Please note, this article is a bit more ‘what if’ than my last several and I’m well aware the theories here are way too dependent on game systems that likely don’t even exist yet. The thought process here is just for the fun of it, so don’t take any of this too seriously.
Several recent interviews with Chris Roberts and the ‘crime’ Comm-link post have covered some aspects of characters skirting the confines of Star Citizens reputation system. Chris is considering having multiple characters per account to specifically address those who may want to try both sides of the good/evil coin. There are a couple of details that we don’t know yet (many of these aspects may have not been designed yet) on the state these two (plus) characters will exist. Will they share any material possessions? What about their garages? Will it be easy to transfer goods between characters (we already know ships can be transferred)? Easier than between two normal players?
Similarly, while we got a brief amount of data on piracy in the ‘crime’ post, a bunch of questions about reputation were left hanging. Players will have access to a system where they can broadcast fake IDs (or just hull/ship IDs) to avoid a bad rap during PvP and to use for landing, etc. There will also be a way to bribe certain people and some form of monetary penalty if captured by the Advocacy. So, assuming you’re careful and handle your IDs well, can you be a Citizen pirate? Is there reputation outside of the type covered by the type associated with the IDs? Can we gain reputation with black markets or NPC pirates and, if so, how does that relate to Citizenship and fake ID codes?
[UPDATE] After some discussions on forums on the above points, I just wanted to be clear on the intent in this article. The above paragraphs are not pro or con multiples IDs or Characters. The original point was that there will likely be multiple ways to engage in PvP outside of any detriment system and that the points below are not easily avoidable.
All that said, this post isn't really about the questions not answered. What I’m actually looking to talk about is how these elements will affect playstyles in Star Citizen. With several different ways to skirt the law or avoid any bad reputation, why not be a pirate? Just to be clear, when I say ‘pirate’, I mean a PvP player that doesn't exclusively hunt specific types of players avoiding law constraints (the fabled bounty hunter). The ‘crime’ post does indicate that piracy will be a skill-based activity that isn't a profession for the faint of heart, but the downsides are centered around long-term cost accruals or loss of benefits (citizenship) due to a bad rap. There isn’t much downside as currently described if your ‘alt’ character is the pirate who is potentially supported by a Citizen-trader / bounty hunter / military pilot.
So, let’s just say everyone has a pirate alt. For the sake of this discussion, let’s ignore the playstyle polls about who likes what and assume people ‘also’ want some PvP in their play (say most go for 20-50% of their playtime) and the multiple identity facilities take away any downside. Is this bad? What does this mean? Well, the theoretical driving pressure in a rational game system is the economy. The economics of ‘normal’ piracy (as in a profession you make money at doing) really depends on there being lots of other players as prey. If there develop trends in when players tend to use their casual pirate characters (e.g. weekends, holidays, etc.), then the game balance will spike with a combination of player conflict and lowered availability of of trade / mining prey vessels / players.
Following this reasoning, I would expect the number of people involved in the clashes to start saturating any systems / routes that are feasible (not heavily UEE protected), which is turn would disincentivize remaining trade outside of UEE core. Those routes would likely in turn get saturated and produce fewer profits. Any players not already involved with PvP would then be incentivized to join in, growing the level of conflict. Some steady state of ‘safe’ trade would eventually be established at much reduced levels.
The whole system would eventually reset (e.g. at the end of a weekend) and swing back the other way (back to some steady state PvP level) and starved trade routes would be flooded with people going after that quick buck after the shipping drought. Thus, the whole system could see a somewhat cyclic behavior around player conflict and economic incentives.
There is one primary SC feature that could shift the likelihood of this cyclic free-for-all: instancing. In theory, the SC universe doesn’t really have a limit on the people in a route or ‘where’ an instance is. If there is one section of space / sector that attracts the weekend PvP element (via an event or some other coordination), then as many instances as need would be spawned there or on the associated routes, freeing the rest of the universe for normal commerce. The problem with this is that anything that increases the safety for traders / miners increases non-PvP traffic in other areas, which causes the pirate element to prey on those elements and move outside of any kind of restriction.
Lastly, one element that isn’t really considered here is the player matching system itself. Depending on how this is tuned, the system could simply tune PvP likelihood based on economic pressure. There will theoretically be systems / waypoints that are always open PvP (matching is supposedly for inter-waypoint travel), but it may be possible that tuning player matching keeps enough trade open to maintain a mixed-playstyle balance.
At the end of the day, I would like to remind the reader this whole article is just a hypothetical thinking exercise for generating discussion. I don’t have any answers and I don’t have a solution to suggest, but these ‘system’ issues like these are something consider in such an environment. It will be very interesting to see how the instancing and player-matching systems will allow CIG to apply valves and vents to the PvP pressure that could build up or if game-wide player conflict will have any of the mentioned cyclic effects.