♫I guess I’m a Goon now♪

2020-10-18

I first subscribed to EVE in November 2005. To put that into perspective, my character was seven months old when Goonswarm was founded, and four and a half years old when GSF came into being. But don’t worry, this piece isn’t about a crusty old-timer rambling on about his old and dubious glories. 

No, it’s about the present. About what the experience of becoming a Goon for the first time is like for somebody who’s been subscribed and active in EVE for every day of the last fifteen years, always with this alliance standing proud on the horizon like Mount Fuji. 

Day One

So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time…

That being said, to contextualize my experience, I am going to indulge in a brief recap of my EVE career to date.

Pretty much the first thing I did was join a nullsec alliance. That alliance, (FLA, based in Deklein) not only no longer exists, but very few people have ever heard of it. You won’t even find it on archived sov maps or EVE Who. The alliance was already dead and gone before either one came into being. And yet, at the time I was a member and one of its senior FCs, it was the sixth largest by population in the game, with modest dreams of building small-but-tall in the couple of constellations around 3JN9-Q. We built an outpost, patrolled our borders…and got flattened by Mercenary Coalition, hired by BoB

So it’s rather gratifying, thirteen years later, to have just cloned to 1DQ. Delve used to be the heartlands of my gravest enemy; now it’s firmly the seat of the people who toppled them. Thirteen years is a long time to hold a grudge, especially against and on behalf of outfits that don’t exist any longer, so you’d think the wound would be entirely healed by now…But yet I can’t help but smile at being here, knowing my tangential history with the place.

During those thirteen years, I’ve been a highsec industrialist, a lowsec pirate, a W-space colonist, a ratter, a miner, a mission runner, an explorer, a mercenary, a DED site killer, an incursion runner and, most recently, a pro-EDENCOM pilot in the Trigvasion.

That’s the cycle of life for a long-time EVE player. Given long enough, to keep the game fresh, you’ll try out everything. But it’s been a long time indeed since I tried nullsec, and things have come so far since then that it’s a completely different beast, and therefore new to me.

Competence? In Goons?

Back in the day, in the Before Times, the word “Goons” was used dismissively to suggest an anarchic, disorganized mob, all quantity and no quality. Actually, scratch that: it’s still used that way, not least by Goons themselves. But that’s not my impression on joining.

My  impression is fundamentally opposite to that. In my first few hours in Am0k., I…

  • Linked my characters in SeAT
  • Got my ESA set up
  • Installed Telegram and GARPA
  • Signed up on Jabber,
  • Was educated on what paps are and how to earn them
  • Bought doctrine ships through contracts
  • Read several documents and guides…

Overwhelming? Almost. Impressive? Absolutely. 

Disorganized? Absolutely not. 

I feel like I’m slotting neatly into a mature, veteran organization that knows exactly what it’s doing and how to achieve its goals.  Which, of course, I am. I’m benefiting from the current end-state of an unguessable number of work-hours in third-party app development, planning, no-doubt excruciating directors’ meetings, titanic logistical and construction ops…The Goon aesthetic may celebrate the immature, but the alliance itself, functionally, is anything but.

And of course, once everything was set up and I was sitting on a comfortable stack of doctrine ships, the next thing to do was join a fleet and earn my first paps. 

So I did.

It was easy. In fact it was the fastest, smoothest fleet formup of my entire fifteen-year career, by a wide margin. I got pinged by Directorbot, I clicked the Mumble link, I drag-dropped my Jackdaw, I undocked, I warped to FC. From ping to keeping at range 1000 on the titan, less than a minute had elapsed. Two minutes later, we were warping. We didn’t get to shoot anything, alas, but still. Compared to the sometimes hours-long process of forming up Flashpoint fleets with ARC, or rallying for ops with PNS, or the occasional whole weeks that passed without activity in ALXVP, this was quick and slick and fun.

I know there are probably going to be whole days of TiDi hell in my future at some point, and no doubt the bittervet crust will paint itself back on shortly. But on first impression…

I think I’m going to like it here.

Day Two

In those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on ’em…

It’s been a long time since I found gaps in my skills. 

I joined Am0k. Because, y’know. Capitals. I have the skills to fly a Hel, so it’s about damn time I actually got to use one, right? Well, we start smaller. A friend sent me a Nidhoggur, and the GSF standard Nidhoggur fit has a tech 2 large smartbomb on it.

I haven’t used a smartbomb since 2006. 

I’ve certainly never trained Energy Pulse Weapons to 5. Why would I? If there’s one thing you absolutely and unconditionally do not want to do when flying mixed fleets in highsec, it’s fire an indiscriminate weapon that could hit anybody and immediately get you gunned down like a dude with his hands up in Michigan.

I’m also missing Tactical Weapon Reconfiguration V, Capital Energy Turret V, and Capital Pulse Laser Specialization. 

The last time I lacked a skill, it was because the ships and weapons to which those skills applied hadn’t existed prior to that point. Suddenly, here I am looking at GSF standard doctrines and realizing “…I can’t fly that fit yet!”

Oh, sure, downgrade to tech 1 and I can still show up and apply some DPS. But I’m not at the alliance standard yet, and to a guy whose subcapital ship tree is an almost unbroken forest of gold Vs, that’s a feeling I haven’t had to contend with in years. Lately, the conversation has gone: “Hey, Stitch, can you fly X?” “Dude, you have to ask?”

Now, I have a ten-week skill plan just for two ships.

At least some things never change

Then there are more familiar feelings. Joining a corporation comes with a settling-in period. You figure out who the CEO is pretty quickly, but everyone else? Who is just a grunt like me? Who are the directors? Which of the faces in corp chat and pinging me on Telegram are the sergeant-like figures who hover somewhere in-between? I’ll figure those out.

So, okay, I have a Nidhoggur, some Jackdaws, Cormorants and Feroxes, a Rokh and a Megathron, plus a couple of Ares and Harpies for good measure. The pings are flying thick and fast about a defensive timer tonight, formup at 2345. Again, it’s almost overwhelming. I’m thrust right back to my early days, when I was grateful for my more experienced corp-mates who gave me some one-on-one tutelage over voice comms and helped me figure the game out. That’s been my role for years…but right now, I really would like for one of those sergeant-like figures to sit me on their knee and answer my questions.

I seriously cannot imagine how lost a total newcomer to the game would feel in my position. At least I know all this. I’ve done it all before. That’s actually where my questions come from: I know the game, I just don’t know our specific house rules.  

Who do I watchlist? When and where will I be told which doctrine to fly? Which overview settings should I load up? Will I keep insurance payouts, or do they go to SRP? Are drones free, or is there a bunny? Do I broadcast for reps on yellowbox? Which channels should I be in and what should I be alert for in each one?

So on, so forth, et cetera. It’s possible my experience means I actually have more questions than a newbie would: I know more about the game, therefore I’m more acutely aware of what I need to know but don’t. I’m aware of my ignorance. Or maybe all my experience just helps me overthink things and worry about stuff I don’t need to worry about.

I know I’ll still do a good job. If I have to learn by jumping in the deep end and staying alert, that’s okay. I’ve done it before.

But it sure would be nice to sit on someone’s knee again tonight.

Day Three

They didn’t have white onions because of the war…

Well, I don’t think anybody could spin last night into a win. But…

The battle of YZ9 started well. I scored twenty-four kills, including one final blow. I lost one Rokh which helped sink, by my estimate, somewhere in the region of fifteen billion ISK worth of TEST Nightmares and Onyxes, while costing a mere 370M itself. I call that a good trade, and I think I can claim to have acquitted myself well in my debut battle.

All yesterday’s worries went away once we were actually in the fight. Laz is clearly-spoken, he repeats his calls, he keeps comms tightly disciplined, he stays calm. All my questions were answered too: Just the FC, in pings, combat pack, keep them, there’s a bunny, yes, none that I wasn’t already in. 

New questions came up. For instance, “Okay, now what?” after I lost the Rokh. I got the insurance and the SRP before my logoff timer had even expired. I could have gone back and Rokh’d up again, but did we need something else more? By this point in the battle, we’d committed our supers, they’d committed their supers, local was well above 3000, and in an ideal world I’d have said “fuck it” and broke out the Nidhoggur.

We do not live in an ideal world. 

Docking up at the fort and cloning back to 1DQ took the better part of an hour. My attempts to join the cap fleet were stymied by the fact that ESA still, after 2 days, did not recognize that I am in fact proudly in possession of a carrier. Thus, I could not join capswarm. 

That’s okay. I hopped in my Baltec mega, moved myself to the reinforcement fleet, warped to the bridge titan…

…And waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

And then, just for a change of pace, I lingered. I’m pretty sure, in quiet gaps between the chatter on comms, I could hear the server wheezing and choking and the tiny sounds of hamsters collapsing from exhaustion.

At 03:48 EVE time, I lost connection mid-bridge. The character select screen said I was in YZ9, so I logged back in. Twenty minutes after I clicked my portrait, I was finally back in space.

These connection shenanigans are, from a personal perspective, frustrating as hell. So how much worse for the architects of our ~CLEVER TRAP~, Operation Enho, the logged-off titan squadron who appeared and BFG’d the heart of the enemy fleet with firepower that should have obliterated all their supers…

…Only for the server to drool a little and wander off picking its nose. The node, apparently, was reinforced and the trap was executed properly. But the AoE damage simply didn’t apply. I’m told that the first pulse fired and killed a bunch of FAXes…but the other nineteen didn’t.

You can read the full, declassified details on Operation Enho and the Valhalla Ride HERE. It really should have worked.

With a resounding “plop.”

So in the end, we lost sixteen titans and twenty-five supercarriers, and killed none. We destroyed 126 of their dreadnoughts, they got seven of ours. We sunk 450 billion of their ISK, they sunk 2 trillion of ours. Call a spade a spade, we lost that one. 

Oh well.

From what I gather, all our super pilots have like four or five more waiting in backup, so last night was hardly a crippling loss (except in the fantasy land of PAPI propaganda.) It was merely frustrating, inconvenient and anticlimactic. But it has driven something home for me.

Goonswarm Federation is competent. Like…incredibly competent. Let’s set aside the Goons Are Bad meme for a minute and appreciate just what this alliance can achieve on short notice: The calm and focus of our FCs, the genuinely superb levels of comms discipline, target discipline and formation discipline I saw in my fellow line pilots last night, and especially the depth of resource and cunning necessary to come up with and implement Operation Enho.

If only Tranquility could actually keep up with us. 

At 05:30 EVE time (06:30 my time) I docked up in 50% armour and decided to treat myself to a McMuffin before bed. I said farewell to my fleet and logged off. I’d been up all night. 

I didn’t go to bed feeling like we lost: I left feeling like we were cheated. PAPI got fucking played, and the only reason it ended as it did was pure dumb luck on their part. As Asher put it afterwards in a ping, there’s no shame in it if things out of your control interfere. 

For my part? This was by far the biggest battle I’ve ever been in, and now at long last, I get it. After fifteen years of small gangs and PvE, I’ve finally experienced the true delights of super drops, doomsdays, and Clever Traps. I also now fully understand the agony of 10% TiDi and janky server calls. I know that last night was supposed to end differently than it did, if only the game’s technology matched our ambition.

So is it weird that I still enjoyed it? Not in a masochistic way, but the experience of finding my place so naturally in the Goon war machine was a genuine joy and privilege. When the shit hit the fan, finding out where to be and what to do was almost effortless. All my worries and overthinking were gone, replaced by clear direction and an operations framework honed over years to make my small part in the battle as smooth as could be.

Don’t take that for granted, folks. That’s a new one on me.

My final takeaway is that last night proved Am0k’s recruiter right. He said that this whole war is pointless on PAPI’s part because even if they did totally drive us out of our systems, burn every keepstar, wreck every titan and plunder every last ship and module, Delve isn’t what makes the Goons great. On that point, I can now unhesitatingly agree.

I just came through an objectively difficult and frustrating night that at any other time in my long EVE career would have left me feeling exhausted and demoralized, yet I still had fun. I don’t quite know what kind of magic that is yet, but I can say it with certainty now:

I am definitely going to like it here.

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Comments

  • Moomin Amatin

    Welcome to the swarm and I hope we give you better stories to add to the many you already have. I am not quite sure how to feel about the internal mechanisms of The Imperium being exposed however. The “Snek Peepoles” already struggle when they outnumber us by 100k chars, let’s not make it any harder on them huh?

    October 18, 2020 at 1:32 PM
    • Nothing in this article is sensitive. it’s all day-one stuff that any new recruit learns. I’m pretty sure the editors wouldn’t have let this run if it contained anything damaging.

      October 18, 2020 at 2:15 PM
    • They already know. See: spies.

      October 18, 2020 at 2:37 PM
    • Elithiel en Gravonere Moomin Amatin

      I’ve often wondered if I should write an article about my experiences here but feel like it may be too classified to publish. As for the ENHO trap, I do feel like they should try it with lancers instead, as that tends to work better in tidi I think. Boson’s have often failed in tidi.

      October 20, 2020 at 3:03 AM
  • Crush Project

    i always wondered what kind of brainwashing it took to stay as a goon statistic, and i guess this is it…all it takes to win as a goon is numbers. period.

    October 18, 2020 at 2:37 PM
    • Mate, don’t hate me for having fun. 😀

      October 18, 2020 at 2:43 PM
      • Crush Project HamboneHFY

        i dont mean to rip too hard. started a group in another game with a former goon commander myself, but lets call a spade a spade…

        October 18, 2020 at 3:10 PM
    • Moomin Amatin Crush Project

      150k vs 50k

      Now guess which is PAPI and which is Goons.

      October 19, 2020 at 10:01 AM
  • r3dchimera

    Well, that’s cool but it sounds like any other mega null sec alliance ever. I can easily say I had that same experience elsewhere. It’s really the finer qualities that matter, the community, in particular. Glad you had a blast, tho. Cheers.

    October 19, 2020 at 12:16 AM