Art by Major Sniper
Vily is one of the military directors of Test Alliance Please Ignore (TEST). He sat down with INN to discuss a wide range of topics, including the wars that TEST has fought during the past year, their current offensive against Pandemic Horde (PH), and last week’s decision to slow down the tempo of operations against PH, a move which drew criticism from many corners of New Eden.
INN: 2018 was a pretty busy year for TEST from a military perspective. You guys had a lot happening on your eastern front against Fraternity, your offensive against Pandemic Legion in Providence, the big war over the summer, and now your ongoing campaign against PH. Can you talk a bit about all that?
VILY: 2018 was a defining year for TEST. We accomplished a lot, got more people involved in fleets, and succeeded in our objectives. We wanted to make things happen, and we did. I believe our achievements speak for themselves.
INN: Can you give some background on the fight against Fraternity?
VILY: In the early part of the year, the death of FCON was still fresh, and most of Immensea was basically vacant. We set up a line and said, “This is where we are going to hold,” so Frat came right up to that line and started pushing over the line. We responded in kind, of course, and smashed them up in a couple of big battles, and they quickly realized that they were pushing against a much larger contender. They said, “Okay, the line is where you say it is, and we will respect that,” at which point we moved into the summer war, and Fraternity was a big part of that due to their strength through the Asian time zone.
As soon as the war was over, recompense was due, so we decided that we were going to take the rest of Immensea and Tenerifis, the way we were interested in before. We realized we didn’t want to leave our enemies open pass at the back of our space, so we said, “Okay, we need to take this eastern passage.” We moved into a second phase of the war with Fraternity very quickly, strengthened by all of our gains through the summer, and started harder even than we had done in the spring. They stepped back, and after they stepped back we felt that they were on the edge of breaking. We started pushing them into their home space in Detorid to let them know what it would be like if they did not acquiesce to our demands, and they paid us a lot of money, signed a treaty, and that’s what happened.
INN: Can we talk about what happened in Providence? I was in a Provi-bloc alliance about a year ago at this time when Pandemic Legion came rolling in and conquered the whole place basically just for the fun of it, in the hopes of getting the faction Fortizars. They timed that offensive horribly, leaving TEST plenty of time to come in and push them back off the map.
VILY: Yeah, I planned that push-back. The Pandemic Legion thing in the spring and summer was unfortunate; I’m very much a fan of the little guy and I don’t like Provi being beaten up on, but there’s not a lot they can do against PL. We did our best to send support on the weekends; maybe you recall seeing that. So every time we’d come up, they’d blueball, and sooner or later if you send enough fleets and they all get blueballed people stop showing up. Pandemic Legion played the attrition of membership card, and sooner or later we didn’t have enough people to make things happen as we wanted, which is unfortunate.
We actually had intel that one of the reasons they were going through Providence was to have a nice easy Fortizar chain into Catch, so we were working in our best interest as well. Certainly Pandemic Legion was very lazy in the way they were dealing with Providence; they got greedy by beating up on the little kid, and then they got greedy in terms of not actually doing the work to infrastructure-hub any of the systems, so then they were all 1.0 ADM systems and very easy to flip.
Pandemic Legion, they’re a group that has a very strong opinion of themselves. It was very entertaining for us. They said, “Oh, you’ll never be able to take all of Providence,” or “Oh, you’ll never be able to hold all of Providence,” and certainly it was very easy to both take it and hold it. I enjoyed wiping that smirk off their face.
INN: Can you talk about TEST’s decision to drop a Keepstar in Perimeter and how Pandemic Horde responded to your incursion into what had been their monopoly there?
VILY: Pandemic Horde was in the midst of their war with Black Legion against Guardians of the Galaxy at the time, so they chose to cede most of Perimeter to us without a fight, honestly. I don’t think they realized the threat that we represented. There are significant defensive advantages in being the one who holds a structure versus the one who’s trying to kick them back, and the fact that we anchored a Keepstar as opposed to a regular Fortizar further amped the status of us being the ones who held Perimeter. I don’t think they thought we would be able to hold Perimeter for any significant amount of time; obviously, three months in, that’s not the case. So they said, “Oh, we’ll lose a couple hundred bil worth of ships kicking them out,” but they’re three months in now and they’ve been unable to kick us out, and in the future it’s unlikely they’ll be able to do so.
There’s not a whole to say about Perimeter; obviously it’s a very nice source of income, and certainly would have been a massive source of income for Horde because they had no one contesting it. Clearly they were being skimped pretty hard by I Choose You, but that’s another part of the tale.
INN: Have Horde done anything there, apart from the incident a few weeks ago when they put the Keepstar into its armor timer and then absolutely failed to show up and do anything else after that?
VILY: I think that’s the third time the Keepstar has been reinforced into armor. There’s been a variety of light- and medium-level harassment actions, as they’ve been trying to take percentages off our market share. For the most part we’re not super concerned with maintaining a 100% market share; it’s not something that concerns us.
INN: In the context of your current deployment and your decision to change the tempo of your operations, can you go the thought process behind that?
VILY: So basically the deployment as it was has been kind of a slow roll. We’ve been in Oijanen for a while, but it was a jump-clone deployment. We’d jump-clone up here and there whenever there was something interesting to fight. But a week ago, Progod announced it was going to be a deathclone deployment; we were going to go a little bit harder, we were going to do 24/7 raids, and really hard-amp the pressure on Horde. Part of that coincides with the same problem of NC/PL/Horde/Black Legion moving their super fleets in range to support Horde, which changes the dynamics of the field quite a lot. We didn’t give that change the proper respect, and that culminated in Dread Welp #1 and Dread Welp #2. I had to come in and say, “This is enough;” we need to take a step back and look at the situation dispassionately and say, “This is what we can do with the resources we have,” not “What do we want?”
It’s an important thing to be able to take a step back and say “We failed to win these fights,” and losing these battles has significant repercussions on the ability of our members to show up in ships and do the things we want them to do. We need to slow it down and change the pace. Brave [Newbies, members of Legacy Coalition along with TEST] leads themselves, and they were very effective, but running fleets 24/7 is very demanding. We can obviously do that, but it demands something extra from your fleet commanders. The question is always, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” In my opinion, the juice there wasn’t worth the squeeze. We were absolutely hurting Horde’s ability to make income in a variety of ways, but at the same time we were burning ourselves out a little too much, and not liking the value we were getting.
INN: Apart from the tempo of the operations, what has been the biggest difference between that and the summer war?
VILY: We brought a token armor super force [to Oijanen], so we never really had much of a super presence, definitely not one that’s going to be able to handle the second largest supercap fleets in the game. Going up there without a supercap force means you won’t be able to take a supercapital battle, so anytime the battle escalates to the point where supercapitals, titans, and FAXes are going to be involved, there’s no real way to face that trio of death unless your enemy is going to make catastrophic-level mistakes. While Horde and NC/PL are certainly able to make those mistakes from time to time, they generally don’t. It becomes much more situational; you have to wait, wait, wait, to find those weaknesses rather than charging into the breach headlong like we did the last week or two, where we tried to make those mistakes happen instead of waiting for them to happen.
INN: Are you able to go into any detail about what’s going to change going forward as you switch the tempo of operations?
VILY: I think you can already see it over the last week, which is stop feeding fleets. [laughs] Which is a good start. For the amount we’re putting into this campaign, which is a lot but not the whole shebang, there’s only so much result we can get. With this change in tempo, we’re just trying to align our expectation with those resources. We’re not doing 24/7 raids anymore, we’re doing things at a much more reasonable level. We’re trying to find the odd capital victory or gank here or there, like the one we found tonight. We’re just trying to find manageable content that’s going to keep people happy and entertained and slowly start to rebuild some of the momentum we had going in.
INN: It looks to me like PanFam has a very negative image within the game, and what PL did to Providence really seems to have rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. They like to think of themselves as an elite PvP alliance, which was definitely true in former days, but they didn’t seem to have a whole lot of people who were rooting for them to succeed in the summer war nor in your offensive against them in Perimeter and Oijanen. Does that perception of an image problem jive with what you’ve seen?
VILY: Oh, of course. Nobody likes PL. That’s just the reality. They’re bullies. They pick on people and they’re smug about it in front of all the other people they’re looking at picking on next. That’s not a great way to make friends. Traditionally they’ve been protected by having the biggest supercap force between Pandemic Legion and Northern Coalition, and they had arguably the most powerful asset, which was their incredibly penetrative intel network, which allowed them to basically have no spies. Nobody ever knew what they were doing and they always had the element of surprise, which is incredibly valuable in this ecosystem. But it also makes them lazy, because if your enemy never knows what your plans are, then you don’t have to go through some of the other steps that other people have to go through, and I think that laziness has ended up seeping into other elements of their playstyle, and they’ve paid for it.
INN: The game is also a very different place, thanks largely to what Goonswarm has accomplished in Delve, to where being an elite PvP alliance by itself is not enough to guarantee power as it may have been in earlier days of the game; you really need a concentrated industrial force behind that in order to really become dominant in the way Goonswarm currently is.
VILY: I think that would be a component of it. The game has just gotten a lot better. Doctrines are much more standard even among the weaker alliances. FCs generally have a better understanding of how not to get themselves absolutely destroyed. PL used to feed on the worst of the worst, just kill them to the point where, like piranhas, they would pick them to the bone. Now there’s not a whole lot of juicy, meaty, fleshy seals for them to eat. It’s all battle-hardened sharks and the occasional dolphin. My analogy’s not good, but you see what I mean.
INN: Is there anything else you’d like to add, especially about the way people have put such a negative spin on TEST’s decision to slow down the tempo against PL?
VILY: People are going to take my words out of context. I’m not super worried about that. I’ve been used to that; I’ve had it happened since 2007. Twelve years of it. You get used to that, and it doesn’t bother you as much as you would think. Your enemies are going to say dumb stuff; that’s standard. They’re going to spin the world into white if it’s black and black if it’s white. That’s just kind of the way of tribalism; it has a tendency to make people into cultists.
Write what you want to write; I’m not too worried. The stuff people say doesn’t bother me either way.