A couple of things happened this week to get me musing. One was a recurring thing where someone from outside of your alliance challenges your past decisions and place in the order of things. This happens alot as everyone has an opinion on everyone else’s achievements if it involved themselves at any point.
The other thing was being interviewed for a possible future article in EON Magazine. The interviewer was asking about the time my alliance, The Ushra’khan, was hijacked and temporarily disbanded by our then head diplo, and how we dealt with it and kept going (the interview wasn’t about me, I just happened to be the old-vet-guy dragged into the chat).
The first thing came from an Against All Authorities member who feels that we were dishonourable in how we broke off relations with them and then joined the other side back when we were living in Omist as guests of Imperial 0rder. As Imperial 0rder were themselves in Omist as part of -A-‘s coalition, this guy is firmly of the opinion that we owed them (-A-) loyalty. I, and pretty much the rest of Ushra’Khan, felt that our loyalty was to Imperial 0rder and our relationship with -A- had amounted to nothing more than ISK payments for a long time. Whatever we did once ‘owe’ to -A- was paid long ago. I have talked more about our convoluted relationship with -A- before, so I’ll leave this subject with that.
The reporter seemed to have gotten the idea for his article from seeing our current recruitment thread; I think he thought that Ushra’Khan was already long gone. Which begs the question; why is that? (Note that I wasn’t surprised by this ‘revelation’, it just got me thinking)
I think that our roller-coaster of up’s and down’s in the twenty months since that fateful hijacking has managed to see us largely running around in the shadow of larger events. We were disbanded in high profile, reformed under a new name with much less fanfare then left Providence behind and reverted back to the original identity three months later (the original name had been returned to us in the meantime). The next year saw us move around alot but we weren’t involved much in larger events and were off the sov map (by choice for the most part, burn out is a bitch).
So here’s a thing. Once we left sov behind, we found that we were at a ‘marketing disadvantage’ and recruitment became harder. People want access to null sec benefits, and if you aren’t offering them, but trying to operate in null sec, then it can be hard to seal the deal. Couple that with the general sense across EVE that the game was stagnating (the infamous ’18 months’ period pre-Incarna) and small gang action in null sec was getting generally harder to find.
Here’s another thing, if you don’t continually recruit, eventually your numbers decline as players naturally move on (from your corp/alliance or from EVE entirely) regardless of what you do. You can be the most successful alliance in the game and you’re still going to lose formerly good and active players to some extent for whatever reasons.
Eventually, after nearly a year, we decided to go back into sov holding. We were by now a fairly small alliance and needed to attract fresh blood while deliver more opportunities to do stuff to our existing members. But for a small alliance, there is of course no realistic chance to take and hold sov. You need to get in with a larger coalition in order to compete with the ubiquitous blobs that gather for key sov timers. If you don’t have manpower, you’re easy prey for anyone who cares to come knock you over for lulz.
But even then, as a small cog within a much larger coalition, how do you retain an independent identity and project that to the wider community? That, is difficult. When people talk about developments in null sec, they speak in terms of power blocs, and if they do mention specific alliances, it is invariably the large alliances that lead said power blocs. The smaller entities don’t get much of a look in.
CVA’s Providence (up to early 2010) was made up of at least a dozen alliances living within the region, but only those with intimate knowledge of the area are likely to be able to name any. -A- are credited with destroying that bloc but few could name the alliances that collectively made up the bulk of the forces they used to do it. The conflict is simplified as “CVA vs -A-“. In reality Ushra’Khan pilots, and others too, often out numbered -A- in fleets during the long unglamorous slog through endless timers that kept the offensive rolling over months.
So, the dilemma. Is it better to be a cog within the greater machine, but have access to sov goodies, or to stand alone and hope to foster recognition while living on the sidelines of ‘greater events’?
It is a very tough balance to strike. I think that I have seen Ushra’Khan both prosper and falter while attempting both approaches at different points in its history. The plucky underdog harassing CVA’s ‘Amarrian Providence’ earned recognition for its (often futile) attempts to tackle the larger foe almost single-handed, but was not able to actually win that war or move beyond ‘mere harassment’ without linking itself to -A-‘s coalition, at which time Ushra’Khan saw unprecedented growth and strength.
More recent attempts at aligning with coalitions were less successful, as moving in with Imperial 0rder (again ultimately under -A-‘s bloc) and then under Red Alliance and the DRF, saw Ushra’khan to struggle with projecting an identity within the larger conflict and became to feel increasingly stuck in the role of ‘small cog’. Maybe if Omist had proven stable for longer then the anticipated recruitment boost might have happened, but for months it proved difficult to recruit as intended with membership often feeling ‘lost in the blob’.
Recently we have redeployed away from the main battlegrounds to Geminate, bordering Minmatar space. The action is smaller in scope and I think its time once again to ask that question; what sort of alliance is the Ushra’Khan to be, and how does the little guy build his reputation?
I think that is the question all alliances need to ask themselves, and then really work out how to achieve it. You can’t be one thing forever in EVE, adaptation is mandatory. Friends are good and open doors, but beware getting lost in the crowd.