Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Truth About Wardecs, Part 6

Previously, on MinerBumping... The carebears and their allies in the CSM and CCP continued to spread the old whopper about wardec mechanics being unfairly stacked against the defending side. This myth was hauled out of the dustbin of history to be busted anew.

As we've seen, CCP has gone to some length to demonstrate how few EVE players benefit from the existence of wardecs. First it was comments in the CSM summit minutes claiming that wardecs "allow a small number of players to negatively affect a huge number of people," and then the EVE Vegas presentation about how only 5 "corps" are responsible for 50% of the wardecs.

A negative attitude about wardeccers, always simmering among carebears in the background, has suddenly sprung to life. Take, for example, PC Gamer's new article about the upcoming wardec nerfs. Below are a few snippits from the article. See if you can detect a pattern in the new narrative being written about wardeccers:
"Conflict is the lifeblood of EVE Online, but how players initiate a war is a serious problem. Right now, 50 percent of all wars in EVE Online are instigated by just five corporations (EVE's version of guilds) who are exploiting the system to sow pain and chaos across the virtual galaxy of New Eden...

For years this system has been exploited by a few groups who act as a kind of mafia, shaking down much weaker, industrial-minded corporations and forcing them into a war they stand no chance of winning. While EVE is a sandbox meant to have as few restrictions as possible, being forced into a battle you have no chance of winning or escaping from is a special kind of hell...

And that these bullies were destroying 105 ships for every one that they lost...

In early 2019, CCP Games is going to redo the war declaration system from the ground up to eliminate this kind of trolling. It's just one more interesting niche playstyle in the EVE Online universe, even if these war mongers are basically just big jerks..."
Ah, video game journalism. Reading this article, one might forget that for the entirety of EVE history, CCP considered wardecs to be legitimate.

In fact, there were good reasons why wardecs were allowed--even encouraged!--to flourish across highsec. Even if you preferred not to engage in wardecs yourself, you certainly benefited from them. Wardecs have always had a positive impact on the game and on the vast majority of players.

To begin with, there's something incredibly valuable about having spaceship combat going on in a spaceship combat game, and especially having it occur in the place where the vast majority of EVE players actually live. Every player who still has an ounce of humanity, any player who has not yet been completely corrupted by bot-aspirancy, benefits from at least witnessing PvP. If you live in highsec and grind isk all day, the sight of wardec-related activities at least reminds you for a moment what EVE is, and what it should be. PvP must always be in the atmosphere, even in CONCORD-patrolled highsec.

Countless newbies are exploited by highsec PvE corporations. If they're not careful, isk-minded older players get drawn in by them, too. They are encouraged to spend all day grinding. They waste their EVE experience on repetitive, unrewarding tasks. Even what little money they make is further taxed by shady ore buyback programs and other machinations devised by their cruel carebear taskmasters. Through sheer force of inertia and habit, or a sense of misplaced loyalty to their fellow corpmates, or out of ignorance of the outside world of EVE, the isk-grinders would languish in these prisons forever. Until they are set free.

Who liberates them? The PvP'ers. People who actually know how to play EVE attack these corp-sized loot piƱatas. Inevitably, the bad corporations implode, freeing their members to go elsewhere. Maybe they end up in another bad corp, but maybe they find their way to a better place in EVE. Maybe they become PvP'ers themselves--perhaps they even learn to destroy bad corps like the one they used to be trapped in.

Someone needs to break apart the weak, dysfunctional corps of highsec. Otherwise they'll hoover up all the new players--the ones whose welfare they claim to care about so much. We've seen how bad corps aggressively recruit players who end up slaving away in the highsec asteroid belts with nothing to show for it. How is an ignorant young EVE player (or ignorant old EVE player) supposed to know that they're in a bad corp, unless the corp is tested by fire and antimatter?

And yes, wardecs are needed to help combat the risk/reward/convenience imbalance of highsec. The carebears hypocritically accuse the wardeccers of not taking enough risks. These same carebears insist on absolute immunity from all risk in highsec. Meanwhile, they claim that if the rewards of highsec were nerfed, everyone would quit the game. So in order for CCP to survive, they say, the carebears must receive sufficient rewards with zero risk--all in the most convenient location in the entire game. In Jita, they can buy the maximum supply of every item, at the minimum prices, and they can make a few jumps to their highsec incursion site, all while immune from attack. And these same people claimed that wardecs weren't balanced?

The powers that be want us to disdain the wardeccers, to look down upon their style of play as illegitimate. "If they want spaceship combat, they should go to nullsec." But the wardeccer chooses to engage in solo or small-gang PvP that doesn't involve joining a 50,000-man coalition or getting a pile of carriers or titans dropped on him every time the action starts. "Go to lowsec, then." How are things in lowsec these days?

No, I do not disdain the wardeccer--or the next group to be targeted, once the wardeccers have been done away with.

Think back to the words of that PC Gamer article:

"Conflict is the lifeblood of EVE Online, but..."
"EVE is a sandbox meant to have as few restrictions as possible, but..."

Today, they fill in those blanks with "...but we need to eliminate wardecs." Tomorrow, they can fill in the blanks with any other form of gameplay that still involves PvP.

First they came for the can-flippers, and I did not speak out because I was not a can-flipper.

Then they came for the awoxers, and I did not speak out because I was not an awoxer.

Then they came for the wardeccers, and I did not speak out because I was not a wardeccer.

Then they came for the suicide gankers, and there was no one left to speak for them because everyone else was AFK.

My friends, there are dark forces at work here. Next time, we'll discover how and why we reached this point--and what will happen next.

To be continued...

Monday, October 22, 2018

The Truth About Wardecs, Part 5

Previously, on MinerBumping... The carebears demanded that restrictions be placed on wardecs so that wars would "have an end result". But this was exposed for the nonsense that it is.

Among theme parkists and their allies in CCP, the CSM, and elsewhere, there's a long-standing tradition of complaining that wardec mechanics are unfairly stacked in favor of the aggressor. If you initiate a wardec against someone else, so we're told, you have an insurmountable advantage.

All the way back in 2013, I wrote an editorial for TheMittani.com on this very subject. Not to toot my own horn, but I destroyed the carebears' argument and, also to my great credit, showed magnanimity in victory. For the next five and a half years, CCP declined to nerf wardecs. Maybe they were persuaded by my editorial. Or maybe they were simply too lazy to fix this supposedly dire problem that was killing EVE and costing the company millions of dollars in subscription fees.

But those who do not learn from their history (or from the Saviour of Highsec) are doomed to repeat it. The "wardecs unfairly favor the attacker" fallacy has come back with a vengeance. In keeping with modern carebear lingo, you might call it a "new returning fallacy": It's many years old, but it expects to be given special treatment as though it were brand new. During the CSM summit last month, this myth about wardecs was rediscovered, much to the awe of all present:
"Brisc Rubal speculates that the war mechanics are heavily tilted towards the attacker and CCP Fozzie says this is indeed the case.... The current system is extremely skewed in the favor of aggressors."
As I wrote back in 2013, the most basic analysis of wardec mechanics shows this to be false. The aggressor is required to pay the wardec fee, and the defender can call in allies. That second part is often overlooked, but it means the wardec mechanics are heavily tilted in favor of the defender, not the attacker.

An easy way to judge the fairness of a game mechanic is to imagine a conflict between two identical alliances. The two are equal in every way. Who wins the fight? If the game mechanic is completely fair, then the fight is a draw, a toss-up. In the case of our wardec mechanics, the defending side would win, because they can call in allies. (Without the war ally mechanic, the system would be fair, unless you envision the wardec fee affecting the odds in some minuscule but statistically measurable way.)

If you doubt, consider the nullsec sovereignty mechanics of the past and present. Over the years, the various sovereignty mechanics have come under fire for being too skewed, usually in favor of the defender. That is, the aggressor needed to be significantly more powerful than the defender in order to complete whatever grind was required by the sov mechanics of the day. If the two alliances or coalitions were identical in strength, the defender would surely win.

The nullsec example is important because aggressors could and did succeed in sov wars, despite the mechanics being stacked in the defender's favor. In fact, the aggressor usually did win. That's because the attacking side only chose to become an attacker after evaluating the strength of his potential opponent and calculating the odds of overcoming the defender's advantage.

...Which is a nice way of saying that nullsec powers preyed on the weak. Only when the attacker misjudged the strength of his opponent did the defender win. On the other hand, if we take something more like an omniscient point of view, the defenders won every time a potential attacker decided not to go to war. From the defender's point of view, a war that doesn't happen is as good as a victory--and probably a lot cheaper.

The fact that we can't see these invisible victories, and the fact that we can see every attacker's victory, might lead us to believe the aggressor always wins, even when we know for certain that the sov mechanics favor the defender. When the aggressor does win, it's because the attacking alliance is stronger. The stronger alliance has the advantage, but its advantages are not supplied by the game mechanics. If we fail to realize this, then we would be misled into thinking every game mechanic--no matter how stacked in favor of the defender--actually favors the attacker, because the wars that take place tend to result in victories for the attacker.

This brings us to the presentation given by CCP Burger at the EVE Vegas event a few days ago. During the presentation, CCP Burger released some statistics about wardecs in an attempt to justify CCP's newly announced nerf to wardecs (which we'll discuss in some detail later on). Judging by his profile, CCP Burger joined the company in 2015, a couple years after we dealt with CCP's previous anti-wardec push. If CCP Burger was unfamiliar with the 2013 debate, then that would be another example of why CCP should just let me make these design decisions, rather than entrusting the task to CCP employees.

Here's the relevant slide from CCP Burger's anti-wardec presentation:

The first statistic is that only five corporations (they're called "alliances", Burger) are responsible for half of the wardecs in EVE. (The five should have been identified and given a place of honour in the presentation, but I guess that's too much to ask.) Now, this statistic isn't actually a criticism of the wardec mechanics, but it's an attempt to suggest that few people will miss wardecs after they're gone. In the same vein, I could say that nearly all of nullsec (if not all of it) is controlled by five coalitions.

The next two stats are meant to prove the overwhelming advantage that the current wardec system gives the attacker. In looking at the stats, though, one must wonder: If initiating a wardec makes you so powerful, why don't more people do it? It seems like an easy way to achieve an elite 105 kill-to-death ratio. I suppose EVE players aren't risk-averse or cutthroat enough to engage in the use of such an obviously abusive game mechanic.

The 4% stat is interesting, but misleading. As we learned from CCP's study of wardecs back in 2013, which I discussed in my editorial for TheMittani.com, only a small percentage of wardecs result in even a single kill for either side. This fact is conveniently omitted in CCP Burger's presentation, making it appear the defenders perform even worse than they actually do. Even so, we can't ignore that 105 KDR. How can something like that happen?

Everyone who has experience with wardecs will tell you the same thing. Even if you use use a one-member corporation to do the wardeccing, carebears are usually so intimidated that they'll drop corp, dissolve their corp, or stay docked up. Such wars result in no kills. Some carebears will continue to engage in carebearing during a war. The best of them (a low bar, I'll grant you) will defend their carebear operations with actual combat ships. They might even bring enough firepower to ward off an attack, if the wardeccing organization is small enough, or is a solo operator. Again, no kills, even though the defender has gotten his way.

More often, carebears choose not to bring defense ships, but will stay alert. Either through the use of scouts or simply keeping a watchful eye on local, they'll detect a war target entering the system and they'll run and hide. The defender has escaped. If you call this a win, still, no kill is recorded.

If the carebear is a bot-aspirant, like so many of them are, he'll be caught, and another one of the wardeccer's 105 kills per death will be recorded. It's unlikely that the carebear will score a kill against the wardeccer, since he's probably not even at his keyboard.

Carebears are the gazelles of highsec. The wardeccers, naturally, are the lions. The lions hunt the gazelles, and the gazelles try to get away. We do not expect gazelles and lions to have an even kill-to-death ratio. Most carebears have no more interest in killing wardeccers than gazelles have in killing lions. They want to engage in PvE. They would prefer it if there were no lions, only vegetation. But there are lions, and the weak gazelles are meant to be their food.

Bot-aspirants plague highsec. They go there for the safety and for the convenience. They've heard rumors that nullsec mining is safer than highsec mining, but they aren't interested in the "safety" that nullsec has to offer. They're satisfied with nothing less than the kind of safety that allows them to be AFK. They think they're entitled to it. And they'd rather mine five jumps from Jita than fifty.

We do not expect these creatures to score kills against the wardeccers. PvP isn't "relaxing", and it can't be done AFK. This bot-aspirancy is the same reason why carebears don't even bother to call in allies, even though the wardec system allows them to have someone else do their fighting for them. Carebears simply can't be bothered with anything that isn't AFK isk grinding. They don't want PvP, but for the sake of EVE, they need to have their ships blown up. Next time, we shall discuss why.

To be continued...

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Kills of the Week

You've heard the saying, "No good deed goes unpunished." Then came the Code, and all was set right. Now we have a new saying: "No bad ship goes unpunished." For the proof, see these kills from the week of October 14th @ 00:00 EVEtime through October 20th @ 23:59 EVEtime:

Jack Jills went up to Jita and broke his crown--among other things. Jack didn't have a mining permit, you see. Nor did he have the good sense to teleport his jump freighter to safety. No matter--I'm sure he didn't mind losing 42.6 billion isk anyway.

Agents Tax Collector Shardani, Tax Collector Kimi, Tax Collector KarlMarx, Tax Collector Hill, Tax Collector Aruka, Tax Collector Larry, Tax Collector BokChoy, Tax Collector Richard, Tax Collector Stroheim, Tax Collector AynRand, Tax Collector Max, Tax Collector Kittens, Tax Collector Molly, Tax Collector HongMei, Australian Excellence, Tax Collector Alison, Tax Collector Daniel, Tax Collector Buck, Tax Collector Yuna, Tax Collector Fuemi, Tax Collector Rachel, Tax Collector Otto, HSM Chief PettyOfficer, HSM Fleet Admiral, and HSM MasterChief brought nearly two dozen Taloses into battle. You know what? They won.

Chatherin Yao gambled it all--and lost. Catherin flushed 49 billion isk down the drain when she chose to violate the Code in Jita. Many, many taxes were collected that day.

Agents Tax Collector Kittens, Pod Destroyer Molly, Tax Collector Aruka, Taxman Daniel, Tax Collector HongMei, Tax Collector Richard, Tax Collector Shardani, Tax Collector Stroheim, Tax Collector BokChoy, Tax Collector KarlMarx, Tax Collector AynRand, Tax Collector Kimi, Tax Collector Hill, Tax Collector Yuna, Tax Collector Max, Tax Collector Larry, Australian Excellence, Tax Collector Fuemi, Tax Collector Otto, Tax Collector Rachel, Tax Collector Buck, Tax Collector Alison, and Dr Hattrick had another successful round of elite PvP. Good for them. Excellence should be rewarded.

Giant Industrials corp lost its 26.5 billion isk engineering complex after being subjected to an agonizing campaign of bullying and harassment. Isn't that what they're saying about wardecs these days? Agents Kissemurra, Blazing Pancake, Ice is Nice, Discofitta, Delicate Feminine Flower, Chocolate Rainbow, Sigrid Tystnad, Love Humps, Dominated, Jathrine, Rainbow Cake, and Kermakakku brought a fleet into battle. They couldn't lose. Some would say it's because wardec mechanics magically make the aggressor invincible. They're wrong. Only the Code can do that.

Selyemsuty laughed at the jump freighter pilots who manage to lose billions of isk while AFK autopiloting through highsec. He laughed because he knew he didn't need a jump freighter to do that; he had a perfectly good Bustard that could do the same job. Agents Gandor Ironfist, iZaEaRl, and Spazmongloid brought in a trio of Tornadoes and detonated 8.5 billion isk worth of contraband.

Dimar Press is a very wicked man. Some carebears abuse battleship hulls, for instance, making a Megathron into a mining ship. Dimar made a Vindicator into a cargo-expanded freak of a hauler. This is the kind of ship you'd expect to see in an old horror film--not in our fair highsec. The heroes in those old movies knew how to handle monsters. So do our Agents, like Jake Kusion, Joel Kusion, Jayson Kusion, Jackson Kusion, Jayden Kusion, Johnathan Kusion, Joshua Kusion, Jeremiah Kusion, Joseph Kusion, Jacob Kusion, Jason Kusion, Jonas Kusion, Jack Kusion, Jeffery Kusion, Jeremy Kusion, Josh Kusion, Jimmy Kusion, Josiah Kusion, Jessie Kusion, Justin Kusion, HSM Rear Admiral, and HSM Admiral.

Not unlike Dracula himself, who often needs to be killed a few times before he's finally done and dusted, Dimar Press emerged from his blingy cargo Vindi as a blingy Capsule. Agent Jimmy Kusion drove a stake right through his heart.

That's 2.23 billion isk worth of implants that will never see the light of day again.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Truth About Wardecs, Part 4

Previously, on MinerBumping... Carebears attempted to disguise the selfish motives behind their demands for nerfs, hiding behind a veil of concern for newbies. But their lies were exposed by Malcanis' Law and a piercing analysis of the history of wardec nerfs.

For the past decade, the carebears who demand an end to wardecs have consistently used the same absurd arguments. One of their most frequent--and most outlandish--claims is that wardecs are broken because "wardecs don't accomplish anything". Here's a quote from CCP Fozzie that encapsulates this point of view:
"What really needs to happen with wardecs is that we get to a point where, when one group wardecs another group, at the end of the day, something gets resolved... When wardecs happen, both sides get to have potentially fun gameplay, and the end result has an actual end result."
The source of this quote is not the CSM summit from last month--it's from a Crossing Zebras interview that was conducted with Fozzie all the way back in 2013. Clearly, CCP was too busy with other projects to bring Fozzie's vision for wardecs into reality; wardec mechanics haven't been touched in over six years. But the idea that wardecs require some sort of objective "result" has been echoed by carebears and is still with us.

CCP's recent discovery that wardecced corps often suffer a permanent decrease in activity post-wardec prove that, in fact, wardecs often do have a result: The extinction of the losing side. MinerBumping readers have occasionally been treated to field reports describing the use of wardecs to bring about positive results. The evidence suggests there's no cause for complaint here.

In any case, the complaint itself is bizarre and unnatural. It has no place in EVE: In no other context do we find people complaining that spaceship combat doesn't have a concrete "end result". For instance, in nullsec, coalitions go to war with other coalitions. Sometimes one of the coalitions is destroyed as a consequence, but sometimes they both survive. Some conflicts end in stalemate. Other conflicts burn on continuously, or they change form. In still other cases, one side gets bored or gives up, leaving its intended victim intact. The same is true of the fights that go on in lowsec and wormhole space. Yet no one demands that an arbitrary framework be overlaid so that these wars have a "resolution".

It has always been understood that in EVE, the players make the rules and the content for themselves. The players define their own goals. They make their own plans and attempt to achieve their own objectives. It's emergent gameplay on a grand scale. The Code, of course, is the most brilliant, shining example of this truth. The Code is the crowning achievement of the EVE sandbox. It's something that no one in CCP could ever have conceived or designed.

In the most recent CSM summit, it's obvious that the CSM and CCP have lost sight of this--when it comes to wardecs, that is. A few highlights (or lowlights, if you prefer):
"Sort Dragon mentions the idea of using propaganda structures as a means of ending the war in the form of a victory condition to end the war."
"Aryth brings up a king of the hill scenario as a new war mechanic."
"Jin'taan suggests a goal being ships killed."

Several years ago, Pandemic Legion leader Shadoo was faced with a dilemma. At the time, PL and TEST Alliance Please Ignore had formed a coalition to rival the power of the CFC (later known as the Imperium). There was a cold war between the two power blocs, and all of nullsec held its breath, waiting for war to break out. PL considered itself to be the most elite PvP'ers in the game, more than capable of defeating the CFC and its Goons. However, Shadoo was afraid that if an all-out war did take place, his side might actually have a chance of losing. That might mean the end of PL. On the other hand, if war didn't take place--if PL didn't challenge its only true rival--then what was the point of being elite? What was the point of EVE?

Shadoo came up with an alternative, which he called "War Games". He outlined his proposal in an editorial for TheMittani.com (the predecessor of Imperium.News). Shadoo's idea was that the two coalitions could have prearranged fleet fights with special rules, rather than actually trying to conquer each other's sovereignty. That way, EVE players could engage in spaceship combat without either side running the risk of losing.

The reaction from the EVE community was swift and vicious. Everyone hated Shadoo's idea, and he was endlessly mocked for it. Players instinctively grasped that EVE was the "war game", and that Shadoo's idea was a fundamental violation of it. Even Ripard Teg, the author of Jester's Trek, wrote a scathing rebuke, calling Shadoo's proposal "Chinese Checkers".

The story had a happy ending: Shadoo's concept was rejected by all as un-EVE. Since PL was afraid to fight the CFC, the CFC launched an invasion of PL's primary coalition partner, TEST. Known by history as the Fountain War, this invasion resulted in the loss of all of TEST's territory in nullsec as PL refused to fully commit to defend its ally. But the Fountain War wasn't the end for TEST or PL. The story of nullsec continued, written by the players.

Wardecs don't need artificial victory conditions. They don't need to become a highsec version of Chinese Checkers where each side engages in a minigame and the "winner" is declared, with some predetermined carrot or stick automatically dispensed by the game mechanics. Wardecs are as they should be: A mechanic that enables the two sides to fight it out without CONCORD intervention. Maybe they bring fleets to camp gates or stations, maybe they engage in small, scattered guerilla war. Maybe one side stays docked up and refuses to fight. Maybe one side dissolves its corp or withers away as its members leave. Maybe one side realizes its weakness and joins an alliance for its own protection. It's up to the players, not an NPC referee.

Anyone can see that the "wardecs must have an end result" crowd is engaging in unnecessary, un-EVE nonsense. Why do they do it, then? Because their true motive is to nerf wardecs into oblivion. Any proposal to change wardecs in this manner inevitably descends into a system of strict limitations on wardecs. They want to force the attacker to have "skin in the game"--beyond the wardec fee, of course. The attacker, in their minds, is the bad guy. On some level, they view the side that initiates a wardec to be the griefer, the harasser, the bully. So the wardec mechanic they propose is designed as a potential punishment, to discourage anyone from daring to initiate a wardec.

To justify this, the carebears and their allies have deluded themselves into believing that wardecs inherently favor the aggressor and unfairly stack the deck against the recipient. As we shall see, they are painfully, inescapably mistaken.

To be continued...

Friday, October 19, 2018

The Truth About Wardecs, Part 3

Previously, on MinerBumping... CCP and the CSM discussed their fears about how wardecs are driving people away from EVE--though the statistical evidence didn't appear to back it up. Regardless, wardec mechanics are now a question of senior management's "business goals".

Last time, we saw the concerns raised by CSM members about the effect of wardecs on new players, and how CCP's own stats suggested wardeccers don't actually target newbies. Long-time readers know that this sort of thing isn't a recent development: Grizzled vets have long demanded changes "for the sake of the newbros" when they really hope to benefit themselves.

This phenomenon is so commonplace in EVE, and it's so ingrained in EVE culture, that there's a name for it: Malcanis' Law. The eponymous Malcanis (a former CSM member himself) coined the law ten years ago.
"Malcanis' Law: Whenever a mechanics change is proposed on behalf of 'new players', that change is always to the overwhelming advantage of richer, older players."
There are critics of Malcanis' Law, chief among them CCP Fozzie himself. According to Fozzie, the law is meaningless because it could apply to any mechanics change. Theoretically, richer, older players are always better able to take advantage of any mechanic.

However, Fozzie misses the point. Malcanis' Law challenges us to see the "for the sake of the newbros" justifications for the smokescreen that they are. The motives of those who cry loudest about protecting newbies shouldn't be trusted.

We see this often in everyday MinerBumping posts. Carebears demand special treatment because they're "new", only to be exposed as 10-year vets of the game. Or they turn out to be experienced players who then claim they recently came back--the so-called "new returning player".

In every corner of the internet where carebears demand nerfs to highsec PvP, we find their almost unbelievably clumsy arguments. Take, for example, the case of freighter ganking. Freighter pilots have been begging CCP to nerf the practice of freighter ganking for years. On multiple occasions, CCP has complied, only to be met with more nerf-begging after freighters continued to be ganked. The rationale? "Protect new players."

Of course, people who own expensive ships with a bunch of skillpoint requirements are not newbies. A newbie might own a Venture, or possibly even a Retriever, but he certainly is not autopiloting a 10 billion isk jump freighter through Uedama. You'd think the pro-newbie carebears would admit this. Somehow, though, the blingier the ship, the more likely the gank recipient is to moan about the need to protect newbros from ganks.

When questioned on this point, the theme park crowd eventually threw up its hands and declared all ships in highsec to be potentially newbie-owned. During a CSM summit a few years back, highsec carebear Mike Azariah famously declared:
"You said the guy in the blinged out Golem is ganked. But those are often noobs who have purchased a character and ship with PLEX. I have met these people who are only three weeks old. They can still be new players."
The addition of skill point injectors stretched this flimsy logic even further. The owner of any ship, no matter how expensive or SP-intensive, could be a newbie. If you care about retaining new players, you shouldn't even gank a blinged-out faction battleship or bling-laden jump freighter.

And so it is with wardecs. Demands for nerfs to wardecs aren't new. As with freighter ganking, wardecs have been nerfed on more than one occasion over the years. Each time, the nerf-begging was framed as a way to rescue newbies from the pitiless might of older players. Upon closer examination of these efforts, we find Malcanis' Law to hold: The nerfs to wardecs were made in service of richer, older players.

The most noteworthy moment in wardec history came all the way back in 2007, when the Privateer Alliance was at the height of its power. The Privateers, originally a small group of highsec wardeccers, became infamous when they began camping the Jita 4-4 undock and wardeccing everyone in sight. Eventually, they implemented an open recruitment system (not unlike that of Pandemic Horde) and invited anyone and everyone to join the fun. At one point, the Privateers had over 150 wardecs running simultaneously--including all the biggest alliances in the game.

Rather than simply overwhelming the Privateers with numbers, the wardec recipients simply cried and begged CCP for a nerf to wardecs. But the crying was led by the big nullsec alliances, who had two main problems with the Privateers. First, the nullsec alliances weren't used to having their highsec logistics threatened; they preferred to use highsec as a safe zone where they could gather their supplies and convoy them at leisure. Second, the Privateers began to dominate the killboards. Before, the Band of Brothers alliance topped the charts. The Privateers ruined that by out-killing the elite nullsec alliances by an order of magnitude.

When CCP nerfed wardecs to shut down the Privateers, some newbies did benefit, if their corp/alliance happened to be caught up in the Privateers' net. But the changes were made at the behest of the most powerful nullsec alliances, which also happened to be the noisiest whiners.

When CCP overhauled wardec mechanics in 2012, it was even more clear that Malcanis' Law governed the proceedings. Before, big alliances and small alliances carried the same wardec fee: 50 million isk. CCP changed the system so that big alliances were much more expensive to wardec. To wardec the biggest alliances, it costs 500 million isk per week. This incentivized wardeccers to attack smaller alliances, rather than going after the big fish.

This may seem bizarre, since it's obvious that the fee structure benefits the established groups and hurts the newer ones, which are naturally going to be smaller. According to CCP, this was done because wardeccing big alliances gives the wardeccers more targets to shoot at, so they should have to pay more for the privilege. In reality, the fee structure was put in place to protect the big nullsec alliances' highsec logistics--just as when the Privateers were nerfed into oblivion five years earlier.

Likewise, the pearl-clutching we see today has little to do with protecting newbies from the inconvenience of spaceship combat in a spaceship combat game. Having exposed the truth about the carebears' motives, let us examine the substance of their complaints about the wardec mechanics.

To be continued...

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Truth About Wardecs, Part 2

Previously, on MinerBumping... CCP conducted research into the wardec system. Their study showed some stark numbers, starkly demonstrating a stark reality: EVE is dying* because of wardecs!

You know, people have been fretting about new players, newbies, and newbros for a long time. It's the EVE equivalent of the cry, "Won't somebody think of the children?" Generations have come and gone during the years EVE players spent worrying about newbies. The CSM was worrying about the fate of newbies back when today's grizzled vets were newbies themselves.

It's natural, then, that when stark, stark numbers about wardecs were shown to the CSM, everyone recoiled in terror--wardecs are making newbies quit the game! There were, however, brief moments in the discussion that spoiled the mood. From the minutes:
"CCP Lebowski brings up the data which shows that it's not actually a lot of brand new players that are being war decced, because they are not worth declaring war on most likely. Typically it's more established corporations that get hit once they are big enough to be a target. This does however still affect new players such as in Karmafleet, Brave Newbies and so on indirectly through which corporations are being decced. The CSM feels that looking at the corporations being decced is not the approach but rather we should focus on the the age and retention rates of the players who die due to war."
Ah, that's the trouble with statistics. You need to look at the specifics. Speaking of which, let's take a closer look at what was revealed about CCP's (still classified) study:
"CCP Larrikin pulls up activity data for players of corporations that have wars declared against them and it shows considerable activity drops in all activities during the war. They also show that the low activity continues after the war ends."
Anyone who has fired off a flurry of wardecs knows that most targets turtle up when war comes. Carebears prefer not to engage in combat with other players--unless they somehow manage to get an overwhelming advantage. Of course, they condemn habitual PvP'ers for doing the same thing; in those situations, shooting a spaceship constitutes griefing, bullying, harassment--or even torture, if TeamSpeak is involved. Since carebears are bad at PvP, they typically avoid it whenever possible. During a wardec, that might mean staying docked up or logged out. Hence the drop in corp members' activity.

That doesn't necessarily mean the players themselves go entirely inactive, though. Players use all sorts of wardec evasion tactics, such as dropping corp or (in the case of small corporations), dissolving the corp. CCP Larrikin says their study looked at the activity of members of wardecced corporations. Did the characters' activity continue to get tracked if the character left the corp? The minutes don't say, but the easiest way to conduct the study--and the most narratively convenient--would be to measure the activity of whoever was in the corp during the observed period. If so, the results would be supremely misleading: When a wardecced corp died and its members scattered to the winds, the study would show zero activity, implying that all of the members of the wardecced corp quit the game, even if they all continued to be active in other corps or NPC corps.

Even supposing a more thorough method of player-tracking was used, there are other problems with measuring the effects of wardecs this way. It's more the exception than the rule for every character a player controls to be in the same corp or alliance. When a carebear's corp is wardecced, he'll typically play a different character. He may also play characters on a different account, or an alpha account. It's easy to measure the activity of a corp. It's much more challenging to track the activity of players who freely switch to different corps, characters, and accounts. But when judging the things that CCP cares about, like player retention, subscription numbers, and revenue, it's the players, not the corps, that matter.

Speaking of which, here's another revealing tidbit from the minutes:
"Sort Dragon wants to take a step back and not worry as much about the mechanic specifics but rather what the next steps involved in this change. CCP Fozzie says that at this point they are waiting for a more detailed request from the senior management to see what the business goal is in this case, but are still investigating the potential mechanic changes."
This is an amusing admission to be included in a public document. Rather than concerning themselves with designing mechanics to make the best possible game, the sole focus is altering the wardec system to meet senior management's business goals. Considering CCP Fozzie's role as a senior game designer, it's also striking that he needs an order from senior management before he can design a change to the wardec mechanics. I don't recall reading anything like this in previous CSM minutes. Is this a sign that things have changed since CCP was purchased by Pearl Abyss? (The acquisition of CCP was publicly announced on September 6th, the final day of the "Winter Summit".) Does "senior" management mean someone more senior than Fozzie at CCP, or someone at Pearl Abyss? Wardec mechanics are a business decision now, after all.

My own reaction to the study's results is that they're immensely positive. They affirm the usefulness of wardecs. If a corp's activity drops during the wardec and remains low after the wardec ends, you know what that means? It means the wardec worked. It's victory. Carebear theme parkists have moaned for years that wardecs don't accomplish anything, that they don't have set goals or an end result. If CCP's statistics are to be believed, wardecs do accomplish something: The losing corp or alliance is often completely destroyed. That's a good mechanic!

Alas, wardecs have long been misunderstood. Next time, we'll help to remedy that by injecting some additional common sense and truth into this discussion.

To be continued...

* For more Code.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Truth About Wardecs, Part 1

A specter is haunting highsec--the specter of wardecs!

In case you missed it, CCP released the official CSM 13 Winter Summit Minutes earlier this month. This "Winter" Summit took place during early September, which is technically summer. If you find that nonsensical, just wait until you read what's actually in the minutes. Or, better yet, allow me to summarize it for you.

The big news from the minutes, which led to numerous excited posts on the EVE subreddit, was all about wardecs. Did CCP announce a major overhaul to the wardec mechanics? No. Some small improvements to wardecs, then? Also no. The big news was... CCP and the CSM talked about the current state of wardecs.

If you're someone who participates in wardecs on any level, the excitement over the "current state of wardecs" may surprise you, because the wardec mechanics haven't changed since CCP last monkeyed with them in 2012. That's right, the EVE community was abuzz over the review of a six year-old game mechanic.

One might assume that there would be little to say about wardecs that hasn't already been said in the past several years--and less to learn. But CCP dropped a bombshell on the CSM. You see, CCP has recently been collecting statistics about player retention and highsec conflict. Again, if you're an EVE veteran, this is probably beginning to sound familiar.

Here's the introduction from page 8 of the minutes. Wardecs merited an entire section of the minutes, despite discussing a game mechanic that hasn't changed since Mitt Romney ran for president:
"In the EVE Leadership meeting the CSM was presented with numbers resulting from research into the state of war declarations in EVE and those numbers quite starkly showed how asymmetric the situation is, and how war declarations allow a small number of players to negatively affect a huge number of people, with low risk."
If you're a wardeccer, you belong to an elite group of players who have been enjoying a massive number of victories. After all, in a competitive PvP game, "negatively affect" must be code for "winning", right?

Not so fast. Spaceship combat isn't all fun and games. In fact, as CCP's researchers finally uncovered, you wardeccers have been secretly undermining EVE all this time. In another section of the minutes, on page 12, we get a few more details on these shocking revelations:
"CCP Larrikin pulls up activity data for players of corporations that have wars declared against them and it shows considerable activity drops in all activities during the war. They also show that the low activity continues after the war ends. Brisc Rubal noted that the numbers here were so stark, it would justify immediately removing war decs as a mechanic and promising a fix after the fact. The CSM in general were surprised at how stark the numbers were and noted it was clear this mechanic was having a significant impact on player recruitment and retention."
The CSM member's call to immediately remove these scandalous wardecs from the game was echoed across Reddit. That's no small matter, considering that the removal of wardecs would render countless highsec structures immune from all forms of attack. There would be many other consequences, as well. But for the sake of saving EVE from total destruction by the recently uncovered wardec menace, it might be worth it.

It goes deeper. Although wardecs were most recently revised (i.e., nerfed) six years ago, the wardec system has been around in one form or another from the beginning. It's extraordinary that the game-threatening cancer went undetected until now. But when you look at the player statistics, it all becomes clear:

The cause and effect are unmistakable. First there were wardecs, and now EVE is dying.* You would need to be blind not to see the connection.

Next time, we'll find out more about CCP and the CSM's quest to save EVE from an untimely demise at the hands of these sinister wardeccers. And, perhaps, we may hear a more reasonable perspective on wardecs from the Saviour of Highsec.

To be continued...

* For more Code.