can do things in New Eden that would get you banned in a heartbeat in just about every other game: EVE is Somalia in space, a Randian dystopia of utter lawlessness, an object lesson in the horrors of unrestricted capitalism.

Promotions glibly skip over this truth because it tends to drive new players away. Yet the griefplay of EVE is something so rare and engaging that even someone as jaded as myself finds it hopelessly addictive. In the past two weeks I have abandoned fleet warfare, sovereignty, and imperial schemes to experiment with scamming, suicide ganking, and extortion.

Two weeks ago, a pilot named Tanaka Atsuko decided he wanted a Titan of his own. He didn’t have the isk, but he did have real-life cash; he began selling thousands of dollars worth of GTCs on the official forums. Unlike many other games, this sort of transaction is sanctioned explicitly by CCP. But Tanaka did not realize that his investment of capital granted him no special protection in New Eden. After posting in multiple threads announcing his desire to acquire an Erebus, Tanaka was contacted by Infinimo, who offered to sell him one for 79 billion isk.

EVE Shootout

There is no transaction more fraught with peril than the sale of a supercapital, because they cannot be contracted between players, but must be exchanged in deep space. To mitigate the risk of scams, a niche service industry has developed: trusted third parties, known throughout the player community hold isk in escrow during supercap sales. If the sale goes through properly, the 3rd party will deliver the buyerÂ’s isk to the seller, minus a small fee. If the seller doesnÂ’t transfer the hull to the buyer, the buyer gets his isk back; if the 3rd party doesnÂ’t receive the isk in the first place, the seller doesnÂ’t transfer the hull to the buyer.

Have you ever conned someone out of thousands of dollars of isk, isk that came directly from their real-world wallet? It feels great. But there is a risk of addiction; try getting a rush like that in World of Warcraft.

I shouldnÂ’t insult WoW, but rather give thanks to Blizzard. It is precisely because of the safety and security provided in other MMOs that the denizens of EVEÂ’s hisec space are blinded with their illusions of safety. Nowhere is this more obvious than the corpse-strewn Ice Belts in Gallente Space.

At the start of the month, the Goonswarm Federation finance team realized that they might be able to destroy the galactic economy. Bored of a stagnant nullsec and aroused by the potential for grief, they announced that they had found New EdenÂ’s industrial Achilles Heel: the 15 Ice Belts in Gallente hisec that produce Oxygen Isotopes, the critical POS-fuel that runs most T2 reaction towers. Placing bounties on the heads of anyone attempting to mine ice in those fifteen key systems, hundreds of Goons and their allies began roaming the tranquil, Concord-coddled spacelanes around Dodixie and turning them into an abattoir, suicide-ganking anything that would sit still long enough to drop a Brutix on it.

The GSF finance team had bought up tremendous stockpiles of Oxytopes before the Interdiction Zone was established, and the resulting market panic has been hilarious and profitable. We’ve been involved in five years of bloody sov-war out in nullsec, yet until I began ganking Mackinaws in hisec; I’d never been compared to Osama Bin Laden or been sent death threats. I love it - and you might, too.

EVE Destruction

CrimeCraft teases players with more BLEEDOUT details.

If you have two accounts, you can test the waters of griefing with less than a day’s training. Create an alt in a frigate with a passive targeter, cargo and ship scanner; this is your scout and warpin. Make a second alt with about 10 hours of training towards an artillery Thrasher. Move them to Jita. As hisec is a ‘safe’ and ‘secure’ place, many foolish players will set small, fragile ships on autopilot to Jita - and because of this, the Perimeter gate in Jita is littered with afk pods, shuttles, and frigates. All of these are your prey. Sometimes you drop your Thrasher on a shuttle because your scout discovered something profitable in their cargo hold; sometimes you drop your Thrasher on a hapless capsule because nothing feels quite like a hisec podding. With two Thrashers you can alpha interceptors and covert ops, as well as priceless unique gift ships like the Apotheosis, Zephyr or Echelon. It’s riotous fun.

You canÂ’t say that youÂ’ve truly experienced all that EVE has to offer until youÂ’ve taken a walk on the dark side. Give it a try here, because you canÂ’t get this kind of fix in any other game.

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