How much power is too much to give to your players?
By now the latest EvE dramaquake is old news but the discussions are still happening. Scott Jennings gives a pretty flippant account which then turns into a threadnought in the comments as is usual. The actual story is pretty simple once all the extraneous bits are trimmed away – guy gets fed up with life in one gigantic power bloc, defects to different gigantic power bloc and turns the lights out as he leaves the building.
People have argued the morality of the issue and whether or not that should be cheating but I’d like to concentrate solely on the question of how much power should a game invest in a single player?
EvE is something of a contradiction to established MMO wisdom. Players are very much in the driving seat when it comes to the big political movements in the game. Because of the almost complete freedom for players to interact with each other, players have a lot of individual power and, the more players they are associated with, the greater the scope for issues. Add to this CCPs very hands-off stance on intervention in player interactions and the stage is set for some industrial grade drama. Some people hold the belief that CCP actively encourages this kind of thing, personally I believe it’s simple pragmatism that drawing a line and upholding it is hard work and open to misinterpretation. In any case, it is possible for EvE players to amass a staggering amount of ingame power and responsibility – which translates into a gold plated opportunity to shaft a huge number of people at once.
For many EvE players (myself included), this freedom is precisely what attracts us to EvE in the first place and thus any attempt to restrict player power needs to be approached carefully by CCP in order not to alienate a very large chunk of the playerbase. This very open and abusable framework is not found in other games, limits are placed to prevent the damage that a single player can do to his ‘friends’.
I’ve advocated before for greater freedom in player interactions, I’ve also been fairly open in my conviction that players cannot be trusted to run important parts of the game so where is the happy medium?
For EvE, I don’t think there is one. Checks and balances can be put in place to prevent this particular issue from arising again, but enterprising players will always find ways around them or entirely new ways to be jerks to each other. For a hypothetical new game though, I think this should underline why community systems and player accountability should be at the core of the design and not simply a fancy LFG UI and some chat tabs.