I returned home from Las Vegas with a two-day hangover and the
unsettling realization that my alliance, Goonswarm, was on fire. Not
'on fire for Jesus,' either - we were getting our collective asses
handed to us by KenZoku, our anime-themed nemesis, and the eighteen
other alliances they had brought to the party. Even worse, just as our
enemies launched their bid to seize Querious from us, GS participation
was in the gutter. Out of an alliance of six thousand, with our space
being invaded by our enemies - enemies who were not merely competitors,
but detested foes against whom we've prosecuted a three-year grudge -
Goonswarm couldn't muster a fleet of more than one hundred pilots in
our prime timezone. Chaos ensued. Once more, it was time to do the
'Participation Dance,' the frantic series of gestures and utterances
that alliance leaders and fleet commanders go through in order to try
to inspire their players to actually log in and play EVE. But compared
to more mundane challenges - such as how to manage a coalition of tens
of thousands of players, how to invade and conquer hostile territory,
or how to manage a capital production chain, player participation is by
far the most poorly understood facet of 0.0 warfare.
From an outsider's perspective, one might think that this would be
easy. EVE is a game, and games are fun, right? But this is EVE, and the
bleeding-edge of alliance warfare is often deadly boring if not an
exercise in outright masochism. The core mechanic of conquerable space,
which is to say placing, defending, or destroying player-owned starbase
(POS, 'pos warfare') is widely acknowledged - even by its aficionados -
as being about as entertaining as engaging in a little 'freestyle
dentistry' on oneself with a claw hammer. Due to the magic of strontium
clathrates, players get to enjoy this delightful hobby at a time chosen
by their enemy - usually at an ungodly hour in another timezone
requiring that players set an alarm clock before having the privilege
of applying hammer to tooth.
It's not so bad, one could argue; it is through pos warfare that
alliances claim sovereignty and secure the riches and status of 0.0
space, a galactic hazing ritual writ large. There are massive fleet
battles with capital ships dying en masse, surprise turnabouts and
dramatic espionage coups to spice things up. But losing isn't fun, no
matter how much some alliances try to tell their members that they
don't mind the process. A pilot can escape a bad time in EVE simply by
not logging in, so when the enemy's boot begins hitting their face,
quite a few choose this option. Since the dawn of combat in 0.0,
alliances have struggled with the question of how to get people to
fight when the going gets tough. Some plead, some threaten, some pen
nationalistic appeals - and no one has yet figured out the secret. The
most common methods are explained below:
Just the Facts
Sometimes, people simply don't know what's happening on the front
lines. An objective accounting of the course of the war is a brave
step, because there's always a degree of deception between an
alliance's leadership and their members, especially when things look
bleak. Rather than trying to cushion recent losses, one can hope to
inspire participation with unfiltered truth. The only problem is that
this could backfire and send your alliance plunging into a failure
cascade if the average member sees the fight as hopeless.
The Inspiring Post
: A much more common
and safer option than the truth, this is a bit of forum demagoguery
making a nationalistic call to arms, an old-fashioned rallying cry. The
biggest risk with these types of messages is that they've become so
common that it's hard for an older player to get fired up by them;
worse, if participation isn't actually boosted by the rallying cry, it
can be seen as a crippling leadership failure.
The Big Speech
Similar to the Inspiring Post, the Big Speech takes place on teamspeak
or ventrilo. This relies on the natural charisma of whomever is making
the speech, and charisma is in short supply in spaceship nerd circles.
However, the biggest advantage of this method is that it gets a horde
of pilots online at one point in time, and it's a short step from
listening to a speech to logging into the game itself. Goonswarm has
used this method to launch offensives for years now; after mustering
600 people in one channel to hear a 'State of the Goonion', we ask
everyone to log in and go on a rampage.
Named for the very deceased Lotka Volterra alliance, 'going all
lotka.org' has entered EVE parlance as a metaphor for heavy-handed
moderation. Lotka's forums were infamous for moderators who would
censor and delete any post made by a member which was not sufficiently
optimistic; dissent or expressions of worry about their strategic
situation were vigorously quashed. Predictably, anyone so censored
became immediately disenchanted with the alliance leadership. Their
participation flatlined, and Lotka Volterra was annihilated within a
paltry 47 days. Despite this link being obvious from the psychological
perspective (censorship -> disenchantment -> death)
innumerable alliance directorates have fallen for this trap.
The Red Pen
About the only thing that Veritas Immortalis left behind was this gem
of an alliance mail from their leader, Light Darkness, in the throes of
a participation slump:
I got this descission.
But i have to descide so.
Every Corp they dont
show up 100% of all thier members (they are online) in
RYC have to descide if
they want to stay in V. or i will help in thier descission !!!
Iam really pissed off. I
dont sleeped this night to defend our POSes (-V-) POSes
But from 80 in Alliance
was ONLY 15 in RYC. in the next 10 hours everyone
have to regroup in RYC.
That means = 150 online
-> 140 in RYC !!!
AND IF RA/GOON build up
a POS there we will destroy this POS immidiently.
Everyone he have a CS
have to prepare his CS and i dont accept any excuses.
And guys. Iam pissed off
and i thought we are a alliance where we work
together. But if that
failure. I will fire the red pen over the Alliance.
We're still not sure what exactly he meant, but "Red Pen" sounds
intimidating. Over time, it's grown to represent a broad range of
vaguely incoherent threats to show up on ops, or else. "Don't make me
fire the red pen."