Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Game Of Organizations

In yesterday's post, I posited that EVE Online is not a player versus player (PvP) game, but a game that contains PvP.  I presented some statistics and concluded that I could not call a game in which an average player in a 3 hour play session doesn't die or kill another player a PvP game.  A lot of people who play EVE disagree with me, arguing that I ignored other areas of player conflict.  Fair enough.  But I was thinking of how a non-EVE gamer would perceive the game.  Given the statistics, I doubt the outsider would think that EVE is a PvP game, just one that has PvP in it.

But with all the criticism I've read, the one thing no one asked is: how would I describe the game?  Dark Age of Camelot's Realm vs. Realm model is a good place to begin, but EVE's players are a lot more fractured than the three realms in DAoC.  If EVE were a fantasy game, I would describe the game as a Guild vs. Guild game.  Since EVE players hate the term guild, however, my preferred description is the Game of Organizations.  If I have to use the world "versus" (I think it's some sort of law), then I would describe EVE as an OvO (organization vs. organization) game.

Why concentrate on player organizations and not the players themselves?  First, what makes EVE so fascinating that people who don't even play the game follow the antics of the players?  Massive wars.  Diplomacy.  Espionage.  Massive Theft.  Politics.  The economy.  In short, CCP's science fiction virtual world news contains many of the same subjects as found in our real world news coverage.  And in almost all cases, the news focuses on one or more player-run organizations.  Yes, I know a lot of the espionage and theft were performed by a single individual, but the victims were almost always player-run corporations or alliances.

Next, one of the things about EVE I noticed as a new player is that one cannot escape membership in a corporation.  In every other MMORPG I've played, a player is a free agent until joining a player-run group.  In EVE, a player is initially placed in an NPC corporation and will remain in either an NPC or player run corporation while playing the game.  Players don't have to join a player run corporation, but the NPC corporations have disadvantages, like a high 11% corporate tax rate and no access to player owned starbases (POS).  The access to POS is important to the serious industrial player.  While basic manufacturing and scientific work is possible in NPC-controlled stations, POS provide important bonuses for those competing for business in major trade hubs like Jita.  POS are also required for moon mining, an activity performed outside of high sec that can make a nice profit.  Major wars in EVE have occurred over ownership of certain types of moons.

Speaking of POS, some important economic structures in EVE are, in my opinion, misnamed.  POS and the player owned custom offices (POCO), used in planetary interaction, are not owned by players.  Those structures are owned by corporations.  Player-run corporations, but corporations nonetheless.  CCP should really rename them Corporate Owned Starbases (COS) and Corporate Owned Customs Offices (COCO).

Corporations are not the only player groupings in EVE Online.  CCP has organized the ownership of star systems around alliances, which are basically groupings of corporations. The much maligned Dominion sovereignty system still has activity performed at the corporate level, but ownership occurs at the alliance level.  Even if a single player manages to gain and hold sov, as Chribba did in 9UY4-H from October 2010 to November 2011, that ownership was done through his one man alliance, Otherworld Empire.

But large organizational warfare is not limited to null sec.  EVE's factional warfare system has organized each of the four warring militias into a coalition of alliances and corporations (including the NPC FW corps) similar to the big player-created coalitions in null security space.  So while not resulting in the single big battles famous in null sec, those low sec systems listed on Dotlan as the most violent usually have either factional warfare or a large corporation or alliance involved.

Up until now I've concentrated on the bigger conflicts found within EVE, but the same holds true in large part for small gang warfare as well.  From my travels, I've noticed that small gangs tend to only have members from one or two alliances in them.  Or, if the pilots are not in an alliance, one or two corporations.  In EVE's free-for-all PvP environment, that is a natural occurrence.   Since the pilots are already vetted by membership in the same or a friendly player group, worries about getting stabbed in the back are a lot less.  When people fire on friendly people, sometimes consequences occur.  Also, that is why awoxxing is so looked down upon.  Corporations in EVE depend on trust and the awoxer works to destroy that trust.

At this point, a reader may wonder why I do not just call EVE a PvP game.  Let me pull out this graph again.

At the individual level, players don't really kill a lot of ships.  In fact, killing and losing ships barely registered when I calculated how many ships died in the average 3-hour play session.  A lot of indivduals, even when part of player organizations, don't want to fight others.  Members of Red Frog Freight, for example, try to avoid any conflict in their activities moving cargo from one end of New Eden to another.  Indeed, they go so far as to only use out-of-corp freighter alts and only use the corporation to conduct business.  Other player groups are only interested in doing PvE content like missioning, incursions, and mining.  And of course, let's not forget the numerous players who have created small corporations that just house a single player's characters.  A lot of them have just set up a corporation to avoid the 11% NPC corp tax.

Even members of corporations or alliances at war will often not shoot at other player's ships.  Someone has to do the repairing after an enemy reinforces a structure.  Others have to do the work to supply those doing the fighting.  This logistics work spans from going to Jita to purchase ships and modules to maintaining jump bridge networks in null.  A lot of work in both null sec sov wars and factional warfare fighting for control of systems involves attacking structures or running plexes with no opposing ships in sight.  That's because in EVE Online's conflicts, a lot of effort is spent attacking the infrastructure of an enemy organization, not enemy players.

I realize that some will still think I'm wrong and that EVE is a PvP game.  But EVE isn't a game where the player is the hero.  EVE is a game in which players, even powerful ones like The Mittani, are just cogs in the machine.  The real game occurs at the corporate and alliance level.  Even those who play solo wind up adapting to the game's structure.  When talking to someone who has never played EVE, I would not tell that person that EVE is a PvP game, as that sets certain expectations in a gamer's mind.  Instead, I would describe the game as a guild vs. guild game and then get down to describing our game of organizations.


  1. Comparing PVE kills to PVP kills is confusing apples and oranges. If there were easier ways than killing red crosses to pay for my PVP losses and PLEX my account, I'd do them. Indeed, I do a lot of PI exactly for this reason: to make money with minimum effort. Yet you'd never think of comparing my "PI losses" to my "PVP losses".

    A much more telling statistic would be to compare production to destruction. What I would call a pure PVPer produces stuff to pay for his PVP losses; his production should equate ISK-wise with his losses. Players who are not there for PVP (or only part time) should be accruing ISK or net worth.

    I disagree with your characterization of EVE as org vs org. Most of my time in the game is spent solo. My org is primary from time to time, running PVE sites and sometimes with PVP. But mostly it is me doing stuff for fun (hunting solo) or to make personal ISK (PI, small sites, mining, exploration). Of course, that's just my personal game; I am sure many people play a very org-centric game. But I think most people in EVE are more like me. Remember that only a minority are outside of highsec.

    As for what I'd call EVE, I'd say it is virtual scifi galaxy with a fully functioning economy, where you fly around in pretty ships and can do all sorts of things, from resource extraction to production to fighting with other players.

  2. Nosy,

    Azariah’s challenge to try to sum up what type of game EVE is in one or two sentences, while an interesting way to get at a particular annoyance he wants to discuss, ends up saying very little about EVE and much more about the player answering the question (which is exactly his point). Most games have an objective (win conditions) and it’s those win conditions one would relate in a two sentence summary. EVE lacks a built in objective (win conditions) making an *objective* two sentence summary impossible. Rather, you’ll get a summary of what that individual player does or, perhaps, if that individual player is thinking broadly, what that player thinks most other players are doing. Accordingly, there is no objective two sentence summary to be had. (Yes the two disparate definition play on the word “objective” is intentional. It takes an in game objective to enable an objective game summary.)

    Along the same line, while I appreciate you’re attempt to uncover objective facts about what players actually spend their time doing while logged on, those facts fall woefully short at uncovering what type of game EVE is precisely because it ignores what the point of an activity is. To explicate, allow me to proceed by analogy:

    By any reasonable measure boxing is primarily a PvP sport. Two contestants enter a ring and attempt to beat the living snot out of each other. One wins, one loses. This essential truth remains despite the fact the boxers in question spend only a miniscule amount of time actually in the ring contesting with an opponent in a win/lose match. Rather boxers spend massive amounts of time in the gym preparing for those short, sharp moments of actual PvP combat. Measuring what boxers actually spend their time doing absolutely fails to reveal how, at its core, boxing remains a PVP sport.

    Analogy complete, it’s now crucially important to note that this in no way means that EVE is suddenly a PVP game at its core. Rather, it only means that it can be primarily a PVP game if the player chooses to play that way. Alternately, a player can pursue something else entirely. Welcome to the sandbox.

  3. What happens if we look at the average player in this new light? Is he a member of an NPC corp or a player organization? What does this player do for or with his organization in a three-hour session?

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