Can we learn something from GoonSwarm's early recruitment methods?

As I recollect it, GoonSwarm got started by recruiting outside EVE itself:

  • They used a non-gaming online forum, and selected almost entirely from people who’d been there a year or two, thereby solving the trust problem
  • They found a way to use new players effectively in fleet warfare
  • They seem to have held together through more difficulties and drama than most Corps/Alliances

It’s an impressive achievement. I’d like to learn more about it from someone who was involved at the time.

What interests me most is how they selected their recruits:

  1. Selected so they matched the profile of players who start alone, but get established and stay?
  2. Selected from the same population as all new players who try EVE, but were able to keep a much higher proportion because of the way their established players and organization helped new players get set up and having fun?
  3. There’s no (3), but it’s probably not a binary choice. If anyone cares to share useful information, please don’t be constrained by this list

I’m also interested to hear about the value of what I described above as “solving the trust problem”. Hopefully it’s obvious what I mean, but I could expand on it.

It only goes so far with the trust thing sadly :frowning: my first corp was with a bunch of long standing people from a forum outside the game some even knew each other IRL, etc. one day one guy decided to steal/blow up as much as possible during the night and even once he was done advertised the opening to our WH for all and sundry to plunder. Not even like he had any gripe, etc. it was a very open and respectful group of mostly older players. (Pretty lame really - if he’d have managed to infiltrate and pull that off I’d have applauded him but as it was it was just being a douche).

Fortunately I had 99% of my personal stuff logged off in my carrier and orca alts as I’m a paranoid SOB hah.

EDIT: Slight amusingly apparently he lost most of what he stole buying into a Goonswarm minerals scam or manipulation or something not 100% on the details now as it was a few years back.


Something of (potential) interest:

History of the Goonswarm: An Outsider’s Perspective

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I remember seeing an interview in which the player “The Mittani” explained his policy: you either act as their best possible ally or you’ll be treated as their worst enemy. I’m assuming this will reflect in their recruitment and so anyone who isn’t immediately on their side and shares their views, or isn’t willing to give it all or is hesitant, will simply not get accepted. I remember stories of players who claimed to have been scammed out of their stuff or killed on sight, but it might also just be the result of their policy. Such a strong position, all or nothing, will then help to strengthen the troops of players who have passed the test, because they know they’re a member of an elite club of players who acted completely out of selflessness, giving it all, and for creating something that’s bigger than the individual player. Let’s not forget that some players do bring expectations and thus egos into the game, which don’t match the reality of EVE.


As far as I know they didn’t recruit new players in-game at all. There was at least one famous case of a member of another major Corp switching to GoonSwarm, but from my perspective that’s a distinct case.

They did have a policy of encouraging GoonSwarm members to scam other players for ISK by promising to let them join GoonSwarm, but AFAIK they never actually let anyone in that way.

I’m not surprised that had “for us or against us” policy, or at least claiming to. It matches their style, and I can see it being an effective support for inter-Corp negotiations.

It is worth noting also that the site they recruited from both had monthly subscriptions to join (so all of it’s members were well adjusted to the notion of paying for access) and was known as a haven for internet trolls (beneficial for a group that has widespread disruption in mind) and their ilk. I would wager that those two aspects helped to shape a new upstart organization quite heavily.

For goons “inner circle” all that is very profitable RL business…
Members, just paying the bills …

Any group, not just goons, that have connections outside the game tend to last longer within the game. Goons not only have the forums they came from but they play across multiple games and host meet-ups.

Goons biggest successes however have to be their unmatched level of organisation, innovation and user friendliness. The logistics wing of goons is incredibly well run. They’re usually ahead of the curve when it comes to game changes and adapting/exploiting (FW lp debacle, jump fatigue changes, rorquals and adms). And line members have the freedom to do as they wish within goon space.


Goons success is impressive, but not it’s not something the rest of EVE needs. EVE doesn’t have a problem with getting powerful groups that control high-income space. It has a serious problem with new-player retention.

So I’m mainly interested in recruiting process used by Goons before they became powerful.

Before they were a major force in EVE they were able to recruit and keep a lot of new players. It’s possible that they are a counter-example to the supposedly intractable new-player retention problem.

The first two numbered questions in my original post are intended to find out if that’s the case.

Isolated cases demonstrate what’s possible. They can provide information that supports improving similar things. And sometimes what they show can be replicated.

It’s a version of both these things. They are pre-selected from a group who sees themselves as ‘us against everyone else’. There is an old notion that basically says “If you want to unify your country, find an enemy and start a war”. When your enemy is ‘everyone except us’, and you proceed to act on that basis/be attacked on that basis, it tends to really motivate and empower your group. (see Israel)

If your group has a mindset of “us against everyone else”, and you have leadership who is competent enough to manage that group, use them effectively, give them something to participate in and rewards for doing so, then you’ve just created a cohesive community, using their power effectively, who are being well rewarded for doing so, and are not suffering any major harmful consequence as a result. Wars, crusades and power blocs through history have been fueled by just such factors.

Once that momentum is established, you get ‘everyone loves a winner’ (well except the people losing to them of course), and people start looking for ways to sign up. Although they originally recruited from their own forums and pre-established group, after things began to require greater numbers, they set up sister fleets to act as gateways and allies.

Karmafleet: Come join Goonswarm

I believe that in essence the “trust problem” was mostly solved by keeping high-level access among ‘true goons’ with numerous relationships within the Goon community. The lower level recruiting provides the benefits of Goonswarm to the broader alliance, without exposing the higher levels of control to un-vetted members.

The lesson to be learned is pretty clear. If you want to retain players/members, give them a focus of action, make them feel empowered in doing it, reward them for doing it, make them feel like they are on the ‘winning’ side, and minimize the amount of time they spend feeling like someone else’s victim.

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If we are to consider the start of Goons as a model favoring new player retention, resulting conclusions will be counter to what many are claiming to be vital for new player retention. Goons didn’t focus on isolation and safe grinding while their SP grew… they dived right into player interaction through PvP.

I remember admiration from a number of well established ‘vets’ at the time for Goons’ willingness to engage despite poor odds.

I don’t believe this model is a best fit for every individual player, but I do believe it maximizes expected retention for this game. The sooner new players are pushed to PvP the better.

You miss a fairly important detail there. I strongly suspect it would be more accurate to say “The sooner new players are pushed to PvP where they have some support and at least a feasible chance of success, the better”.

‘Pushing’ new players into PvP they aren’t prepared for and are massively unlikely to do well at, is rarely going to aid retention.

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The last part of my post was obviously my opinion. You are welcome to hold a different opinion than mine.

But most of your long post was more about what Goons did once it was established, not when they first came to the game. At the start they were famous for bringing large numbers of very low SP pilots in cheap ships to battles. They were most often slaughtered, and expected such. Obviously this experience didn’t chase them from the game… quite the opposite.

Ah. Goon alt tips his hand. Well, you had a good run, Elena. Gotta say - you’re pretty good at acting stupid. gf

I think you’re ascribing the wrong “cause and effect” model to the data.

It’s impossible to discuss psychology in a forum, so I’ll make an assertion instead. I’d be interested to hear how accurate (if at all) you think it is:

  • Some groups will play, even knowing they will lose, for the enjoyment of playing. For them, social interaction is more important than winning
  • Individuals generally won’t play if they know they’ll lose. Even if winning doesn’t matter as such, the activity feels pointless and empty

Of course there are lots of exceptions to both parts (e.g. professional sportsmen with a fat win bonus for the first), but I believe it applies reasonably well to MMOs. I also believe EVE’s “trust problem” is significant.

The bit you appear to be missing is that all the goons early play in game was irrelevant. Because they were busy turning Eve into the metagame it is today where all big wars get decided by corporate espionage and betrayals, not by in game actions.

So… if there is a lesson to be learned it’s that taking advantage of opponents trying to play the game by outmaneuvering them by going outside the normal playing field is a path to success.
Nothing to do with any of the other stuff. When the betrayals and metagaming have failed initially goons have shed numbers badly. And it’s only once someone worms their way into a position to do so that they have a resurgence


You’re right in terms of understanding the Goons’ rise to power. But I’m much more interested in their ability to recruit before they were a major actor.

They seem to have been 10 or 20 times more effective at keeping their recruits than the EVE norm.

PS: The thread title isn’t right. I’ve changed it.

They were putting those spies into place from day 1. As a result they were always a major actor. There is no “before” when talking about them. this is a group who’s initial eve motto was to mess up everyone else’s game.

Depends at what point you call them powerful. I’ll add to my previous list that they’ve had awesome propaganda throughout their history. They really engage and motivate line members. This is still one of the best eve vids I’ve ever seen:

And stuff like this.


From the beginning they’ve had all the points i mentioned above. Organising swarms of noobs to destroy smaller elite forces was an early tactic for goons.

They took the concept of eve (the original concept) and multiplied it a thousand times.

Great video - thanks for the link!

Nice “poster” too - a very good EVE version of “For Want of a Nail”

I think there’s valuable indirect data there too: they wouldn’t need such good material if their pre-selection process was nearly perfect. They addressed the gap by offering a clear path forward, with strategic goals, human interaction, and immediate fun.