An oft expressed EVE aphorism suggests that eventually every player becomes a pirate. Perhaps it’s only expressed by pirates, but I heard it often enough before becoming one myself. While it’s not completely true, there is a ring of truth in the expression. When you’ve done many things and found them to be lacking what remains is to be free in low-sec engaging whoever you like whenever you like. This post has a point, but first you need to hear the backstory.
I spent my first weeks happily learning how to complete missions as efficiently as possible. When I realized that EVE was a multi-player game, I sought out a corporation — and it folded during the same week I joined. My second attempt was a little better, but the members did nothing to try to include me in corporation activities because there weren’t any. I found myself in low-sec being accosted by criminals. I vividly recall how painful the first few losses felt. I wondered why all my interactions with other players ended with me in a capsule or new clone. I concluded that pirates were antisocial sociopaths. In retrospect, this was a poor conclusion.
So with my newfound knowledge that criminals in EVE were sociopaths I set out to end them by joining an anti-pirate corporation. I pored over every recruitment advertisement for those keywords and eventually settled on a group. But eventually the weight of our convictions crushed the corporation and I found myself again looking for a new set of companions. As the first year wore on I realized that criminals were not sociopaths. I also learned that there wasn’t really much I could do to combat them. So I went to NPC null-sec where I happily created and watched explosions of all sorts until I realized I wasn’t having fun anymore. And then I became a pirate.
Of course my definition of pirate is quite different from the common meaning. Any pilot can be a criminial; the only necessary condition is attacking non-criminal ships in low-security or high-security space. My definition includes that I make my isk primarily from ransoming others or looting their wrecks. Of course I pad this income with salvage and abandoned loot as I’m able, and I take on the odd low-security deadspace signature. But mostly it’s the loot.
At the end of the day when I park my ship in a station and fall out of my capsule into a pool of pod-liquid, am I really any different than your run-of-the-mill criminal? I suppose the answer is generally a resolute “no” in the eyes of the players I’ve stolen from that day. Did I create this persona with the intent to victimize other pilots and take their valuables? No, but what other choice did I have?
“Eve is very dark,” confirms creative director Torfi Frans Ólafsson. “It’s harsh. It is supposed to be unforgiving. The original designers played a lot of Ultima Online, which was a fantastic sandbox game, and it allowed you to be very devious and very immoral in the way that you played. What they loved about it is that player killers, the griefers – people who just went around and killed other people – became so unpopular that other people banded together. Good started fighting evil, and without true evil you can’t have true good. So you had these bands of righteous people chasing player killers, and those player killers were the original Eve designers; they created a game about that mechanic.”
– Fire and Ice: the Cold Heart of EVE Online on Dead End Thrills
So EVE was founded with the idea that there would be true evil and its opposite: true good. First, let’s change the wording from good to anti-evil (because the word good is so overloaded). Second, while I don’t think there is actually true evil in the heart of the general EVE population, there are definitely players who perform actions others will perceive as evil. But where is the anti-evil? There is plenty between the two extremes but the bulk of activities in EVE tend toward the evil side of the scale.
There are relatively few anti-pirate groups; I couldn’t name any that have a reputation with perhaps the notable exception of Curatores Veritatis Alliance (who are slave owners or sympathizers by role-play; is that any better?). Pirate organizations, on the other hand, are quite common and many are well known. The most common rules of engagement in EVE are Not Blue Shoot It (NBSI). Most pilots will shoot you just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many will hunt you down to ensure that you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. So if true evil (player killers) is necessary and sufficient for the genesis of anti-evil, why are there not angelic hordes of anti-pirates cleansing low-security space of the pirates? I can’t answer that; but I can start the conversation by telling you why I don’t count myself with the non-existent horde: the mechanics don’t support anti-evil activity.
Let’s start with detailing how you come to be perceived as evil in New Eden. You destroy property, steal, scam or generally give other players a hard time. Maybe it’s because you want their valuables. Or perhaps it’s because you want them to be upset. In any case it’s generally because you can. But destruction of property is the only crime that results in a penalty to a pilot’s security status. Aside from reputation, the only indicator that a pilot has evil intent is security status. And that indicator can be “repaired” either through liberal destruction of non-player criminals or paid off with an isk fee and the right criminal tags. So pilots who like to destroy property will not necessarily have a negative security status. So any pilot pursuing these non-criminal (but evil) pilots will find a rapidly diminishing security status. And with enough of this activity it is impossible to tell the difference between the two. Who is evil and who is anti-evil becomes an unanswerable question.
Using what little information is available to answer the question only results in a partial list of valid targets: low-security pirates and high-security gankers (who are often alternate characters and do little else). Pirates with a security status lower than -5.0 (valid targets that will not lower your security status) are not as common as most think. I tried hunting them and generally became bored before finding a verifiable evil target. The high-security gankers are either alternate characters primarily used for that purpose (and may have a negative security status) or keep their security status above -5.0. Those with a negative security status who may be freely engaged spend such little time in space that it is impossible to catch them before they spring into action. And those that keep their security status above -5.0 cannot be freely engaged until they have sprung a trap.
And still whole classes of pilots remain untainted: the scammers (who primarily do not leave a station in anything more valuable than a shuttle), corporate thieves (who are not generally primary characters except in the most high-profile cases) and perpetrators of high-security wars against groups who cannot generally defend themselves. Generally the game mechanics shield those players.
There is no reward for being anti-evil. There is little opportunity to be anti-evil. So I became a pirate. I was bored into it. This is anti-climactic, I know; but the truth is the truth.
Editor’s Note: This post was inspired by comments in the many recent posts on Jester’s Trek talking about how other gamers look at our game.