Frontschwein

 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

I don’t normally write from a personal perspective, but this one has been perched on my brain for some time and refuses to go away until I had written it down. Perhaps because somewhere, I think this is story worth telling. It’s a story about changing perspectives, about scraping a living from the seedy underbelly of the early, desperate days of lowsec piracy a decade ago, to a bird’s eye view that stretches across regions and involves the headline makers of our peculiar little internet world. But to explain the how, I have to first describe the why.

If I might, allow me a brief explanation of the title. The term frontschwein was a term used by german soldiers to describe those who lived for, or always seemed to end up on, the front lines in war – front pigs. Destined perhaps to pay the ultimate price. To me, the word seemed to carry the kind of dirt, filth and brutal reality of those at the head of the fighting experienced and is one I identify with within EVE.

glory is the word that describes it best

While I have always understood the lure of exploration of this wonderful universe, the greedy joys of trade and industry, social bonds and interactions that give life to the pixels on the screen, politics and power and the urge to belong, it was always the fighting that kept me coming back. Or rather, it has always been the one thing that I felt passion about. Fighting another person, either to win or die in the attempt (the latter of which was often the case in my early piracy days). Fighting other people with comrades, the preparation, the hunt, the action and the banter – all of it. Perhaps that is a form of exploration, greed and social interaction, but I think glory is the word that describes it best.

 

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Snuffed Out Machariel fleet during a recent keepstar fight

 

As Teddy Roosevelt put it, I could never stand my place to be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. As the saying goes, “it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all,” and is the same way with glory. I always knew I would never be the greatest by any stretch of the imagination, the same way that I knew I was no great leader, strategist or theorycrafter, but I also knew that I could not bare meekly trudging away in the background, never daring.

And so it has always been, from the early days when I would go out with our small pirate gang, flying a Brutix I could barely afford to replace, prowling lowsec for the meagre pickings we could find through killing, trickery or ransom, often paying with the wrecks of our ships and without a penny to show for it.

 I took pride in my kills, and felt my losses bitterly

I have never been a great player, but what I lacked in skill or knowledge, I’d like to think I made up for in hunger and sheer, stupid, stubbornness. The lowsec lifestyle is what got me into EVE and it’s what I do and enjoy to this day. I took pride in my kills, and felt my losses bitterly.

I’m not going to bore you with the minutiae of my life’ story a la “My EVE”, suffice to say that I was a starving, relatively bad, pirate flying with other relatively bad pirates. Things went tits up when the income was so poor that I couldn’t afford it and had to resort to running shitty missions in highsec. This, given my constitution, of course led to me quitting EVE several times, with the longest hiatus stretching out to two years.

Then, I found Factional Warfare.

 

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Factional Warfare is one of the most successful ideas CCP have ever come up with

To this day, I believe that Factional Warfare is one of the most successful ideas CCP have ever come up with. Essentially, it was easy-to-find PvP on tap for anyone that so pleased, something that until that point wasn’t easy for small gangs of poor pirates out in lowsec for the simple reason that lowsec was sparsely populated by exactly that: poor pirates. Since I found FW, my EVE account hasn’t lapsed a single day. On the contrary, I have had two active accounts for some time now. Of course, it’s been some time since I quit FW and am now commonly known amongst the Gallente Militia as “traitor,” but more on that later.

I was quickly head-hunted by the Gallente Militia – not that their requirements were high, basically all you needed was a willingness to fight, and I had that in spades. I’d found a new home that was an abundance of people like me, people who wanted to fight. Equally as important was the fact that it also contained people who knew how to fight and were willing to take the time to teach me – being the miserable failure of a PvPer that I was.

Niden-Dramiel

So while I may have cut my teeth years before, I’d done it poorly. Now, after all that time, it finally clicked. We had fleets relatively often, fighting in small gangs, quick and dirty in cheap ships that we could afford to replace. FW provided a scaffolding, a fabricated structure that we could use to get the fights, victories, losses and sense of meaning to drive it all. After a while, I started going out solo – not that I was anything more than decent at it – thoroughly enjoying the hunt and the brutal shakes that came with it. My days of prowling lowsec in a Dramiel, looking for something to kill (or be killed by, as it were), are some of my fondest memories in EVE, and I look forward to doing it again some day.

The wonderful thing about FW was that I never had to go more than a few jumps to get into trouble. A fight was always at hand, something I enjoyed for years. But the pirate in me was still there, reminding me like the devil on the shoulder, “Wouldn’t you prefer to just shoot those neutrals?” And I did, as many as I could, quickly embracing -10 as a badge of (dis)honour.

 There’s no treasure like the loot you’ve pried from some poor souls’ wreck

Of course, this wasn’t kosher with some of the more moral members of our beloved militia. It was not seldom that half of fleets I FC’d refused to fire on innocent passers-by, or neutrals looking for adventure in lowsec, while I wanted to shoot anything we could get our hands on and make away with the sweet, sweet shekels. There’s no treasure like the loot you’ve pried from some poor souls’ wreck.

The fabricated nature of FW, the rules that those who take part must abide by, and my love for piracy and anarchy were what eventually spelled the end to my years there. I’d become an adequate fighter, a director and an alliance diplomat, enjoyed both the hard times and absolute victory of GalMil. Eventually though, I found myself looking for a way out, and I confess that the only reason I stayed the last year was my sense of duty to my alliance and the fact that elements of GalMil had upped their game to Legions, Absolutions and Tempest Fleet Issue’s – something I thoroughly enjoyed. I’d had my fill of cheap, T1 ships and sloppy fleets. I hadn’t run a plex in a very long time and didn’t really care about what went on in the war zone – I wanted more fights, higher stakes, and the freedom to shoot anyone I damn well pleased.

And so, when the opportunity to leave GalMil behind and join Snuff Box presented itself, I did not hesitate. Factional Warfare gave me what I needed at the time, but true -10 life is where my heart had always been. Aside from that, Snuffed Out was not only the terror of lowsec, but also an alliance acting on a larger stage, fighting some of the biggest names in EVE, and doing it well. A part of the Big Picture, something I had not partaken in personally until then.

More on The Big Picture later on. First, allow me a few paragraphs on Snuff.

 

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Snuffed Out is held together by the relentless, unquenchable desire to dunk nerds. There is a refreshingly low level of narrative, meta game, and empire-building ambitions – anyone who has time for that sort of nonsense when there are people to kill is probably in the wrong place, and there’s always someone to kill when you’re a proficient hunter, instigator and put in work to that end. Conversely, the alliance is addicted to fighting at a high level and can’t really live without it. The organisation is pragmatic, nomadic, streamlined, high end-oriented and FC-driven towards that end.

These things are about as close to a culture as Snuff ever gets. Those not interested or not proficient at said prime directive are soon weeded out, the few times that they actually make it in through the door to begin with. The high level of application requirements, the fact that the alliance does not openly recruit and the widespread knowledge of what Snuff is about, means that a lot of the noise has already been filtered out.

Those dedicated to constant PvP and interested the particular brand of infamy associated with Snuff will seek it out on their own. There is no PR, advertising, or even central statements. Adding to that is the fact that public communications by its members are misinformation more often than not. You could say that sheer reputation is the PR-department of Snuffed Out.

Not something for everyone, but neither is skydiving

The internal environment in the alliance is not particularly forgiving. Those looking to be pampered or of thin skin will quickly find their stay ending. Everyone is naturally expected to be competent, willing to fight, come prepared, not cause distracting drama, and able take a punch to the gut without breaking down.

The reward is, of course, endless war at a high level. Not something for everyone, but neither is skydiving, save for those who love it and only dream of the next time they can get up there and take the plunge.

As you can imagine, Snuff represented the essence of what I value in EVE, without the ridiculous and frankly laughable metagame theatrics so many so-called “veterans” engage in, nor the preposterously mind-numbing reality of what empire-building actually is, nor a cringe-inducing, bloated and outrageous narrative that seems to be the motivational scaffolding of choice for so many. It is a martial culture, pure, focused and direct, thriving on actual merits rather than words.

 

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Snuff supers in the wreckage field of Escalating Entropy and Shadow Cartel dreadnoughts

 

The Big Picture 

The wonderful thing about new insights is a sense of novelty and the excitement of new territory to be experienced. Moving from the tiny stage of a few of my friends, the other locals we fought and the occasional prey, to one where the actors are known across EVE and the props are each worth dozens of fleets of my earlier days, has been a most entertaining journey and one I am glad that I undertook. It has been the very gradual unfolding of EVE from the smallest components, to more than the sum of its parts.

It is the breaking of progression that is the true magic of EVE 

Far too often, it is the fate of EVE players that they get stuck in a form of gameplay or a particular group and slowly suffocate their joy for the game by virtue of reluctance or fear of change. The fact is that the possibilities of EVE are so vast that there are few, if any, that experience all of them. The problem, I have found, is that people get stuck with the cursed idea of progression, an archaic staple of gaming, yet only an aspect of EVE, but – most importantly – not the core of it, as with so many other MMOs and games throughout gaming history. Whatever the goal in EVE, every progression has an end; when you are flying the biggest ships and fighting in the greatest wars, when you have more ISK than you could ever spend, when your influence stretches from one side of the map to the other, what then? It is the breaking of progression that is the true magic of EVE.

The idea of playing for progression is a terminal one, it’s part of its very nature. No, as in life, one must enjoy the now. If one does not, do something else – it’s that simple. It might seem ridiculously simple even, but one has only to look at the vast masses toiling for future goals in something that can only be described as self-imposed misery to understand that it is not (renters and ADM or ISK-printing slaves being the worst by the way, jesus christ grow some self respect you cowering, spineless victims). However, readers of my work will be all too familiar with my ranting on the subject and are currently rolling their eyes at this tedious repetition. I will spare you.

Allow me to say that while my ever expanding horizons and the inherent progression therein have entertained me; from the smallest frigates to capital warfare, from a motley crew of friends flying alongside me to countless contacts with the operators and chieftains of our make-believe world of internet spaceships and the games of very real brokering of the social experience of tens of thousands of people – it is my love of what I am doing at any given moment that has always kept me with EVE. It is also the reason I know that I can go backwards or sideways in my so-called progression and enjoy earlier or different steps passionately. I have expanded the palette with which I can paint my EVE experience, enjoying its creation with the enthusiasm of Bob Ross.

 

Snuff-T3-fleet
 

The second – and much less spoken of – trap is social in nature. Many players get comfortable in a particular group, so much so that they never get out, even though the relationship and activity grows stale, predictable and soul-crushingly boring. More than a few people that I have known over the years have ended up with, for example, Pandemic Legion or Goonswarm, and simply got tired of it but were unable to get out because the social bonds were too worn in, their dependance on the infrastructure provided too great. They could not see themselves finding a home anywhere else and were often at, or close to, the ends of their respective progressions – whether those were imposed by EVE or themselves. In the end, many simply stopped playing, even though there many rewarding experiences left – in both gameplay and social interactions – for them to explore and enjoy.

In closing, I will say that I implore everyone to grow a pair and dare to break the tedium of their EVE experience whenever it appears. Expose yourself to some change and the unknown, for your own sake. Maybe you need a bigger stage, maybe a smaller one, or just a different one. It is good for the soul to rip out your roots and move now and then. It’s a game for christ’ sake, you should be enjoying yourself. Do not end your search until you find something that moves you, motivates you, thrills you, and makes you genuinely happy.

With any luck, you will find something that is lasting. This is what I have found in PvP. After many years of doing it, I never grow tired, because it is its own goal. It’s like eating the best pizza in the world; pizza is amazing to begin with, but with this one, each bite, although similar, is unique and memorable, and you always want more. Glory has no end, and each time your name is spoken – in praise or curse – your legacy lives on. Each time you go into the breach, you are consumed by a wonderful sense of right here, right now, and nothing else.

 

You can find my cover art for this piece here.

 

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Tags: niden, Snuffed Out

About the author

Niden

12 year EVE veteran, Snuffed Out scumbag, writer, graphic artist, producer, Editor-in-Chief of Crossing Zebras and the second most influential player in EVE, according to EVE Onion.