Blood Money: Bigging up the Top Down

It seems to me that lately one of the hottest topics in eve (at least within the 0.0 community) has been that of economics. Within that topic the current whipping boy has been the Top down economic model. Currently it is very out of favour and people are claiming that eves current “Top down” economic model should be replaced by a bottom up equivalent.  So being the rebel that I am I intend to not only give a stout defence to the Top Down model, but also attempt to show that currently eves economics could work (quite easily) with a true top down model (which we currently don’t have).

What’s good about Top Down?
With the current top down model a good amount of cash made by the alliance is funnelled down the ranks to its members in the form of SRP (at least in any good alliance). This means that because of the amount of money earned by the alliance pilots don’t have to worry about resupplying themselves with ships. This means that pilots have one less logistical hassle on their hands, and one less financial pressure. Further more a lot of alliance use their power to purchase and subsidise modules and equipment for their pilots. For example Capital fuel and Strontium are often supplied for pilots on operations. If we move away from a Top down model we would soon see the end of this. Because Alliances would become poor, and player rich, they would be expected to resupply their own ships and modules.
Furthermore because the alliance has is hands on the tap the provides these bonuses to their pilots, they can indirectly control when and if pilots are rewarded for their efforts. If for example you die in the wrong ship on an operation, the alliance can choose to punish your incompetence by not replacing your ship. Although it would please some of the more rebellious pilots, if we were to end Top Down, the alliance would lose this level of control over its members. Because pilots would be replacing their own ships, they would have the ability to claim that it was their own business what they bring of CTA’s. We could expect to see a lot more of “That Drake“.
What’s bad about Top Down?
Of course its not all sunshine and ponies in top down (or we wouldn’t be bashing it so much). Under the top down model the fear of losses fall to the alliance (assuming it is committed to SRP), as a whelped fleets cost is shouldered by the alliance wallet. This means that the people who make the tactical commitments (and can see how badly the odds are stacked) are the ones who might be risk adverse to a risky fight. If the pressure of replacing lost ships were spread across the entire fleet, we might begin to see risk aversion appearing in the more hoarding members of alliances, but the leadership would be less likely to pull a punch because of the fear of bruising a knuckle.
There are of course also issues, not so much with top down in general, but certainly with the implementation of it which we have at the moment. Firstly there is the lack of transparency in the system. Line members like you and me have no idea what alliance finances really look like. Oh sure alliances publish their books every so often, but any one with a healthy level of paranoia is going to be sceptical of any self published books. There are no independent bodies in eve, no government legislation, or prisons to discourage book cooking. I maybe I am part of the tin foil hat brigade, but I don’t believe any of the self published finances.
We also have the issue that even though we have a “Top Down” economic model in eve, in order to actually pass money downwards alliances have to go to a lot of efforts. I have run an SRP programme for an alliance in the past, and I can promise you that it is one hell of a hard and complicated job.
Of course both of these issues with the current implementation could be solved by the addition of mitigating features. If Alliances could publish “official” in game finance reports (with some changes to keep them honest) I might actually believe them. Or if CCP were to give alliances official and easy ways to pass alliance funds downwards we could eradicate these idiosyncrasies in the system, and unblock the channels through which money can flow downwards.
Some examples of how we could do this include the concept of salaries. Lets say that alliances can pay all of its members a salary for their employment in the corporation (you know like a real corporation would). Further more if we could then associate salary increase with certain roles and maybe even awards, we could allow alliances to properly reward the people who put in the effort.
CCP could also implement an official SRP method, allowing the alliance to set locations, times and approved fittings for their pilots which, when the criteria is met, automatically pays the cost of the loss to the alliance member. Bonus points if the alliance automatically contracts any fittings and hulls from the Alliance hanger to bereaved players.
If alliances really want to only reward active and engaged players, how about a reverse bounty system? Rather than rewarding for the death of a specific enemy, reward for killing. Allow the alliance to create a pot of cash from which money is paid to its pilots when they make a kill.
Finally there should also be a way for prospective members to view an alliances reward systems, so that they can be picky about only working for the alliance with the best pay-outs. Want the best pilots? We you’d better have the best pay!
This is all very well talking about but how will alliances get the money with which to pay all these fees and rewards? Were talking about getting alliances to push out much more cash than they currently do. Well firstly we need to ensure that all the money an Alliance makes goes through the official books to keep them honest. In order to do this we need to  add more to the game to make raising funds easier for an alliance. For example creating official “Renter” contracts would be a good start (assuming they have to be paid directly into an alliance wallet).
Moon Goo could also be changed to not only earn the alliance more money quicker, but also force the cash it generates through an accountable system. Lets say that to remove any moon goo from an alliance silo, you have to pay the alliance a fee, which is logged and published.
I should emphasise that these are just examples of how we could do things, not necessarily how we should do it. Basically we would need to give alliances better ways to raise money, but force them to account for these methods to the player base.
The current economic model in eve is broken, there is no denying that. But at the same time I don’t think we should write off the Top Down method. It does and can work, but CCP need to give it more support.

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