Daily Tip:Characters that are in the same corporation can attack each other in high-security space, unless they are in NPC corporations. Pirates sometimes use this trick to kill Orcas and other juicy targets.

Sins of a Solar Spymaster #13 - The Participation Game

Posted Tue, May 26, 2009 by The Mittani

I returned home from Las Vegas with a two-day hangover and the unsettling realization that my alliance, Goonswarm, was on fire. Not 'on fire for Jesus,' either - we were getting our collective asses handed to us by KenZoku, our anime-themed nemesis, and the eighteen other alliances they had brought to the party. Even worse, just as our enemies launched their bid to seize Querious from us, GS participation was in the gutter. Out of an alliance of six thousand, with our space being invaded by our enemies - enemies who were not merely competitors, but detested foes against whom we've prosecuted a three-year grudge - Goonswarm couldn't muster a fleet of more than one hundred pilots in our prime timezone. Chaos ensued. Once more, it was time to do the 'Participation Dance,' the frantic series of gestures and utterances that alliance leaders and fleet commanders go through in order to try to inspire their players to actually log in and play EVE. But compared to more mundane challenges - such as how to manage a coalition of tens of thousands of players, how to invade and conquer hostile territory, or how to manage a capital production chain, player participation is by far the most poorly understood facet of 0.0 warfare.

EVE 01

From an outsider's perspective, one might think that this would be easy. EVE is a game, and games are fun, right? But this is EVE, and the bleeding-edge of alliance warfare is often deadly boring if not an exercise in outright masochism. The core mechanic of conquerable space, which is to say placing, defending, or destroying player-owned starbase (POS, 'pos warfare') is widely acknowledged - even by its aficionados - as being about as entertaining as engaging in a little 'freestyle dentistry' on oneself with a claw hammer. Due to the magic of strontium clathrates, players get to enjoy this delightful hobby at a time chosen by their enemy - usually at an ungodly hour in another timezone requiring that players set an alarm clock before having the privilege of applying hammer to tooth.

It's not so bad, one could argue; it is through pos warfare that alliances claim sovereignty and secure the riches and status of 0.0 space, a galactic hazing ritual writ large. There are massive fleet battles with capital ships dying en masse, surprise turnabouts and dramatic espionage coups to spice things up. But losing isn't fun, no matter how much some alliances try to tell their members that they don't mind the process. A pilot can escape a bad time in EVE simply by not logging in, so when the enemy's boot begins hitting their face, quite a few choose this option. Since the dawn of combat in 0.0, alliances have struggled with the question of how to get people to fight when the going gets tough. Some plead, some threaten, some pen nationalistic appeals - and no one has yet figured out the secret. The most common methods are explained below:

Just the Facts: Sometimes, people simply don't know what's happening on the front lines. An objective accounting of the course of the war is a brave step, because there's always a degree of deception between an alliance's leadership and their members, especially when things look bleak. Rather than trying to cushion recent losses, one can hope to inspire participation with unfiltered truth. The only problem is that this could backfire and send your alliance plunging into a failure cascade if the average member sees the fight as hopeless.

The Inspiring Post: A much more common and safer option than the truth, this is a bit of forum demagoguery making a nationalistic call to arms, an old-fashioned rallying cry. The biggest risk with these types of messages is that they've become so common that it's hard for an older player to get fired up by them; worse, if participation isn't actually boosted by the rallying cry, it can be seen as a crippling leadership failure.

The Big Speech: Similar to the Inspiring Post, the Big Speech takes place on teamspeak or ventrilo. This relies on the natural charisma of whomever is making the speech, and charisma is in short supply in spaceship nerd circles. However, the biggest advantage of this method is that it gets a horde of pilots online at one point in time, and it's a short step from listening to a speech to logging into the game itself. Goonswarm has used this method to launch offensives for years now; after mustering 600 people in one channel to hear a 'State of the Goonion', we ask everyone to log in and go on a rampage.

EVE 02

LOTKA.ORG: Named for the very deceased Lotka Volterra alliance, 'going all lotka.org' has entered EVE parlance as a metaphor for heavy-handed moderation. Lotka's forums were infamous for moderators who would censor and delete any post made by a member which was not sufficiently optimistic; dissent or expressions of worry about their strategic situation were vigorously quashed. Predictably, anyone so censored became immediately disenchanted with the alliance leadership. Their participation flatlined, and Lotka Volterra was annihilated within a paltry 47 days. Despite this link being obvious from the psychological perspective (censorship -> disenchantment -> death) innumerable alliance directorates have fallen for this trap.

The Red Pen: About the only thing that Veritas Immortalis left behind was this gem of an alliance mail from their leader, Light Darkness, in the throes of a participation slump:

"2006.10.27 06:53
Ok.

I got this descission. But i have to descide so.

Every Corp they dont show up 100% of all thier members (they are online) in
RYC have to descide if they want to stay in V. or i will help in thier descission !!!

Iam really pissed off. I dont sleeped this night to defend our POSes (-V-) POSes
in RYC.
But from 80 in Alliance was ONLY 15 in RYC. in the next 10 hours everyone
have to regroup in RYC.

That means = 150 online -> 140 in RYC !!!

AND IF RA/GOON build up a POS there we will destroy this POS immidiently.

Everyone he have a CS have to prepare his CS and i dont accept any excuses.

And guys. Iam pissed off and i thought we are a alliance where we work
together. But if that failure. I will fire the red pen over the Alliance.

/LD"

We're still not sure what exactly he meant, but "Red Pen" sounds intimidating. Over time, it's grown to represent a broad range of vaguely incoherent threats to show up on ops, or else. "Don't make me fire the red pen."

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