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.
You can follow along, if you want...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view

In 1992, in the midst of the U.S. Presidential race that year, the incumbent candidate, George Bush (Sr.), attended a National Grocers Association convention.  "I just took a tour through the exhibits here," he said later.  "Amazed by some of the technology."

Pundits in the media responded that some of the "technology" that Bush had been amazed by were grocery store bar-code scanners and electronic signature pads.  Grocery scanners had been in the U.S. mainstream for about a decade at that point, and were common, everyday items to the vast majority of Americans.  But (as the pundits spun it), Bush had been in the White House as President or Vice President for 12 years by that time, and "obviously" wasn't familiar with things that were a part of daily life for most Americans.  It (probably) wasn't true.  Bush was (probably) very familiar with grocery store scanners.  But he came off looking out of touch, and he went on to lose that election.

This story has absolutely nothing to do with The Mittani's latest column in Ten Ton Hammer.  Go out and give it a read.  I'll wait.  It's worth your time.

You back?  Good.  I'm going to play the odds here and guess that the column probably confused you a little bit.  A good, solid majority of you probably didn't follow what Mittens was trying to say, or perhaps came back a little bored or even insulted by it.

To explain the column, I'm going to have to describe what life is like in a fairly typical sov-holding null-sec alliance.  If you're familiar with it, you can skip past the italicized section and rejoin me afterward.

You log into EVE.  You're immediately signed into your alliance's API-controlled private-chat channel (or two, or three).  The MOTD reminds you that signing into TeamSpeak is required when you are logged into EVE.  The MOTD probably also reminds you that it would be a good idea to get into the alliance's public channel as well.  You sign into TS.  If you're anybody at all in your alliance, before you logged into EVE, you were also signed into Jabber, Skype, Trillian, or something similar.

You're greeted by three or four people as you get into TS.  You check the API-controlled intel channel for your region.  Nothing immediate seems to be going on.

So, you open up a web browser and check the alliance's API-controlled and password-protected forums.  There are new posts in the fitting, war, and all-alliance sections.  The new fitting post is from the alliance's war-time director, who reminds you that it is a requirement for you to fly the latest FOTM.  You are required to change your skill training as needed to fly this ship, and that skill books will be provided for those that can't afford them.  He's written a second post urging people (again) to train Cyno V because the alliance needs more covert-cyno capable pilots.  In the all-alliance section, there are two new posts.  One is a required CTA (call to action or call to arms) for Friday night.  It's expected to be a six-hour operation to save another alliance's POS, and if you're logged into EVE, you'd better be there.  It might be their POS, but next time it might be ours and we'll want their help.

Another post is from the alliance's finance director, reminding you that everyone has to submit either their alliance membership dues or turn in their required PI donations to the appropriate places before the end of the month.  There's another post congratulating the alliance's logi pilots on their work in the latest roam, and reminding everyone that (unlike most ships) Logistics ships are being reimbursed at 100% right now.

The war forum is busy!  There's six or eight new posts letting everyone know that there will be a deployment starting in a week.  All pilots are required to bring at least four ships, and there are detailed lists of ships, mods, and fittings that will be required for the deployment.  All command-ship capable pilots are to bring the required four ships, plus at least one command ship of the appropriate type.  Logistics pilots should bring the four ships, plus at least two of those.  All carrier pilots are required to have their ships fueled and travel-fit by Sunday.  Expect a CTA to be called Sunday night for the first of three movement ops.  If you're not a carrier pilot, you better have your ships (renamed with your pilot name) moved to your corp's Deployment hangar by Saturday afternoon at the latest.  But there will be follow-on ops on Tuesday and Thursday as well for pilots that miss the first one.  Deployment is expected to last a month, so do your ratting and ISK up now.

You check your corp's forum, where there is one new post.  One of the Directors is asking (again) for additional recruiters.  There aren't enough.  You groan a bit.  You were stupid enough to volunteer to help with this a few months ago, so you reluctantly check the recruiting thread.  Yep, four new applications that haven't been picked up.  This means reading their written application, checking their API for skills, financial history, and alts.  Then you have to search for their toon name on the EVE-O forums and on the spreadsheet of PL alts that your Director gave you.  Then you have to schedule a verbal interview on TS, and arrange an up-down vote of the Directors on the apps... it's a lot of work.  When you joined, you had no idea that screening was this extensive...  And if they get accepted, then you have to mentor them through all of the API traps to get on the forums, TS, intel channels, help them get their stuff moved...

As you're reading, TeamSpeak gets busier.  Seems that a neutral gang is moving into the region.  You check the region's intel channel.  Yep, there they are, being tracked as they get closer to where you're docked.  One of the alliance's more junior FCs cuts through the chatter.  "They're coming our way.  Everyone get undocked in a shield BC and meet on the out-gate.  C'mon, guys, get out here and let's get some kills.  Everyone get undocked.  Undock right now!  Why are there 24 people in Local and only three people on this gate?"

You groan again, quietly sign out of TS and log out of EVE.  League of Legends sounds like more fun tonight anyway...


A lot of you are probably wryly laughing and nodding as you read this story.  But I'll bet a lot more of you are probably staring at the screen in just a little bit of horror, or maybe congratulating yourself for never joining a null-sec alliance.  ;-)  I'm playing the odds here because most of you aren't in one.  After all, 88% of EVE's characters don't reside in null-sec space.

This stuff is a lot of the reason that when Yahtzee's Zero Punctuation reviewed EVE so negatively, one of his comments was "I must be missing the appeal of a second job you have to pay for!"  Because for residents of sov-holding null-sec alliances, that's exactly what EVE is: it's a recreation of George Orwell's novel 1984, with you in the Winston Smith role.  You follow orders!  You do what you're told!  You yell in rage at Eurasia, because Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia!

Boiled down, Mittens's column basically asks, "If in a typical futuristic science fiction setting, every man can be his own God, why is that not the case in EVE Online?"  He spends a lot of time in the column talking about the Stalinist authority that EVE players bow to, and even indirectly invokes a book that a communications expert wrote in the 80s that (among other things) compares 1984 and Brave New World.  The picture he paints is of bleak 1984 totalitarianism, objectivist scum destroying all that do not share their world-view, and those too scared to submit pushed away from EVE to other games.

There's only one tiny tiny tiny problem with this: 88% of EVE's characters don't live this way.

88% of EVE players are their own authorities.  Granted, a lot of those characters are alts for null-sec dwellers, but the large majority of EVE's players have nothing to do with Mittens's 1984 totalitarian world-view of EVE.  That's why his column is probably confusing to a lot of you.  And those of you that aren't confused are insulted, because the column refers to the other 88% of EVE's populations as "stupid", "victims", or "dupes".

Yes!  He refers to the people that aren't living in 1984 totalitarianism as "stupid", "victims", or "dupes"!

Kind of amusing, if you think about it...

16 comments:

  1. It isn't only null sec alliances that do this kind of stuff. Noir. members are subjected to much of the same thing, as are members of the larger pirate corps/alliances (whether or not they live in or spend any significant time in null sec). It seems pervasive in any organized group of players who PvP as their primary activity these days. Unfortunately, the "this is how we're going to play, go along with it if you want to be considered a contributing member" mindset rubs me the wrong way. It is one of the biggest contributing factors to my lack of desire to return to EVE--even if time and connection issues were resolved.

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  2. Leaders in EvE have to find a balance between getting everyone involved enough to enjoy the parts of the game that they enjoy (and have enough support to do it meaningfully) while not being controlling enough that you feel like the poor sap in Brazil. There's a reason I avoid null like the girl at the bar with cold sores and a micro-mini skirt.

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  3. WOW..... either I have been very lucky or something but what you describe sounds exactly 0% similar to any of the null-sec corps/alliances I have been in.

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  4. I have to agree with Toterra. The Corporation that I help to run, and by association the Alliance that I am in are not nearly so strict. We have sensible rules that get enforced (most of the time): Teamspeak Requirement/In Fleet/No Local Chatter

    We are particular about recruiting, our checks are even more rigorous than the one you describe in your "story", but more for people who fit our mold, and by happenstance weeding out thieves and spies.

    Beyond that, as a Pet Alliance, we are asked to help our Power Bloc Alliances for Regional Defence and gladly assist in defending allied space. As an industrial powerhouse alliance, they don't ask us to do any sort of Deployment, since we provide the warships to a lot of their renters/members to fund and maintain their own deployment.

    TL;DR - We are free to do mostly what we want, we have allies, we have enemies. I think Mittens has a very skewed view because He is that Tyrant leading Goons. Maybe if he wasn't so tyrannical in his leadership things might be a little brighter in the CF/Dek Coalition.

    Now, I won't sit here and tell you that when our own Alliance leader says jump we say "Eff You." We get off our asses and do what he tells us. Reason why? He rarely does so, and only for good reason. In addition, we like the guy, we understand it's for all our sakes, not just for his personal gain. We like living in our space, we like living with the people we do. We have personal liberties and freedoms that we have earned, we have the respect of our Power Bloc Alliances earned from showing up with the ship types asked, when needed. We have earned even greater respect by providing hundreds if not thousands of warships in a very short amount of time to same said alliances. Our leadership is not elected, but we choose to follow because we are respected, and their leadership is well earned.

    Most of all... We are Str8nge

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  5. how i can tell your alliance (or you) is doing it wrong:

    a) you login to eve before you login to teamspeak; for a character at war this might mean a risk, you dont want to login into a rapecaged pos... or do you logoff docked, risking getting camped in?

    b) you seem to be in the need to take care of your own ship supply and transport - professional alliances have frontline shops, full-fleet-reimburstment and a transport wing that takes care of that.

    c) if you formup to counter roaming gangs, you deserve the roaming gangs that come to you - for the better and worse.

    --
    now to the following orders stuff etc.
    if you are in an corp/alliance that is mostly playing to pvp (and to win engagements) you play in a group of people that tries to be efficient. its quite logical that alliances adopt military structures in that, which means a strong hierarchy aswell as following orders.

    while i wouldnt want to live in such a system in the realworld, i see the necessity in this game to be successfull. Democracy is cool, but its the least efficient way of getting things done - or do you want to make votes on whos next primary?

    about the 88%, first of all its much less than 88% because a huge chunk of those 88 is alts of the 0.0 population,
    second you have to understand mittens there, to us, the 0.0 folks empire has no meaning, you cannot put your name on a system there, you cannot engage people you dont like freely without getting concordokken - to us the people in empire are people who are still learning the basics, and alts.

    maybe its not mittens who lacks an understanding for the empire dwellers, its you, and those empire dwellers who lack to understand what the game is to us.

    There are two sorts of people in the game,
    there are gamers, who usually play several games, and see eve as yet another game - for them its a bit like random-other-game just bigger.

    they login from time to time, do their thing, and maybe complain abit about the quests (missions) not providing many different stories.
    if they dare they do a bit of pvp, and if they like that they join some pvp corp, either something small empire war like, or a lesser focused pet-corp/alliance which doesnt follow the standards to closely and leaves them their freedom to some part.

    If those people join a more professional alliance/corp, they end up not being happy, logging of and playing something else - because they feel its to serious to them.

    and then there are people like me, (and i guess mittens, molle, and alot of others too) who see this game as a hobby. A hobby where we are part of a professional team trying to be our best, which requires discipline, preparation, fixed dates and gameplans for 'training' (sisi drills & research) aswell as for the 'games' (ops).

    As someone who shows that dedication i demand it from all people on my team aswell, there is nothing more annoying than someone dragging the whole team down because he sees it just as a game he sometimes plays.

    comparing those two groups of eve users, you end up with a comparisation between two kids that race-duel to the next block, vs a group of friends who compete at the ironman together.


    Yahtzee btw did never leave the npc corp he started in, so how could he have been speaking about this?

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  6. @Anon1612: that's quite a heroic comment. ;-)

    But doesn't your comment kind of prove my point? You even -- more than once! -- use the word "professional" to describe an in-game corp. The word "professional" is associated with those that get paid to perform a task. Are you?

    Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against mature, dedicated null-sec organizations. I also have nothing against dictatorships in EVE Online. My past corp history will show that when I've been part of null-sec alliances, those are the corps that I join.

    The point of my blog post was to point out the irony of Mittens describing a bleak, dark, totalitarian state... that MOST of the EVE populace (whether that number is 88%, 70%, or 51%) don't participate in... but which he does.

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  7. Just reinforces my view that only corps should own space and alliances should be removed as an in game mechanic.
    This still doesn't really match with the backround as displayed in the opening movie imo.

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  8. Dannar Hetoshi said...
    "I have to agree with Toterra. The Corporation that I help to run, and by association the Alliance that I am in are not nearly so strict. We have sensible rules that get enforced (most of the time): Teamspeak Requirement/In Fleet/No Local Chatter

    We are particular about recruiting, our checks are even more rigorous than the one you describe in your "story", but more for people who fit our mold, and by happenstance weeding out thieves and spies."

    Perhaps I'm missing something, but didn't you just describe what Jester described, while claiming that what you described is entirely different?

    I'm with Mynxee on this one - anything that even remotely smells like someone else telling me how I'm supposed to play the game (game, not hobby) repels me from those people.

    I have a bunch of people that I socialise with, a bunch of people I engage in some casual PvP with, and we all have a great time discussing fits, tactics, strategies and who is the most likely to get suckered in to a null sec corporation.

    Nullsec alliances are only bleak, dark, totalitarian states because that's the way the leadership has set them up. They take themselves far too seriously and treat ownership of systems in null sec as more important than life itself.

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  9. I think this goes beyond the Huxley/Orwell comparison of Mittani's article, but it appears to to me that the oh-so-real day description of the life of an alliance goes beyond EVE - it rings true with the trend towards 'play alone together' content in other MMOs as well. [1]

    In other words: people the in their real lives already are part of large organisations where they're nothing but a replaceable cogs in the machine, so why would they seek out games where they can be the same?

    [1] While don't play other MMOs (I tried LotRO, but couldn't stick with it), I do follow gaming podcasts.

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  10. My corp's been involved in Null-Sec work, and has avoided such a dreary existence. I mean, I get what you are talking about, but at the same time the Alliances I've been involved in haven't been utterly totalitarian- they don't care if our fittings are a bit off. The fittings offered have generally been merely listed as suggestions, really. Sure, there's CTAs. But it's generally been pretty easy to get into things. However, my friends and I have been in an Alliance that was way too loose with rules and such, and it just was so disorganized it got steamrolled rather effortlessly, and the leadership was defiant to its opponents, even when they're offering mercy. It was a total cluster-f***. We still work with the Alliance (and their allies) that we had before them, because they actually had their $#!t together. And they better, to have stayed in Null Sec (even if it was NPC space) for as long as they have. But they're certainly not totalitarian.

    Let us not forget that this is a game where you play as a virtual demi-god, complete with immortality. What are they really going to do to you if you speak out for your own livelihood? Also, what were you doing joining that group if they didn't share your goals and ideals in the first place? This game doesn't just have one type of alliance mind-set, despite beliefs expressed here to the contrary.

    "There are two sorts of people in the game-"

    I quote at this:
    "There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who think you can reduce all people into two categories (they are called managers) and those who think categorizing all the people in the world into two categories is absurd (they are called philosophers – usually called so by managers)."

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  11. I will also note that my group of friends that form the Corporation I help lead, who do in fact play other games (some to unwind from 'too much' EVE - I'm the kind that can keep playing it for months on end, though), are very serious when it comes to EVE. We do treat it as more of a hobby, ultimately, I suppose. But we're also a tight-knit group of friends akin to an extended family. This helps us to be perhaps far harder to infiltrate than any other group out there.

    As someone had said already, we have rigorous acceptance policies of a sort, but this is to make sure the people we bring on from outside of our group are our kinds of people- people we can get along with and enjoy playing with. Our main leader is generally a very good judge of character, and generally handles interviews personally. We are trying to do some recruiting for him, but ultimately he has been the one that approves new members.

    As that other person said 'for people who fit our mold' ... This doesn't necessarily mean 'find mindless drones', this means people who work with our Corp's social environment. This is far more important to us than whether they are good pilots- being a good pilot can be learned, but being good with the group is something that your personality just has to be right for, and people can't really change who they are to fit in- it just doesn't work.

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  12. I also would like to note that our Corp has nothing against Empire space, either- in fact, we generally spend time in Empire space between being part of Null-Cec Alliances, just relaxing with mindless Level 4s and such as we plan for our next risky venture.

    I really think our time with the one alliance we still associate with was one of our best times, and I'd go for being with them again more officially, or even one of their allies. We have other plans, though, and I am eager to see them through.

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  13. Goon-o-ganda.

    Rofl, seriously. Never again 0.0. It used to be just like this, but this is seriously gimping one's game experience with EvE.

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  14. Test/goons are pretty much nothing like this post.

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  15. TEST alliace

    No CTAs.
    Get on TS? Your funeral.
    primary targets? what the fuck is that I got a gun on every red baby!
    Time to save a pos? meh, 50 people show up,
    Some turboniggerpubbies rage quit the alliance? FIRE UP THE ENGINES BOYS WE GOING BLUE HUNTING. (200 people login)

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  16. very interesting points... never thought of things this way, thanks...

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