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.