EVE Evolved: Tough lessons in corp management

Back in November, we began the Massively Mob -- an EVE Online corporation designed to help our readers get into EVE despite the game's steep learning curve and harsh death penalty. The primary goal of the Mob was was to provide advice and assistance to new players as well as a financial safety net to help them overcome the game's notoriously steep learning curve. Free corp ships were available to help players try out the many things the game has to offer without that fear of losing a lot of belongings in one newbie mistake.

Players flocked to the corp in droves, many just starting EVE or returning to give the game another shot. One member set up a forum, another a killboard, and a third provided a free teamspeak server. Members wrote helpful guides; the forums filled with ship fitting advice and mission fleets flew almost every night. Regular events and contests kept the corp alive with activity, and for a time everything was good. We started out with the best of intentions and set our sights on the very difficult task of being a large corporation that does a little bit of everything. It's been a bumpy road; the corp has lost its way several times and we've learned some very tough lessons.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I dig up some tough personal truths and share my experiences of the difficult job of corporate management.

Trust is at the heart of EVE

For all the press EVE gets as a harsh dystopian world in which everyone is out to rob you, no group can survive without trust. When the Mob started, I put in place a rigorous system of corp hangar access to dictate which members could access the free ships, modules and ammunition we had available. New members had access to a very small stockpile of modules worth at most 20 million ISK and a small selection of frigates.

To make thieves accountable for theft, we put items into locked audit-log containers that would record who unlocked items and took them out. This system worked well but was completely over-engineered for the tiny value of items it protected. Over the months, we suffered only one theft of the hangar contents, which were much more easily replaced than stolen.

Where I really failed was in not trusting corp members with anything above this basic level of access. I protected access to the corp's wallet and stockpile of ships and modules to such an extent that nobody who needed to access it really could. In retrospect, I should have selected several members early in the corp's life and given them full director access within the corp. It's that leap of faith, to give a stranger access to everything, that I couldn't make. In the end, not having easy access to corp assets during a war caused massive stress on corp members who wanted to fight. ISK and ships were there for people to use, but they couldn't access these things.

Activity levels and recruitment

In the beginning of the Massively Mob, the players organised themselves with such fervor that I was completely astonished. In barely a week, we had forums, a killboard, a teamspeak server and regular mission fleets running in various time zones. Players were willing to put in massive effort in order to get the corp off the ground, and together we gave it a very good start. That momentum from starting a new corp can only be expected to last for so long, and there must be a strong follow-up to keep activity levels in the corp up.

As expected, many of the new or returning players who joined the Massively Mob eventually decided they still didn't like the game and left. Others got interested in EVE again and found their ways into more established corporations specialising in what they wanted to do with their game time. To protect against the dangers of corporate infiltration, our recruitment procedures also required lengthy API key checks and keeping up with applications became a full-time job for me. While the number of players in the corp steadily rose, the number of active players was on a decline.

Delegation

After over a month of micro-managing every corp activity, handling all the recruitment, and worrying about roles, I realized that I needed help. When I logged in, I had to deal with an endless list of chores and complications. Ideas were being flung at me from all directions, from players eager to set up everything from research starbases and mining operations to PvP training classes and mission fleets.

When I wasn't online, members of the corp would become restless waiting for their friend's application to be accepted, the next event to be organised, or the corp's ammo stockpile to be replenished. It wasn't much later that corp members suggested the obvious solution: that I should have been promoting members to officer positions to take the workload off me.

Delegation is the absolute key to running an EVE corporation, and it's the point on which I continually failed. While I eventually recruited certain members into officer positions, I hoarded corp roles and hangar access as if they were precious. Still convinced I was in a world filled with corporate infiltrators and backstabbing opportunists, I promoted no players to full director positions. This meant that there were vital tasks that only I could ever do, like setting corp roles or accessing the corp wallet to reimburse PvP losses.

The Mob reborn

In New Eden, war comes to us all. The inevitable price we pay for grouping together and calling ourselves a corporation is that someone, somewhere will eventually decide to declare war on us. For the Massively Mob, a lengthy war came at the most inopportune of times. Something most of you won't know is that I suffer from some pretty serious and ongoing depression.

For days or even weeks at a time, I can be hit with an almost complete and persistent inability to function. I lose all creativity, writing takes 10 times longer than it should, and facing everyday tasks or responsibilities seems like the most insurmountable of goals. For most of the two-week duration of the Massively Mob's war, I could not bear to face the organisation of the war effort or deal with any other corp responsibilities.

In my absence, PvP officers Nimloth Valinor and Communist Hunter saw corp members despair at being unable to play for the duration of a war and seized the opportunity to forge a new direction for them. Taking up the goal of leading nullsec PvP gangs, Nimloth created the Massively Dynamic PvP corporation. Although this drew all of the players interested in PvP out of the Massively Mob, the war also followed them. In turn, we have created Massively Motivated -- a new PvE specialist corporation with the goal of taking on Sansha incursions. The organisation of this corp will hopefully be a testament to the tough lessons in corporate management we've learned over the past few months.

Summary

While careful hoarding of corp roles and hangar access can avoid unnecessary theft and drama, ultimately those roles and hangars are worth nothing if the hoarding causes the corp to fail. With Massively Motivated, I will be putting the complete organisation and wealth of the corporation into the hands of several corp members. I'm ready to take that leap of faith and assign some directors, who between them will do with the corp anything they wish. There is always a risk that one of them will turn out to be part of EVE's dark underworld, a sleeper agent or opportunistic thief. But it's the existence of that antisocial element that spurs us to create a cohesive society, and it's the possibility of betrayal that makes it so rewarding when trust is returned in kind.

Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to brendan@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.