Zeros and ones mucking with my immersion (part 1)
Note: I started a brief narrative describing how I arrived where I am today in EVE; it became too long for the introduction for which I had intended to use it and now it’s become part one.
I’ve been a pod pilot in EVE for nearly two years. During that time I’ve changed; or perhaps just my understanding has changed.
My first experiences were pure PvE. I had no friends playing EVE and nobody to guide me. In those first weeks I thought I could do missions forever and nobody could stop me. Even after joining my first player corporation, I still thought of nothing but PvE — PvP didn’t exist to me. And, you could say that my actions were purely driven by the in-game story.
I had poor luck with my first player corporation (chosen by its name rather than good, selective reasoning). It folded and forced everyone out within a week of my joining. That brief taste of working with other players led me to believe I might be interested in the ‘new thing’ that I’d been reading about: faction warfare. In my mind it was just more PvE wrapped up in a story about a war.
The illusion that faction warfare was just better PvE was shattered as I was running my first faction warfare mission. It happened, in fact, on the same night I joined a faction warfare corporation. This was my first loss to another player and sparked the realization that I hated every player who would ever want to blow up another player’s ship. That realization was short-lived; we all know that a large part of EVE is about blowing up other player’s ships.
I spent another month with the 22nd Black Rise Defensive Unit — more because I didn’t want to be a corp hopper than any good reason. I liked the guys, they were friendly and helpful; but I’d realized faction warfare opened the gates of what I (then) considered hell and allowed other players to shoot me.
Once I realized faction warfare wasn’t the only trigger for PvP (and then had realization forced on me once more), I went looking for an anti-pirate corporation. I was going to show those non-consensual PvPers that they weren’t the only pilots in EVE who could blow up somebody’s ship.
Fast-forward past three months spent in a broken and dying corporation (Amarr Sisterhood of Galactic Sirens) that merged with a similar corporation (Solaris Operations) and together fled southern Providence when Against All Authorities made their first show of force against the Curatores Veritatis Alliance (CVA); they left to follow a never-realized dream to live in the Drone Regions — my will to remain with that corporation was extinguished as they left Providence.
Fast-forward past three months in a ‘not blue shoot it’ corporation (Arkons of Myth) that had claimed to be anti-pirate — a conviction that I now believe is not really possible when combined with ‘not blue shoot it’ in the sense most pod pilots view piracy; they were at that time a member of the Imperial Republic of the North (IRON) which held the majority of Pure Blind.
Fast-forward past two months which saw me join an anti-pirate corporation (Sporadic Movement) in low-security Derelik and ended with me in the same corporation as part of a ‘not blue shoot it’ alliance vying for space in the Great Wildlands.
As the fast-forward slows down to normal speed, we see a pod pilot who thinks he’s finally found what he’s looking for. I found myself in a corporation and alliance that was following the virtuous path; I’d joined the Bene Gesserit Chapterhouse and played an instrumental role in linking them with the recruiter for Tread alliance who I consider a friend from my early days in EVE — the pilot who introduced me to null-security space, Ivan Zhuk.
I found myself liking the Beegees pilots and our new friends in Tread. We were allied with the CVA and our rules of engagement were ‘not red don’t shoot’ and essentially anti-pirate and anti-griefer. Life was good there for a very long time. Then came the day I realized I wanted something these pilots didn’t; or, at least something Tread and the Beegees as a whole didn’t want.
The change had been building for a while. I’d been less interested in playing EVE — a sure sign I was doing it wrong. I’d been losing focus and drifting away from the crowd. I’d been wanting a story; where was my story? Then one day, after an incident where my corp mates dabbled in the gray area of our rules of engagement, I was having a discussion with corporation members and the epiphany hit.
It started with a simple statement I’d heart many times before:
Corpie 1: NRDS is really unworkable in w-space, no matter how you look at it
I’d been hearing this from corp mates for a while. Every time I hear that statement it gets me riled up; if your rules of engagement are ‘not red don’t shoot’ then it’s simple: if the other guy is not red, you just don’t shoot. There is no time when this simple set of rules is ‘unworkable’ unless you make it unworkable. This set of rules doesn’t imply anything about what you prepare for. They don’t mean that you don’t shoot him if he shoots you, or worse, that you trust him not to shoot you. Expect him to shoot you, so either don’t put yourself in a position where you can be shot or be ready to shoot back after being engaged. Hint: a freighter cannot shoot you, therefore a neutral freighter is never a valid target.
Then the conversation moved into new territory for me:
Corpie 2: I mean, you don’t play call of duty multi-player NRDS.
Yes you do. I mean, you don’t go around shooting the other Marines if your on the Marine Corps team. At least, nobody does that and expects to stay in the game for very long. Does that make it a role-playing game? Not really, it’s just a game where you are trying for a high score and you play by a set of pre-defined rules. Those rules don’t exist in EVE, so players make them up. And, when you violate your own player-created rules then you’re violating something worse than zeros and ones — you’re violating trust.
Corpie 3: For people who PvP, the object is to kill as many people as possible while dying as few times as possible.
This is a silly objective; how and when would you consider it achieved? It’s also oversimplified — do industrial kills count? or for that matter, does any kill where the target was not prepared for combat? Just because you can kill a dozen freighters (who can’t shoot you, but are worth a lot) doesn’t make you good at PvP, it makes you lucky.
I guess I must not be a ‘person who PvPs’ — oh wait, yes I am. I have been shooting other players for some time now and I like it; I may not be the best, but having fun is my yard stick, not the killboard. Statistics are not my end-goal. I realized I didn’t know what my end-goal was.
Corpie 4: But 0.0 is the absence of rules. 0.0 is supposed to be a free for all.
It is? Null-security space is a free-for-all? Doesn’t ‘supposed to be free-for-all’ imply a rule? I guess somebody forgot this when they labeled the game a ‘sandbox’ and added in rules for how to take and hold sovereignty.
Corpie 5: i guess it boils down to why you play the game. if you play to be the knight in shining armor (aside from the fact that you are in the wrong genre), nrds makes sense
I’ll admit that for a while I was playing the ‘knight in shining armor’. But then I thought about it; I realized that I was fighting indirectly for CVA and surely an alliance of slave holders cannot be the ‘good guys’. Apparently I was fighting for the wrong side.
But the other side is equally troubled. Ushra’Khan shoot innocent (neutral), defenseless ships; they target these ships (miners and haulers) specifically. Surely they aren’t the ‘good guys’ either.
Turns out that in EVE there aren’t any ‘good guys’. Who would have thought that in a ‘sandbox’ game there would be no ‘good guys’ just like in the real world? Crazy, I know.
I sat and thought for a long time over the next couple of days (much more than is healthy for a husband/father/software engineer) about what it was I really wanted from the game. I came to the conclusion that I wanted to fight for an in-game cause (role playing) with other pilots who were doing the same thing (not in it to ‘win EVE’).
Of course there were some other factors: I’d known from the early days I didn’t want to shoot ‘innocents’; my tour with Amarr Sisterhood of Galactic Sirens taught me I didn’t want to be in a corporation that sounded like it was filled with girls; my tour with IRON taught me I did not want to be in a space-holding alliance; my tour with SPORE taught me I wanted a group that had a solid vision that it would stick to; and finally, the last lesson, my tour with the Beegees had taught me I wanted to role-play.
When I say ‘role-play’, I don’t mean that I wanted to chat all day about the latest political gossip or spout cliche comments like, “thou must die foul villain.” I wanted to play a role in a group whose vision was motivated by the in-game storyline. I wanted to play the role of a pod pilot fighting for a cause he believes in. I wanted to play this role the way only a computer game can let you — with virtual railgun charges and missiles brought to life on my monitor by zeros and ones piped half-way around the world and placed in just the right order such that I can see the pirate’s ship explode and imagine his ISK dwindling as it happens.
Once again, as when I started, my actions are driven purely by the in-game story — but now it’s PvP and the story is written other pod pilots (with words and actions) and not by CCP (but of course, guided by their vision).