Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Paper tigers, roleplayers with fangs, the carebear paradox.

[Editor's note: I'm well aware PvP in EVE goes beyond mere pew-pew, and extends to other fields that don't necessarily involve explosions. This entry is mostly about the ka-boomey kind of PvP, yet also about how it ties to the bigger picture, so there's something to love for everybody in there.]


I wouldn't call myself a typical PvP'er, at least not in the sense most die-hard fighters in EVE understand it.

My kind is coming from the ages of old-school, to-the-bone PvP: I'm a no-frills, permadeath roleplayer, of the sort who had to be explained that retiring his main and rolling a new toon after losing his first pod on a 2 years old character (in mid-2005 that made you a veteran) is *not* the way EVE is intended to be played.

That's right, I find the death penalty too easy and forgiving, in a game that proudly claims to be home to the most obnoxious griefers and hardcore PvP scumbags in the history of gaming — this side of Ultima Online, that is. That puts me in a favorable position to look down my nose at the internet tough men gesticulations of so-called hardcore PvP'ers in EVE, because I know how easy we have it, what with cheap clones and insurance, and no XP loss unless you really demand it…

On the plus side, if the death penalty is nothing worth quivering in my trendy-yet-affordable roleplayer boots, dramatic consequences can potentially hinge on the fate of a single ship, which occasionally makes for truly knuckle-whitening fights.

The fact of EVE is a single boat's cargo bay can carry the hopes and future of an entire corporation or alliance, be it a stack of rare blueprints, a few cans of very expensive resupply of faction modules for your entire fleet, or the egg-shaped hulk of an outpost about to be launched.
Thus, if and when the outcome of a PvP confrontation in EVE means srs bzns, it has everything to do with the bigger picture, all about what may (or won't) happen as a consequence of who lives or 'dies' through the battle, above and beyond the mere tally of killmails and corpses.

And this, if you followed me thus far, shall lead you to the same shocking conclusion I've reached:

The only 'true' PvPers in EVE-Online are carebears.

Need help connecting those dots, do you ?
Always happy to help…

On a broad scale there are three kinds of PvP combat in EVE:

• The contest of skill:
Best seen in FPS and RTS games: players start on a relatively even playing field, and the best(s) win. This is competition in the sporting sense, where players go toe-to-toe and measure their skill against each other. This is rarely if ever to be seen in sandbox MMO*, due to limitations in game mechanics (PvE centric games) or to uneven matching of contestants (see The gank below).

Also attempted in many PvE-centric MMOs that offer some kind of 'PvP arena', typically with moderate success (as player skills usually are less of a factor than the respective 00berness of the gear packed by competitors).

• The gank:
The most frequent kind of PvP encountered in freeform games such as EVE, where your average fight is grossly biased in favor of the attacker, while the other party qualifies more as a victim than a contestant. Happens as a natural side-effect of the freedom enjoyed by players to only seek the brand of trouble they know they easily can handle, and by the willingness/candor of some players who expose themselves to surprise rape. It is characterized by its own-sided nature, and the fact the 'winner' satisfaction doesn't come from besting a worthy foe, but merely from the thrill of inflicting PK-pain for its own sake.
Although some consider this frequent imbalance a necessary price to pay for the unique excitement coming from a 'sandbox' PvP game, others call it institutionalized bullying — both views are arguably valid.

• The carebear/roleplayer PvP:
…a.k.a 'pew-pew with a cause'. This is the sort of PvP players engage in to further an objective of a larger order than the advance of a ranking on some killboard ladder, or the cheap thrills gained from licking the delicious tears of outrage of griefed noobs. These players don't play '4 teh LULz' or for 'easy killmails', they play with a plan. For them war is indeed the natural continuation of politics, and they get to experience the full available breadth of PvPness EVE has to offer.

And that's the bone of it: no matter how good one's kill/loss ratio looks, it doesn't amount to squat unless you really mean it.
Players who set out to prey on easy targets for the win aren't PvP'ing more than people grinding lvl4 missions in Empire are PvP'ing the rats… By not fully committing to the fight, overly minimizing risks taken and potential consequences to live with, and by making sure one's prey is not threatening enough to be acknowledged as a real 'player' opponent, the majority of so-called PvPers are denying themselves the opportunity to fully engage in actual PvP play.

The only people left to play 'serious PvP'… well, they are the roleplayers and carebears, the very groups our wimpy intarweb spacenerds posturing as hardened warriors love to scorn and paint as the opposite of PvPers.


[This all started with a conversation I had yesterday with a fellow long-time EVE player.
A self-proclaimed carebear, if not much of a roleplayer, he never got around to really jump into PvP and enjoy it, despite seeing the obvious attraction and the potential for meaningful PvP in EVE.
I'll expand in the next downtime filler on why it is so many carebears hate PvP, and how to help it.]

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