Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The One Empire: structure, culture and drama

The killer of most gaming groups besides the ones that recruit random newbies is not gaming failure but social drama. This is something completely unrelated to the game, therefore the leaders who are mostly proficient in the game itself can't handle. Everyone can cite hundreds of events, they are all common in being completely ridiculous to outsiders and a total disaster to everyone in the same group: they know it's going to blow and there is absolutely nothing they can do about it.

They say there isn't a group without drama, well I managed to make one in WoW, I simply banned every non-game related chat in the channels of the group, so the members could not form any kind of social relationships with each other, therefore there was nothing to blow. However this success wasn't exportable and assimilative. Since the social person wants peer respect and acceptance, they can't have fun in an environment where they can't harvest these. They call this a "work", and I finally understand that their definition of work vs fun is "we do SOMETHING" vs "WE do something". This is not something any leader can "fix" as only a small group is ready to take the "work" approach - and surprisingly this group emerges as elite in every field. However to be more than a small elite PvP group that may do some really awesome videos but generally irrelevant for the future of the game, one has to accomodate socials.

To have The One Empire, one has to assimilate socials too, simply because they are the 99%. If it has socials within its ranks, it will have drama. If it will have drama, it will explode. If it explodes it fails. Result: The One Empire can't be built.

While the above is true, it isn't accurate. Its inaccuracy isn't obvious. Accurately: "a homogeneous empire cannot be built". For most people homogeneous is trivial as there is one proper way of doing things: his way.

The solution to build The One Empire that is not riddled with drama is to be heterogeneous. Will it be an empire at all? Will it have a character? Yes, since the problem is social at the first place so the differences are social, ergo game-irrelevant. The One Empire will be homogeneous regarding ingame issues, but will tolerate various "cultures" within the different corporations.

How? Well, the people in the alliance are members of corporations too. There isn't any difficulty having corporations of very different social cultures. One can be an all-male one that constantly send porn pictures and tell disgusting stories how "all girls are bitches" while the one next to it can be totally respectful towards women. There isn't any problem of the two to trade, pay tax for the supercap fund or fly in the same fleet - as long as the FC is capable to keep offtopic crap out of the channels, which can usually be enforced during a few hours fleet operation.

The ruleset that can make it happen:
  • The members are members of the alliance first and not of the corporation. The members must answer for their acts to the alliance and not the corporation. So if someone breaks the rules of the alliance and kicked by any of the council members, the corp leader can't keep him. He gets the mail from the council member, he has to kick the guy. Also he can't invite anyone who don't accept the alliance rules or on the alliance kick-list.
  • The corp leader don't have the right to kick anyone without making sure that the member lands within the alliance. There is a "default corporation" within the alliance as temporary holder for members who are in the alliance but not in any corp. All corp leaders must have an alt with inviter rights in this corp. If they want someone out of their corp, they must re-invite him to this default corp. The former member can also ask any other inviter to invite him, who will do so after verifying only that he was recently removed from one of the alliance corps without being kicked by the council. In the default corp the offtopic chat is forbidden. This corp is not destined to be the home of anyone, it's just a lobby till one finds a corp that fits him.
  • If the alliance finds a corporation leader breaking its rules, the corporation is kicked from the alliance, but the simple members can move to other corporations.
  • Besides alts of the officials doing official jobs, no alts get auto invited. Since there is no API way to verify, every pilot is considered on its own, to track who is alt of who would be a spreadsheet nightmare.
  • The income source of the alliance is the tax paid by the corps. It's their business how to get the money from their members. If they fail to pay, they get a warning, then they are kicked out. Of course the non-leading members can go to the default corp and then find another corp. The tax has 3 elements:
    • Fixed: this is paid for the pure existence of the corp. Its purpose is to prevent lolcorps linger. Pay, be kicked or dissolve. Any corp can dissolve at will, moving the members and even the leader to the default corp
    • Member: it's a fixed number multiplied by pilot count (again: all alts are counted individually). The purpose is to prevent useless freeloaders linger in the alliance. The corp will collect this tax from the members, those who can't pay are kicked from the corp and moved to the default corp to prevent abuse. In the default corp the tax collector is a council member who is authorized to kick members from the alliance.
    • System: Star systems are assigned to corps that request them. PvP corps don't need systems, industrials do who can pay the tax from the profit made in the system. The system tax is not just a huge income, but motivate the corps to give up systems they can't properly utilize and let the systems be assigned to corps that can.
  • Only the members of the corporation that owns the system can harvest resources there. Of course all alliance members can fly, dock, repair, refit, trade, clone and so on in any stations, and kill enemies in any systems but only the owner corporation members can mine, rat or refine in their system. A thief found in non-owned system is kicked out of the alliance. The point is to keep the industrial corporations competing who can utilize the space better. A thief would break it as he utilizes a resource that someone else pays tax for.
  • The tax collected by the alliance are reported on a monthly basis on the forum.
  • The collected tax money is distributed to the following branches, and reported similarly:
    • To the one of the fleet commanders (or their administrator alt) who use them to pay out for ships lost in fleet action or salary for doing something "not fun" like camping a gate. Such payments are public info and must be all published to prevent corruption and accusing with corruption. (easiest way: administrator alt has full API key made public)
    • To the supercap division head. This money is used to build supercaps. All supercaps are individually named and their price tag published.
    • To the head of intelligence. He buys intel and pays traitors of enemies along with salaries of deployed spies. While the names of the recipients are obviously anonymous, otherwise he had to publish complete report on the forum with items like "9B paid for the password of the POS at X-99999" so members can speak up if they think it's a waste as blowing up the POS would have been easier.
    • Secretary of state: usually to pay mercenaries and buying systems from alliance leaders who rather go away with cash than join or fight. Fully reported of course.
  • The Empire is money-neutral, the above branches must spend all the tax the next month (besides a small safety amount which is clearly defined). If money starts accumulating, the next month tax will be linearly smaller for everyone. It prevents anyone sitting on too much ISK to have ideas about illegal RMT and also motivates everyone to spend. Like "Hey FC, we are bored and saw there is enough in the wallet to replace the ships, lead us into enemy space, let's make some terror among them" or "Random roamers blown up 32 Hulks this week in our space. We see you can afford to place a bubblecamp to our entrance in peak hours, so please do" or one of the FCs in the council meeting: "I see that with the current spending 4T will remain in the end of the month, so if you don't mind I'd order 12 titans and 30 supercarriers as I'd go for a capital-supercapital fleet"
  • The FCs are on alliance and not corp level, they belong to a special corp "Imperial council". Only they are allowed to organize official fleets and pay from the tax money. Of course others can lead fleets but only on their own money. FCs will differ in combat style, some will run huge-fleet battles head on, others will specialize in hunting enemy roams in our space, there will be avid gatecamp-commanders and elite PvP-ers who bring their well-choosen few deep into enemy space, so everyone who wants to PvP can find an FC fitting his style.
  • In official fleets the rule is "no bullshit". Those who behave unprofessionally by telling jokes, talking offtopic or do anything that would annoy members who don't share their culture are to be punished by ISK fine first, kick from the alliance for repeated or serious violation. In the fleet you are to blow up ships and not to socialize. If you can't shut up for a few hours when you should be shooting flashy reds anyway, you have no place in a fleet. Reliable info that proves that the FC failed to keep the comms clear of crap can lead to him losing his FC status.
  • The corp leaders are not council members and council members cannot lead corps even on alts. This guarantees that the corporations that has a unique culture cannot force this culture on anyone. The alliance members have the right to belong to the alliance and they can do so without question in the default corp. Belonging to a "real" corporation is a volunteer action of the member and accepting him is an equally volunteer action of the community of that corp.
So the key is having a homogeneous alliance level where everyone is equal and subject to the law, while allowing corporations to be the place of social interaction in a fitting community. The member is free to find or form one that fits his taste and hang out while having to act professionally where he is mixed with people of different tastes: the fleets.


EVE Business report: Tuesday morning 19.5B Ouch! Insuring the Orca and not playing on weekend hurts! (2 PLEX behind for second account, 0.3B spent on Titan project)
Remember that you can participate in our EVE conversations on the "goblinworks" channel (60-80 people on peak time) and your UI suggestions are welcomed.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Although you've nailed the first bit (i.e. drama kills alliances), I think you've fallen into your own trap with the second bit.

Simply by declaring that you want the 'one empire', you won't have a heterogeneous group. Further still, because of all your in-corp rules and regulations (good luck fining people who will just leave the alliance), you're further still reducing heterogeneity.

Finally, I think you misunderstand what attracts people/corps to alliances: their character. You can't have diametrically opposed world views and desires and expect them to function as one unit. You either get a) stagnation (ie modern democracy where nothing happens because everyone argues) which is alliance death or b) conflict which is alliance death. Moreover, you'll have all the more difficulty attracting alliances/corps if that's the case.

Your idea of limiting contact between corps/alliances seems like a good idea, but to me it will just let animosity grow uncontrollably. Corp A thinks griefing is good, corp B thinks its terrible. Even if they can't communicate, they're going to get into conflict by their actions.

I applaud your attempts at controlling the eve rabble, but I really don't think it's possible. At the end of the day, people will try to break your coalition simply for the fun of it, and against that you have no defence.

serpentinelogic said...

I find it interesting that you are rediscovering from first principles the organisational guidelines upon which Goonswarm is based.

Gevlon said...

@Anonymous: The corporations of different culture won't conflict as they never fly together except under the command of a FC who is not belonging to any of them who is expected to keep up goal-oriented and professional atmosphere. The griefer company members may want to kill some random guy while flying trough lowsec to the enemy space. But his request to do so is rejected and if he jumps on someone on his own, he finds himself out of fleet and with a mail "pay 50M for disobedience or be kicked".

Obviously there will be people who just want trouble. But if the system works, they will lack any kind of power to do so. Obviously guy #215231 can't break anything. The corp leaders are powerless, their corp members know that they are free to disobey his rule-breaking orders as they will be instantly re-invited to the alliance and the corp leader will be kicked.

A bored council member can cause more trouble but as no one controls significant amount of resources, the worst thing he can do is stealing his share of the tax this month and sending one fleet to its doom. Annoying, but hardly breaking.

@Serpentinelogic: absolutely not. Just because some rules belong to the generic "alliance leading 101" there is no similarity with the Goons. They are a very culture-centered bunch, after all they are invited based on membership in the somethingawful.com forum.

Steel H. said...

"This is something completely unrelated to the game, therefore the leaders who are mostly proficient in the game itself can't handle". Still having trouble thinking outside of the box, ha? Maintaining an alliance , morale, cohesion, suppressing drama is actually a cornerstone of the metagame. It's where nullsec lives and dies. It's not about spaceships, it's about people, remember? Not to mention how destroying an alliance from within, by espeionage, propaganda, inducing drama, causing rifts, assassinating the leadership and so on is the main strategy of defeating an alliance, not blowing up their easily replaced internet pixel spaceships. haven't read the Mittani's Art of Nullsec War yet, ha?

Steel H. said...

Or better still, enjoy the phlegm: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYgpNLEbpYM

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you've read Asimovs' Foundation books recently, there are a lot of parallels.

I think, technically, it could be done, but with a few quirks you'd need to flatten out.

a) Time it for the downfall of one of the existing power blocks to take its place in the power vacuum that results.

b) Have more than one alliance. Ideally, three would work. These would share the same basic ideals, ultimately forging together into one (or the strongest wiping out the other two in some way).

c) Find a possibility to coexist between the existing power blocks, them not seeing you as a threat, ideally merging them into your empire before having to disrupt them.

All of this is a huge undertaking, and under current circumstances will be nearly impossible without a group of veteran players that are very active in the community. Simply because in EVE, reputation is key to start of something like this. Of course you could grind up this reputation by yourself (meaning whoever starts out on the task), but it will be very hard to compete, and one word of someone considering you a threat can lead you into failure.

Foo said...

The corp leaders are not council members and council members cannot lead corps even on alts.

The most difficult role to fill is organiser.

By enforcing a clear separation of leadership roles; you are placing limitations on your available talent.

There are sound reasons for separating leadership roles but the case has not been made in this instance.

Is the provision of structural separation of duties worth the cost?

Is it enforcable especially over multiple accounts?

Would you get the benefit of the seperation by reinforcing that they are two roles - by the fiction that each alt can fulfil one role?

Kelindia said...

I'm not sure if this will be of any help to you but I'm going to simply write what in my opinion has been a long lasting social guild. On the WoW server I was on there was a guild that has managed to weather 6 years together. It is in its core the very thing to which you have described countless times as being the deterent successful raiding. This guild is full of various skill levels of people while hosting a ton of M&S.

Somehow this guild was able to kill the Lich King while being full of M&S and skilled players alike. In general this should tear this guild apart. I won't lie at times it did. However what held the guild together was one very simple rule. No drama of any sort that you recieved three chances on within a short period of time. If person A comes and points a finger and person B while person B tires not to stir up trouble and person C agrees with B that A is wrong but makes it vocal. Person A and C end up in trouble. Instead of escalating into full blown problem because of an event it becomes a personal problem.

This works because there is simply a fear of personal loss if they were to be kicked. The fear part is achieved by a welfare system where the guild leader would offer things like free fish, flasks, small loans and enchants. This is incredibly successful because it washed out any idea of replacing the guild leader while also giving you alot to lose simply by leaving.

The third thing that allowed a Lich King kill was that raid leadership was not handled by the guild master but was shifted onto secondary leaders allowing failure blame to land not on the guild master. These leaders would draw who was part of their group and would interchange players who were not getting along unless guild kicking was necessary.

My opinion comes down to simply this. To forge a large alliance you need a strong 1% who is dedicated to supporting the 99%. The 99% will not leave because you give them so much to lose. Keep the 99% happy by making drama in itself a kickable offense while shifting any of the targeted blame off of the leader of the alliance.

Hivemind said...

I have a bunch of questions about the whole One Empire concept that I'll get to in a bit, but first you seem to be expecting an awful lot from these asocial fleets, presumably based on the success of your asocial dungeons/raids(/pvp?) in WoW. I'm just going to throw this out: Because WoW is a theme park MMO, all the group content is designed in such a way as to frequently reward the participants unless they fail repeatedly to complete it. This is not the case in EVE. Getting a bunch of extremely disparate corps to cooperate and maintain battle comms during a roam where you're all out to blow up some folk is one thing, but doing the same during a 4+ hour structure bash where you have a large fleet (50+ easily given the scale you're going for, more likely in the hundreds) doing nothing but shooting at inanimate objects under constant threat of an enemy hotdrop? That's another matter entirely. Pilots in those situations are going to want to chat to stave off boredom and let off steam, and it's going to be hard to prevent that. If you do stamp it out, it's going to cost you members - not just players but whole corps - and you'll be faced with less participation on these ops if they're going to be 4+ hours of silent boredom with the occasional threat of an enemy fleet annihilating you. You can pay people to come instead, but these ops are going to be very frequent as you start taking and defending space in null, and as I mentioned they need a lot of people - that's a lot of ISK every time you want to take more space, or prevent others taking yours.

Other One Empire questions:

> How are you going to get nullsec entities that have spent years fighting each other to cooperate with each other in your One Empire?
Alternately
> How are you going to replace them as the rulers of nullsec?

> How will you incentivize the One Empire to existing corps/alliances prior to it owning all of nullsec?

> What will you do when, having taken all of conquerable Null, there's nothing left for the people who enjoy sov warfare?

Gevlon said...

@Hivemind: If they chat crap on their own corp channel while shooting a station, I can't care less.

I don't want to incorporate entities, I want to incorporate members. Not like they will recognize each other by name. If a corp is problematic for any reason, I just dissolve it.

The start need an existing group which want more than be sov owner group #1513. They get the reinforcements from Highsec from people who want to win the game.

If we won all space than the game is won, aka OVER. Either CCP somehow create new content or the game will be finished and left by those who enjoy no other activities (random PvP with solo pirates, economy, PvE)

Hivemind said...

@ Gevlon They can chat in corp, but they're going to want to chat in fleet, with the people who are out there in space with them, doing the same thing they are. They forget your alliance rules, make a joke in fleet and get fined 50m or whatever, odds are they're not going on fleet ops again any time soon, and anyone else in the fleet who laughed at their joke will probably have a few second thoughts too.

You can't dissolve a corp, you can only kick them from the alliance and hope that the rank-and-file members come back. But you've said yourself the corps are going to be organised around a shared culture, mindset and likely timezone. You really think a majority of their players will care more about your One Empire than the group of people they share their culture with? That they'll leave that, go back to the drab holding corp and face an alliance that's just been excised of all the others who share their culture? Considering that the groups who share a cultural bond always seem the most resilient in this game - Goonswarm being a prime example - that seems unlikely.

That also gave me another thought; what are you going to do about language barriers within your One Empire? It's all very well having a Russian language corp, a Japanese language corp etc, but that's going to lead to difficulties with your unified FC structure.

"If we win CCP will have to create more content or the sov warriors will quit" - Or they'll tear your empire apart out of sheer boredom. Does it still count as a victory if it's unsustainable for more than a week after the guns go silent?

Hivemind said...

A few more questions:
> You haven't mentioned how the council is going to be appointed. Expand please?

> Re-reading, it seems like a single council member can exile anyone they dislike. Are you planning for that sort of autocracy, and if so how would you prevent this panning out like the CEO in Jester's kill of the week, using his ingame power to get revenge for a personal slight?

> You've said corp CEOs or alts cannot be council members, but you've also said that it's impossible to know who's an alt of whom. How then will you prevent CEO alts becoming council members?

> You want to tax individual alliance members on a per head basis, but many players have completely ISK neutral alts such as cyno or scout characters who exist solely to fulfil non-profit roles, but who are still useful to keep in the alliance (ease of joining alliance fleets, not getting shot by alliance members etc). The same also applies to players who have a number of alts specialised for different roles ("We need another basi for cap chain? I'll just switch to my logi alt.") - they also may not be able to leverage all those characters to provide ISK, yet they still have to pay ISK for them to be in the alliance. Justification? Thoughts? Debate?

Anonymous said...

@anon1: was going to post about Asimov ;p

Unfortunately, there's a good branch of EVE which plays exclusively for strife, and has no interest in seeing the one all-empassing Galactic Empire, bringer of peace, commerce and ship-and-sun yellow insignias.
So, the empire CANNOT accept everyone, in it's finished state. Enemies are needed.
So.. create three.

Anonymous said...

You pretty much described how test and goons work.

They might seem like 1 big bloated blob of foaming basement dwellers but once inside you see there are a lot of different interest groups. From industry to blackops to scamming to mining. Everyone can find a group to have fun with.

But when the horn of goondor calls they all rush to their maelstroms and drakes and fight for their master.

Anonymous said...

I guess you totally disregard one of reasons why alliances fail. Ambitions and lust for power. To run corps you need good leaders, lots of them. And they are ambitious. What will happen is that leaders will start fight with each other (not openly) to get more power. Money and profit is not good enough to hold them together. You cannot replace them at will; you need a proof to displace a leader.
Looking to real word history most stable empires build on base of idea, religion or fear. None of these work in EVE.
There is one moment which may make recruiting lots of player problematic. For some reason, joining to alliance like that feels like joining military. Lack of freedom and strict structure. It may be just my perception. And It is not necessary bad thing. But keeping in mind who is playing EVE, I think, it will create some difficulties in recruiting. And you will definitely see some gruella and traitors who join ranks just to destroy empire from inside just for idea.

evemonkey said...

Hi Gevlon,

long time reader, first time commenter.

I wonder if you realise that EVE was already won. Back in the day, the alliance known as BoB controlled a very large portion of EVE. eventually the remaining nullsec space holders banded together to chuck them out - this saw the rise of the Northern Coalition (back when the Northern Coalition was a Coalition of 5-6 alliances (Razor/TCF/Mostly Harmless/Morsus Mihi/White Noise/Pandemic Legion etc) rather than a single alliance that it is today) as well as goonswarm holding its first piece of nullsec.

When BoB was defeated that coalition that previously controlled half of EVE, now controlled the VAST majority of nullsec. EVE had been won. what happened next was that everyone got bored and reset each and continued the good fights.

I'd highly recommend that you get an anonymous alt and join a nullsec alliance and sit in on a few wars to learn about what happens. I'd recommend Against All Authorities, my previous alliance as their philosophy tends to match whith what I think yours is: I hardly met any Socials, or if I did they hardened up during fleet engagements. our FC's banned local chat during fleet engagements "don't smack talk. kill them with silence, better yet: kill them with guns" AAA also deploy their supercaps early and often and they (at last count that I'm aware of) have more titans than any other alliance in the game.

with all due respect: I believe that saying you can win eve is like saying you can win minecraft. sure, you can kill the dragon at the end, but that's certainly beside the point of the game.

evemonkey said...

sorry to post again, I thought you may be interested in the following two links at evelopedia. it gives a bit of a history of the past few years and the largest single war in the history of EVE waged against the greater BoB community of alliances.


http://wiki.eveonline.com/en/wiki/Band_of_Brothers_(Player_alliance)

http://wiki.eveonline.com/en/wiki/Northern_Coalition

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