The argument is that mugging/risk is list prevalent in the Mix than it was a little over a year ago. Pretty people abounds. Lots of hand holding. Friendship and braided flower...circlets? I dunno.
|-||Outsider_Guest||58s||[The Edge - Gym]|
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|a||Mench||40m||Doing a bit of everything.|
|And 27 more hiding and/or disguised|
My personal observation, an opinion based on those observations is that our current playerbase tends to shy away from conflict. "Moving topside" is a recurring theme when someone fucks up bad enough that there's a big back and forth on SIC. It's so common that it's right up there alongside just sitting in your apartment. Why is it so easy to move topside? Is this the actual problem?
Maybe the problem is players don't feel like they have many options but to move topside to keep their character from perming out. Of course, the possibility exists that they'd rather just have social RP with the occasional spice of Gossip Girl than conflict RP.
Are enough options presented to players who instigate confrontation? Is it too easy to move topside?
What changed, and how can we backpedal without instituting programmatical cattle prods to steer you in the opposite direction? Or are things fine where they are?
The "fluffy bunny" cliché is as far as I can tell at least 18 years old and seems to be the crux of this entire subject. https://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Asindome.org+inurl%3Abgbb+fluffy
Moving topside probably is too easy, I'd wager the only reason it isn't even more prevalent is because not everyone wants to play the topside playstyle (politics, appearances, events) which is fine. But I do think it should be harder. I think the vast majority of mixers should need corporate endorsement to get a corporate spot. (Unless you're like... A Clone Angel with a perfect track record or something like that)
It creates connections and RP between the two sides, and makes the corporate responsible for the performance of the mixer in their new job, which encourages tutoring. If the mixer fucks up and falls back down, maybe the corporate tutor gets demoted. A slap on the wrist, not looked at for promotions, whatever. I think that'd be very fun, but again, I don't know exactly how rigorous the standards of corporate hiring process are, I don't think they're very rigorous at all, though.
But more on topic, why do people flee topside? Why not play out the conflict? Are people afraid of losing? I don't think so, personally. I think it's more that a lot of conflict is one-sided. If someone is well-connected/wealthy and I'm just some random barkeep, what am I to do? They've got more money, more contacts, more muscle, more rep, any avenue I try to fight them in, I lose. And yes, people are going to say 'just make friends with tough people' which is... Asinine, since the other person also has tough friends. It's avoiding the point. It's one thing to be okay with losing, another to be guaranteed to lose. And perhaps more worryingly, realistically, you'll never catch up to that well-connected person, since everyone more or less develops at the same pace, so they're always ahead of you, socially, economically and physically, so you can play that character for two years, and you're still most likely going to lose. That is soul-crushing.
So you get people who just flee topside, or fluffy bunnies who play nice with everyone and avoid conflict, which leads to these discussions of the mix being soft.
And please, no 'your perspective isn't everyone's perspective' posts. That doesn't contribute to the discussion in any way. If you feel the mix is dangerous, say why. Someone mentioned in the other thread that if you're taking risks and getting involved, you'll get in danger. Of course you will. But why would you when you can play nice, keep your money and gear, have tons of friends instead and just wait until you're in the position to auto-win conflict? What is the incentive of you insulting a prominent ganger when you know it's just going to lead to you dying over and over? There is none. There are not enough vulnerabilities, mechanical or otherwise, to make it so that entering into these conflicts isn't basically just saying 'I'm going to be a punching bag for the next few weeks'. I've seen it countless times, people perming themselves because they bite off more than they can chew and playing the game is literally just Genetek simulator. There is not nearly as much recourse as people love to say there is.
And finally, regarding the current state of the mix and people saying there are obvious muggings and people being killed... Of course there are. But are those products of someone DELIBERATELY starting conflict, or just a side-effect of living in the mix? This is the crux. Of course there's conflict if you look for it. But there should be conflict, period. Someone mentioned a PC getting robbed because it became known they carried valuable stuff. All that will accomplish is that player will just stop carrying valuable stuff. Why wouldn't they? Who's mugging the muggers? No one, because the mix is soft.
i have a bit of experience in mugging
wanna know why it doesn't actually happen much?
most players do not carry anything worth the time and effort to mug them for. mugging players is honestly something that feels like a chore, because you're taking on a good bit of risk for pretty much no payout-- i have had people blatantly disguise meta me when robbing them, shouting my character's name on pubSIC to try and blackball them. i have had people pretty much clam up and not roleplay at all in the interaction, which is probably actual combat shakes and not a personal thing, which I understand. i have had high tier combat characters (no doubt watching their camera network) crash the mugging for seemingly no reason other than being a hero.
why go through all that effort and risk for an empty velcro wallet and a progia 7?
the mix, however, is not soft, it is actually pretty brutal right now for those who are actively involving themselves in plots and taking risks. if you do not stick your neck out, nobody will ever try to take a bite, that's how things are and always will be. adding a toothless mugger memento to attack random people won't really do much to change that.
the things my character has experienced, had done to them, and has done to others, is the furthest thing from soft. if you have a different experience, that's because you have a different playstyle, and that's okay, but i can guarantee you that a hellish mix where people feel like they may even perm tomorrow is out there and the onus is on the player to find it.
addendum now this Sly's last post:
this is a roleplay game, you need to interact with other people to play it to it's full extent, if you are not doing that you are not playing the game properly and it's unfair to balance the game around people who just play as total recluses and stockpile money and gear.
the mix isn't soft because nobody's mugging the muggers-- there's barely any muggers in the first place, and just beating the shit out of all the people who actually create that conflict that the mix needs in the first place is a great way to disincentivize that behavior.
the side effect of living in the mix is that when crime happens to you, you have little to no recourse via the law. the side effect of living in the mix is that you are vulnerable and have to stand up for yourself. the side effect of living in the mix is low wages. randomly getting your ass kicked isn't necessarily the side effect of living in the mix, being vulnerable is, and everyone is vulnerable, but if there is no reason for people to attack you, it won't happen, which is natural and realistic -- muggers don't mug people for fun, serial killers are not encouraged for good reason, you can't rob someone who has nothing to rob, it's just the reality of the game and it doesn't mean the mix is soft. if you have things to rob, people will plot to take them. i do it, and i have seen many other player characters do it, but you MUST have things to rob in the first place, or there's just no point in fucking with you.
most players do not carry anything worth the time and effort to mug them for. mugging players is honestly something that feels like a chore, because you're taking on a good bit of risk for pretty much no payout
I agree with Batko's sentiment about mugging being a high-risk, low-reward effort. No matter how well you plan a standard mugging, the odds of it being worthwhile are probably against you. Just by nature of what your average person carries on an average day versus what you're potentially risking to relieve them of such.
the mix, however, is not soft, it is actually pretty brutal right now for those who are actively involving themselves in plots and taking risks. if you do not stick your neck out, nobody will ever try to take a bite, that's how things are and always will be
I agree there, too. Depending on the side you're on, the Mix is a cutthroat environment where players know they're risking a lot by involving themselves in "sides." Although there is arguably a problem where players do not want to involve themselves in sides, said problem is hard to alleviate because- ultimately- it is most often objectively better to remain neutral than to choose a position in conflict. Why risk perming out for an underdog in a conflict? It's neither a sensible IC choice nor an OOC choice for most players when the alternative is to take their time garnering skill points to better their odds. Which, of course, takes a long time to do.
As for what Sly said?
Moving topside probably is too easy
If the mixer fucks up and falls back down, maybe the corporate tutor gets demoted. A slap on the wrist, not looked at for promotions, whatever. I think that'd be very fun, but again, I don't know exactly how rigorous the standards of corporate hiring process are, I don't think they're very rigorous at all, though.[/]
One-hundred percent agreed. Player characters are considered "exceptional," but it often feels like this idea of "going topside" isn't so much a distant dream as it is a simple agreeance to transfer one's belongings to a different apartment on Green. That or a temporary middle-ground while one might work their way in.
It's one thing to be okay with losing, another to be guaranteed to lose. And perhaps more worryingly, realistically, you'll never catch up to that well-connected person, since everyone more or less develops at the same pace, so they're always ahead of you, socially, economically and physically, so you can play that character for two years, and you're still most likely going to lose. That is soul-crushing.[/]
Which is pretty CP, albeit "two years" wouldn't typically be the standard measurement for success. There are some people who might wait out a year or two period to do anything at all, and I think it's a shame that they- perhaps bringing nothing to the proverbial table- might conclude with more weight for a time. Simply by having the patience to exist without doing anything noteworthy.
Related to the actual topic? I think NPC muggers have the POTENTIAL to encourage players to hire more muscle, which- overall- is an archetype that often burns out quickly due to being outmatched by players who decide to focus and who know what they're doing. I believe that players, as a whole, have a tendency to lean solo throughout their daily routine and that it should be taught early on that you do better working with others to achieve success. Cooperative competition.
Something I occasionally see done and have done in the past is hire temporary muscle when the atmosphere becomes particularly harsh. I don't think most players (new/middle-ground) are willing to dip into their pool of chyen to offer that out, either out of not having enough chyen or by not thinking it's worthwhile, but if there were an ambient, non-player threat in Red Sector? I think you would see that change. And if there were the slightest amount of loot involved, even remotely comparable to what other avenues of loot harvesting provide, I believe it could even be encouraged for non-combat characters to hire muscle further. After all, how many immigrants can afford the muscle to keep them competitive?
As it stands, it's not only sensible, it's encouraged for new players to avoid conflict entirely until they can afford it, which.. as an immigrant? It takes much longer to manage. Especially if they're a legitimately new player.
In the end, I don't think it's a problem of the Mix being "soft." I think it's a mechanical problem of players being comfortable in depending on themselves and, when they can't, choosing to isolate or give up. If the status quo were to gravitate toward involving others in their daily routine, then the routine for all would involve more people, more chance for success and failure, and more opportunity for revenge when failure strikes.
After all, if the standard operating procedure taught to non-combat characters is that they're to depend on player muscle for success, isn't that exactly what we're looking to encourage: openings for both loyalty and betrayal?
This is a longer post than I intended, but to address farming concerns? I don't think "farming" is a worry so long as the mugging NPCs in question drop things that are currently on-par with what's available through other loot outlets. As it stands, some loot outlets aren't particularly dangerous. Low-to-mid tier weaponry isn't commonly available for certain weapon types and if NPC muggers did provide that? Then you would see more availability, more willingness to risk goods, and more conflict overall.
Whether you would want to offer something like DuWear or NeXus from mugging NPCs is something I'm not qualified to talk on. My first instinct, based on gauging what most players wear, says that it wouldn't be a problem for more of either to show up outside of retail outlets. I certainly wouldn't offer anything above either of those brands, but I won't go more in-depth on this out of fear of hitting too much on the current state of the game.
There's a central sentiment I see here that's saying 'mugging doesn't happen a lot because there needs to be incentive, risk vs reward, etc, and there isn't.' Which I agree and I think it's worthwhile discussing whether that might be the reason why some have the perception that the mix is 'soft'.
Would there be more conflict if people were walking around with more money, more cyberware, more gear? Hot take, but I'm going to honestly say no. Because it would be a uniform increase. The muggers would also be carrying more, therefore the risk/reward ratio would be just as it is now.
Which is why I like the idea of more ambient danger, even beyond muggers, as per some of the suggestions in the other thread. The environment itself should foster conflict, as is the nature of the mix. Players are always going to find reasons to get into feuds, but that's entirely player-driven, player-choice, which allows for plenty of people to live in the mix without that themely fight for survival. It shouldn't be a choice. If you're in the mix, you're going to fight, or you're going to surround yourself with people who do, otherwise, you're just prey.
I seem to recall suggesting something similar last year or before, but my perspective has changed considerably since and I think, if anything, combat archetypes are already way overrepresented out of necessity and that even more encouragement for every character to spec into combat skills regardless of how little characteristic sense it makes, would be a detriment to the greater sense of a living breathing world populated by every sort of person.
Games in general often over focus on weapons being the primary mode of interaction with their worlds, and Sindome I think does well to avoid that dominating as much as it does in other genres. I also think conversations about the game needing to be more difficult are almost always coming from highly experienced players with little regard for the nearly vertical difficulty curve experienced by new players.
What they won't risk hundreds of thousands of chyen for, is, again, an empty wallet and a shitty phone.
Mugging is generally a small time starter crime, along with pickpocketing. Usually the bigshots won't do this as they probably have bigger plots to do, which is a big reason as to why I think crime doesn't happen as much. In a way, the mix is both ultrasoft and brutally hard.
Due to a cultural shift over the years, crime and telling a story through crime is harder to do. From different stories that have been told by veteran players, crime used to be a lot more frequent because of the playerbase. And now it's not. In the past I believe the storytelling aspect of crime was much easier to pull off due to the lower amount of players and due to the fact there were more veteran players during that time who know how to play the game and create good plot. These players can pull off extremely entertaining RP via crime. Unfortunately, a lot of newblets cannot. And due to the expanding playerbase with more and more newblets, generally these newblets (I'm assuming here) mostly pursue crime purely for the 'winning' aspect of it and not the story telling. So when they get smacked down it doesn't really make for good RP as they don't know how to pull crime off in that way yet. These early crimes tend to fail often as well, which can discourage the player from actively doing crime as much and rather seek more safe forms of getting cash. There's practically a dedicated job meant to instruct immies to don't do anything dumb or dangerous (and mugging is pretty dumb in some ways, lets be honest.) Another factor stems from the 'winning' mindset, if you're a newblet starting out and you know there are muggers and dips going around taking cash from people like you, you really aren't going to want them around, are you? So you generally join the 'I hate crime' squad and either beat down new muggers and dips or complain enough that the muggers and dips pretty much have to fall off the face of the earth or just not be able to interact with others.
White knights and such are also a huge problem. If a new mugger so much as looks at an immy threateningly, chances are you'll either anger their solo sugardaddy or be pitchforkmobbed to death by the 'I hate crime' squad.
Another thing is the bandwagon effect, as more and more people see being soft and friendly be relatively more successful, people will seek to be more soft and friendly. And that keeps building on and on. This is extremely hard to change and I highly doubt a mechanical change will do anything, unless it outright forces PCs to prey on each other.
Due to this the only criminal conflict that's really supported by others is class conflict, which is good, but conflict between mixers and conflict between corpies should also be promoted more as well, rather than just the old corpie vs mixer conflict.
Secondly, successful crime is hard to pull off. Like batko said you get IDed very easily, and once you're IDed you're toast as everyone now knows you hit people for their money. Soon that immy joy you took money from is gonna have the harem deathsquad waiting outside your door for bullying their new member or whatever. It's not -fun- playing a criminal without good contacts, and referring back to my previous statement, enough complaints is enough to effectively render you with very little RP. There's gonna be some people who will seek out RP with you for a better story and plot reasons but otherwise, all the idle socializing and chatter will pretty much dry up. So unless you're a super mastermind successful crime is hard to pull off, especially as a newblet.
In summary, it's a cultural problem, no added mechanic will ever affect it drastically unless the players themselves want it to. Even if they do it's going to take tine to shift from being a more friendly environment to a savage one.
And why would NPC's notice you carrying something valuable anyway, if it is in your inventory (=invisible backpack/satchel/pocket)? They don't have x-ray vision.
I don't feel like the Mix is soft at all and worry every time I go out. Sure, if you play a low-conflict character, you might be able to keep your head down and get by. But I think at least some of those only appear to be low-conflict, or neutral and really are involved in something behind the scenes. Even if they are not, not everyone has to be a cutthroat criminal who'd sell his own grandmother for a handful of money. In my opinion it makes the world more interesting and feel more alive when there are different types of people in it.
I think this whole discussion about the game becoming too soft is a little disingenious. To me it sounds too much like trying to force others to behave a certain way. Be the change you want to see. Start playing muggers, assholes who beat people up for fun, whatever you think is lacking there.
People have been trotting out this the players are to blame, get out and make things happen thing for years and years, including whenever there is a bloodbath shadow war going on. My experience has been that it was wrong then and it is just as wrong now; players on average will do whatever they are incentivized to do by game mechanics regardless of the design intent.
It's not as if Activision has some big issue with Call of Duty players not fighting each other in matches because they are risk adverse. Sindome strongly encourages violent conflict thematically, but this encouragement can be hit and miss on the mechanical end, and I think the level of conflict we see now, and have seen in the past, is an accurate reflection of how beneficial it is to do.
It's reasonable to say a player or a character might be risk adverse, or maybe could generate more conflict than they do based on their role, but to claim the player base is itself, by nature risk-adverse is not something I think can be reasonably substantiated. It would mean Sindome, a game that is by almost any modern definition punishingly difficult to learn, preferentially selects for risk-adverse players somehow.
If anything, I think the opposite tends to be true, that Sindome players are more likely on average to prefer difficult mechanics compared to any other random selection of text-based game players, but they also adapt over time to the mechanics available.
It can take years for characters to develop, and months to acquire the in-game tools needed to drive conflict past the initial level. If it took three weeks of grinding to unlock weapons in Fortnite which a player could all lose instantly if they died, I suspect you'd see a similar level of caution employed when it came to engagement.
Personally I view the level of conflict that occurs now as pretty realistic for a dystopian megapolis built around long-form storytelling, and that the mix of social-driven and conflict-driven players (something credited for Ultima Online's enormous early crossover appeal) makes for a richer and more immersive experience for both, compared to one or the other dominating.
So clearly there is an issue with risk vs reward, as an increase of reward suddenly makes it happen, and fast. Now whether that's working as intended, that world should be full of dips, but rare on muggers, I honestly can't answer. I would for sure like to see it more skewed towards direct conflict, rather than dips sticking to victims they know as safe, which doesn't really drive that much story forward.
Here is my take, though, there is already a very clear division for those two types of players. Topside and mix. Which is not to say that social-oriented players couldn't thrive in the mix, just that they should be challenged, and that conflict-driven players -should- dominate the mix. I have played multiple characters in the mix, some very conflict-prone, others not, others somewhere in between. And I can count on one hand the times they got in trouble that I didn't instigate. Across years of gameplay. And this was not really recently, where some people are saying the culture shifted to be a little more peaceful than before. My experience has always been that if you pay tolls and don't -start- shit, people will leave you alone 99% of the time.
As for conflict happening if there is incentive, well, what is the incentive? How do we incentivise players to carry plot/valuable things around? There is, as far as I can think, 0 mechanical incentive for players to take risks. Fights and UE are too one-sided. Most people show no restraint when it becomes public that someone did something. There is almost no space for flair, RP and non-subtle crime unless you have the UE or connections to back it up, which is a waste, I think. There's already infinite possibilities for blue-collar, subtle crime, espionage and secret murder plans topside. When was the last time you heard of a store in the mix being held up? Maybe once or twice in a year, if that? There is no encouragement for things like this. Gangs and high UE players will smother you if you step on their toes, which just leads to overstuffed pads, players playing nice, and apartment karate. I remember, numerous times, proposing very overt, flashy plans and almost everyone wanted nothing to do with them.
I really dislike how a lot of feuds start over personal disagreements or petty insults on SIC. I want conflict to be driven by the world, by the class divide, by people making moves and trying to climb past each other, but I find that that's the minority of feuds. As it stands, I have no mechanical reason to hate a corpie. Or a mixer. Living in the mix is easy if I play nice, things are cheaper. Yeah, the living conditions suck, but people so rarely play that up, it might as well not be the case. These are all reasons I want life in the mix to be more difficult.
New players are severely disadvantaged in that area. They don't know the "correct" builds, what's better investment, and even if they find reliable IC trainer and pay for it, they will never catch up as that still won't lead them to follow the correct build perfectly. And yet in combat that matters to an extreme, together with an understanding of stances (which again requires a lot of OOC experience to use well). So for such IC game, combat is something that's strongly OOC driven, and just makes the new vs old player gap that much more impassable.
This same argument was made by players in the past who wanted the Mix to be a survival simulator and the result was a constricted economy and coded recession, whose end (current) result was an even slower game and even more cautious player base because losses represented even more time investment now.
When players ask for more conflict they should be asking for the game to be less difficult rather than more. The current level of conflict is a result of the difficulty being so high, rather than the opposite.
It didn't stop the 'big dogs' from swinging their e-dicks around and slapping the shit out of lowbies and midbies (something that staff has to really manage in a labor-intensive way, in my experience.)
So now we're left with this (seemingly) massive gulf between 'established characters' and the 'up and coming/noob' characters. This divide exists in friendships, alliances, resources, cliques, loot-troves, real-estate hoarding, & etc. There's been some word in OOC chat a few weeks ago from staff (I haven't been around to follow up) about adding more active forms of hustle and hustles for corporate juniors and johnsons, which sounds like an angelic choir from above to my ears.
I'd really like to see more flash flowing into the game in ways that aren't trivially easy to monopolize or exploit, which has pretty much been the status quo now for the past two or three years.
I'd also suggest allowing players with access to 'big jobs' or pinnacle jobs for careers to have significantly more terminal cash, and be shut out from a lot of the common-place hustle. Even though we're told via RP that 'our characters are too big for this kind of basic work' there's still nothing but administration by fiat to correct the behavior.
TL;DR, Current meta is newer characters and midbies are cycling around, old crew is staying exactly where it's been forever. There's a big gap present both in UE and in player skill, since we've been steadily growing as a community. Perhaps allowing old hats access to more resources to be put forth for plot's sake at the cost of losing their 'hustle' might make a nice change, as some of the basic level hustle is totally under the thumbs of existing characters.
I can't really think on what changes have been made in the last few years to make the mix 'harder'.
I also like what Talon is suggesting, even if I don't think oldbies are dominating their niches as he says. There absolutely should be skill appropriate hustles, for both corpies and mixers, at different stages of their progression. I don't think oldbies have been stepping on newbies for their hustle much (my perspective, anyway) but newbies should be competing primarily with newbies, midbies with midbies, and so on, with the occasional punching up or punching down as is required by RP or to keep things fresh. I think that's the key to making people take risks, is letting them know they've got a chance.
If any player actually wants more conflict they should want cheaper gear, a flatter skill curve, a mitigation against death losses, a weaker IC legal structure, and more players to be encouraged to play in the same confines (ie. more encouragement for non-combat characters to play in the Mix).
But there's some taboo against asking for things to be made easier, so we get threads like this instead and move in the opposite direction.
It's almost like there's a lot going on, nobody can see everything, and the only possible objectivity exists on the other side of the admin curtain.
There's only one thing which makes people who want things to be different in this regard not dare to go out and find or make that which they want.
The funny part is, I pretty much want everything 0x1mm mentioned. Maybe not mitigation against deaths because deaths should be one of the ultimate punishments. Even as they are now, the vast majority of the playerbase STILL treats it as 'oh woops i died again what did I do now haha'. I'd love a bigger variance in mix and topside gear. Not sure what you mean by IC legal structure, that could be interpreted a few different ways. And the skill ceiling, absolutely. There are many things related to combat (and other things) that should not be obfuscated and finding them out leads to bland or pointless RP. I think mechanical misinformation (or lack thereof) doesn't lead to fun mishaps nearly as much as people think. I would much prefer mentoring/tutoring to have mechanical effects, rather than it being purely a RP/knowledge things that players have to parse between the lines to see what someone is trying to say, and have no idea if what that person is even right. Just leads to frustration.
As for objectivity, I would argue not even staff are fully objective. Staff are not on 24/7, nor do they see everything. People don't note everything, and staff also play the game themselves, don't forget. Not to mention they're their own people with their own thoughts on how brutal the game should be.
All in all, I think there are ways to make the mix a more violent, bad place to live in without making it Dark Souls: Cyberpunk Edition where 4 npcs jump you everytime you enter an alleyway.
The result of it? Very strong and quick ostracism, people dancing around the fact of supposed gang backing, and loads of white-knighting, suicidal characters trying to rob/kill you (every week) and as a bonus including involvement of high tier characters with very thin excuses. If you think "that doesn't sound like fun to play", it isn't so I gave up. Just not a masochist enough, I guess.
However, I do feel that the game discourages facing conflict and taking your losses. I feel the game does this via systems like corpse cloning (to a lesser extent) and DCD (to a larger extent).
Simply put, the more you go and engage in give and take conflict to create story, the more likely your are to be hit with DCD and possibly corpse clones. I am happy accept most any loss in the pursuit of story outside of the loss of progress I make on my character's stat and skill development and the very real risk DCD poses to your character.
It already takes over two years of nearly obsessive playing to work your character to the top of their field. Because of this I hate the hits my characters take from DCD and corpse cloning more than anything else in this game. I have yet to find a way to enjoy it to he honest.
Worse, the resources needed to overcome DCD go up massivley and if you can't cover the cost it can nearly end your character in many ways. So the more you engage in give and take conflict the poorer you will become over time which also makes it harder to push yourself to get out there and take risks.
I once had a character that I placed in what is likely one of the most hated and dangerous roles in the game at the time. And I kept my character out on the streets doing their job and engaging others. Within three months they had contracted DCD which, despite my efforts, resulted in me changing how I played them which meant severely reducing the amount of give and take conflicts. I am betting others have experienced similar.
It honestly feels like the game punishes you for engaging in give and take conflicts with others and thus reduces how often you see it happening. Feels that way to me at least.