Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Industrialist's Wartime Formula

The tl;dr for this article is in dark red below.

The measure of success in a war is whether a belligerent has achieved what they set out to achieve. Possible reasons for fighting war in EVE include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • To gain ISK and/or other tangible goods, through a surrender or ransom offer.
  • To gain ISK and/or other tangible goods from a client who is paying them to fight (mercenaries).
  • To gain territorial rights, e.g. sovereignty of a system in nullsec, or exclusive mining privileges in a certain highsec system.
  • To have fun blowing ships up in honorable combat.
  • To harvest the tears of noncombatants, most notably industrialists.

Consider the motives of suicide gankers as a group -- who are certainly fighting a large-scale war against industrialists in highsec, even if we of the latter group do not acknowledge this.

There is obviously no honorable combat involved in suicide ganking, nor are sovereignty or mineral rights at stake. Moreover, as with most forms of PvP, suicide ganking operates at a financial loss. CODE, for instance, has its own industrial wing to finance its ganking activities. CODE claims to be a for-profit enterprise, and its leader claims that any audit of its finances would indeed show a profit from "permits." These claims may be accepted or not; the fact remains that if James 315 and CODE were to disappear tomorrow, it would mitigate neither the extent of suicide ganking in highsec nor CCP's unwillingness to respond to it in any meaningful way.

The purpose of suicide ganking is to harvest tears. The more tears they harvest, the greater their measure of success.

Even if the gank victim makes no complaint about what has happened to him, the gankers create a response in their own minds by fitting the victim into an archetype, a thought process that, they believe, the victim is going through in his own mind, even if not saying out loud (e.g. "Hah! I'll bet the driver of that Mackinaw feels really butthurt right now!").

Thus, "taking it like a man" has no effect on the epidemic of suicide ganking. It may earn a modicum of respect from the ganker(s), but this is usually meaningless to the industrialist -- and, in my own opinion, would be a badge of dishonor if worn in public. (The same is true of the "mining permits" that some industrialists place in their bios.)

We industrialists did not ask for this war. We would rather not fight it. But in it we are, and fight it we must.

The disadvantage, however, is obvious: while on our industrialist characters, we are not combatants. If we were, we would be out blowing up ships, not building new ones!

It would be an amusing, and altogether appropriate, form of poetic justice if we industrialists as a class were to give up industry and take up combat. For without us, who would build the ships to fight with? Who would copy and invent the blueprints for those ships? Who would harvest the raw materials? The ganking class is a parasite upon the industry class -- and it is noteworthy that the reverse is not true, for the vast majority of manufactured ships in New Eden are surely used for non-ganking purposes.

Unfortunately, the great demand for ships, combined with the vast availability of raw materials, makes it highly unlikely that a sufficient number of industrialists can be induced to go on strike. The economic opportunities are simply too numerous, even when the epidemic of ganking is considered.

However, there is a way by which we might fight the war on our terms.

Consider a possible motivation for combat -- whether in the form of full-scale war or the occasional skirmish -- that we have not considered above:

  • To score points.

This is really a more generalized form of the previous motivation; in the mind of the ganker, tears are points. But there is another, more universal and certainly more objective, way of denominating points: ISK. 

Every time a ship destroys another ship, or is itself destroyed, a killmail is generated in the combat logs of everyone involved. These killmails include an ISK value of what was lost, which is calculated by adding the market value of all assets on the ship lost or destroyed. A high ISK value is more desirable; a Mackinaw is worth more "bragging rights" than a mere Venture, an Orca more than a Mackinaw, and a Charon, with its billion ISK price tag, is one of the most desirable targets of all.

Now consider a fact that most people don't: In the war between gankers and industrialists, CONCORD is on our side. They do not come to kill the industrialists; they come to kill the gankers, and that almost without fail. (The exceptions are when a state of declared war exists between ganker and industrialist, or when an industrialist is stupid enough to aggress a baiter.)

They are by no means the best ally; they are slow to arrive, predictable to a fault, and easily exploitable. But when they are on grid and have decided to kill you, you are dead. Moreover, this predictability and ability to exploit makes them essentially a part of the game environment -- and the game environment itself is as potent a weapon as any other in a game such as EVE.

The standard ganking ship is the Catalyst, a Gallente destroyer. The fitting for a ganking Catalyst is also fairly standardized; there are minor variations from pilot to pilot, but from studying recent killboard records, I calculate the average value of a professional-grade "Gankalyst" at 10.6 million ISK.

Now consider a few mining barge setups:

Retriever: Ice Harvester II x2, Civilian Shield Booster, Ice Harvester Upgrade II x2, Medium Processor Overclocking Unit I. A killmail for this barge.

The victim here lost 43.9 million ISK to a pair of Catalysts, which we can estimate to have a 21.2 million ISK combined value. A clear net loss for the industrialist -- at least when you look at the ships alone, a point we'll address presently.

But look at this guy's setup. Except for a Civilian Shield Booster, he made absolutely no concession to defense. He could not possibly have survived until his ally, CONCORD, showed up to destroy the gankers. Moreover, his gankers certainly knew that it would take only two Catalysts to defeat him -- indeed, they might have managed it with one.

Retriever: Ice Harvester I x2, Ice Harvester Upgrade I x3, Medium Core Defense Field Extender I x2. A killmail for this barge.

Still not a great setup, but what a difference a couple of rigs make -- the gankers felt that they needed four Catalysts to take him down. Or perhaps there were simply four pilots who wanted in on the tears. Either way, the gankers lost an estimated 42.4 million ISK, to the miner's 40.8 million. A small loss for the gankers; not really significant in the larger scheme, but not nothing.

Procurer: Ice Harvester II, Adaptive Invulnerability Field I x2, Medium Shield Extender I, Thermic Dissipation Field I, Ice Harvester Upgrade I, Damage Control I, Medium Ice Harvester Accelerator, Medium Core Defense Field Extender I x2.

This ship is flown by one of my alts -- one with few skill points, and most of those dedicated to increasing yield -- and I cannot show you a killmail for the ship, because it has never yet been ganked.

While ganking Skiffs and Procurers is not completely unknown, most gankers will happily pass them up for easier, more vulnerable targets. In a sense, therefore, my Procurer's net score against the gankers is infinite. But that won't wash; an infinite score points to a meaningless metric. So how can we fix that?

We fix it by considering that the Procurer has pulled in enough ice to pay for itself; any ISK it makes after that is a net profit.

Profit is the metric we seek. Recall the opening thesis of this article: The measure of success in a war is whether a belligerent has achieved what they set out to achieve.

Profit is our standard of victory. They measure tears; we measure ISK.

So here, in classical Fight Club format, is the Industrialist's Wartime Formula:

  • Take the total value of the profit your ship has pulled in over its lifetime, A.
  • Add the estimated market value of the ships that committed suicide in ganking you, B.
  • Subtract the total value of your own ship and all its components and cargo, including the estimated value of the working time you have lost before replacing the ship, C.
  • A + B - C = X
  • If X is greater than zero, you win, and the gankers lose.

By this metric, all of my mining ships have already won any gank that might be made on it, unless I either leave a stack of PLEX inside one of its cargo holds for some reason, or allow the gank to demoralize me to such an extent that I hide in the station for hours or days.

One might ask, since the formula is profit-oriented, is it proper to count the gankers' loss as profit? Ordinarily not, but remember that this is a wartime formula. Five catalysts which take down your ship is about 53 million ISK which the gankers cannot use to harvest any more tears, or for any other purpose at all. They have lost 53 million ISK of purchasing power. In an us-versus-them situation, that absolutely does matter.

Note that this formula exists only to measure an individual combatant's success or failure in the war. Measuring who is winning and losing the overall war -- which would involve a census of all industrialists and gankers in the game, their overall profit from other sources, and many other factors -- is an exercise I leave for the reader. (Yes, that's a joke.)

But that's how we fight the war.

* * * * * *

Please note that nothing in this article should be read as nullifying or mitigating any point that I make in my first article. Ganking is, and will always remain, bullying. Indeed, the war between bully and victim has existed for all of recorded history, and longer. It is unlikely that this more general war will ever be won or lost, barring a significant evolution of the species.

But I hope, in a future article, to suggest a solution whereby the war on gankers in EVE might be won, once and for all.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ganking is Bullying (v1.42)

(Updated 13 September 2016. The most recent additions and changes are marked in dark red.)

1. Ganking is bullying?


2. Really? Aren't you just being a whiner, a moaner, a carebear, a crybaby, a sissy, a pansy, a bellyacher, a sissypants, a wuss, a milksop, a namby-pamby, and/or just plain butthurt?

It wouldn't matter if I was. Facts are facts, whatever the mental state of the person pointing them out.

3. Okay, let's talk facts. What is bullying?

While there are a number of common definitions of bullying, most agree that it is a behaviour characterized by:
  1. Repeated aggressive activity by one person or group of people against another specific person or group or class of people over a period of time, 
  2. With the intention of causing them physical, mental, and/or emotional harm, and
  3. Involving a real or perceived imbalance of power between aggressor and aggressed, in favor of the former.

4. What, in the context of Eve Online, is ganking?

While again there are a number of acceptable definitions, most agree that it is characterized by:
  1. Repeated aggressive activity by one person or group of people (e.g. gankers) against a specific person or group or class of people (e.g. miners) over a period of time, 
  2. With the intention of causing harm (e.g. loss of in-game assets), and
  3. Involving a real or perceived imbalance of power between aggressor and aggressed, in favor of the former.

5. That's all a bit much. What's the tl;dr?

Ganking is bullying.

6. That can't be right. I'm a ganker, and I'm not a bully.

When you're ganking, you are.

7. But I'm a nice guy/gal. I'm kind to my family and friends, loyal to my corp, and even have a carebear alt or two. How can I be a bully?

A: It's not uncommon for otherwise decent people to engage in bullying behavior. Often, perhaps most of the time, they're not aware that they're doing it. 

8. You do realize that Eve is just a game, right?

Bullying can and does take place in the context of a game. 

9. How can ganking be bullying when the only thing being lost is some internet spaceships?

Bullying does not require that the aggression be directed against a person or property in the physical, rather than digital, realm.

10. But it's still just internet spaceships. Where's the harm?

In-game assets represent a substantial investment in time and/or real-world money; they can be as valued as any physical asset.

11. Doesn't CCP technically own all the in-game assets?

Bullying does not require that the victim actually own -- rather than merely have permission to carry and use -- a targeted asset.

12. Ganking is just PvP, isn't it?

Ganking is PvP in the sense that all active spaceships are valid hostile targets to each other, but it is not PvP in the sense of consensual combat between two willing players. It is the latter sense that is morally relevant to the concept of bullying.

13. What do you mean, it's not consensual?

I mean, obviously, that ganking victims do not consent to being ganked.

14. Look: the entire Eve universe is PvP enabled. Anyone who undocks is at risk of being fired upon, aren't they?


15. And players can be reasonably expected to know this, can't they?


16. In fact, hasn't CCP made this expressly clear?


17. So by playing Eve and undocking, don't players thereby consent to being ganked?

No. By way of analogy, passengers who board an airplane do so knowing that a plane crash is a possibility, but they do not thereby consent to the pilot flying their plane into the ground.

18. But plane crashes are a malfunction of the air travel process, while blowing up the other guy's spaceship is the whole point of Eve Online!

Eve is a sandbox; the point of it is whatever a given player decides it is. Blowing up spaceships is one possible aim; another is building spaceships; another is buying and selling goods; another is mining planets for resources; another is roleplaying; the list goes on. All of these aims are permitted by CCP and by the game mechanics. Some of them constitute bullying.

19. You're saying that someone can knowingly and willingly expose himself to an environment where he knows he has a high risk of being bullied, and it still counts as bullying?

A: Yes, in the same way that a person can knowingly and willingly walk down a dark alley after midnight, and can still be mugged or raped.

20. But if someone is stupid enough to walk down a dark alley after midnight, don't they deserve to be mugged or raped?

Of course not.

21. But can't miners learn skills to defend themselves?

Sure they can. And bullied children and victimized women can take karate lessons. But if they are unable to do so, or simply choose not to, this does not give moral license to bully, mug, or rape.

22. Let me ask you this: is it bullying when _______ happens?

If it fits the definition of bullying, it's bullying. If not, not.

23. Aren't you trivializing what "real" victims of "real" bullying, rape, et cetera, go through in the "real" world?

Bad things happening to X don't cease to be "real," or bad, just because worse things are happening to Y. (Having said that, I certainly don't mean to trivialize any horrible experience that anyone has gone through.)

24. If someone in the "real world" is bullied, mugged or raped, he or she has recourse to parents, teachers, law enforcement, etc. Do gank victims have similar recourse in the game?

Not unless the ganker is violating the EULA, which he usually isn't. But bear in mind that we are discussing bullying as a moral, not a legal, concept. An activity can be legal in a given jurisdiction, and still be immoral.

25. Doesn't CCP allow, and to some extent encourage as "emergent gameplay," ganking?

Again, we are talking about the morality, not the legality, of bullying. Bullying does not require that the behavior take place in an environment that is legally neutral or hostile to bullying.

26. Isn't ganking just a tool, a means to an end? Like a hammer?

Ganking is not a tool, but an activity, like building a house. A hammer is to house building as a Catalyst is to ganking.

27. Tool, activity, whatever -- the point is that it's what you do with it that counts, not the thing itself. Isn't that right?

Right for tools, but wrong for activities. Catalysts are amoral in and of themselves, but using them for ganking is not.

28. What about hauler gankers? These guys don't do it for the tears; they do it for the money. You can make a killing by ganking freighters and salvaging the wreck. That can't be bullying, can it?

Hauler ganking targets a specific class of player, the hauler (true that most capsuleers do some hauling at some point, but they nonetheless belong to that group while so engaged). There is a definite power imbalance involved. And while causing harm to the hauler might not be the pirate's prime motivation for ganking him, he nonetheless does knowingly and intentionally cause harm. So yes, hauler ganking is bullying, even if it's not quite as despicable a form of bullying as ganking with the motivation of causing tears (although it may be more immoral than the latter for other, non-bullying reasons).

29. Why is bullying a bad thing?

Are you serious?

30. Yes.

First, then, stay the hell away from my children -- and your own, if you have any. Second, most moral systems concede that bullying is a bad thing. The nature and foundation of such moral systems is an age-old philosophical issue, the resolution of which is well beyond the scope of this paper. Suffice it to say that, if you do not believe that bullying is immoral, then we do not have enough common ground for a meaningful discussion.

31. Doesn't being bullied instill positive character traits? Teach victims how to "be a man," how to fight back, et cetera?

Yes, this sometimes happens. But the instillation of these traits, or the potential for it, certainly does not morally justify the actions of the bully. 

32. By your logic, wouldn't shooting someone in Call of Duty be considered bullying?

No; the destructible assets in Call of Duty and similar games are so ephemeral that no reasonable person could think that harm was being done to the person, and there is no meaningful imbalance of power. 

33. Who are you, anyway?

It doesn't matter.

34. What is your motivation for doing this?

It doesn't matter.

35. Are you sure you're not just butthurt?

Again, it wouldn't matter if I was.

36. All right, so ganking is bullying. What do you expect CCP to do about it?

Actually, I don't think CCP is necessarily responsible to do anything. They have provided a tool that has a great amount of flexibility and a wide variety of uses. Like almost any tool, it can be used for immoral purposes, but we should not require the supplier of that tool to act as the morality police. Barring cases of psychopathy, the ultimate responsibility to stop bullying lies with the bully, and with him alone.

That being said, there are some steps which CCP might take that would be considered praiseworthy. A few suggestions:
  • Decrease the delay time before CONCORD responds to a ganking, all the way down to instant response in 1.0 systems.
  • Place sentry guns in asteroid belts, at least in 0.7+ systems.
  • Institute harsher security status penalties for gankers.
  • Since a wardec basically amounts to CONCORD taking a bribe to look the other way, make it behave rationally by accepting bribes from both parties; allow wardecced corps to pay the same amount as the original fee in order to cancel the wardec and prevent a new one for two weeks.
  • Support efforts to create an anti-bullying educational campaign among the Eve community.
Again, I would consider these actions praiseworthy, but not obligatory.

37. You're proposing to change things? Wouldn't such changes spell the end of Eve Online as a game, nay, the extinction of the human race!?

Of course not. Every change CCP has made to the game has resulted in cancelled subscriptions, new subscriptions, and renewed subscriptions all. Many changes have been instituted that, if they had been proposed back in 2004, would have had the doomsayers screaming murder. I suggest, frankly, that there is a huge, untapped market in carebears looking for a great science fiction game.

38. So what can I, personally, do about bullying in the game?

Only you can answer that. The situation is analogous to being in a sort of hyper-libertarian community whose law enforcement is either nonexistent or easily exploitable; you look outside your front window, and see a bunch of bullies on the street. What do you do?