Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Nature of Humankind

New Eden is an interesting place. With several hundred thousand capsuleers covering the known cluster and adjoining wormhole space, you will encounter all kinds of people, with all kinds of morals, attitudes, and habits. One of the hardest things about existing alone, in a pod, is that you never experience the nuances of communication that can reveal someone who is (or may be) out to get you or your assets. Even so, the fickle nature of humanity and the transient nature of possessions in New Eden mean that someone you have known and trusted for weeks, months or even years could turn sour and bring down your entire empire. The fall of Goonswarm can be attributed to an emotional outburst that then turned out to be perhaps very "in character" for karttoon, and perhaps even in character for the player behind him. There is an interesting analysis of the fall of Goonswarm at Massively, if you want to read more on this.

The history of Band Of Brothers and Goonswarm both attest to the difficulties of trusting someone too much in a world where there are no repercussions. Today I'm thinking about trust and the implications of trusting someone in our universe, since last night I was in on an operation to steal assets from a rival corporation courtesy of a spy. I look back on the operation now, and it goes against my personal real-world morals. However, in game, when your corpmates request help, you help - unless your morals preclude your participation. In this case, mine did not, but since I had to log off before the heist, I don't know if it was ever successful. And I wonder if that's the way I want it to be, so my personal moral position remains protected or ambiguous until challenged again. But last nights adventure, and a question of another corpmate earlier in the day, led me to think about the nature of trust in New Eden.

For those who like the short version: You can't trust anyone completely, but you need to trust others to some extent to truly experience New Eden in all it's glory.

The long version...
At some point in life and in game, you need to trust others. In EVE, we need to trust our CEO and directors to keep assets of the corporation safe, by being careful with who has access to what, and to have a strong enough personal moral fortitude to allow the corp as a whole to grow, rather than sneak off with all the assets and isk that everyone contributed to. We need to trust fleet FCs to make good tactical decisions. We need to trust our alliance leadership to do what is best for the alliance as a whole, not one corporation or another. Trust is a complicated issue though. Some players, or characters, are explicitly not trustworthy, others can be trusted for specific things. It's really not that simple. Helicity Bosun is a pirate, and a member of the Python Cartel, but she has been seen to be trustworthy (when running the Hulkageddon competitions) to distribute the prizes to the actual winners. In game, if I encountered Helicity in combat, I would not trust a ransom request based on experience with the Pythons, but Helicity has proven trustworthy with this specific action and experience. Situational trustworthiness. That's complicated...

I make a personal rule of trust in EVE. I trust few, and those I trust because I "know" them out of game, and I have an understanding of how they play the game. I don't automatically trust people I know out of game, because some of them play for the espionage and theft and piracy. I respect that, I like them as real people, but I wouldn't trust them with a Tech 1 frigate on courier contract without full-price collateral. After months (or years) of playing a game like EVE with people, you should know something about those people. If you don't, then either you aren't communicating, or they aren't - and that means there is an issue with either trust or truth - both of which should be a red flag. Recently a corpmate left to go back to an alliance we abandoned almost a year ago. He did it very openly (which I respect, and upholds my initial trust in him). His wife, however, did it quietly, one day she was in corp, the next she was elsewhere. I don't know her personally, and I want to believe that her actions were honestly executed, but the way you do something is almost as important as what you do.

Trust involves communication - if you communicate well and accurately, you will be trusted more than someone who is quiet. A couple months ago I was trusted to move the corp BPO collection from an office we were closing to our current headquarters. The 300+ original blueprints for ships, modules, rigs and components are an important part of our corporate infrastructure. Those BPOs sat in the hold of my Covert Ops Frigate for almost a month while we tried to coordinate a safe move across the universe. I worked daily to find a safe way to move them, and communicated with my CEO and the other directors the whole time. Granted, if you are a pessimist you know that I could have been lying, but because I communicate I was initially trusted with this job (which, BTW, was completed successfully - eventually). I trust our logistics pilots because they communicate with us, and they keep their regular schedules, so I know that if I have a ship to move from empire to 0.0 it will arrive on a regular logistics run.

Trust can't be unlimited though. I (personally) keep the vast majority of my in-game assets in neutral locations (NPC space) - and not always in stations where my corporation has offices. In sovereign nullsec, assets in a station are there at the whim (or defensive capabilities) of the sovereign alliance. I am so far removed from alliance politics that I know someday I will log in and everything in a sovereign station is locked, inaccessible to me, and I'll never get it back. That doesn't mean I keep everything out though - because if I didn't have combat ships at the ready I'm asking to be kicked out. I have a standard fleet of ships (and some replacements) for most standard alliance operations. I keep enough ships there to do my job, knowing that I will lose them (one way or another) eventually. Same goes for POS hangars. There are about 70 pilots in my corp - and although I've flown with most of them, I don't know them all well enough to trust all of them. If I were to keep ships in a POS, I would keep the bare minimum for the situation - for me that's a Battlecruiser (with fits to switch between ratting and combat), a CovOps Frigate, a Stealth Bomber, and an Interceptor. All told, about 100 million in ships, maybe 125 with fittings, if I were to be a victim of corporate theft. Not great, but with a good couple days carebearing in 0.0 you can recover most of that. Which brings me full circle to last nights activity. The corp we were going to acquire assets from was living out of a POS. Sometimes you have to, whether it be in deep nullsec or in wormhole space. But a corporation in those positions needs to be a tight knit group - and people with access to assets need to be known and trusted. In this case the person in question had limited access, but the corp was lax with security - they trusted too many people with too much access, and that was going to cost them assets.

You need to trust people in EVE to some extent - but you should never trust them with too much. The larger your circle grows, the more likely that someone isn't what they claim to be. In New Eden, there is no face to face communication, no subtle nonverbal cues to catch, that you have a spy in your midst, or a thief. You need to trust yourself - your instincts - first, but you will also need to trust others to experience everything this world has to offer. Hope for the best but expect the worst - you will never be disappointed and sometimes you will be surprised with something amazing.

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