War and IPI

This article was originally posted on October 12, 2014. I recently submitted it for consideration to the WarDec Project being undertaken by members of the EVE community. Today, Crossing Zebras published Lore Wars, which posits some very interesting ideas about how the war dec mechanic could be changed, partially inspired by my post below. Go read it! Well worth the time. Thanks to Jason Quixos for the shout out! ♥

Another war rages on against the Intaki Prosperity Initiative.

Not a great war report.

Not a great war report.

And by “rages on”, what I actually mean is, “ILF got some in-game notifications about it but we’re ignoring them and going about our usual business”. Public-Enemy dec’d IPI for the second time in as many months just so they could shoot the customs offices ILF owned in the Placid hisec island. Power to them I guess, if hisec structure grinding floats their boat. If they (or their client, if there is one) wanted the offices that badly they could have just offered to buy them from us to save time and ammo. We weren’t making any ISK off them anyway. :p I shrug and hope they enjoyed shooting them.

I recognize that wars (“lol griefer” or otherwise) are part of PVP in EVE. I chose to give my time to this universe where people can destroy my stuff, even in hisec, whenever they feel like it. IPI by design is smack in the middle of one of the hottest PVP areas of Gallente space simply because of Intaki. That’s just how it is, and it isn’t going to change. After all, we wouldn’t be the Intaki Prosperity Initiative if we moved somewhere else. Everyone will always know where to find us. We will always be a target of one kind or another because of where we live and who we are.

Will we ever be an “elite” PVP alliance? Thousands of kills in a month? Wicked ISK efficiency? Probably not. Sure, I want to be a capable PVP pilot (yes, I know that means I actually have to undock!) and have people in my alliance who are capable at it too. I want my guys to have good fights and enjoy combat. But IPI being able to unzip some crazy PVP e-peen? That’s not why I play EVE.

I’m not interested in fighting wars in the same way a “war dec alliance” is interested in them. The people who fly under me aren’t really interested, either. It’s not a game mechanic that gets us excited. In all the years we’ve been around, IPI has only declared war once, and then only because it served as a way to help shape the course of a story being told between other players.

Yep. We declared war to foster roleplay, not because we wanted to pad our killboard with a bunch of green. That war involved making plans with the other group first, deciding on possible outcomes and RP angles, making sure both sides were ready and willing to fight, writing up whatever RP propaganda was needed, then issuing the dec when everyone was ready, and watching to see how it all played out. Guess what? Any war we might declare in the future would be handled exactly the same way.

(I feel a great disturbance in New Eden, as if thousands of PVPers suddenly cried out in terror…)

Why do I approach war this way? Partly because I think it’s really not fair to be able to dec another group for no reason at all or with no warning, and partly because I think RP and engagements in general are better and more enjoyable when everyone has at least some idea of what to expect.

To the first part: Just because you declare war doesn’t make the target obligated to fight back (even supposing they are in a position to adequately do so), but many PVPers act as if it does.

(But not really sorry.)

(But not really sorry.)

Surprise! If you don’t require my consent to war dec my alliance, I don’t require your consent to blue ball you. And blue balling you is exactly what I’m going to do if your war is of no interest to me, or isn’t worth my time, or is beyond my ability to fight.

If EVE is a sandbox, players should always have the option to not participate in something if they choose. But war is something no one can avoid except by being in an NPC corp, and we all know why players sitting in NPC corps is largely a bad idea. Docking up and logging off isn’t an appropriate way to handle it either. War decs against groups that aren’t interested in fighting wars drive otherwise paying customers out of the game: after one too many wars, they just never come back.

In the real world, war doesn’t come as a surprise note in your inbox, so it’s dumb that it does in EVE. In real life the world sees the situation building for a good while before one or more sides finally decides to take that plunge. Wars in EVE should function more like that.

There should be two buttons: a “propose mutual war” button that would be available at all times but that the other side would have to accept the offer for (similar to the duel mechanic) which would maintain the ability of groups like RVB to function; and a “declare war” button that would only be clickable after sustained hostilities between two entities reach a given threshold.

For the second button, I envision a hostility gauge as a kind of cross between the Incursion/Faction Warfare gauges and the existing war report mechanic. The hostility gauge would only exist after two groups have a certain number of engagements between them, and would not exist at all if only one side is doing all the killing. Once it pops into existence, a notification about rising hostilities would be sent. If those two groups keep fighting, the gauge would start to fill up. If the groups don’t fight for a while, the gauge would gradually start to empty (erosion of hostilities due to time). Only after becoming full would the “declare war” button light up. There would also have to be some kind of mechanic available to forcibly lower the gauge if one side decided it was filling too quickly and actively wanted to try to prevent war from becoming an option. And in all cases, the gauge shouldn’t fill at all if only one side perpetuates the hostility—because it’s a game, and no corp or alliance should be forced to engage in something they don’t want to.

To the second part: The answer builds tangentially on the hero-villain discussion. IPI is, and always will be, a roleplay alliance. It was created as an extension of ILF which is also, and always will be, a roleplay corporation. Saxon Hawke’s passion first and foremost was for storytelling and world building. So it is with me, and that means my definition of what constitutes “playing EVE” tends to be different than (most?) other people’s.

I believe supporting the lore of EVE provides a much richer and more rewarding gameplay experience than just learning the game mechanics alone. I believe that Intaki culture, Intaki independence, and the struggle against piracy in Placid are the most interesting subjects the EVE lore, and thus the game itself, has to offer. My goal is to have players come together and find ways to use their in-game activities to support and influence the creation of entertaining and meaningful stories about these topics and their part in them. Crafting those stories as the content on this website, and the content on the ILF website, all count as “playing EVE” to me just as much as logging into the actual client does.

Every choice I make and every action I take as the leader of IPI and ILF flows from and must support our roleplay, and always will, above all other considerations. In the same vein, everything I do as an individual has to support the roleplay of my character and where I want her to go. What I do in-game is a means to perpetuate the story IPI is trying to tell, not the other way around.

War decs from hisec griefer corps don’t help tell our story so aren’t worth our time. Most other war decs fall into this category too.

In the fall of 2012, IPI was on the receiving end of a war that had the potential to foster some pretty epic roleplay for both sides. Serpentis loyalists versus Serpentis adversaries? Hell yes please. Stated that way, the premise was right up IPI’s alley. But Coreli fucked it up at the outset by choosing to not approach us ahead of time to ask if we were interested in setting anything up with them, what our capabilities were like, was the timing good (it wasn’t), what goals could each group try to achieve, etc. There was no planning involved, no consideration from them about us, nothing. They simply imposed the war on us out of the blue, tried their best to stomp on us, and in the end it was little more than a pathetic RP shitstorm. Too bad. Not my idea of a valuable use of game time. Definitely a lost opportunity to create meaningful content, and in the end it had the unfortunate outcome of driving away paying customers from IPI (and thus EVE as a whole) who had no interest in fighting a sustained war we didn’t ask for and weren’t prepared to fight in.

Don’t get me wrong. Knowing PVP is essential to the success of the stories we are trying to tell in Intaki. It’s not enough to say “we defend Intaki”; we have to prove it too, and we have a long way to go to that end. Just like mining, and ship building, and killing Serpentis NPCs, and so on, PVP is an in-game activity we must engage in to some degree. It legitimizes our reason for being here in the first place. But if we know the war targets will pile ten or twenty guys in system (or undock a Thanatos just to save their Brutix from losing a 1v1 with us), why should we bother undocking at all? Just because the deccers expect us to, for lulz? Sure. Putting ships into situations where we are guaranteed to lose sounds pretty stupid, and not very fun, to me. I’d rather have my guys go into a fight where they have at least some kind of chance—even if they still lose in the end—rather than have them just throw ISK away, end up frustrated, and think about quitting.