Sins of a Solar Spymaster #58 - Painful Lessons: The Fall of IT
The unthinkable has happened: our adversaries of the Great War, the core corporations which once formed Band of Brothers - the same corporations which laid the foundation of IT Alliance - have schismed, splitting apart into factions amid a storm of acrimony and finger pointing. The Fountain campaign was over in a flash, beginning around December 7th with the first conquest of J5A and ending with the capture of ITs staging system in 6VDT on January 31st. The dissolution of IT Alliance leaves a narrative vacuum in New Eden, and many of us who have been fighting them in their various incarnations over the years are left blinking and confused, like a cat flummoxed that the mouse it was toying with has finally died.
I have often commented that wars in EVE are lost by the loser, not won by the winner; while the Deklein Coalition was effective on the offensive against IT, all external military pressure is essentially the same and not unique to the aggressor. To explain the collapse of IT, we must focus on what went wrong within the alliance itself.
In the course of the Second Great War, Band of Brothers was demolished, but the core corporations spent several months recuperating before reforming as IT Alliance. Where previously BoB was an elite organization with a swath of pet alliances forming the Greater BoB Community, IT Alliance was a big-tent umbrella alliance which freely mixed the corporations of BoB and the GBC under one banner. In preparation for their return to nullsec, IT Alliance recruited massively, their numbers breaching 6000 pilots at one point, making them the largest alliance in EVE.
In January of 2010, IT began to capture Fountain from Sons of Tangra, the renters Pandemic Legion had installed in that region. After IT snapped up several SoT stations and destroyed five PL Titans in the lagged-out battle of Y-2, Pandemic Legion announced that it was no longer interested in holding space as a sovereign entity and abandoned its mostly-uncontested area of Fountain to IT.
IT began attacking Goonswarm-held Delve, but ran into a brick wall and made no progress. However, the angels of idiocy intervened, and in February 2010, Goonswarm abruptly imploded and abandoned the region to IT, along with Querious and Period Basis. This left IT in control of all of former BoBs territory, along with three primary allies: The Initiative, which resided in Immensea, Against All Authorities in Catch, and Ev0ke in Cloud Ring.
In April 2010, IT attempted to put together MAX 2.0, a multi-front assault against the Northern Coalition in concert with Atlas and Against All Authorities, This ended in spectacular failure, resulting in mass supercapital losses in the Tribute system of H-W in May. After withdrawing from that campaign in August, IT reset their allied neighbors in Cloud Ring, Ev0ke, and commenced taking Ev0ke technetium moons in Syndicate.
In September, after Atlas collapsed, Against All Authorities came under attack by PL and the Drone Russians; the famously poison-tongued -A- diplomat Blaster Worm demanded aid from IT Alliance in such an offensive way that IT Alliance reset -A- and immediately invaded Catch, working in concert with PL and the DRF which knocked the -A- bloc out of power and its space for months.
In October 2010, the Deklein Coaliton (also known as the Cluster****) began purging Cloud Ring, owned by Ev0ke. Cloud Ring was a border region between the North and ITs territory, but IT had reset Ev0ke and cannibalized their moons two months previously. Without allied support, Ev0ke opted to abandon the region for Providence.
With the Cloud Ring pacified, the Deklein Coalition began constructing a jump bridge highway that stretched from VFK in Deklein down to the border of Fountain at B-D, which would allow for both rapid defense of Cloud Ring against possible IT retaliation, as well as posing a significant offensive threat. IT attempted to prevent the construction of this Eye of Terror highway, and assaulted B-D. Their attack was repelled.
The thwarted attack on B-D provoked a full-fledged invasion of Fountain, first in the border system of J5A and progressing to the critical station in PNQY, which allowed easy capital attacks on the rest of the region. Ugly leaks from the IT Alliance private CEO forums began to paint a picture of an organization riven with internal strife. After a series of defeats and the loss of 9R4, the renter alliances of IT began to collapse and evacuate. On January 22nd, an ambush in Z30 saw both Deklein Coalition and Northern Coalition forces bait and trap the IT supercapital fleet. That same day, two major corporations in IT, X13 and Finfleet announced that they would be leaving the alliance, delivering a poison pill ultimatum on their way out.
Retreating to their staging system of 6VDT, ITs leader SirMolle gave a speech in hopes of rallying his troops; the Deklein Coalition did the same, and mustered 1270 players to camp 6VDT 23/7 for an entire week. With their staging system lost and their military assets trapped within, IT shattered and Fountain was taken. A more detailed analysis of the conquest can be found in one of Captainktainers excellent news updates, as well as a dizzying array of EN24 pieces.
What flaws in ITs structure could have contributed to such an abrupt collapse?
*Lack of Identity & Factionalism: IT Alliance lacked a strong identity. While it was initially conceived as a respawn of Band of Brothers plus BoBs affiliated blues, this diluted the previous elite PvP identity of BoB; IT then recruited just about anyone, ballooning rapidly in size, including some corporations with laughable reputations. Lacking an answer to the question of who are we and increasingly the butt of unkind jokes, factions began to form within the alliance itself. Unsurprisingly, these factions saw the old guard BoB-era corps and membership at odds with the newcomers. The old guard viewed the newcomers as irrelevant, and the new guard resented the old guard for being much less active in Eve, coasting on past glories.
*Corporate Fiefdoms: Unlike many modern alliances, IT retained a system of corporate fiefdoms where each corporation was allotted specific territory, given certain moons, and expected to care and provide for its members - as well as motivating them for war - separately from the alliance as a whole. This further eroded any sense of alliance identity, as well as contributed to a culture of externalization. When something went wrong, corporations would often blame other member corps for it; Reikoku and Finfleet were constantly at odds. If the corporations had been subsumed more into the whole of the alliance, pilots would have been more likely to identify with their alliance first, not their corp.
Additionally, the corporate fiefdom structure meant that IT had difficulty adapting rapidly to changing circumstances, such as new fleet doctrines or hostile invasions; instead of one autocracy shifting its stance, ten or more separate city-states had to alter reimbursement systems, adjust tax rates, individually motivate their members - the duplication of effort and inefficiency is enormous.
Perhaps the strangest expression of corporate fiefdoms was that CEOs of any member corp could override the orders of alliance-level fleet commanders engaged in war. Argentina, CEO of Reikoku, increasingly attempted to assert control over the too independent FCs. In most alliances - especially those on the defensive - CEOs have no say or comment on what an alliance-level FC does with his fleets.
When things began to go wrong, the fact that corporations were powerful independent units within the alliance meant that they were well-equipped to cleave off and form their own schisms, which is exactly what happened; Finfleet and X13 formed Raiden, and The Executives, Dark Rising and ANZAC have moved away together and are in talks to form their own alliance as well.
*Lack of Communication: In his final speech to the IT membership, SirMolle, the nominal alliance leader, responded to a complaint from a member about a lack of communication by stating that, what we need is not more communication, but more information. The idea of a two-way dialogue between leadership and membership was outright refused. One-way information was not to be passed down at the alliance level at all, but by the individual CEOs making up the corporate fiefdoms. This led to a massive information disparity and substantial member bitterness; members of some corporations were given relatively open assessments about the course and progress of the Fountain war, where the membership of some corporations were kept in the dark or lied to by their CEOs. When these deceptions began to come to light, the pilots in the no information corps stopped logging in.
*Absent, Uninvolved Autocrat: The primary purpose of an alliance leader is to provide direction and resolve disputes. When the factional dispute between Reikoku and Finfleet/X13 exploded into drama, SirMolle blamed his CEOs and took no steps to fix the issue. Meanwhile, he promised to lead a counterattack personally to defend Fountain, and then he didnt show up for it. While the fall of both Atlas and Goonswarm shows the danger of an absent autocrat, SirMolle wasnt merely absent, but actively disinterested in performing the necessities of the job even when he was available.
*Culture of Externalization: Externalization is a process in which responsibility for problems or failures is placed on others, and IT was rife with this, possibly stemming from the tone at the top. Failures were blamed on by one corp on another, by the autocrat on the CEOs, by old guard members on new guard members. The biggest problem with externalization isnt the dangerous infighting and drama it causes, though that is serious; externalization means that problems can never be accepted and failures cannot be adapted to, as they are always someone elses fault. Internalizing cultures make for more successful alliances (and people).
*Backstabbing Allies, Ceding Border Regions: Before the invasion of Fountain, IT Alliance was buffered from hostile attacks on the northwest border by Ev0ke, their allies in Cloud Ring. They were also buffered from an assault on Querious by their alliance with Against All Authorities, who owned Catch. Over the course of two months, ITs leadership elected to reset Ev0ke and take their moons as well as reset and invade -A-. When Ev0ke came under assault by the nascent Deklein Coalition, IT could have reached out to defend their former ally to preserve a border region but did not. When -A- recovered from the backstabbing from IT, it commenced seizing Querious from IT just as Fountain began to fall.
Compared to the implosions of Goonswarm and Atlas, the structural problems of IT Alliance were on a different order of magnitude. The collapse of IT Alliance wasnt actually a reflection of the successes of the Deklein Coalition, though as one of the DC leaders I would dearly love to claim that credit. IT Alliance collapsed due to a nexus of catastrophic problems, any one of which would have been enough to cascade an alliance under assault. A lack of identity, warring factions, an alliance made up of completely independent corporations, FCs under the thumb of powerful CEOs, an autocrat unwilling to resolve disputes and a nasty habit of devouring their closest allies doomed IT Alliance to failure long before Fountain began to fall.