Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Not-so Amarr Victor

Today the Minmatar took over Kamela, the system that marked the line in the sand since Inferno hit. I congratulate, the Minmatar for taking it, however, the circumstances under it's fall is a bit disappointing.  Within 24 hours of Moar Tears and Fweddit leaving the Amarr militia, Kourmonen fell.  Kamela fell within 24 hours of long-time FW alliance Lost Obsession leaving.  Apparently, Agony Empire attempted to mount a defense, but being new to faction warfare with no real backup, the results were pretty much expected.

I have a lot of thoughts and musings over the past month, so if this post wanders a bit, there's your disclaimer.  Right now, the pundits on both sides seem to be circling and weighing in on the situation.  I've noticed an interesting backlash against the former-Amarr's efforts now that we're gone.  The truth is, Nulli and the tier 4 push ultimately marked the end of the current Amarr militia, but not in the way that many people seem to think.  I think they just accelerated/delayed the inevitable, depending on how you want to look at it.

Prior to Nulli joining, things were pretty bad on our side and many stopped logging in due to the stagnation and boredom that was starting to settle over the Amarr militia.  When it was announced Nulli was joining, this was put off a bit and there was a small resurgence of hope.  Nulli ended up failing for a myriad of reasons, but at least many of us were able to cashout.  Many argue that Nulli's failure to spike tier 5 demoralized the Amarr militia into quitting, however, I would honestly argue that its not so much that their failure demoralized Amarr, rather their failure failed to boost Amarr morale.  Perhaps Nulli's biggest impact was showing just how dominant the Minmatar EU TZ was.

Regarding Lost Obsession, I find it amusing that so many people are pointing their fingers at them for their failure to do more.  The truth is, Lost Obsession's focus, at least since I joined FW, has been on capital warfare, something which doesn't really have much place in FW.  In fact, the fact that they held onto Kamela for long when nobody else was willing to defend, speaks wonders for their contributions to the warzone.  While they may not have been a leader within the militia, if any of us ever called on FG or Starconquerer for extra firepower, they always rallied what they could for us.  I find it interesting, that leaving FW ultimately changes little for them since they'll keep basing out of Kamela killing big stuff with their SOTF bros and farming LP on Minmatar alts.

The fact that we left due to lack of fights seems a bit counter-intuitive considering the Minmatar have more numbers, but the truth is, once groups get used to fighting each other, things tend to stagnate.  PIZZA, a primarily US TZ alliance, experienced this problem early on and they left for Gallente after a few weeks.  When Fweddit first joined the warzone, Minmatar would throw themselves at any Fweddit gang they could for cheap and easy kills.  As Fweddit gained SP, flying experience, and began winning fights that they should win versus losing horribly, they found it harder and harder to find fights, and their log-in numbers dropped and dropped.  Even though they still lost ships in droves, as they started to learn match-ups a bit better, many within the Minmatar were quick to label them as being risk averse.  I fully expect the same thing to happen to Agony Empire who recently joined for the Minmatar.  Sure they're getting fights now, and heralded as being the kind of pilots the Amarr need versus the bittervets that recently left, but I'm sure that will only last as long as they're willing to welp entire AHAC gangs fighting heavily outnumbered.  I looked at their killboard since they joined and its an absolute mess, looking similar to Nulli Secunda's.  Who wouldn't love fighting that?  What i'm sure will happen is that as Agony figures FW out, while learning their enemies tendencies, their K/D ratio will become better and better until the Minnies become more and more reluctant to engage at which point they'll get labeled bittervet, heaven forbid they have anything negative to say and become "whiners".

This whole attitude is ridiculously prevalent in EVE and is just plain silly.  I'm sure on both sides, whenever you have many small groups derping around, getting picked off by a single group, the winning side laughs and calls them disorganized, yet the second they form up into a competent counter fleet, they turn into blobbers.   I want to point out though, that not all Minnies feel this way, its mostly forum trolls and pundits.  Minmatar duder, Galdornae has a great article here which pretty much sums up all of my thoughts on this point.  I want to say that as a PVP group, I greatly respect Late Night Alliance, and their US TZ is extremely competent, which was also part of the problem.  You can only pull out trump cards so many times against a competent opponent, before the other side begins to predict them, and whether or not one side chooses to engage depends on how badly they've been winning or losing recently.  Also, what a lot of people aren't taking into account is the time zone difference.  During EU TZ, the Amarr were having difficulties getting together fleets that could take on any single one of the many EU TZ Minmatar groups.  While during the US TZ, you had the opposite situation.

 Things had kind of stagnated whilst fighting LNA to the point where, within Moar Tears we were having key members get bored and go inactive.  This wouldn't be a huge problem, but we're only a 25 or so man alliance (we have 5 alt toons in the holding alliance).  I imagine things were a bit different on the Minmatar side, since most of the PVP new blood was going into the Amarr side, so they had a steady influx of new people to shoot, but on the Amarr side, we didn't see many new faces outside of LNA sadly.  Ironically, around the time Nulli had even announced their joining the militia we had joked on comms that in order to win, all the Minmatar would have to do would stop fighting us until we got so bored we stopped logging on or quit the militia.  At the time, I actually pondered writing a blog post about this, but didn't because it would have been a bit asinine.  Still, looking back it makes me chuckle.

Regarding the topic of pundits, many of them are currently weighing in on the situation.  I want to say that the pundits on all sides make me facepalm.  These guys aren't in the leadership channels, these guys aren't leading the fleets, these guys aren't in charge of their alliances, half these guys aren't even in our militia, and most of these pundits spend more time having opinions on things than they spend logged in.  A lot of people, like Jade Constantine, seem to think we didn't correctly take advantage of Nulli's numbers, yet the brutal reality is that early on we had a good plan with great strategic goals involving Nulli, but when the time came to make these things happen, Nulli was off playing in nullsec, nowhere to be found in Amarr space.  Even Cearain gets it wrong occasionally, frustrated with our "decisions" or failure to make strategic goals at key junctions, without understanding that sometimes real life happens for people and that communication and coordinating militia is subject to the laws of reality.  Sometimes, you want to do something but key leaders go on two week long vacations during the summer (shame on them right?).  Sometimes, no matter what you do or how you approach someone, they simply have no interest in coordinating or working with you.  Sometimes, the best paper approach doesn't work because EVE is a game and people won't log in if they're not having fun.  These are all things that pundits don't pay attention to.  All in all, I think there were things that we could have done better, but I really think that we did the best with the tools we were given and I don't really have any regrets.

In fact, the only major thing I really would have done differently if I could go back and do it again, would be to start out in a militia other than Amarr.  I don't think Amarr is a good militia for new groups to FW wanting to make an impact on things and might be too much of a gauntlet.  New groups go in excited about being the underdog, but are quickly smashed down by the realities imposed on them by the game mechanics.  Likewise, new groups might be a bit too sensitive to morale issues, while most of the Minmatar are longtime FW players who are more desensitized to shifts in momentum through the years of ups and downs they've already endured.  I wonder how long it will be before Agony pilots begin to run low on ships/ISK and either pull out of the warzone or roll Minmatar farming alts.  I laugh at people who claim we're bad for wanting Tier 5 without the effort in going Caldari.  There's no honour in being poor 6 months from now because you failed to take advantage of the ISK printing press that is currently FW.  No matter how you slice it, filling your wallet with ISK now to make a push later, puts you in a far better long-term position than valiantly fighting a short-term uphill battle on fumes and being poor months from now.

Anyways, I want to congratulate the Minnies for their warzone push, I think it was well executed and they deserve their victory.  For us, it was a great opportunity to fly against some great pilots and hopefully we'll see them on the battlefield again someday.

Friday, August 17, 2012

You only live once (no regrets)

Today the YOLO Coalition was officially formed.  For those that don't know YOLO is short for the phrase "You only live once" some cheesy catchphrase used by maybe hipsters or rappers, i'm not really sure.  Either way, the YOLO Coalition currently consists of Fweddit and Moar Tears, although a few other groups have been invited.  Also, our merry band is not an elitist one, so if you're a group thats interested in joining and haven't been already asked, feel free to shoot me a mail, which you should probably do since we really haven't asked any other groups to join because we're bad at EVE.

Within the next 48 hours, Moar Tears will be pulling out of the Amarr militia.  Fweddit will be out after next downtime.  I fully expect to read Minmatar blog posts about how they won the warzone and we're demoralized or some similar nonsense.  The simple truth of the matter is, we're bored.  With Nulli pulling out the only real change to the Amarr's fortunes was that most of us finally got to cash out.  Unfortunately, this also means that the stagnation is likely to be a constant warzone feature on the Amarr/Minmatar front unless Winter introduces drastic changes.

For those that need a refresher, the Amarr pretty much were forced to stop worrying about warzone control, since there is no incentive to hit lower tiers and recent history has shown that we can hit higher tiers without a nullsec alliance joining.  This means focusing on the PVP side of things, which for the Amarr US TZ means only really having Late Night Alliance, whom we tend to outnumber heavily during, to shoot at.  I'm not saying that they're not worthy opponents, the issue basically stems from the fact that they're not stupid, so only about half the nights they actually have enough guys to put together a fleet to fight us, the other nights, they stay docked and we stay bored since we don't really have anyone to shoot at.  Also, a lot of our guys would like to be able to roam and/or shoot people other than the same 10-15 dudes every night.  Since there's nothing meaningful we can do with warzone control, members of our coalition have been growing more and more bored until they stop logging in altogether.  This is obviously a problem that needed a solution.

So we formed the most badass coalition in the history of coalitions and are going to fuck shit up somewhere else. I believe a wise reddit philosopher once said, "this can only end well".  No regrets.

Reccomended reading:
Bob FromMarketing made a funny post about our coalition here.
Broetic Stanziel made a cool poster about it here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Nullibros and the great tier 4 cashout

This post is part one in a post that I've been wanting to write for several weeks.  The issue I had was that many of the ideas were constantly evolving in my head and I think my previous attempts attempted to cover too much and ended up covering nothing.  Plus, oftentimes I found it more therapeutic to vent my frustrations at the game mechanics by blowing ships up rather than blogging about it.  This post will mostly focus on Nulli's recent foray into faction warfare and the follow-up will focus on game mechanics and some new insights they were able to help provide.

Nulli Secunda
The impact of Nulli Secunda, I have to say ended up being much less than we expected.  I think the time it took for them to grind standings killed a lot of their momentum, by the time they finally joined a couple weeks had been burned.  Then, they got to experience the harsh learning curve that is faction warfare.  Sadly, once they got the hang of things, they also realized just how boring of a grind that plexing warfare control is and with things picking up in Venal, their attention quickly shifted and redeploying to null became way more important than hitting Tier 5.  Had Nulli been able to get into the militia faster and stayed a little longer, I think they would have worn down the Minmatar's defensive plexing attempts, since winning the plexing war is one of rewards and boredom, but this never happened.

I think most of us are a bit disappointed, but not surprised with Nulli's overall impact and dedication.  For the first week they brought out impressive fleets, and quickly plexed up systems the Minmatar didn't care about, but after that they mostly disappeared from the warzone.  Its worth noting that before they joined, we got 19 systems plexed to vulnerable on our own and Nulli only brought that up to 40.  In the end, I think their only real impact was accelerating the inevitable by plexing vulnerable systems and bashing iHubs.  I for one am grateful for their help, and in retrospect, I think the issue was one of their attempt being something no one had ever tried before.  I think there were many lessons learned and if Nulli or another large group tries to do something similar it will go much smoother.

Taking Kourmonen
No propaganda twist here, we never really expected to take Kourmonen.  In the weeks leading up to our successful conquest of Kourmonen, Minmatar activity during US TZ had dropped off considerably and Metropolis pretty much dies at night in terms of activity.  Combined with station lockout, there's really no point doing much roaming to attempt to get a fight out of anyone other than Late Night.  Because of this, we started plexing Kourmonen in an attempt to get fights, however, once the weekend hit we found ourselves in a favourable position to actually take the system.

The Saturday that we actually took the system, Nulli was only present for maybe an hour of festivities.  They brought a 100 man frigate gang, obviously no one wanted to fight it, so they left.  The other 95% of the cap effort was primarily Moar Tears, Imperial Outlaws, Fweddit, Lost Obsession, The Arrow Project, and a handful of other corps/alliances.  By the time it was clear we were going to take the system, the Minmatar simply started moving assets into Huola, one jump away rather than try to defend the system.  As they were evaccing, I brought out my first smartbomb BS and got myself a Hands pod.  OP success!!!

Why Tier 5 Failed
Even though Nulli still has yet to leave, its unlikely at this point that we'll be able to hit Tier 5.  I don't think there's one overwhelming reason that stands out, rather a multitude of reasons.  Interestingly enough, while the Nulli experiment "failed" I think it gave us the chance to observe a lot of mechanics at work.

1) Lack of overall dedication.  I don't mean to disrespect Nulli Secunda by saying they didn't try at all, I think they meant well, but I simply don't think they expected the amount of resistance for the final 10 systems required to hit Tier 5.  By the time things had gotten to the point where only 10 systems were remaining and it was clear a more significant time investment would be required, Nulli had already given up and had shifted their priorities back to the action in Nullsec.  

Expanding on that point, the biggest issue with Nulli came in the form of failure follow through with commitments and plans we agreed on.  I think if the Amarr militia had just done our own thing from the beginning, we would have made much more overall progress.  Instead, we had repeated situations where Nulli would agree to support us in reaching certain strategic goals and we would plan our own efforts around this unified plan, only to find that when crunch time came around Nulli had disappeared to go fight in nullsec.  This essentially led to several weeks of wasted effort and time that could have been used much more productively.

2) Failure to change overall strategy.  This is just one of those hindsight things, but I think that until recently, pretty much everyone, Minmatar included, expected us to get enough systems to hit Tier 5 and flip them all in the same day.  Instead, over the past week, the warzone had pretty much settled at 40 vulnerable systems and any additional efforts to plex up got defensive plexed back down.  In retrospect, I think a partial answer to this stagnation would have been to flip the systems that we had in order to force plexers into non-vulnerable systems, make plexing in deep Metropolis easier by having stations to dock and stage in, and force the Minnies to take a more offensive stance rather than purely defensive.  However, I'm not convinced this alone would have changed things.  I think it would have helped, but I think the steadfast adherence to the original plan was due to Nulli expectations and promises that never really panned out.

3) Gallente gaining the upper hand over Caldari.  Immediately post-Inferno, the strategy of plexing in allied opposing militia's space wasn't well known.  The majority of Minmatar plexers plexed in Amarr space until we stopped actively contesting our warzone and dropped to 3 systems, which effectively forced Minmatar plexers into Caldari space.  At this time, the Caldari were dominating the Gallente, however, the large influx of Minmatar plexers slowly turned this around giving the Gallente the upper hand.  By the time Nulli joined, the Gallente owned tons of systems ripe for Amarr plex farmers and because people had realized Amarr could also plex Gallente space so we never really got the plex farmer push we were expecting.

4) European timezone and decentralization. I don't think we truly realized how dominant the Minmatar European time zone was in terms of numbers.  All it takes to defend a system is really a single corp/alliance living there with a dominant time zone.  We saw this on the Amarr side with Sahtogas as Black Watch Guard, an Australian corp, single-handedly was able to defensive plex down any efforts to take the system.

In the Metropolis theater, you pretty much saw this effect, but with 4-5 groups creating a stronghold of sorts.  While our European time zone is relatively weak, it can handle groups like Iron Oxide, Zombie Ninja Space Bears(awesome name), Spiritus Draconis, Ushra'Khan, and Electus Matari individually.  However, once you venture into Metropolis, not only are you fairly cut off from the majority of your miltia, the interlinking map layout makes it very easy for those groups to support each other while also being able to completely shut down access to the entire region on a single gate, ie: Eszur.

5) Chatgris and Qcats.  I gotta give a shout out to Chatgris and his crew here.  Qcats moved to the space around where Nulli was basing purely to farm Nulli kills and farm Nulli kills they did.  Many of us were hoping that over time Nulli would improve their small gang PVP skills and by the time they pushed towards the middle of the warzone they would have their tactics solidly down.  Instead, they kept feeding Qcats kills and giving them a reason to stay around.  Because of this, the reality is that Chatgris' crew slowed down Nulli's advance enough in the US TZ that by they hit the primary Euro opposition in the middle of the warzone, their initial enthusiasm was already gone and they never really quite got good at plexing (running away and not giving the enemy incentive to keep chasing them by giving PVP kills) despite being there for the LP and not for the PVP.

The Importance of Perspective
When you're on the winning side its difficult to admit that there's anything wrong with the system.  An important thing to remember is that the Amarr experience is much different than the Minmatar one.  The Minmatar have been in a dominant position since Inferno and the status quo hasn't really changed since then.  The Caldari/Gallente front has see-sawed back and forth much more and as a result, both sides have had the opportunity to be on both sides of post-Inferno game mechanics and have a relatively balanced perspective.  Alternatively, its difficult for the Minmatar to understand our frustrations from a game mechanics perspective.

A good example that comes to light is the issues with the plexing system being totally disjointed from PVP.  From the Amarr perspective, there isn't much you can do in terms of warzone control since even if you sneak up on them with a cloaked stealth bomber, the plexer just gets in another cheap plexing frigate and keeps plexing or warps off and runs down other timers and you're lefting fighting a battle you'll never win.  On the other hand, the Minmatar have little to complain about because going after plexers yields them tons of PVP, most recently in the form of Nulli Secunda and previously in the form of Fweddit and pretty much any newcomer to Faction Warfare.

As a result, our assessments of game mechanics tend not to match up very well.  With the amount of factional pride present in FW, no one wants to admit that their success might also partially be favourable game mechanics.  I don't want to take away from the Minmatar's successes by saying that the only reason they're winning is because of game mechanics.  I just want to point out that when you're winning, you're less likely to notice things that are wrong with the system.  I think that many of us on both sides were hoping that Nulli would have a significant enough impact to create a situation where they would be able to experience some of our frustrations with the system, but I think this is very unlikely now and I expect only minor tweaks for the winter patch.  This is really unfortunate, since our CSM delegate Hands is on the Minmatar side and even though he attempts to hear as many viewpoints as he can, being able to experience things firsthand would have been a great evaluative opportunity.

Post-Nulli and Final Thoughts
Now that Nulli has gone back to nullsec, I fully expect things to settle back to the level of stagnation that they had prior to them joining.  I'm not going to deny that many of us in the Amarr militia were disappointed we were unable to hit Tier 5.  One thing that I found surprising, however, is the mixed responses to the near Tier 5 miss.  Many people feel angry at Nulli, others feel as if they've caused more long-term harm than good, while many of us were just happy to be able to cash out the LP we've accrued since Inferno.  I think the feeling among most leadership within the Amarr militia is that we're just glad that our people have been able to cash out on LP and hopefully bring some more interesting ships to fleets from here on out.

I doubt that there will be much defense of the massive warzone push.  Namely because not much in terms of the status quo was really broken while Nulli was here.  We never quite attracted the farmers en masse that we had hoped, and the ones that we did get just plexed in vulnerable systems or Gallente space.  None of the Minmatar staging areas were changed, so attempting to contest our warzone would likely end up in a situation similar to the first 6 weeks of Inferno. We actually started running plexing fleets the week prior to Nulli flipping in an attempt to get to Tier 5, but by the time that week was over our fleets were a fraction the size of the ones we started with and people just stopped logging on.  I think many of us, Minmatar included, were hoping this would be a catalyst needed to break the stagnation of the warzone, but in reality not enough has really changed to enable that.  Honestly, most of us within the new guard are just happy that we can go back to not caring about the warzone and back to focusing on PVP.