Thursday, April 15, 2010

What does roleplay (RP) mean in Eve Online?

In the recent event of the Eve Universe, a player controlled roleplay alliance has lost a vast portion of space called Providence. I've written about these events before and talked about CVA, Ushra'Khan and AAA--all player alliances. Many players of Eve have commented that CVA's rebuttal of AAA's demands was "stupid". The logic behind these statements is that AAA is a much, much larger alliance and would mop the galactic floor with spilled CVA guts--which they have proceeded to do. These pilots are confused by CVA's motivations... why on Earth would the fools choose to fight AAA? CVA has said they have done it for "roleplay" reasons which has sparked a wave of bewilderment from the AAA community about the stupidity of roleplay as a reason and further that CVA has quite obviously "lost" so roleplay has failed. But that misses the whole point... Let me back up.

Eve is a very open ended game. You have pilots, skills, spaceships, lots and lots of industry, and a whole galaxy of solar systems to explore. You literally wake up in this world with no set goal. You get to decide what ships to fly, what goods to buy, and how to make your living in this world. Now maybe you're serious about your roleplay and create a back story for your pilot and you live life as the immortal "capsuleer" that all Eve pilots are... But even if you don't do this, to some degree, all your decisions are roleplay decisions. What did you want to do in the game? The game didn't lay out a path for you. You were not created a Mage in a static region with 250 quests to complete before you could advance to the next region... Your story will not be the same as any other player. All your choices have been a reflection of what you wanted to do, not forced down an alley of what "character class" you picked.

The CVA alliance is just an extension of this taken to the Alliance level. The leaders of the player created structure had decided they would control Providence as their own entity. They would fight to keep it "free" for all pilots to explore. They would fight against aggressors that disrupted their space and aggressors that would not honor their "right" to rule the region. No one at CCP Games gave them this right... they took it. When AAA appeared (yes, provoked, but that's not important here) CVA kept true to their vision and vowed to fight the aggressors. They knew they would likely lose, but it was more valuable to them to keep up their identity as CVA than to keep the region known as Providence. They did not acknowledge that AAA had any greater right to tell CVA what to do than anyone else. Of course, AAA has overwhelming force of arms and has demonstrated its power. While AAA laughs at CVA's "roleplay" decisions it is humorous to note that AAA itself decided it didn't like CVA's lack of respect (a very roleplay decision) and invaded Providence. For all the pundits hurled at roleplayers in Eve, we seem to not realize that all of us are roleplayers in Eve--some just write more fiction about it than others.

Enjoy the show folks. These events are what make Eve interesting. There will be no "Lich King" release to drive some sort of story in to Eve... the story is written every day by each of the pilots in New Eden.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mandatory CTA's

Okay, here's the reason why "mandatory cta" policies are stupid, doomed to fail, and will contribute to the end of your alliance...

A Call To Action/Arms is a generic term that basically says, "We need a big fleet for X purpose." A successful CTA needs to have a clear Goal, a Time Frame, good comms, and a specific request for ship types. It is important to note here that not all CTA's need to be combat oriented. Sometimes they can be mining operations or Freighter escorts, etc. While some number of combat ships is usually required, it doesn't have to be the focus. What I really have a problem with is the mandatory Combat CTA. A fleet specifically needed (probably) to hold a system or take a system.

All nullsec alliances will need to fight for their space. This will mean fleets of a few hundred pilots. Fights at this scale need to be carefully balanced. The time/place of these battles needs to be carefully coordinated. Generals and Fleet Commanders must know what their strategy is. A war must be fought by those with the capacity to deal damage or prevent damage being dealt. The issue here is the word "mandatory". This isn't an optional sort of word. It basically is interpreted as, "if you're online, get in to the PvP fleet." It is usually accompanied by trollish shouts in comms to "GET IN THE FUCKING FLEET YOU MORONS/COWARDS/ASSHOLES!!!!" Let's break this down.

Lets say you have a modest corporation of 100 members (as listed in your corp details). This probably means you have betwen 50-75 real pilots, with the rest being alts/slaves. Out of these roughly 75 pilots, about 20% will be actually online at any one time; so 15. Chances are, anyone else online is afk or several alts/slaves. So... now lets say your Alliance has 20 such corps. This means that *at peak* normal activity you'll have 300 pilots online that might be both a real person and active. Of these 300, I'm to say maybe 75% will be able to field a "good" or "standard" fleet combat ship. Of those 225 pilots, about 75% of them will actually have that ship to use. This is now about 170 pilots. This is about what you can expect from 2000 man alliance in it's normal activity timezone without special effort. The downside here is that it will *appear* that you have 300-500 pilots online... Screaming at the online player base for 2 hours about joining the fleet is not going to move this number up by much. It will also completely demotivate your participating pilots, unimpress your future fleet pilots, and will likely inspire many other pilots to quit.

I guess the point here isn't that "mandatory" is bad, but more accurately, setting the trolls loose in your comms is bad. If your goal is to entice more players to your combats, then it should be something that is fun and looked forward to. You want them to be excited to particpate in the unique experience of Eve fleet combat. But that experience is going to be terrible if the pilot goes in unprepared, in a badly fit ship, to sit for hours before being wiped out in the first bombing volley. Realistically, you don't want more than handful of pilots without the propper ships and/or experience. Too many "green" troops and you'll suffer from chaotic commands, bad tactics and likely get routed. This is also probably not one of your goals and another reason why "mandatory" participation can actually hurt you more than help.

If you haven't seen this Alliance policy first hand, let's imagine it. You're a good pilot, with the ISK to toss away on a PvP ship (T1, fully insured), and you're online doing your Making ISK thing. Suddenly an Alliance mail pops up saying an outlying system is being invaded by The Bad Guys with a 200 man fleet. Sov is on the line. We need a Mandatory CTA. The fleet joins go out; you're forming up now to leave in 1 hour. It will take a while to get a 200 man response fleet together, shipped, and moving to the destination. You're a good member and you drop what you're doing to respond. Within about 15 minutes you're at the rally point and ready to fight. Of course you'll have to wait a while for other folks to assemble. But already you have 90 in fleet (remember you'll likely peak out at 170). Now the trolling begins. Troll Butt #1 is spouting in Alliance randomly singling out pilots not in fleet and calling them assholes and fuckwads for not joining the fleet. Troll has no idea who these pilots are, but they are not in fleet so he feels allowed to abuse them. Most of the pilots he's abusing are mining/market alts with no pvp ships. Some are brand new pilots who don't know what's going on. Already this is a bad situation. What makes this *even worse* is if Troll Butt is the Fleet Commander or some other "voice of authority" for the Alliance. You have to endure 45 minutes of Troll Butt abusing alliance members, some of them are in your Corp. They're afk, leaving in 10 minutes, new or otherwise legitimately unable to be of value to the fleet. Even as you try to explain this, you're smacked down for being a corp of carebears and noobs. Boy are you inspired to help now! Ready to give your 100 million to a ship loss for the Alliance? How about all your buddies? Think they'll be ready to join the next op? What now happens is a slow attrition of attendence... oops! I thought we wanted more attendence! Each time fewer pilots will want to join.

Let's say for the sake of argument, that you do get all 300 online pilots in the fleet. This means you have some pilots running 2 ships, some pilots in tackle frigates, some pilots is strange ships/uninsured ships/bad fittings, some have no comms. So about 150 of your pilots are gimped (remember some are running 2 clients and basically give you 2 gimped pilots in place of 1 combat ready pilot). So again, you've *hurt* your combat effectivenes with 100% partcipation in mandatory CTA. If if you ignore the stupidity of dual clients, you'll be adding about 100 pilots in ships of little combat value. When the first fleet to fleet fighting engages, most of these 100 pilots will die within seconds. Many of them will lose 150 million ISK T2 ships with no insurance. Most of them will walk away thinking fleet combat sucks and will just make sure they're not online for the next CTA.

So now that you've managed to force a large percentage of your Alliance pilots to log off for CTA's... now the war heats up. CTA's are falling every weekend and sometimes during the week. Since these pilots now won't participate, they get frustrated about being unable to play and they quit your Alliance. Suddenly your markets dry up (a lot of these non-combat pilots were making goods or mining). The reduction in pilots hurts corp taxes, hurts the ability of corps to pay for sovereignty, and makes the hard task of holding space harder. Your alliance may not be falling apart yet, but it is stretching at the seams. You're not working together and most people are either A) mad because everyone else is not fighting or B) mad because they can't ever make isk to cover costs/replacements. This won't go on for long before you start to see whole corps leave or, even worse, simply switch sides. Every loss chips away at your pilot base and reduces the number of pilots (now war weary with no relief) who can fight. This is the Alliance death spiral.

"Mandatory" CTA's don't work. They fail to increase participation, they fail to increase combat effectiveness, and they fail to keep your Alliance healthy. You can expect pilots to rationally respond. You need to trust and respect members. These members will give more to the Alliance than any pilot "troll whipped" in to attendence.

Good Hunting, folks!