For the Greater Good

It’s not often that I find myself disagreeing with James 315 and DJ FunkyBacon. Both advocate things I value highly in Eve: personal responsibility, content creation and keeping Eve unforgiving for the lazy and unengaged. So it was with a sense of guilt that I read the Corporations & Alliances section of the CSM9 Summer Minutes. Try as I might, I couldn’t condemn the removal of unrestrained intra-corp aggression, effectively murdering the safari mechanic. Was I going soft? Had I spent too much time in Carebearistan and become infected with hisec Ebola? Funky was making solid points in opposition and I knew James’s inevitable treatise would make a compelling argument too. Quite the pickle. So I sat on it. (The thought, not the pickle. Eww.) This momentary weakness would pass, I would once again find myself in lockstep with those two giants of the Eve blogosphere and I could retain my gold Hisec Scoundrel card. Except it didn’t, and I haven’t, and I possibly can’t. I stand before you a couple of weeks older and no less convinced that dickpunching safaris is a Good Thing. As a firm proponent of hisec misbehaviour, that makes me relatively unique, possibly delusional and certainly conflicted. A perfect opportunity for a post. But wait: safaris? Minutes? Whaaaa? Let’s take Fraulein Maria’s advice and start at the beginning. It is, after all, a very good place to start. What is (or more accurately, was) a Safari? Many people have heard of awoxing, which is the murdering of, or facilitation of the murder of blues; named after a particularly shameless proponent of said murder, one Awox. Join a corp, shoot blues, provide warp-ins and light cynos on top of blue fleets for your red friends, collect tears. It’s most of the reason recruiting in Eve is like this: cad-20120625-8bb4c A safari is essentially the same thing; the term popularised as far as I know by the Belligerent Undesirables community. By convention, and to somewhat differentiate them from a generic awox, safaris are hisec awoxes utilising the Concord mechanics that allow corp members to attack each other freely. Concord tend to interfere with the “provide warp-in” approach, and cynos are a no-go in hisec, so the safari proponent tends to rely on his own guns and possibly neutral logistics; which remain to this day hilariously broken for intra-corp violence purposes. Reverse safaris follow a similar pattern, where hisec CEOs recruit members with the express intention of killing them and taking their stuff. :snicker: Now cut to the recently released minutes from the Council of Stellar Management 9 Summer Summit in September this year. CCPs Masterplan, Fozzie and Bettik outlined their plan to remove the ability for corp members to freely attack each other in hisec. The purpose of doing this is to encourage players to join player corporations rather than rot in NPC corps; for CCP have data (which agrees with well understood principles of MMO retention) that players who engage with other players tend to be retained longer and more easily. Retention means revenue, and revenue means the Eve servers stay on and CCP devs have jobs. Tickety boo. With the removal of these mechanics, while classical awoxing remains, safaris and reverse safaris are dead. With them go fun gameplay options for rascals and regular entertainment for their audience. To be clear, this makes me sad. My own safari provided me an “I was there” moment that I’ll remember until, as genetics would predict, Alzheimers or myocardial infarction claim me. But as we were widely encouraged to appreciate with the recent nerfs to long distance travel in Phoebe, what seems like (and to be fair, is) a massive nerf must sometimes be accepted for the greater good. Unlike the exhumer buffs and numerous other nerfs to hisec shenanigans, this one actually has merit for the good of the game. Allow me to explain. Back to retention: I disagree with the oft-quoted CCP Soundwave who famously said:

“… there are customers that you can lose in a good way and there’s customers that you can lose in a bad way…”

Every customer lost is a customer not paying for the servers for my (and your) benefit. Every customer lost is a person who tells ten other people that Eve is a Bad Game. Every customer lost represents a loss of complexity, one or more threads pulled from the tapestry of New Eden. Miner, pirate, “toxic”, F1 monkey, guys who get it and guys who don’t; you are all people for me to shoot, bump, sell to, buy from, outwit, be blown up by and sperged at by. Even Mr Skillqueue Online pays dev wages. So retain all the things. And we know that player corps (and thus MMO interaction) are fundamental to retention. The goal is right. Does the implementation achieve the goal? Well, to answer that I need to dive into Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory. You see way back in the 1950s Freddy Herzberg postulated that job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction act independently of each other. That is to say that some things motivate you when they are done well (e.g. recognition) and others demotivate you when they are done badly (e.g. work conditions) but the reverse isn’t necessarily true; e.g. lack of recognition doesn’t necessarily demotivate, and good working conditions don’t necessarily motivate. You can overcome demotivators by leveraging motivators, but you can’t motivate by removing demotivators. All very obvious-sounding stuff for MBAs to make powerpoints about. Back to spaceships: by murdering the safari, CCP have axed a real impediment for people to enter player corporations. That is to say that they have removed a demotivator. Those with blingy ships need worry less about being bluefucked and hisec CEOs can recruit with gay abandon. So far so froody. But – and this is a big, Kardashian but – safaris are not the only demotivator in hisec corps. They are one of the majors, don’t get me wrong; and their removal is a necessary digit in the combination for unlocking an NPC corp exodus. But thanks to good old Freddy we understand that removal of a demotivator is not the same as motivating; and it is going to take one hell of a motivator to overcome the elephant in the room: wardecs. That woke you up, didn’t it? It scared me to write it. I can almost feel you perched ready to explode with pirate rage and carebear delight depending on my next paragraph. Thankfully, this is where James 315, Funky and I start to merge again. Opinion is consistent that the biggest demotivator for joining player corps in hisec is wardecs, that wardecs are fundamental to Eve as we know it, and that alone, the safari nerf will not achieve its aim. What is needed is a serious motivator – a stick to go with the safari carrot – to make NPC corps unattractive enough to risk wardecs; because the motivation is not there now, even with the safari nerf.
That stick is – must be – tax. Make it hurt. Not 11%; 50% tax on ISK incomes, LP, refining, hell even on the base cost of mined ore and looted items for players in NPC corps. Every single ISK or asset faucet should be cut in half. Make it clear that NPC corps are only for new players and those between player corps. Make them untenable for long term play except for cyno and hauler alts. Before the safari nerf the isolationist response to this would be to form a 1-man corp, which doesn’t achieve the retention aim. But with the combination of both changes, the best option becomes joining a large, active, organised corp. The sort of corp that will protect, educate and deter wardecs. The sort with intel channels and organised ops and competent leadership. In short, the sort of corp which retains players. I’m at peace with myself now. I don’t support the safari nerf because safaris are bad, or because people might quit if they get awoxed, or because grr pirates; I support it because it is an essential part of getting people out of NPC corps.  But I don’t support it as a standalone nerf with no followup, because it won’t achieve the aim by itself.  Without followup that actively pushes people out of NPC corps, all those fine words about retention will be revealed as just so much CCP misdirection, all the critics will be vindicated and I will join them. How did the song go? “We’re CCP / we march on fearlessly / excellent is what we strive to be”. You have the right idea on retention, CCP. Now read your Herzberg, grab your sack and drop the NPC tax bomb to finish the job. Fearlessly. For the Greater Good.  
Tags: awox, ganking, Huey, retention, safari, wardecs

About the author


Blackhuey splits his time between hisec and nullsec, and enjoys creating content in both. He likes that feeling when a plan comes together, and dislikes people who get mad about being beaten at spaceships.