James' EVE journals continue with this exploration of the game beyond the game.
By James Pinnell on March 26, 2013 at 3:16 pm
Most of my alliance are — if they aren’t asleep or working — usually sitting in TeamSpeak, regardless of the situation occurring in game. Whether they are travelling halfway across the galaxy to find ship parts, mining ore in the local belts, or repelling an invasion of enemy ships, they scatter themselves across a series of self defined channels. Some of them are self-explanatory, “Mining”, “Main Lobby” or “AFK/Listening to Music”, while others are a little more specific, designating a certain use or permissions level, such as “Board Room” or “Operations 1″. Most of the time everyone is in the lobby, discussing everything from their son’s first steps to their latest kill or ship loss.
It’s amazing how quickly you can build relationships with complete strangers, especially when you’ve all shared the virtual blood of the enemy, or participated in a very well managed takeover of a contested system. You recognize voices after only a few nights, start to notice power structures and the lines of respect that hold everything together. Unlike guilds or clans in other titles, a corporation in EVE runs very similar to a business in real life. Trust is absolutely paramount, as both in-game and offline systems can often offer immense control over billions in direct currency and goods. Players are promoted within corporates via “roles”, which grant modular powers to things like recruitment of new pilots, to the fuel tanks of essential structures, floating in the middle of space, that provide security over assets.
As a result, much of the oil that greases the daily activity in EVE relies solely on your ability to leverage yourself within the game. Simply being able to pilot a large capital ship won’t guarantee you a juicy role in an important corporation or alliance — many players are automatically suspicious of new additions, and will request access to your personal files (emails and history) before they will invite you to join them or assign you responsibilities. After a tumultuous week in the corp, the CEO was obviously impressed by my impeccable dedication to helping new recruits, helping the alliance out with requests and offering advice to advancing our goals.
If this sounds like your job, then you’re starting to understand what I’m getting at. “I don’t need another director at the moment, but I want you to be on the executive,” he wrote, almost apprehensively, with delay in between posting the broken sentence. “You have an innate ability to guide new players, so I’d like you to be a recruiter.”
Usually new players are on trial for a month, but I’d apparently proven myself. I accepted, of course, but the reality was that not much changed. Recruiting new players to corporations is a significantly difficult and time consuming process. Not only are you spending a good length of time probing new players for the very real possibilities of being spies, anarchists (some people, quite honestly, just want to watch the world burn) or — ugh — inactives. There are even software suites that make probing the detailed backgrounds of prospective corpies (via API keys that allow viewable access to in-game info such as mail, transactions and so forth) relatively easy. Most people didn’t bother to interview unless they are serious.
Meanwhile, the alliance was chugging away with its plan to take over sovereignty of a nearby system. In nullsec, ownership of a particular part of space from its previous owner relies on an intricate system of timers and openings – during these short moments, groups of players have the opportunity to destroy or requisition crucial infrastructure that designates statehood. Needless to say, the enemy is also well aware of these timers — and thus the planning of how these events are handled is done to the letter. Alliance leaders send out detailed battle plans, including ships, ship fittings and equipment types with exact times for preparation. The logistics pilots organise the movement of the gear into the staging areas. Industrial players farm resources, and build anything that’s missing. All of this must be done like clockwork for success to be remotely within reach.
While the game provides some of the basic functions for this facilitation, such as the organisation of chat channels, permissions for access to certain storage areas and the like, almost all of it is done through direct player-to-player discussion and organisation. Alliance members, rely on each other explicitly, especially during these exchanges, and in most cases will go above and beyond to ensure everyone who can be available is ready to go. I had only been in the corporation for a week when the first major battle, or CTA as they are known, was organised. Leaders ensured well in advance that we knew what we needed. I voiced that I was missing this and that, and before long negotiated agreements for the right money and availability of gear was organised.
It’s been over 6 years since I first started EVE and I am still stunned by how efficient this process almost always is. I have been in many corps and alliances, and almost all of the leaders are extraordinarily competent in putting together some breathtakingly complex engagements. This is alongside their existing commitments with a 40+hr work week, kids, family and friends. As I mentioned earlier, many of these high level players communicate with offline devices, like phones, text (I remember hearing the story of a GoonSwarm CEO who had a prepaid mobile just for EVE) and regular email, to alert each other and create an almost 24-hour situational awareness of their domain.
There are also, of course, forums, Google docs and other supplementary ”real world” additions that complete the enormous meta components of EVE. In another area of Nullspace, there are coalitions of players that exist purely to facilitate region-wide logistics… for a fee and a cut of the profits of course. Many of these coalitions set up top level domains on the public internet, (there is no intranet outside email and the market within EVE) where purchasing a new item is as easy as ticking some boxes and sending some cash in-game to a specific player’s account. 8hrs later, you’ve been contracted an item in the station you requested. It’s interesting to note that very little of this is automated.
In a place where players run everything, it’s hardly surprising that players have developed systems that allow this 24/7 management of this virtual world. But what is so modestly beautiful about this seemingly chaotic ecosystem is how well it all flows. Alliances frequently break up from the inside, thanks to power hungry and overbearing leaders, disputes between pilots, incompetence, poor organisation and so forth. When this occurs, one of those especially well organised groups notice opportunities and work together with other groups for mutually acceptable arrangements. Some of the most successful coalitions in the game have been brought down thanks to greed, arrogance, jealousy, miscommunications and general disagreements. Just like the offline world – everything in EVE relies on the frailty of human nature.
This is on top of being able to manage the odd Excel spreadsheet, of course.
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