Has EVE crossed the moral line – forever?

Has EVE Online irrevocably crossed a moral line, to become a game where in-character PvP will necessarily extend to out-of-character, real world attacks?

Sounds like a pretty extreme stance to take. But that’s the argument that Jester of Jester’s Trek – one of the best-known, longest-running EVE blogs in existence – is making today. Upon being asked if he thinks EVE will ever cross the moral line, he responds, eloquently and with many examples, that we’ve passed that point several years ago

“It’s in our rear view mirror. EVE passed the line several years ago. Further, we’re never going to get back on the right side of the line. EVE is always going to be a game where nasty in-game behavior sometimes crosses the line into nasty out-of-game behavior. This behavior is built into EVE’s DNA.

Why yes, that is a stark answer. But it’s true nonetheless.

Nasty in-game behavior crossing the line into nasty out-of-game behavior is something that’s been going on for years. Hell, when I first started thinking about getting into the 0.0 sov war myself, one of the first stories on this line I heard about was a Russian player who wanted to cut the power to the house of a Titan-flying player. Is it true? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But it feels true and doesn’t generate a lot of disbelief. “CCP often touts this sort of thing with the bland marketing lingo of ‘player generated content.’,” Mittens said three years ago.

And you know what? They still do. “EVE players are the nicest people in the world,” Hilmar said at this year’s Fanfest, “because they get all their nastiness out of them in game.” I think we all recall what happened that same day. And it didn’t happen in game.”

For those who aren’t aware, the incident that Jester is referring to here is one in which Alexander “The Mittani” Gianturco, one of EVE’s best-known players, called for his followers to harass a mentally ill player into suicide.

This is pretty powerful, scary stuff – all the more so because it’s coming from Jester, who is a respected source on all things EVE. And he’s happy to supply examples, too – plenty of them – along with explanations of just why EVE can take people to such unpleasant places.

Of course, EVE isn’t always like this – there are plenty of players who enjoy it without taking their aggression outside the game. But nonetheless, it’s disturbing to hear Jester say that out-of-game actions are an inevitable part of EVE’s makeup. Does that mean that the entire MMO is beyond the pale? Should it even continue to run? Or is this out-of-game spillover just an unpleasant consequence of a fascinating hobby, like broken bones in snowboarding or concussions in boxing?

What do you think?

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Blog posts about Sin, Heroism And Smarts…

And to close out the day, we’ve got everything from musing on the meaning of “heroism” to hardcore numbers for healers in Mists! Take it away, guys:

  • Matticus has been crunching the numbers on mana in Mists. Want to know what your healing will feel like come MoP?“So we’re going back to entry-level Cataclysm healing? In a word, yes.”
  • Mataoka of Sugar And Blood, inspired by some of this week’s posts and comments, has been musing on what exactly it means to be a hero
  • Vidyala writes about something I know afflicts me reasonably often – the tendancy to just take on too much“My problem is this – I overestimate the time I have. I underestimate how long it’ll take me to get things done. I overextend myself and commit to too many things.”
  • And Fulguralis is mining an interesting source for MMO design – the Catholic concept of Original Sin“Why do Sith and Jedi alike start off neutral? Are we to believe that they’ve never made a choice until the very moment that we rolled them? Is this sort of the Bioware “age of reason” doctrine?”

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Ner’zhul is a hero? Riding a dragon is ethically dodgy? It’s Devil’s Advocate Wednesday!

Every so often, a post comes along that changes how you think about an aspect of the game you love. I can’t say for sure whether the two brilliant bits of devil’s advocacy today will do that for your WoW experience, but I can’t say they won’t, either. So, if you want to keep thinking of Ner’zhul as a bad guy, Valen the Prophet as a good guy, and your Onyxian Whelpling as not the Azerothian equivalent of Cote D’Ivoire chocolate , don’t read any further!

So, yeah, those dragons. Love your blue dragon mount? Have a nice collection of whelpling pets? Well, Dreams of Iso’rath would like you to take a long, hard look at your draconic collection today, and ask – was the way your character aquired those companions really ethically sound at all?

“Dragons in World of Warcraft – at least normal dragons from the major flights – are intelligent, not just part of the wildlife. They think, they talk, they have feelings, they can have power well beyond that of members of playable races…

…and despite this, it seems to be the case that we’re using at least some of the drakes we ride against their will, turning intelligent creatures into little more than beasts of burden.

It is a major point of Warcraft lore that the enslaving of Alexstrasza and the red dragonflight by the Dragonmaw Clan, and the forced use of drakes and dragons as war mounts, was a heinous, horrible act.

And yet it seems to be perfectly fine for players to do the same thing – at least to “evil” dragons.”

Obviously, we’re talking about fantasy ethics here – no-one’s suggesting that you, the player, have done anything immoral! But that aside, DOI’s got a really fascinating point here about the break between in-game lore and random Blizzard-enabled shinies. If you read nothing else in the post, read the bit about whelplings, and see if that doesn’t make you feel at least a bit bad about your fine collection of cute mini-dragons.

But don’t worry – on the grand scheme of things, your character’s never going to be a villain in Azerothian terms, right? Not whilst there are really horrible characters like Ner’zhul, the orc who led the Orcs to invade new worlds – you know, the invasion that started the entire Warcraft series off. Except…

Rades of Orcish Army Knife has been looking into the entire thing, and he thinks that if we’re going to call Ner’zhul a villain, we’ve got to extend that name to other lore characters too – like the Prophet Valen, leader of the Draenai and practically the Azerothian byword for a good guy

“ The destruction of Draenor, the corruption of the Orc race, the thousands who died during the great wars when the Horde invaded Azeroth – all of these tragedies could have been avoided had Velen “simply” sacrificed himself and his people to the Burning Legion. Instead, they fled, over and over again, each time leading the Legion to untarnished, pure worlds, ripe for decimation.

You might say this isn’t a fair comparison. That Velen and the other Draenei were victims. After all, they didn’t ask for Kil’jaeden to come and shatter their perfect society. And this is true. But then again, did the Orcs ask the Draenei to come live on their planet, and bring their demoniac curse with them? Did Perenolde and Alterac ask for the Horde to invade their lands, and force them to choose between betrayal and extinction?”

Whilst it takes a little while to really get going – particularly if you’re not super-familiar with pre-WoW lore – once he gets to Valen and really gets into his stride, Rades has written an astonishing piece of work here. I can’t find fault in his logic – and from here on out, as far as I’m concerned, Valen’s not a Force of Good, he’s pretty close to the most evil creature in Azeroth, Deathwing and all. Read it and see if you agree!

Valen: heroic leader or total scumbucket? And are your whelps Fair Trade?

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On The Ethics Of Squashing Gnomes

I’m very pleased that, by and large, Cataclysm didn’t make me twitch about ethics as much as Northrend did. I recall getting very angry about the torture is awesome and funny quest in Borean Tundra. But Cataclysm hasn’t made any gross missteps like that, and personally I managed to get to Level 85 without my character making any choices that I was really uncomfortable about…

Until now.

Cynwise has been looking at some of the Uldum quests, specifically the hilarious gnome-squashing monster rally quest. And you know what? In the right light, it’s pretty horrific...

Gnomebliteration. From a RP standpoint, this quest is absolutely horrific. You take the word of a machine you just met that there’s no cure for this curse (aside from head trauma, whoops) and it’s going to enable you to slaughter thousands of them. You might feel a little guilt, but really, there’s no saving them.

Part of me was like… okay, HAL-9000, sure, I’ll take your word for that. Not like you aren’t a murderous little thing, I’m sure you’re completely trustworthy.

I love posts that make me suddenly stop and think about something in the game in a new way – and Cynwise’s post did that. Sure, from a player perspective virtually all of Uldum’s harmless, silly fun. But from a character perspective – there’s some seriously creepy stuff going on there. AIs ordering you to cold-blooded mass murder? “Immunity” to “Madness” because of “head trauma”? This stuff’s half way between 2001 and H.P. Lovecraft.

And it’s an interesting point – normally I’m pretty ethically aware, not to say twitchy, and my main soloing character is RPed as a very, very nice guy. But I’d never considered just how sinister this one is. Why, I wonder?

What do you think? Are there other “stealth horror” quests you can think of in game? Or did you think the AI was totally on the level?

_Quote taken directly from Cynwise’s post.

Find Cynwise’s Field Notes at http://cynwise.posterous.com/_

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