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Taking Advantage: The Struggle for Power has Already Begun

Posted on Nov 02, 2018
Star Citizen Organizations Mosaic from Citizen Con 2014

“Imagine a universe that combines the freedom of exploration, the thrill of combat, and the unique challenge of building a life in space. Star Citizen puts ultimate control in the hands of the player…”

These are the opening lines used by Cloud Imperium Games (CIG - the makers of Star Citizen) when explaining the persistent universe to new and current players alike. While the rules of the game are in flux as development continues, it has not prevented organizations and individuals from preparing for how they will enjoy and pursue gameplay in a vast universe controlled and impacted by their actions. Some players will explore the deepest stretches of space, and others will haul cargo from system to system. Regardless of which profession you take or where your passions fall, every player and every organization will be impacted by the actions of other players and organizations. Whether interactions cause seemingly imperceivable changes or create system-wide panic and conflict, players and their relationships will inevitably affect the living universe in such a way that is quite similar to the state of international relations (relationships that exist at the global level) in the ‘real world’ today.

Scrolling through the various organizations listed on the Star Citizen website, you will find every kind of faction, group, and organization which express very similar goals and ideas compared to their ‘real world’ counterparts today. Given the freedom Chris Roberts and the CIG team seem to be providing the players, the interactions in Star Citizen between players and organizations will likely resemble one of three general themes – conflict, isolation, or cooperation. Why is this the case? Well, these three themes are really the only options, but it is also because humans and their interactions have formed the world we have today – the good, bad, and indifferent – and humans will be at the core of how the history of the Star Citizen universe unfolds. It would be misguided to think interactions within a vast universe filled with different ideas, values, and goals will be any different from the world in which we live today. However, questioning which theme will become dominant is quite an interesting question and discussion to have, but we will leave that for another day. For now, our focus will largely revolve around potential conflict and those who are preparing for conflict in the Star Citizen Universe.

The Great Game Begins: While it is arguably far easier to start a conflict and throw away ‘pixels’ than real people and a way of life, it does not mean the Star Citizen universe is destined for perpetual conflict and anarchy. Combat will indeed be a major aspect in the persistent universe, but combat-focused skills are not the only skills which will contribute to an individual’s or a group’s success - nor is combat necessary to enjoy the Star Citizen universe. There are absolutely those individuals and organizations who will seek cooperation or isolation to protect themselves and avoid conflict as a means of enjoying the game and achieving their goals. However, when focusing on the major individuals or organizations, armed conflict is inevitable as it is the preferred and most straightforward method for controlling or taking territory and maintaining or gaining power. It will likely be difficult to deter conflict and encourage collaboration unless a considerable and consistent effort is put into promoting interorganizational cooperation as there are no ‘real consequences’ that can affect an individual’s physical well-being or quality of life. Someone can turn off their computer, walk away from the game, and their life is unaffected beyond some potential psychological discomfort due to in-game losses.

Star Citizen, as it stands now, is a massive power vacuum or void in a digital world filled with actors vying for influence, success, and power. History has shown time and time again that wherever there is a power vacuum – someplace where no one person, faction, or nation has absolute control— someone is trying to fill that void and gain or challenge power. Thus, our focus is on those organizations who are discovering and forming the rules of the game in preparation for actions in a persistent universe ripe for the taking – all of which is happening now and increasing. It is only natural and entirely expected that players, factions, and organizations will pursue power to varying extents inside the Star Citizen universe. The most important distinction to be made here is that ‘conflict’ does not equal ‘war’ as there will be every kind of conflict imaginable. There are non-player characters and fleets to consider, ongoing conflicts between anti-piracy and pirates that will eternally persist, and – yes – there will be wars between organizations and factions as well. Whether these wars and armed conflicts between groups are small scale battles centered on planets or asteroids or large multi-fleet wars spanning multiple systems remains to be seen. As such, organizations are preparing for these conflicts and taking every advantage in preparation that they can albeit with different motivations and goals due to fear or the pursuit of power.

You may think no action can be taken now to gain an advantage as an organization because the game is not officially released and persistent, but that could not be further from the truth. As the game continues to roll out and move towards persistence, there are advantages organizations are pursuing now which generally fall into three areas: recruitment, organization, and intelligence. While the focus is largely on those organizations which will compete for regional interstellar dominance through conflict, these advantages apply to organizations of every size as each will deal with their own unique situations and potential adversaries. Each of these areas could be addressed at great length and do not represent every advantage available; however, for our purposes, we will take a brief look and establish an overview of these three advantages (an extended review of each or some of these advantages may follow).

Advantage #1 – Recruitment: Recruitment is important and somewhat obvious as ‘size’ does matter when pursuing power and examining diplomatic, economic, and military influence or strength (perceived or practical). The most well organized and informed organization will likely fall and be defeated in a future conflict by a much larger and less-organized force simply due to numbers - except in extreme and specific circumstances. A smaller organization may indeed achieve tactical victories, but they are unlikely to achieve strategic victory in the long run against an organization that is vastly larger – one may win some battles, but they will likely lose the war. An organization’s numbers particularly matter because individuals and groups in Star Citizen will generally have the same levels of sophistication as the same ships, platforms, and tools are available to all - so long as the time, effort, and resources needed to gain access to them are utilized.
The bottom line reality is this, as organizations continue to recruit while the game is being established, they continue to increase their potential power and ability to secure and hold space while deterring conflict with potential adversaries. Some individuals have made the argument that large organizations will lose their players once the game ‘begins’ and that current organization populations are irrelevant; however, you must understand that there will be loses at all levels and across all organizations, including your own, as people begin their journey in the persistent universe. Even if a large organization, say one with 20,000 members, loses 50-percent of its base, there remains a 10,000- member strong organization – those are not numbers to be trifled with or taken likely in any context. Therefore, any recruitment efforts taken now can create unforeseen advantages in the future as your organization’s potential increases in all areas.

Advantage #2 – Organizational Structure: Organizational structure is crucial as it varies directly with your organization’s success. When utilized and developed, organization can enable and promote efficiency and unity in communication and action as the leadership and their subordinates make decisions within an organization. There are many ways to organize a group of people, establish leadership hierarchies, and create departments or divisions, but the importance here is in maintaining unity and decreasing confusion regardless of which leadership hierarchy or organizational structure is chosen. The more organized a group is, often, the faster the deployment of resources and assets will be when and where they are required. Similarly, if an organization has created, established, and maintained its command and control structure and internal institutions that players interact with, organizations will be able to step into the persistent universe on day one and begin to establish themselves militarily, diplomatically, and economically. Having an effective and workable organizational structure does not mean it must be complicated, but it does mean that it should work for your purposes without causing needless ‘red tape’ or wasting time: some of the simplest organizational structures can be the most effective depending on the size and goals of the organization.

For players who have been in the Star Citizen community for a while and for those who are just joining, organizations that are highly organized and engage with their members frequently are more attractive to potential members. While it is difficult to continuously engage your community year after year waiting for release, those leaders and organizations which do create an organized and active community will reap the benefits of their labor and actions come release. These organizations will likely see reduced turnover and an increase in collective action focused around the organization and its needs rather than primarily on the individual member. Having an organized structure does not guarantee that your organization will attract members (there are many other factors that affect one’s attractiveness and staying power), but not having an organized structure will surely hurt your efforts in growing your organization and creating a consistent core group of dedicated members.

From a conflict and security competition perspective, military and combat organization is essential as a more organized group will almost certainly come out as the victor in a conflict against a group that is far less organized which acts without unity and cohesion in a battlespace. Even in a situation where an organization is vastly outnumbered, a highly organized (and trained) group can diminish the advantage another force has due to their superior numbers. However, an organization should not be too narrowly focused on controlling and establishing tactics and procedures for your armed forces while ignoring the necessities of organizing other divisions or aspects of an organization - which is especially important as organizations increase in size. Maintaining an organized and structured environment within your economic and diplomatic sub-groups or domains, for example, is just as important as in your military, if not more important, and should be given as much care and thought. As has been played out endlessly throughour history, you may win a battle, but, if you are unable to logistically and economically support your combat operations, strategic failure and defeat is just around the corner

Advantage #3 – Intelligence: Lastly, there is intelligence, which is both an underutilized and vastly misunderstood potential advantage for organizations and players alike within Star Citizen - an advantage some organizations are quite keen on exploiting. Looking over various organization pages, websites, and listings, you will find many organizations reference ‘intelligence, information, infiltration, and espionage’ (or in similar terms) as a profession or role where gathering and exploiting information is the primary goal. More likely than not, any organization which lists intelligence in a broad sense as a role is seeking to gain an advantage over potential adversaries and avoid any strategic surprises.

However, intelligence is a complex discipline in the real world spanning many institutions and applications with differing consumers of intelligence which does not translate well into video games beyond some of the basics. Too often the word ‘intelligence’ attracts individuals simply because of its mysterious nature and the attached pride it brings players where, in reality, people’s time ends up being wasted and the information is worthless in-game. Even if one has a misguided understanding of what the intelligence disciplines are or how to effectively use them in a basic form, this does not mean a player or an organization should abandon interest in the intelligence process. Gathering information now is proving useful to organizations and individuals alike so long as you understand one important concept: all intelligence is information, but not all information is intelligence.

One must understand how the relationship between any information gathered and your organization’s goals intersects and why the information is useful, not only what the information is. Every organization will not have the same friends, enemies, or goals, nor will the same individuals or actors be of interest depending on your organization’s goals, size, and affiliation. Thus, without careful consideration, intelligence in Star Citizen can easily waste people’s time and merely devolve into individuals joining multiple organizations and reporting on what they hear an organization planning or saying - this information is not entirely worthless, but it is a long way off from developing and maintaining a unique advantage. However, if an organization utilizes intelligence effectively and is aware of key requirements, there is much to be learned, gained, and planned for in the near future as the persistent universe draws near.

Final thoughts: As organizations prepare for the persistent universe, many are taking advantage of recruitment efforts, creating an organized and effective internal structure, and pursuing information that may be useful in accomplishing their goals. These advantages are admittedly only scratching the surface of the topics considering how innately complex people, organizations, and relationships are. There are so many caveats and rabbit-holes we could venture into in our discussion, but, whether your organization is pursuing the advantages available now or not, conflict and struggles for power are inevitable in the Star Citizen universe – the only question is at what scale and between which parties. Whether you are a lone wolf, part of a small faction, or have joined a large organization pursing power to the highest degree, we will all be impacted by the relationships, conflicts, alliances, and anarchy that will fill the Star Citizen universe as organizations compete for power at all levels and scales.


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