Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
Predicting the outcome of a cultural war

Stabs has a post up which predicts that my April Fool's Joke of this year will become reality by 2013, and EVE will get some form of completely safe space. His prediction is not based on the events that already happened, but on the planned "Burn Jita" revenge campaign after the end of The Mittani's 30-day ban. While predicting reactions is always difficult, Stabs does have some good points. CCP long ago published data showing that over 80% of EVE players never leave safe space and never engage in PvP. There simply isn't much choice if you want to play a space trading sim MMORPG, and thus a lot of people who aren't interested in PvP at all play EVE because there isn't much else. If you force these players into PvP by overwhelming the built-in safety mechanisms of "safe" space, it is not unlikely that a significant number of them might quit. And allowing 20% of your players to drive out many of the other 80% isn't a good business strategy.

But ultimately this is just a very narrow battle in a much wider cultural war. Any possible term I could use to describe the two sides is loaded, but to simplify things there is one side which thinks that the internet should provide infinite freedom of expression and behavior, and the other side which thinks that a person's freedom ends where another person's freedom begins.

Predicting the outcome of that cultural war is extremely easy, because it has already been fought in the real world: Absolute freedom lost. You are not free to shout "Fire!" in a theater, or to call somebody a "nigger", or to make overtly sexual remarks to a co-worker. There are various laws and rules against libel, hate speech, harassment, bullying, and other forms of "free expression". There are recognized limitations to freedom of speech. And that isn't likely to ever change. Thus the only remaining question is how fast these limitations and rules and laws will catch up with the internet.

One major obstacle here is anonymity. Both extremes, absolute anonymity and having to post everything under your real name with address attached, have rather obvious problems and dangers. Somebody apparently poster The Mittani's address on the internet, which was followed by various threats against him and his family. Nobody wants that amount of openness. But we are slowly but surely converging to a solution where people can write under pseudonyms on the internet but the authorities will have ways to trace these writings back to the real person. Once that is in place, it becomes possible to treat speech on the internet exactly like speech in any other form.

The other tricky point is separating the virtual lives of avatars from the real lives of the people playing them. There is a huge difference whether somebody is threatened with real world physical or psychical harm, or whether his avatar is under threat of being "killed". As long as virtual property is not recognized as being real property, a Ponzi scheme in EVE Online might be perfectly legal. And it would be perfectly legal too to wipe out an enemy alliance from the map, including threatening them with that. But that doesn't mean that all hate speech, racial slurs, or threats would be legal as long as they are written in a game or on a game forum. Some speech is clearly directed at the player behind the avatar, and the police should treat rape threats to The Mittani's wife on the internet exactly the same as they would treat such a threat made by telephone or by letter or by any other form. And at some point in time they will.

Absolute freedom of expression and behavior on the internet is an illusion created by technical advances moving faster than legislation. There is no doubt that legislation will catch up. There is no reason why somebody should be allowed saying things on the internet that he wouldn't be allowed to say in real life.

If your prediction does become a reality, then the "Burn Jita" campaign will have served its purpose. As I understand it, the Mittani wants to see if CCP is making decisions to appease Sony and the release of Dust for the consoles and so this is his "test".
I approve of that test. In my post I am talking about the limits to freedom, and I do hope that by pushing those limits The Mittani will get a very clear answer about where exactly CCP thinks these limits are. And we will have that answer either way, even non-reaction by CCP is a clear answer on the subject in this case.
If CCP instituted a PVP-optional feature like truly safe zones or no-loss battlegrounds, I am confident sales would go UP UP UP!
But what if computer games are art ... ?
I think it is the F2P aspect of DUST that should impact CCP going forward. although I empathize with the desire to blame Sony. E.g., someone who has spent 4 years in EVE fighting for/against BoB/Goons is invested in the game and is much more likely to come back after adversity than a casual console player who downloaded a F2P game last month.

I.e., there are good arguments that the Console players have the financial power in the relationship.

As Fanfest showed, EVE is very much a niche market and the players like it - even if that culture. limits CCP's revenue. Whereas there are millions of console players.

The money a motivated F2P player spends is higher than a sub and the more motivated they are the more they can spend. Whereas CCP gets the same revenue with less cost if someone plays 2 hours a week instead of 80.

So if the console gamers are more numerous and use the currently preferred (by the corporations not forum posters) revenue model, and can generate more income, then why would CCP let the Fanfest-type of player grief the desired DUST players too much?

But I did say "should" in my first sentence. Perhaps I am overly influenced by
But from afar it sure seems like the current management is more attuned to the EVE "cold dark place" PR than in doing what is best for the shareholders.

A niche game - never be an AAA title but with a loyal following - is a reasonable business strategy. But it does seem incompatible to allow those customers to interact with mass-market, F2P console gamers.
The "burn Jita" event was planned way before this indecent. It was planned as a reward for Mittani getting over 10k votes for the CSM. After the banning they decided to move it back to the day he gets unband.

Also the 20/80% statistic isn't not completely accurate. I believe that is just who is where at any given time, there is a lot of movement from high-sec to low and null-sec.

In fact at Fan-fest during the the state of the economy presentation they show that the vast majority of destruction actually goes on in Jita. at about the 2:40 mark they start talking about where people live and at 18:50 is where I'm talking about ships being blown up.
Also from the presentation about 75% of people enjoy pvp, just because you live in highsec does not mean you don't want to participate in pvp, there is faction warfare and highsec wars that is all pvp that takes place in highsec.
Hmmm looked back I don't think my comment actually added much to the conversation besides throwing more stats out there so...

I do agree that this is an interesting test now that Sony is in the picture, I hadn't thought that they would play a big role but after the Mittani incident and people pointing out how Sony might have been involved I can see why it is needed.
I do think CCP will pass though, they seem to have gotten back on course in providing what the players want and have seen an increased player bases and more people actually playing to prove it.
After Incarna they saw what could happen if they fail and I don't think want to see that repeated so soon after fixing things.
Tobold you really can't honestly compare PvP with harassing or whatever.

It's simply ridiculous. It's a game. Killing other players isn't evil..or is everyone who plays FPSs evil too?
@J. Dangerous:

If you're not a native english-speaker, I can understand how you might fail to understand.

1) Look... Not all people who get cancer are smokers, right? And not all smokers get cancer. But there is a definite link between the two. Smokers are more likely to get cancer. Thus, any responsible investigation into reducing cancer would look into smoking.
Apply this kind of logic to PVP and griefing. They are not the same thing, but they do experience some links. PVPers are more likely to grief, and FFA PVP makes griefing easier than most PVE rulesets.

2) Tobold's article is not primarily about PVP or griefing. The article is about freedom, and how dev actions and attitudes toward that freedom – in the context not only of the specific game-world discussed, but also in relation to the rest of the world as a whole. It is about is methods of control and the lengths CCP may go to, restricting freedoms in an effort to curb griefing. One of those being: a restriction on PVP in certain areas.

Stopping people from smoking will never eliminate cancer. But it will reduce the number of people who develop it.

With this in mind, try reading the article again without already having your hackles raised defensively at what you have incorrectly perceived as an attack on something you enjoy.
Also, without targeting J. Dangerous specifically, I saw this come up quite a few times in other MMORPG forum threads and I'm really tired of hearing people compare MMOs to FPSes when it comes to PVP.

Get with the concept of 'context', people.

No shit, killing someone in most FPS multiplayer games isn't evil, because usually EVERYONE is there to PVP. This does NOT apply to ALL GAMES. Killing someone in Barbie's Pony adventures definitely is evil because you seriously shouldn't even be ABLE to do it. Killing someone in a PVE-focussed MMO that allows PVP isn't evil... unless they weren't consenting to it and you used an exploit in game mechanics or tricked them into it to enable it. In which case, yes. It is evil.

Killing someone in an area where they have signalled their intent to abstain from PVP, and where that area supports it, then fighting the game mechanics to kill them? Yes. Evil. So, suicide ganking in high-sec Empire space? Yes. Evil.

But forget specific examples. Let's get back to basics:

Are you fighting someone who does not want to fight, who has made a reasonable effort to avoid fighting?
If so, then yes. You're an asshole and you're evil.

If by all of this you mean some of the more extreme cyberbullying that has been documented on facebook, then I agree. There should be some connection and these should be looked into by the proper authorities.

If you mean saying you want a character in a game to die and to grief them, then I can't agree. If they were to start investing this, should they also investigate every sports fan on facebook that uses a death/kill/rape scenario to describe their least favorite football player or team? Because I can assure you that people have wanted these opposing teams to be "killed" long before the internet, facebook or eve online ever came into existance.
As I said in my post: "There is a huge difference whether somebody is threatened with real world physical or psychical harm, or whether his avatar is under threat of being "killed"."

And I'm pretty sure that if you announce on a public forum that you want to kill David Beckham and rape Victoria, or the other way around, you can get into legal trouble.
Koreans, who are much more advanced in living with a digital world than we are now, had fixed this problem long ago. Each MMO provider is obliged by laws to allow registration for only those who provided their Korean Social Security Number. If a person is reported to cheat or misconduct in-game, they're banned forever by their. Because they wouldn't be able to simple create a new account on another email address - KSSN still would be the same. On the other hand, no one is being abused in real life because a person's realy identity is known only to MMO providers, and not the other players.
All Korean i know can't even imagine how MMOs could works without that system.
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