Header art by Major Sniper
Before we talk about morale, we need to understand it. The definition we’ll be using for morale comes from Merriam-Webster “the mental and emotional condition (as of enthusiasm, confidence, or loyalty) of an individual or group with regard to the function or tasks at hand.” Winning wars in EVE Online requires good morale. To quote Vily, “You’re not trying to break sov, you’re trying to break people, unfortunately.” So, in order to win, especially quickly, one key is to break the enemy’s morale while maintaining good morale for your side.
In general, the responsibility for morale falls upon leadership. Their job is to guide people towards a purpose and to give reason to work towards that goal, along with confidence in their ability to attain that goal. When led well, people can achieve great feats they otherwise couldn’t have done on their own. Knowing this, let’s take a look at some of the factors for morale in this war, starting with some flaws in PAPI’s strategy.
Morale Weakness in PAPI’s Strategy
The first problem for PAPI comes from using the strategy of brute force, or N+1. In the real world, “Traditionally it is accepted that a defending force has a 3:1 advantage over an attacker.” However, due to the current nature of sov warfare, this is not the case for the Imperium, since defending iHubs in open space provides the defender with little advantage. This makes most attempts at defending iHubs futile, unless the area is well structured for defense, is difficult for the attacker to bypass, and the defender holds some other advantage, such as capital/supercapital supremacy. This is why one-way constellation entrances, such as the Imperium’s Helm’s Deep, are ideal for defense so long as they are defended. While PAPI’s strategy of skipping structure battles through iHubs and Cyno jammers seems efficient on paper, if the Imperium deems the fight too poor a risk to defend, the victories are hollow, since almost no one shows up to defend.
This easy-win, no-defense situation creates two additional problems for PAPI. As a PAPI member, it can seem that your presence is not necessary. Let someone else bash the undefended structure. This thinking can lead to declining participation. If we feel our time is being wasted, most people won’t show up. The second additional problem lies in the ability for Imperium leadership to easily avoid blame. I personally cannot blame leadership for losing so much space and structures, since it seemed almost impossible to defend them due to N+1, Cyno jammers, and iHub mechanics. Now let us discuss the strength of the Imperium’s morale campaign.
Strength Through Unity
PAPI’s arrogance began early in this war, with Vily proclaiming to Polygon “When we started this war, we knew that we were fighting this to the end. . . . This is a war to the death. We are aiming for the removal of Mittani and The Imperium from Eve Online. . . . We are here to purge them.” This created another problem for PAPI right out the gate and the Imperium exploited it very early, with the Imperium informing its members in firesides that, as long as we stay united together, PAPI had already lost this war.
Another strength in the Imperium’s morale campaign has been setting proper expectations. As far as I can remember, in firesides during this war, Goonswarm members have been told repeatedly that they would lose a lot of space and structures, until they wear the enemy down through participation attrition. With proper expectations, and the lack of ability to defend, watching so much space being lost and so many structures dying did little to break Goonswarm Federation, as you can see here. This shows how many participants Goonswarm Federation has had during the period from November to June during the war. Faith in the Imperium leadership’s plan has also helped the Imperium stand united.
Unity Through Faith
One of the things you’ll commonly hear from a Goon line member is this: “No not believing, no hubris.” This comes from firesides and leadership in which Goonswarm members are told to keep believing and don’t get cocky. This catchy phrase is often repeated in fleets and allows even the common Goon to boost morale. While this helps, it is small compared to the morale victory of FWST-8.
At least initially, if there were any events that reinforced “no not believing,” it was FWST-8. Not only heavily outnumbered, the outgunned Imperium destroyed several anchoring PAPI Keepstars. These acts, while costly, showed that it was possible, at least under the right conditions, for the Imperium to fight back and win this war. But, it wasn’t until the Imperium was offered the true defender advantage that they started to really fight back against the full force of PAPI.
In the first M2-XFE Keepstar fight, the Imperium failed to stop the attackers from getting to the structure timer. The Imperium also traded mostly evenly throughout the fight. However, with the second fight on the hull timer, PAPI could not resist the opportunity to kill the Imperium supercapital fleet in open space, should the Keepstar fall. Yet, PAPI’s leadership opted to skip a vital step and jumped into the final timer without tether, which would have to kept its supercap fleet safe while trying to load a very populated grid. This strategy resulted in the Imperium killing a large portion of the PAPI supercapital fleet, trapping many others for 60 days, and buffering Goons’ faith in the Imperium leadership’s competence, compared to PAPI’s. With PAPI’s supercapital fleet trapped, and with very high morale, the Imperium set out to reset as much of PAPI’s progress as possible. Unfortunately for the Imperium, this required its own supercap fleet to keep PAPI’s supercap fleet trapped. As the damage to PAPI’s morale waned after a few weeks, PAPI eventually were able to resume their progress towards the destruction of the Imperium, even successfully breaking into the poorly defended Helm’s Deep.
PAPI killed a large number of Imperium Keepstars uncontested. The Imperium did little to stop them. With so many dead Keepstars under their belt, PAPI arrived at the Imperium’s final constellation of O-EIMK. Here, the largely intact Imperium supercap fleet enjoys supremacy with little jump fatigue and the ability to reinforce at a slightly faster rate. With a rapidly declining PAPI participation rate, the force multiplier of uncontested capitals and supercapitals has allowed the Imperium to bridge the gap between PAPI and itself. This declining gap has signaling to many PAPI members that the easy ride is over. Despite the rally cries of saving the game from toxicity, PAPI line members seem loathe to fight the Imperium, which now enjoys numerical advantages in many strategic fights lately, putting further faith into Imperium leadership’s plan for victory. But faith is not enough: numbers, while not everything, are still important, and the Imperium leadership has done well to help bolster them.
Showing Necessity: Finding Your F2
Having done quite a bit of small gang warfare with Goonswarm’s special forces, I can say having alts is a key to winning when outnumbered. The importance of this idea, in relation to morale, is that such work makes you feel slightly special because you know you are needed. Goonswarm has now adopted the idea en masse. A common phrase within Goonswarm has been, Every Ship Counts. Now, with the campaign of “Finding Your F2,” Goonswarm has shown that it needs everyone it can get during this war, including every alt. It has been reiterated on every fleet I have been on lately and serves well to bolster the Imperium’s numbers in these trying times.
The Imperium’s resilience in this war is due in large part to its successful morale campaign. Despite losing so much territory and so many structures, the Imperium’s membership remains largely intact. By setting proper expectations, showing that PAPI can be beaten, and slogans that line members can repeat to each other, the Imperium’s morale campaign has kept it afloat in these trying times. To quote Tennyson, “Tho much is taken, much abides,” and the Imperium has shown that though it has lost much in this war, the morale and strong bonds it has is enough to keep the Imperium fighting. As we continue further into the siege of the O-EIMK constellation, with PAPI’s participation waning rapidly as it failed to maintain any progress in taking the constellation in this already incredibly long war, it appears the Imperium might be able to weather this storm.