December 4, 2016

The Evolving Mercenary in a Post-NETC New Eden

The New Eden Trading Company was announced on November 21 via a Reddit post by C4w3. Its goal is to create a highway across the galaxy which provides a safer way to travel across the New Eden. Much like real highways, the NETC network also wants to have little convenience stores along the way in the form of new and "easy-to-access markets". It's a bold plan and people have predicted everything from massive success, middling results, or complete failure. The truth is, only time will tell how effective the NETC is at achieving its goals.

My interest lies mainly in how it may effect Mercenary Coalition. MC is on the forefront of the project. You could say that Seleene had the original idea years ago with Tortuga which never came to fruition and perhaps helped initiate the downfall of the original Mercenary Coalition.

The firm idea of NETC came about in conversations between Sabre A, Seleene, Lenny and a few others earlier this year. One of the first steps of the process was having Mercenary Coalition build the Basgerin keepstar in late August. It was freeported November 21 in conjunction with the NETC announcement. Lenny has stated that, "All roads lead to Basgerin." This puts Mercenary Coalition right in the middle of, not only the map of New Eden, but in the center of one of the biggest projects ever attempted in EVE. 30% of the profit from NETC will go towards paying the members, meaning MC in this case.

In EVE, mercenaries have historically valued their freedom. Noir. has almost always based out of lowsec (with one exception in Providence) and owned very few structures so that there were few, if any, vulnerable areas. No one could attack an important asset while we were on contract, diverting our attention. Mercenary Coalition has done the opposite: we own space in Tribute and our flag flies over arguably the most important keepstar in the NETC. So why give up the potential freedom of movement and take on potential chinks in our armor?

Old players are familiar with EVE's old adage: adapt or die. If you're a new player, I recommend committing it to heart quickly. In a post NETC game, I believe Mercenary Coalition will take on a new form. We're embedding ourselves into the market in a way that the game hasn't seen before. It's more akin to books like The Starfisher Trilogy, where mercenaries are strong enough to rival governments. Their power extends as much through their economic and corporate ties as it does through their firepower.

Mercenaries in EVE have always extended their power by deploying to a region and winning the military front. In Noir., top-performing pilots were paid and the corporation put a bit of money in the bank, but it wasn't a mind-boggling amount; we had to consistently work to have contracts lined up or else we'd not only lose the interest of our members but we'd also run out of ISK.

When a mercenary is secure financially and has roots buried deeply within a robust economy that's producing enough ISK to not only cover costs but provide its members with monetary benefit (whether that's SRP, pay outs, super capital plans, etc) then the organization is a very strong position. Not only can this mercenary be very picky about its contracts, it can also fund itself if an opportunity to obtain more power, more wealth presents itself. A starving mercenary is not a good position to be in.

Mercenary Coalition is poised to be one of the most powerful groups in EVE not because of our super capital fleet, not because we have five times the members, but because we've smartly positioned ourselves to be at the heart of potentially the largest financial system in the game.

What does that mean for the average member? What does that mean for Noir.?

In truth, I don't see too many things changing for us overall. We'll almost certainly deploy on contracts as regularly as we do now, on roughly the same scale. The vested interest in seeing the NETC succeed means that our soft underbelly (if you can consider a fully-equipped Keepstar soft) is protected by a dozen other forces who can help protect it in a pinch. The main differences will be the potential for freedom, a new kind of freedom that hasn't been available to us before. Where we used to consider ourselves free because we didn't own anything, now we're going to have freedom because we're not beholden to sub-par contracts. Maybe it's better for the alliance for corps to take individual contracts on a small scale, or do deployments on their own for practice. To hire MC right now is a very expensive procedure. The price of hiring us must cover the cost and profit of the entire alliance, and that's a huge number. But imagine if the NETC can subsidize some of those costs? MC would be free to take on contracts that are considered interesting or important even if the employer can't fully match our asking price.

Where that was impossible before, with enough income, a corp can have its deployment's costs covered. Now they don't have to worry about finding someone to pay - the NETC is doing that for them. Freedom isn't being free of property, freedom is having the option to always say no to others. And when you can say no to everyone else, you can also say yes to yourself.

In 10 years EVE players may have a totally different idea of what a mercenary is because of the path we've started down in November. One thing's for sure: as long as EVE exists, people will want to shoot other people and one of those sides will need help. Mercenaries will always be hired, contracts will always be given. The question yet to be answered is how powerful mercenaries can actually become in EVE. With the current contract-to-contract lifestyle, I believe mercenaries are capped at their total influence. When we're not living hand-to-mouth, who knows how far we can go?
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