Little Guy Villains

When Led Zeppelin trash their rooms and ride motorcycles in the lobby, the hotel calls it rock ‘n’ roll.  When you do it, the hotel calls the cops. That’s the reality of celebrity in the real world. When the hassle of keeping you around outweighs the benefits of tolerating your behaviour, you’re gone. But while there are a lot of upsides in putting up with the marketable excesses of the glitterati, Joe Sixpack is out on his arse for sassing the doorman. And when the press are done picking over the corpse of a fallen former arena star, they can return from the dead with a good agent; but not so the pub cover band … ok I’ve battered the analogy into a red mist but you get the point, and there is a distinct resemblance to the fortunes of the rat packs in our favourite MMO.
CCP’s ban process has come under a lot of scrutiny lately. I won’t trouble you with recounting examples – James 315 can do that better [1] if you can concentrate on ~words~ for fifteen minutes – suffice to say that there are many (words and examples).  And a considerable number have a spectre of hotel manager favouritism or tabloid assassination hanging over them. The most galling are not those which deal with the Robert Plants of New Eden, though those are certainly (as always) getting the lion’s share of the attention; but those in which lower-tier players are indifferently tossed on the scrapheap of Eve without so much as a banged gavel. It’s those little guys, the line pilots and acolytes and junior officers, who are the collateral damage in the current War on Bad Publicity.  They need a voice, and for today that voice is mine. qx9HDw6 Few would attempt to argue that the ban process – such as it is visible from the outside – is objective and even-handed. The apparent practice of GMs reviewing and closing petitions against their own unilateral ban decisions [2] is so appallingly unprofessional that, if true, CCP Falcon should be hauled off to The Hague. Whoops, I almost went full Ripard there. Never go full Ripard. Hyperbole aside, it is bollocks, but few appear to care. It would seem that the majority of players are quite happy to ignore or even celebrate trigger-happy banning and trial by media as long as it’s not a guy they like. Even Scooter McCabe, magistrate of the Space Court and one of the more entertaining and ingenious scammers in the game, seemed eager to have the permaban stick hit a wide range of people whose activities require a micrometer to separate from his own [3]. Why? Peering through the hyperbole smokescreen: because he’s not a fan. Now the last thing I want to do is get in between Scooter and James; they are big enough to slap that out [4] between them without my involvement and you’re more than likely bored of that scrap by now. The good thing is: on the issue of little guy villains, I don’t need to. Despite their marked differences, despite their apparently polar opposite views on “harassing” behaviour, we all agree that the recent zero warning permabans-by-association of non-celebrity line pilots for “involvement with a group involved in real life harassment” cross the line of what any reasonable person could consider objective. Is this the game we want? I asked myself that question this year for the first time since subbing in 2004. Do I feel comfortable paying eighty bucks a month to play an MMO that is supposed to be fun, but in which the likelihood of ten years of assets and friendships surviving a banning petition is far more closely related to my profile in the community, the number of pitchforks I can sway to my side, and the RNGesus roll of which GM I get, than the actual details of my real or imagined offence?
~ Being the sort of sanctimonious twat who writes strongly worded letters to local newspapers and Members of Parliament, I felt a duty to air my concerns with the CSM [5]. The crux of my proposal is that the ban process needs substantial reform so that all players are given equal opportunities to self-correct transgressions, that bans are issued free from influence, and that checks and balances are introduced to ensure bans are justified, proportional, and have entrenched avenues for impartial appeal. The insta-permaban must go. The practice of GMs closing appeals against their own decisions must go. Even in an Assembly Hall thread about levelling the playing field on bans, we saw the culture of celebrity bias. CSM Mike Azariah, a gentleman and scholar, casually revealed: “…we have no say in the enforcement or punishment although high profile cases may be swung past us more from the ‘how will the community react’…” Why does the person’s profile, or the likely community reaction, have any bearing whatsoever on a ban decision?  A quote from CSM Malcanis regarding the Erotica 1 ban followed: “CCP provided us with additional information, and went to considerable efforts to demonstrate to my personal and the CSM’s general satisfaction that Erotica 1 was dealt with according to the existing terms of the TOS.” Why are these extraordinary levels of CSM involvement occurring with one player, but not with others? Again we see that the higher your profile, and the worse your alleged offence, the more likely you are to get an actual trial. Line pilot facing a permaban for involvement with an unpopular group? Petition closed, goodnight. Like it or not, the biggest content creators, and biggest player magnets, are also the biggest scallywags. This comment, from a friend of mine in relation to one of those scallywags, sums it up: “I am in awe … I have a RL mate who is wanting to get into Eve piracy …  I regale him with those stories.” Attracted by CCP’s unironic marketing to “be the villain”, players do so and now more than ever before risk waking up one morning and finding it all permanently taken away by a single GM; without explanation, appeal or oversight.  A perfunctory dismissal for a nugget, and a more theatrical but no more meaningful secret kangaroo court for a space Amy Winehouse. Other games companies have managed more unruly, more toxic and far larger communities than that of Eve Online without resorting to zero warning permabans. For CCP to consistently stumble around community discipline like a drunken pissed-off Hodor, smashing heads at random and bellowing for the noises to stop, highlights the contempt with which they still view their customers and the desperate fear of bad publicity that remains as a legacy of the Summer of Rage. protest_940 So why does it matter anyway? Well for many players, it probably doesn’t. The majority of mission runners and miners and nullsec line pilots will never send or receive a petition for player behaviour. The content creators on the edges, and particularly the low profile ones, will rarely appear on their overview and their bans will be shrugged off with the same offhand disregard that CCP shows. But some understand that player content drives everything in Eve. Some realise that player acquisition and retention are critically dependent on the community and the grandiose stories of shenanigans that CCP celebrates in one press release and disavows in another. They see the hemorrhaging PCU figures, the weaponisation of GMs, the fear in the eyes of the hotel manager and the uncertain, random future they face if they enter the petition system for any reason; and they wonder if it’s worth it. Without the massively multiplayer content, Eve is just about getting an ISK highscore and that’s not attracting or retaining anyone for long. Without the little guy villains, Eve won’t be Eve. Big or small, superstar or known only to a small circle of friends, every one deserves space to push the boundaries, to give Eve the anarchic colour for which it’s known, and most importantly to be given a chance to self-correct if they push it a little too far. — Disclosure: Blackhuey flies with the CFC’s Ministry of Love and has been known to occasionally create highsec content for miners and freighter pilots. However, this article and the CSM Proposal are his honest opinion, free of metagaming, roleplaying or trolling.  Lest you decide he is a monster anyway, do note that he has been active for years helping players on the Eve-O forums and Reddit, and is the former host of the Srs Bzns Podcast [6] for new players in Eve. —  
Tags: bans, Blackhuey, ccp

About the author


Blackhuey splits his time between hisec and nullsec, and enjoys creating content in both. He likes that feeling when a plan comes together, and dislikes people who get mad about being beaten at spaceships.