CSMX Candidates Quizzed: Thoric Frosthammer

A few years ago, I ran a questionnaire for CSM candidates regarding lowsec. This year, I’ve decided to do the same, with a twist: there is now a bonus round of questions tailored to each individual candidate that fills out the questionnaire. As quickly as I can, I’ll be posting up their responses: without edit or commentary. Next into the questionnaire octagon is Thoric Frosthammer of LAWN.

Character Name: Thoric Frosthammer

Candidacy Thread: Thoric Frosthammer for CSM X

PART 1 – The Questionnaire

What single part of the game do you feel requires the most work in terms of iteration by CCP?

A ruleset that rewards risk-taking and discourages N+1 warfare as the end-all be all of EVE.

Do you feel that lowsec is ‘fixed’? If so, explain why. If not, explain what you want to see done to fix it.

No, any more than I think any part of the game is without the need for attention on a regular basis. I think it needs something that defines it other than simply “that place I travel through to get to nullsec”

Do you have any plans to push CCP, if elected, to iterate on lowsec in general?

While I have no plans in mind that are specifically related to lowsec, I believe that my general concerns regarding lack of conflict drivers, rules that benefit risk aversion and the pitfall of n+1 warfare are relevant across all security bands. I think iterating heavily on rewarding risk taking will benefit the entire game.

In your opinion, where should lowsec rank in terms of priority for iteration by CCP?

I don’t see it separately. I think the biggest problems with the game affect all of the security regions equally, and aren’t issues specific to a security region. Fixing issues that affect the entire game should be the highest priority.

What, in your opinion, are the main factors that make lowsec more attractive to its current residents than other areas of space?

Guessing people’s personal motivations is always something I try to avoid because they frequently surprise me. The people I know who live there rarely give the same answers. .

What is your thinking regarding piracy in lowsec – is it good, bad, or ugly?

Piracy is a part of what makes EVE great. Lowsec seems like its natural home, that seedy area just outside the walls of relative safety.

What are your thoughts on the notion that increased protection for PVE players in lowsec will result in a better lowsec?

I think you’d be better off finding something to put in lowsec for pve’ers that justified the risks than giving people “protection”. Risk = fun, protection = stagnation.

What are your thoughts regarding Faction Warfare, particularly the idea that FW is the killer feature of lowsec?

I think FW has potential. It’s not enough to define an area as diverse as lowsec. Just flipping lowsec all into faction warfare would be a mistake in my opinion.

If elected to CSMX and subsequently informed by CCP that lowsec was the ‘hot topic’ for iteration in the coming year, what input and advice would you have for them?

I’m focused on higher level systems, the social and risk aspects of the game. I think they have applicability to any of the regions. I think a focus on any region from those perspectives will lead to ideas that will eventually improve the entire game. I believe a focus on risk versus reward, rewarding risk taking, and not risk aversion, and finding ways to create space for combat that isn’t simply the bigger blob winning are things that could benefit lowsec just as they would null.

BONUS – What lengths are you willing to go to in order to make pirates flashy red on overview by default again?

Think of the epileptics, man~

PART 2 – The Interview

What’s your personal background, in real life? What kind of work are you in? Does it help your chances of election, in your opinion? Why or why not?

I am a former broadcast journalist, and a current attorney. I think my background helps somewhat, in that I hopefully have the writing and speaking skills to explain my positions and why I might be a good candidate for CSM X.

If you weren’t running, but you could singlehandedly ensure that any other person in EVE would be elected to CSM, who would you pick and why.

Honestly, I really hate this sort of question. The CSM isn’t any one individual, it’s the sum of its parts. How well it works depends on a lot of factors, and what all the individual members bring to the game. Personal friction can destroy the team environment, as apparently happened in the last CSM. On the other hand, someone who might not be an obvious choice can bring a synergy to the table that makes things go more smoothly.

Other than EVE, what was your favorite game last year (2014)?

Goat Simulator. My daughter loves it and there’s something extraordinarily relaxing about interacting with the world via headbutting.

Have you ever spent an appreciable amount of time in lowsec?

I spent the better part of a year there once (7-8 months anyway?). Mostly in Aridia and Khanid. It’s been a while, however, that was probably 2007.

There are many that think in a single-shard sandbox, such as EVE Online, n+1 is always going to be an issue unless you start applying structure more rigidly to the game. Are you in favor of arbitrary limits on the amount of pilots on a single battlefield as a solution to the n+1 issue? If not, what is your preferred solution?

I think a better solution to N+1 warfare than arbitrary limits is to find a way to handicap the blob a bit. I’m not a game designer, but my natural preference is to avoid hard limits. If you can find ways in the game mechanics to push back against simple blob warfare it would benefit the game. It could take various forms. Perhaps the bigger your fleet, it affects your signature radius, makes you easier to hit. Perhaps links could have a diminishing returns effect where they are more effective for smaller fleets. Have ECM effects randomly affect nearby fleet members, the number increasing with the size of the fleet maybe. There are lots of little tweaks like these you can play with, that might make it worthwhile to at least consider engaging a larger fleet with a smaller one. Some might work, some might suck in practice, but if you twiddle the knobs enough you can find a balance.

You stated in your responses that ‘risk = fun, protection = stagnation.’ Do you find being the Chairman of a founding member of the CFC to be fun, though there is little risk to the CFC as a whole? Do you prefer stagnant gameplay to fun gameplay?

LAWN has spent most of its time on the ragged edges of the CFC for the past couple of years, on the front lines in Delve, and in Fountain. You may notice we’re no longer in Delve. That process wasn’t easy for us. While the CFC in its greater glory may not be in any risk of disappearing at any given moment, the same isn’t necessarily always true of its constituent elements. Helping our HC team guide LAWN through a number of difficult situations, and bringing us out stronger, has been an experience I’m pretty proud of. Some of the things we’ve done in the past couple of years could easily have killed off a less cohesive and determined alliance.

If I, or LAWN as a whole, preferred stagnant gameplay we could simply have stayed in our prior home in the back end of Branch. Instead we chose to forge ourselves into something different. During our time in Delve, many thought they could pick on us. Some of them are no longer around. Others learned better and moved on. We’re still here.

As Chairman of LAWN, you would appear to be a busy guy. What thought have you given to the running of LAWN in the event that you are elected? Where would a CSM seat rank in your personal EVE priorities? Are you literally Kesper North?

LAWN runs as well as it does because of a dedicated leadership team, and lots of people pitching in. The biggest priority for me as Chair has been institutionalizing a lot of our work, so that when one person falls away from the game, another can step up. I’m confident LAWN will be there when i get back if i have to step away for a day or two. I will give a seat on the CSM the involvement it deserves, but based on my conversations with current and former CSM members, the work involved won’t be a major change to the sort of things I do daily in my responsibilities for LAWN and within the CFC structure (sitting all day on Jabber and comms, check. Available for Skype at odd hours, check. Etc. Etc.).

You state in your candidacy post that you’d like to see CCP move away from the ‘shiny UI and ship skins’ and into addressing core issues with the New Player Experience. How would you wish the NPE to be revamped?

As I said in my thread, the primary thing that keeps people in EVE, in my experience, is that they get entangled with other players, or friends in the game already, and they have that social contact to get them past the “learning cliff” of EVE. You can make the UI prettier, and more intuitive to an extent, and you can make great tutorials, but really what keeps them hanging in there is the social structure. I think the NPE needs to focus on getting them involved, in a really useful and meaningful way, with other players as soon as possible. Perhaps other newbies, perhaps veterans. Right now, there’s no simple and direct route from “ok, i kinda understand how the controls work” to “wow, i have this corp around me, or a group of friends, and i’m really learning how this game works.” The only place that exists at the moment is in certain player organizations that have made a point of being newbie friendly. That’s great. I’d like to figure out a way to institutionalize that into the game itself. It’s a sandbox game, but its also a team game, mostly. I think the people who get disillusioned with it are the ones that stand on the sidelines wondering how to get on a team.

Are you an official CFC candidate? Do you believe that LAWN is enough to get you into a position to gather the trickle down votes (once Sion and Endie are done with things)?

I am advised I am one of the three official CFC candidates. The CFC’s number cruncher brigade has ~a plan~. Certainly if the CFC turns out to vote this year it is possible. I am of course not as well known as Sion or Endie, but perhaps I attract a slightly different audience.

What is an example of a gameplay mechanic that succeeds in penalizing risk averse behavior? How does this fit in with the EVE Online that punishes risk taking mercilessly, from the beginning?

Probably the iconic example of risk aversion in EVE is blueballing. It frequently makes sense. Given the timer structure in EVE, there’s truly a limited amount of damage a foe can do over an extended amount of time, and there’s rarely a *need* to engage a battle where you don’t have at least equivalent forces. If you are on the offensive there is *never* a need to engage when you are outclassed. I can think of some mechanics that might work against that. Moving away from “event” timers you can hurf for and to smaller objectives that are more random and require efforts across various time zones would be one. If you can’t alarm clock it you will have to go when it happens, not when you are ready. If there are serious consequences to falling to do so, you will have a reason to undock.

Similar mechanics could be adapted to different circumstances to beef up lowsec and hisec pvp gameplay as well. If lowsec mission runners keep simply docking up when you hunt them, perhaps there could be some way that if they repeatedly allow you to control the system, you can degrade the mission rewards available. Eventually, if they want to engage in their preferred play style, they’ll have to engage you, or hire someone else to.

Im not sure all of those ideas are pure gold, this is off the cuff. But something needs to change a bit. EVE is at its best when people are interacting with each other, consensually or not. Its pretty awful when its ship spinning.

Frankly, these kinds of mechanics *don’t* fit in with the current EVE online meta that punishes, as you say, risk taking mercilessly. It will require a sea change in the way CCP addresses risk.

Why run when the CFC is guaranteed to have at least two voices already on the CSM? What differentiates you from Sion and Endie enough to warrant individuals voting for you rather than them?

LAWN is a little different, culture wise, from Goonfleet. We’re close knit, on the whole a bit older, and we’re certainly smaller. Size and perspective wise, I’d hazard a guess our perspective is much closer to the ~average EVE gamer~ than perhaps Sion and Endie’s. I still represent a CFC viewpoint. I’m certainly positive toward the CFC, and I don’t quite grasp the hate that large coalitions receive – as if they were the cause rather than the result of the way EVE works – but my perspective is not that of a long time space famous leader of the CFC. I have a different track record in the game, and perhaps I’m a bit closer to certain constituencies’ thoughts on the game as a result. If I didn’t think I could bring something different to the CSM, I wouldn’t run.

Finally, if voters knew nothing else about you, what would you want that one thing to be?

I think i’d want them to take a look at the alliance I run. It’s an interesting, fun group of people, and it tells you what I value most about my time in EVE.