Eve Leadership: Avoiding Defeat

TMC Archives 2015-05-21

The first part of this article focused on how destroying an enemy was different from defeating him and the implications of this for Eve. Essentially the destruction of an enemy stops them from fighting until they can rebuild. The defeat of an enemy breaks their will or removes their capacity to fight permanently. Avoiding defeat does not mean winning every battle or war, it means not cascading as a result of losing. This distinction is important for any organization in a high-stakes conflict in Eve Online.

A basic fact about warfare in Eve Online need stated up front: player participation is 100% voluntary. No matter how many “red pen call-to-arms” operations are broadcast Eve is at heart a recreational activity. Players fight because they want to, either to preserve their ability to play some other part of the game or for the simple joy of fighting. If warfare becomes not-fun for long enough the players needed to carry on the fight will stop logging in or leave for other activities.

This means that in conditions where neither side can crush the other Eve warfare resembles a marathon instead of a sprint. The side that wins will be the one that can keep the most pilots logging in the longest, not always the one that wins the most battles. Even when an organization loses a war it can rebuild to fight again so long as it still has faith in its leadership. Therefore credibility is the single greatest asset that a leader can have. Ironically, most of what constitutes “best practice” in an internet space war has nothing do to with the enemy. How a leader organizes and interacts with their own force is much more important.

With that in mind this article will offer some general tips for the aspiring space-leader on how to avoid defeat. It is worth noting that the major power blocs are already doing most of these things to some degree. This is why they are successful. Now, with the sov changes on the horizon, there will hopefully be many more ambitious players trying to plant a flag in Null. Building the kind of organization that can survive setbacks is a difficult part of prospering as a power in Eve. It is the author’s hope that some newcomers will do so.

First, leaders should always do their best to tell the truth. If players know a leader will tell them the truth, whether the news is good or bad, it makes them much more likely to follow in the face of adversity. When events take place that make a leader look bad it is particularly important for them to be honest about what happened. Owning mistakes does far more to make a leader credible than only taking credit for success. On the same note a leader should know their audience and communicate clearly, early, and often. Not saying anything in a bad situation can be just as bad as lying. In the absence of credible information players and enemies will come up with their own takes on events. These fabrications will often be far worse than reality and can spread with amazing speed.

Of course this comes with some caveats. Some information must be held back for security reasons. When dealing with hostiles, as the saying goes, the enemy gets a vote too, so statements made about an enemy will never be completely reliable. But on the whole honesty to the greatest extent practical is the best policy. If players know that they are being told the truth it serves to minimize the impact of mistakes; for example a sufficiently credible organization could destroy the titan of an ally due to faulty intel and later admit the error, yet not impact their coalition.

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Second, leaders need to manage expectations. Members of an organization want to know the goals their leadership has set. This knowledge allows them to build a narrative for their actions and gives them a sense of progress. However, many leaders fail by making unrealistic goals. It is far easier to fire up the masses with grand promises than to sell them what is really possible, but the inevitable disappointment when reality sets in makes the leader look like a liar or a fool. It can also hand the enemy a powerful propaganda tool; the only thing worse than failure is failure an enemy will spam in local chat. Forever.

Third, leaders need to keep whatever internal drama takes place in the leadership under wraps. Line players will endure quite a bit of annoyance in the course of a war. Alarm clock ops, forming up for fleets that sit for hours and never fire a shot, structure grinds, and a dozen other less than fun activities are normal in a major conflict. The last thing a line level grunt wants to see is all their efforts wasted because their leaders can’t get along well enough to sustain the war effort. Some organizations are willing to tolerate more drama than others, but on the whole seeing the leadership at each other’s throats only serves to demoralize followers and delight enemies. This does not mean that disagreement is by itself bad. Reasoned argument usually leads to better decisions than any single person can arrive at on their own. Instead the problem is when disagreement dissolves into personal attacks, paralyzes decision making, or so confuses the situation that nobody knows who can make decisions. Knowing where to draw the line is one of the hardest parts of being a leader in or out of Eve.

All the guidelines above seem simple, but the devil is in the implementation. In the real world huge corporations and military organizations with vast resources fail to follow them much of the time. Still, surviving failure can be one of the best ways for an organization to grow. Goonswarm itself was forced out of the first space it ever took in 2006 but remained cohesive. The lessons learned in the loss served it well for years afterwards. By guarding their credibility closely and communicating well a leader greatly increases their chances of long term success.

This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by FearlessLittleToaster.

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