In a recent reddit comment thread, I hinted that it was only a matter of time before I cite Nietzsche in relation to Eve. Congrats... we're there.
I love Nietzsche because he forces you to re-evaluate the basic foundation upon which you build constructs about the world. In Will to Power, Nietzsche explains how the impetus – the driving force behind human creation and motivation – becomes blunted, soft, and idle when when we cease to look for meaning and definition within ourselves and we begin to look for an external source for meaning. When “What do I feel?” is replaced with “What should I feel?” and “What do I desire?” is replaced with “What should I want?” the individual suffers and, in the process, reduces the species as a whole.
And SRP is a life-denying factor in a sov-null alliance that would send Nietzsche into a boiling rage.
Not All SRP Is Equal
In many non-sov alliances, a ship replacement program, (SRP) is meant to mitigate the cost associated with learning the PvP trade. Younger pilots, in particular, aren’t confident in their PvP skills and are looking for a safety net to prevent them from expending all their hard-earned isk on it. In the absence of sov costs (system ownership, I-hub upgrades, jump bridge fuel, etc.), all of a corporation’s or alliance’s moon goo, customs office, or income tax can go towards SRP. A lot of these corps support T1 frigs, destroyers, and cruisers to help facilitate that education.
In most small-gang corps, SRP covers any sensible PvP fit. In some cases, it’s limited to the hull itself, and that only for T1 hulls. Designed this way, it encourages pilots to learn, to fly different ships, and fit their ships according to their wallet and sustainability. The content they receive is desirable, enjoyable, and personally enriching; they’re free to experiment and learn why certain tactic/fit/ship combinations work and why others don’t. Small gang corps can do this because they’re looking at, at most, a dozen or so losses each fleet. These types of SRP programs encourage a corp’s pilots to improve their flying and learn the game while mitigating some costs through SRP. It’s an uplifting and enabling SRP program.
But in null-sec, SRP programs tend to be destructive to the individual, and are directly responsible for developing risk-adverse and myopic pilots whose strength lies in doing what they’re told, not thinking for themselves. SRP is a river of flowing manna, and when pilots start to become lazy, they start to look to that river for all their nutritional needs. The crops wither, the herds run off, the orchards rot on the vine, all because players believe the manna will always provide for them.
“Yeah, You’re Gonna Have to Defend That…”
I know, I just caused a lot of you to roll your eyes. “But Tal, sov null alliances wouldn’t survive without SRP.” And you’d be right. But this blog isn’t about supporting the interests of null-sec alliances; it’s about helping increase the number, individual skill, and communal climate of PvPers. A thing is “good” if it advances individual PvP knowledge and skill. And sov null SRP simply doesn’t in its current form.
Consider the nature of alliances. They need a lot of members to show up to sov-related fleets, and need those members to act as a cohesive unit during the ensuing battles. They develop doctrines that require specific ships and specific setups to ensure that everyone acts as one unit. Many of these tend to be expensive faction or T2 setups, which require you to train skills to a very high level to even fly them. To keep people logging in, most alliances track participation, forcing you to fly within a specific number of fleets.
In the fleet itself, the fate of individual pilots is relatively insignificant compared to the objectives of the alliance. It’s better to lose an entire fleet and save sovereignty in a system than to keep everyone alive and lose the system. Alliances want people who will follow commands, even if it leads to a fresh deathclone. As a rule, they don’t want you to think for yourself when participating in large fleet fights. That results in things like you warping off when you’re expected to stay and die, buying your fleet-mates a few more seconds to alpha through a target or two, potentially turning the battle.
SRP is the way they compensating pilots for taking mind-numbing actions and flying ships they’d otherwise never want to fly. “You fly what we say the way we say it and we’ll reimburse you if you die, like it never happened.” It’s payment for service rendered. You can make a case that partial SRP is acceptable since the alliance is providing a kind of content to players and earning them kills (hopefully!). But to some extent, they’re paying for people to show up and give over their cognitive functions to an FC to achieve an alliance objective. And it’s all necessary to keep alliances running.
But good as it may be for an alliance or a corporation, none of us is a corporation or an alliance. A corporation or alliance doesn’t (generally) pay subscription fees or feel satisfaction or get a dopamine rush. Individuals do. Nor does being chained to SRP-eligible, doctrine fleets teach you anything except how to obey broadcasts, follow an anchor, and press F1?
And that’s the key to the problem: “You must participate, and the only participation that counts is when you fly the expensive ships we tell you to fly and follow all our commands. We’ll SRP you if you comply. If you don’t, we’ll kick you from lack of participation.” The entire process hinges on SRP as the great provider.
The Sapping of Will
This combination of policies requires pilots to join a certain number of “follow commands” fleets to earn enough pap points to remain in the alliance, and uses SRP as both the carrot and the stick to keep those pilots from exercising any creativity or exploring any alternatives. For those with limited Eve time, that crowds out participation in the fleets where we can actually learn something or try something new.
This, my friends, is what obliterates individual will. Before very long, pilots’ expectations change from, “I’ll get SRP for flying doctrine ships that directly support alliance objectives,” to “If it’s nor SRPable or earns me PAP points, I’m not flying it.”
You see, it’s not just that SRP makes people risk-adverse. It’s that this risk-aversion caused players to become adverse to the types of PvP that require them to think, learn, grow, and develop as PvPers. When all the fleets you participate in require you to fit into a pre-established role and follow the decisions of others, you eventually stop valuing the situations where you’re required to make decisions yourself. Even if you aren’t personally dispirited into only flying SRP/PAP fleets, it dramatically reduces the number of people in your alliance who will join you on fleets where you do actually matter and you do learn something.
Bringing It Back to the Individual
How do we improve as PvPers? We scrutinize the causality of our actions, making slight adjustments and analyzing the results. FRAPS lets you rewind and slow down a fight so you can engage in some play-by-play review. We change something in our tactics or our fits, and we become more comfortable assessing information and making decisions quickly. We need to engage our brains to develop a fit, test it, refine it, test it again, and learn how to fly each particular fit effectively. When someone gives you those answers fully formed, it entirely eliminates the valuable part – an understanding of the “how”s and “why”s gained through the process of developing those answers.
Fleet PvP afford an opportunity for the command group to improve their skills; it’s incredibly difficult to gain and cultivate the skills needed to command large groups of people, and they have their hands full learning their craft. It’s very time-intensive, and isn’t possible with certain real-life situations (having small kids is one of them). It’s not as compelling for a line pilot, though. When the policies in place actively discourage independent thought and feed you “the answers” for a given fleet doctrine, it leaves individuals without much agency or mental exercise. And that does nothing to improve you.
In fact, it can produce lazy flying that carries over to any fleets where you do fly by yourself. Habits form as a result of the most common experiences we acquire. If you’re busy flying F1-monkey fleets to stay in the alliance, your habits will form around listening for commands and obeying. That is classic “death of the individual”, and can actually reverse pre-existing good PvP habits.
Alliances should be wary; this lesson leaves a talent sink that has negative consequences both for alliances and individuals. This type of environment actually turns away those who are looking for education and improvement. Very quickly, they’ll realize they won’t find it with your group. And these are the people who would craft your future doctrines, command your fleets, lead your scouts, and serve as military directors. Numbers don’t matter if you don’t have the home-grown loyal talent to provide the impetus, leadership, and structure to those numbers.
Accomplishing the Mission
Yes, an SRP program is certainly necessary to a sov null group, but sov-null needs to watch what effect their particular SRP policies have on their members. Are your members incentivized to innovate, explore, and learn how to fly better by knowing they’ll be supported if they happen to die? Or are you cultivating a culture of obedience and adherence to doctrine, rather than creativity and personal development?
Watch for the warning signs: do your pilots refuse to fly anything they don’t get on alliance contracts (ie. doctrine ships)? Will they avoid fleets that aren’t eligible for SRP or PAP points, even if the costs of the ships involved are insignificant? Are they entering into situations where they learn and improve, or are they sticking entirely to F1 fleets? Are you having trouble with a revolving door of leadership, or having trouble replacing those leaders from internal candidates? If so, it’s not because you recruited badly, it’s because your policies cultivate that kind of weak PvP environment.
SRP can help serve to compensate pilots for completing the work necessary to own sov: the unengaging dirty work of sov grinding or flying the niche fits useless in any setting outside of an 80+ man fleet. When it works effectively, SRP encourages PvP, but doesn’t discourage innovation and critical thought by your pilots. Maybe that means offering a reduced SRP for viable variations of fits. Maybe that means having different policies for alliance fleet SRP vs roaming SRP (like Goon “peacetime” and “wartime” reimbursement).
Ship replacement programs are meant to facilitate PvP, under the perception that encouraging frequent PvP will improve your pilots and make them more effective. It’d sure be a shame if your SRP is actually making them dependent, mindless drones, wouldn’t it?