Why the EVE Online industrial espionage econopocalypse is "fun"

Recently, the spreadsheets-in-space game EVE Online was rocked by a huge scandal — one of the largest virtual "corporations" in the game was infiltrated and toppled through in-game espionage. Much phosphor has been spilled over this, but master game designer Raph Koster has the smartest analysis I've seen — explaining how this scandal was inherent to the nature of what made the game fun.

In any PvP scenario which has a temporal component – even one as simple as leaderboards – you need to "overturn the anthill" or else you will end up with a static power structure. The guy who held the record will hold it forever. The top guild will stay the top guild, etc. This is why you often see leaderboards offer different time spans – "best today," "this week," "all time," etc. Otherwise, it's hopeless to compare yourself against statistical outliers who always win.

In the case of something like a PvP-centric team-based game, there's really two ways to accomplish this overturn. One is to wait until the empire rots from within (security breeds carelessness, inattention, and eventually vulnerability). The other is to aggressively force the rot, by attacking the hubs and attempting to co-opt them.

This has been used as a business tactic: World of Warcraft consciously pursued the guild leaders of the largest and most influential guilds in its successful attempt to dethrone Everquest. By recruiting them over to the new game, they managed to harm the social fabric of EQ while also creating a ready-made community within WoW.

In the case of a self-contained (and richer) simulation like EVE, there's assets to worry about. The loss of one director might be a blow to BoB, but the real blow is the destruction of its assets, largest of which was the alliance itself, the group's identity, but which also include the money, ships, and so on. Without those things being scattered to the winds, there would be no overturning of the empire.

So unless a traitor can empty the bank accounts and disband the alliance, it's very unlikely that BoB would fall. And the game, as a game, does want BoB to fall, because from a purely mechanical point of view, what is fun about EVE is the struggle, not the victory condition. The victory condition is boring.

The EVE upset

(Image: Destructoid)