December 4, 2016

The Evolving Mercenary in a Post-NETC New Eden

The New Eden Trading Company was announced on November 21 via a Reddit post by C4w3. Its goal is to create a highway across the galaxy which provides a safer way to travel across the New Eden. Much like real highways, the NETC network also wants to have little convenience stores along the way in the form of new and "easy-to-access markets". It's a bold plan and people have predicted everything from massive success, middling results, or complete failure. The truth is, only time will tell how effective the NETC is at achieving its goals.

My interest lies mainly in how it may effect Mercenary Coalition. MC is on the forefront of the project. You could say that Seleene had the original idea years ago with Tortuga which never came to fruition and perhaps helped initiate the downfall of the original Mercenary Coalition.

The firm idea of NETC came about in conversations between Sabre A, Seleene, Lenny and a few others earlier this year. One of the first steps of the process was having Mercenary Coalition build the Basgerin keepstar in late August. It was freeported November 21 in conjunction with the NETC announcement. Lenny has stated that, "All roads lead to Basgerin." This puts Mercenary Coalition right in the middle of, not only the map of New Eden, but in the center of one of the biggest projects ever attempted in EVE. 30% of the profit from NETC will go towards paying the members, meaning MC in this case.

In EVE, mercenaries have historically valued their freedom. Noir. has almost always based out of lowsec (with one exception in Providence) and owned very few structures so that there were few, if any, vulnerable areas. No one could attack an important asset while we were on contract, diverting our attention. Mercenary Coalition has done the opposite: we own space in Tribute and our flag flies over arguably the most important keepstar in the NETC. So why give up the potential freedom of movement and take on potential chinks in our armor?

Old players are familiar with EVE's old adage: adapt or die. If you're a new player, I recommend committing it to heart quickly. In a post NETC game, I believe Mercenary Coalition will take on a new form. We're embedding ourselves into the market in a way that the game hasn't seen before. It's more akin to books like The Starfisher Trilogy, where mercenaries are strong enough to rival governments. Their power extends as much through their economic and corporate ties as it does through their firepower.

Mercenaries in EVE have always extended their power by deploying to a region and winning the military front. In Noir., top-performing pilots were paid and the corporation put a bit of money in the bank, but it wasn't a mind-boggling amount; we had to consistently work to have contracts lined up or else we'd not only lose the interest of our members but we'd also run out of ISK.

When a mercenary is secure financially and has roots buried deeply within a robust economy that's producing enough ISK to not only cover costs but provide its members with monetary benefit (whether that's SRP, pay outs, super capital plans, etc) then the organization is a very strong position. Not only can this mercenary be very picky about its contracts, it can also fund itself if an opportunity to obtain more power, more wealth presents itself. A starving mercenary is not a good position to be in.

Mercenary Coalition is poised to be one of the most powerful groups in EVE not because of our super capital fleet, not because we have five times the members, but because we've smartly positioned ourselves to be at the heart of potentially the largest financial system in the game.

What does that mean for the average member? What does that mean for Noir.?

In truth, I don't see too many things changing for us overall. We'll almost certainly deploy on contracts as regularly as we do now, on roughly the same scale. The vested interest in seeing the NETC succeed means that our soft underbelly (if you can consider a fully-equipped Keepstar soft) is protected by a dozen other forces who can help protect it in a pinch. The main differences will be the potential for freedom, a new kind of freedom that hasn't been available to us before. Where we used to consider ourselves free because we didn't own anything, now we're going to have freedom because we're not beholden to subpar contracts. Maybe it's better for the alliance for corps to take individual contracts on a small scale, or do deployments on their own for practice. Where that was impossible before, with enough income, a corp can have its deployment's costs covered. Now they don't have to worry about finding someone to pay - the NETC is doing that for them. Freedom isn't being free of property, freedom is having the option to always say no to others. And when you can say no to everyone else, you can also say yes to yourself.

In 10 years EVE players may have a totally different idea of what a mercenary is because of the path we've started down in November. One thing's for sure: as long as EVE exists, people will want to shoot other people and one of those sides will need help. Mercenaries will always be hired, contracts will always be given. The question yet to be answered is how powerful mercenaries can actually become in EVE. With the current contract-to-contract lifestyle, I believe mercenaries are capped at their total influence. When we're not living hand-to-mouth, who knows how far we can go?
Read More

November 23, 2016

Not All Newbie Corps Are Made Alike

CapriSun wrote a pretty good blog post today about how, by and large, the "Newbie Corp Syndrome" isn't really a net positive for EVE. It received a mixed bag of comments, some agreeing, others disagreeing, and others on the fence. I thought it was really interesting and agree with his sentiment for the most part. But I think it's important to recognize groups that foresaw this issue long before the first "newbie corps" like BRAVE existed, groups that still continue teaching new players to think for themselves and take initiative.

I'm going to toot my own horn a lot here and focus on Noir. Academy and Mercenary Academy, but there are other organizations in EVE that follow a similar mindset. Again, to reiterate, I know that NA and MA aren't the only ones who do this in EVE. So, please, do comment and let me know what other corps do this, but don't comment that I'm trying to say there isn't anyone else out there.

Before we dive into how Noir. Academy (now Mercenary Academy) works, it's important to understand Noir. For any new players, there are mercenaries in EVE who are paid by other players to do a job which can range from destroying a POCO (Player Owned Customs Office) to assaulting entire regions to denying the enemy all ratting in an area to shutting down a particular pipe. The sky is really the limit here because contracts are created in the mind of the employer - truly one of the best parts of EVE. Noir. was created in 2008 and was always a small corp that strove to punch above its weight class, but favored skill and critical thinking over pilots who simply followed orders. Noir. had its heyday in 2010 when Dominion sovereignty was first released, but in the years that followed mercenary work in general dried up as people began to realize the futility of trying to compete outside of the new coalition meta. Many, many mercenary groups folded or stopped being mercenaries because the ISK dried up, but Noir. remained.

In 2009 Noir. Academy was created to help bolster membership in Noir. (turnover was always high due to cultural and gameplay factors). The goal of the program was to take relatively new or inexperienced players and teach them how to fly like Noir. pilots, which is to say how to think for themselves and be efficient as mercenaries while completing contracts. This takes a lot of work, and over the years the program evolved into a 1-month crash course to a 4-month ramp up, which is basically its current form. Noir. Academy took for granted that players coming into the program knew the basics of the game, how to use their overview, how to make ISK, what the lingo was, etc. No one was a brand new player, but our goal was to mold them into experienced ones. When I assumed command of the program my goal was to ensure a baseline standard for all graduates. People may not come out as masters of everything, but an FC could be confident in everyone's abilities to do certain things that were expected of Noir. members.

Noir. Academy is now a thing of the past, but its spirit lives on in Mercenary Academy. Most of the components that were present in the program when I took over are still present and I'm proud to say that many of my small additions are still being used. One of the major differences in Mercenary Academy is that they accept everyone. Like other newbie friendly corps, you can join Mercenary Academy and never leave, logging in and playing casually to blow things up and log off for a few months with no issues. But there is a program within Mercenary Academy which teaches players and gets them to a baseline standard. Part of that baseline teaches players how to take the initiative, how to be more than another person anchoring blindly. If successful, a new pilot may have the option to join Mercenary Coalition.

CapriSun asks "Where's the teaching?" And that's a good question. BRAVE does have its Dojo, EUNI has its wiki, and I'm sure others have something similar, but my experience with these groups is that mostly people are taught to accept a free ship and be part of the fleet. In MA, we've broken down some of the more important skills, in our opinion, and hold practical classes on Singularity and Tranquility, helping people understand the mechanics of EVE, how to think, and how to read their situation and environment. We have a lot of buy in from Mercenary Coalition where our FCs take out fleets and give them a taste for how we do things in MC. Every instructor in MA right now is an MC pilot. It lends a level of authenticity and experience to the program that I'm not sure exists outside of Mercenary Academy.

In my experience, when you teach someone how to think through problems and situations on their own, they stick around longer and become better integrated into the culture of the corporation. If you look at Noir. right now, every one of its directors and CEOs came through Noir. Academy. Most of the people who have been in the corp for years are the same way. These are also the guys who are leaders in the corp and alliance, the FCs, the guys who make things happen, the ones who are on the front lines day in and day out. There are a lot of factors, I'm sure, but I'm very confident that the way they learned to play the game had a huge impact on that.

The bottom line is, not everyone wants to be thrown in the deep end and learn how to survive on their own and how to entertain themselves with no helping hands. Personally, I enjoy that type of thing, but I'm not going to enforce it on everyone who comes into the game. But there are organizations out there who offer a path to more than a player-made theme park.

EVE is all about choices. Sometimes it's up to us as the players to create the inflection point for other players. Do you want to be a cog in the machine? Here you go. Do you want to be taught how to survive on your own? Right this way. Either way, we should instill a sense of importance on each path.
Read More

September 26, 2016

Mercenary Press Secretary

A couple of weeks ago Seleene approached me about posting regular updates to the alliance inspired by the posts that I so often used to write here. As I've stated before, it's a lot tougher for me to write the kind of contract recaps that I used to, especially since Mercenary Coalition continues to grow and I'm no longer involved at quite as high of a level. I've heard from quite a few people in the alliance, and a lot of older Noir. guys in particular who are used to having a pretty good idea of the overall "narrative" of a contract, bemoan the feeling of being in the dark. High Command heard similar rumblings and so when Seleene approached it, it was mainly to help alleviate that issue.

I accepted (obviously, or this would be a pretty dull post) mainly because I miss doing those types of write ups. They're helpful for me as well, to digest and understand the situation from a bird's-eye view. After I made sure that I would have access to the information I would need, I created a Google doc where I dumped any highlights from the past couple of weeks, then began to piece them together in my notes and figure out what was important and what wasn't. After I had a good understanding of what the big questions were (in this case it was simply explaining our recent mini-deployment) I was able to construct a non-narrative post about it. Typically I like to thread things together in a narrative structure so that one thing leads to the next in a way that explains the overall contract along with its high and low points.

As I mentioned, the really big question mark people had was why we went to Pertineere recently for about a month. It was good to be able to lay out the reasons, which were mainly to get some practice in an area that had potential for escalation, practice hitting moons, and generally stay sharp. All this was happening while contract offers were on the table and being discussed, and as you probably know, a bored mercenary is not a happy one. So this deployment offered us things to stay busy with while more important, paid work was being negotiated.

For the most part, the Pert deployment was successful. We had a few bad moments where we lost two black ops battleships and a bunch of stealth bombers to a Vargur (video below) and a bunch of dreads to a bait Nidhoggur. Those really bad moments aside, we spent three weeks dropping capitals left and right successfully with no incidents and hopefully some painful lessons were learned, never to be repeated again.

For now, we've returned home and will be preparing for another contract that's recently been negotiated. And as for me, I've had a really hard time getting the willpower to undock and fly. I've lost my job recently and have just not had the fortitude to deal with EVE most of the time. Hopefully both of those issues change soon.
Read More

August 10, 2016

Preach it, Brother! Deacons are Great

Whoa, it's been way too long since I've done this. Sorry.

My last post was in May, so lemme gloss over some things since then:

  1. World War Bee ended
  2. We moved home systems
  3. We're currently in a high sec citadel contract
The last bit is no surprise to anyone that's been watching. So far there haven't been any fights, although the owners of the Fortizar have been begging for support, naming their Citadel "Need Defenders".

The last timer is going to be a lot of fun. If we destroy it, it'll be a first in EVE, if I understand things correctly.

I've been making an effort to get undocked more often and spend more time in fleets vs directoring (whatever that means). One of those instances led to the fight below. The comms are included. I can't be the only one that wishes more videos had comms, right?

This is our Retribution fleet comprised of 3 Deacons, 2 Retributions, 2 Vengeances, 1 Malediction (which died immediately), and 1 Loki (for links). 

We fought:
  1. Moa
  2. Hyperion
  3. Worm
  4. Legion
  5. Hecate
  6. Hecate
  7. Imperial Navy Slicer
  8. Magus
  9. Svipul
  10. Svipul
  11. Scythe Fleet Issue
  12. Enyo
  13. Blackbird

Here's the battle report.

Read More

May 14, 2016

Mercenary Coalition: One Year Challenge Coin


A month or so ago Seleene posted to the Mercenary Coalition forums that these coins were going to be created, celebrating Mercenary Coalition's one year anniversary. They are surprisingly affordable, provided you have at least 50 or so people who want one. I got mine in this week and am very pleased with its quality.

It's very hefty, probably weighing as much as my Nexus 5x and is pretty large. I've put it next to a quarter as you can see to the right. The front of the coin has the alliance logo and the back has all the corps who were in the alliance at the time the coin was created (sorry ANZA). It's not elaborate, but I really like the idea of the challenge coin. Seleene got the idea because they did it in Pandemic Legion every now and then. Rooks and Kings also create challenge coins for memorable events. I'm sure we'll continue to make a few more in the future for really cool things, and I hope I can keep adding to my collection. Maybe once I get a few I'll frame them. For now, this one sits on my desk.

Read More

May 8, 2016

The End of an Era: Noir. has a New CEO

Sorry for the different aspect ratios

I've been in Noir. in one form or another since early 2011. Over that time I've been the CEO of Noir. Academy for two years, acting as a director in Noir. itself for part of my duties. I've seen ups and downs of which there have been many. Over the years Noir. has become part of my own identity. I even moved across the country to take a job in Silicon Valley after being referred by the CEO of Noir., Alekeseyev Karrde. To me, Noir. is more than just an in-game group. Some very real friends are members of Noir.

When I first joined Noir. we were in the alliance Noir. Mercenary Group. Since then, we've been a part of Black Legion., Suddenly Spaceships, a very brief stint in the horribly named alliance Disinterested Reptile Cartel, the redemptive No Not Believing, and now we're in the legendary Mercenary Coalition.

Part of being a mercenary means being willing to move and move frequently. In the olden days, we'd deploy dozens of carriers stuffed full of ships for a deployment and do it all over again in a week or two. Now we deploy for longer times, but we still move. Movement is sometimes defined as progress. For us moving means a new contract, and I guess that's progress for a mercenary.

But moving from alliance to alliance wasn't always about progress. I believe Noir. moved alliances so often because of an obstacle, one that held the corporation back. Sometimes more than it helped it. And, as is sometimes the case, that obstacle - what held Noir. back on occasion - was also one of its biggest, most dependable strengths: Alekseyev Karrde.

Alek, as he's known by most people, formed Noir. in 2008 with the purpose of being able to make money PvPing, paid by others. That makes you a mercenary by default. But he wanted more than that, he wanted to create the most effective mercenary force New Eden had seen. And that's not an easy task, especially at the time, with Mercenary Coalition recently folding. I'm sure the Guiding Hand Social Club stories still echoed in every pilot's mind.

But despite the overwhelming odds and huge shoes to fill, he succeeded in creating - in my honest opinion - the most effective small-gang mercenaries EVE has ever seen.

Mercenary Coalition was the first.

Pandemic Legion was and is the biggest.

Black Legion. was the shortest lived.

But only Noir. means mercenary.

Noir. has people who fear it, envy it, despise it, people who think it's washed up, useless, overrated, and I'm sure many other things. But when I meet another EVE player and say I'm in Noir., their eyes widen and they tell me a story about how they read about us, heard about us, died to us. They ask what it's really like being a mercenary. Noir. has earned its reputation one successful contract after another over the last 8 years.

Alekseyev Karrde forged that reputation, often single-handed. Alek and Noir. are inseparable in most people's minds. Their legends were built together and on top of one another. If you've spent any length of time with Alek in game you've heard of his love for ponies and yelling at people for making mistakes. We'll ignore the ponies, they're fucking weird. The rage that Alek would unleash on people made those who could endure it better pilots. We all knew that we didn't have to be there or put up with it if we didn't want to (many didn't) but our desire to fly tighter and be mercenaries overrode our apathy at being yelled at for a video game.

In truth, he's not an angry person in real life. As I mentioned, we work together. His desk is 10 feet away from mine as I type this. However when he's in game, he casts off weakness like a watershed. Phil Jackson, Michael Jordan's legendary basketball coach, said of Jordan, "It wasn't about how great a star was himself, it was about how great he made the players around him."

Another anecdote Jackson shared about Jordan is that he wouldn't accept anything less than perfection. If a player was on the court and wasn't playing up to Jordan's standard, he would look at Phil Jackson and Jackson would know it meant, "Get this guy off the fucking court,"

Alek, like Jordan, forced those around him to be better, and if you wouldn't put out the effort required, you were gone. This type of attitude lends itself well to leading a small, elite military force in EVE. Unfortunately, it also causes lots and lots of friction when dealing with equals in an alliance.

There are many instances in Noir.'s alliance history where we kicked corps or left alliances because of personality clashes. Over the years, it became all too familiar to the leadership. To my dismay, it happened again in Mercenary Coalition. Alek approached the directorship about leaving Mercenary Coalition multiple times informally but was always rebuffed. Finally, having had enough, Alek formally approached the leadership to propose leaving MC. We even chatted about it at lunch once and I immediately said I wouldn't want to go anywhere. The entire directorate decided to stay in Mercenary Coalition.

I won't go into all of the details, but as you can see from Psianh's corp history, I did leave Noir. to join Apogee. - the new corp Noir. leadership founded together. We realized that our time in Noir. was coming to an end. I drew out the decision tree for one of the other directors:

  1. Alek changes his mentality and works with the alliance leaders effectively
  2. Alek steps down as CEO of Noir.
  3. We stay with Noir. and leave Mercenary Coalition
  4. We form our own corporation and stay in Mercenary Coalition while Noir. goes its own way 
It seemed clear to us that options 1 and 2 were impossible. We didn't want option 3. Alek eventually backed down on leaving the alliance at the current time but none of us felt it was a permanent stance or was a true mental shift. If it had been, option 1 would be fulfilled and things would have worked out well. Alek wanted us all to stay together, but I don't think he realized how exhausted the alliance leadership was. Staying in the alliance without a total change on Alek's part just wasn't in the cards.

I think Alek needed to see how serious we were about staying in Mercenary Coalition and how much we were exhausted by the general trend of bickering at the alliance leadership level - however justified he sometimes is. So we all left and formed our own corporation with the intent of staying there indefinitely, a member of Mercenary Coalition that continued the values of Noir.

In the end, Alek realized that he didn't have the time in real life to dedicate to rebuilding Noir. and I think he didn't really want to do that without the leadership team - and friends - that had been in place for so many years. In his view, the only option to save Noir. was for Alek to leave the corp and let his long-time XO, Deletor, become CEO. To be clear, this was his idea. We never considered it as an option and never presented it to him as a solution. I can't imagine how much it pained him to not only consider it, but decide on it.

So we've joined Noir. again, prodigal sons now tasked with carrying on the torch, making sure it burns ever bright, and avoid burning ourselves. We don't take it lightly, and we hope to make Alek proud, but we do believe the future is bright, illuminated as it is by the legend of Noir.

Alekseyev Karrde and Noir. are synonymous. He's been the CEO since its inception, held it firmly and grew it over two CSM terms. He's led the corporation with a steady hand, allowed us to fly with some of the best players in EVE Online. His focus, determination, hard work, and drive means that Noir.'s name can live on without him. Noir. is more than one person.

But there will always be a hole that won't be filled.

Read More

April 15, 2016

The Mercenary Renaissance

Unless you've been living under a rock, I'm going to assume you're aware of a few things that are happening in EVE right now, namely that there's a World War (Bee) happening and that many of the major players (Mercenary Coalition, The Omega Security Syndicate, Hax., Suddenly Spaceships, Out of Sight., and Chaos Theory. to name a few) are being paid to take part. It's the latter half of that previous sentence I want to focus on. I've written a lot about people being paid to fight other people in EVE; we call them mercenaries. I also have a personal paradigm of what it takes to qualify as a mercenary and I believe we're in the early phases of a mercenary renaissance the likes of which we haven't seen since Dominion.

What Is a Mercenary?

As I always do when talking about mercenaries at a high level, we have to establish the definition. Just as someone must successfully complete a series of tasks in real life to earn a qualification or title, I believe that an organization must fulfill one, basic principle to be called a mercenary.

  1. The bulk of an organization's effort is focused on providing content through contracts offered by other players for a fee.

Pretty simple, right? But it's a bit more complicated than it may first appear and it even has a bit of a grey area.

There are a ton of corporations and alliances in EVE that have received ISK or in-game goods for services rendered a handful of times. I don't include these in the definition of a mercenary. For most of these organizations, these contracts were found on the wayside and then forgotten as they moved on. They didn't consume much time or effort from the organization in the long run.

Likewise, there are some organizations that take a lot of contracts yet only do them so far as it lines up with their day-to-day activities. One example (although not the only one) is when an organization camps trade hubs as their main activity, and will continue to do so whether someone pays them to or not, but will accept a contract if offered. These groups aren't included either. Their primary gameplay is completely unaltered by a contract.

By my definition, a mercenary organization focuses its entire playerbase day in and day out on completing a contract. And when that contract is over, beside rest periods, the focus of the organization as a whole is finding and completing another contract. They don't pick up contracts as an afterthought, but seek them and eagerly complete them. There are exceptions, mainly in the form of Pandemic Legion. They're so large, so expensive, and the services they render can be so complex that they simply can't spend all their time on contract - people simply can't afford to keep them on retainer and there aren't enough contracts worth their time.

The Mercenary Wars

With this in mind, The Mercenary Wars doesn't make any sense as a name for World War Bee. Almost all of the Money Badger Coalition (MBC) member alliances aren't paid for contracts on a regular or even semi-regular basis. It's likely that, after this war, most of the alliances will never be offered a paid contract again.

So how can I claim there is a renaissance if most of MBC have never been offered a contract before and likely won't again? Because World War Bee has proven the effectiveness that ships for hire can have on the landscape of New Eden. Even if the war ended right now and the battle lines remained frozen in place at the current demarcation, the result would be an astoundingly positive endorsement for hiring mercenaries to do your work - provided you can afford it.

Let's not sugar coat it though, it obviously took a vast sum of money and a lot of players to get this far. Additionally, the enormous victories to date are in large part thanks to the Imperium’s complete lack of will to fight. However, it's also quite clear that a well paid, well organized mercenary coalition (no affiliation) can absolutely dominate the objective. It's important to remember that an appropriately sized solution needs to be applied to the problem. When attacking an Imperium-level problem, a Imperium-sized solution must be applied.  

Determining Solution Sizes

Luckily, most problems aren't Imperium-sized. There are a lot of things that are happening (and will be happening in the very near future) in EVE already that could use some good, old-fashioned mercenary knowhow. For too long, people have thought that mercenaries weren't useful and they were right. But in this renaissance period, there is a proven track record for effectiveness and plenty of opportunities to display it. The question is how do you find out if your mercenary is up to the task?


There's a lot to be said for and against killboards in EVE as a whole, much less just looking at mercenaries. Nevertheless, the killboard is one of the most effective ways in determining, well, effectiveness! If a mercenary organization is consistently putting up large amounts of kills with very few losses, they're likely a good choice. You can even get an idea if they may be able to punch above their weight by digging a little deeper into the killmails. Are they fighting outmanned, or are they able to take down larger ships regularly? Are they able to deploy deep into enemy territory and stay there, or do they set up shop on regional gates and shut down traffic?

There's a ton of information to find from a killboard if you know what you're looking for. But don't put too much emphasis on it because…

The Rest of the Story

A killboard doesn't tell the whole story. There are times in my mercenary career where we've been tasked with shutting down a region so that no one undocks. In those contracts, we typically see a steady stream of kills at the beginning which then trickles off to practically zero. And that's exactly what we were hoping for. We had a very happy client.

A good mercenary organization is going to have a record of its contracts that tells you what the overall objective was, any pertinent constraints, and can tie that to a killboard for data verification. Keep in mind that this information may be somewhat vague due to privacy of the client, but you should have enough information (and enough examples) to come away with a good idea if someone has been able to actually perform and if they are flexible enough to take on difficult, changing contracts.

The Future of Mercenaries

The viability of the mercenary career has always been tied to war. Without war, very few of the mercenary organizations can actually survive. There are hundreds of examples of organizations falling to the wayside and focusing on other gameplay styles because the content simply wasn't there. The ones that do survive may have to lower their fees or simply exist on reputation alone. Without war, there aren't mercenaries.

It doesn't take Nostradamus to see that, while not a certainty, war is likely to remain on the horizon for a long time to come. And if that turns out to be true, mercenaries will continue to be in high demand. Some will rise, making a long-term name for themselves in the community, and others will fall, defeated by the enemy or internal stresses. Perhaps some of the alliances that entered World War Bee as first-time mercenaries will continue down the path, or maybe some of the players involved will want to strike out on their own. Regardless, EVE has never seen so many mercenaries at once and like the famous artists of the Italian renaissance, not all of them will be remembered, but their work has already changed the landscape of New Eden forever.
Read More