My commentary about the PL Thundercat fit the other day drew a few wry comments from Pandemic Legion members on kugu and other forums. My favorite described it as "charming, but sad", heh. It also drew an absolute ton of comments on the blog itself, 23 as of the time that I'm writing this, many quite insightful. Kamphamster, in particular, did a great job of laying down all the different factors that make PL successful in just about everything they do: their player skill and SPs, their FCs, intelligence network, tactics and theory-crafting, and fleet doctrine and consistency of ship-fittings.
It underlines a point I made in another post a week back, that I want to expand on somewhat.
Think of any video game that you've ever played, other than EVE. Mass Effect. Call of Duty. StarCraft. Even World of Warcraft. I'll use Bioshock as my own example in this blog post, since just about everyone I know has played it. But you can pick any other video game that you like.
When you first start playing Bioshock, you're given a wrench in game, and soon after, a very basic lightning attack. The first creatures you come across are aggressive, stupid, and ridiculously easy to kill sub-humans called "Splicers". You collect additional special attacks and additional weapons, including automatic weapons and shotguns. In Bioshock, how to use these items and how to expand your character's abilities is explained to you in very clever in-game ways; in other games, you have manuals. Your abilities make your character tougher and tougher, but the creatures that you're facing become tougher at a faster rate. It's now a race, between the escalating difficulty of your opponents, and your ability to quickly and creatively combine the various abilities, weapons, and defenses that you've pulled together. Before long, you're using these weapons and abilities to fight the toughest creatures in the game, Big Daddies. The final few fights against these creatures are ridiculously tough, putting you into a situation where you are alone, having to escort an ally that is much weaker than you. Then you are thrown into a final boss fight which is usually the toughest fight in the game, requiring all of your skills, abilities, weapons, and creativity.
It is that race between the abilities of your opponents and the ability of your in-game avatar that characterizes virtually every modern video game. Even in games like Portal or Braid, where there are few or no external opponents, the environment itself slowly escalates in difficulty and the same race between your creativity in using your abilities, and the difficulty of the environment applies. Video games get progressively more difficult the further into them you get. It's a rule that we've all come to accept.
Except in EVE.
We all joke about the learning cliff in EVE, but the learning cliff exists because unlike every other video game in the known universe, EVE front-loads all of the difficulty.
In effect, EVE welcomes you to the game, hands you a wrench... and then almost immediately expects you to kill a Big Daddy with it. Your initial few months in the game are the hardest EVE play experience you'll ever have. The longer you play EVE, the easier the game gets. And this applies every bit as much to EVE's PvP component as it does to its PvE component.
When most EVE players begin to get into PvP, they're usually doing it as part of an Empire corp's war-dec. The war-dec will probably have been imposed on them by a pirate or merc corp living in Empire, and this enemy corp probably glories in preying on inexperienced Empire players. The ship fittings available to this new PvPer are sub-optimal, if not downright awful, either because of lack of fitting skills or lack of knowledge of decent ship fits. The FCs available to this new player are terrible, usually giving awful orders if they're giving orders at all... many Empire corp FCs freeze up mid-battle. Their fleet doctrine is non-existent, their spy network is non-existent. It is, in short, the most difficult PvP experience imaginable, not only compounded by the new PvPer's lack of experience, but probably creating bad habits in the new PvPer due to the lack of all of the things that Kamphamster reminds us that PL (for instance) excels at.
Our brand new PvPer and his Empire corp gets their asses kicked again and again and again, because he's facing PvP fights well outside of his skills or abilities. The game is slowly getting easier, but it still almost impossibly hard.
Later, our newbie PvPer joins a faction warfare corp, wormhole corp, pirate corp, or the like. In this corp, he is probably introduced to better ship fittings and tactics. He probably gets his first experience with good FCs and decent fleet doctrine. Things are still very difficult for him, because many of the ship-types being requested, he can't fly due to lack of SPs. Many of the fittings for the ship types he can fly are out of his reach for the same reason, or because they are outside of his budget. Even if he does have the ship type needed and the fitting desired, often he'll make rookie mistakes due to lack of experience. But as he does gain experience, he starts losing the people around him. The best FC in the corp is enticed to join Noir. or Rote Kapelle and leaves the corp. Experienced players he was leaning on for support get disgusted with EVE and quit.
Soon, our newer PvPer is pressed into the role of being an FC himself... and fails utterly. He lacks the skills and experience to FC properly. Because of the departures of key personnel, his corp now lacks the proper fleet doctrines and discipline. People are showing up to fleets bringing whatever they want. The game is slowly getting easier, but it's still very, very hard.
Assuming our PvPer has the perseverence to stick out this ridiculously backward difficulty curve and reaches the very top of the PvP game, he'll himself be recruited by an outfit like PL. He now has access to players as professional as himself as fleet-mates. He has tons of great FCs to follow -- the best FCs in the game, in fact -- plus excellent ship-fittings, tactics, and fleet doctrines. He also finally has the skill points he needs to fly all of the needed fits, and the ISK to purchase these fits. His FCs even have access to enemy fleet doctrines, plans, and communications.
And who are the opponents of these elite PvPers? There's no boss fight for them. Instead, they're fighting players much worse at this game than they are, using worse fleet doctrines, worse fits, and without the discipline to be any kind of challenge at all. And unsurprisingly, they wipe the floor repeatedly with these inferior opponents.
In short, EVE begins by handing you a wrench and telling you to kill a Big Daddy. And ends by handing you every plasmid and heavy weapon in the game... and telling you to kill a stupid, overly aggressive Splicer.
This probably makes sense in some dark corner of Nordic Icelandic mythology somewhere. Maybe.