Wednesday, 16 December 2015

New Eden Conflict Drivers

Gevlon over at Greedy Goblin wrote an interesting piece on conflict drivers.
Thought provoking is par for the course for him, and I envy his ability to manage both blogging, a trade empire and his day job. But provoked my thoughts are, and I started to think about the conflict drivers in Faction Warfare low-sec.
The obvious answer is the Faction Warfare loyalty points, as the four militias battle over the complexes. There are a few reasons why this is not tremendously satisfying.
  • We rarely encounter fleets going all out over single complexes.
  • The majority of plexers will simply run if the fight is not winnable.
  • Those that do stick around were looking for combat anyway.
  • Pirates are there... and they care not a jot for LP.
So as conflict drivers go, LP is somewhat failed. Those that chase after it tend to steer clear of conflict, and the greatest conflicts are not driven by them.

Gevlon goes on to talk about ideology being the conflict driver for larger groups. I'm a scientist (or at least pretend to be for my students and on the internet), so let's look at some research.

LP is currency, hence why it appears in your wallet. It's a slightly odd currency, in that it's not directly transferable, but you use it to indirectly inflate your wealth.

Traditional economics says, do more work, then get better paid. Work hard, you get the best salaries, don't do any work, and you get, well, minimum wage. The best way to imagine this is a carrot to the stick of starving to death. Or to put it in Gevlon language: morons and slackers go broke.

It turns out that money is a fairly poor motivator for creative or cognitive tasks. It works great for something more mechanical (i.e. mining), but rewarding with currency for something that requires more brain power actually makes people perform worse, not better.

If you've ever wondered why null-sec can field such large fleets of relatively low-skill pilots, whereas you find it difficult to get your small 5-man elite gang together, this is why. Locking target and firing without regard to thinking tactically can be easily rewarded with a salary or farming space. Luring your fellow small gang PvPers with the same isn't going to work as well, as they need to fly creatively, and thus need a better motivator.

This video explains it neatly in ten minutes, but please don't treat it as the end of the story. I'm still looking up research papers to verify.

It turns out that to properly motivate people creatively, you need to remove money from the equation. Make it so that the next pay check is not a consideration, and they are instead focused on a larger goal, something beyond themselves.

In essence, a cause worth fighting for, or working towards.

It's not that hard to see. Nearly all of the successful meta-groups of New Eden follow this plan. Examples include EVE University, who devote their own time to teaching Unistas for free. Dotlan is a fairly sophisticated piece of coding which others use for free. The CSM is another, well publicised example. Even Goonswarm, with their goal of epitomising the villains of EVE have a larger goal.

You now see why conflict in Faction Warfare exists at all. People are genuinely fighting for their faction. Pirates there are genuinely fighting for their independence, or more often to master their PvP skills. It's a fairly common trend for FW militia pilots to drift over to piracy once ISK becomes an irrelevance. One of the more famed pirates in New Eden often talks about the complete lack of PvE he actually does!

This is at work in Gevlon's own war against the "Emporium", as he calls it. Mordu's Angels are well subsidised by him, so they no longer have to worry about where their next ship is coming from. This allows them to tackle the problem of dismantling Gevlon's target much more creatively, hence their success. I remember a clear example where the Goons hell-camped a staging base, and the Angel's simply switched tactics to interceptor roams, able to slip past the bubble camps and carry on their harassment of goon money makers. Thus, their fluidity in approaching challenges creatively shown.

So yes, he's right. Ideology in the EVE universe is pretty much the sole conflict driver. But at least now we can see the mechanism by which this works.

I wrote in the recent Blog Banter about wanting a reason to fight on the Amarr side. This hypothesis goes a long way to rationalising my feelings on wanting some more moral high ground on the Crusade side of the conflict.

So, a nifty hypothesis, but still in need of evidence to back it up.

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