Op-Ed: Frontier - A Path of Problems
A Breakdown on the Drawbacks of the Frontier Choice
Written by @Le Libertie
As the region continues to debate the path it will take as the Frontier-Stronghold update is slated to arrive sometime soon, I wanted to share my thoughts on why I oppose Europeia becoming a frontier. Up to this point, I have for the most part sat at the sidelines when it comes to this debate. This has been for the most part due to my RL busyness, but I have closely followed the arguments made on both sides, and I want to share my unique perspective on the issues with a Europeian frontier thoroughly in this considerably lengthy piece.
There have been many insightful arguments provided in Grand Hall posts and articles by other stronghold-supporters, some of which have inspired me since I first began writing this piece. Ultimately, as the current situation stands, I see choosing frontier today as opting for a path of problems for the following reasons I will outline.
Part 1: The Uncertainty Surrounding the Frontier
This first part of this piece focuses on the one clear theme that--for me--has defined the looming F/S update so far: the utter uncertainty in how it will look in reality. Given this, I believe that at the very least, Europeia should wait to observe some of the initial effects of the F/S update before taking action. Only after receiving concrete information on all of the update’s features, observing how moderator’s ideas actually translate to reality, and thoroughly analyzing the consequences of the update can we truly make the best decision on what Europeia’s path should be. Furthermore, prematurely opting to become a frontier bears considerable consequences, while waiting--as I will argue--ultimately does not have significant detriments. The following are my reasons why I believe that a Europeian Frontier should wait.
We don't know how much of a benefit in our nation count that we would receive if we were to choose a frontier.
Dozens of nations could spawn per day, or Europeia could receive a less-than-satisfactory trickle. Both the method moderators use to determine spawn rates and the number and size of other frontiers will significantly affect how many nations spawn. Other factors, such as dealing with external recruitment and building up our gameside system for a favorable retention rate, will also have to be faced by a Europeian frontier. The simple truth is, despite our best guesses, the variability in these factors given the currently limited information we have renders us unable to accurately confirm what the boost in our nation-count would actually look like. Given that this is one of, if not the biggest, benefit of the frontier update, we need to have a firmer grasp of our potential population benefit before taking action.
Other sacrifices of becoming a Frontier are important to consider.
Outside of losing our founder, there are other significant commitments that Europeia would need to undertake, all for unclear benefit. As a necessity for security, our very liberal endocap would have to be considerably reduced and we would have to restrict the endotarting activity of gameside-only residents. And with less control over who comes into our community, our gameside moderation presence would have to increase. These are potentially resource-intensive endeavors that we have historically struggled to deal with.
Given that opting to become a frontier would cause influence decay similar to that of GCRs, Europeia also would instantly lose years of compiled influence amongst resident nations. In this way, opting for a frontier has some very permanent effects: even if Europeia considered returning to a stronghold after becoming a frontier, that influence would be gone forever. This influence is not a mere NS stat, but part of what has created our region’s nearly unrivaled security.
As a frontier, our region would be permanently connected to an interdependent network of other independent actors, whose decisions (expansion, promotion of more frontiers, etc.) can collectively end up having a significant impact on our spawn flow. In effect, Europeia would be opening itself up to being indirectly influenced by regions to a truly unprecedented extent. Our independence, our ability to (for the most part) control our own fate through our own efforts, would be partially lost in choosing frontier.
We don't know to what extent recruitment will be changed by the emergence of Frontiers.
One prominent claim forwarded by frontier-supporters is that opting to become a stronghold would lead to the slow atrophy and decline of Europeia. This argument is typically supported with the assertion that the emergence of Frontiers will end up "Reducing our recruiting pool by half," as Forward Europeia claims in their manifesto. However, this is mere speculation, one which unsurprisingly makes the frontier option seem more appealing.
The truth is that we simply do not know whether the emergence of frontiers will make traditional recruitment easier or more difficult, but either an increase or decrease in recruitment success rates are easily plausible.
Despite being repeatedly claimed, an increase in the regions that new nations can spawn in doesn't necessarily correlate with a decrease in recruitment effectiveness. In fact, the emergence of frontiers could prove advantageous for traditional recruitment. As more new nations are likely to spawn in severely underdeveloped regions lacking the strong government, integration techniques, and security of GCRs, a stronghold region like Europeia could actually look more attractive than it does today.
There has not been a convincing argument given for why choosing Frontier immediately would be better than taking our time and figuring out these above factors before taking any action.
Opting to become a frontier while being ill-prepared could lead to various effects such as an underwhelming increase in nations, low retention rates of spawned citizens, or an inability to increase gameside presence to necessary levels, all while coming at the cost of a conservative WA culture and years of permanently-lost influence.
But the claim by some that Europeia needs to adhere to some notion of proactiveness or timeliness in choosing a frontier as soon as this option becomes available has not been substantiated with much evidence. The option to choose frontier will remain available at all times, our ability to establish necessary security measures as a frontier will not wane, and the nation-count benefits of becoming a frontier--if they do prove to be substantial--should not disappear quickly either.
Waiting and observing may prove to be one of the most essential aspects of predicting what a Frontier Europeia would look like. Committing right now to becoming a frontier is not pragmatic, but rather reckless given the dearth of evidence that exists in several areas key to determining whether frontier is worth it.
Part 2: Is the Frontier Path Truly Congruent with the Europeian Identity?
Even if some of the benefits frontier-supporters assert are possible, at a fundamental level, I believe that several facets of choosing the frontier option do not necessarily align with the Europeian identity.
Does Europeia define itself as a ‘pioneer’?
I think one of the most prominent themes echoed by frontier-supporters is that Europeia is defined by being a pioneer of politics in NS and that becoming a frontier gives our region another chance to demonstrate this.
But the truth is, for me, that I don’t see ‘pioneer’ as a fundamental part of the Europeian character. Rather, I see Europeia foremost as a community that is defined by its political excellence and pragmatism above all else. Of course, there are times in which Europeia does adopt the role of a pioneer, but I would argue that innovation is not the essential part of our identity. In fact, I would argue that recent missteps involving our participation in the IRC can easily be explained as examples our government of pursuing a theoretically appealing, seemingly innovative idea that fell flat when faced with reality.
When we pursue innovation over pragmatism, we will suffer detriments. And compared to the relatively benign drawbacks of something like the IRC, a mistake in choosing frontier could bring far more serious ramifications.
The gameside-intensive requirements of becoming a frontier have thus far not been a part of the Europeian character.
On the surface, my relatively higher interest in gameside affairs and features compared to other citizens might have made people assume that I would support a Europeian frontier. But alongside my other concerns with the frontier feature, my experience as a gameside fan in Europeia has given me insight into why Europeia’s identity is not congruent with the frontier choice.
If there has been one aspect of Europeia that has somewhat disappointed me in my years of experience here, it has been the region’s overall lack of interest in gameside affairs. In August of this year, I addressed this issue in a comment I made, in which I remarked that there seems to be “an inherent limit to our [gameside] efforts that stems from the fact that many citizens simply don't enjoy interacting on the gameside much”. Many seem to confirm this sentiment, in fact, for some, this reality is seen as an important aspect of who Europeia is.
Yet the most promising results for a frontier require that we boost our gameside presence and tailor our outreach to a broader base of players, that is if we desire to have worthwhile retention rates. In the words of Kazaman, “the basic fact is that without a strong presence on the actual region in NationStates, our security as a Frontier will be compromised”.
A paradoxical issue of sorts emerges: Europeia is a region that has historically been disinterested in the gameside, yet desires to pursue a path that would require unprecedented engagement with this realm. I think that players like @UPC and I acutely observe this issue. Frontier supporters want to take on the potential of having a larger proportion of players lie outside of the typical Europeian interest range, all while acknowledging that Europeia really isn’t designed for players such as those.
A Europeian frontier would have to face many critical questions. Will Europeia simply hemorrhage these outlying nations I just described, cutting into the benefit of becoming a frontier? Will a new administration successfully muster up a consistent passion and energy towards the gameside? And if a change in our gameside attitude does occur, will it be altering a fundamental aspect of the Europeian character? I don’t find many, if any, of the potential answers to these questions to be satisfying. And I don’t think this current administration has addressed these questions in any meaningful manner.
Europeia will need to confront the uncomfortable dilemma that lies at the core of the Frontier-Stronghold update: community conflict, and it must reconcile this reality with our identity.
Even if we can ensure that Europeia itself remains secure, the fact still remains that the F/S update was designed as a catalyst for increased interregional conflict. It was intended for regions to be vulnerable, take more risks, and for the first time, provide a tangible benefit for the complete conquering of regions.
If Europeia were to become a frontier, it would have to grapple with the fact that the elimination of as many other frontiers as possible would be in the region's best interest population-wise (given that, in general, the reduction of frontier regions increases the flow of nations that would spawn in our region).
At worst, becoming a frontier puts Europeia in the position of thriving off of the potential destruction of similar communities.
If we chose to embrace an aggressive expansionist approach, Europeia would be going down a troubling path. Unlike our current ERN practices in which we minimize harm to native members, pursuing operations that eliminate frontiers would necessitate destructive actions such as ejecting/banning natives, passwording a region, or even permanently establishing control of a region under a controlled puppet nation. These methods lie outside the character of what the ERN has done in the past, and the Europeian character as a whole. I doubt that many see this as a viable path.
On the other hand, disavowing an expansionist approach still leads to other issues. Will Europeia idly sit by if the proliferation of frontiers cuts into our population share until the benefits are essentially non-existent? If Europeia chooses to protect other frontiers, will it still find itself at odds with aggressive expansionist regions that seek to increase their share in the spawning pool? Ultimately, Europeia would need to redefine itself in the sphere of foreign affairs, reconciling its Independent ideology with its frontier status.
In summary, the most important issues with the frontier option are as follows: we don’t know to what extent it will benefit us, we will be making significant sacrifices, and the frontier option is not aligned with the Europeian character.
There is a lot I discussed in this piece: some of which touches on points previously debated, and some of which I feel have not been present in the public dialogue. As we approach a critical election, I hope that not only will both our citizenry and the upcoming presidential tickets address these concerns in-depth, but that others will agree that a stronghold is the best option for Europeia’s future.