We hear this mantra from CCP all the time. It’s their justification for all things nerf. It’s the glorious promise of every expansion. Yet it’s the biggest fallacy in EVE Online. And what’s worse, most players believe it’s true. They swallow it hook, line and sinker, because it’s what they want to hear. It comforts them when their anxieties grow. It embodies the uncertain promise of a better future. But before I tell you why Risk vs Reward is a fallacy, let’s define a few terms first.
What is risk? That’s the issue at the very heart of the mantra. According to Google’s handy-dandy “define risk” search parameter, expanded to get the complete definition, risk is:
- a situation involving exposure to danger.
- the possibility that something unpleasant or unwelcome will happen.
- a person or thing regarded as likely to turn out well or badly, as specified, in a particular context or respect.
- a person or thing regarded as a threat or likely source of danger.
- a possibility of harm or damage against which something is insured.
- the possibility of financial loss.
What is a fallacy? Again, using Google’s handy define parameter expanded, a fallacy is:
- a mistaken belief, especially one based on unsound argument.
- a failure in reasoning that renders an argument invalid.
- faulty reasoning; misleading or unsound argument.
I think we all know what a reward is. But just to be thorough, the Google supplied definition is:
- a thing given in recognition of one’s service, effort, or achievement.
- a fair return for good or bad behavior.
- a sum offered for the detection of a criminal, the restoration of lost property, or the giving of information.
So how is the mantra Risk vs Reward a fallacy? It’s a fallacy because, for one thing, we’ve got it ass backwards about who is taking the most risk. Risk is a relative measure. It is not subjective. For example, let’s say you have two men making a $10,000 investment on a bona-fide inside tip. One man has $50,000 to his name and the other $1,000,000. Who takes the most risk? Any bookie will confirm it is the man who stands to lose one out of every five dollars he owns. It is not the man who stands to lose one dollar in a hundred.
Applying that reality to EVE Online, the comparison point is still monetary in nature. The player who flies a 1 mISK ship and only has 5 mISK in his wallet stands to lose far more than the suicide ganker who flies a 1 mISK ship but has 100 mISK in is wallet. By the Risk vs Reward mantra, it should be the poor player who gets the most reward because she is taking the most risk. That logic even holds if the target is a gient freighter with billions of ISK worth of goods in the hold. The freighter is taking the greater risk, not the suicide ganker. But suicide ganking must be allowed if EVE Online according to CCP, if the game is to maintain its “unique” social atmosphere. Furthermore, these ganks take place in high-sec because that’s where the lowest risk is for the ganker. CCP’s stance on the Risk vs Reward mantra and the suicide gank seems a bit schizophrenic doesn’t it? Google’s definition of that disorder is:
- a long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.
- (in general use) a mentality or approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements.
I believe the general use of the term is entirely appropriate here. It is contradictory to claim more risk brings more reward in EVE Online, while maintaining that losing your ship to a suicide gank just for undocking is proper. If you really believe that, why don’t you undock from Jita in a Kronos this weekend and see what happens? What’s the matter, don’t have a billion ISK to lose?
Fact is, new players risk more every day in EVE Online than any veteran ever risks. Industrialists moving goods in freighters risk more in ISK than their PvP brethren in most instances. New bros risk their entire ability to just play the game. They undock in shit-fit mining barges because that’s all they can afford. When they lose it to a player with far more experience and resources, they are ridiculed and made fun of. But it doesn’t change the fact they are the brave ones, not the l33t PVPers who blow them up. And what does CCP do to reward them? Not a damn thing, except tell them to find a group to play with for protection. That changes nothing. The noob is still poor and risking most of what he owns just to play the game. So tell me again how EVE Online rewards risk taking?
Let’s move beyond new bros, freighters and suicide ganking. What about the big null-sec alliances? Who took the most risk at B-R5RB? Wikipedia has a good summary of the entire battle, including ship losses. Those summaries don’t show how many ships both sides had in total before that battle, which would normally be necessary to determine who took the most risk. But fortunately Titans were committed, and there are so few of those, and they are so resource intensive to build, it’s a fair assumption that each side committed what they had. To do less would give the opposing side an unacceptable advantage. That’s the nature of weapons of mass destruction. When you launch an all out nuclear assault, you launch everything you have and hope it’s enough to stop the other side. Looking at the Titan counts alone, the CFC had 143 Titans and N3 72. Guess who took the most risk? Guess who got the reward? Of course, if N3 had prevailed they would have gotten the reward. That’s the nature of PvP. And they really had no choice but to fight. They were the defender. Those who risk most seldom, if ever, get the reward. That’s life. The strong prey on the weak because there is little risk in doing so. It’s the way of the world.
In that way EVE Online truly is real. Even if CCP could mitigate the risk to non-PvPer, they would not. Truth is, the only place they can dictate risk is in PvE content, where they directly control the risk level the rats pose. But EVE Online is not touted as a PvE mecca; far from it. No, everything I’ve written above is not the biggest reason Risk vs Reward is a fallacy. EVE Online is a PvP game, where player driven content is the holy grail, and CCP encourages every depredation. Encouraging that depredation is CCP’s dogma, and its mantra flies in the face of it. That’s the biggest reason Risk vs Reward is a fallacy.
CCP has been and always will be intensely PvP oriented. That is simple truth. The mantra is an excuse. It’s one CCP invented to mollify gamers like me. It’s the false promise that if we just work hard enough, our efforts will be rewarded. It’s a lie. CCP has no intention of rewarding non-PvP play styles. Non-PvP is treated as merely a means to an end – nothing more. When everyone starts to concentrate on non-PvP gameplay, and the play style grows in popularity, CCP changes the playing field. That’s what the PI changes did. They bound PI to PvP according to CCP’s dogma: the principle game elements must have “actual gameplay” attached to it. “Actual gameplay” is a euphemism for PvP if you hadn’t gotten that by now. The PI change penalized players who only wanted to play PI. CCP’s dogma demanded it. Now Building a Better Future seeks to bind all Industry to “actual gameplay.” The future is clear. The only way any effort will see reward is if it conforms to CCP’s dogma.
Unfortunately the mantra forces the devs to concentrate on a carrot and stick approach in the vain hope CCP can coerce players into changing their preferred play style. They unfailingly seem to believe the mantra will do this. It seems to blind them to the fact failure to comply as a player means all your futures end – or perhaps they’re counting on it. If you won’t participate in “actual gameplay,” there’s the door… or you can have what’s behind door #2 if you’re willing to participate just a little. Can you blame the devs? Nope. It’s just another bus to Abilene.
But the incompatibility between mantra and dogma is causing conflict within the community as a whole. Most of the threadnaughts generated by recent developer blogs arise from basic player misconceptions revolving around Risk vs Reward. It’s the fullest manifestation of the dichotomy generated between dogma and mantra. To be certain, the conflict has always existed, but after 10 years it should be settled. EVE Online is a PvP game. Sadly Risk vs Reward befuddle those who want to believe they have a place in this game when their chosen play style does not contribute to the dogmatic reality of “actual gameplay.” Only “actual gameplay” gets rewarded in EVE Online. When the mantra fails to encompass that simple truth it becomes a lie of omission and leads to false hope.
That said, let’s dispense with the fallacies and deceits. Let’s get past the conceit Risk vs Reward is what EVE Online is all about. PvP is what the game is all about, and in that the strong will always subjugate the weak. Own it CCP. Don’t ever forget that fact players. And to both, don’t let the mantra fool you. Those who risk the most usually get a kick in the teeth. Throw Risk vs Reward into the dustbin of poorly conceived notions and move on. The sooner that happens, the sooner the threadnaughts end, and those who still want to play the game will realize their futures in an environment they fully comprehend and enjoy.