Tobold's Blog
Friday, February 06, 2009

In EVE Online the big news of the week is that the Goons destroyed their main rivals, Band of Brothers (Bob), by persuading one of the enemies directors (co guild master) to dissolve Bob and hand over most of their assets to the Goonswarm. It is hard to explain to players of other games how big of a griefing that is. It's not only as if your guild master left with the whole content of your guild bank, dissolved your guild, and joined a rival guild; it is as if in the process he would be able to steal half of the epics you ever gained by raiding with the guild. Stories like these are pretty much why a game like World of Warcraft doesn't have "bind to guild" epics.

Now some people will find this way cool, big drama is one of the features of EVE. But somehow I doubt that the thousands of players who got robbed by a turncoat will feel the same way. Griefing is only funny if it happens to other people, and many people react to being griefed by simply quitting the game (which is for example why I quit EVE, I got podded in the early era of EVE, before they introduced insurance and cloning). In a game like WoW / LotRO / WAR / AoC your power as a player only ever goes up. In a game like EVE or Darkfall, your power can go up or down, which is not to everyone's liking.
A game where M&S can lose their stuff and just disappear (from the level I play)? Definitely a game I'm going to try out (after finished with my current plans). Thanks!
A kind of game I am going to play once I have the time (approximately in about 30-40 years).
CCP has a history of selling such griefing as proof how epic, realistic and just great EVE Online is. All conflicts between major parties were "decided" this way so far. Never by military force or ingame espionage or whatever, it was and is always the same. One trusted member abuses its power and harms the whole corporation. EVE just does not have ANY means and safeguards versus something like this.

It is really hard to explain, but Tobold's example is quite on spot what happened. Basically, the USA just got liquidated by the Vice president and nobody could do anything about it...^^

BoB has a bad history of CCP employees giving them special plans and favoring them in one way or another and using similarly questionable "tactics" versus their enemies. So people are not that upset that it happened to them.

But I think it is the perfect example how weird EVE Online's griefing rules are. They are weird, there are not any. The guy did not exploit a bug, so CCP did not do anything against it so far. I have not read any statement on the issue either.

This is not OK. It is indeed Mega-Griefing, not a great "coup". There was the Istvaan shogatsu incident were a player betrayed another player after social engineering/infiltrating into a high position in a guild. Then he just stole everything...^^

It is not cool, it is just mean and actually indeed exploiting flaws of the system.
What interests me is the possibility that one of the Corps in EVE should finally "win" the game and become so powerful that they cannot practically be challenged. For all intents and purposes they would be the government of the game. What kind of government would it turn out to be? A ruthless dictatorship? Democracy? A squabbling band of factions that fall apart shortly after they "win"?

Also, what kind of rules would they enact? Historically the first thing most governments do is enact laws to prevent crime and protect property. Would the final consequence of EVE's FFA play be a set of anti-ganking laws enforced by the players themselves?

It will be a fascinating social experiment if it ever happens.
" Basically, the USA just got liquidated by the Vice president and nobody could do anything about it..."
And that's why the USA has such a carefully designed system of government, with a separation of powers so that no one individual holds all the cards. Was BoB set up that way? If not, that's their problem.
Sven, you are going down the same lane as CCP with many other griefing attempts: Fascinating, social experiment and so on.

Actually, it is only exploiting flaws of the software, and I doubt the "manager" in question is going to face any real repercussions outside of the game, and ingame he is protected by the game itself, players cannot do anything nearly as harmful to him as what he did to BoB.

Sure, you do not want to defend CCP/EVE and think about a really fascinating question and experiment; I just want to point out that EVE cannot be the basis for such an experiment. You can study group dynamics and social networking in EVE indeed, but the complexity of all that gets pretty quickly lost. Basically, major political and whatever effects on gameplay in EVE are just minor and always restrained by the game mechanics themselves, but such extreme exploits are not.
How is this a bad thing? Why should the game have arbitrary rules to limit how a person can play the game? EVE is touted as a sandbox MMORPG with limitless PVP potential in all facets. Is this greifing? Perhaps. Would I be extremely and amazingly pissed if I was in BoB and spent hours of my life helping the corp just for that to happen? You bet your ass.

But I would still support the idea behind it. EVE was never touted as a sterile MMORPG where you can't lose anything, quite the opposite, right from the get go you are warned that you can and will lose your stuff if you aren't careful, and what more the skillpoints you sunk time into can also possibly be lost if you aren't careful on that front as well. Just because you don't necessarily subscribe to the idea behind the game doesn't mean it should conform to your (general, not directed at anyone specific) ideas of what an MMO should be. I want my WoW's alongside my EVE's and my Darkfall's (when/if it comes out).
Every Corporation in EVE is set up this way. The only way to prevent this is to give EVERY member no access to the corp hangar, no official role, no power at all. Then you have one CEO/president and everyone else has no powers/rights.

This is a flaw of the system, not a result of BoB being careless.
I don't call that griefing. I call that PvP.

When playing EVE it should be clear to every player that the game is a different beast than the usual brand of "we love each other let's play together" casual MMOs that Blizzard turned the majority of the market into.

And it shows in the (relatively low) number of players that obviously not everybody is ok with this kind of game. But those playing it know what they are up to.

BoB got their ass wiped? Yes.
Are they crying? Yes.
Would they have done the same to Goonswarm if they could? Yes.

That's EVE Online for you.
*deletes Dirks account*

This is PvP.

--- really?

People are like that. Some will exploit, betray or steal from their fellows. If your guild allows one man complete access to all its resources, it's not your fault if he betrays you, but it is your fault if that betrayal wipes the guild out. History is littered with leaders who sold out their people to rivals in return for a quiet and safe retirement.

Now I'm not an expert of EVE corporate governance, as I only played it briefly, but if you can't prevent one man having access to everything as a single corp, you could simply split into a group of allied ones with a governing council where you vote on decisions. If someone betrays you, the others can then take action in game. Sure that might be less efficient in some cases, but that's the price you pay for having a system that's resilient to betrayal.
I'm kind of conflicted on this one. Goonswarm did nothing wrong in this case and played according to the rules set by CCP. The culprit was a BoB insider using only powers that were explicitly granted to him. As far as I know, no EULA violations took place, and thus there should be no rollback.

However, both Sven and Longasc make valid points. Contemporary representative democracies are set up to provide damage control in case any individual part is compromised, but such limits to power are not supported by in-game mechanics in EvE (or in any other MMO). The de-facto system resembles a dictatorship with multiple dictators. But if you can't provide damage control, pre-emptive intervention is the only option. While this incident was made possible by game mechanics, the underlying issue is that BoB counterintelligence operations failed to identify (or tolerated) a disgruntled member with potentially dangerous amount of power. What did other BoB bigwigs know, and when did they know it?
I don't understand Tobold...

You write a post about the layoffs where basically you say: "hey, life's tough and if you got made redundant then suck it up, it's your fault anyway." People lost their jobs, their means of survival but the expenses (food, housing health) will keep coming. But that's ok.

Two days later you write a post where you are so shocked and appalled by the "mega-griefing" in a game, where people only lost time. Aren't your priorities a bit twisted?

But don't worry, EVE players know what they are into. They fully understand the risks. And probably the BoB's who didn't cry a river of QQ are already joining other corps and planning the downfall of the Goons. But hey, those guys probably want have fun playing a game, not just have fun.
@Longasc: Yes, it would be PvP if we both agreed on a game on "Let's wipe the other out in a game world named internet". It would be griefing if one of us did not agreed on a game like this.

My take is: everything in EVE is tailored to make you feel alone in a hostile environment. Right from the tutorial it screams at you: "This is not a nice place". So, yes, I believe that whoever is playing EVE agrees to the risk of losing their wealth (equal to a lot of playtime).

The Sandbox approach of EVE means that you have loads of layers on which the game can be played and you can be attacked (or attack yourself). It is not limited to ingame physical attacks but also ingame psychological ones. To some, this may be fun as it takes off the limits that most other MMOs put on you. However most will be scared shitless and I understand them, too. Lucky for them there are many games they can choose from to play safely together.

This is actually interesting. Of course, Tobold has no twisted priorities. As you know, he is a casual player. He plays not for the 'engagement' ('dedication'), but for the distraction. In addition, he probably has a well paid job and a stable relationship (married) in real life. In WoW, however, he is always confronted with people who have a 'higher social standing'. In WoW Tobold is the lawyer of the small guy, while in RL money (social standing) probably isn't much of a problem, even if there might be problems sometimes. This explains his perspective.
(If you think this comment is inappropiate, please feel free to delete it, Tobold :) I am not tring to offend anybody. I consider your perspective intersting and probably even the perspective of most WoW players).
This comment has been removed by the author.
Comparing it to deleting someone's character isn't an accurate comparison. This was a person using his own character (no hacking or anything done out of game) to do something to his alliance with powers that had been specifically granted to him by his alliance.
I am a big carebear myself Tobold but I disagree with you about this. A game like EVE allows ordinary folks to gamble for extraordinarily high stakes without actually risking anything in real life. That's the whole point of the game. The adrenaline rush of risking everything gives an intensity of experience you cannot get from a safer game. If you lose it hurts but it is still only a game the losses have no impact in real life.

Sure I am unhappy with the manner of Bob's demise. I would prefer if they had been destroyed on the battlefield rather than through the actions of some miserable turncoat. There does seem to be a balance issue in the game which makes it virtually impossible to dislodge a well established alliance through military means so dirty tricks and subterfuge rule the day. I hope CCP address this imbalance in the future.

I must pull you up on another point Tobold. You keep referring back to your own experiences in the early days of EVE where you lost everything at the hands of a pirate. The game has changed very substantially since then. The game now has many mechanisms which allow you to limit your exposure to risk. Of course you may choose to take greater risks in order to get greater rewards but you can lead a safe but profitable life within EVE if you choose to.

you got that mixed up. I wasn't telling the people who got laid off to "suck it up", I was saying they shouldn't have been surprised. Even if it was their boss who forced them to ship a bad game early, they should have known that that wasn't a reliable basis for life employment. If your company goes down the drain, first doing nothing and then complaining about betrayal in a blog post is not an adequate response.

If something bad happens to you in a video game, an angry blog post is exactly the adequate response. My priorities are exactly right: A video game is far, far less important than your job. So for the unimportant video game an unimportant rant on an unimportant blog is a proportionate reaction. On planning your professional and financial future, you have to do more than just rant on a blog.
I'd hate it if I'd spent years building up an organisation and one bored/burned out officer wiped it all out. But you have to bear in mind that this is EVE so BoB had probably done the same thing to other coporations too on their way up. Live by the sword, die by the sword, etc.
I'd hate it if I'd spent years building up an organisation and one bored/burned out officer wiped it all out. But you have to bear in mind that this is EVE so BoB had probably done the same thing to other coporations too on their way up. Live by the sword, die by the sword, etc.
@Longasc: "All conflicts between major parties were "decided" this way so far. Never by military force or ingame espionage or whatever, it was and is always the same."

I call bullcrap Longasc. While there are examples of major conflicts decided by espionage and sabotage, to declare "all conflicts" have been determined in such manner requires evidence.

To non-Eve players: if you haven't drank the koolaid then this ingame event could seem scandalous to you. But if you have accepted that the premise of Eve is an almost-no-holds-barred sandbox then this event, while highlighting a weakness in the ease of which a major alliance can be disbanded, is an acceptable part of the game. There are many ways to protect your assets and territory that do not include putting them all under guard of a disgruntled alliance leader within reach of the big red button.

For example, BoB as a large alliance could have spilt into several friendly alliances each with a fraction of the assets and territory under control. Alternatively, the holding corporation of the alliance could have limited the directors to one or two trusted people instead of having representatives from all corps as directors. They could have worked harder at keeping directors happy with the current regime. And counter-intelligence to find out what was happening.

Funny thing is, BoB had a director level spy in Goonswarm and used it to flip a couple POSes and make head ways into Goon territory just recently. Who's to say had they kept that spy in place they might have found out about the defector and prevent the disaster? As spinkville said, live by the sword...

Personally, I do think it was too easy. A major act like disbanding an alliance should have a warning timer or require a vote, or something. But the act itself I feel was an acceptable part of the game.
You don't need to know John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory to know that people who are given the power to affect others in large numbers, but no accountability, will often behave like jerks. Jerks hurting a large number of players in an online game risk to hurt the game company indirectly, because the griefed players might just leave. Thus many games have introduced various anti-griefing measures, limiting the power of players to hurt others.

EVE is counting on the fact that some people enjoy being able to push others around, and hope that by providing the means to do so, they will gain more of those PK type of players than they lose carebears. That is a valid business and game design approach. Nevertheless it makes EVE not suitable for everyone, and by pointing out the dangers I'm kind of doing a public service. If you are aware and accept those dangers, go ahead and play EVE. Just know that this in an environment which is having *less* rules than the real world, and in which scams and virtual murder often go unpunished.
I think theres a basic misundrstanding of what the real game in EVE is. Its not about anything the mechanics will or will not let you do, its about trust. How much do you trust the people in your corp (guild)? How do you know you can trust them? How is that trust justified?

The real game in EVE is not about flying around in spaceships and shooting stuff, neither is it about mining asteroids to make in game currency. Its about the people and their interactions and relationships, its basically about trust, honour, honesty, and dealing fairly with your friends, harshly with your enemies. No rules were broken in this case and CCP themselves have said in the past that the only laws that they enforce in EVE are the laws of physics, the rest is up to the players.

The basic lesson to take from this, for those that play EVE, is be very careful who you trust and how you treat them. CCP will not do anything to prevent this kind of thing from happening as it would destroy the very thing which makes EVE a great MMO. Those that ask them to obviously aren't ready for the harsh reality of the real world, let alone the imaginary world of EVE. Intrigue and political machinations are the lifeblood of EVE, to limit them through the use of arbitrary rules and game mechanics goes against the whole underlying philosophy of the game.
"Our guilds are designed as medium to long term investments of, ideally, at least five years.

Both Epixxx and world first values may fall as well as rise and are not guaranteed.

You may not get back the time you invested.

If you choose a guild which invests in other games, changes in exchange rates between epixxx may cause the value of your time and the level of l33tness to rise and fall. "
I think the main problem I have with this is there is no way for the traitor to be brought to any sort of justice. Eve is not set up to allow that because there are no real repercussions.

See people always want to compare stuff that happens in EvE to RL but in RL something like this would have huge repercussions and whoever did it would be known and trackable. Not so in Eve and that to me is where Eve falls down.
The real game in EVE is then... relentless abuse of flawed game mechanics? Trusting or not trusting someone is of course part of the game... but anyone who plays EVE knows how crude the "rights" are that you can give to players. People already commented on it, it is too easy to screw up a whole alliance, thousands of players and they can only sit there and watch.

I am all for "freedom" and against carebear-friendly restriction. But this does not equal applauding the abuse of flawed and insufficient game mechanics.

Mandrill, the comparison of the harsh realities of the real world compared with the harsh world of EVE, where only the strong survive made me chuckle. You are giving the game by far too much credit. It also creates this annoying image of EVE players being hardcore PKs, which actually is not true, I think the trial month is enough to experience that EVE is not a PvP space shooter with economics.

I mentioned this already in my first comment, CCP and the EVE community are incredible when it comes to turning asocial exploits and flaws of the game into a unique gaming experience only EVE can deliver, underlining the quality of the game... mind-twisting propaganda that I really cannot leave undisputed. :(
See people always want to compare stuff that happens in EvE to RL but in RL something like this would have huge repercussions and whoever did it would be known and trackable. Not so in Eve and that to me is where Eve falls down.
What do you mean? His identity is known, locator agents can tell you where he is and anyone can try to kill him. The point of 0.0 space is that players are the law. It's not like he could transfer to an another server, change his name and be unattackable by the very people he offended..
Mandrill, the comparison of the harsh realities of the real world compared with the harsh world of EVE, where only the strong survive made me chuckle. You are giving the game by far too much credit. It also creates this annoying image of EVE players being hardcore PKs, which actually is not true, I think the trial month is enough to experience that EVE is not a PvP space shooter with economics.
The majority of players reside in the relative safety of Empire space, yes. But even Empire navies and CONCORD do not provide protection, just retribution. And they stay well out of players' way if a war is declared. But if you think that EvE is not a PvP space shooter with economics, would you mind telling me what EvE is?

You're right. "EVE is not a PvP space shooter with economics." EVE is PvP. Full stop. End of sentence.

Everything in EVE is PvP, yes even mining. You mine, on your own, never encountering another player, not participating in the chat. Then you go to a station and sell what you have mined, to another player. That action has had a direct effect on the other players who are also selling their mined ore, in that the player who bought from you, didn't buy from them. You are competing for that player's business. That is PvP. No shooting involved.

Everything in EVE from mission running, mining, and small scale piracy to the machiavellian machinations of the big alliances is PvP. So you're right EVE is not a PvP space shooter with economics, its much bigger than that. All your other points were wrong though :P

1. There are no game mechanics regulating player behaviour in EVE so they can hardly be said to be flawed. The corporate management mechanics work just fine as long as you are careful who you give power to.

2. You say you're all for 'freedom' and against carebear friendly restrictions but then that the current mechanics aren't restrictive enough? The event in question, it has already been established, did not abuse a bug, exploit, or other eula breaking mechanism. The mechanic for the distribution of roles within an alliance/corporation worked exactly as intended, BoB was just careless about a) who they gave that power to and b) how they treated them. It was not the mechanic of the game that was flawed but the judgement of the human beings using it.

3. As for my comparison of EVE with the real world, its an awful lot closer to reality in the way the humans inhabiting it behave than any other MMO, and as per my previous point; you don't need to be a PK to play EVE and participate in the PvP. You do it even if you never leave empire. Somwhere down the line your actions will have repercussions which will, in some small way, cause the loss of a ship or even a battle. You don't even have to fire a shot in anger. This is far more 'real' than the strictly regimented play available in the WoW or WAR themeparks.

4. I'll say it again: This event was not the result of an exploit. It was politics and espionage, all fair play in the kind of world that EVE (and RL) is. The flaws are only flaws in your eyes, they are only flaws because they don't fit with your idea of how a game should work

5. Shalkis already made my point for me on this one but I'll emphasize it here. There are ways of tracking that character within the game. If he was at director level in BoB, thats a pretty high level to get to and to do that you need skills, in EVE skills take time. I doubt the player whose character it was would really want to never play that character again and have to start from scratch with a new one, he may have spent years develping that character's skills. If he chooses to remain as that character in game then he will always be looking over his shoulder, he will never be fully trusted again, by anyone, and the remains of BoB will hunt him down and make his life in EVE a misery. If you thought that this single act constituted griefing then what the perpetrator of this stunning peice of political maneuvering now has to look forward to will be orders of magnitude worse.

I'm willing to agree to disagree on this issue, EVE is obviously not for you (I'm assuming from the content of your posts that you don't actually play, if I'm mistaken I apologise. But seriously if this is really the way you feel about EVE you shouldn't play it). Thats ok though, it isn't for everyone, if it was it would be a casual game like WoW (ducks :P) and not the epic thing of beauty that it is.
"Just know that this in an environment which is having *less* rules than the real world, and in which scams and virtual murder often go unpunished."
There is a misunderstanding: In RL there are no more rules than in Eve - actually much less. But the 'players' of RL created pseudo rules. Rules that usually apply to most people.

But just like an agent or a group of people in WW2 can steal and crack the german enigma code and not be punished or a pilot can throw a nuclear bomb on Nagasaki, these rules not always apply. EVE creates its own rules. But to do this players need to play it seriously and that is not enjoyable for people who play WoW five hours the week for the distraction.

Politics, ethics, social drama is what makes human life intersting and it is what distinguishes a MMO from all other computer games. To enjoy it, however, you cannot play it like Tetris.
This wasn't a case of grieving at all, just being careless on Bob's part. Spying and infiltrating another alliance / corp is part of the game.
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