Empyrean Age and all that - the Alliance issue

This is a "daughter blog" for the main blog on Signing up which can be found here

Alliances, this was anticipated to be a hot issue, but after discussing it with people in the roundtables at Fanfest last year we had hopes that people would understand the position we're taking once they understood the reasoning, which is threefold.

First, and least importantly, mechanical: Originally this was a hard limitation due to reuse of the Alliance mechanics, but this hurdle is no longer in place due to the boys and girls over in Software coming up with a bespoke solution for us. That removes the major technical hurdle but there are still mechanical issues with integrating alliances. For example, we can't use Alliances themselves as they don't have standings from factions and therefore can't be subject to standings checks. There are also various points within the design which due to design goals don't anticipate the presence of Alliances and therefore would need reworking. The bottom line here is that it's not a technical impossibility for corporations to be a member of both an Alliance and a Militia, but ensuring that they work together smoothly would require more time than we have available for the initial release.

Secondly, and vying for the "most important reason" slot, design concerns. Excluding Alliances was an explicit design decision which achieves a number of goals:

  1. It prevents Factional Warfare from excessively interfering with, or detracting from, the 0.0 Alliance endgame. In terms of player interactions and social structures and so on 0.0 is considered the endgame for the bulk of players interested in such activities, and we don't want to distract their attention more than we can help.
  2. It reduces the likelihood of Factional Warfare being completely dominated by existing major players by forcing them to divide their characters and their focus if they want to participate without giving up their 0.0 holdings. Yes, we're aware of the workarounds and alt corps and the existence of the Sovereignty skill and so on and so forth, that's a given. We don't envision it being a "hard limit" on Alliance players (as distinct from characters), but more a social, logistical and organizational inconvenience which will at the very least reduce their effectiveness a little when deploying Factional Warfare enabled fleets. In this regard it sits in the same general category as the "five a day" Starbase rule, which from what information we can gather from after-action reports seems to be being largely stuck to even when there are obvious ways to play the system.
  3. It encourages non-Alliance players to sign up by making it clear that Factional Warfare isn't an Alliance-level game.

Thirdly, RP reasons, of which there are two very compelling ones:

  1. The Empires do not want Alliance politics dragged into their conflicts, which are already quite complicated enough as it is.
  2. The Empires do not trust capsuleer Alliances. The "loyalist" Alliances are appreciated and encouraged and supported but they cannot be trusted because they cannot be controlled. Ushra'Khan's relationship with the Republic encapsulates the problem here quite succinctly. Requiring corporations to leave their Alliance structures before signing up establishes a clear military chain of command and forces the capsuleers in question to demonstrate that their loyalty to their chosen Empire is greater than their loyalty to their Alliance.

This set of considerations leaves us fairly minimal wiggle room for actually allowing Alliances to sign up, certainly in the initial release. That said, for those who want to join up in part or in whole there are a range of options including parking the Alliance, alt corps and so on and so forth. By moving all corps into a Militia and creating a shared chat channel, from what we can see you would lose the name, the image, the extra wardecs, the mailing list and the ability to claim sovereignty. There's no requirement to break up social structures and so on, as mechanically an Alliance is an extremely simple entity the most important social element of which (the shared channel) is easily replicated.

We're not doing this to spite the loyalist alliances - this project has been headed up by myself and Ginger (who've both been doing everything we can to support player role-playing (RP) for a long time) and we've done what we can to make this as RP-friendly as possible without sacrificing the overall design principles. We're doing it because there are a number of key design reasons, backed up by what seems like solid RP reasoning, that suggest that the current design will not work well if all Alliances are allowed to sign up. We're obviously not keen on "special casing" individual Alliances or otherwise giving special treatment to particular groups, and much as we'd like to we can't afford to create headline features exclusively for the RP community.

That said, if there are things that we can do to make things easier which don't clash with the above, then we're very interested to hear what they are. This isn't something we can necessarily figure out ourselves as it's the people on the ground who really knows what impact this is going to have. To that end, we would be very interested in having representatives from each affected Alliance go back to their Alliance, discuss what actual real impact this is going to have on them once all the shouting has died down, and then come back here and explain exactly how this is likely to play out for them, highlighting areas where additional support or tools would be useful.

Once again, the non-participation of Alliances in the initial release is a given for a wide range of reasons. Useful feedback will use this as a starting position and let us know where we should go from here. We're listening and we're taking notes!