To understand EVE, all you need to know is this fact:In EVE Online, griefing is a game mechanic.
Perhaps it's more accurate to say that there is no such thing as griefing in EVE, a hardcore, sandbox, pvp-oriented MMO with a spacefaring theme. At some point during development someone must have thought "why only allow the players to shoot each other? Why not allow all kinds of player conflict too?" Not only could you be attacked by other players looking to steal your wealth or just seeking glory, but scamming, cheating, griefing, betrayal, spying, manipulation, and psychological warfare are all accepted in the game. Even actions that would be prohibited in many pvp games (such as controlling 2 accounts simultaneously to give you an advantage) are fair game here.
Peace was maintained in highsec (the safe, high-security rating areas of NPC empires) by CONCORD, the interstellar police force, whose invincible battleships could one-shot any player. But as the game manual itself said, "CONCORD is not there to protect you; they are there to enforce the law". It is a completely valid tactic to attack helpless players carrying expensive cargo with a cheap suicide ship, allow yourself to get vaporized by CONCORD, and have your friend pick up the loot from the wreckage while the police ships watch and do nothing. It's also a valid tactic to trick your victims into shooting you first, causing CONCORD to destroy them.
The highlight of the game was the epic struggle between player alliances for control of nullsec space (the outer reaches of the galaxy with the lowest security rating of 0.0). These wars were Serious Business and could involve titanic battles of hundreds of players at once, and the stakes were so high that players would do almost anything to win. Legendary tales of betrayal and sabotage grew out of such wars.
Supposedly there was once a conversation between two Alliance leaders, that went something like:
A: Where does the enemy leader live?
B: We already know where he lives, he's in (star system name).
A: I mean, where does he live IRL? I'll send my boys and cut off the electricity supply to his home when we attack :)
Is it a myth? I have no clue, lol! But it shows the extreme lengths player alliances were willing to take to defend their space empires.
Now you're asking, "how did Siggy, casual scrub, end up playing this kind of scary MMO?!" Well, I had always been a big sci-fi nerd. So when I saw this amazing trailer for EVE, I just had to try the game out:
Isn't that Russian guy at the end super badass?!
I had also heard that it was possible to buy sub time using in-game currency, which I liked because I am a cheapskate and was a poor student. I was sold on the game and made an account.
The first thing I tried was pirating - blowing up other players for money. I killed some newbie ships, but the wreckage only made me a little money. Later, I learned I was doing it wrong: the right way to pirate is to open a chat channel with the victim and extort them for money, if you're not satisfied with the payout, then only you blow them up. And I should have avoided newbies, which aren't worth much, and focus on pve-specialized players who are mining or ratting (farming NPC pirates for money). I sometimes had fantasies of being a feared, elite pirate captain, but I am too much of a softie to make money this way... lol!
My real long-term plan was to haul ammo and spare parts from the safe highsec regions into the lawless realms of lowsec and nullsec space where CONCORD did not patrol, and sell them to players who lived there. I had this romantic idea in my head of being a cowboy on the frontier, heading out alone into the Wild West to forge a new life. So, when I felt prepared, I bought and outfitted a small, fast cargo ship and started running the dangerous gauntlet of systems leading to lowsec.
The road was dangerous. I had a map of the EVE galaxy that was updated as pilots posted killmails (system message you get when you kill a player ship, used as trophies), and I made detours to avoid systems in which there were recent pvp battles. This might indicate a gatecamp - an ambush at one of the jumpgates. Once, I came out of the jumpgate into such an ambush and saw a fleet already orbiting the gate, ready to shoot. You have 30s of invisibility when you come out of a gate, and I sat there thinking, unsure of whether I could warp out in time. Suddenly another ship warped towards the gate and they opened fire on him instead, and I escaped.
When I wasn't running the blockade, I would hunt lowsec NPC pirates, making some money while waiting for my items to sell... During all this while, I rarely saw other player ships in person. By the time another player ship appeared on-screen, it might already be too late, as a pvp-specialized ship would lock on to me and jam my engines within seconds. My ship would be specialized for pve, and stood no chance in combat against another player. Once, I saw a PK's battleship warp in just as I warped out - a narrow escape.
I understood what the crew of a nuclear submarine might have felt during the Cold War. You spend hours in tense silence, constantly refreshing the directional scanner, keeping an eye on the local frequency for sign of other ships. Suddenly, a ship appears, light-years away. Is it hostile? Will they leave me alone? You'd warp to a safe spot, waiting... now a combat probe appears! The hunt was on, and you'd frantically warp to the nearest jump gate, praying there wouldn't be more ships lying in ambush on the other side. At last you docked at the NPC station, breathing a sigh of relief...
My achievement during my 6 or so months in EVE was that I never got scammed! In classic Siggy fashion I did a lot of research and was able to avoid all the normal ways in which newbie players got cheated. However, ultimately I was not a successful EVE player. I made some money selling my items, but it was less than I hoped. I was not able to earn enough in-game currency to keep paying my sub this way, and stopped playing the game. I think I'm still parked in a lowsec station somewhere at the edge of Minmatar space.
As an FFXIV player, I sometimes think about how EVE and FFXIV are polar opposites. If EVE is a libertarian hell where the strong freely prey on the weak, then FFXIV is a nanny state, with draconian rules and harsh punishments. Producer Naoki Yoshida wants this to be a game that anyone can play regardless of ability. He and his team are even willing to degrade the gameplay experience of their players to ensure that everyone gets along; see, for example, the disabling of chat in the Feast. His philosophy has greatly benefited the game, and FFXIV owes much of its financial success to it. After all, every player driven away from the game by a bad experience is one less paying customer.
But however Yoshi-P tries, he cannot erase player conflict entirely. Because of the draconian TOS, people in NA have to resort to all kinds of passive-aggressive ways to vent their conflicts, and it can make player interactions very ambiguous and hard to navigate. Wouldn't the world be a lot simpler and more honest if players with grievances could just get into spaceships and blow each other up?
In FFXIV you have to be careful not to let bad people bait you into using foul language or mentioning you are using DPS meter, or you'll be banned, just like newbies in EVE are warned not to let pirates bait them into shooting first, or CONCORD would come and destroy them. Except that strikes against your account in FFXIV are permanent, while in EVE, being blown up is just a fact of life. And when I hear stories of people being harassed and GM's refusing to help, I can only recall those words in the EVE game manual: "CONCORD is not here to protect you; they are here to enforce the law...
FFXIV and its community try very hard to present themselves as welcoming and friendly, so that it's jarring when you discover the reality here in NA does not live up to the advertising. I'm not cut out to play in the unforgiving world of EVE, but I respected the game for being honest about what it was: a ruthless warzone.