Saturday, March 19, 2016

From skill choice to class warfare in EVE

"I had a little monkey and I sent him to the country and I fed him on gingerbread"

Marilyn Manson - My Monkey

Here's a cruiser in EVE-Online called a Maller. Though one of my current Mallers, it's not "my" Maller, the stalwart survivalist of song and legend, which naught but a divine smiting could vanquish. I bought My Maller a couple of months into the game as I seem to remember. It lasted for several years, through various rage-quits and account cancellations. It outlived my first few battleships and industrials. It braved both low-security and lawless space, lived through ganks and ran gate camps, was brought to almost zero hull several times and repaired. At one point after a fleet battle, armed with the newly-invented prototype cloaking device, it led a group of about twenty enemies in a merry game of hide and seek through several solar systems.

Then at long last one sunny day (always sunny in space) woe most woeful betid our valiant hero! One of my alliance's more Branniganesque fleet commanders scattered an enemy gate camp then, drunk on near-victory, led us on a not so merry chase for forty solar systems as the obvious enemy trap became more and more obvious. Finally the retarded piece of trash ordered us to jump into a system with an enemy titan (the not quite copyright infringing EVE equivalent of a death star) which summarily vaporized our entire fifty-player fleet in one blow, including the ship which had survived everything else in the game except a worthless fucking idiot in a position of power.

"My monkey, my monkey, my monkey's bought the farm, yeeaaaahhhhh!"

See, as one of the first ship classes included at the game's launch, the Maller received a rather archetypal defining role. It was a tank. Its armor amount, armor resistance bonus and huge energy pool for repairing made it the toughest nut to crack within its weight class. Most importantly, it received no offensive bonuses, leaving the player free to fit weaponry slots as he saw fit. Many, like me, fitted their Mallers with autocannons instead of energy-intensive lasers, leaving that much more energy available for defense. That was then. That was while World of Warcraft also included the concept of hybrid classes in its druid, paladin and shaman mechanics. You may notice the ship in the above, much more recent image, has a laser damage bonus in addition to its armor bonus.

EVE started as a skill-based game. It gradually became a class-based one. At the game's launch, many players fitted a gun onto their industrial transport ships, otherwise defined as defenseless space trucks, to add some damage to a potential gank defense. Mining ships were regular cruisers fitted with mining lasers instead of guns. A ship's role was not immediately apparent and half the game's fun revolved around seeing what you could cram onto a hull based on its available slots, power, CPU and other stats.

"Sanity's a little box"

Then the wave of mass-market cretins began taking over MMOs instead of the nerdy old clientele and EVE adopted industry standards. Players demanded thought be left out of the equation. They demanded easy answers. CCP provided them. EVE now features designated sniper classes, crowd control classes, rogue assassin classes, etc. as in any WoW-clone. Class items inevitably followed classes, filling the game with gear only fitted to one or two ships per empire. Each ship now not only depends on specific bonuses, almost always pigeonholing you into using one particular setup, but tells you in big friendly ideograms exactly what to put on it. Intellect is obsolete.

Know what's special about my Maller story? I didn't have to fit it defensively. I could have taken its defense bonus as-is and stacked it for laser-damage instead, banking on dishing out as much damage as I could while the ship's considerable innate defenses lasted, as I in fact did with several setups. Don't even dream of showing a setup like that to EVE's current customer base. You'll get ostracized faster than the noobiest noob that ever noobed a noob, like oh emm geez NOOB! How dare you not use the spoon-fed "winner" choice?

Here's how far EVE's fallen: doctrines. I couldn't even join most of my alliance's fleets during my little three-month stint since the holidays because in order to be allowed to play with the cool kids, you must bring not only a specific ship hull but must fit it exactly to the top honcho's specifications, down to every last fitting. Instead of playing the game, you're reduced to a sock-puppet for some knuckledragging little snot-nosed imbecile to feel big about himself for making others march to his tune. And they call these cookie-cutter builds (utterly un-ironically) doctrines.

The MMO which out-shone its competition at launch thirteen years ago in the amount of freedom it allowed for player thought within its skill-based character development now out-shines class-based games in anti-intellectual reductionism as well. That nosedive's got to count as some sort of achievement.

"We are our own wicked gods with little Gs and big dicks
Sadistic, constantly inflicting a slow demise"

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