Thursday, 10 May 2012

Jita's Ashes - MMOs and Player Freedom

Non-interference works both ways...

Freedom is an interesting thing, if a little hard to define at times. It's a strange concept to try to apply to video games, because as a hobby there wasn't really a need to call the notion of freedom into the picture. However, ever since MMOs hit the scene, the idea of just what freedom is in relation to an online world has been a question that seems to ignored for the most part. However, I find that the recent "Burn Jita" event in EVE Online catalyzed and carried out by the game's own players to be a good sounding point with which to call the concept of what freedom is when it comes to gaming in a communal world.

To understand where I'm going to be going with this I think that it might be best to temper what I'm about to talk about in EVE Online with an example from another game: League of Legends. Riot Games recently banned a few hundred LoL players for what in essence boils down to an exploit of how the games' Mastery system worked. By dumping more points into the system then should normally be possible players were essentially able to spam some of the better spells without cooldown. The exploit has since been patched and Riot is coming down on those that choose to use the exploit, something they are rather frank about calling, "bullshit, and we're not going to allow it."

Now, whether or not you agree with them coming down on the people that used the exploit is a matter of personal experience. Certainly there's a case that can be made in either direction: if you were one of the people that got creamed by an exploiter then you're probably not too happy about it, but at the same time in a competitive world like LoL is a player that is willing to find, use, and abuse any advantage they can really doing anything terribly wrong? The exploit itself is obviously something that Riot didn't want in the game, but it took the players to prove it was there and to motivate a fix for it once it was discovered.

The LoL example is pertinent if perhaps a little narrow. Considering that in this case both the problem and the response can be rooted in the game itself. Still, there are those that complain when bans come down, or exploits and loopholes are patched. They would argue that unless it breaks the game in a fundamental way that it should be left in; let the community deal with it or find ways around it. After all it's our world, shouldn't we be able to do what we want in it?

Well, the truth is no, it's not your world, you only rent space in it. It's up to the landlords to decide just how far you can go before your get evicted. But remember that when you ask for more freedom it's not something that only you benefit from. This is where "Burn Jita" comes in.


"Burn Jita" itself stems from less then noble origins, at least if some of the interpretations are to be believed. Some speculate that the most prominent figure on the attackers side -- one Alexander Gianturco -- might have been engineering this entire thing in response to the month long ban he received for egging on people to grief a player that was openly talking about committing suicide. It's certainly an atrocious accusation, and one that has its own story. Regardless of that though, and also regardless of whether this was an attempt at payback for a perceived slight actually isn't what's important here; that belongs to how CCP reacted upon hearing of the "Burn Jita" campaign.

One comment sums it up better then anything else ever could:  "I tell you what, it's going to be fucking brilliant."

That comment came from Jon Lander, who is EVE's senior producer. Not only would the administration not interfere with what was about to happen, they actually took measures to make sure that the server wouldn't crash under the higher then normal strain, and then took steps to analyze the aftermath.

Certainly in game the ships that were doing the attacking were quickly destroyed by the computerized police ships, but the raiders planned for such a thing which is why it took months of ship building and a massive fleet. The damage inflicted over the "Burn Jita" event seems staggering, "The total damage inflicted over these three days amounted to 45,117,952 hit points delivered in 249,021 distinct hits." as reported in the analysis linked above. Even to someone like me not familiar with the game a number like forty five million means a lot. I can't help but wonder just when someone will put an actual monetary figure to this entire thing, assuming no one has done so already.

CCP could have stepped in. Some people that lost much in the carnage no doubt believe they should have stepped in. However, there is no more pertinent example of freedom that I can see when it comes to recent events in an MMO of any kind. People said they wanted to destroy a port of major commerce, and the gatekeepers simply said what amounts to "We look forward to seeing it. Don't break the rules". Think whatever you please about the reasons, the results, or anything else about the weekend Jita looked like it was ablaze, but know that it was something that illustrates the freedom that some have yearned for when they believe they've been imposed on in other games.

Freedom is nice, but it comes with its own risks, and its own prices to be paid. Those that continue to survive in the world of EVE Online would doubtless argue that the price is worth it; for others, it stands as a sobering reminder of just what can happen when a hands off approach is taken.

1 comment:

  1. Wait a minute...so you're saying that right now, there's an epic intergalactic struggle going on in an online game that threatens to tear the world apart?

    If so, that's seriously metal.

    So if there are/were people campaigning to wreck this area and the economy, are/were there people campaigning to protect it? Like, a war or something? If so, then I suppose that's something the developers can tout later.

    I'm not too familiar with EVE Online, but I'm a little wary about all this. Someone on YouTube likened it to a militant Occupy Wall Street, and the fact that it involves, you know, destroying an economy is worrisome.

    I guess my biggest question is, what happens now?

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