The Vision Thing

CCP has never really articulated a vision of 0.0. Well, that’s not true — they once published a rambling devblog about their 0.0 “vision.” Over the years, their changes to 0.0 have been virtually random: every expansion, CCP tweaks things that are obviously out of balance, tweaks things that someone has gotten convinced are out of balance, or adds a new feature someone else thought would be cool that usually breaks the balance achieved from the first two points. But lacking a vision of what 0.0 is supposed to be, CCP has never been able to set a goal to work towards over multiple releases. Many of the developers at CCP have never really lived in 0.0, and as a result they don’t really seem to understand what it is and what it should be. Their “vision” is an amalgamation of pointless slogans that lack the coherence a vision needs.

People tend to view a “vision” as the sort of trite crap that middle-managers spout while they try desperately to understand what the hell their engineers are talking about. That’s not the case. In EVE, we have a massively complex game, with massive amounts of people interacting with each other to produce staggeringly complex results. It’s not easy to intuitively understand what’s going on, how something will affect the game, and why a seemingly small change is of massive importance.

CCP’s “vision” is a proud product of the sort of middle-management committee product that gives the notion such a bad reputation. It is a series of trite slogans that offer no overarching theme of 0.0, nothing to unify the disparate components of 0.0 that need work or modification into a coherent whole. It is the product of various interest groups getting their own individual shoutouts that will be honored only when they happen to be useful justifications for whatever someone wants to do anyway. The sole attempt at an overarching vision – [turn up to 11?] – is remarkable in how little it actually says: there are few “visions” that could offer less insight into what is good or bad for 0.0.

A vision is a way to understand the system both as it is and as it should be through analogizing it to something we understand well. A good vision gives you the structure to make sense of the game as it is, and gives you a clear idea of where it should go, why it should go that way, and how to get it there. This article will attempt to lay out such a vision.

The Vision

0.0 is a place for empires. Everything that is great about 0.0 has not come from turning the highsec experience “up to 11”. It’s a consequence of the struggles between alliances over space. It’s a consequence of the vicious struggle for power that has occurred almost unceasingly for years. Small struggles, tiny alliances fighting over a single station, lead to the sort of titanic struggle between an alliance at the height of its power and an insurgent group of barbarians that have achieved unimaginable success at toppling one minor (and now forgotten) empire after another that gives EVE a rich history no other game can match. It makes even the most hideously unfun activities (failing to load a grid for over an hour trying to jump into a system, to finally play a minor role in a gigantic battle playing at 1fps if you’re lucky) be fondly remembered even after years. It’s what creates the vibrant metagame of diplomacy, politics, backstabbing that make 0.0 such an interesting place that it can feature in the New York Times and the BBC. It’s what can draw people into such a brutally unforgiving game and keep them engaged for years. Understanding 0.0 as a place for empires, where space nations rise through conquest, stagnate, fight off raiders, and eventually succumb to outside invaders recreating the cycle.

The typical 0.0 imperial experience involves starting from a constellation or two, conquering your neighbors, conquering their neighbors, defeating the regional power and setting yourself up as the New Roman Empire, fending off attacks on your outlying regions, bleeding yourself dry, and inevitably getting sacked and watching another power take your place. Or you play the part of the barbarians: raiding out of the wilderness at the borders of the empire for plunder and the fun of it. This has happened for as long as sovereignty mechanics have been in the game and will continue happening until the servers shut down.

Because 0.0 is a place for empires, all that matters is sheer power exercised through any means available. It is not a “wild west,” a place with no rules where every man is for himself. Instead, it’s much like the ancient world: the rules are set and changed by force majeure. The Right of Conquest is alive and well in 0.0: whoever lives in an area has earned the right to live there through force of will and force of arms.

That sort of empire-based gameplay is what 0.0 is for and what CCP should try to improve. 0.0 is a place to build empires, for empires to fight, and for empires to be torn down.

Understanding this vision allows for a much greater understanding of what 0.0 is for and needs to be. It allows us to break down EVE combat and analyze it through a much better lens than the usual honorfight-based nonsense. Understanding what the combat is — and what it should be — gives a much better understanding of how it should be fixed and improved.

The idea of 0.0 as a “wild west” has done significant harm to attempts to revitalize 0.0. The vision of 0.0 as a solo, anything-goes place has led to an increasing desolation where vast swathes of territory only occasionally see tumbleweed pass by. The “farms and fields” initiatives pushed by various CSM members have been the start of a better vision for 0.0: emphasizing the need to allow people to build. Building is important for two reasons. First, it gives people a personal attachment to their space. When people can build, they will put down roots in an area, strive to make it better, and create a much more vibrant region. Years ago, when outposts were a massive investment, alliances would work hard to develop and improve their space. Now, with outposts relatively cheap (mostly due to people and alliances becoming much richer) and most regions already developed, dropping outposts is no longer an event.

Second, building invites conflict. An attacker will be much more intrigued by the notion of seizing or burning a well-developed region. Seizing outpost after outpost (most useless as anything but a place to dock that the defender took from someone else and doesn’t care about) gets boring fast. Destroying something valuable, that took the defender a great deal of effort, time, and money to build? Well, that’s more like it. In addition, the emotional attachment the defender gains from building up their “home” incentivizes them to fight. There’s not much point in fighting tenaciously to defend, say, Scalding Pass when it’s no better or worse than any other region. But if it’s your home? Then you’re much more willing to fight for it because you’re not just fighting for one of many identical regions: you are fighting for your region. This is especially true if you’ve made investments in the region that can’t be easily and cheaply regained.

Not only does this idea of 0.0 as a place for empires give a better understanding of the need to build, it gives a better understanding of what 0.0 combat is and how it should be improved.

Often, CCP has thought in terms of “blob warfare” or “small-gang warfare”. Neither has ever been a useful way to think about combat. There is a casual assumption that “small-gang” warfare is “good” and “blob warfare” is “bad”. What “blob” warfare is has always been fairly easy to define: it’s whatever those people who beat you by bringing more people did. Small-gang warfare is instead thought of as the counterpoint, where supposed quality takes precedence over quantity. But what exactly it is, besides “not blobs” has always been somewhat fuzzy. This poor conception has plagued 0.0 as people push for changes to favor small-gang warfare without really understanding what it even is. EVE players have defined small-gang warfare merely by numbers for years without truly understanding what it is and what makes it exist. Needless to say, without understanding what it is and what makes it exist, you can’t really improve it.

Instead of defining combat by the numbers, it’s better to define combat by the goals: why are people fighting? Many empire players have a vision of fighting as a hounorable joust or duel: evenly matched people line up to fight each other and the better man wins. Many small-gang warfare aficionados claim this is what small-gang warfare is and is all about. Nothing could be further from the truth. In EVE, most fighting is predatory: someone’s trying to leap on you and butcher you. Generally speaking, for combat to exist, the victim must have some reason for doing whatever exposes them to attack, and the attacker must have a way to bring enough people to make fighting them a reasonable preposition. This ranges from merely ratting while inattentive of local all the way up to merely making a home in a region full of Technetium.

0.0 combat falls broadly into three categories: raiding the fields and putting the peasants to the sword, sacking villages, and conquest. Here, again, the empire metaphor is useful because it allows us to think about how people are fighting and why, through a prism we’re all pretty comfortable with (whether it be from our entirely reputable history knowledge or from the trashiest fantasy novels one can imagine, or even through a well-regarded fantasy and HBO series with a little over-emphasis on rape).

Putting peasants to the sword — ganking ratters and miners — provides the basic low-level combat anyone can get involved with at any time, but ultimately has little effect on the stability of the empire. Sacking villages -continual raids on infrastructure and hostile moons - provides the lifeblood of 0.0 combat; these are smaller battles that allow you to profit through war and fight without the full commitment of a sovwar. Not only do these sorts of battles provide fights to keep players entertained, fights over income sources can escalate and spark a greater war or even bleed an enemy dry and lead to an internal collapse (breaking a technically superior opponent through guerilla warfare). Lastly, there is conquest, the overwhelming sovwar dedicated to invading your neighbors territory, going into their home and taking or destroying everything they’ve built. This provides the overarching narrative and struggle that drives everything that makes 0.0 great: the high level intrigue, the metagaming, the empire-building, and the vast amounts of destruction needed to keep 0.0 fresh.

Unfortunately, each of these tiers is currently plagued with longstanding issues. In a following article, we attempt to name all of these and explain our reasoning behind them. Future articles will attempt to provide solutions.