Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Nice guys finish last

One of the two latest pieces of news in EVE is the report of the multi-billion ISK theft from Majesta Empire.  More than 300 billion in ISK, plus another large quantity of moon goo, tower fuel, mods, ships, and other assorted goodies, including 12 Shadow Control Towers.  Reports of the size of the theft vary quite a bit, but nobody seems to be arguing that it's one of the biggest heists in EVE history, if not THE biggest.  It won't hold the record for long, though.  We're only months or weeks from the first trillion ISK heist in EVE history.  It'll definitely happen this year.

Here's the EVE Report coverage of the Majesta theft.  Here's the EVE News 24 coverage of it.

Simultaneous to this heist, I and others have been having an extended conversation on Failheap with Mittens about his strategies for CSM6.  The thread is long -- more than 14 pages now -- but it's probably worth your time if you're interested at all in CSM activities.  Mittens's posts are even easy to find.  Very few Failheapers go with a hot pink signature image.

And a couple of weeks ago, I was giggling on Twitter over this sarcastic little piece that describes "what your MMO says about you."  About EVE players, among other things, it says this:
You are a criminal at heart and appreciate that no one in EvE exemplifies basic human decency, including game designers. You pretend to be affronted when people accuse you of things like lying, stealing or shitting on the toilet seat, but that's just because you're very dishonest and like to make people feel bad, even when they're right.
What do these three things have in common?  Glad you asked.

Think of the most successful EVE players you know.  The big alliance leaders.  The space-rich players.  The best FCs.  The most awesome pilots of the [x] type ship.

Is it just me, or are all of them pretty much arrogant jerks?

I don't mean the rank-and-file EVE player.  They are, for the most part, great people and people I don't mind at all spending my time talking to and hanging out with in a virtual sense.  I mean the people in this game that really make names for themselves, the hundred or so people whose character names most of us know.  Can anyone think of anyone who both plays EVE and has a ton of e-fame and e-success (for whatever reason) that isn't an arrogant jerk?  I can think of two... maybe three.

EVE definitely rewards jerkish behavior.  And a lot of the best EVE players out there positively glory in it.

The more I think about it, in fact, the more I think this is a defining characteristic of EVE Online that's brought out by the single-shard sandbox.  A ton of people who are lovely to be around in real life turn into true scum once the Internet's thin layer of anonymity is applied.  And give these very same people a weapon and the ability to virtually shoot people in the face, or set them on fire?  EVE is the ultimate expression of the Internet troll's fondest wish.  One of the things that a lot of people told me during my CSM run was some variant on "Yeah, I wanted to run, but you have to give your real name.  I didn't like that."  Some actively (and fruitlessly) advocate for CCP to remove this requirement.

Gee, I wonder why.  ;-)  Strip that thin layer of anonymity away, and you can't be "yourself" in EVE any more.

Let's focus for a bit strictly on alliance leaders, because here, the cream truly rises to the top.  I'm having a really difficult time thinking of a leader of a large successful EVE alliance that is beloved.  Most are simultaneously respected for their competence and despised for their bad behavior and arrogance, and this is often by the people that follow them!  I once spent an evening listening to members of one of the biggest, most successful 0.0 alliances in EVE bitch and complain about their alliance leader non-stop for two straight hours.  But the thought of leaving?  Nuh-uh.  On the flip-side, EVE's history is littered with the corpses of nice guys that tried to lead EVE alliances, and only led them to their destruction.  I used to bemoan anti-social behavior from EVE alliance leaders.  Now I just accept it because the alliance leaders that actually care about you tend to fail.  Who leads successful alliances, particularly big, successful 0.0 alliances?  People like Sir Molle.  People like Bobby Atlas.  People like The Mittani.

And when these people leave their alliance or stop playing EVE, history shows that the alliance had better replace them with another jerk if they want to last.

A former corp-mate of mine, Tai Maac, was involved in the recent mess between Rixx of Evoganda, his corp, Lucifer's Hammer, and Rote Kapelle.  RK is, in my opinion, one of the best small-gang PvP organizations out there.  They've got a great reputation.  And their alliance leader is fairly well-known in 0.0 circles.  The full piece on Rixx's blog is definitely worth your time.  Lucifer's Hammer was part of RK for a probationary period, but was eventually asked to leave.  On paper, they were asked to leave because their membership wouldn't fall in line with the standard fittings and tactics expected of RK, and apparently resented being told what to do and what to fly.  Tai Maac has also written an interesting little piece examining what happened from his own perspective.  And the piece kind of made me smile at the familiarity of it all.  I've gently touched on this topic before during a KOTW posting back in February.

What's most interesting to me, though, is that the two pieces strike the exact opposite tone in their view of RK.  Tai Maac -- who's an excellent, aggressive PvPer -- writes a little apologia about Rote Kapelle and how much he learned there.  He definitely takes RK's side over Lucifer's Hammer's.  His post received a positive comment from lorcar of RK, who says, among other things:
We generally don’t praise people, unless it's something truly exceptional. The prevailing attitude being: yes, of course you did good. You are a part of RK, you could be no less than excellent.
Rixx, meanwhile, rips RK to shreds in his own post... and is ripped to shreds in return in the comments on that post.  But Rixx is really just shouting at the rain: he's bitching because he thinks the leader of a successful 0.0 alliance is a jerk.  He only gets about four paragraphs into his post before he writes this poignant little line:
I'm sorry, but we just left an Alliance like that.
Memo to Rixx: I'm afraid you've got a tough future ahead of you in EVE Online.

So, what do you think?  I don't think there's any debate that EVE rewards you the more willing you are to be a jerk.  But is the reverse true?  Do you have to be a jerk to be truly successful at EVE Online?


  1. Considering that most alliances are essentially Internet Spaceship Small Businesses, the same types of personality types (and pathologies such as narcissism) that start and operate businesses will be present.

  2. You don't have to be a jerk to be successful. There's no argument here that successful people tend to be a bit..ahem..pushy, arrogant, forceful, demanding, etc. but those are all qualities that people who are followers gravitate to. That's why leaders tend to come across that way, as they have to be that way to lead a group of people who would be lost otherwise. TheMittani made a good point about autocracy in Goonswarm in a recent article I read which outlines basically that to lead that many individuals, you have to be a strong and forceful leader, otherwise, the larger groups fall easily. Kings were arrogant jerks. A lot of RL Corp CEOs are jerks.

    But I don't rate success on popularity, fame, fortune. I just rate my success on what I take from the things I enjoy most. I am successful in EvE. I have a nice little corp and a good CEO (who's not a jerk). I enjoy what I do, and who I hang out with. I can certainly appreciate what the strong leaders are trying to do, but I don't necessarily follow them blindly.

  3. No, you don't have to be a jerk.

    It's interesting... this blog basically tells the tale of EVE as it is today which, I must admit, is much more cut throat than when I first started playing. I guess part of it depends on "who leads big, successful alliances"? If you want to go back into the past, I could name a few people that didn't meet the jerk critera, myself among them (at least I hope so).

    MC was a fairly 'mature' organization that lasted the better part of four years and I've caught a fair amount of shit for my 'faggoty white knight' way of benevolent dictatorship ever since (among other things). :)

    Evil Thug, the original leader of AAA, was another cult of personality type leader who wasn't 'nice' but certainly wasn't a jerk either. He inspired by being ruthless and cunning. "Get in the Fleet, bitch!"

    The current leader of Cascade Imminent, Manfred Sideous, was also the leader of AAA for a while. Manny is (in)famous for being a chill dude and has a gift for administration that's very impressive.

    While VETO isn't a huge 0.0 alliance, Verone certainly proves that you don't have to be a jerk to be a successful leader.

    Koth Fluf, the original leader of Morsus Mihi, was one of the nicest guys I've ever fought.

    I could give a few more examples but they are out there.

    You made the point of saying that: "EVE's history is littered with the corpses of nice guys that tried to lead EVE alliances, and only led them to their destruction."

    While I am sure this is partially true. in many cases, some of the more famous 'nice guy' alliances just died due to RL issues interfering with in game responsibilities. Either that or bittervet syndrome kicked in or even just fatigue from having to deal with 20 blinking MSN convos.

    Some folks really believe that the tough love approach works best and, today, perhaps that is true. However, I tend to judge folks based on the man or woman behind the character and 99% of the time, if you get a chance to break that barrier, you find that they are just folks like you.

  4. Thanks for your comments! All very helpful. Thanks in particular to you, Seleene, for yours.

    Do keep in mind, though, that I *am* looking specifically at a 1% group, if not a 0.1% group: the 100 or 200 people out of 150,000 or so EVE players that lead large alliances, are super-successful FCs, or what-have-you.

    Do the same rules still apply?


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