On Balance


“Just how in the world are you going to begin this piece?” asks the interlocutor.

“As usual, I’ll start small, stick to what I know, and see what develops,” replies DireNecessity.

“Sweet Lord, you’re going to talk about suicide ganking again aren’t you?” grumps the interlocutor.

“Only as vehicle. Crossing Zebras readers aren’t fools. They know illustrative examples when they see them,” explains DireNecessity.

“You better hope so because it’s starting to look like obsession. Obsession over comparatively small things.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing. I’ve always been small. Obsessive too.”



Back in February, 2016, when CCP Fozzie announced an upcoming Damage Control Tiercide, EVE’s Suicide Gankers and Carebears squawked up a 1014 post discussion thread about the proposed changes. While I didn’t partake in the quarrel, I did observe; mostly to see how CCP thought about the question. Fozzie didn’t disappoint when, 335 posts in, he followed up on his announcement with:

“Now a quick note on suicide ganking and the impact that these changes will have.

We view ganking as one of many normal game systems that needs tweaking and balancing from time to time. Changes to the balance around ganking doesn’t mean we have any intentions on removing it (if we wanted to do that, we easily could through direct methods).

In a lot of ways, keeping balance in this system is much like park rangers maintaining balance between wolf and elk populations. We keep an eye on how the whole ecosystem is developing and make tweaks as necessary. Sometimes we might protect the corpses of dead elk from vultures so the wolves can feed in peace. Sometimes we might put some light body armor on the elk so that the wolves need to pick their targets more carefully. And I think I’ve officially taken this analogy too far.”

Observation #1 – Monetary Balance

Monetary balance takes care of itself. Using freighters as an example:

Buffing freighter hit points tempts freighter pilots to jam more value in the hold. Why make multiple trips when it’s now possible to make only one in a recently buffed freighter?

The more in the hold, the more profitable the gank.

The more profitable the gank, the more amenable the gankers to either bringing more people or dispatching more expensive, harder hitting ships to crack through that buff.

Everybody settles into a new balance. Abusive epithets continue. The game flourishes.

Observation #2 – Ecosystem Balance

As Fozzie correctly points out, he pushes his Elk, Vulture, Wolf analogy quite far. More importantly, if you ask me, his analogy is a little off from the get-go. ‘Vulture’ is fine – they swoop in to feast on others’ kills. ‘Wolf’ is also fine – they often hunt in packs. ‘Elk’ is off however as they’re often herd animals while wolf packs tend to hunt solitary prey. ‘Moose’ might have been a better choice. Big ole herbivore – doesn’t herd up.

I make a fuss about this to highlight how suicide ganking has evolved in recent years. While the solitary nature of the prey hasn’t changed much, the pack nature of the hunters has expanded. This is by design. Successful suicide ganking is increasingly a group activity. While the ecosystem remains healthy, inhabitable niche change is profound. “Psychopathic” suicide gankers now have to navigate in-group social hierarchies and expectations which requires empathy. Meanwhile freighter hauling, presumably empathetic Carebears are little but isolated, asocial prey. Such a topsy-turvy world is Eve.

Observation #3 – Slack

Interestingly, there’s notable ambiguity in Fozzie’s ecosystem approach. He expects communities to adapt, via social change, to CCP’s changing mechanics. Social change is fuzzy thing, it reverberates with slack.



CCP Rise, who began work for CCP in March of 2013, felt confident enough nine months in to conduct a November Reddit Ask Me Anything. (https://www.topiama.com/r/1960/iama-ccp-rise-game-designer-for-eve-online-ama) It’s a good read, you might go have a look/see. I was captivated by Question 31 from Nairb117:

“Now that you’re ‘behind the veil’ of the developers, what was the most surprising aspect of helping add to the game? Is it easier or harder than you thought?

CCP Rise’s answer:

I think the biggest behind the veil effect for me has been trying to wrap my head around how many different types of players we have in EVE and how difficult it can be to prioritize work relative to those types.

As a player it’s very easy to see the game through your perspective and come up with a list of improvements that make a lot of sense, but when you have to weigh the benefit for a lot of different play styles that are each extremely complex it definitely can be humbling.

In a way I’ve loved this though, it’s just made the game seem even more awesome to me to learn how deep it goes in so many different areas.”

If memory serves me correctly, CCP Rise took lead on Battleship Tiercide, a rather contentious process that threw the Incursion community into hissy fits and still has some people grumping. Unlike Fozzie’s ecosystem of activities balancing, ship balancing is persnickety work. People will either use a particular boat or they won’t and there’s very little social change slack available to employ around ship modification. Activities are fluid amoeba, tools are solid mineral.



EVE builds off a contradiction, a contradiction circling permanent loss. Permanent loss gives additional significance to in-game actions. Nothing truly risked, nothing truly achieved. Via permanent loss, we emotionally invest in our space stuff. That said, permanent loss plays out differently for different players and intentionally so. For Carebear PvEers, the ongoing possibility of permanent loss, especially via the imposition of unforeseen PvP, adds harrowing sparkle to the pleasant grind. For on the prowl PvPers, the ongoing necessity to recoup from less fortunate scuffles via PvE adds onerous grind to the pleasant hunt.

In both cases the same activity, whether PvE or PvP, is understood and experienced not merely differently, but paradoxically. Reward for one group is punishment for the other and vice versa. When it comes to walking rope, that’s a highwire act, a precipitous balance CCP has maintained since May, 2003.

Extraordinary, when you think about it.


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Tags: DireNecessity, ganking

About the author


A soloish long-term casual player since 2009, sporting a troubling history of preying on the good people of highsec, these days DireNecessity enjoys the gentle pleasures like manufacturing, grandbabies and formal dining.

  • lex arson

    Another trash article

    • DireNecessity

      Another throwaway comment

  • Ghost Rider

    Another great Article, Thanks a lot 🙂

    My time out has help me realise that CCP do have a unforgivable task in trying to make most people happy, or even satisfied for that matter.
    I will admit that my own views about what I felt was wrong with game was skewed by what my day to day activities were.. participating in a null sec wars.

    Looking back I would say that a lot of changes made in the last 18 months have been for the good of the game. There are still areas which CCP are very lacking, one of which is the NPE.

    I still do not understand why CCP does not utilise groups such as RvB and Eve Uni in some sort of capacity. Both groups are long standing entities in Eve and are fantastic at introducing new players in the many different and varied aspects Eve has to offer.

    I would love the removal of Local in null sec and move it to some sort of structure. I think this would create a very interesting dynamic between neighbouring alliances and open more avenues for smaller groups to cause the big guys the occasional kick in the teeth so to speak.

    War Decs to be looked at again although I am personally am unsure how to improve it but it does need looking at.

    I think that Low Sec could do with some love, maybe introduce a new mechanic that gets more people out there. Maybe something linked with Exploration which I still feel is a neglected. Exploration and Eve go so well together, there needs to be so much more to discover.

    There are a few other things which I can gripe about but generally I feel CCP are doing a better job now then before.

    Oh yeah, for the love of god just scrap the CSM.. but I will not talk about that today 🙂

    • Cosmo

      Exploration actually is in a fantastic place lately. It’s probably Eve’s best gameplay feature atm.

      • Ghost Rider

        What can you find by doing exploration

        • Fearlesslittletoaster

          All the money. Ever.

          • Ghost Rider

            Really.. that’s cool. Last time I play was when they just introduced the mini game and it sucked hard. Glad to see it has improved

          • tp60di

            The fuck are you talking about, exploration was worth twice the money it is now right after the minigame was introduced.

          • Ghost Rider

            The mini game was introduced years ago. I left just as it was introduced but they loot tables were still the same so you still got very little but now you had the hassle of the mini game and cans being spat out everywhere on top.

            If the loot tables have been improved and new things been added which makes it better then that is good.

            By the way, way all the rage?

    • €¥€©£™»

      Removing local will never happen. Absolutely never happen. Here is why its counter-productive to the goals of the game. Eve does not care much about the solo players. They are less likely to stay involved in the game. Its the social requirements that are built into eve that are responsible for its longevity. If you want to feel alone in space you have wormholes. That is the only place in eve that local will not in. If anything they will do even more to encourage players to band together.

      • LocaliSPrimary

        He didnt actually say remove it lock-stock, there was some reference to moving it to structures. I’m curious as to what that really means. But, otherwise I tend to agree. Local provides a key communal space for otherwise non-connected parties to communicate and interact. If that interaction is held up as required and important, then you need some kind of Local.

        • Ghost Rider

          Well with the introduction of Citadels and other new structures why not have let’s call it a communication array which when anchored provides what local does now.

          What it means is that it provides another target to generate fights and once down allows a number of options.

          You will then have systems which are not being utilised have no local which enables fleets to move undetected or hidden.

      • Ghost Rider

        Wormholes and null sec are two completely beast.

        Also where did I talk about solo players.

        I am talking about small groups, like many which live in low sec, given the opportunity to strike at the larger Soviet holding alliances without being detected 20 jumps away

        • €¥€©£™»

          I was simply explaining why you will never get what you want. BTW, It sounds like you just want an easier shot at ganking ratters. You should consider getting a blops to bridge in your fleet on pretackled targets. PVP easy mode. Only 1 person needs any skill at all. The rest can be F1 pushers.

          • Ghost Rider

            It has nothing to do with ganking ratters.
            Its the fact that any force, no matter how big or small will spotted and reported in intel channels instantly. This within itself prevents fights.

            By removing local (the ultimate intel tool) as it exists and replacing to a structure which can be destroyed or disrupted, you open up so many opportunities for fights, and remember that this is a two way street.

            There is no reason why a defending force can not use it for their own advantage.

            Also it will effect the relationships between neighbouring alliances. There tight secure boarders which they rely on heavily will now have a few holes in them. An invading force slips thought does some damage who is to blame?

            If it creates some conflict and tension where there was not any then that’s a good thing.

          • €¥€©£™»

            Again, this would be too disrupting to core revenue generating mechanics in the game. You have to consider every player, and not just your small group of more self oriented players. Its cool that you are just looking for fights with your bros. But you have to accept the insignificance of your choices. Non of this will change for reasons that I do not think you are willing to consider or understand. But just trust that I am correct. You will never see local disappear. Its a fundamental component of a mechanism that generates great revenue for the company. They would scoff at any serious discussion of its removal…..

          • Ghost Rider

            I am not advocating it’s entire removal however it does need to be changed. Local provides a very powerful intel tool to which there is no counter. I generally dislike anything that has no counter a generally rule.

  • Provi Miner

    allow me to nullify the whole article in one simple phrase (often misused): “didn’t want X anyway” the misused part is most times people did want it or they wouldn’t have it. However it is sometimes that simple: 15 man frig (no ceptors) jumps into a waiting foe and promptly whelp….. did they want those frigs? no not really. So by now you might be asking how does this nullify the article. I assume that this is competent writer who does follow standard writing methods in that everything boils down to the conclusion. In this case permanent loss or nothing risked nothing gained and that is where the phrase “didn’t want X anyway” nullifies the article. aside from the frig whelp or the fleet of cruiser that go till someone wipes them out (birthday roam, drunk roam, blah blah) to the titan sacrificed for charity. Or the hause’s set up knowing they can’t be defended. There is something lacking in the conclusion that just doesn’t fit “all” of eve.

    Say tomorrow Hard knocks gets pissed at sound mind and decide “hmm we will evict them” 47 haus’s and forts later they might have push sound out (yes you read that 47 at last count). do you think sound mind will grieve much over the first 20 or so? they are loss’s right???? but they are not risks they are strategic items that have only one value create a bad year for hard knocks.

    • DireNecessity

      I, of all people, try to be cautious about drawing sweeping conclusions about all of EVE. Often I find myself exploring themes instead which is, more or less, what I am doing here. While one essay can’t completely explore all that is balance, I would point out that your Hark Knocks/Sound Mind ‘hauses example appears to me to circle around labor. The labor it takes to PvE up the materials/ISK to assemble and deploy multiple ‘hauses and the labor/ISK it will require to PvP them out of existence. I’d say that’s an extension of the theme I’m exploring, not a nullification of the theme.

      “Didn’t want X anyway” fascinates me. Speaking only for myself, it’s often a mind game I play to get around displeasure at loss. If I can convince myself that ship X isn’t valuable stuff but rather merely a big piece of ammunition I’m not going to lose it so much as expend it. Similar to above, I don’t see this as outright nullification of the theme I’m exploring but rather as an elaborate dance generated by a mechanic CCP has instituted.

      • Provi Miner

        hmm I appreciate your reply however your conclusion about permanent loss and risk vs reward is where it appears to me to fall flat. If you really don’t care then there is no risk and the loss is without merit (I have been on memorial roams where we warped straight into 3X fleet because it was time to end it” no loss no srp no tears. In fact they were nice they let us get out with our pods and even showed up to a memorial anchoring. 2 maybe 3 billion gone and no one blinked. Sound V HK again the loss is permanent but is designed for that they didn’t build 47 cits because they care about 47 cits. you could destroy 46 and if sound still controlled the hole it would be as it everything went as planned.

  • Easy Esky

    Buffing freighter hit points tempts freighter pilots to jam more value in the hold. Why make multiple trips when it’s now possible to make only one in a recently buffed freighter?

    From this Freighter pilot – this is a complete fallacy. I cannot jam more into an already full cargohold. Small expensive goods, I will run in a Blockade Runner. For an amount 62,000m³ I will use a Deep Space Transport. I can perform multiple trips in a DST in the same time as a single Freighter run, having access to better tanking ability through its Overheating Bonuses. And there are only a few things in this game which are a single block of 100,000m³ or greater. But for a single trip of 400,000m³ in goods, I will wait to accrue the volume then make a single trip.

    What are you are suggesting is that I would put only 200,000 – because it is worth 1bil isk as a risk assessment limit. (note that I have authored a guide on web-warping). The former idea of scaling the value of goods vs the potential loss of the total ship value to attacking parties is long gone as a metric. Because these days anything goes. Being empty is not a guarantee to reach the destination. Blowing up the empty ones can be a training exercise for new ganking FCs and possible new tactics, or just merely for the lolz or to relieve boredom.

    When you see those plus 7bil freighter loses, it can be seen that in most instances the expensive goods could have carried piecemeal in a smaller and more agile ship. Bigger is not always better.

    Suicide Ganking is not the crime. It is in the lack of education on part of pilots that suffer loss. Who would be a teacher? Not the NPE, not the Sisters Arc or the tutorial agents. CCP has to bridge the ignorance with welfare/hand-out that results in 1014 posts of frustration.

    • DireNecessity


      If I recall correctly, we had similar conversation when discussing this very thing several months back on my little blog. At that time, I pointed out that I often ‘de-tank’ my freighter but then again I’m flying the beast in out of the way areas packed full of unprocessed bulky ore where de-tanking enables notable difference in the number of trips I need to make. When I’m running the freighter empty I remove the cargo hold expanders comparatively ‘tanking up’. I know tanking up doesn’t provide absolute protection against ganks, but I like to believe it helps. You, when given similar situation, choose to make multiple, speedy DST runs. Which is better very probably depends more on our particular personality preferences than some objective measurement.

      Keep in mind that we’re both reasonably savvy about the mechanics and the cultures that build up around them meaning neither of us are going to suffer a wacky 7bil freighter loss.

      Expecting CCP to balance around ignorance as some players do *is* terribly frustrating to see.

      • Easy Esky

        You’re right we have. (not my best day yesterday)

        Being savvy is the exact point. I see above that some references that RvB and Eve Uni should be involved. Elsewhere I was reading a post from a recently joined member of CODE, and this worthy also referenced that players should be taught some measure of PvP early on.

        People identify the problem and then??

        This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.
        There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
        Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
        Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.
        Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.
        It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

        And when Nobody does it. CCP Somebody has to use complex balance mechanics to maintain a semblance of the status quo.

  • Viince_Snetterton

    You sir, are an idiot.

    • Ghost Rider

      I have to say that you have put across a very well detailed post. I am very impressed with your use of language to explain such a involved and complex idea.

      • Viince_Snetterton

        Arguing with this clown would be like arguing online with a global warming denier. Like this guy, they would pull up all kinds up completely false narratives and equivalencies, citing them as fact. Those people, same as this guy, are too far gone to help or debate, or waste more than a few words on.

        • Ghost Rider

          okay, that’s your view and your entitled to it, however exactly which points do you disagree with

          • Viince_Snetterton

            How about the entire premise of the article? Griefing has hit the sub rate hard. It is just one of many attacks on high sec that has hammered the PCU and sub’s.

          • Ghost Rider

            Fine, by any chance do you have evidence to back your claim that griefing (by the way what is your definition of greifing because everybody has their own) has hit the PCU and subs hard?

            I only ask because none of the people I know who have quit Eve over the years, by which there have been many, have ever complained that griefing was why they left.

            Now I fully accept that just because I have never talked to anybody who has cited this as being a problem means there isn’t a problem.

            Would be interesting to see some numbers, documentation etc that would point to this being a major problem.

          • Viince_Snetterton

            Decline in subs started with the dessie overhaul and the introduction of the tier 3 BC’s. May posts, including mine, predicted that griefing would run wild, which it did. And predictably, subs started dropping. Then Crius hit, and it was lights out for high sec industry. That precipitated another big drop in the PCU and subs. But I am done wasting words on another troll.

          • Ghost Rider

            First off why am I a troll, is it because I asked for clarification? I have ben away from the game for nearly 2 years so I have missed out on a lot of changes.

            I have been polite and civil, is that what makes a troll these days? Damn I’m getting old.

            So you talk about changes to destroyers and Tier 3 BC’s. In what why did they effect high Sec? How did griefing as you say run wild?

            Are there any figures that show an increase in ganking? Figures are much better then pointing to a small percentage of angry players complaining on the forums.

            Again in regards to Crius, how did that effect High Sec Industry?

    • DireNecessity

      I will not dispute this claim Viince/Dinsdale. If anybody knows idiocy, intimately, from the inside, it’s you.

  • Bill Bones

    The more I read Dire, or the more he writes, the less i get from his articles. If there was a point in there, I can’t tell for my life what it was.

    I’ve been reading (& writing) English regularly for the last 14 years, and yet reading Dire’s last articles has left me completely in the dark about what he was trying to say, or whether he was saying anything at all. I don’t think that it’s lack of skill and practice reading a foreign language from my part, not at this point. So might be something with the way Dire writes. What, I can’t tell, since I don’t understand what he says or whether he is saying anything… it is very upsetting as I feel cheated of my time.

  • tp60di

    Allow me to point out that “elk” in good ol’ Europe has roots in the Old English word eolc, which in turn has roots in various proto-Germanic languages spoken in Europe. It refers to the animal Alces alces (called Elch in German, älg in Swedish, alce in Italian, etc. etc.), which is a mostly solitary herbivore and the largest extant species of the deer family. The slightly smaller North American herding species of deer Cervus canadensis is properly known as the wapiti, and is only distantly related to the elk.

    This confusion likely has origins in early British settlers moving to the Americas, and, having never actually seen an elk before as they had been hunted to extinction on the British Isles long before the middle ages, confused the more commonly found wapiti for the seclusive elk. CCP, being an European company based in Iceland (itself a country where the elk is known as “elgur”) would obviously thus use the word elk to refer to Alces alces, rather than the Cervus canadensis.

    • DireNecessity

      If I recall correctly, Fozzie hails from Canada so I presume when he uses the word “Elk” he’s probably referring to the same Cervus Canadensis you mention here which does match my American understanding of the word “Elk”. Your comment does quite successfully point out how difficult analogy can be to work with since it’s very possible one person, for deep rooted geographic and/or cultural reasons, will understand the import of the analogy differently than another. In this particular piece I don’t suspect it’s terribly consequential since both Fozzie and I are stretching the analogy awfully close to the breaking point from the get go. At minimum, you clearly understood what I was trying to get at despite my North American centric language use.