Header art by Major Sniper.
On Sunday, August 15, TEST Military Commander Progodlegend (PGL) hosted a townhall meeting for TEST members. It marked the first since the collapse of the PAPI coalition and their 13-month failed invasion of Imperium space. PGL is a relaxed, confident speaker. Given the circumstances, he did a good job on Sunday of staying upbeat and on message. However, listening between the lines, an inescapable conclusion becomes clear. PGL has no clear idea of TEST’s long-term future and no real plan for dealing with the Imperium’s promised revenge.
Context for Listeners: PGL’s Terrible Track Record
To properly understand PGL’s remarks Sunday, it is important for listeners to understand his track record in line-member communications. When speaking in public forums to line members, PGL consistently overinflates TEST’s position and brushes off problems. Indeed, based on his record, it is not unfair to draw some conclusions. At times, Progod seems either a blatant, bald-faced liar, or an incompetent strategist and visionary. But what’s behind this record of terribly inaccurate predictions? A primary driver appears to be a desire to reassure his listeners. He does this by positioning himself as an extremely smart strategist and leader upon whose judgements line members can rely. Often, however, this image he projects of himself is very far from true.
These are serious claims, but there are many examples from his communications that verify them. A detailed selection follows below. Again, this is essential context for anyone who wants to properly evaluate PGL’s comments on Sunday.
PGL: Wrong About SS Fighters and Blarpies
The recording of May 23rd Legacy/TEST Townhall has since been deleted. In that townhall a line member raised a question regarding the Imperium’s ability to counter PAPI’s Blarpies with SS fighters. In preceding weeks, PAPI’s blaster-equipped Harpies (“Blarpies”) had severely damaged the Imperium’s carrier and supercarrier fighter forces. Shortly before the townhall a rumor began circulating of the Imperium using carrier-launched space superiority fighters to counter PAPI’s Blarpies. The line member’s question was apparently in response to that rumor. In response, PGL poo-pooed the idea as “so so stupid” and a sign of just how terrible Imperium theorycrafting is. “That’s the level of intellect we’re dealing with here,” he said.
But just three days Imperium SS fighters later annihilated PAPI’s Blarpies as PAPI fed almost over 100 billion in specially-theorycrafted Abaddons. In a follow-up Townhall on June 6, a line member questioned PGL. In his response, Progod followed his typical pattern when his prior statements proved completely wrong. He played off the events as if he—the very smart tactician—expected them all along. He maintained a pose of being ‘in the know’, and made no reference to his own erroneous past statements.
“So the SS Fighter thing about the Blarpies: I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. What happened that night as far as the Blarpies are concerned, the SS are nice, but there’s a couple other things they did that were probably just as important, and the dirty little secret there with the Harpies, is that if you actually commit to killing them, it’s not really that hard to kill them. So Goons finally figured that out. But, uh, yeah, we do have an idea what to do with those SS Fighters.”
PGL’s answer is a complete 180 from his statements on May 23. He suggests only dumb people didn’t realize Harpies were easy to kill. Progod, with his intelligence, expected this. He makes no reference at all to his past, obviously inaccurate statements. Instead, he takes another swipe at the intellect of his opponents. Incidentally, PAPI never fielded an effective counter to the Imperium’s SS Fighters. Blarpies never again regained the effectiveness they briefly saw.
PGL: Wrong about PAPI Numbers
In the June 6 Legacy/TEST Townhall, a line member asked PGL (24:15) whether FI.RE coalition would be moving closer to Delve as part of the war effort. PGL used the question as an opportunity to pivot to an explanation of why after six weeks of defeat and trillions of losses in O-EIMK the pace of PAPI attacks had diminished:
“‘Will FI.RE be moving closer to us from their current space? Where will they be living? ‘ That gives me a chance to segue into something I forgot to mention: So one of the reasons we’ve slowed down a little bit, or switched our tactics to be kind of more skirmishy is that we are going to be bringing some more numbers in. When the opening does come and we do get that opportunity to really push into the constellation and take a big bite out of their space, we want to have as many numbers here as possible.
“When we started this out, the PAPI alliances for the most part (TEST, Legacy Alliances, PL, NC., and Horde) . . . had death clones here and were fully established. Fraternity did not have death clones. They are slowly shifting to have death clones here. We are getting FI.RE coalition moved over more; we’re starting to bring in more numbers from other groups. We’ve got a few other groups who have tentatively agreed to move down, and generally we’re going to try and add as much numbers as we can. And this has actually been quite easy to do.
“It turns out all that shit-talking that Goons do on Reddit kind of backfires. I’ve gone to some groups and said, ‘Hey we’re trying to end this war, you want to come down and help out?’ and they’re like, ‘Absolutely, I can’t wait for all this shit to stop.’ So it’s been kind of fun seeing how much all this ‘Eat my ass’ shit kind of backfires on them. We are definitely trying to get everyone who’s interested in this war ending war down here to help us end the war, and we’ve had quite a lot of success doing that. We will announce them as they come.”
This section is a perfect example of PGL’s communication habits. Even in small details we see PGL’s unwillingness to speak honestly about challenges his alliance faces. At first he says PAPI “slowed down” the pace of attacks. But even as the words come out of his mouth, he corrects himself to frame the slow down—caused in part by PAPI’s widely published cratering fleet numbers—as a deliberate change in tactics to a more “skirmishy” approach. In doing so he deflects possible questions about why his attack plan had failed after months of victory promises and maintains the illusion that everything’s under control and moving according to plan.
But in particular in this example he talks about how “easy” it has been for PAPI to find more numbers. He vaguely hints at undetermined numbers of new allies who will be coming to Delve to help PAPI finish the war. They’ve had “quite a lot of success” gathering these new commitments, but actual details will be announced later. In this telling, PAPI numbers are evidently not a concern but are in fact set to grow, and getting this growth has been quite easy.
Of course the reality was far different. PAPI fleet numbers never really recovered. Less than two months after these upbeat promises about the easy acquisition of new allies, PAPI was in full collapse. In the Townhall announcing the withdrawal, PGL characterized the war as “very time consuming” for a lot of people and claimed that it caused “a lot of burnout.” Once again, PGL dismissed problems as easily dealt with. And once again, he was overcome by those very same problems at a later date.
PGL: Wrong about the Imperium’s Will to Fight
Later in the June 6 Townhall, PGL was asked by a line member (32:24) about claims by the Mittani that if the Imperium would hold out just a little longer, PAPI would collapse. His response was smoothly delivered and typically dismissive.
“Goons have been doing everything they can to bang the drums and keep their members . . . super, super hyped up. . . . He keeps telling their guys, ‘Just one more week, guys. Just a little bit longer, a little bit longer. Surely these guys are bound to break eventually. They have to, right?’ And we’re just not putting that level of stress on you guys.
“I think it should be obvious why, but I’ll go ahead and say it: This is much more sustainable for us than it is for them. Eventually they will realize that, no, there really is nothing they can do to kick us out of here. We’re just going to keep pounding on them in that constellation, and eventually they will fuck up, and eventually they will lose all their assets, and eventually all their Supers and Titans will be stuck in a Lowsec station that everyone hunts till the end of time. It is inevitable. This will slowly start to settle in for them. . . It’s a desperation play.”
Once again PGL responds to a reasonable question with a mixture of conceit, misinformation, and completely wrong predictions. Again he frames his answer as the obviously “smart,” implying that only dunderheads need it explained to them (“I think it should be obvious why, but I’ll go ahead and say it”). Again he frames the TEST position as unassailably strong and presents victory as inevitable and apparently easily accomplished and dismisses a potential challenge as irrelevant.
But of course, we all know what happened. Far from continuing to pound O-EIMK, PAPI launched hardly any major attacks at all after the beginning of June. And they never fielded consistent numbers like they did in late April and early May. Once again, PGL fed his coalition utter nonsense under the guise of calm, brilliant rationality. The challenge he dismissed once again came back to cause significant problems for his alliance. It was, in fact, the Mittani who was telling his people the truth.
PGL: Wrong about Holding Space
This example has been quoted repeatedly in the EVE community. Still, it’s another excellent example of PGL’s typical communication manner. With that in mind, I’ll put it here without much comment.
In a Legacy Townhall on December 13, 2020, PGL said the following:
“But we do have some things we can announce today that are pretty exciting I think. Legacy will be taking Fountain, Delve, Querious, and Period Basis while maintaining all of the space that we currently hold. So we will be getting an additional four full regions. Every single Legacy alliance will be getting space in Delve, Querious, Period Basis, and Fountain. We will be divying it up as a coalition. Our intention there is to build a proper fortress.
“If Goons have shown us one thing, it’s that it’s incredibly difficult to invade Delve, Querious, and Period Basis as long as you don’t fuck it up and do an absolutely stupid defense plan. For those of you who aren’t aware, Querious is the key to holding Delve and Period Basis, not Delve. So, as long as you attempt to defend Querious, it’s an incredible fortress, it really is. . . . [W]e are pretty confident we can hold both (our old area and our new area) with dual stagings. It’s something we’ve become pretty good at. We do intend to create a fortress in Delve, Querious, and Period Basis that everybody has a home in that we can move our most critical and most vulnerable infrastructure into.”
Not much to say about this obviously terrible forecasting other than to point out that once again PGL
1) frames his answer in terms that hint at his own intelligence. (“For those of you who aren’t aware,” he says, because of course he is aware.)
2) Glosses over any potential challenges to this extremely ambitious plan and instead characterizes it as fairly simple. (“[W]e are pretty confident. . . . It’s something we’ve become pretty good at.”) Once again, despite his manner and pretentions, PGL was simply, completely, utterly wrong. The thing he presented as quite doable turned out to be impossible.
PGL: Wrong about the Retreat from Delve
A final, most recent example, is the withdrawal plan PGL laid out in the August 2 Townhall. There, PGL announced the end PAPI’s invasion. At that time, he laid out the plan for extraction from Imperium space as follows (8:32):
“Going forward over the next couple of weeks we’re going to start our withdrawal from Delve, Querious, and Period Basis. There is going to be a lot of fighting still. We kind of have to fight our way out here. We’re still in a pretty good spot. We’ve still got numbers. . . . We should have pretty solid numbers here to fight with.
“We’re going to need people’s combat assets to stay in place. Basically we’re going to be fighting with Muninns, Eagles, Feroxes, Retributions, and Harpies. That’s going to be the main go-to’s. All of your combat capitals, Supers, Titans, Carriers, Dreads, FAX, they all need to stay in place for the moment. The priority for the next two weeks is going to be getting non-combat assets out and unanchoring any structures that we can. We don’t expect to get all of them. We’ll get some, possibly. We’ll do what we can. But we’re going to focus clearly on non-combat assets. . . . Combat assets need to stay in place. . . . We’ll definitely have some fights going forward in the coming week or two, and then as we get closer to getting the structures unanchored, we’ll start talking about getting the capitals out, bringing out the actual combat assets, and then the final moves there.”
In his typical smooth and confident manner PGL described a calm, well-ordered, well-organized fighting withdrawal from Imperium space. In fact there was no fighting withdrawal; there was a rout. PAPI almost immediately fragmented into separate groups, each pulling all their most valuable assets as quickly as possible. Within mere days, the Imperium destroyed PAPI’s entire jump bridge network. IHUBs began to fall all over Imperium space. By the end of PGL’s two weeks, almost every PAPI structure in Imperium space had died.
Once again, PGL elided difficulties and told members they were in “a pretty good spot,” when in fact they were on the verge of a pell-mell collapse.
Last Sunday’s Townhall
With the above-described context in mind, it should be clear what one can expect from Progodlegend in a Townhall, especially when there are difficult problems facing his alliance: smooth reassurances that everything is fine regardless of the actual situation and a dismissal of potential difficulties as not really difficulties at all.
PGL discussed many things in this Townhall. He talked about move ops, future staging plans, standings resets, new doctrines, krabbing plans, moon distribution, and so on. He repeatedly refused to discuss the Imperium’s promised vengeance against TEST, however, despite repeated questions from line members. Only at the very end (approximately two minutes out of fifty) did he say a few words about it. Unsurprisingly, he dismissed the whole idea of the Imperium coming after TEST as hardly worth worrying about.
PGL on the Imperium Threat of Revenge
His comments in full were as follows (46:43 – 49:07):
“So, let’s talk about Goons: As you guys all know, ‘TEST is next.’ Goons have been saying it over and over again, so I think it’s obvious to all of you, the war to take Delve is over for now. We took our shot at 1DQ–some would say ‘a shot.’ We took a shot at 1DQ, let’s just call it that, and it didn’t work out, and we had to pull out of Delve because that situation was not tenable. However, Goons aren’t going to fucking forget who went and attacked them, and quite frankly I don’t want them to. You guys saw earlier this week what happened when Goons tried to come anywhere out of Delve.
“I mean, fuck, for thirteen months they didn’t do shit outside of the 1DQ constellation. They finally have one to two months of success defending cyno-jammed systems with 4500 people and a situation where they can TiDi everything to fuck, and now they think they’re going to go dominate everything? I’m fine with it. If these guys wanna come out and start, you know, running around and trying project fleets five, six, seven regions away from Delve (which they’ve never done), then I think everyone’s going to enjoy the content. I mean they got slapped around a week ago as we were moving, just, you know, as kind of a side note. So I would expect Goons are not going to forget that we went to Delve. TEST is next, as far as they’re concerned, and as far as I’m concerned, Bring It.
“So, it’s going to be a lot of fun for the next couple of years. I would expect them to try to do everything they can outside of fighting on the battlefield, because that’s all they’ve ever done is try to win anywhere else but the battlefield first, and then when they finally are forced to win on the battlefield, you know, sometimes they lose, sometimes they get the game mechanics in their favor. But they’re going to be fucking with us in anyway they can, and they’re going to try and come run some fleets at us and we’ll slap those fleets around a little bit.
“So, we’re definitely not going to forget Goons. Long term, they are the enemy. They will never not be the enemy, and I personally wouldn’t want it any other way. So, yes, we’re going back to Outer Passage to rebuild and rearm, but the goal is still to kill Goons, and it always will be. So, fuck ’em.”
I would summarize his remarks as follows:
1) Goons will probably not try much because they never really do.
2) If they do try anything, we’ll defeat them easily.
By now, these remarks should feel familiar; they are vintage Progodlegend. His opponents—the Imperium in particular—aren’t really a threat. They’re too spineless, or incompetent, or unwilling, to really throw down on the battlefield. If they do, they’ll probably lose unless CCP’s garbage mechanics bail them out.
But even without the context in the previous section, an attentive reader should see immediately through his bluster. Let’s take it point by point.
“I mean, fuck, for thirteen months they didn’t do shit outside of the 1DQ constellation.”
Has he forgotten M2-XFE? Or the 400 Dreads PAPI paid to extract their trapped Supers? The many dead staging Keepstars in NPC Delve? In each of those major engagements but one, PAPI was either utterly demolished or else pulled off an ISK victory while losing the objective. His words here are blatant nonsense, pure and simple.
“If these guys wanna come out and start, you know, running around and trying project fleets five, six, seven regions away from Delve (which they’ve never done), then I think everyone’s going to enjoy the content.”
Fade is three regions away from Delve, not five, six, or seven, but in 2018 the Imperium had no trouble projecting enormous force outside of the Imperium to smash their enemies in Guardians of the Galaxy along with their allies at X47. The Imperium’s victory was utterly complete (it was in fact Imperial Legacy then, although all the loot went to the Imperium), and Deklein was wide open for the taking. The fact that the Imperium chose to take a rich payment of forty Faction Fortizars in lieu of glassing Deklein wasn’t from lack of capability. There was simply no need. The Imperium’s had accomplished their objectives. As usual, PGL is dismissing potential problems as unworthy of consideration.
I would expect them to try to do everything they can outside of fighting on the battlefield, because that’s all they’ve ever done is try to win anywhere else but the battlefield first, and then when they finally are forced to win on the battlefield, you know, sometimes they lose, sometimes they get the game mechanics in their favor.
This is the richest plum of all. As PGL well knows, the Imperium has hands down the greatest record in major Supercapital fights of any group in New Eden’s history. B-R, X47, M2, by far the largest battles in the history of EVE were all crushing Imperium victories. But of course, in PGL’s telling, the Imperium only wins because the game mechanics bail them out. It’s never because of his own stupid decisions. The only record PGL has that can match the Imperium’s record in Supercapital fights is his own record for terrible predictions.
PGL on TEST’s Strategic Plan
The rest of the Townhall touches on the plan for TEST’s future. It can be summarized very briefly as, “There is no long-term strategic plan”. PGL proposed 3-4 months of intense krabbing to rebuild coffers and Capitals, as well as content roams for good times. They do not necessarily plan to stay in Outer Passage for long; they have no intention of putting down large amounts of infrastructure. In his comments, PGL was very explicit about the lack of a long-term strategic plan: (12:52)
“I see a couple of questions here about the three or four months. And guys, what we want to do is we want to set reasonable expectations here. . . . Part of the issues that we had that got us into this situation is we got overinvested into areas because we did not necessarily think long-term going forward. So when we talk about three to four months in Outer Passage, the focus [is] on rebuilding. We want to make sure that we are staying focused on one singular goal and trying to stay lean towards that. We are not interested in putting up another 20 Keepstars and 30 Sotiyos in an area when we don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen going forward and how the game’s going to shift. We have one goal here, which is to make a lot of money, get our ships back, get our capitals back, and get ready to fight again. And then we can start looking towards the next goals.
“Part of what got us into this situation is we didn’t necessarily communicate clearly about what we were trying to do over the last three or four years. We just kind of set up in Esoteria and it was fine and dandy. And then we went looking for wars and it was fine and dandy. And then we got into situations where we were forced to make some strategic decisions that necessarily weren’t the best for us. So, we’re going to be more focused on one goal at a time now, and right now the goal is to get set up in Outer Passage and start making some money again.
“So, when I’m sitting in here saying to you there’s a three to four month period where we’re going to be focused solely on rebuilding . . . that is just our current goal at the time. So, I don’t want to give the wrong impression here that we’re looking at year-long or two-year-long plans and that Outer Passage is part of that. That is not how we’re going to approach things going forward. We’re going to take things one step at a time going forward.”
Although he’s careful to couch his comments in language that avoids assigning blame or taking responsibility for any of TEST’s missteps, PGL’s honesty is commendable here. TEST is where it is because there was no long-term playing by the alliance leadership. When he says, “we didn’t necessarily communicate clearly about what we were trying to do over the last three or four years,” what he means is, “we weren’t following a coherent long-term strategy over the last three or four years.” When he says, “we were forced to make some strategic decisions that necessarily weren’t the best for us,” what he means is, “we made some terrible strategic decisions.”
It’s clear from his comments that PGL recognizes that TEST has suffered from a lack of a coherent, long-term strategy. It’s also clear that he and the rest of TEST leadership have no idea what that strategy should be. Their current plan is to go to Outer Passage, krab in peace for three to four months. Honest questions one might raise about how much rebuilding can actually be accomplished in 3-4 months given the industry changes, still ongoing scarcity, and the risk of Imperium anti-krab efforts are never discussed in detail. PGL speaks as always like all of this will be easy to accomplish and effective. We are to trust that it will be all fine. Because listening to PGL, everything will always be fine. . . . Until it’s not.
One Final Note: This Isn’t Personal
I’ve never met PGL in person, but in my capacity as an INN reporter I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with him many times. I have always found him to be gracious and accommodating to interview requests. He has been by far the most accessible PAPI leader in my experience (as compared to Gobbins who never responds, Vily who simply blocked me, and Dunk Dinkle who threw me under the bus when he didn’t like my article).
I like PGL. We work in the same real-life industry, and if we had the opportunity to work together, I wouldn’t hesitate to do so. I admire the tenacity and commitment of anyone who’s willing to invest time and energy into leading large groups in EVE because their effort benefits so many other players and makes all the major activities I enjoy possible. I recognize their effort far exceeds my own.
If I were in TEST and were friends with PGL, I could see continuing to follow him because friends stick with friends through thick and thin. But I wouldn’t follow him because I trusted his strategic insight, and I wouldn’t expect him to be honest publicly about challenges. His track record of self-serving inaccuracy and obfuscation is too clear.
As a Goon, my desire for vengeance against TEST burns with a fervent heat. I will gladly dedicate all my EVE energies and resources to their destruction and revel when it is accomplished. But at the end of the day, this isn’t personal. We’re all playing the same game.