PvP, asymmetry, and the information game in Eve-Online

Player-versus-Player (PvP) games do not have to be balanced.  By "balanced" I narrowly speak to the perspective and interaction of a small number of individuals or groups of players.  If they are not balanced they can instead provide venues to allow players to engage indirectly and level the playing field.  In stone-paper-scissors stone bests scissors but paper sneaks up, so scissors says to paper "Dude - let's be allies?"

Another misconception might be this.  If *multiplayer* PvP games require more skill than PvE (Player-versus-Environment) games, then it must follow it is about twitch (eye-hand coordination). This might be more true for arena games (though not entirely - as teamwork can count).  It is less true for MMOGs where large numbers of players and their apparent need for outcomes to be independent of network latency has meant that when two parties hit the "WHACK YOU" button, all things being equal, the outcome is designed to be largely out of your control. 

Choices that come before and after hitting the "WHACK YOU" button provide whatever skill differentiator there is.

Eve-Online is a complicated place.  The previous posts in this series sugggest this (NBSI and the grey problem, Scarcely rare, My friend’s keeper, The moon is a harsh mistress).  However, what may not be apparent to most readers is that with Eve-Online's complexity comes opportunity for asymmetric exploits that can convert unbalanced relationships into more balanced ones.  And it seems to me that such are critical in making the game world seem fair.

As one example, in Rapacious marketeering player "market manipulators" were mentioned as one tool used by alliances to undermine the economic efficiency of competing alliances:  can't attack your miners directly, I'll attack your markets.  Keep in mind that Eve-Online is fundamentally - to my view - a game about economics and its constraint on power.  Market manipulators are players who imbibe a motivational cocktail blending personal profit and serving one's master (rendering an opponent alliance’s market less efficient).  Such a player's dual-hat missions seems vaguely reminiscent of privateers in an earlier century.   Recall that privateers rarely choose to engage other ships in a "fair" game of cricket, their handicap came from elsewhere.

Eve-Online is a large place and there is plenty of asymmetry amongst the player groups.  How player organizations of different specializations and strengths fend for themselves in this world I find fascinating.   With this in mind, I'll start with how I view the information game in Eve-Online.  I view this as one of the asymmetries separating some player groups in Eve-Online: some are better at it than others.

In The propaganda war I capitalized on an excellent Eve-Online tale told by Endie.  Storytelling with an agenda - or "propaganda" - was suggested as one tool used by Eve-Online alliances to assist players with the big picture:

One has to love it when an astute observer of the Eve-Online alliance game likens a maneuver conducted over the last couple of months (with thousands of players) to the Schlieffen Plan... Which brings me to this interesting question: if you were a player how would you ever know were it not for such... propagandists?

More to the point:

How would the foot soldiers in a large-scale information-complex distributed game spanning the real world globe and twenty-four time zones have any clue how their system-by-system struggle fits into the big picture, were it not for, well, something like an Eve-Online alliance propaganda network?

Another factor, I think, has to do with the single interconnected world that is Eve-Online.  Unlike most other mainstream MMORPGs where players are segregated on individual "shards", Eve-Online's 200K subscribers (from Dr.EyjoG's An overview of the mineral market in EVE Online) are all plugged into the same world.  However, as Dave Rickey might have implied, the scale of this world is such that few will ever bump into each other.

It also seems to me that PvP games are more information intensive than their PvE brethren if for no other reason than for their competitive dynamic.  I casually suggest the information demands of a PvP multiplayer game using these categories:

1.) Know your environment
2.) Know your collaborators
3.) Know your enemies
4.) Sustain your collaborators
5.) Undermine your enemies

Unsurprisingly, PvE (MMOGs) simplify the enemy-related information demands (e.g. behind NPCs).  As I suggested above, the propaganda game seems to be a good example of how activities can work cross-purposes, e.g. sustain collaborators AND undermine enemies.

The rest of this post is dedicated to laying the roadmap for future discussions.  Offer your own ideas. I propose the below working categorization of the "information space" of Eve-Online:

A.) A fast-moving tactical board. 
B.) The Diplomatic game.
C.) Internal political constraints.
D.) Tactical "intel" game.
E.) Strategic "intel" game.
F.) "Covert-ops"

Conspicuously absent from this list are the Eve-Online markets - a separate topic onto itself.  I would include for here perverse cases such as the earlier "market manipulator" example.

Additional detail on the list above.

(A.) In The face of information I characterized the Eve-Online tactical environment (cited post includes excellent comment) as follows.

Consider a not uncommon example: a 250+ person (blue team only) raid that stretches multiple systems, 4+ hours, involving (at least) four squads, 5+ text channels, voice channels, multiple (and staged) sub-goals, and yes consider the gradual (and dramatic) degeneration of communications discipline (as evening drags on) on different channels at different rates. 

(B.) Consider the diplomatic scaffolding that underpins the inter-alliance narrative given recently by Endie "Now this is not the end...".

(C.) Many have commented on how they thought the intra-alliance political landscape can be as interesting as the inter-alliance one.  Some of this dynamic was discussed in "cowman and farmer" terms in My friend's keeper with additional follow-up in Anecdotal research.

(D.) The tactical intelligence game starts for many with the  "intel" channels that a typical alliance player is confronted with each and every time they log in.  The sources of that information and how channel protocols (security) are managed are important features of that discussion.  For example, an "intel channel" typically means only allowed to post on enemy movements but *not* allied ones - those typically are handled on more closely regulated lists.

Tactical intel is of immediate concern to most players.  Few players are involved in deciding the grand strategy of alliances.  As tactical intel about the enemy is widely broadcast wthin an alliance most players assume that what they know about the enemy ends up in its hands quickly.  Information about allied force deployments is more closely guarded.   The accepted trade-off seems to be:  we'll risk more to help our members protect themselves and risk less when information may not be of direct concern to most players.

Channel procedures typically include:

  • Separated channels and access lists (text and voice)
  • Periodic changes to TS etc servers and passwords.
  • Proactive monitoring of channels and administration (e.g. dropping unrecognized characters).

(E.) The strategic intel game must include data-mining, e.g. forums and kill-boards.  Of critical concern here is gauging economic strength of opponents, their disposition of forces, and clues about their diplomatic inclinations and efforts.

G.) "Covert ops" is a sprawling umbrella that extends from "spies" and espionage (e.g. infiltrating "alts" into enemy corps) to gain informational and situational advantage.  My sense is that such craft carries considerable social stigma within the world of Eve-Online, yet, oddly, tremendous energy seems to go into sensationalized story-telling along these lines.   The stigma is  implied by Andrew (highlight added):

A lot of what happens is perceptions and shadows, a lot of what happens is influenced by deals which never rise into visibility and it's not that uncommon for both sides to consider a particular campaign a strategic win or loss.  As someone who's been in corps on both sides of several wars (not at the same time, I'm no spy..), the perspective and history told is completely different.

Interesting contextualization of the "covert ops"/ "intel" dimension of the alliance game by Endie:

We at Goonfleet have an extensive intelligence agency: quite a few of us lead front corporations, sleeper units with which, after a time, we penetrate enemy alliances to gather intel, disrupt logistics and spread discontent.  It's hard work, but a nice change of pace from relentless alliance warfare.  The result is that we have people leaking information from many of our enemies' forums. 

The role of propaganda illustrates the importance in controlling the story in Eve-Online.  Alliances can gain by manipulating stories in these ways:

  1. Intimidating other alliances  (scaring up threats)
  2. Forcing other alliances to divert energy and resources (manipulating perception of one threat over another)
  3. Contribute to a mythology of "leet" (elite) that helps alliances to recruit the top talent (corporations and players).

Stories have come to form an essential ingredient of the lore and the culture of this game world.  They are the colored glasses through which players view the structure of the place.  Stories are a great enticement for many, as dmx wrote, "I know people tend to enjoy stories of Eve's politics and power games."  The particular story dmx cites involves the murkiest of the murky "intel" games ("EVE Online: Spy Game" - Nick Breckon, shacknews, Aug 23, 2007), used as propaganda suggesting uberness to many players.

To return to the beginning.   

In Eve-Online you may have more ships than I.  Yet in a competitive environment where I will aggressively seek any advantage that I can using all the tools available to me, that may not matter.

--------------------------------------------------

fn1.

As was discussed in earlier comment, Eve-Online was categorized as a game world that required players to create their own stories.  E.g. Grendel’s comment as well as Shava Nerad’s (The moon is a harsh mistress).


Comments on PvP, asymmetry, and the information game in Eve-Online:

Andy Havens says:

Very nice, and (I think) right on target.

If you haven't read it, I highly recommend Money Ball by Michael Lewis. It's the story of how the Oakland A's manager, Billy Beane, took on the task of winning games with a lower budget than nearly all other teams in the league. He does it with statistics and a view of each player's strengths relative to winning games, as opposed to individual (traditional) achievement. Really, really interesting stuff.

Posted Oct 27, 2007 9:41:58 AM | link

Hellinar says:

I think you are being a bit pessimistic in saying that network latency has to lead to the replacement of player skill by auto attack resolution. It certainly is true if your avatar is a small and agile human, whose reaction abilities are faster than the common network latency. But if you use something large and slow as an avatar, say a sailing ship, then reaction time of your avatar drops below network latency, and its no longer an issue. You could have an Age of Sail MMOG in which player skill in reading the wind, weather and ships abilities was a major factor.

From what I have read, Pirates of the Burning Sea started with a fairly complex sailing sim that led to fairly slow paced combat. They replaced that with a “fast paced” combat model, because the feedback was that the current MMOG player base wants. It’s the requirement that combat “look fast” that leads to the need for auto attack.

EVE does show that players will handle information based warfare, if only off the battlefield. I didn’t see you mention the whole business of ship fitting in EVE, which is an information intensive game that gives you an edge in the battlefield.

Fast combat and information intensive warfare is technically a bad combination. It rapidly overloads the abilities of the current generation of servers once you get many players involved. I’d like to see a game with slower tactical combat, where the server could handle large scale battles. I think EVE is pretty much stuck with fast combat at a tactical level though. That’s what the player base wants.

Posted Oct 27, 2007 2:01:34 PM | link

Dave Rickey says:

On the importance of stories: Eve alliance warfare epitomizes the principle that "The moral is to the physical as the three is to one." It's more than a force multiplier, it is *the* definer of what "victory" is. An alliance loses when the members lose their will to fight, when victory on the terms they draw from their mythology no longer seems possible. A particular battle may or may not be the point where that realization hits them.

The "Great Powers" of Eve built a mythology where they were destined for total dominance, the "Will to power". D2 and ASCN thought industrial and economic productivity would deliver then the universe, BoB thought skill both of game characters and in combat would, RSF that sheer numbers and a lack of regard for losses made them invincible.

Some alliances created their own "Will to Power" mythologies, trying to become Great Powers by emulating them in all things. But not all. Firmus Ixion, for example, built a mythology of endurance, of sheer refusal to quit, of being outnumbered by ratios of 3 to 1 or more and simply refusing to give an inch without extracting a disproportionate price. I helped build that mythology, with malice of forethought. That mythology worked, and the story of "Fortress Querious" defended by FIX has joined the general mythology of the "Great War".

An alliance's image of itself defines the goals, and the apparent reachability of those goals defines the morale. Like "Surprise", "Defeat" is a condition that exists in the mind long before it appears on the map.

The economic elements of war are often decisive, but equally often under-appreciated (not so much anymore, the alliances that didn't come to appreciate them lost their wars). I almost single-handedly bootstrapped the market of FIX and Querious into existence. When I started, there was no market in Querious worth speaking of. A few ships for sale, a handful of modules (nowhere near enough variety to fully outfit a ship). Everyone went to Empire to buy their ships and sell their loot, because there wasn't any practical alternative. Like the fur trappers of American history, there was simply no way to buy and sell in the frontier. And this wasn't the exception in 0.0, it was the norm, even the ISS stations were not full-service economic centers.

I started out with 500M isk (gained from trading $90 of real money for isk in the only form of "buying" isk that is permitted by CCP) and a 3 month-old character that could barely fly basic industrials. I trained "Trade" skills (which are completely concerned with markets in Eve, "Industrial" skills are equivalent to what other games term as trade skills) until I had 100+ "buy/sell orders".

I went to the nearest "third tier market" (a place where all possible items are generally for sale, although not always and at inconsistent prices) to Querious and put together a list of the 40 or so highest-volume "Tech 2" modules. These are the "Gold Standard" of equipment for outfitting ships, and at the time they normally had prices ranging from a few hundred thousand to a few million.

I went to the three "First tier markets", the systems with the highest volumes of market activity, where prices are generally lower and less volatile. I checked prices of all 3 for my list of items and entered them in a spreadsheet, parked alt characters in those systems for future use (opening a second account just to have enough slots). I spent all of my money buying modules at the lowest possible prices in those markets and I took them to Querious and put them back up on the market at a 50% margin (if I bought for 1M, I sold for 1.5M). For the first time, you could buy a ship in Querious and outfit it completely with good equipment without going back to Empire.

From then on, it was a matter of keeping the orders up and moving inventory while expanding the product line. I kept training trade skills, eventually joining the "301 club" (characters with near maximum Trade skills that can put up 301 different market orders). I raked in money hand over fist for the next two months, and I started *buying* game time for isk, balancing out the real world cash I had invested to begin with. It took a lot of work (twice a week of checking inventory, checking markets, buying modules and shlepping them out to Querious, probably 15 hours of game time a week).

I lost over 1B isk in a split second to an Empire suicide ganker (this was enough to buy a capital ship at a time when they were still numbered in the single digits per alliance), so I trained up T2 Transports so I could no longer be one-shotted by a battleship. I lost another 500M to poor intel in Querious, so I trained the main of the second account to fly Covert Ops ships and started to scout for myself. I endured constant accusations of "price gouging" from alliance members who couldn't accept that not only were my "overpriced" goods the alternative to no goods at all, but that most of my prices were actually equivalent or lower to those of the nearest third tier market. I built my product line up to a comprehensive catalog of *everything* someone might want to buy for fitting a ship, including expendables like ammunition and scanner probes.

Then, I went into the forums and created my own competition. I detailed how much money I was making, how I was doing it, posted my entire product list. Within a month, there were alternative suppliers for almost everything on it. Price competition set in, market volumes picked up, people started assuming that the modules they wanted would be available and looking locally first.

As the competition advanced, I retreated. I steadily reduced my product line, going instead with larger volumes of critical goods at top of market prices to act as a back-stop against even higher prices and supply shortages. I switched from selling to buying, putting up region-wide buy orders for over 250 different items that dropped from rats in the area, at 60% of Jita market rate or of their "salvage value", whichever was higher. Not only could you buy everything you needed without leaving Querious, now you could sell it without long and dangerous trips back to Empire. I trained both of my main characters into "Blockade Runner" transports, so that my risks in moving the stuff I was buying around and out of Querious would be lower.

I didn't publicize this model, and competition was slow in emerging, which was fine by me. Profits per week, especially initially before people became aware of the ability to sell the comparatively low-value loot they were currently leaving to decay in the cans (many ratters only looted the top-end items they found, because the time to haul the rest to storage and then the market was more effectively spent shooting more rats for the bounties). But it was a lot less work, and I could put it off for weeks at a time instead of having to go through the same routine every week.

Over the course of 4 months, I converted the region from a "Frontier" economy, where everything comes from and goes to "civilization" on the backs of the individuals, into a "boomtown" economy where everything can be bought and sold on the spot, although not neccessarily at the best prices. When the alliance and region came under siege, the specialization of a mercantile class that was motivated and capable of supplying in spite of the siege allowed FIX to stand under conditions that routinely broke other alliances. Locking down the entrance to Empire of a region 23/7 is impractical, so the merchants would simply wait until conditions were favorable and then move the goods, which would then be available for the rank and file during peak times when the gateway was dangerous or impassable. The sheer volume of activity made "economic PvP" impractical except against narrow sections of the market such as ammunition. The "invisble hand" made possible an endurance against siege that has made FIX a minor legend.

--Dave

Posted Oct 28, 2007 4:31:59 PM | link

Endie says:

Dave, are you MahrinSkel?

Good write-up anyway. I think it reinforces another point about propaganda in Eve: that it is particularly self-reinforcing in a game where, famously, only those who believe themselves beaten are beaten. There is an argument (which I may have heard from you, if you are the same Dave) that Fix has aurvived as long as they have because surviving is what defines Fix.

Other successful alliances have their own, varying but similarly clearly signified cultural identities: Red Alliance are supposedly shaped by their willingness to do anything to survive (another "unkillable" belief); AAA by their apparently murderous hunger to destroy (especially supercapitals). BoB, for a long time, had the immensely useful reputation of invincibility ("omnipotence itself"), a consciously cultivated identity which served them well.

Posted Oct 29, 2007 8:11:47 AM | link

JohnK says:

@Dave -- I did much the same thing you're describing in IAC space right (howdy, neighbor :)) after the first outpost was built. My work was on a significantly smaller scale and had a less altruistic bent than what you are talking about. I would find a market inefficiency and exploit it until others caught on and it became unprofitable.

As the market matured, and the easy money had already been made, I found it significantly less time consuming and significantly more exciting to fly my covops into Querious and put up scam (1%-2% market price) battleship buy orders against FIX and then sell the ships back to FIX at slight discounts to market RE: the privateer in the original post.

I never knew who to thank for the liquidity over there. Thanks! :)

I would also agree that we (unconsciously?) bought into the reputation that you're describing, in terms of never giving up. FIX: then neighbor you love to hate, might as well, because they're never going to go away.

-John

Posted Oct 29, 2007 8:25:14 AM | link

Dave Rickey says:

Yes, Mahrin Skel is my normal game pseudonym and often for posting to game forums. I've got another one that I never associate with my real name that I use in FPS and RTS games, but I've always used Mahrin in MMO's.

I have been saying since I started playing it that there is material for endless Social Sciences research in Eve, it's a far superior environment for larger scale social activity that the other MMO's where the largest coherent organizations are guilds of 100 or so. The markets alone could keep a few dozen Econ majors in thesis topics and data for a decade.

The realization I came to from working the markets (both this particular scenario and the Empire trading I did on my other account) was that the source of profit was always inefficiency. Inefficiency of demand, inefficiency of supply, inefficiency of specialization. The more efficient a market gets, the harder it is to make a profit, and in a perfectly efficient market there would be no profit at all. Everyone would have perfect information, goods would always be where people wanted to buy them, and the price would always be exactly what it "should" be.

"Working" the market is a matter of finding inefficiencies and reducing them, while keeping some of that for yourself. Market manipulation is a matter of *increasing* inefficiency. This may seem like a trivial observation to an economist, but it made me realize that many of the assumptions that we were working from as designers were wrong. Too many inefficiencies and the market can't function, but if we eliminate too many, only the largest market operators can function in an environment of minimal profits.

In fact, profit *itself* is an injection of inefficiency into the market. Which seems wrong somehow, but inescapable.

--Dave

Posted Oct 29, 2007 3:22:43 PM | link

thoreau says:

dave said:

"Over the course of 4 months, I converted the region from a "Frontier" economy, where everything comes from and goes to "civilization" on the backs of the individuals, into a "boomtown" economy where everything can be bought and sold on the spot, although not neccessarily at the best prices. "

If one person can make such a profound change in the economy of a 'region' (i don't play eve so i don't know how big a region is) does that say anything about how established the Eve economy is?

Sounds like the old west to me where one guy comes in to town and pretty soon it's named Smithville.

Posted Oct 29, 2007 10:14:11 PM | link

Dave Rickey says:

There are something like 60 different regions (each with about 80-100 systems) in Eve. You can only see the market of the region you are in. Each region tends to have a single system (and even a single station, a system can have more than one) where most of the market activity occurs, and once it is established it rarely changes. In analyzing the Eve economy, I wound up categorizing markets into 3 tiers.

Tier 1: Everything that can be viewed through the market has multiple sell and buy orders for it, and these orders were competing with each other. At the time, there were three of them in Eve (arguably 4, but the 4th was borderline); Jita, Rens, Oursallaert (and perhaps Amarr). These corresponded to each race you could start as in the game, and Jita was about as large as the rest put together (later, Jita became the largest by a factor of 10).

Second Tier: Some obscure items have no buy or sell orders, some others have only one or two that are not competitive ("bottom feeding"). There were about a dozen of those (and arguably, Amarr was one).

Third Tier: All of the common items are available to both buy and sell, but there are many uncommon ones that have no orders and many of the common ones are not competitive. This was 30 or so regions.

You could make money moving things between the regions from where they were cheap to where they weren't. Much of this turned turned on the way that loot types were distributed (each type of guns only dropped from rats in one quadrant of the map, for example). This was what my second character usually did (generally the "Triangle Trade" between the three first-tier markets). You could also sit on a market and keep your orders competitive and make money on the gap between buy and sell orders, or go to a third or second tier market and engage in market manipulation.

Many examples of elastic and inelastic demand, convenience vs. effort, specialization, cartel/monopoly price fixing, etc., were very apparent and if you were one of the minority playing the "Market Game" that was how you made your money. You also found that "big ticket" items were less flexible in pricing than others. Players would fly across three regions to save 5M buying a ship, then spend an extra 20M fitting it rather than leave the system they bought it in. Some people kept an eye on the Test Server for changes that would affect prices and speculated on those (I made roughly 8B in a couple of weeks when I correctly predicted that Melted Capacitor Consoles, part of a new "Salvaging" system, would be one of the highest-valued salvage components).

In the 0.0 regions, you had a population that generally based themselves from the nearest market center, second or third tier. What I did was move the market center for the thousand or so FIX players and few hundred "renters" that shared the region out into the Querious region itself. 0.0 markets are much riskier to establish than elsewhere (because of the completely open PvP), and until the market is established the volumes are comparatively low (since people have to get used to being able to find what they want).

I just analyzed the problem and found a way to "Do well while doing good," if there was a full cross-section of essentials to buy the market for everything would grow much faster. The combination of risk, high up-front capital, and social backlash made for a hurdle that was not worth trying to cross strictly for the sake of making isk (I could and did make more money in Empire trading).

Me and Dark Shikari (the guy that the piece about market PvP in 0.0 was about) are actually in the same corp and we've had a lot of discussions about the market and how to use money for a weapon. He's much more focused on isk as a way of keeping score than I was, I always turned around and plowed my profits into things I thought the alliance needed (more capital ships, outposts, the Jump Bridge network). I was making money as a way of exerting influence, rather than just for the sake of having it, which is probably why even though my capital velocity (the amount I earned compared to my total net worth) was always much higher than his, he always had a lot more than I did.

--Dave

Posted Oct 30, 2007 12:00:10 AM | link

dmx says:

Heh. Good ol' Fix. *shakes fist* Epic times ahead I reckon as old Bob's kinda moved the frontline a lot closer to where you guys are at. My bet is the "Great war" is going to either quiet down a lot or its about to turn into a meatgrinder for all involved, depending on whether the RSF + Northern mobs decide to make the final push.

Anyway. Yeah, the Markets are fascinating ain't they? One thing not well known about the Goons, is that much of the early Goonfleet largely drew its membership from the SA "Debate and Discussion" forum, particularly Remedial and Co, who where ardent US style Libertarians. Consequently the Goon forums used to be filled with endless debating and experimentation with how to run economys in Eve.

Generally we fell into a free market model, perhaps most famously so when the Goon tried to open the "Eve free trade zone" (Which came to a bloody end as BOB moved in to attack). The debate you mention about "Price gouging" , and its parallel debate about Relisting of products has generally fallen to a Laze Faire thing. The market does seem to provide a steady hand here.

Because most goons are encouraged to try a bit of Trade, mining and production due to a relative lack of a welfare system in the RSF, we've generally found we have an ability to set up markets *fast*. Like within weeks a newly conqured area will have full blown T2 stockpiles and the whole kit, simply by virtue of letting the market freely meet demand.

But on the contrary, these days the Goons also have pockets of "Space communism", ie in the Goonfleet spec-ops squad (Not to be confused with Black-ops) who generally follow a communist model where "KiaTolon owns your ass", so to speak. Mining and production done for the squad and in return ones spaceships and modules are free. Right up to motherships.

Whats the best model? Well its hard to tell really. Free markets seem to be awesome generators of private wealth. People who do well in this system always have plenty of toys to smash up against the enemys walls. But when your poor, your *shit* poor. Theres always the free frigs if worst comes to worse.

On the other hand the Communist model ensures everyone gets a combat ship, and replacements, and provides incentives NOT to be overly-paranoid about ship losses. But it prevents self sustainability, and is extremely vunerable to corp theft.

Its a matter of play styles one supposes.

Re goon mythos?: "Sesfan is #1, quote this if your down".

Posted Oct 30, 2007 5:38:27 AM | link

William Lederman says:

Very interesting write up.

I think one thing I take away from this is that EVE is a lot more about the big picture game then the smaller picture game of an individual battle or fight. So it is the balance of the war that is the issue as opposed to the balance of the fight or battle.

It is not just a different way to balance a game, it is a completely different game. Or a similar game that has a much stronger emphasis towards war as opposed to a game that may emphasize battles.

Games that emphasize the player's avatar tend to focus on the battle. Games that focus on the guild(corporation) and have a different take on the player's avatar are likely to focus on a war or some other larger struggle.

As for market inefficiency and profit, when I took market economics this is often talked about from the pov of the company as an increase in market efficiency relative to their competitors to achieve a real profit. It is this increase in relative efficiency where real profit is possible.

As a company makes a profit they increase the efficiency of the market.

Kind of two ways of looking at the same coin.

Posted Oct 30, 2007 10:54:54 AM | link

nate_combs says:

@William

I think it can vary.

On the one hand the "professional" PvP pilots (of a variety of flavors, as coined in "My friend's keeper") probably spend much of their time seeking and finding the wild tactical ride in service of their faction. If their alliance is at war they can easily spend an entire evening every evening for a month in a gripping drama of cat and mouse and fleet battle.

Yet, as suggested in the OP shacknews article ("EVE Online: Spy Game" - Nick Breckon), the alliance leadership game is pretty "meta". I can recall a particular sour moment in one alliance's history when some of the pilots turned on the leadership saying (among other things) that they had forget how to fight/FC (Field Command)/whatnot because they were so busy spending all their time managing 10,20,30,40 (take your pick) chat windows (the stuff that alliance leader ship does). Very meta.

I can recall when I started out in the game as an empire trader I'd spend a great deal of my time in a spreadsheet. I would be exaggerating only slightly if I said that more time worrying about excel macros than paying attention to my industrial on autopilot traveling around: if it is Tuesday, it must be Jita (a trading hub in EO).

I think the ability to go meta helps make the story stick and it seems to permeate the EO experience but varies by role and function - which in turn can vary in time.

Posted Oct 30, 2007 7:48:10 PM | link

dmx says:

There is bit of a joke in EVE that other games have forums attached to them, but EVE is a forum with a game attached to it.

The CAOD forums are kind of ... unique. Lots of hilariously banal smacktalk between alliances (I'll admit the goons , tied closely with BOB are the worst for this) Fortunately its not taken too seriously by folks, as its really just folks letting off comedy anger steam. but on the odd occasional time it does, it'll tend to reflect in-game.

Posted Nov 1, 2007 8:35:06 AM | link

William Lederman says:

@Nate

I could go on for a long time about the design implications of offering players variety in their game play experience. I could talk about Team Fortress 2, WOW, EVE, PP, ATITD, Travian, UO, and probably a couple other games as well. I think it is an area that has a lot of unrealized potential. But I will just try and explain where I was coming from a bit better.

That said, when I was talking about focus I did not mean to suggest someone could not focus their attention towards a specific area. I was commenting on the game design implications of the meta (war) component on the battles that take place in the game as a whole. (I will now say some things I am sure you are aware of but explain where I am coming from.)

FPS for example don’t tend to have a very strong meta component. The players start a battle, fight to win it, then once it is over it is over. The game design implications are limited to individual battles.

As a designer you can start to add other things for the player to consider into that basic battle game. These other considerations become a second game of sorts. For example if you track frags from one game to the next. There is now the game to win the battle, AND the game of scoring points or frags.

You can then add yet another component to that game of scoring points and allow the player to not only score frags but be given rewards for those frags. Those rewards can then in turn be used to benefit the player in other parts of the game.

This idea can be expanded even further by adding in many different ways to spend those rewards and many other parts of the game to consider. In addition other ways of attaining rewards and bringing rewards into the game can be introduced. Of course this is not just a single player game and there is a lot of room to consider not only personal gains but also group based gains.

Posted Nov 2, 2007 10:36:44 AM | link

says:

In reply to the "can one person have that big an impact."

Yes, Sam Walton changed American retail, and he was not the first to do it. Henry Ford changed transportation, The guys who sued AT&T for the right to offer long distance telephone changed communications around the world.

All these things took years to play out, but they were all instigated by one guy.

One of the things that can define something as a game is speeding up time, and Dave/Mahrin's post shows that Eve does a brilliant job of allowing an individual to change the economy in fundamental ways, but in a short period of time. Short compared to the real world anyway. Posts like this make me want to try Eve out, but scare me too.

Posted Nov 2, 2007 11:49:40 AM | link

Dave Rickey says:

Well, a big part of it is that everyone feels their own viewpoint is priveleged. When I look back on the "Great War", I see it from the viewpoint I had on it at the time (which was one with more information than most but less than some). I subconciously discount the events I had no part in. So my version of the history of the Great War starts at the Prohibition campaigns against IAC, where twice IAC was threatened with the real possibility of extinction, and then twice was saved by allies. The second time acted as a flashpoint that drew together all of the anti-BoB forces into an annihilation of ISS, even though BoB was not involved in Prohibition and ISS and BoB weren't really allies.

From there on, events I hear about only from the boards or rumor seem less significant than the ones I was directly part of or got first-hand accounts of. So the death of the embryonic Titan that broke LV seems less significant than the battle of F-T where the Coalition forces hit the wrong shipyard and lost 50 capitals to *not* kill a baby Mothership they thought was a titan. I heard about the first, but I was part of the second. In the course of various campaigns, there were many times when grand events could have turned drastically on very small things, and that amplifies the player's feeling that what he did was important, that things he did or didn't do were the determining factor.

So each player puts themselves, or at least their alliance, at the center of events and interprets them in that light. This means that the "story" of the Great War, or of any 0.0 conflict, becomes a deeply personal story to the participants. Even if they *lost*, the experience was far superior to anything CCP could direct, because they felt involved, engaged, *important*. Even if they were just one cog in a PvP machine, they get a derived sense of meaning that a developer event, no matter how well scripted, could never provide.

--Dave

Posted Nov 2, 2007 3:34:17 PM | link

dmx says:

"""So the death of the embryonic Titan that broke LV seems less significant than the battle of F-T where the Coalition forces hit the wrong shipyard and lost 50 capitals to *not* kill a baby."""

I'd say they where both fairly significance. The first because it broke LV, the second because it broke (In the short term) the Coalition. But yeah, I see your point. For the Goons it "starts" with BOB declairng "No goons" on us in syndicate.

But really, it probably starts with the ASCN invasion.

Or did it start with the destruction of D2's shipyards in early 06?

And where does it end? Many Goons now feel they have "won" the war as BOB went into full retreat to delve. But I'd assume BOB sees it as a tactical retreat to recoup (or something). And perhaps the "Steamroller right outa' Delve" approach will turn things dramatically back into BOB's favor.

Some would argue that Tri/Razor/etc's bloody march all over the north marks the end of BOB in the north. Others would point out BOB never really WAS in the north (It was MC, *perhaps* under BOB's payroll)

This is going to be a sticky one to upack when writing the history books. Whatever the case is, it's sure fun to watch.

Posted Nov 4, 2007 12:20:40 PM | link

dmx says:

oh god my grammar :(

Posted Nov 4, 2007 12:21:46 PM | link

Grendel says:

This is making me miss Sforza. *Sniff*

Posted Nov 7, 2007 9:00:19 AM | link

scrapheap says:

Just a little update from the cluster frontier:

The previously featured Interstellar Starbase Syndicate [ISS] has posted notice as of last week of the closure of their last converted IPO. Having lost the publicly owned facilities to the predations of a vast coalition of factions whose finances rested on traditional "grinding" game mechanics (notably a group from the SomethingAwful.com forums) they had folded the previous IPOs and offered investors opportunity to bail out in a less infrastructure-oriented venture. This too suffered poor turnover in the course of the year it was operated, in part due to continuing conflict with the same hostile parties. It is difficult to predict what this icy reception may herald for future virtual world pioneers.

More ISS history.

Posted Nov 9, 2007 12:30:25 AM | link

dmx says:

Its a bit rich for ISS to claim they where predated on when they where consistently a feature of the GBC forces incursions into Goonspace, and then actually closed shop in eosoteria when BOB ordered a full evacuation of the south.

But lets not go there. COAD is that-a-way-->

(poast)

Posted Nov 11, 2007 7:27:08 PM | link

Rod Montgomery says:

In _Fleet Tactics_ Wayne P. Hughes Jr. analyzes (among other things) the differences between the mutually-erosive-attrition (MEA) pattern and the pulsed-firepower (PF) pattern for naval combat.

MEA applied to the ages of fighting sail and the big-gun battleship; PF applied to WW2 aircraft-carrier warfare and also applies to missile-age warfare.

In MEA, opposing forces beat on each other for minutes on end, gradually eroding each other. Even a slightly inferior force tends to lose disproportionately badly -- that is, without doing anywhere near as much damage to the superior force as the inferior force suffers. And that holds true, generally, even if the inferior force can launch a surprise attack.

In PF, opposing forces throw knockout blows at each other -- for example, at the start of WW2, an aircraft carrier air wing's strike would generally be enough to sink one carrier. An inferior force can often win if it can strike first -- for example, the Americans entered the Battle of Midway at 3:4 inferiority, and won.

EVE, as far as I've been able to figure out in playing for several years now, provides only MEA. Sure, there are one-hit kills -- but only when a vastly superior ship hits a vastly inferior one.

Question: What would putting some PF into EVE do to EVE's ability to hold on to losers?

Posted Nov 12, 2007 12:59:04 PM | link

nate_combs says:

@Rod
Question: What would putting some PF into EVE do to EVE's ability to hold on to losers?
---------------------

A most interesting question. I think you can see some PF effects in EO fleet combat with Field Commanding and target selection orders. Good Field Commanding is in part about calling primary and secondary targets which can have greatest impact. Eveyone on your side is suppose to focuse fire on primaries and secondaries. In effect this can give some of the non-linearity in results that PF seems to be about. Better target choice + concentration of fire effects = disproportionate impact for one side or another.

I don't know if this quite goes far enough for you, however others have apparently thought about this in the context of Eve-Online drone battles (group management), from here

http://www.starfief.com/EVE/EVEdroneslagreduction.html

Current CCP drones-plans

Overview of this proposal:

I say "drone" in what follows, but the pattern applies to fighters too.

The pattern is inspired by the "pulsed firepower" model of real-world naval aircraft and missile battle, as analysed in Fleet Tactics by Captain Wayne P. Hughes, Jr. (US Navy, retired). See also the portrayals of "strike-fighter" operations in the "Starfire Universe" stories by David Weber and Steve White, for example In Death Ground.

Two main ideas: "compute by group" and "limit endurance and ammunition". Then a few refinements and extensions.


Compute by group:
Right now, the player can organize drones into groups, and issue commands to groups, but the EVE-server computes for each drone separately -- each drone flies, collides, bounces, gets locked, fires, takes damage, all separately. And so, each drone contributes to lag separately. (Most analysts, though not all, accept that the computational load scales with the square of the number of separately-flying Things.)

Posted Nov 12, 2007 2:06:41 PM | link

Rod Montgomery says:

@nate:

Err -- *I'm* the author of that starfief.com proposal.

I'm overjoyed that someone bothered to read it! You've made my day! 8-)

Posted Nov 12, 2007 4:52:30 PM | link

nate_combs says:

FYI-

I've started to develop (more detailed) thoughts on the road map for future posts on TN.

1.) on "intel" channels:

The 0.0 pilot's stare.

The issue of organized information displays in Eve-Online (Eve) is a tremendous problem. In a recent Eve forum discussion this issue was well verbalized [1]. Just as one (albeit conspicuous) example, Xeovar Stoner described the difficulty confronting Field Commanders as a most daunting one [Fn1]. Yet, the information bedlam confronting Field Commanders in Eve is just the tip of the iceberg...

Posted Dec 1, 2007 1:11:14 PM | link

Hades says:

I'm the Guildmaster of the Lords of the Dead which is a top tier PVP guild established in 1995. I've done a lot of fansite work over the years related to the PVP element of games. I'm currently updating my Total War Series where I'm covering the basics of PVP in most games. I'm planning to constantly expand it as I have time, but I wanted to start with the basics.

I'm trying not to get too game specific, but I think you'll find some good information there that certainly compliments this article.

Sorry for posting so late, but I found this while doing a google search for PVP related information.

Posted Dec 28, 2007 11:09:41 AM | link