Monday, November 3, 2014

The CSM 9 Summer Minutes And Awoxing

"If I am a high sec CEO, my optimum path is to be non social. It is to not invite people to help me run missions."

- Sion Kumitomo, CSM 9 Summer Summit Minutes, p. 84

The CSM 9 Summer Summit minutes are out and some people are really upset.  Chief among them is DJ FunkyBacon, who let loose with an epic rant on his EVE Radio show on Friday night/Saturday morning and followed up with a post on his blog yesterday.  What has the Gallente factional warfare alliance leader so upset?  A proposed change to the aggression mechanics that would have CONCORD swoop down on anyone who shoots a corpmate.

The discussion in the minutes is pretty detailed and runs from pages 78 to 85.  Basically, CCP is looking at player retention.  Not only long-term players, but also those just starting to play EVE.  One area CCP has identified is getting players into player corporations as soon as possible:
CCP Masterplan - We're looking at changing three things before the end of the year. First is the intra-corp aggression rules - At the moment all members can now freely aggress each other. We are looking to change this so that being in the same member corp does not give you the right to legally kill your corp mates. The main goal of this is to make recruitment safer for the recruiter and the recruitee. And it will remove the fact that you current [sic] cannot mitigate the risk of recruiting someone which makes people not recruit. (p. 78)
I can sympathize with this point of view.  In my short stint as a CEO with a real person in my corp, I was faced with the choice of adding a third member.  My friend had found someone while mining and wanted me to invite him in.  In any other MMORPG I've played, the decision is a no-brainer.  I would have given out an invite.  But in EVE, I have to worry about corp theft and awoxing.  The current corp roles can protect me against a thief, but the the threat of an awox made me say no.  Doing an API check does very little good against a smart awoxer.  The check will not detect an awoxer using a fresh character on a clean account.  Since my friend probably told the other player about my Orca, I figured why take the chance.  As Sion Kumitomo said, "If I am a high sec CEO, my optimum path is to be non social. It is to not invite people to help me run missions."

CCP then addressed the subject of awoxing directly:
CCP Fozzie: Quickly, on the AWOXing issue it is important to note that AWOXing became a thing completely outside of being able to shoot your corpmates. It is an indication that there are certainly many ways that you can hurt someone besides shooting them in high sec and having different rules around crimewatch. And that is where AWOXing came from.

When it comes to being able to infiltrate and damage people that has always been a key part of Eve. There is a combination of A: They recognize that there is a lot of harm in the game play where it makes it harder for individuals and corporations to find each other. There is no logical basis for why this police force is shooting people who shoot each other unless they are in the same corp.

CCP Masterplan: Unless they are not in a NPC corp.

CCP Fozzie: Correct. It is basically an arbitrary quirk of old Eve that never had any real good purpose. (p. 78)
The difference between NPC and player corps concerning shooting other members is a bit strange.  The game places players into NPC corps and players learn (sometimes the hard way) that corp members cannot shoot each other.  Then they get into a player corp and the rules change.  I would think that good game design would have the same rules for both.  Mike Azariah presented a picture of what the game might look like if players in NPC corps followed the same rules as those in player-run corps:
Mike Azariah: I tried to turn it around and said “What would happen if we suddenly made it legal to do in the NPC corps as well.” And what I came up with was a lot of damage in the short term but you’d really encourage people to move to player corporations where they could not hurt each other. Along with the 11% tax they’d leave the NPC corp right quick or get out of the game right quick. I’m in favor of the shift you are proposing right now. Sometimes when I am trying to consider something I look at the exact reverse to see if it makes it a lot worse, a little worse, or any better. (pp. 78-79)
One feature that we will see in Phoebe is the ability of a CEO to kick members while they are in space.  I should add that none of the CSM members thought that feature was a bad idea.  I also welcome the change.  I might have even chosen to accept that new player if I knew I could make sure to kick the player at downtime.  If so, I wonder how my history in EVE would have changed.

I do have some concerns about removing the ability of removing the ability to shoot corp members in high sec without CONCORD interference.  I thought about the types of things that RvB do, but RvB director had a couple of comments about the change:
Managa Solaris: The Free For Alls and Fleet balancing would be screwed for us. On the other hand it would encourage focus on the war. (p. 79)

Managa Solaris: All in all I see the benefits to the wider community and even to us in that there will be less drama when newbies join and get shoot. (p. 79)

Mangala Solaris: I’ll happily work with you to lessen the pain. Overall it is a benefit for newbies and that is huge. Which is a benefit for RvB in that folks come to us without worry. (p. 83)
I also have some concerns on what the change could do to teaching organizations like EVE University.  I remember when taking the Tackling 101 class that we attempted to tackle other ships as the instructor jumped through a gate.  Another use case involves wartime fleets flying in high sec.  What happens if a CEO discovers a spy in the corp flying with the fleet?  Under the current mechanics, he would just pop the spy.  Under the new mechanics?  Doing so gets loyal members of his fleet killed.  Fleet commanders currently also kill AFK fleet members to deny easy kills to the enemy.  That practice also goes away.  Finally, does the change mean standings hits in low sec?  If so, wouldn't that impact factional warfare pilots' standings if practicing fleet tactics and ships explode?  If the standings drop too much, then a corporation could find itself out of factional warfare.

Ali Aras also raised concerns, but DJ FunkyBacon was the most outspoken:
DJ FunkyBacon: I understand that people lose ships in high sec and feel violated. I lived in high sec a long time ago. I’ve been on the receiving end of in corp AWOXs and I’ve been party to doing them. I don’t see people and I’ve never known anyone who invites newbies to gank their Tristans and Rifters.  The high profile AWOXing that is entertaining and that people like to hear about and read about is people in these multi-billion ISK mission ships inviting people into their corporation and then get blown up.  I do not see this as a huge new player problem. If you have been playing Eve for three years in high sec you should know by now that if you join someone’s corporation you can get shot. 

I feel that there are legitimate uses for this. In my own corporation we’ve used being able to shoot each other to test fits and see how ships work against each other without having to deal with duals and limited engagements.  It makes it nice to have a training environment. In corporations with a tight knit group of friends you don’t need that hand holding. Maybe in a larger corporation. 

But to say that this mechanic is leaving because someone might gank a noob and they will feel bad? Of course they will. That’s part of Eve being dangerous and things. If that means you have to give them a notification before they join a corporation that they can shoot each other then do that instead of taking away a mechanic that is taking away a piece of Eve. (p. 84)
CCP Seagull responded:
CCP Seagull: The equally important problem is the amount of work that smart, experienced, and knowledgeable people in Eve do to protect themselves from being harmed by bringing in new people. Why is not every corporation recruiting openly if this is not a problem?  I know that it is also corporation roles and access. But you are smart enough to know what you are getting into but do you not agree this is hindering recruitment? (p. 84)
FunkyBacon's solution in the session to educate players and the implementation of the kick queue so awoxers can not terrorize a corporation for weeks.  But Corbexx raised a good point about education:
Corbexx: A lot of high sec people wish to play on their own. They do not want to interact with other people. They just want to get on and play. They don’t read forums. They want to relax and do what they want to do. Even if you put notices that you can go and learn about corp roles they are not going to learn it. (p. 83)
CCP Fozzie also asked a good question, "Then we get to the point where we have huge amounts of documentation that covers bad game mechanics if we keep doing this?"  Players complain about unfinished features and bad mechanics.  While I think FunkyBacon would disagree, having players learn one way of playing when they start the game (shooting corp members brings CONCORD) then experiencing the total opposite when joining a player-run corp is not ideal.

When I began playing EVE five years ago, CCP was also trying to convince players to leave the NPC corporations for player corps.  I gladly did so because the NPC corp chat I was in was so toxic that if I didn't leave, I would have quit EVE.  In fact, I watched one player quit because he was harassed so badly.  So I was interested to hear a couple of devs echo Gevlon Goblin:
CCP Bettik: What sold me on this point was we are teaching people that it's safer in an NPC corporation than a player corporation. We know that it is better for them to join a player corporation, but we want to make sure that people can get into a corporation. We know that there is a social barrier for some and some people have truly bad experiences. However, this is about the person that joins a corp and suddenly they are dead and they don’t know what happened.

CCP Fozzie: In a game where it is important to get people to interact with other people we have a situation where if your ISK is not made from bounties and you do not need the extra features of a corporation that the optimum choice in all circumstances is not to play with other people. We don't want it to be this way. (p. 81)
Perhaps I should quote CCP Seagull to end this post.  As she wrote back when she took the role of Senior Producer back in January 2013, one of her design goals is to make the lives of enablers and instigators better.  She is also interested in examining old truths and doing away with the ones that no longer make sense.  I think that leaving the status quo alone on the current situation concerning awoxing is one of the truths she's examined and found wanting:
CCP Seagull: Aren't we just compounding the issue of difficult recruitment by having risks like this? There are a lot of due diligence that is done now because once you get someone in you can’t boot them easily. They can shoot you. You don't want to just take people in and try them out. You want to do all of that work before hand and it makes it even harder to find corps to join because the amount of people who can be bothered with all of that is quite small. (pp. 81-82)
If EVE is to expand once again, the game will need more enablers and instigators to create content for new players.  Giving new ones a better chance of success will help in that effort.


  1. Nice and thorough post Nozy.

    I’ve been stumbling about for a few days now over how to think about this and you just put into words what the clear knockdown, drag out approach is for me:
    “having players learn one way of playing when they start the game (shooting corp members brings CONCORD) then experiencing the total opposite when joining a player-run corp is not ideal.”

    That unexpected and unintuitive change is, of course, precisely what kill mail collecting Awoxers and Reverse Safarists are utilizing. Looked at this way, it’s not a question of Eve being an appropriately harsh universe but rather a question of good or bad game mechanic complexity.

    As a long time Hi-Sec criminal, utilizing obscure aggression mechanics has been a major part of my game play and it’s been a little stressing to see CCP clean up those mechanics over the last few years thereby reducing my wonderful bag of stealthy gotcha tricks. That being said, I suspect most players find navigating the byzantine unpleasant chore rather than intriguing sport. Sometimes you have to take one for the team and I think we criminals once again find ourselves in that position.
    I suppose we could whine about it but I prefer a “Challenge Accepted”

    Wish us well, would you?


  2. I have one character in the NPC corp where she started out, and that one is quite friendly and open and inviting (and has people there who've been playing for ages, and are willing to help).

    There's even the occasional case where people go and do things together (missions, bits of mining). When I'm playing very casually, it's a nice way to feel like I'm not totally alone in the night.

  3. My main problem with shooting corpmates is that people come into the game and they carry over expectations from real life. So, when it becomes clear that they are safe in highsec, they don't expect that their safety is related to their corp because that's true IRL.

    I do think that there are valid uses for intra-corp aggression, as mentioned at the summit. But these can be kept around with fairly limited work. I hope that CCP leaves the ability to allow intra-corp aggression, controlled at the fleet level.

  4. If CCP really want to introduce this, I'd prefer to see it as a corp-level toggle, the same as corp taxes. So a missioning corp might for example have a "freight week" where the taxes go to 100% and the "shoot blues flag" gets turned on. Then you can freely web and scram each other as required to either practise some PVP tactics, or get your freighter into warp faster.

  5. I really don't get where CCP gets its stats, esp. for new player retention.

    AWOXing has rarely, if ever, been a cause for new players to quit the game. In fact, many noob corps rely on the fact that you can shoot your own corp mates, in order to test ship capabilities and to learn to PVP, in the safety of high sec - without being hassled by other corps and vet players.

    Unwanted wardecs by larger and more experienced corps/alliances, and persistent ganking, are a much more common reason why noobs quit the game. Based on my own recent experience over the past 2 years with noobs who quit the game within the first month or two, I'd say that 9 out of 10 quit due to wardecs and ganks.

  6. This is EVE. I'm sure someone will come up with something new. And whoever does, just like Awox, will become famous.

  7. When people unsub their account they are invited by CCP to complete a questionnaire about the reasons for the cancellation. Which is how CCP can gauge stats.

    The issue is not that AWOX results in newbies being targeted. But rather they are ignored/excluded for recruitment into corps over the concern of being axowed. All the checks will not identify a new alt account created specifically for the intention of disruption. CCP has clearly stated (during fanfest 2013) that involvement into Eve community results in greater player retention. And joining a corporation is a key into community. But if no one is willing to take a chance - then newbies will not remain in MMO when they are ignored into SP mode. The corps that are willing to accept on blind faith are commonly those unable to properly generate content for new players. And so newbies leave anyway.

  8. I like your post NoizyGamer - it brings up a few good points and you nailed the main one early on:

    "Basically, CCP is looking at player retention."

    There is a lot of talk around new player retention, but imho awoxing and the very poor mechanics surrounding it can have a significant impact on mid and long term players too e.g. guys who have been playing a fair while and want to start a corp but don't because of the bad mechanics, corps who want to grow bigger but realize one single awoxer could destroy their credibility for future recruiting / current member, regardless of checks, you can't prevent an awox if you want to recruit etc. etc. It goes quite a lot deeper than just new players - it causes stagnation and reduces content levels for almost every player.

    CCP know that player relationships lead to longer subscribing players, leading to more active players, leading to more revenue and hopefully a better longer lasting EvE. So when CCP address this in order to provide a bright future for EvE, you need some exceptionally compelling reasons to kick back against them.

    I would say "enter FunkyBacon" at this point, but unfortunately he fell flat onto his face whilst trying to tie his shoelaces.

    A competent CSM member would surely look at a proposed change and assess the bigger picture and how it affects EvE as a whole. Unfortunately all we got from FunkyBacon was a strawman riddled rant that at best could be described as an incoherent emotional plea, and at worst, as a selfishly dishonest and narrow minded over emotional temper tantrum.

    I do not have time to go respond to each lie / fallacy / illogical reason that he produced (there are soooo many!), but the top comment on the reddit thread by "kiruwa" is a very good (but not exhaustive - after all there is a lot of BS to wade through) deconstruction of FunkyBacon's nonsense. It's worth a read:

    TL;DR If you filter out the horrific noise from the "lunatic fringe" and listen to the many well reasoned voices, you'll see that all of this is moving toward EvE becoming better for everyone.

  9. "But rather they are ignored/excluded for recruitment into corps over the concern of being axowed."

    "The corps that are willing to accept on blind faith are commonly those
    unable to properly generate content for new players. And so newbies
    leave anyway."

    There are quite possibly the two most ridiculous statements I've heard in the past year.

    I know of more than a hundred corps who freely accept noobs, without fear of awoxing. And, the idea that these are the corps which are commonly unable to properly generate content for new players is pure rubbish - in fact, the reverse is generally true.