Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Corps of All Sizes

Why do small corporations and small alliances persist in the age of coalition blocs and the great “cold war” between the CFC and the N3/PL bloc?

This question naturally comes out of the dialogue running through much of Eve.  We’re living in the age of the blob, aren’t we?  Everyone’s rushing for more supers and titans because “more wins”.  More is better, right?

Of course not.  More is simply more.  While it may be true that for sov-holding alliances, it’s all about “more, more, more”, in every other area of space, it’s about “better, better, better”.

As an alliance, can you seek to be the best at small gang and the best at sov warfare?

Everyone else who plays the sov game dedicates themselves 100% to excelling at that part of the game; if you bring less than your total concentration and focus to it, you’ll quickly find yourself falling apart.  Only those alliances who recruited and provided content aimed at improving their performance in strat-op fleets are still alive today.

Likewise, if you want to excel at small gang, you need to practice it ruthlessly, every day, every session.  Just like a sharp blade, you must hone yourself constantly to keep your edge.  Otherwise, you fall into lazy habits.  If necessity turns your focus to large fleet doctrines, you’ll slip into bad habits that get you killed when you fly solo or with only minimal support.  Some can do it, of course.  Some of my corpmates in Repercussus come to mind.  But those people are quite rare.

Look at Razor, my alliance.  We’ve been dunked by Snuff Box on a number of occasions.  Why?  We have the numbers, we have the ships… but Snuff Box excels at smaller gang warfare than Razor does.  They’ll fly Machariels where we won’t for sustainable SRP purposes.  Snuff Box wouldn’t stand a chance against Razor at the sov game, but they seem to be doing quite well against us at smaller sized fleet engagements.

Can you collect the 2,000 or so characters (perhaps 1,000 people) necessary to hold sov in today’s Eve, yet count them all superb small-gang PvPers?  Even if you did manage to collect them all, how would you provide content to satisfy their natural small-gang desires, while still keeping enough focus on the functions necessary to hold sov?  Quite simply, it’s not possible.  The kind of flying you need to maintain sov is fundamentally different than the kind of flying you need to excel at small-gang.  One values conformity and obedience.  The other emphasizes individual skill and knowledge.

Not to mention, if you collect all the best small gangers in one group, where would they get an equal fight, the only type of fight that improves your skill?  That’s what they’re going to be looking for if they want to keep their edge sharp.

In the same way, the fleet doctrines you use are directly connected to the type of flying you choose to emphasize.  Sure, null-sec groups may use an Ishtar fleet, but if you try the same thing in a small-gang environment, it will go very badly for you.  The purposes are at odds.

More than that, though, each character can only train one skill at a time, and often time the skills that support large fleet doctrines are very different from those you’d use for small-gang fighting.  If you force your characters to focus their training down the “fleet” path, it’ll leave them unsuited for small gang work.  Doctrines guide training, and training determines which roles a character can be effective in.

That’s the law of scarcity, and it’s a fact of everything in both this world and New Eden.  Scarcity of training time, but also scarcity of a player’s attention, time, and thought.  Each of us can only focus on so many things at once, and the we tend to fall into specific habits based on the flying we do.

Don’t believe me?  If you’re a solo PvPer, join a sov bloc and throw yourself into it.  Join every fleet you can to support your alliance.  Follow FC commands, use the alliance ship fits.  Do this for even just one or two weeks, then go back to solo PvP.  You’ll find that your skills will have dipped.  If you’re relatively new to solo, you’ll notice a huge difference; if you’ve been doing it for years, the effect may be more subtle.  But it’s there nonetheless.  Our minds and reactions slip into the most recent pattern available to us, and splitting our minds in two directions at once rarely ends well. 

(Incidentally, did you know the human brain cannot actually multi-task?  Our train of thought can’t ride two tracks at once; we rather jump from one to the other.  And every time we do, there’s a small period of adjustment that represents waste and inefficiency.  Point that out the next time your boss suggests that you multi-task!)

For all we hear about how Eve is dying, this is one area in which Eve is very strong.  You can’t be the best at everything, no matter how hard you try.  The human brain ultimately guides every character (well, not bots, but that’s another novel…), and as a result the weaknesses we all have limit us.

If you turn to face one direction, no can no longer see the opposite way.  It’s a nice touch that keeps Eve interesting.  And it ensures that blobs will never truly take over Eve.  Blobs are sov-null’s peculiar institution; everywhere else, individual skill still rules.

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