Thursday, August 20, 2015

I Don't Think That Means What You Think That Means

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.

Just don’t call it risk aversion under some assumption that players are faulty, when they’re merely stumbled on the best way to achieve a desired result under a flawed system.


  1. War is bad for business, especially when your business is defined by 3 little letters, starting with an R, and ending with a T.

    So yeah, all you state is accurate, but the ultimate question, which you have not answered, is what happens to all that "profit" when you run out of things to spend it on?

    Goons, for example, have contracted their held space significantly, reducing overhead. They are clearly not engaging in many costly wars that drain the SRP's.

    Yet, they forced CCP to increase by at least an order of magnitude the wealth generation possibilities in null sec systems with the ratting, refining, mining, and manufacturing bonuses over the past 2 years. They are also now implementing a 25% ratting tax on rental groups.

    What happens to all that extra "profit"? Like I said, 3 little letters.

    1. I hear a lot about supposed RMT by null-sec groups. I'd love for someone to present proof. Logical support does not equate to proof.

      If you have proof, I urge you to share it with CCP. If you don't, let's wait until you have proof to malign someone.

    2. I agree with you here Tal. I hear these complaints all the time, with no real evidence ever put forward. Makes me hate the internet some days.

    3. An instance of RMT comes from the practice of renumation through in-game ISK for persons that provide content to news websites. The content attracts site visits, which generates real world income for the advertisement space sold. However this practice is approved by CCP.

  2. Well Tal, I doubt I could have explained the reasons for sov better then myself. It's one of the reasons why I decided to go back to highsec for now. Null-pvp, especially small gang pvp, can be really fun. I enjoy returning to providence/catch once in a while to have fun with my nullsec friends, but I just don't see the point of sov, at least not from a individual/small gang point of view. I can't imagine why small groups would want to actually own sov...seems better to just live in npc nullsec if you really want to engage in nullsec pvp, or take occasional dips from a highsec/lowsec staging.

    I don't think the new sov mechanics are a problem, albeit in need of some tweaks, but there is just seems to be so little value to actually owning sov unless you're in a large alliance/coalliton. Hopefully down the road this will be addressed somehow, but right now there is clearly a large barrier to entry into sov for newcomers unless they either join an already established entity (renting or not).

  3. All of this is relatively true for goons/imperium, but not for everyone. The fact that different sov holding coalitions use their sov differently suggests that either their goals are (slightly) different, or they're simply behaving suboptimally. Consider Provi; if NRDS is the most efficient way to reduce risk and generate profit, why isn't everyone using that policy? The easiest answer is that risk and profit aren't their only concerns.

    "They’re getting the best return possible in favor of their primary goal in exchange for the effort."

    GSF/Imperium yes, but the rest of null isn't. CCP just changed the mechanics to promote a change in behavior, and most of null is still whining on the internet trying to get a rollback rather than take the optimal path for the new mechanics (pull back to the size of what you can actively occupy and easily defend). What happened to HTFU and adapt? No one is suggesting that they roll out the red carpet for their enemies, but the game has changed to make room for new groups to make waves in null, and the old guard is trying to kill it out of game rather than adapt to the new mechanics. Whining to CCP for more protection from the realities of the sandbox is the hallmark of the carebear. Goons seem to be the exception at the moment, but you have to recognize that their position is hardly universal in sov null at the moment.

  4. I'm part of a small alliance (one corp) that just managed to take sov for the first time. (We literately hit the station's second timer about 12 hours again). I've also had some (minor) nullsec experience back during dominion (and even some a bit prior to that).

    The entire reason for that is to point out that I do have some (albeit small) experience in SOV warfare. Honestly, it's more than just one issue plauging null.

    One is the nature of empire building, once it's built, what now? We blame CCP for not giving us enough to do thats fun in SOV, but the problem is, you hit the endgame. Theres nothing left to do (like IRL when building a country) except to run it, and theres no real incentive to go do the fun stuff (KILL THE NEIGHBORS) both because of the blue doughnut, and because there isn't a valid reason for invading those neighbors.

    This is where risk adversity (i know the term is technically off, but apparently there isn't a correct conjugation of averse) comes into play. There isn't a reason to risk their capitals and titans, when there isn't really a pay off sov-wise for invading someone else, after you've built up.

    TLDR; SOV has reached an endgame, where the big battles of the past don't have the same incentive to happen, not just because of the mechanics behind sov, but because of the place that the players have gotten to empire wise, unless a group like mine comes along and gives fights. The empires are built (and this isn't anyone's fault) the content that you want just isn't the way that an empire works once it's been established, unless you go Holy Roman Empire or Attila the Hun. (I'm all for the second btw.

  5. In regards to my (hopefully above this one) comment about the current issues (where I blasted the expectation of content in sov AFTER taking sov), I didn't check evenew24 until after I posted, and then noticed that Imperium has decided to invade provi. That is an attitude that I believe has been needed for awhile (going in for the experience of taking, not because you are actively going to take any space).

  6. You seem hacked off about something beyond that grammar and spelling of a few commenters. I hope whatever is bothering you is resolved soon. :)

    Now, I hate to burst your bubble, but "It assumes that there’s another path out there that can better achieve their goals, yet carries more risk. This isn’t true." is wrong.

    If I told you that there was a way to effectively increase ratting isk gain (profit) by 5%, would you do it? ( theoretical coalition leader Talv)

    There is a way. The much maligned ESS represents a higher risk, higher reward path to profi. But due to personal concerns (oh god they might be stolen from), GSF has banned the use of them.

    Sounds like they're both adverse to risk, and risk averse! :p

    Now, if you want to change the system, you could make good ratting ticks dependant on using an ESS, ( as I've proposed). I wouldn't be opposed to a large isk/he buff change at the same time.

    One of the problems of the farms and fields idea is that there is no way to burn the granary or the storehouses. Anything grown is safe.once harvested.

    Personally, I like the idea of ratting ticks being held in the ESS and released every 6 hours. Lots of isk is at risk, so a big inventive to fight oveR. (being able to siphon distributed isk from people's wallets is going too far)

    Anyway, I've wondered way away from my initial point, and off into the forest of theorycrafting. Typing on a mobile is also no fun.

    Thanks for the green latern reference, really made me laugh :)

    Rob K.

    1. On the contrary, the ESS doesn't represent a better option. Risk aversion is about choosing a less-than-optimal route because of the risk of loss, right? With the ESS, the question isn't whether you can theoretically gain more, but rather, in practice, what percentage of the time do you actually gain that extra value? In my experience, I've gotten that extra bit very rarely. More often than not, someone came in and stole the payout for themselves.

      So, in my experience with the ESS, the value is not there. I'd rather have my 5% immediately than the possibility of 10% because, in the long run, I get better payouts without the ESS.

      As I understand it, GSF allows the ESS if everyone in system agrees to it. At least, that's the rule I've seen and I've used myself when testing their value.

      I kind of like the idea of ratting bounties being doled out every so often, though I'd go with hourly (That way, most players would be able to babysit their payout during their play session. It seems more of a collectivist - communist - stretch to make your livelihood depend on players who may not have even been logged in when you earned your bounties). There's some merit in that idea!