Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Black Matter for the King

Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it;
- Shakespeare, Henry V

On February 21, a year after losing the Providence region and after a year of trying to take it back, Curatoris Veritatis Alliance's (CVA's) Aralis resigned the leadership of his alliance, passed control over to Leo D'Green, and said he was quitting Eve Online. In a farewell message, Aralis held forth as to why he'd been unable to re-take the Amarr Holy land from the infidel:
CCP have made it clear they have no intention of fixing Dominion and there is thus no hope that what I wanted to do can ever be done. I don’t mind a hard road, I’ve been struggling to keep things going and hope alive since Dominion hit. Trying to do something impossible is just stupid and I don’t wish to stray from the path in Eve and CCP have made it painfully obvious they don’t intend to fix Dominion. 
In Eve, as in real life, turning hard times into good times often hinges on one's capacity for honest self-assessment. CVA's leadership has consistently come up short in this department. The "You don't understand CVA" excuse for bad decisions is heard so often from CVA's leadership that it could replace "Ammar Victor" as the alliance's rallying cry. Aralis' self-absolution and his attempt to pin his own failures of the last year on CCP continues this proud tradition.

As most of you know, the one-time lords of Providence were evicted from the region in the first quarter of 2010 by Against All Authorities (-A-) after an ill-considered decision to 'liberate' an -A- constellation CVA leaders considered part of the Amarr holy land.

I've detailed elsewhere how opportunity has knocked time and time again for CVA over the last year. Each time it dangled a chance to take back Providence under CVA's collective nose. Each time that alliance has failed to snatch it back. And they've failed in this regard because their leadership has not positioned or prepared them to do so.

Early on CVA took a 'last man standing' approach to recapturing Providence, the strategy being that they didn't have to take the region my main force of arms. They would remain in place, harassing the foe and wearing them down, until fortune turned on the enemy and dropped the region back into CVA's lap. After all, the reasoning seemed to go, nobody wants low-value Providence with the passion of CVA, so sheer persistence should allow CVA to simply outlast all other contenders for the region. 

While griefing is a perfectly reasonable form of sov warfare, one still has to be able to hold such systems that come one's way. Time and again, by enemy missteps or outright gifts (on two occasions alliances abandoning the region gave whole constellations to CVA in order to aggravate third parties), Providence systems fell into CVA's hands. And time and again CVA was unable to hold onto them except in instances of enemy indifference.

Simply put, post-eviction CVA did not have or cultivate the skill and strength needed to defend nullsec space on its own.

Following its eviction, CVA systematically alienated every reliable ally at its disposal in exchange for short-term gains. This ensured that CVA would be limited to its own resources in the fight for Providence and that members and corporations departing former allies would be disinclined to join CVA. At a time when CVA should have been cultivating friends with the long game in mind, they were doing the precise opposite.

Rather than husbanding their resources and building up their sov warfare assets and skills, CVA insisted on squandering those resources in vain attacks on enemy systems and paying sovereignty fees on systems for which it received no strategic advantage, utility or financial returns. Instead of opening up secondary operations in an alternate nullspace location, which would have allowed them to generate the revenue, supercapital ships/skills and political connections needed to execute a successful nullsec sov campaign, CVA chose to operate solely in hostile Providence. 

Where operations should have been carefully selected with an eye to honing their own pilots' skills and morale in exchange for damage to their enemies, CVA chose instead a constant grind of losing battles. Instead of wearing down the enemy, these fights gradually burned through CVA's resources and wore away their pilots' will to fight. By December of 2010, fully half of CVA's remaining 800 pilots were unwilling to leave lowsec in order to support nullsec operations.

In the end, Providence was not as worthless as CVA imagined, and the old doctrine of "nobody else wants it" proved to be flawed. Even after Against All Authorities (-A-) was overwhelmed by The Initiative, and the vassal alliances -A- placed in Providence after CVA's eviction had departed, new suitors came to court the region. Ev0ke and NC[DOT], both experienced sov warriors, landed in Providence having been pushed from their own former homes by even stronger enemies. With limited pilots and resources at its disposal and limited sov warfare capability, CVA was unable to hold its ground in the face of the newcomers and has been pushed from Providence altogether.

Happily for CVA, there may be better days ahead.

The alliance has not failscaded altogether in the face of recent events, and has found, ironically, a powerful patron in Against All Authorities. While pushed from Providence, CVA remains in Catch nullsec at the border of their holy land, acting as a buffer between -A- and Providence. Working with -A-, CVA should finally begin the long overdue rebuilding of their alliance and learn from their new mentors how to conduct a proper sov campaign.

With careful planning by Mr. D'Green, some help from -A- and a little luck, CVA will be prepared next time opportunity knocks. Then we may see the lords of Providence return.

From everything I've heard, Aralis is a well-intentioned and capable leader. I would truly love to give him a mulligan on CVA's misfortunes and let him lay the blame at the feet of Dominion and CCP. However, many of CVA's wounds over the last year were self inflicted; born of bad decisions, willful ignorance and a profound resistance to adapting to nullsec's new reality. As leader of CVA he bears responsibility for its fortunes. Change, as I've said before, is the only constant. And it is a leader's responsibility to navigate the strange seas that change portends.


  1. Ahhh Mord. You've covered this already. CVA needs to join the NC. Its the only way.


  2. As always, an excellent assessment of the situation. I would also note that two other factors were big problems to CVA. The first being something you touched on, and that was a lack of active participation. It was one of the big obstacles to reforming CVA into a capable fighting force (CVA did have a fairly successful sub-cap capability.. but without supers it could not hold its own) and it was the insistance that CVA was a casual alliance, and that a casual alliance could take back 0.0. Much frustration was had when the active PVPers would get a victory, or get lucky with timers or systems.. only to see it fall apart because 80% of the alliance didn't want to go beyond "casual".. The second was the belief that if something needed to be done, they could step up to do it. Usually those that did step up were slapped down because the changes they would try to make would step on the toes of those who felt entitled. Even within CVA, there was a sort of class structure between those who had been in CVA for years and were committed to holding the course, versus new members who understood that you had to adapt. That you couldn't have people who no longer played the game to keep forcing policy on those who were.

    I hope that the new change in leadership will be a start of a cleaning out of the old guard in CVA. The fact of the matter is that CVA was the only alliance to ever successfully maintain an NRDS region and they still have the technical knowledge and structure to rebuild it. A return of a good NRDS area would be a boon to new players and to those who like small gang PVP.

  3. Interesting insights, Jeremy - Thanks!

  4. Post is very accurate and consistent with what I experienced on the ground in Provi.

  5. Unn -

    You assume that game play is, by definition, casual, which is obviously. That's not true. In any game you choose to name there are casual players and dedicated players. And there are the out-for-blood players.

    A casual chess player isn't going to do well in a tournament of grand-masters. A casual scrabble player's going to get his ass handed to him in a serious scrabble tournament. I've played some pick-up soccer (football for you non-Americans) but I don't expect to get a call from Manchester United or Madrid Real any time soon.

    Games can be played at many levels - from casual to highly competitive. The best players of any game are usually those dedicated to their sport who put the time and effort into winning.

    In Eve, nullsec is the big leagues. If you aren't there to play for keeps, if you're not going to bring your 'A' game, you're going to get spanked. Hard.

  6. Again, you assume all dedicated play is soulless and devoid of fun. Most tournament chess and scrabble players I know love their games. Really, really love their games.

    If you look at the play styles of most nullsec alliances you'll see a lot of fun being had and silliness on the wing. Most nullsec players I know are having a great time and wouldn't play anywhere else.

    However, players who don't participate when the winds of war blow, or who are sloppy and as much a threat to friend as to foe when they do, don't usually get much of a welcome.

    Nullsec among the sov holding alliances is competitive Eve-play. Like any game, it rewards a team that puts time and effort into getting better. For a lot of players, that's where the fun is.

  7. I thought I had already commented... but apparently not. Oh I remember now, when I first read this I was so overcome by joy and happiness that I must've gone on a week long bender of joyous drinking and merriment!

    The universe is so much better now. Goodbye Aralis. 'Nuff said.