Sins of a Solar Spymaster #79: The Presumption of Safety

The Mittani delves into the topics of entitlement, safety and easy mode game design in this week’s Sins of a Solar Spymaster.

It is undeniable: games as a whole are getting easier each year, with more handholding, simpler control schemes, extended tutorials, and a relentless drive to seize the money of even the most drooling incompetent. Simultaneously, games are getting more immersive and addictive, with the psychological feedback loops first seen in MUDs exploding into the MMO industry with Everquest and then being refined into their most destructive forms by both Blizzard and Zynga.  What does a hobby with ever-increasing levels of addiction, ease, and immersion for its users create? A sense of entitlement - an entitlement that is a threat to every ‘hard’ game out there, but especially to EVE Online.

Not a Safe Place

Despite CCP’s explicit marketing of EVE as a harsh universe full of mayhem and murder, despite Hulkageddons, despite the Great War, and despite the Burning of Jita, there is a silent, ignorant herd of players who genuinely believe that EVE is just like the other MMOs on the market - the PvP-optional, hand-holding MMOs who will pat you on the back, wipe away your tears, and give you a 30-second respawn with no consequences. When these people discover that EVE is not World of Warcraft (WoW), they rush to the forums and loudly bleat out their indignation and horror at encountering loss or danger.

What is most interesting about these threads is not the mere fact that some idiot got blown up and was upset about it, but the absolutely unfounded presumption of safety expressed in such outraged terms. One recent notable flameout accused CCP of being ‘misleading in its advertising’ because EVE ‘really is a PvP game’. EVE is perhaps the single most hardcore PvP game in existence, with its combats regularly veering off into metagame and madness, and CCP advertises this fact at every opportunity - try to find a trailer that doesn’t involve spaceships blowing each other up, much less a trailer missing a full-on fleet battle.

EVE Fleets

The ignorance demonstrated by this class of players is not an isolated problem, but part of a growing and dangerous trend. As the gaming industry continues to devolve, the expectations of simplicity and ease on the part of players will grow. In almost every current MMO, PvP is entirely optional; the statistics become all the more alarming if you break that up by number of subscribers, with Gerber MMOs like WoW and SWTOR (Star Wars: The Old Republic) dwarfing those of PvP MMOs. You can even now avoid PvP in League of Legends, with a comical number of players competing purely against AI bots.

One of the stark lessons of Burn Jita and Hulkageddon is that the vast majority of players in EVE are completely unplugged from the game’s community; they do not read forums, check twitter, read blogs, or keep track of the gaming media. Every day during Hulkageddon miners would be ganked and comment that they’d never heard of Hulkageddon before, even though this was the fifth iteration of the contest. Despite more than a month of warning - with unprecedented alerts posted by CCP on the login screen - countless freighters blundered into Jita during our invasion and died, their pilots screaming their unjustified surprise, running to the forums for the first time to announce that (gasp) EVE wasn’t actually safe.

Safe and Secure

Those howling about the unfairness of Hulkageddon and the demands from entitled easymoders that the rules be changed to make EVE safer are particularly deserving of scorn because of the wealth of information and tactics used daily to avoid death in Hulkageddon. One only needs a functioning pulse and three working synapses: keep an eye on local, stay aligned, use a tanked ship, or don’t use an exhumer at all - mining battleships are functionally immune to ganking, as are exhumers being remote-repped. Or, god forbid, work in a group with guards, or mine outside of hisec. This new generation of players rejects the very idea of adaptation and demands that their desire for a ‘safe’ EVE (ie, a completely different game) be accommodated or else.

It is this combination of ignorance and entitlement that threatens EVE. The fact that games are getting easier, yet EVE remains ‘oldschool’ wouldn’t be a problem if we could believe in the comforting Enlightenment fantasies that reason and education could save the day - the hope that someone coming to EVE would do their research, understand the nature of the game, and participate in this most difficult of games with their eyes open. Of course, one of the most horrifying lessons of EVE is that the Enlightenment ideals are false; the power of reason doesn’t actually lift the population out of the muck, because they’re too busy AFK mining or undocking Kestrels full of PLEXes.

So EVE, despite all its marketing and the informed segments of the community who are cognizant of the game’s difficulty and nature, is slowly being enervated by the culture of the broader gaming industry - a culture which doesn’t merely assume safety and ease, but by now has become so addicted to this spoonfed abundance that they feel entitled to it, and react explosively when that safety is challenged.

Awareness is important

Consider what a player needs to do in order to be ‘good’ at EVE. You need situational awareness; you need regional awareness. You need to know what’s going on in the market. You need to know what’s happening in future patches, so you need to keep track of dev blogs and adjust your training accordingly. You need to know how to fit a ship properly for a task, which means you need a passable knowledge of EFT or Pyfa. You need social skills, or you’ll end up friendless, isolated, or the victim of a scam. You need financial sensibility - the ability to either live on a budget, or make so much isk that you don’t need a budget. And since most of these skills are pitted against other players, you must do them /better/ than the other players; what passed for competence in 2005 EVE is a laughable trash-fit in 2012.

By contrast, in a game like Diablo, SWTOR or WoW, you can sail to the endgame never facing the risk of PvP or even a real PvE challenge in the EVE-equivalent of a shield-tanking laser Megathron. At the level of competitive raiding one abruptly needs to have competence and learn how to outfit your character, but one isn’t required to raid or play on Inferno difficulty. You can dawdle around in an all-green clownsuit and never be punished for your ignorance.

We’re seeing ever-more trash fits in EVE and “hey guyz i got blown up this is unpossible” forum rage - signs that this kind of passive, ignorant, and entitled player is infecting the playerbase and beginning to make demands that CCP change the nature of EVE itself to accommodate their  stupidity. To prevent EVE from becoming a PvP-optional themepark of the sort that coddles this shameful demographic, something must be done - the players who actually do participate in the EVE community must either educate these people about the nature of the game, or blow them up. Through education or violence, they must learn that EVE’s difficulty is what makes the game unique and worthwhile, rather than just another consequence-free PvP-optional themepark game.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our EVE Online Game Page.

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