Politics is already an incredibly complicated topic in EVE Online. The psychology of the EVE players is a very complex beast, and understanding it is key to designing the game that they will want to keep playing. And one key element of that process is understanding when and why players wage war. After all, EVE Online is a game driven by conflict, whether it’s shooting ships or rocks, or out-competing another marketeer, players of this game will always be in conflict. But the question of why remains.
Traditional thinking for many people would argue that territory and resources are the primary motivators for warfare, both in real life and in EVE. And to some extent you can certainly argue that wars have been fought over these things for many years, and will likely continue to be done this way.
But I’m beginning to question whether this is actually true, at least in some ways. Donald Kagan in his book, On The Origins of War, argues quite persuasively that there are three main reasons why nations or groups engage in war. These three reasons are pretty simple: Self-interest, Pride, Fear.
Self-interest is easy to explain, this is the political and economic motivators for warfare. An alliance in EVE who tries to take moons from a rival, that’s blatant self-interest. Pride is a bit harder to understand. An example of this could be argued through using World War I as a framework. Common interpretations of that conflict saw Germany going to war with France and other countries as inevitable. This is why the Treaty of London, which guaranteed the mutual defense of Belgium as a means to try and prevent war, was ever signed. Some would even argue that had that agreement never been inked, that Germany wouldn’t have seen it as a challenge, and that the war would have been over much faster than the four years it dragged on for, hence pride. Fear as an example can also be applied to Germany, but this time during World War II. I won’t go too deep into that for obvious reasons, but even manufactured fear can be powerful, and the same is true in this game.
So what does this history lesson have to do with EVE Online? It’s crucial to understanding why EVE players like war.
Look at the major players in the game, especially the meta-game, like the Mittani. He’s a person who has built up an entire brand on being a master of his domain. And though many are divided on how to view such a character, one thing is certain about him, he’s smart enough to know what players want. One of his defining elements, at least for his EVE persona, is the prideful demeanor. Mittens takes great pride in both his efforts at the head of the GSF and in himself. In some ways, he’s almost an extension of the pride of his alliance, like a personification of the presence they want to impart upon the game. And even though much of his EVE persona is just an act, there’s clear pride there, and it has an impact on the way we perceive the rest of the game. And in many ways, that’s war.
What does all of this have to do with EVE? Well, waging war is a huge part of EVE’s lifecycle. And players being able to go to war with one another in easier and more accessible ways can be argued as healthier for the game. The removal of more wealth helps control inflation. And that same desire to impart a legacy upon New Eden drives conflict too, and it’s not unique to one alliance. There are many alliances tied together by common political purposes, national or ethnic identities and even just common interest in preservation against powerful foes.
EVE Online players have engaged in war since the inception of the game, developing a quite rich lore about the nature of conflict and how it plays out in this digital universe. One could even cite EVE-based examples for Pride and Self-interest as being motivators for conflict, like the now legendary battle of C-J6MT.
All this means that CCP is desperately trying to strike a balance between these three motivators to craft a War system for their game that makes sense and motivates conflict. The self-interest and conflict over resources and prestige is already there. Now CCP has to make war more inevitable to keep players engaged. And while the real world does the opposite to keep things peaceful, the real world isn’t a space opera.
Over the last several months CCP has been working to revamp this system into something that’s not only more fun to engage with, but also easier to understand. And it seems to be working. After the first series of changes in December 2018, player engagement seemed to jump, most notably in players getting kills and in new players joining player groups.
This cannot of course be completely due to war declaration changes, but it likely had a hand in the changing of the obvious stagnant trend. Now, CCP plans to expand upon this area by fixing bugs and closing loopholes. One major change will be the removal of “neutral assistance”. As it stands, a pilot not involved in the direct war or a battle within it can interfere by applying remote repairs to one or more parties. CCP aims to close this and other loopholes in future updates.
The biggest change though, the one planned for May this year, is the introduction of War Headquarters. These player-controlled structures would now be require to engage in open warfare between corporations and alliances. These Headquarters can then become major war targets with strategic significance. Eligible structures only include Upwell structures with docking facilities, not FLEX structures or NPC stations.
A defender or attacker in a war can attack and ultimately reinforce and destroy the designated structure to effectively end open warfare. The identity of the War HQ structure for a war will be public information available in the war report window as well as sent directly to the defenders when the war is declared as a reminder.
CCP also plans to simplify the ISK-based cost of declaring and maintaining war as well as reducing UI clutter to make the whole experience with wars more accessible. We can also expect bug fixes and the like with these patches.
What do you think about these changes? Let us know in the comments.