For the past several months, I’ve been hearing how null-sec players are “risk adverse”. It’s the insult du jour ever since the topic of sovereignty rebalancing and FozzieSov in particular were raised. According to the narrative of those who use this term, null-sec players are too afraid of loss to engage in the behavior they would prefer, and as a result, like frightened sheep, they herd together in great big coalitions and collections of allies. This, in turn, results in the “big blue donut” view of null-sec, in which everyone “who matters” got together to form cartel-like collusion agreements to avoid their possible risk.
This view of Eve downplays any possible mechanic-reliant issues with the game and instead places the blame on players taking actions out of fear or a desire for safety, resulting in a terrible experience for null-sec players. The players are to blame, not the game. In fact, only a few greedy players are to blame, the coalition-leaders who serve as a star chamber pulling the strings and forcing everyone to dance to their tune.
In this case, “risk adverse” players are the great evil facing Eve… if only we could change the attitude of players, the reality of a boring null-sec would change.
Only… that’s not what “risk adverse” means. In fact, “risk adverse” doesn’t mean anything.
Let’s get the grammar out of the way. “Adverse” refers to something that prevents the success or is harmful to a goal. The term people mean to say is “risk averse”, or behavior that seeks to mitigate or avoid uncertainty or the potential for loss. A “risk adverse” makes no sense… do they go around thwarting the efforts of “risk” wherever they may find it, a sort of “risk task force”? I suppose their battle cry would be, “From brightest day to darkest night, no risk shall affect your plight!”
So, we’re really talking about “risk-averse”. Okay, that’s an easy correction, and I’m not going to expect everyone to know this distinction. We all know what they mean when they say this. Fortunately, it doesn’t matter; they’re still completely wrong when they apply even the correct term.
Why? Because saying null-sec leaders are risk-averse assumes that the path they’re taking isn’t their optimal path. It assumes that there’s another path out there that can better achieve their goals, yet carries more risk. This isn’t true.
Why do alliances choose to head into null-sec, expend billions of isk on upgrades and control modules, spend thousands of man-hours on creating hierarchies and structures to motivate, manage, and maintain their membership to defend those holdings, and pour hundreds of hours of thought into designing systems to accomplish it? It isn’t for kicks and giggles. It’s for profit.
Alliance leaders don’t endure the intense effort and eve-constant burn-out pressure of running a sov alliance for “the fun of it”. If they just want to get good fights, they become a Black Legion (at least as they used to be) or Pandemic Legion, roaming bands of barbarians dumping on whoever they meet, then laughing as they depart. Sov null is about planting a flag in the ground and creating something.
Why do they do this? Moon goo. Safe ratting space for tax generation. Rental income. Supercap production. They do it for profit and power. While they hem and haw about generating content, not once has that goal ever involved gifting one system within their space to invaders and allowing them to base out of that system to conduct a sov war. Owning space isn’t about content, it’s about profit. When they want content, they pack up and march off to someone else’s space. The spice must flow, and the income stream must be maintained, even at the expensive of content or enjoyment.
And that undeniable fact underpins all of these arguments. What is the optimal way to ensure a secure revenue stream? Ensure that your space is never attacked. And the best way to accomplish that is to ally yourself with as many neighbors as possible – and, given enough time, eject those you can’t ally with and install new allies – to minimize the vulnerable border. Through your allies being close and laying down mutual trust, you become undefeatable within your own space. These alliances aren’t giving the ability to maximize their primary goal through these policies. On the contrary, their ability to achieve them is enhanced by the decisions they’re making.
That’s not risk aversion. That’s called following the optimal path. They’re getting the best return possible in favor of their primary goal in exchange for the effort. Sov wars are not profitable; indeed, they cost hundreds of billions of isk. No entity in its right mind will want to suffer those costs voluntarily, particularly if it degrades their own revenue streams – fighting over their own moons, sov, and iHubs. Content is delightful, so long as it’s at someone else’s expense.
No, if you want to look for real causes for the problems with null-sec, place the blame somewhere other than in the hearts of the players. There’s nothing wrong with their decision-making process; it’s working just fine. The problem lies in the values for all the variables crunched by that decision making process.
And that’s very much the result of game mechanics. If you change the value of X sufficiently, you change the cost/value relationship, and that will change behavior.