Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Rise and Fall of Empires

Disclaimer: It took me a full weekend to gather my thoughts for this entry as events unfolded, so this entry is a bit long. Also, please do not take offense to the alliances mentioned in this passage; my only intention is to use them as case studies. Any opinions/alignments expressed herein are solely mine and not of my alliance's.

***

Watching the collapse of the once-powerful Mercernary Coalition unfold in
Period Basis made me feel somewhat moody, much like watching a James Bond movie with a poignant ending (Casino Royale, anyone?). Tortuga, respected as some of the most powerful alliances in the game, had fallen to internal strife long before Band of Brothers' ambush. BRUCE, yet another power bloc in the regions of Syndicate/Cloud Ring (my geography is a bit murky there), saw its alliance leader and executor corp FOOM leave for empire.

Which made me wonder: How does an alliance avoid or prolong the seemingly inevitable "failure cascade"?

军争之难者,以迂为直,以患为利。

"In armed struggle, the difficulty is turning the circuitous into the direct, and turning adversity into advantage." - Sun Tzu,
The Art of War

The general Sun Tzu wrote one of the most renowned manuals in Chinese history: "
The Art of War (孙子兵法)", which describes military strategies with impeccable logic. Eve, with its characteristic massive territorial warfare and in-depth corp/alliance management, offers such a realistic model of skirmishes and wars that it would be pure folly for any fleet commander to ignore the principles and tactics of warfare. Survival of 0.0 alliances often depends heavily upon the battles that were won and lost.

Take a look at the (in)famous Band of Brothers, for example. When the Northern Coalition and its bandwagon attacked Delve, BoB gave up system after system in Cloud Ring, Period Basis, Querious to the NAPtrain. However, they held on to their home system in Delve with an iron grip, and after 2 months of relentless sieging, the fatigued NNC went home. And now BoB, alive and kicking, is back with a vengeance: it has renewed its invasion into Period Basis, reclaiming most of its old territory - it won't be long until BoB took back the rest as well.

I have great admiration for BoB in this regard. In my mind they have successfully used these strategies to turn the tidal wave of annihilation levelled against them and propel themselves to greatness:

1) Firm leadership. Charisma is a bonus, but unnecessary.
The best leaders lead by example, flying their biggest, baddest ships into the fray and expect their followers to do the same. In this regard I approve of Triumvirate's culture of ridiculing and kicking players who bring crap-fitted T1 ships (i.e. quality over quantity). SirMolle, arguably the most powerful leader in Eve, is an excellent capital fleet commander as well. From what I heard, he rules BoB with an iron fist and gives them direction. This adheres to the principle that democracy is anarchy in battle-minded Eve, as soldiers who are allowed to act on a mind of their own often derail the killing machine.

Now, that does not mean that leaders should not listen to their grunts. In contrast, someone who can balance sympathy and firmness without turning into a power thirsty maniac will find themselves with a loyal following. An alliance charter helps immensely in laying out sensible ground rules for its pilots. In Insurgency, pirates and empire ganks are frowned upon and anyone found breaking this will be kicked out. [Rant mode ON] I love this as I've always had a gripe with people who hide in empire when their 0.0 alliance needs them. FFS (for the lack of a better term), leave the corp to do your pirating, then come back when you are ready to help with space-holding again. We used to have pirates in Rule of Three who only lived in low sec. These players would do well to join a pirating alliance or the Privateers, rather than leeching off the 0.0 alliance, or being part of it "in spirit" just for the sake of blue standings. [/Rant]

It has been proven again and again that without a strong leader who is willing to police his ranks, even the most organized alliance will fall apart: when the
visionary Seleene departed for real life, no-one else was able to step up like the way he did and as a result, MC's internal cohesion was destroyed by aggressive parties from within.

2) Propaganda and espionage.
Morale is one of the most, if not THE most, important aspect in an alliance. A drop in the morale of troops can quickly snowball and lead to disastrous consequences. As such, the best wars are won not by force, but by subtlety and spies who can manipulate the morale of enemies from within. There is little doubt that BoB has an extensive network of spies in each alliance, giving them valuable intel about the movements of an enemy force. And by spreading discord amongst these enemies, they can execute ambushes with great morale devastation of the enemy, such as the controversial doomsday that was set off in an MC pos, whose password has been retrieved from the ex-MC titan pilot, Krall Amarr (for an epic scam on this traitor, see
here). The fighting will of Tortugan pilots was eroded, and PB fell without resistance. However, one must be careful with the excessive use of flamboyant propaganda, as the tactic can easily backfire, such as the vociferous Goonswarm forum threadnoughts that angered much of the player base and gave GS a dubious rep.

3) Wars.
A battle-hardened army is far more valuable than a swarm of n00bs or big expensive toys that have never been baptized in blood. 0.0 entities must always be ready for war, unless you are in some far off corner of the galaxy that nobody wants to attack. Even so, there is nothing to stop equally isolated neighbors to attack space held by an alliance seen as easy pickings. Living with too many blues around is a sure way to get pvpers bailing by the dozens. Who wants to go 30 jumps just to gank some ratter? And can you tell I'm not a big fan of the NAPtrain style of playing?

This also ties in to the constant tug-of-war between carebears and pvpers (a topic that I was planning to talk about but got distracted). Alliances must be able to balance the tension between the two factions, i.e. there should be a clear rule as to how much the carebears are allowed to carebear, and how much they must donate to the war chest. Or even better, do not let them into the alliance at all. Rather, adopt a feudal system where industrialists must pay rent to continue operating out of that space. In times of war, these renters are responsible for their own survival and become meat shields if they fail. This has worked extremely well in BoB's favor and many alliances are quickly adopting this system.

From my own experience, a lack in any one of these three inter-related aspects will result in a degradation of the quality of an alliance. Many seasoned 0.0 players in an alliance are able to spot a failure cascade from a mile away and leave before the time comes to fold. It is up to the leader to correct any minor mistakes before they balloon into major issues, and sometimes harsh actions are needed. As a small-time FC, I admire all of them for the time and passion they put into the game. These are the very people who shoulder the responsibility of directing others, and the consequences, should they fail, strike fear into the hearts of the less brave and ambitious. To be at the helm of an alliance and to lead with continued success is a heavy sceptre to wield for any individual.


In other news: Interceptors have to be one of the most fun ships to fly out in 0.0 with a gang. Hats off to Sir Fintroll of PURE Alliance for getting on three of my crow killmails. I enjoyed one excellent tango with the skilled gentleman, but the rapiers piled on me the second time round. I look forward to playing with his brave little faction crow some time soon again.

P.S.: If anyone can point me in the direction of adding Eve logos and linkages like those on
CrazyKinux's awesome blog, I'd appreciate it!

5 comments:

swiftvoyager said...

It's simple thermodynamics. The universe 'wants' to be in disorder. Any system left to it's own device will imediately start to decay. I totally agree with you about the need for leadership, and I also stand in thankful awe of the few people capable of running a large alliance or corp in Eve.

The Congo Sovereign said...

I like Sun Tzu - but I prefer to read more modern tactical summations.

If you like him, read Clausewitz or Ropp's "The Art of War in the Modern World"

The problem with Eve is that there is no force cohesion, meaning, the idea that a rank and file organization exists is misleading. Morale is based on loose allegiances, and not on the chain of command. Believe me, there is a big difference.

So, personally, it's a matter of hit or miss in Eve. The fail of MC is not surprising to me. There are too many cults of personality in Eve and when you have that as your glue, it will fall apart.

My take on this is "very loose confederations" aligned on similar goals - works in Eve. To have 30 small corps make up an alliance is what "Insurgency" started as and was frankly very successful at - they all aligned to one goal (and guess what - they all had fun doing it!! - which is what Eve morale is based on - NOTHING ELSE.. In Eve there is no modern equivalent of states, or nations, or units.. It's a game mechanic.

MC was a mercenary corp, they took space, back-stabbed a "Client" and then expected it to go their way.. if "it's a game" was the motivation (for fun), that sounds ok to me.. aside from that, if they felt that this was some grand plan of strategy, I have to say they are way off the mark.

Bri said...

[quote] The problem with Eve is that there is no force cohesion, meaning, the idea that a rank and file organization exists is misleading. [/quote]

Disagreed. Not in the most successful alliances. Ro3 failed because there was not a leader who gathered the "loose allegiances". And it takes a powerful personality to harness the potential of the masses. And when Seleene left MC, you can say the powerful personality left and the alliance was doomed to fall from then on.

[quote] To have 30 small corps make up an alliance is what "Insurgency" started as and was frankly very successful at - they all aligned to one goal.. [/quote]

That's because our alliance leader, darth solo, keeps a tight rein on the corps and threaten them with kicking if they do not align. So it all comes down to the chain of command, imo.

Godlesswanderer said...

I'm guessing you mean 14 day trial links? You can get those by becoming an affiliate at the Affiliate Program page on the EVE site.
It doesn't take long to be accepted, it only took me a couple of days after I filled out the application.

CrazyKinux said...

So did Godlesswanderer's comment answer you question about EVE images and linkage? If not, drop me an email and I'll see if I can help!

CK

 
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