Warning: the following post is ridiculously long. You have been warned.
Fractals are one of the few concepts in math where the phrase “I’m not sure what it is, but I know it when I see it” applies. The most famous quality of fractals is that they are “self-similar“: a large fractal is typically made up of many — often infinite — smaller fractals, each of which looks similar to the whole. See the fern to the right, where each of the three smaller boxed pieces looks like the whole, as would all of the increasingly smaller pieces. For this reason, it’s also difficult or impossible to measure the outside edge of a fractal: as you zoom in, the outside edge that appears to be straight reveals itself to be almost infinitely long, curved, and complex.
Self-similarity is the easiest concept of fractals to understand. If I plot the temperature curve for a single day where you live, it will start very low at midnight, dip a bit more as dawn approached, rapidly climb as the sun came up, flatten at the top, then drop rapidly to the point where it began. If I plot the temperature curve for an entire year, it would behave similarly: in the northern hemisphere, it would start low in January, dip a bit more as you approached the deepest part of winter, rapidly climb through spring and summer, then drop rapidly during fall until winter began again. As I zoom in on the annual temperature curve, I find that it’s made up of a lot of relatively tiny daily temperature curves that look the same as the whole.
The same concept applies in a startling number of other areas: stock prices over an hour will tend to look like stock prices over a day will tend to look like stock prices over a year. The curves of segments of the coast of my home state of California look like the curve of the whole. An entire planetary system with a star and orbiting planets looks very similar to a single atom which is a basic building block of all matter.
Got it? Good. Let’s apply it to EVE Online.
Focus: CSM Summit Minutes, “The Next Decade” session
During this session, CCP Unifex makes one thing clear again and again: EVE “can have a broader appeal without losing the things that make it EVE.” CCP Seagull makes clear that she wants to engage all of us on three levels: as customers, as players, and as characters. At the middle level, she wants to make sure we all remember that “you can be a solo-playing carebear, and still be part of the overall player community.” Then she adds, “Sometimes we become victims of things that are already in the game, and it becomes hard to talk about higher level things.”
I want to talk about two of those things, but not just yet. Let’s get through the rest of this introduction first.
Seagull mentions that she wants to start this effort by looking at two things. First, she brings up that she sees two important types of players she wants to make the game less bad for, which she calls “instigators” and “enablers”. Instigators are leaders of people and planners of campaigns. Enablers are the people who make those plans possible, through task management, logistics… and by providing resources. “We kind of have a history of treating these people like… shit,” Seagull says (correctly).
Second, she says (also correctly) we’re having a hard time as a community guiding new players into activities that they might find fun:
As a young player, you go on the website and you decide you want to be a pirate, for example, and then you come into the game and you go ‘OK, What should I do now?’ And we’re not doing a great job of mapping people into those things that they can do.
Finally, Seagull wants to engage more with three types of players, who she classes as “lurkers” (solo players), “followers” (people who want to connect to existing small scale communities), and “small scale leaders.” Got all that? Good, here’s the important bit:
This is not a question of this type of things being available only in null-sec. Once you decide what kind of player you are, there are other parameters that affect how risk averse you are and where you decide to place your game play. But in terms of product development, these three design targets apply across [all areas of space.]
Remember, this isn’t me saying these things. This is the Senior Producer of EVE Online Development. She wants to open up the game to all styles of play at all levels of risk aversity. I’ve already made a joke about seagull managers. Those of you who think she’s already started making noise and crapping on things may start blaming her, not me.
But in the meantime, I happen to agree with her: I think there’s room in EVE for all types of EVE play. Even people who insist on being high-sec “lurker” “enablers.” You know them as solo high-sec miners and missioners. Or null-sec “small-scale leader” “instigators.” You know them as the leaders of small-gang PvP alliances. Two types of players that EVE is currently “treating like… shit”, to quote the poet.
And that’s where fractals and self-similarity comes in.
Let’s start with the latter group. Seagull describes their problem with a level of understatement that is impressive: “Right now, politics form an entrenched barrier to becoming an instigator that is extremely high.” Translation? It’s freakin’ hard in this game to become an FC. Then it’s even harder to become a corp leader. Harder still, becoming an alliance leader. Then it’s even harder to build that alliance from a small group of players to a force to be reckoned with in New Eden. Matter of fact, if you don’t have some pretty good sponsorship, you can’t do any of those things at all in this game. I assure you, this is happening no matter how far you zoom out or zoom in. That’s an extremely high barrier, all right.
For example, try taking an existing small alliance into null-sec and taking some sov. If you’re not sponsored by one of the already-established players, you’re going to get absolutely stomped. The other night while talking on Declarations of War, I mentioned that null-sec should look like a current world map:
- big enormous players like the United States, Russia, and China; then,
- medium size players like Germany, France, Venezuela, Egypt, Israel, and Brazil; then,
- small scale players — some of whom are rogue nations and some of whom are not — like Iran, Yemen, North Korea, Poland, South Africa, and Costa Rica.
There should be a hell of a lot more members of the bottom two categories than of the top, and they should all be free to operate independently. What we have in EVE today isn’t anything even remotely like that. How do we get there? I haven’t a clue. But what we’ve got today is the United States and countries like it owning (say) all of North and South America and parceling out little scraps of land to favored (and ever-changing) toadies.
The stupid un-fun “everyone is blue” mess that results in much of null is the result. When Rote Kapelle roams, I want to cross 50 borders over the course of a small-gang PvP roam, not two. And I want to encounter the small gangs defending those borders. And there should be the possibility that Rote Kapelle and all these other little groups can set up our own rogue Yemen-like state somewhere…
- without having to make a sign of obedience; and,
- without getting hilariously instantly monkey-stomped by the big brother next door; and,
- without going through the horrible pain that goes with claiming, holding, and attacking sov.
Again, how do we get there? Dunno. Haven’t a clue! But the null-sec game isn’t gonna be worth a damn soon if CCP can’t figure out a route. It’d sure be a hell of a lot more fun than what we have today. The big players could still have their massive wars, but there would be room for people who don’t want to play EVE that way, too.
Ever seen the EVE Chinese server Serenity’s sov map? It has seven colors on it. We’re getting there.
So players end having to join a monster coalition, where it takes forever to be a corp leader or an alliance leader or an FC… and then these monster coalitions wonder why no-freakin’-body wants to venture out of high-sec. Here’s a thought: you have set up an “enormous political barrier” to them doing so. And it exists at every level from the micro to the macro. Individual players can’t join without 10 million skill points. Corps can’t join without a solid kill-board record. Alliances can’t join without making the sign of obedience. Zoom in, zoom out, it all looks the same.
Let’s move on to the other group, the lurker enablers. Here’s what CCP Unifex has to say about them:
Unifex reminded the CSM once again that this group, the lurking single players who are already subscribed, are the majority of characters on Tranquility.
Read it again, ’cause I’m pretty sure you didn’t understand it the first time: there’s a hell of a lot more of them than there are of us. And we’re treating them like shit. As I’ve already mentioned, the “level 80s” are preying on them, but that isn’t even the worst thing. The worst thing is that we’re not even giving them the option to play this game any other way. As a new player in EVE, you’ve got three choices of you want to keep playing this game:
- Join a monster low- or null-sec coalition as a “pubbie scrublord.” These will spend the next couple of years being told just how bad they are.
- Join a whole corp of “pubbie scrublords” in a high-sec corp. These will spend the next couple of years being preyed on by level 80s.
- Try to fly solo under the radar and let this game try to almost literally strangle you in your crib.
Any of those options sound fun to you? Yet thousands of new EVE players are stuck on the horns of this dilemma. I hear from an absolute ton of new players every week asking my advice on what path they should take. Fortunately, there are a few “none of the above” options, but not many. Unifex mentions a couple, then makes it clear he has our number here, too: “the vast majority of corps in EVE are simply off-limits for various reasons,” before adding “CCP wants to turn this around, he wants to turn this around by creating more things that corporations would want players to help them with.”
And again, this exists at every level of the game, from the micro to the macro. The people who started down one of these paths and escaped it somehow become the level 80s preying on the new generation. “I paid my dues, now pay yours,” they say, as Forbes magazine puts it when describing the habits of corporate bullies. Then the big corps say that to the little corps and bully them. Then the big alliances say that to the little alliances and bully them.
And just like how many null-sec residents simply can’t understand why high-sec players want nothing to do with their style of play, members of massive null-sec coalitions wonder why NPC null-sec or FW low-sec residents in small-gang PvP alliances don’t want anything to do with theirs. But then both groups shrug, describe them as “bads” and go back to their business. The superior players regard the inferior ones as sub-human and say their style of play should be nerfed until it’s impossible to enjoy. “CCP, force these idiots to play the game my way!” they say. Zoom in all you want. Zoom out all you want. It all looks the same… a self-similar fractal.
OK. Deep breath. In the Reddit thread and argument that’s forming about “Ripard said what?”, maccabeus posted a fantastic, fantastic response (edited slightly):
This is EVE. You are immortal, and you have infinite potential. You have limitless technology at your fingertips, and limitless power to earn. Whether you PvE or PvP, you are only playing the game wrong if you are content to never improve.
Seagull again: “We should be able to say we’re now looking at shaking up the stale experience of instigators and enablers in this area of the game, and we’ll tie that into the theme of whatever we’re doing. These are the types of conversations we should be able to have.”
That’s why I’m bringing this up. We should be able to talk about this and ask the question: are we happy that this is how EVE is? Even if the eventual answer is “yes.”
Oh and by the way? Asking these sorts of questions and getting the perspective of players and then taking those perspectives to CCP is why I’m running for CSM8. Just in case you’re curious.
Send us Intel/Corrections via dropbox or shoot us an e-mail
If you would like to read more we invite you to visit his blog here.