This is Part 2 of a three-part series exploring the future of EVE. My central thesis is that CCP intends to expand its subscriber base (and therefore, its profits) by nerfing aggression in highsec to the point where highsec resembles a typical, safe, "theme park" MMO. In other words, I believe CCP would like to create in highsec a place where carebears can make steady, uninterrupted progress--just like they can in all the other MMOs on the market. In addition, I believe CCP's previous experience with Monoclegate and the Jita riots of 2011 has shown them that EVE's current playerbase would not approve of them compromising EVE's core concept in this way, so they are attempting to do it gradually. Finally, I contend that if CCP carries out that plan, it will eventually result in disastrous, unintended consequences.
In part one, which can be viewed by following this link, I took a closer look at CCP's official reasons for the exhumer rebalance, which nerfed suicide ganking by adding additional hitpoints to mining ships. The official line was that they wanted to give each ship a useful role, and that they wanted to prevent exhumers from being killed by anything that "sneezes" on them. Additional statements from CCP employees elaborated that they wanted gankers to lose more than their victims. It wasn't difficult to dismantle these rationales. Indeed, one top-rated comment on the article--by a commenter who approved of the exhumer rebalance, no less--conceded that CCP's official explanations were so weak as to be "straw man arguments".
Having demonstrated that the exhumer change was simply a nerf to aggression dressed up as a "rebalance", a number of important questions remain. Was the nerf an isolated incident--a response to suicide ganking being too easy? Or was it just another step in a pattern of nerfs revealing CCP's intent to make highsec a carebear paradise? If CCP does make highsec totally safe, would that be such a bad thing? Should players who live in lowsec or nullsec even care about what goes on in highsec?
In today's post, I will address the question of whether CCP is systematically nerfing highsec aggression, and why they would be motivated to do so.
I realize that this article will reach an audience with a variety of different viewpoints on this subject. For some of you--particularly those who have been following this issue for a long time--it will seem as though I am pointing out the obvious, because the trend toward a safer highsec is well-established, as well as the fact that CCP's desire for profits is no secret. Such readers might prefer to have a debate about whether removing non-consensual PvP from highsec is a good idea and what impact it would have. My examination of that aspect will take place in Part 3 of this series.
Other readers are unaware of, or unconvinced by, the argument that CCP is attempting to phase out aggression from highsec. The idea that CCP would do such a thing may appear unrealistic, the product of an overly active imagination. Such readers will find today's article to be useful.
THE PROFIT MOTIVE
EVE Online is a unique game. Is CCP a unique computer game company, or is it just like the rest?
As any of its fans will tell you, there is no other game quite like EVE. It is the only MMO on the market where you can engage in non-consensual PvP with consequences. Players can inflict lasting damage on their enemies. Empires built by thousands of players putting thousands of hours into the game can be wiped off the map by their enemies--in some cases permanently. EVE also embraces, in a way no other game does, the use of "meta-gaming" and "emergent gameplay". Deceptive and ruthless tactics that would get players banned in competing games are celebrated in EVE.
EVE Online's distinctive character has earned it a niche market of loyal customers. EVE is a success. Then again, there's a good reason why all the other gaming companies don't make games like EVE.
It's generally accepted that making a carebear-friendly game is good for business. While some players may enjoy EVE's cutthroat, no-holds-barred atmosphere, most gamers just can't handle it. MMOs are designed to tap into the part of the brain that takes pleasure in the feeling of slow, steady progression. Games like World of Warcraft are painstakingly structured to hand out rewards to players just often enough to keep them engaged. Negative feedback doesn't fit into the equation. People don't like being forced backward. So in most MMOs, losses--if they ever occur--have minimal impact on the player, who is always moving forward. Onward and upward.
Many MMOs have PvP, but outside of EVE it is either consensual or causes no lasting damage to the losing side. According to conventional wisdom, if you want to make a lot of money, make a game that accommodates the average gamer. Allowing other players to show up and destroy weeks, months, or even years worth of work? Not very accommodating.
Some people love a high-stakes game where their assets are put at risk. They probably also like the idea that they can inflict lasting harm on their opponents. The market research done by all those other MMO developers suggests such players are the minority. A computer game company wants to appeal to as many players as possible. You don't maximize your profits by catering to a minority.
However, if there's only one game that does cater to such players, they have nowhere else to go. So they come to EVE. When an EVE player expresses a desire for more safety, others say "Go back to WoW."
Does CCP want those players to go back to WoW, or do they want to accommodate them? Is CCP content with a niche market, or would they rather have WoW's profits?
TIN FOIL HATS
Given the level of meta-gaming and espionage involved in EVE, the game has a long history of "tin foil conspiracy theories". The term first came into popular use in EVE in late 2006, during a titanic struggle between two great powers in nullsec: The Band of Brothers (BoB) and Ascendant Frontier (ASCN). At the time, ASCN was the most populous alliance in EVE's history. But over a period of months, BoB reduced ASCN into a pile of rubble. During the waning days of the war, outrageous rumors about BoB began to surface. BoB was accused of being host to a large number of CCP employees, some of whom were using their power over the game to cheat on BoB's behalf--all with the knowledge of BoB's leaders.
Given the absurdity of the rumors, BoB was able to effectively respond with a campaign of mockery. BoB's directors vigorously denied the rumors and accused their attackers of wearing "tin foil hats". The suggestion that CCP employees were overrepresented in BoB--as opposed to being spread out among many alliances--was a "paranoid conspiracy theory". BoB's leaders encouraged their pilots to name their ships variations of "Band of Developers" and "Tin Foil Vagabond" so that hostiles would be greeted by these jibes when scanning out fleets. I remember it because, as they say, I was there.
Just to make certain their point wasn't missed by anyone, BoB actually changed its alliance holding corporation to a new corp called, simply, "Tin Foil".
But a few months later, a funny thing happened. It was revealed that the rumors were completely true. The gaming world was rocked by the scandal, which resulted in the creation of an internal affairs division in CCP, the creation of CSM, and the expulsion of a lot of CCP employees from BoB (but not from CCP). Forum leaks revealed that the very same BoB directors who had encouraged the "tin foil" mockery had been aware of the rumors' truth the whole time.
The story has a happy ending, though: BoB trusted the wrong person with access to Tin Foil, the holding corporation. At The Mittani's direction, he then used Tin Foil to disband Band of Brothers. Maybe they should have been more paranoid.
Why am I relating this story? Well, first of all, I like to occasionally recount EVE's history and to bash BoB. But my main point in recounting these events is not to draw a comparison with today's essay. Rather, it is to draw a contrast. Although the CCP/BoB conspiracy theory was true, it really was a wild story--something that should never have happened if people were behaving rationally.
By contrast, my theory about CCP nerfing highsec to boost its profits is not so exciting, and not an invitation to wear tin foil headgear. In fact, it's quite mundane when you stop and think about it.
At the end of the day, CCP is a company that makes computer games for profit. Companies are run by a small group of people who get together and have confidential meetings where they plan how to make money. That's not a conspiracy theory, it is just another day at the office.
When CCP makes changes to EVE's game design, the changes are made with business considerations in mind. They're not random--nor are they intended to be impartial toward every style of play. Again, this is not tin foil, it's something that happens from 9 to 5 every day in the computer business.
At the core of my theory is the basic presumption that CCP is like all other companies that make computer games. To think that every MMO is ruled by the profit motive except EVE? Well, I would argue that you're wearing fanboy goggles.
Consider: Removing aggression from highsec for the sake of increasing subscriptions is just the kind of thing that every other MMO has done. When I suggest CCP is planning to do the same thing--for the same reason--that everyone else in their shoes has already done, we're not exactly talking black helicopters here.
But you say to me, "Surely CCP is different. EVE is different. CCP would never compromise the core principles of EVE just to make a few dollars like all those other MMOs."
A year ago, in the midst of Incarna, Monoclegate, "Greed is Good", and gold scorpions, thousands of players were rioting against CCP. Why? Because players thought CCP was going to compromise the core principles of EVE just to make a few dollars like all those other MMOs.
It's time to take off the fanboy goggles. CCP's job is to make money. Other writers on this fine website have written about the IPO, Dust, etc. Suffice it to say, CCP's under more pressure than ever to make a healthy profit. Therefore, if CCP believes they can make more money with a carebear-friendly highsec, they'll probably make it happen.
But does CCP believe that? And are they systematically nerfing highsec aggression?
At the height of Monoclegate, an e-mail from one of CCP's top personnel was leaked to the general public. The e-mail dismissed players' complaints about the microtransaction proposals as "predictable", and encouraged employees to focus instead on players' actions. For example, a bunch of players had purchased monocles.
For all the heat the e-mail's author took, it's not a bad idea to focus on what people do, rather than what they say. With that in mind, let us consider some of CCP's recent actions.
THE ROAD TO NERFDOM
Those who have been observing the changes in highsec over the last few years will not be surprised by my claim that aggression is being phased out. Until this point in the series, I have spoken only of nerfs to suicide ganking. However, my general theory about CCP's treatment of highsec is not limited to gank nerfs.
In order to transform highsec into a carebear paradise on the level of other MMOs, the removal of ganking is necessary but not sufficient. Consequently, CCP has also been nerfing the other forms of highsec violence, including wardecs, theft (i.e. can-flipping and the like), and various aggression-flagging tricks.
One might also add scamming to the list, including both recruitment scamming and contract scamming. I generally don't put those in the same category, since contract scamming arguably had more to do with a faulty user interface, and I'm not familiar enough with recruitment scamming to know whether and to what degree CCP has restricted it.
A full list of the nerfs to highsec aggression has never been compiled. Such a list would be difficult to construct, given CCP's penchant for undocumented or unpublicized "stealth nerfs". However, a good starting point is the list of nerfs put together by Herr Wilkus in his epic thread on the exhumer rebalance.
In his list, Herr Wilkus made note of more than a dozen separate nerfs across the spectrum of highsec aggression. As the man credited with creating the "boomerang" ganking tactic, Herr Wilkus also made a point of identifying some of the players and entities at whom the nerfs were directly targeted. Yet even a list as long as Herr Wilkus' is not complete: Older nerfs like the infamous Privateers wardec nerf, as well as some other stealth nerfs to ganking, are not included. And, of course, nerfs aimed at the aggression-flagging mechanics are difficult to track because they are made and re-made so frequently.
When I first began to speak about the disturbing trend of nerfs in highsec, around the time of the ganker insurance nerf, there was a lot more skepticism about the problem. But then the skeptics, who had already witnessed the "jihadswarm" ganker nerfs, now watched as CCP instituted the "boomerang" nerf, various aggression-flagging nerfs, the Inferno wardec nerfs, the subsequent wardec-ally nerf, the exhumer rebalance, and announced the "crimewatch" nerfs for an upcoming expansion.
I would say the skeptics haven't changed in number so much as in age. Skeptics from earlier days are less skeptical, to say the least--for many, the exhumer buff was the last straw. But as the questions about highsec's future have gained more prominence, more people are beginning to pay attention for the first time. Newcomers to the debate are usually less familiar with the history, and are inclined to say things like, "So what if they rebalanced exhumers? That's only one nerf, it's not the end of the world."
It's a bit like having lobsters in a pot with the temperature rising. Taken in isolation, the rise of each degree is not so alarming. But if a lobster is aware of the trend, he may come to the conclusion that the cook intends to boil him alive. As a thought experiment, imagine the list of nerfs if they went in reverse--as a list of buffs to highsec aggression. How do you suppose the highsec miners would react? My guess is they would think CCP is trying to get rid of them.
The attitude of the playerbase toward highsec's future is bound to change. Those who think everything's fine today will likely have more anxiety about it in the future. Meanwhile, those who have not yet engaged the issue will be more accustomed to a nerfed highsec when they jump into the conversation. It's not difficult to imagine a future where newcomers exclaim "Of course they had to buff faction police, people with low security status were operating too easily in highsec!"
WHAT ABOUT THE BUFFS TO GANKING?
Having established the history of nerfs to highsec aggression, there are still some arguments in which skeptics find solace. Aggression has been nerfed, they say, but hasn't it also occasionally been buffed? The chief example--perhaps the only example--cited is the Crucible expansion, which featured the re-working of destroyers and introduction of tier-3 battlecruisers.
The buffed destroyers and the tier-3 battlecruisers were both "glass cannons", designed to have a lot of DPS but little in the way of defenses. That's an ideal profile for suicide ganking. Of course, the changes didn't allow gankers to do anything they couldn't already do before--they just made it cheaper. At least, they would have made it cheaper were it not for the removal of insurance payouts for suicide gankers, which also just happened to be released with Crucible.
As I mentioned in Part 1, the shift into the cheaper hulls with more expensive weapons was an adaptation, not a buff. Using an uninsured tornado instead of an insured tempest, or spending isk on a catalyst's tech II fittings instead of platinum insurance for a brutix, didn't leave the ganker in a better position. So why make Crucible this way?
Upon reading the preview for Crucible, any ganker could see that the new ships would allow him to reduce his ganking costs to compensate for the insurance nerf. It would probably be difficult for a ganker to believe this wasn't intended by CCP. However, I think the evidence suggests the ship changes were NOT intended to buff suicide ganking.
Prior to Crucible, CCP had taken a lot of heat. The previous expansion, Incarna, was a disaster. One of the main complaints EVE players had about the direction of EVE was that CCP had not been putting enough focus on spaceships in their spaceship game. It had been a long time since they last created new ships, so there was a lot of pressure to put new ships into Crucible. I believe the introduction of tier-3 battlecruisers and the change to destroyers (to finally make them useful) were a result of that pressure, not a desire on CCP's part to buff ganking.
We can see this is the case by examining CCP's response to how the new ships were used. I said that the only advantage to the new ships was their reduced cost. That's not entirely true. By their nature, tier-3 battlecruisers also had slightly more agility than battleships. Herr Wilkus ingeniously devised a way to make use of this advantage in order to conduct repeated strikes with the same ship, warping away from Concord just in time. His ship would still eventually get caught and killed by Concord, but if everything were timed just right, the ship would be much more effective.
As soon as CCP learned the tier-3 battlecruisers were being used this way, they declared the tactic an exploit and issued an emergency patch to prevent ships from warping away after initiating a suicide gank. The speed with which CCP was able to patch in this new game mechanic must have been bewildering to a nullsec population that had been waiting so long for basic "fixes" to POSes, sov warfare, etc.
CCP had a similar attitude toward destroyers. Loading destroyers with tech II gear was no cheaper than the equivalent pre-Crucible alternatives. But CCP latched onto the highsec miner complaint that destroyers are simply too cheap and small to kill exhumers. It would have been laughable to say the same about a brutix, but the concept took deep root: Destroyers should be too weak to stand a chance at killing an untanked, AFK mining ship. With that attitude, CCP clearly never intended buffing destroyers to be a buff to ganking. CCP later used the destroyers as a justification for buffing exhumer EHP across the board.
After all was said and done, gankers were left in much worse shape after Crucible than before it. Loading fully-insured tempests and brutixes with tech I equipment had been just as lethal and affordable, while being less vulnerable to the miners' complaints that ganking was too cheap and easy. Therefore, the Crucible changes cannot be considered a buff to ganking in any way. All of the recent changes have been in one direction: Make highsec more comfortable for the carebears.
WAS SUICIDE GANKING TOO EASY?
By now we should all recognize the fact that CCP has been repeatedly nerfing highsec aggression. Cue the inevitable response from the apologists: The nerfs had to be made, because it was just too easy to perform a suicide gank. The question of how easy it should be to suicide an exhumer is really a philosophical question. It's probably more suited to an overall discussion of how dangerous highsec should be. Nevertheless, I would like to take this opportunity to explode some of the fallacies frequently set forth under the "ganking was too easy" banner.
The main problem with the argument is that it presents a very narrow, idealized picture of how ganking actually took place. Consider the following analogy, which I believe accurately presents the way carebears framed the argument:
"Making money in the stock market is way too easy. All you have to do is buy some stock, which then increases in value. Stock can double or triple in value the day after you buy it, at which point you sell it at a huge profit. It's simply too quick and easy to make a fortune that way. Nerf the stock market."
You see the problem with this analysis? It's obvious when presented in this light, yet highsec miners used the same flawed reasoning when they argued that it was too easy to gank a hulk. Let's start with the most readily apparent flaw--the assumption that the stock you buy always goes up, not down. When considering the cost and ease with which ganks could occur, miners assumed all the ganks were successful. They never factored in the failures.
As someone who has spent some time in highsec ice fields, I can tell you that this is not the case. Without having a battery of statistics at my disposal, I would say at least half of the ganks I saw ended up being failures--before the exhumer rebalance. A well-tanked miner could even make money, since he could scoop the loot of the failed ganker. (The insurance nerf-inspired shift to cheap hulls with expensive equipment was, naturally, to such miners' benefit.)
Why did so many ganks fail? Pilot error only goes so far in explaining it. Even in situations where a ganker would succeed on paper, there was still a decent chance of failure. Concord response time is notoriously unreliable, and this matters when damage calculations come down the fraction of a second. Damage inflicted by gun volleys--particularly alpha striking thrashers and tornadoes--are also variable by their very nature. For those with lower security status, the odds that faction police will jam you is also based on random chance.
Thus, guaranteeing a successful suicide gank forces you to go the extra mile. It also requires you to get accurate scans of all of your targets' fittings and plug in the numbers. Even that won't get you an exact calculation, since the skillpoints of your target will affect his ship's hitpoints.
The other problem with the "nerf the stock market" analysis is that it only looks at ideal situations, such as stocks that double in a day's time. The miner equivalent would be to only look at cases where an exhumer was completely untanked and could be taken down by a destroyer. The "too easy to gank" theory rests solely on the idea that exhumers were slaughtered by solo destroyers, and completely ignores the gankers' use of more expensive ships, such as tornadoes. In reality, gankers used a wide variety of ships, because in many cases, a destroyer simply wouldn't do the job--or couldn't guarantee a kill. Proponents of the gank nerfs completely ignore this, because you can't so easily argue that an exhumer should automatically survive an attack by a tier-3 battlecruiser.
In addition, one must also consider all of the suicide ganks that were prevented through deterrence. After all, if ganking was too easy, attacks shouldn't be easily avoided. Yet they were. Many exhumer pilots did fit tanking modules. Others used alts to bring in Concord protection when they began mining. Some had friends to help shield boost them, or jam enemies, while others used ECM drones which automatically counter-attacked. And some miners actually remained at their keyboards to stay aligned and warp out when they saw something suspicious.
Of course, because such miners weren't killed, they didn't appear on killmails, and they didn't go to the forums and complain. Nor did these "good" miners flood CCP with petitions. Their more sensitive counterparts, by contrast, will petition anything at the slightest provocation.
I believe the "it was too easy to gank" crowd--which includes CCP decision-makers--had their perception of suicide ganking warped. The miners who survived attacks remained invisible, while those who got blown up were the noisiest complainers in EVE's history. The successes of ganking were seen, while the failures were not. Yet determining how easy something is absolutely depends on seeing both successes and failures.
In reality, the feasibility of solo-ganking was on the razor's edge. It didn't get there by accident; recall that suicide ganking had already been nerfed, even before the exhumer rebalance and the insurance nerf. Some say that suicide ganking should be a team sport, rather than something that can be done solo. This contradicts the entire rationale of the isk-tanking argument, since isk-tanking doesn't scale. But even if we were to entertain the idea, it could be turned on its head: If miners want to mine cheaply, they can have a team of miners using cheaper mining ships. Same yield, lower cost--just like a team of gankers. But no one would ever ask the miners to do something. No matter how "easy" you think suicide ganking is, it's always easier to buy and fit a couple of tanking mods. Yet no one asked the miners to do that, they simply gave them extra EHP for free.
Finally, the "too easy to gank" theory fails when you look at the sheer volume of highsec mining activity. If miners were that easy to gank, there wouldn't have continued to be so many highsec miners. Even when Hulkageddon led to a drop in highsec mining, there were still ridiculous numbers of people AFK "playing" EVE's most boring activity. Highsec mining was still easy, because ganking was never as easy as the nerf proponents claimed.
WOULD CCP GIVE UP THEIR NICHE MARKET?
I'm used to hearing skeptics criticize me for thinking "the sky is falling" just because highsec has been headed toward carebear land. They agree that CCP is driven by the profit motive. But they some think that the profit motive will prevent CCP from removing aggression from highsec. In their view, CCP recognizes that EVE is a niche game with a unique playerbase. Turning EVE into a theme park MMO would be financial suicide, so CCP wouldn't be tempted.
My own view is that CCP believes they can have their cake and eat it, too. That is, they can have a perfectly safe highsec in which they cater to the teeming masses of MMO carebears, and they can have a unique, dangerous game in lowsec/nullsec. I think CCP intends to use the "sandbox" aspect of the game for marketing purposes, while also accommodating carebears in highsec. They can use the lure of news articles about fantastic emergent gameplay to boost EVE's profile, and then give the new customers what they really want: absolute safety.
Let me give you an example. The Burn Jita campaign was one of the highest-profile events in recent memory. Like other events, it gave EVE a lot of very good press. It also caused unimaginable suffering among the carebear population--despite repeated warnings and even an unprecedented load-screen graphic informing them of the event. One of EVE's senior producers offered memorable comments to the gaming media, repeatedly calling Burn Jita "brilliant".
After the gaming media reported this, someone asked me my opinion of the "brilliant" quote and whether it meant CCP had abandoned its efforts to make highsec into a carebear paradise. I responded that while I felt there were probably many CCP employees who did prefer a cutthroat game, the people in charge would first celebrate the news coverage--and then make sure Burn Jita didn't happen again. Burn Jita was fine as a one-time event for marketing, but as a regular occurrence? Not a chance.
The Goons, who spearheaded Burn Jita, proudly announced how they were able to pull it off. Burn Jita had three ingredients. The first two were wardecs and suicide ganking. The third ingredient was technetium income to fund the wardecs and suicide ganking.
In the months that followed Burn Jita, CCP took action to nerf wardecs, suicide ganking, and technetium.
You can unclench your teeth. I am aware of the coincidental nature of some of these nerfs: The wardec nerf was already announced before Burn Jita, suicide ganking nerfs affected attacks on mining ships rather than freighters, and the technetium nerf was "in the works" for a long time. Nevertheless, it would be hard to imagine a coincidence working in the other direction, with CCP buffing the tactics that the Goons employed.
Moreover, it's no coincidence that exhumers were buffed after Hulkageddon. It's also likely that the Goons' highly-publicized tech-sponsored Infinite Hulkageddon gave CCP the incentive they needed to finally to shuffle the technetium nerf up from the bottom of their priority list, where it had languished for more than a year.
In effect, CCP could make EVE like every theme park MMO on the market, but with a few free-for-all zones where emergent gameplay can occur and get the game some press. Participation in those dangerous zones would be purely voluntary--just like consensual PvP in all the other games.
MARKETING THE NEW EVE
In Part 3 of this series, I will examine the reasons why this concept of a "New EVE" is doomed to failure. But before I conclude this Part, I would like to say a few things about what a transition to the New EVE would be like.
As the new expansions become less about spaceships and more about nerfing aggression, you have to take pity on the people who do the marketing for EVE. How do you advertise an expansion dedicated to making action and explosions less common?
I was amused by the marketing for the Inferno expansion (the one with the wardec nerf, not the later version with the exhumer buff). Prior to launch, one of the load-screen advertisements showed a promo for Inferno's wardec nerf. I was so struck by the advertisement that I wrote a note about what it said: "A war-filled expansion to heat up summer 2012." You have to love that. I mean, it's not like they could run an advertisement saying "EVE: Now with less war!"
The wardec changes, of course, were designed with the intention of making wars less common so carebears could mine more safely in highsec. The base cost for wars against corporations was increased from 2 million to 50 million, and wars against alliances had increased costs based on the number of people in the alliance. (They said this was because wardecs against large alliances offered more targets, but the reasoning was never really worked out.)
In addition, carebears victimized by a wardec were given the ability to call in infinite allies for free. The official reasoning behind this move was to make things more "fair", because otherwise wars favored the attacker. This is a bit like saying piracy favors the pirates, because they choose which ships to attack. Wars of aggression are supposed to favor the attacker--that's why industrial ships and industrial corps are called "soft targets". The other official reason was to create a "mercenary marketplace", but the interface for said marketplace was strangely absent from the expansion.
In reality, the allies system was intended to discourage wars against carebears, by making them harder targets. Ironically, it led to an increase in warfare, because anyone who declared war could have the entirety of EVE jumping into the conflict against them for free. Some corps jumped into every war they could find. Was this the intention? As with the destroyer buff and tier-3 battlecruisers, we can determine the answer from CCP's response: They quickly nerfed the allies system to reduce the allies that could be called in. That way, carebears could get extra protection, but there was no risk of a truly "war-filled" summer.
Today, what do we have to look forward to? The next item on the agenda is the "crimewatch" system, a comprehensive series of nerfs to highsec crime. The intention, as ever, is to protect the carebears in highsec from having their theme park disturbed. One must wonder how that will be advertised. The idea of another expansion based around protecting carebears is not quite as inspiring as, say, the introduction of capital ships or titans, or even stealth bombers with bombs.
Perhaps we will see a load-screen promo saying something like, "There's crime in New Eden this winter, and people are on the hunt for criminals! which side will YOU choose?"
MOTIVE, MEANS, AND OPPORTUNITY
Does CCP have a motive for removing aggression from highsec? I think the answer is yes. Other MMOs have shown that if you build a peaceful theme park, the carebears will flock to it and throw gobs of subscription fees at you. EVE is a niche game, but I believe CCP's leadership is convinced they can operate a two-tier game in which the lowsec/nullsec players operate in dangerous territory and generate good press for the game, while highsec players--the bulk of the playerbase--can accumulate isk in peace, all while pretending they play a "hardcore" game.
Does CCP have the means to remove aggression from highsec? No doubt. Like CCP Soundwave said, all they have to do is flip the aggression switch to the "off" position. Or, more likely, they can nerf the various forms of aggression into oblivion.
All that remains is the opportunity. Last year, perhaps CCP felt it was on solid ground when it began buzzing about microtransactions and monocles and gold ammo. Then everything blew up in CCP's face. It seems like a lot of players have forgotten about Monoclegate and the Jita Riots, but I doubt CCP has forgotten. After CCP was forced to issue a public apology to the players, I suspect the first thing CCP's CEO did was make clear that he wouldn't let the company be put in that position again. They wouldn't act without considering the reaction of the players. They wouldn't dare flip a switch and make highsec into Candyland overnight.
What happens when you have the motive, the means, but not the opportunity? You wait. You tread carefully, and you try to find an opportunity, or make one. I believe a clear-eyed view of the recent changes reveals that CCP has been systematically phasing aggression out of highsec. By the time everyone realizes what's happened to their game, CCP will be flooded with subscription money from all the new carebears. At least, that would be the idea.
Most EVE players are appalled by the idea of transforming EVE into a theme park MMO, even if it's only in highsec. However, there are also many EVE players who would welcome a large safety zone for economic activity. I'm not just talking about the miners and carebears themselves; there are hardcore nullsec PvP'ers who like the idea of inexpensive ships built by all the newly-secure industrial activity. Other players really don't care. And CCP, in my opinion, relishes the idea of a more mainstream playerbase.
In Part 3, I will explain why I think everyone--CCP most of all--would be negatively impacted by a risk-free highsec. Until then, I would just like to leave you with the following hypothetical scenario to chew on:
When something in EVE becomes too powerful--a ship, a module, a tactic, whatever--it gets nerfed, to send the game back into balance. What would happen if something became so popular that it couldn't be nerfed, for fear of angering the players who used it? What would happen if its popularity meant it got buffed instead of nerfed?
See you next time.