Retribution 1.1 is out and with it come the BC changes, Armor 1.5, and dueling. All of these have provoked whining on the forums, as most changes do. Those complaining about the new dueling mechanic, though, are further in the wrong than I had expected. They seem to misunderstand its purpose and what it means for EVE.
The most common argument I've seen is that dueling represents consensual PVP, and that consensual PVP is bad for EVE. Some even go so far as to say that allowing consensual PVP will somehow undermine the cutthroat aspect of non-consensual PVP. Nothing could be further from the truth. EVE is a game with many aspects and aesthetics. One of the more unique choices that EVE gives players is the ability to play the “bad guy." This is not usually realized in a Dungeon Keeper cutesy “good to be evil” sense, but in a sincere, “I destroyed someone's dreams” kind of way. Dueling will do nothing to prevent this. People do not gank for lack of valid targets, they do it for the rush of ruining someone’s day.
Dueling will allow those who wish to spar with people outside their corp the opportunity to do so. There could be many reasons for this: 1v1 tournaments, mentorship and education, player testing... I'm sure someone will try to use it to “defend their honor” against a ganker, too. But honestly, none of this is what dueling as a feature means for EVE.
A Positive Trend
People often say that EVE is dying, usually with no real evidence to back it up. What seems to actually be dying out is the bittervet population. The Summer of Incarna marked a turning point for all of EVE development, and started trends that seem to be healing the wounds of the years before. Tendencies for which CCP was once well-known have been suppressed, and trust in the company, once broken, has mostly mended.
One of the biggest things that CCP was noted for previously was feature rot. They would implement a half-cocked feature, promising that more was coming to make it awesome, and then... nothing. The general feeling was if they stopped talking about it, it would go away, and it often did. Remember Authenticators, customizable stations, more enhanced PI tools? Several nerfs were added to the game (Jump bridge changes come to mind) with promise of some compensation that often never came.
CCPs change in focus post-Incarna is not limited only to working on “FiS” and not “WiS”, it represents a fundamental reworking of their design principles. One of the biggest fears that fueled my POS argument was that CCP could not stay on target for a project to sustain itself across multiple expansions. In the old CCP mindset, a handful of changes would come out in the Summer, and they would never be spoken of until such a time that it was so obsolete and broken again that it had to be “reworked,” creating frankenstein systems like the current nullsec situation.
Evidence is mounting that those days are over. Faction Warfare underwent changes iterated over two expansions and several point releases. The tiericide plows ever-forward, and people are fairly confident that CCP Fozzie will see this to conclusion (unlike past rebalancing efforts). Now we have dueling, a feature that was half-heartedly promised when the new crimewatch system came out.
See, dueling doesn’t matter because it is game-changing, it matters because it is minor. CCP has followed through on their word and implemented the second part of a plan. Dueling does not make high sec safer - within hours people already discovered new scams to get miners. When Crimewatch 2.0 was implemented, the ability to create a “safe” fight through can stealing was removed. While minor, it was noted that the game was losing something for it, and CCP stated that they would create a solution for the problem. Not a serious problem or a terribly complicated solution, but the mere fact that a side effect of a change was noted and corrected speaks volumes about CCPs new development mentality.
At worst, dueling is largely irrelevant, but it restores functionality that was once in the game. Out-of-corp 1v1s are now just as safe (or dangerous) as they were prior to Crimewatch 2.0. However, CCP's sticking to their word and following up on their big releases is something to be commended. A simple, elegant change that offends no one (beyond the usual suspects) and adds functionality. Having said that.. how bout those POS/Sov changes, CCP?