The EVE Online players' reaction to CCP Games' announcement of free-to-play (F2P) Alpha clones coming in November has been generally positive, though some have expressed concern about potential abuses. Specifically, players worry about swarms of Alpha pilots creating havoc for mining, and for ganking in high-sec space. CCP wrote a follow-up dev blog acknowledging these issues, and I also wrote a post examining what to do about the Alpha ganking issue.
I have been reading the comments about Team Size Matters' and CCP Seagull's announcement with interest. Most worrying are some justifications for allowing Alpha clones to have unrestricted ability to participate in high-sec ganking, which inevitably boil down to one common rationalization:
"EVE is a PvP game."
There are several themes and variations of this assertion in the comment thread, but the gist of the argument goes something like this:
- Unrestricted non-consensual player-versus-player combat in every type of space is a core design principle of EVE Online.
- Ganking is an allowable form of non-consensual PvP.
- Therefore, CCP must allow ganking without restrictions to every type of player, including F2P Alpha clones.
I don't disagree with the general direction of this argument. EVE Online was indeed designed to support PvP activities - with or without mutual consent - in every type of space. Ganking is a legitimate form of PvP, and should be allowed and preserved in high-sec space.
But the argument ignores another and much more significant reality of EVE Online: PvP is only one part of the system that makes EVE Online work. EVE is a network of interlocking game mechanics which support a balanced cycle of gathering, building and destroying. PvP contributes only to one part of this vital cycle, and is completely interdependent with the other two parts.
To say that "EVE is a PvP game" is like declaring "a human body is a heart". The heart is a critical organ, to be sure, and without it, the body dies. But the heart would not last long without all of the other organs that sustain and support it. The entirety of bodily systems, running in continuous balance, is necessary to keep a human being alive and functioning. Similarly, to declare that "EVE is a PvP game, and therefore you must allow X", conveniently ignores all of the other interdependent mechanics that must also operate in balance to keep the entire game running.
The Inconvenient Depth of EVE
To illustrate the point that EVE is far more than just a PvP game, let's examine the relative number of different player activity options in EVE Online (thanks to Altrue for compiling this chart):
No matter how you look at it, PvP is a part of a much, much larger tapestry of interwoven mechanics in EVE Online. PvP is certainly a vitally important part of the game, and to say that "EVE Online is a PvP game" isn't untrue - it just doesn't tell the whole story.
Including the Bigger Picture
The larger tapestry of EVE Online, and the interdependent nature of its systems and mechanics, means that the "EVE is a PvP game" argument doesn't always make sense. Overemphasizing one aspect disrupts other systems, and causes an imbalance. Even though it is set in space, nothing truly lives in a vacuum in EVE Online.
So, whenever EVE Online changes in some way - such as introducing F2P Alpha clones, for example - CCP must be very cautious about what they allow as a result of that change. While giving Alpha clones unfettered access to every option in EVE Online may sound like a nice ideal, we have to recognize that it would also be highly disruptive to multiple systems and mechanics in the game. This is why Alphas are restricted to a set number of skills and skill points, and limited to certain types of ships and modules, by design.
I'm all for more options for anyone who plays EVE, up to the point that it creates an unworkable or unsustainable imbalance in the game's cycle of gathering, building and destroying. Then we have to pause and consider the implications, and impose reasonable limits.
Given the number of available player options in EVE Online, I could argue that "EVE is a PvE game", and thereby rationalize that mission-runners should be protected from outside interference by other pilots. But I know that is a silly argument, because it removes too much risk from missions and upsets the current balance in game mechanics.
I don't think that PvE'ers should be a special, privileged class in EVE Online.
This is why I get frustrated with the "EVE is a PvP game, and therefore X" arguments. In many cases, I fear that what is really being said is: "I think PvP is more important that the other parts of EVE, and therefore, let's ignore them." Or, even worse, it sometimes means: "I only like PvP in EVE Online, and don't care about the other parts of the game, so let me do whatever I want."
I don't think that PvP'ers should be a special, privileged class in EVE Online.
Such an argument, whether uttered by passionate PvP'ers or PvE'ers, is more than just poorly reasoned - it is pure selfishness, thinly disguised. I think we can all do better than that, and consider that our personal preferences aren't the only ones that might have merit.
EVE is much larger than just a PvP game - it is an intricate simulation of gathering, building and destruction, and no one part is more important than the others. Let's all try to bear that in mind, please.
Fly safe! o7