Tuesday, June 28, 2016

EVE are Legion !

After spending three months this spring revisiting EVE-Online, I yammered a bit about some of its good and bad points. I've still yet to see anything even close to the quality of EVE's market system in other games and through this and a small amount of open-world building/destruction by players (starbases) EVE much more closely approaches the ideal of a true MMO than other products advertising themselves as such. On the other hand, it has suffered the usual decline in quality in terms of facilitating griefing, force-feeding players the "right" choice in developing their character and gear, trivializing player control over resources and investment in resource gathering, plus has never outgrown the limitations of its now antiquated core mechanics.

However, EVE shares its greatest failing with the rest of the industry. Indeed, more than anything, the industry standard of legitimized cheating has, over the past fifteen years or so, gradually made online games increasingly unpalatable. Though EVE has only recently added a cash shop fitting the model of its competitors, in reality it legitimized bribery as a means of player advancement from the very start, albeit in its particular, rather unusual way.

While bumming around various solar systems, you might do a double-take at seeing very similar names in your chat box. The first few times you see two or three player names with the same format you might shrug it off as, ida know, maybe a husband and wife team playing together? Awww, how schweet.
You'd be wrong. You might assume that seven or ten accounts all sharing the same name represent seven or ten players, some tightly-knit clan so hardcore that being in the same corporation just isn't enough for them and they have to resort to old-school tags in their very names!
You'd be wrong. Though obviously the examples above may very well be exceptions to the rule, what you're looking at in such cases is one player running two, three, even twelve accounts. This version of cheating was always quite common in browser strategy games around Y2K and to figure out how it became the rule in EVE we have to go back to the very beginning, to basic character advancement mechanics.

Early MMOs tended to use the high-brow version of character advancement, skill-based systems in which you improve each skill by using it. Your heavy armor skill improves as you get hit while wearing heavy armor. Your fireball skill improves with every ball you fire. Think Skyrim. The simplified, dumbed-down D&D alternative of class-based, level-based gameplay nonetheless came a close second and immediately gained overwhelming popularity as World of Warcraft copycats took over the market. Both systems nonetheless require active player involvement, which means a twelve year old playing five hours a day will rapidly out-pace someone with a full-time job playing a couple of hours every other night.

EVE offered offline character advancement. Select a skill and it increases slowly, second by second, for as long as your account is active, whether or not you're logged in and regardless of what you're doing. To my great shame, I initially bought into this notion (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, I was young and foolish) and thought this system would be the greatest thing since sliced goblins. Of course, you can double your skill improvement by doubling your accounts. Don't like having to buy minerals or materials through EVE's market system? Just pay CCP another $13/mo and you can effortlessly skill up your very own resource harvester alt. Don't like having to haul your equipment in a small ship? Another $13/mo and you can skill up your very own freighter alt! Easy as pie in the sky.

The most basic rule of games, by definition, is parity. Everyone pays the same entrance fee. Everyone gets the same equipment. Everyone kicks the same ball. Every player gets the same number of chess pieces. Every team has the same number of players! In EVE, however, you quickly run into jaw-dropping aberrations like the following conversation, re-iterated endless times by countless players in countless chats throughout the game's history.

"How many accounts do you have?"
"2 but mulling over a third if I can get it to make financial sense"
"I have 3 accounts with 1 main character on each. Two of them have a second hauler character."
"3 accounts"
"Just one, and probably never any more than that."
"Two, but I don't actually play them. Ones a titan, the other's a command ship whore that I let leadership use."
"I used 2 accounts myself and had access to 3 additional accounts."
"2, But thinking of starting another. What for? I dunno yet..."
"Two accounts. One for PvP, one to fund my PvP habit."
"5 accounts. I could plex them all but I'd rather have iskies for my toonies and pay for year long subs instead."
"4, thinking of 5. Each one I add will pay for itself in plex. Its just a matter of wanting to spend the time dealing with it."
"One can't see myself getting a second one for a while but it seems like I need one and I don't really like that."
"1 account, 3 toons"
"12 ... been down to 9 ... fuck you, capital construction... Ninja Edit: Also, fuck you :ccp: for tempting me with cheap gametime... and fuck you plex market for slowly dropping to a reasonable level. Gosh, fuck EVE"
"9 at the moment...I think."
"15 accounts, playing simultaniously on 5 computers with 3 monitors each 1 x orca 9 x mining 1 x hauler 4 x security"
"Two accounts. One to make the ISK, the other to burn it."
"4 active, 6 total."
"I am almost in the exact same situation as yourself I have 2 accounts with 1 character on each. I have a incursion character on one and a PvP character on the other."
"I have two active accounts with one character on each."
"3 accounts 2 Characters on all three."
"3 accounts, 9 toons"
"4 at the moment"
"Three currently!"
"(main) (scouting alt) (ratting/scouting alt) (ratting/scouting alt) (neutral proteus/moros alt) (bonus alt)
"At he momment I have one main with 60+mill sp and two fairly fresh one breaking 20mill sp soon and one inn the low 3-4mill sp."
"2. My first is a mining character and I was looking at a rorqual later, but the changes fucked me up. My other I'm training for incursion"
"I have two"
"3 Accounts"
"One active, my char from 2006 and an inactive exploration/salvager char I didn't feel like paying for anymore."
"4 atm."
"4 accounts, with 4 main characters."
"I currently have one account, i've always wanted a second one for pvp or for anything honestly."
"This time 3 on 2 accounts (previous singular character is gone)."
"2 accounts. Couldn't ever see having more than that"
"6 accounts"
"6 accounts, 4 active."
"7 - Each with a main character, a trade alt (Jita, Amarr, Rens, etc), and a Cyno alt."
"Hit a high point of around 25, now around about 8. The rest are all inactive/unsubbed."
"32 - I'm currently running a character farm... kinda like the matrix but without all the mess"
"I love these threads because I get to show how stupid I am for having 15 accounts I'm plexing and a few more alts"

Not bothering pasting every reply. Yes, a few hold-outs persist, gritting their teeth with a single account. Hat's off to you, my masochistic friends, but you really need to find a better hobby. Also, I love all the idiots puffing their chests believing they hold some moral high-ground by ONLY running two or three accounts at a time, like the idiot jocks bragging that they're "only" artificially oxygenating their blood and are therefore so much more ethical than the ones pumping steroids.

Fucking retards.

Before you ask, yes, this was a problem from the start of the game but not nearly as rampant. My guild leader in 2003 ran two accounts from the start, but she was the only one (maybe two) in our ten to twenty-player corporation. CCP saw the potential and ran with it, incorporating multiple accounts and real-money trading at every into the core of their marketing plan until EVE became, more than "the PvP MMO" and more than the only one with a real market system, utterly defined by its status as the multibox MMO. The latest big gameplay addition, planetary industry (EVE's answer to Farmville) was obviously designed to give as much of an advantage as possible to players with multiple accounts. Its profitability scales very poorly with a long time investment but very well with shallow investment across multiple characters.

After running through CCP's offer for three months for the price of one and feeding my nostalgia, I was sort of torn on whether to continue for three more months. Playing around with the rather robust crafting system was still fun, after all. Then I got ganked, losing a month's worth of crafted goods. I quit in disgust when I realized I'd started thinking this would've been so much simpler if I'd had a second account to do my hauling. This of course reminded me that the very reason half a dozen players could camp that station 24/7 is that as they're sitting there each of them also has a second and third and fourth and thirteenth account getting them an advantage by mining / hauling / farming / spying, etc.

So yeah, fuck EVE and fuck the degenerate scum cluttering it. Once you allow cheating you begin attracting the sort of pathetic trash who want to cheat. Once you encourage it you lose any pretense of legitimacy.

By the way, if you want a fun exercise, try reminding EVE players that they are in fact cheating, every second they run more than one character and with every month of game time they buy with real money and then sell to another player for an in-game advantage. Be ready for some mind-boggling performances of mental gymnastics as they twist themselves in knots trying to justify themselves. No, it's not really cheating because I'm not actively hacking CCP's server. No, but you see, it's not real-money-trading because I'm not giving the money directly to another player, it has to go through CCP first. Nonono, you see, it's not really unfair because only one of my characters is an active combat pilot, and the rest are just paying for it.

Then of course, you've got the inevitable hiding behind authority, pretending that as long as unfairness is legalized by authority it's not really unfair. Aaaaand of course the other dodge: no, but you see it's not giving me that much of an advantage, not really and truly, just a little bit, it's almost as if it doesn't even matter. Bullshit! If it didn't give you an advantage, you would not be doing it!

One player, one account, one character at a time. It's the only way multiplayer games should ever be run.

P.S.: Keep this in mind if you ever see CCP bragging about its subscriber statistics by the way. Two to three accounts are now THE RULE in EVE, not to mention the handful of addicts running ten or more accounts at once. They may show 27,000 accounts online at once, but that boils down to under ten thousand players for certain, more likely a bit less than that.

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