You have probably heard the news. Brave Newbies (BNI) have thrown in the towel on the sovereignty stage. Alliance leader Lychton Kondur has passed his responsibilities on to Nancy Crow who pretty much immediately announced that Brave will be leaving sov-nullsec behind. As a result, the HERO coalition dissolved and former members went their separate ways.
At first glance, this appears to be a repetition of the events following the Fountain War. Back then Test Alliance Please Ignore (TEST) collapsed to less than half their prior numbers from a position as massive organisation at the center of a large sovereign coalition. During that conflict, the Honey Badger Coalition (HBC), which they had founded with others, disbanded just as HERO has now. TEST redeployed to lowsec and many declared them dead. Today we know of course that TEST did not really cease to exist and eventually returned to sovereign nullsec together with Brave. The fate of BNI and the HERO coalition is only superficially similar to that of TEST though.
To begin with, there are significant cultural differences between the two organisations. TEST gestated from reddit, like Brave, but their formative principles were strongly influenced by aGoonswarm who originally acted as their patron. TEST also established itself in nullsec from the beginning. Brave, on the other hand, developed their own culture and went through several stages of existence as lowsec dwellers before they ever set out to try their luck in sov-nullsec. Today, commentators regularly claim that this particular culture was what made them unfit for a life in that region of space. I myself was very sceptical about their chances to maintain their own way of doing things in a gaming environment that has developed a very strong consensual wisdom and political paradigm.
“BNI and their HERO coalition might want to stay away from the sov metagame; but the question is: Will the sov metagame stay away from them?”
“Will the leaders be able to resist the egotripping that has turned other alliances of wild-eyed marauders into bureaucratic nightmares blinded by ISK and shackled by metagaming rules?”
– Quotes from a blog post I wrote in early 2014
Brave declared that they wanted to stay out of the nullsec metagame, stick to their principle of “Fun Per Hour” and an organisational structure that included rudimentary democratic decision making and avoided too many rules and regulations. That was commendable, but time and again the insistence of Brave to maintain their independence has lead them to decisions which many nullsec veterans considered ill-advised. The CFC had offered them an alliance and space in Fountain, Brave refused. Pandemic Legion extended several olive branches but Brave did not want to be seen as allies of PL either. At each turn, it was perfectly understandable why BNI acted as they did, and for a time it helped them to keep up their own identity. Despite being farmed heavily for kills, they did hold out for longer than many would have given them credit for, and that resilience had a lot to do with their self-image.
As writer for Crossing Zebras I share a Skype channel with several Pandemic Legion members but also Dunk Dinkle of Brave. I could see that there was healthy competition between those two alliances and their relationship was not quite as cynical and one-sided as some may think. Frustrations developed on both sides as Brave became aware that they hardly had the means or organisational discipline to oppose the expertise and power of PL, but at the same time, PL simply succumbed to the massed blob of the HERO coalition on multiple occasions, or had to concede that they would not get fights by projecting their power excessively.
In the past, TEST was brought down by a massive war and the trademark relentless propaganda campaigns run by the CFC. Brave suffered mostly from infighting and the attrition of morale. When TEST left the HERO coalition, some already predicted the end of BNI as a sov-holding alliance, mostly because from that time on, drama and infighting continuously increased. At the peak of this escalation there was even an attempt to depose of Lychton Kondur and it appeared that the coherence of BNI as an alliance was shaken from that point on, despite the fact that the coup was foiled. When HERO eventually moved to Fountain, partially with the hope to escape the reach of PL, partially to gain a basis for better income, the last chapter of this story began.
Confronted with the Fountain Core residents and Black Legion (BL), they faced a different sort of harassment than anything they were ever subjected to at the hands of Pandemic Legion. These groups have a tradition of relentlessly terrorising sov-holding alliances around them from staging systems in NPC space. In addition, BL now made a real bid for sov, something PL never did. Previously those new antagonists had mostly faced off against CFC alliances who may grow demoralised by incessant series of attacks but also have a massive organisation to support them. In their established fashion, CFC leadership would ensure that line members could find new homes elsewhere, if they grow too frustrated by life in a certain region. An example of this was the dissolution of Li3 and their subsequent integration into The Bastion. Brave did not have such a powerful and well-organised set of allies to fall back on. Effectively they were the “leaders” of their coalition and the buck would stop with them. Apparently, that was too much for them to handle, both on the level of leadership and collective will.
Peter Merkelis’ popular Brave vs PL snow globe video that made the rounds past holiday season (click the image to view the video)
The Cruel Reality Of Sov Nullsec
Leading an alliance in EVE is a demanding task. Leading an alliance full of new and inexperienced players even more so. That already compounded difficulty increases further if the goal is to succeed in sovereign space. Over the years, a high level of professionalism and integration has developed among the larger groups of nullsec residents. An alliance that doesn’t have its own forums, third-party communication infrastructure, spreadsheet apps and a complex organisational structure can hardly be considered significant. Not only that, most of those major alliances have banded together into ever larger conglomerates that require a whole cadre of semi-professional managers and bureaucrats just to keep them organised. The Mittani, for example, virtually runs his community as his main job, and the leadership of other alliances in the same league are also extremely dedicated to their hobby or masters of time management and delegation. The only alliances which do not follow the same organisational model are the extremely high-skilled and highly competitive larger PVP power players, and even they dedicate themselves fully to developing winning strategies and tactics.
To enter this field on your own terms and remain independent requires an effort that has to prevail against all of those factors: organisational discipline, numbers, in-game military strength, skill and experience. For a time, Brave were able to wing it on just numbers, enthusiasm and – believe it or not – a genuinely supportive attitude coming from several groups in the sov-nullsec community, including PL. The sheer overhead of running an organisation including more than 14.000 accounts in sov nullsec requires more than that in the long run though.
Matias Otero, founding member of Brave Newbies, was eventually unable to balance his in-game and out-of-game responsibilities at the same time. His long-time alliance mate Lychton Kondur had the determination and charisma to go out there and raise hell, but in the end he was also not the type for nitty-gritty organisational and political work. That would be absolutely fine for as long as one doesn’t take things too seriously. Chasing “Fun Per Hour” doesn’t require that much of an organisational structure. The problem is that almost everyone else is taking sov-nullsec gameplay very seriously. Some of the people within Brave Newbies began to adopt that attitude while others didn’t. Many examples of this growing schism can be found in a recent reddit thread on sov redesign and on the brave newbies subreddit. Once a sizable number begin to think in those terms and feel frustrated by the reality of sov-nullsec, “Fun Per Hour” falls apart as a concept under the pressure of constant losses against more powerful groups.
In the end, I think it was the right decision for Brave to return to the position they occupied before this ill-fated sov-nullsec adventure. There is a reason why “Fun PVP” organisations exist in the form of RvB, as NPSI fleets or in lowsec. Empire building in sov-null or even engaging in serious competition with the empire builders requires a level of dedication and organisational discipline that is simply not achievable for more casual players who are “just in it for the fun”.
The hope is, that the combination of changes to mechanics which have been building up for a year and continue further, could result in a sov-nullsec where more possibilities and niches exist. Maybe a time will come for organisations of bold, crazy, inexperienced, reckless and less than perfectly organised groups to make it in some small pocket out there and have fun doing so.
When and if such a time comes, organisations similar to Brave will thrive in those niches of sov-null, each in their own way. They would not be numbering in the thousands of accounts because that would be impractical for such operations, but there could be many of them. Brave itself could continue to exist in their current form in lowsec, but if they want to return to the sov-null game, they would have to change or even split up into different interest groups.
Whichever way they go, I hope they stay dedicated to a fun experience for new players because that is what EVE will need more than anything else in the future.
P.S. I would like to know who came up with the phrase weaponized boredom.