January 8, 2017

How to Contribute to Your Corp as an Administrator

One of the Mercenary Academy students really surprised me the other day when they asked me to teach a lesson on being an admin based off my experiences in EVE. It's the first time I've ever had such a request and it's really not something most people are interested in, so I was (and still am) a little unsure how to approach the topic. What follows is my attempt on laying out some of the basics of playing an admin role in your alliance which you can build from. Take what I write below with a grain of salt, it's entirely based off my own limited experience; I've never been anything but a mercenary after all, and many of these things may not translate to a non-mercenary focused organization.

To start, I think it will help to outline some of the duties I've held in my time as a mercenary. My first position of authority was when I became the CEO of Noir. Academy in early 2013. I learned a lot about processes during this time and I'll spend a lot of time covering what I learned below. Unofficially, I became a source of information for Noir. through my Contract Recaps. Related, as the current Press Secretary in Mercenary Coalition, I inform the alliance of important events in the past month or two (as often as I can create one of the reports). These updates can cover anything from a contract recap style update to major events in the alliance that may have slipped under someone's radar. As a director in Noir. I'm responsible for making sure the corporation runs smoothly day to day and also fits into the larger goals of the alliance. This is a lot more hands-off than the other roles I've done, in my opinion, but I feel it's also the most critical job I've had in EVE to date.

Good Processes Make Perfection

Never overlook creating a good process to tackle a problem. Processes is a very broad term that encompasses the plan, order of events, and requirements to make a specific goal a reality. This can be anything from a well-formatted Excel spreadsheet to a war campaign in EVE.

A lot of what I do in EVE I learned through real-life work experience. It's really important, as a good administrator, to have strong processes in place. This can be as simple as actually writing important things down in a specific notebook so you'll be able to reference them later to having a daily check list. The purpose of strong processes is to make sure that a project goes from start to finish with minimal disruption in the creation process, especially because of oversight or forgetfulness. Sometimes tweaks are inevitable as a project progresses, but it should never be derailed because you didn't prepare properly.

For example, to write my alliance updates, when something important happens I write it down in a centralized Google Doc and I link the bullet point directly to the source, whether it's a killboard, an article, or a forum post. This makes it really easy for me to go back and find everything that's happened since my last post. With a small bit of extra work, I can check with other people who I know are plugged into the news and make sure I didn't miss anything. Once that's complete, all that's left is to create the outline and write the post, but I didn't have to spend any time in back tracking, double checking, cross checking, or worrying that I missed something critical.

The most complicated process I've had to create so far was the Noir. Academy program. Making sure students progressed through the entire course in a specified amount of time was a lot of work and I couldn't have done that without the help of a great team of instructors and volunteered IT development. But the initial plan was critical in their success. A good administrator will be able to lay out an entire plan with clarity because you've thought through the entire process - all that's left is to actually implement it. When your plan, process, and vision are strong other people will buy in quickly and lend their support.

People Make the World Go Round

As I mentioned earlier, I couldn't have accomplished what I did with Noir. Academy without the team that surrounded me. Their work carried the success. Remember, however, that no one in EVE is required to log in. Everyone that plays does so because they find it fun. Sometimes administrative work can be fun, but it's often a bit of a drag. As an administrator, especially if you're in a leadership position, you have to remember that none of your "workers" are required to show up or do anything you say. You have to get them to buy in to the overall goal so that they're invested in its outcome as well. To do that, you need to understand their perspective.

In the business development world, I found it was very easy to finalize a deal when I became friends with the people I was working with. I got to the point where I'd be Snapchatting the guys who I was making $500,000 deals with and getting drinks when we were in town. We wouldn't be talking about business, but when we did get around to business we were friends. We approached the situation from a point of mutual desire of resolution - we both wanted to walk away happy, and so we were willing to compromise and work with each other so we could go back to grabbing drinks.

Similarly, when you're working with people in EVE, it's absolutely critical for you to have a deeper relationship with the people that help you than just "you're a person that helps me with this thing". Spend time with them outside of the work you're doing together, when you're chatting with them in Slack or in game, don't always talk about the work. By doing this, you'll be able to better understand them as a person, which means that when they have issues, complaints, or problems you'll be able to comprehend their actual point, which is often not verbalized (which is why it's critical for you to know them, otherwise you won't understand what they're really saying).

By having these relationships with the people you play with, having their buy in through your strong process, and going the extra mile to understand where they're coming from, you'll have a stronger team. A stronger team means you'll be able to accomplish more, faster.

Administrating is Playing

If you really delve deeply into the admin side of EVE, it's important to remember that your game changes. Instead of playing by shooting ships or creating modules, you'll be answering EVE mails and slack messages, you'll be planning corp meetings, you'll be looking at the current process flow of your corp applications and trying to improve it. This will become a major part of your daily EVE career, so you'll need to be prepared for that.

This can be very rewarding, but (especially if you're like me and in a PvP focused organization) a lot of your work will go unnoticed. There are few written records of your successes like a killboard and most people in your corp or alliance won't care or have the patience for the work that makes things happen smoothly. For instance, in Mercenary Coalition our SRP is submitted with one click of a button on our killboard. But people have to then review the request, check that it's legitimate, and send the correct payment amount. But the average player doesn't care about that. To them, click equals ISK. 

Only the Beginning

What I've written above are truly broad, general guidelines and tips. These aren't meant to be a step by step guide into becoming a behind-the-scenes guru in your corp. To do that, you really just have to dive in. What your organization needs isn't what mine does. Most of the time, the needs one corp in the same alliance as another are different, so there's no way to write an end all be all guide. 

Take the first step, get in touch with your directors and ask them how you can help assist in a particular function you're interested in or just how you can help alleviate some of their work load. As you get more involved and continue to do good work, you'll get more responsibility. Remember to apply the lessons above and add on your own experience and you'll be an admin master in no time!
Read More

January 2, 2017

Is Mercenary Coalition Becoming Too Big? Are We Losing Our Focus?

Black Omega Security joined Mercenary Coalition yesterday, becoming the largest corporation in the alliance and pushing MC over 1,500 characters. Their addition was a surprise to most of the alliance, a well kept secret during its initial stages, and a bit of a surprise to High Command. OMEGA wasn't on our radar of corporations to recruit and we didn't even know they were looking until they approached us.

I'm happy to have them, knowing a few of their members for the last couple of years, but I do wish they had a stronger US time zone.

With their addition, a common theme has begun resurfacing in Noir.: the feeling of drifting further away from being a mercenary.

Before addressing these points I want to again establish my personal definition of a mercenary.

A mercenary corporation is a group of players whose main game-play is provided through contracts given by other players for a fee.

To give examples, I don't consider most high-sec "mercenaries" to truly be mercenaries because, while it is true they take wardec contracts from time to time, their main form of gameplay comes from wardecing corps and alliances of their own initiative rather than by paying customers. Likewise, I don't consider many of the alliances that had a major part in World War Bee to be mercenaries because, while -- again -- they were paid, their day-to-day gaming doesn't revolve around contracts.

So how does this definition stack up against current-day Mercenary Coalition? I can only talk about my experiences since Noir. joined Mercenary Coalition in August of 2015, but since then we've had an active contract every single month with the exception of (I believe) three times. Two of those times Noir. went and did a mock contract, splitting the loot for our members. The other time MC had a break, the entire alliance assisted in setting up our new home.

Based on my very simple definition, we're absolutely, 100% mercenaries. So why do some people feel like we're not?

If you ask 10 people you'd get 10 different answers, but some of the more common reasons I've heard include:

  • We're too large, so they don't know people in fleets
  • We have too many blues
  • We don't get paid as individual pilots
  • We only had one employer for almost a year
Some of these complaints are frustrations against change, like growing too large. It's understandable, especially for people who were in Noir. before we joined Mercenary Coalition or right as we joined. In those days, you knew every single pilot and understood their individual capabilities. There are a lot of positives in that environment but I can attest to the fact that contracts are limited by your size. Doors were simply closed to us when we didn't have the raw manpower. Like all things in EVE, there are trade offs to purposefully limiting your size. Years ago, in Noir., we used to dream about the types of contracts we're receiving now. We always wanted to help shape the political map of EVE but we didn't have the capabilities due to our size. Mercenary Coalition has grown to a point where we're major parts of historical wars and, yes, that does come at the cost of not knowing everyone, but that doesn't mean we're not mercenaries.

I also understand the frustration of having blues. We're discounting temp blues for contract purposes here. Some people think that, as mercenaries, we shouldn't have *any* permanent blue forces. This is a frustrating opinion for me because the people I've heard say this have never been on the other side and don't seem to have a firm understanding of the politics of EVE. The fact is, to survive in EVE you need friends. That's true from the macro (which we're analyzing here) to the micro (such as joining a corporation). It *is* true that, as mercenaries, we can't have *too many* blues or we arbitrarily reduce potential employers to a point of staleness. By the way, as of this post, Mercenary Coalition has two permanent +10 alliances that aren't alt corps or training corps.

Like most of these points, I also understand the frustration from not being paid. In Noir., the top 40 pilots were paid a percentage of the contract pay out based on efficiency and activity. The pay out wouldn't change your life, but it was a nice perk. The highest single pay out in Noir.'s history was 2B ISK. Average pay outs were in the 60M to 200M range. In Mercenary Coalition, despite being paid hundreds of billions of ISK, pilots don't see any of that directly. Instead, we get SRP. We did not receive SRP in Noir.

To put this in perspective, in October, November, and December, Mercenary Coalition paid out 39,970,787,023.34, 73,425,202,782.66, and 13,100,368,867.68 ISK in respective SRP. 

It's true that pilots who don't lose ships don't benefit from this set up, but as you can see, even when we were paid it was never very much. To create a fair pay out system in MC, the payments would have to be split over a much, much larger number of pilots and the pay outs probably would be somewhat similar to old numbers. You're not going to be buying AT ships from pay outs. The alliance is far, far better off using this money to replace ships and fund programs versus paying pilots out directly. I admit that, at some point, I hold out hope that we're making enough profit to pay out pilots, but to say we're not being paid is a misconception.

This last argument is the most strange to me. For those of you who aren't aware, Mercenary Coalition was hired by Lenny for almost a year. One of the breaks I mentioned earlier in between contracts was because we were waiting for another contract from Lenny. We even turned down contracts during this time because the amount of ISK Lenny was offering was too high not to wait. I don't understand being upset about having one employer. What's the difference between one and many? The ISK still comes, the fights are still present, we still have our objectives. I can tell you, from the top-level, it's much easier to deal with the same person multiple times than multiple people one time. A relationship forms, trust is gained, and the process is streamlined when you work with the same people over and over. It's less of a headache for the contract negotiators, High Command, and the line members. With untested, unproven employers, things often fall through, contracts don't pan out, employers don't show up to the event they hired you for. When you work with the same person, you know what you're getting into.

It's been a while since I've heard the age-old EVE adage: adapt or die, but it still rings true. As mercenaries, we've adapted. Let's not forget that Mercenary Coalition, as an entity, did die once. For a long time, there were less than 10 true mercenaries, and sometimes Noir. was the only one. Mercenary Coalition has come back, and in a big way. This time we're evolving with the political landscape, we're staying ahead of the game. I can't stress how much being a tiny mercenary organization sucks when you see the potential that's there but can't reach it. When employers are confident you have the capability, they will pay. And by being paid over and over and over again, we're mercenaries in spirit and reality.
Read More

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 sub-par 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. To hire MC right now is a very expensive procedure. The price of hiring us must cover the cost and profit of the entire alliance, and that's a huge number. But imagine if the NETC can subsidize some of those costs? MC would be free to take on contracts that are considered interesting or important even if the employer can't fully match our asking price.

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

Pages