Saturday, February 2, 2013

Griefers Throw Stones at Frogs in Sport, but the Frogs Die in Earnest…

or~  Teach Your Children Well. 

This started, as so many of my posts do now, as a comment on someone else’s blog… in this case Mab’s on his post “It's not a Number Thing, it's an Acclimation Thing” which is a thought provoking, and it seems flame provoking, foray into the Eternal Question of EvE… the ‘Noob v Griefer’ or ‘Safety v Aggro’ or the ‘Risk v Reward’ aspects of EvE. This post has no graphics because it is a more serious post than that for me. I hope it will make us all think about how we treat those who are new to our verse… and about how we value this game… and its continuation.

As I read through the post and comments I tried to break the discussion down to its fundamental parts and this is what I came away with...

Define that which makes EVE Online, “EvE”… EvE as it "IS”:
EvE is a Social PvP Sandbox...

Define the most important aspect of EVE Online as a “product”:
EVE needs to lure and retain new players without alienating the current playerbase…

The Social: Whether one plays solo or as a member of the largest Corp/Alliance/Coalition, the current "Player Interaction Mechanics" allow and promote many, varying and wide degrees of unrestricted Player Interaction (aggression or cooperation) anywhere in and out of the New Eden star cluster.

The PvP: Aggressive PvP is allowed everywhere in EvE including Hisec where there are few Restrictions (meaning you are ABLE to target and fire [most] weapons) BUT with significant Risks & Costs for carrying out (and sometimes for attempting) unrestricted PvP there. These Risks & Costs decrease steadily as one travels from Hisec to Lowsec to Nullsec and from anywhere to NegSec allowing for increasingly unrestricted levels of Aggressive PvP: Wars, Roams, War Decs, Ganks, Corp intrigue, etc. are a primary focus of gameplay by a significant portion (not all) of the playerbase. The current "Player Interaction Mechanics" allow degrees of PvP anywhere in EvE (other than while docked in an NPC Station, and then there is Market PvP). This is the most significant aspect of EvE as a Social PvP Sandbox.

The Sandbox... off in the back corner of the schoolyard far from the teachers and playground supervisors who are busy overseeing the kids playing in the more organized boxes like WoW, GW2 and such... In response to unrestricted PvP the most that happens in the EvE sandbox is an amazingly quick and costly pop on the hand (CONCORDOKKEN of gank ships, CONCORD Sec Status reductions, etc.) but only AFTER a player smacks, kicks and/or throws sand in the face of another player. This is an accepted, understood and calculated part of the gankers game and should be a known and well understood risk of the targets game.

Personally I do not ever want to see the above defined aspects of EvE changed. I believe also that EvE is a niche MMO game. Only players who accept the current ‘Player Interaction Mechanics' that give rise to these "risks" will stay and prosper in EvE. But, keep in mind WoW is also a ‘niche’ gamethere are many players worldwide who have no interest in Spaceships AT ALL who would Never play EvE even if it had the exact same PvP Mechanics as WoW. All being a niche game means is there are people who aren’t interested in it. ALL GAMES ARE NICHE GAMES, some just have very large niches often called Mass Market… The important question is… How BIG is the POTENTIAL playerbase for an MMO Game with the mechanics EvE has?  Hmmmm… good question that.

The Vet & The Noob:
EvE loses older players when:
(1) CCP makes game design changes that either threaten their hard earned skills, be they book based or experience based or; 
(2) CCP makes changes that they have no interest in or are badly rolled out.

EvE loses new players when:
(3) a new player has no desire at all to play a game with the risks inherent in EVE’s Player Interaction Mechanics or; 
(4) a new player first experiences PvP (IE gets attacked/ganked/griefed/scammed/et al.) and it is a highly unpleasant 'surprise' to them the first time and then 'perceived' as bullying every time after especially if there is smack and LOLing and such.

#(1) To avoid this any changes to bring in new players and give them reasons to stay must not devalue current skills but simply give the new player a better chance of surviving his first days and weeks.

Oh, there will be some players, the ones who prey on new players exclusively, who will rage quit if the newest players really do have a better chance than they do now… I say good riddance. I truly do not believe that the TRUE “noob griefers” are a large enough number of players to really hurt the game if they quit and personally I feel it would be like flushing the shallow end of the EvE gene pool… Keep in mind I am talking only about the older players who's primary goal and gratification in EvE is (and/or those who feel justified when they) grief a noob into ragequitting because “… it’s better for the game. I say the reverse is true.

#(2) Incarna for example. Incarna’s new Avatars would, IMHO, have been a big hit for many in the existing playerbase AND would have drawn in a significant number of new players had they only had CONTENT ready to use the Avatars IN…) (CCP OPEN THE EFFIN DOOR!)

#(3) is not fixable without changing the Definition above of what EvE IS, not without changing the basic nature of the game as it is today. This I would find totally unacceptable and while it would draw more players to the game, the risk of losing the backbone of the current playerbase looms large over this...

This would be like redesigning the Shelby Cobra for the Soccer Mom Mass Market by adding 3 rows of seats and sliding side doors etc., etc…. The Shelby Cobra is a Sports Car, the Ford Caravan is a Soccer Mom van. Both have their niches, just as MMO’s do… (JIC you dint know, EvE is the Bugatti Veyron of the MMO world)…  =]

[NOTE: About the above link for the Veyron, it’s Top Gear’s test drive of the Veyron to reach its top speed of 253 MILES PER HOUR…  if you have see it afore, you know you will watch it again and if you haven’t… may I suggest popcorn and a towel to sit on… JIC]

#(4) IS fixable, IMHO, and I have a few suggestions:

(A) PvP Tutorials that teach what to expect from PvP as it is in EvE.

I have already posted in depth on this here, Blog Banter 33: “The Capsuleer Experience…”, in which I put forward for consideration, PvPAI Training(copied from org post)

A series of missions that would be standard missions but with a twist, and a SUBSTANTIAL reward... say a fully fitted frigate/full set of basic implants/10 or possibly 50M ISK or some such:

(1) At the beginning of a PvPAI mission the New Player is given a “Dire Warning”, that “There are highly skilled Rouge Capsuleers that have been preying on our pilots, beware.” Before they can accept the mission they must read through a discussion of pirates, gankers, ninjas and can/wreck flipping and their tactics and motives as they pertain to each particular mission. The missions would be designed to recreate the most common forms of PvP that take place against new players.

(2) The missions should be relatively standard missions except that they will include a “Rouge Capsuleer” NPC (with the Sleeper L6 AI) in ships types and fits normally used by gankers, mission ninja’s, can & wreck flippers and griefers. These NPCs should copy the actions and fighting style as much as possible of real players the new player will run into, “out in the black”.

(3) In these PvPAI missions the New Player should LOSE a ship (or even two) (possibly an agent provided ship or their own then replaced), before experiencing it for real if possible with no podding, however podkilling should be clearly discussed. IE Aura says, "Pilot, you were lucky to escape with your POD intact, the Capsuleers of New Eden often PODkill... and so on).

(4) These missions will be in closed rooms that ONLY the New Player can access, he will not be able bring fleet members or ANYONE else in with him and (IE one time use single entrant accelgate key) these rooms will NOT be scannable by anyone else. IE The New Player will have ultimate protection but ONLY for the missions that make up this PvPAI training.

(5) These missions will be available only ONCE and ONLY to the Main toon of a 'New Account' who finishes ALL the tutorials (an inducement to actually DO them all). The missions and their very large rewards will be Heavily Adverted at startup (for a time, say 2 weeks, and with a 'disable' switch) and referenced often by Aura and in the tutorials as the new player works his way through them.

The PvPAI missions, if taken advantage of, will give a New Player the knowledge and preparation to eliminate the ‘Surprise Buttsecks!’ aspect of early Noob life when meeting EvE’s Friendly and Loving Pirates and Griefers.

(B) The Tutorial Timer. Start a new char (not an alt) and the New Player is offered the Tutorials, if he clicks [YES] a timer starts, if he chooses [NO] the timer cuts immediately to ‘0’ at the mouse click... and cannot be restarted for that account… ever. The Tutorial Timer runs down in GAME TIME only and provides a steadily decreasing level of Invulnerability to that account’s Main Toon ONLY, plus the timer will run normally ONLY so long as the New Player does the Tutorials...

If the player attempts to leave his home system or NPC Corp, he will find he cannot jump anywhere unless it is for the current tutorial mission, if he tries to jump anywhere else Aura will ask if he is opting out… he will again be offered [YES] or [NO], ‘Yes’ and he cannot jump, he must continue the mission or dock up or orbit the station or whatever and wait out the WHOLE timer, ‘No’ and he can jump wherever he pleases, but the timer goes immediately to ‘0’ and his Invulnerability goes AWAY. If he says ‘Yes’ but does not DO any tutorials he will find he can (1) DO nothing else while the timer runs out… can’t jump out of system, can’t dock in other stations, can’t target ANYTHING, can't BE targeted, can’t fire weapons, can't be assploded, can't mine, NOTHING… and (2) as long as he doesn’t accept and run a tutorial, the timer speeds up. It’s DO the tutorials or Lose forever this LIMITED chance to do so in safety period.

In other words, yes… a highly limited, steadily decreasing and extremely temporary Invulnerability for New Account Main Toons ONLY. Again, This is Only for The First Toon of a New Account while doing the Tutorials, Period. In other words… a chance for a new player to LEARN about EvE… to Experience the grandeur of EvE, the beauty of EvE, to get a leg up on those first basic skills AND learn WHAT TO EXPECT when the timer hits “0”… With the added benefit of the chance to make some real ISK and or a set of implants or a decent ship or two, BEFORE being subjected to the rest of EvE’s playerbase… The Good, the Bad and the Fugly.

An interesting aside… I really feel that those who will argue the strongest ‘against’ the above suggestions of (1) Tutorials that teach what to expect and how to defend against live players and (2) even just the idea of such an extremely LIMITED safe period for noobs ONLY while running the tutorials which teach this knowledge of life and death in New Eden… well, those will be the players who want easy, unskilled prey… not just griefers and gankers… it will be those who care not for the game as a whole, those who can’t see the long term benefits for New Eden and CCP and so they rail against teaching our children how to survive in the harsh, hard cold black of Eve… Mark them well I say unto you, for they are the noobmolesters and the noobophiles of Eve.

What about older players “gaming” these ideas? Well, as you can’t do ANYTHING while under the Tutorial Timer but run the Tutorials it would be a bit boring unless you actually ARE new to EvE…  but yes, the end PvPAI rewards are decent… they have to be, the lessons learned in those missions have to be harsh to give the Noobs a taste of the Real EvE, while also giving them a grub stake at the same time… but I believe that rewards seen as “decent” by Noob standards will be see as pocket change by older players…. My only worry there would be the slim possibility of a new form of botting new toons in order to reap multiple end rewards over time.

There is No mechanic in EvE that lowlifes and asshats will not at least attempts to ‘game’… the only way to avoid that is to never power up the sever. Just like we say “in” EvE, to undock is to consent to PvP… powering up the server, is accepting that you will be fighting those who would steal from you and take advantage of you… CCP knows this and fights against THAT form of Real World PvP every day.

Fly Safe and see you in the Sky  =/|)=


  1. *rogue ;-)

    I like the idea of having a better introduction to loss and PVP.

    I'm not as sure about the invulnerability, because it's a double-edged sword: if you grant invulnerability, then newbies can't have their little kitten fights outside of stations. If you don't, then griefers with new alts can use their greatly superior knowledge of the game to blow up newbies.

    Mary Titor has a good post up on the issue as well.

  2. Great idea on the tutorial invulnerability timer and the new GCC code should work nicely to implement it!

  3. Dersen, keep in mind I said DECREASING Invulnerability... as the timer counts down the noob gradually gets the ability to interact more and more with those around him in EvE. It's just those very first few days as he needs his concentration in the menus reading Aura and mission logs and finding this drop down menu and that button and messing with and learning the OV etc., etc. ... It is during this period he would have complete Invulnerability... once he starts playing, running missions, which prove he is flying more heads-up than heads-down as pilots say... then the timer allows increasing interaction with those around him...

    You don't leave a newborn in diapers out alone on the playground with 1 to 8 year olds now do you?

    Then why do we shove newborns in EvE right out the airlock in their POD on their very first day?? Yes, we want the 20 to 50 something GUY at the keyboard to get a bang for his just laid down buck... but why do we allow the possibility of that BANG coming from the guns of an older player who just wants to kick sand in the face of someone who CAN'T fight back?

    Let's give them 2 weeks of decreasingly protected gametime so they can learn what to expect, and THEN throw them to the Wolves, Hounds and Firetails of Misfortune...

    Mab, I hadn't thought out the new Aggro Timers in relation, but yea... they might tie in very nicely. =]

    I just want the cute little pod gooey things to have a chance is all... =]

  4. Sure, I was just thinking of the "kitten fights," where Reapers engage each other in adorable little tussles outside the station in Embod. The majority of those fights are between genuine newbies, and it's one rather inexpensive way to learn how to fly your ship. Invulnerability would make those go away.

    Also, how quickly can you train a gank catalyst, keeping in mind that newbies learn twice as fast for their first two weeks? I'm imagining a lot of quasi-invulnerable Catalysts tormenting miners in the belts.

    Maybe you could turn invulnerability off for Duels? Or disable it if the newbie shoots first? Griefers still have options in both cases, but since griefing is primarily psychological it's hard to code around.

    These are certainly interesting questions to kick around.

  5. LOL I have always said that two minds are better that one... in the case of EvE, it's like 300,000 minds beat CCP's whol brain trust!


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