Thursday, March 24, 2016

How Do Alliances Die?

This piece has two tentative theses about large group dynamics in EVE:

1. In most cases, alliances do not die to war, propaganda, or loss of space, but to inability to survive stagnation in the game.

2. In most cases, alliances that manage to live through war, losses, propaganda, and so on, are those who have learned how to manage membership activity during periods of low content--like the summer of 2015, which arguably claimed more major alliances than almost any other period/war/event in the game's history.

Let's take 2015 as an example and consider some of the major groups that largely died during this period.

Nulli Secunda was a surprising loss, considering their role in most major wars in the prior few years. In Nulli's case, "The consistent burnout of important people has been a problem for a while now.” In the low activity summer of 2015 Nulli was getting less than 2k kills a month—less than what many small gang PVP corps were getting. Ship losses, too, were substantially down. Players were simply not logging into game. Gentlemen's Club likewise closed its doors partly due to inactivity as well: “More specific to GCLUB, I am seeing a steady drop in fleet participation, and have been getting an escalating number of complaints/concerns about morale, culture, atmosphere, and enjoyment levels.”

Reports of the death of Black Legion also cite boredom and burnout after taking sovereignty: "so too were our members starting to get restless, when CCP finally hosted their new sov party, and no-one came." Many other alliances died during the summer stagnation. Black Legion's stagnation was rather surprising, given that other groups with arguably similar playstyles managed to survive or even thrive during the most recent periods of low-content. Yes, Black Legion's trademark pre-Phoebe playstyle of using the massively flexible jump range of capital fleets to third party fights across New Eden was substantially nerfed. Many other alliances died during the summer stagnation. Yet, Black Legion's stagnation was not guaranteed, given that other groups with arguably similar playstyles managed to survive or even thrive during the most recent periods of low content, groups like PL and low security powerhouses like Shadow Cartel. In terms of ship kills, ship losses, as well as leave/join rates as tracked by sites like EVE Who, 2015 was probably Shadow Cartel's most active year in game.

Take a further, much different case that illustrates how alliances do, and do not, die. EVE University is now 12 years old. This is a group that trains newer players in all areas of space that has been under near constant war dec during that entire 12 year period. If ship losses killled alliances EVE University should have died a decade ago. Yet what E Uni is probably the best in game at is teaching players how to avoid and cope with groups who want nothing else than to farm them. They even recently turned their wars into interesting content, amassing large enough fleets to destroy the POCOs of some major high sec war dec groups. EVE Uni is a group that knows how to survive stagnation and a group that knows how to create content, even against groups who want to simply farm them, and that is part of why it is done so well over the past decade plus.

For another recent case, TEST alliance is currently waging a concerted propaganda war against the CFC/Imperium on reddit (that's my favorite of the many, many TEST posts currently). Very much like during the recent large-scale harassment of SMA space by a variety of smaller groups, the propaganda this time around also often paints itself as a war to destroy the alliance.

Propaganda wars usually help both sides (even if they cause some members to switch respective sides, or move to a neutral 3rd party). Getting pings to log in to defend another POS or Sov timer against a fairly no-name group that likely will not form up is boring. Getting pings to participate in fights against some of the most storied alliances in the game's history, with battlereports filling the front page of r/eve and fights being streamed live on twitch--now that's something to log in (or re-sub) for, even if you are on the "losing" or "hated" side. Alliances are often fluid groups. Some players stay with their friends in the same alliance for as long as they play the game, whereas many others come and go--especially some famous fleet commanders who are known more for their charismaand skill no matter who they lead. It is thus hard to say whether wars in EVE even have losers. In EVE, wars are almost always win-win.

The lesson of this history in EVE--if there is really one worth drawing--is that you don't kill groups by PVPing them. Fighting them, even taking their space or their moons, generally gets their membership to log in--it's content, even if you are on the side losing more space pixels or reddit up votes. It is still, in the end, just a game, and the possibility of ship or sov loss is still a reason to log in and play.

There's also, I suppose, a lesson here about how to kill an alliance or any other group in EVE. You could, on one hand, wait for stagnation to kill them, and try to outlast them. Maybe the summer of 2016 will kill as many groups as the summer of 2015, or maybe the current trend of activity will continue into 2017 (I hope it does). Of course, this tactic very much makes the game a "last group standing," and since it is just a game, there's not much bragging rights in being among the very last people still playing.

So, that leaves another method: denying content. Denying content is very hard to do if you have something that needs defending, such as sovereignty or POSes/Citadels. (This is partly why groups like Pandemic Legion are so impossible to "kill," they simply rarely have attackable assets like sovereignty or ratters/miners that need protection.) But, systematically denying a group content is one way to stagnate (or poach) its membership. If no one fights a group, if no one goes to their space to play or forms fleets to counter their roaming gangs, the game can become very boring for many of its members, especially those like its fleet commanders who play to organize such content. The one and only maxim of FCing is don't be boring for a reason. I would say the current wars in the North are good for the game, and good for all sides. But if you really wanted to kill the groups in the North (and I deeply suspect many of the players leading the "invasion" do not actually want their CFC/Imperium friends to literally stop playing the game), you'd pretend they don't exist, denying any sort of fun or content to such groups, while poaching their membership and leadership with the offer of fun content.
The consistent burnout of important people has been a problem for a while now - See more at:
The consistent burnout of important people has been a problem for a while now - See more at:
The consistent burnout of important people has been a problem for a while now - See more at:"
The consistent burnout of important people has been a problem for a while now - See more at:

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