Disclaimer: while i have been part of TEST high leadership, i am no longer affiliated with it and therefore this post is just a personal opinion about my experiences during this years. Nothing said here is to be taken as the “official” TEST point of view.
One year ago, i did a series of 3 articles that were a review of my first year as Head Diplo and Second in Command of TEST. I was appointed for that position shortly after HERO was formed, and stepped down last august and left the game for a while. This are the links:
- A year in review: the case of TEST
- A year in review: the case of HERO
- A year in review: the case of BRAVE
This were not my first articles on that matter, but probably my first “public” articles in english so far. There is much more content about how we lost the Fountain War and the “dark ages” we went through published on this blog. Probably it would be worth a read, but for this article, I’m more interested in the first one of this series of three, the one I first posted that explains a lot about what we did.
How an entity that owns 7 regions and 13000 players collapses all of a sudden like TEST did? Was it because of the war? External pressure? Drama? It was all of it.
First and foremost, let’s not forget that TEST was raised on the couch of the Goonswarm Federation, like a bunch of fresh newbros learning the ropes of the game. If you go through our main corp subrreddit, you will find this gem where vile Rat (RIP), former Goonswarm Lead Diplomat started this relationship that helped TEST to grow and take our first steps. TEST as part of the CFC (the coalition lead by GSF) was given the Fountain region to build up and grow.
Let me fast forward from this point to the summer of 2012, when TEST was already a huge alliance, first one by number of characters, and was part of the Honey Badger Coalition, a big bunch of alliances tagged along to burn to the ashes the so-called Southern Coalition in a war that lasted a few months until Against ALL Authorities and other russian entities were pretty much vanished.
The HBC had about 40000 characters and so many different alliances, cultures and interests mixed together to last long. And this is a good thing, because for the universe it is better when huge coalitions don’t last for too long. Peacetime sucks, and for huge entities even more.
Our alliance executor and the appointed HBC leader montolio was in charge during that time of leading the HBC. He wanted content and fun for this 40k guys and at the same time, he wanted TEST to “cut the ropes”, to stand on it’s own and to walk its own way without being a part of the CFC too. This is when the tensions between TEST and Fatal Ascension (part of CFC) started to arise, even though they came from a couple of years before that. In January 2013 Montolio then posted a public announcement in our forums (that section is no longer visible for the public, but let me quote the last bit:
We’ve been removed from GFAllies because of our rivalry with Fatal Ascension and some blunt unofficial words said by Bring Stabity. We’ve been painted as attempting to undermine and kill Fatal Ascension. We’ve been painted as poor friends. The opposite is true. FA holds themselves up as a core CFC member, yet every action they took towards Test and BDEAL weren’t just hindering, unfriendly, and self serving. It was abusive and destructive. These actions took place in a coalition that holds themselves up as equals. In that context, the most disgusting thing is not that they did what they did. It’s that they were allowed to get away with it.
Here we had pretty much a “casus belli”. The Mittani posted his reaction shortly after in “The madness of Montolio” where he was labeled as a mad leader that was backstabbing their allies and such. It’s better if you read it.
Montolio stepped down shortly after because the HBC was not interested in going to a massive war, and it was when the coalition was handed to Sort Dragon and collapsed shortly after when the new executor BoodaBooda decided to leave not accepting the terms on which Sort Dragon wanted to lead the coalition.
TEST was left alone. And it was when we were declared a war for Fountain. Fountain had become a very rich region in terms of moongoo and that was the public reason to invade it and evict TEST from there. This is when everything began to fall appart . TEST still managed to field more than 1000 pilots in timers such as the 1-SMEB iHub in Delve and the alliance overall was eager to fight and stand on its own, but during peacetime, a lot of internal problems showed up.
Some people thinks that the Fountain War killed TEST. I think that it was only the last bit of external pressure needed to break it, but TEST was rotting inside since long before. And this was because of a bunch of reasons:
- Bloated leadership: we copied GSF leadership structure, which might work well for them, after years of being established and working fine. But TEST was a very young entity that didn’t need that many people everywhere. An excess of leadership easily leads to entitlement and unnecessary amounts of people that are just there to hang with the “cool kids”.
- The lack of a goal: TEST was huge and had many systems but, what you do when you want to pvp? What happens when there is pretty much no one left to fight? When this happens, corps that are thirsty for pvp leave for entities that offer that content, and corps that want a safe space to rat remain. This is also true for individuals. It is very easy to lose individual talented people if there is no clear goal. Different people, different interests. When this happens, only a strong alliance culture that ties everything together manages to stand the pressure.
- Internal toxicity: Our culture where pretty much everything is okay leads to allow toxic people to be able to grow, become sort of popular and if you are not careful, they become the vocal members of the community and people starts to gimmickly mimicking that behavior. In no time you have the forums, jabber and comms drowned in a toxic environment where people seem to hate each other and drama appears for nothing everywhere. This is probably because we never really enforced the “don’t be a dick” golden rule. It seems fun, but it ends burning out people in charge of stuff. And when they go, sometimes there is no replacement.
With all of this in mind, we went through the Fountain War. And considering we were vastly outnumbered, at least we fighted and we managed to stand for a while. We lost our capital, 6VDT-H on July 28th, 2013 in one of the biggest battles in the history of gaming. If we had to die, at least we would make a good show out of it. During this war the “failcascade” started to happen. Many corps started to leave already, some straight into the hands of the enemy. When you are losing so hard, you live the denial phase: you blame everyone else but yourself. There is a world conspiracy to destroy you, you are the good guy and everything is unfair. And since you are too busy finding culprits elsewhere no one does the repairs that are needed to keep the shit together.
Without a clear purpose and now without land, TEST faced the exily while bleeding so hard. We lost 9000 characters, over 70 corporations, every asset and ISK not nailed to the ground, etc and were left to rot and die in lowsec Aridia. It was when montolio talked to Mittani to congrat him for winning and got a “TEST will never have sov again” sort of response/tantrum. In fact, we were pursued everywhere, from Aridia to Curse, and camped in our staging until we were pretty much killed.
When you have no income for SRP or any kind of alliance activities and your people has been forever tied to sov to make ISK, you have a big problem. This is when we decided to join the Caldari Militia in Factional Warfare to have something to do while we tried to rebuild our leadership. Because most people left the ship and there were tons of vacancies, but also this dying TEST needed to downsize its leadership and to figure things out again, to understand the reasons why we failed, why everything happened and to try to learn from it while the remaining people tried to have fun on this game. It took a while to get people into the “packing light” mentality and to think of TEST as a no longer sov-holding alliance, but one that wanted to find its own identity again.
This was by far the harderst part of this story. Not only you lose people, talent, ISK and sov. You also loseyour place in the universe politics. You are no longer an entity that people wants to talk with, because you are irrelevant, meaningless, little and unworthy. And while being irrelevant though, gives you some leverage to fuck it up and blame it on your irrelevance, in reality it only makes everything harder because no matter how good diplomat you are, words have always to be backed up by facts, and in EVE that means fleet numbers, military power. And of course when you struggle to put 20 guys together on a fleet, you have nothing.
Losing that hard was one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced and taught a lot of things about how people is when you are popular and everything is funny, and how different some are when you are at your lowest. That not everyone leaves you to rot, that some people still offers you a helping hand, etc. Becoming the laughing stock and the one everyone wants to see biting the dust is not a funny experience, but I’ve come to think that if you have some humilty and honesty you learn more by losing than by winning. Specially when it comes to people. Some people are silent hard workers but they show how much they are worth it when they have to fight against the odds. We were lucky to have a good amount of them and helped us to go throw this dark ages.
TEST left the militia to become a part of HERO, a new coalition made by “rookie” alliances that wanted to find a place. It was intended to be a proving grounds for us, to put all the lessons learned to a real test and see what happened. HERO helped us and also had it’s cost in terms of people and burning out (myself included) due to many little-not so little things and daily drama between TEST and BRAVE.
But it was the step we needed to get some initial inertia. Turns out we started to roll again, we started “believing” that we could do things on our own and when you have a positive mood, it is easier to get people engaged and eager to try new things. When we left to Wicked Creek, we had an outburst of enthusiasm. The Creek lasted for a year. The sov grinding was painful because of russian timers, but the alliance was a living thing agan. I stepped down and left the game due to having burned out and went to a space vacation until last month.
I cannot tell you what happened during the eight months I was away, but you have the objective numbers to see. TEST nowadays is in an excellent health. We have 5k characters, our recruitment is skyrocketing again and the morale is high. TEST is no longer the sov-holding entity it used to be. TEST learned to pack light, learned to live through the adversity and learned how much it sucks when you have nothing. Many are today surprised that TEST is not holding any sov that is being conquered in the north. This is for a reason. Sov is not why we fight. Sov is a tool, a temporary asset, but we lost our home and we decided to make our home wherever we go. We know how important and valuable this momentum is to keep things alive, and how easy is to let it rot when you sit down in the same place for too long. A lot of hard work should not be thrown into the sink for no reason.
They say many things about us, some are true, some are not. I am very proud of what TEST is today and having been a part of all this rebuilding. We are very aware of the dangers of entitlement and to give things for granted. I am however very confident of the people that runs TEST nowadays. People that genuinely loves this game, that logs in every day to play with their fellow pilots, that are not sitting in a throne wanting to be worshipped. That are in TEST because they love it for what we are, and not for what we have, or where we are.
If TEST is alive right now, excited and happy is thanks to the silent work of many people through this long three years that took to rebuild it again. Now many newbros join us and don’t know anything of all of this, they are just excited and happy, and we teach them how easy is to lose everything. We teach them to have fun on this game, to not take things too seriously, to strive to become better and to improve without forgetting that losing is part of life as well.
I have been asked, where do you see TEST one year from now? Well, last year we were recently moved to the Creek. If someone told me by then than a year after that we would be rolling over the Imperium with half of the universe, with so many people returning and so on, I would have thought that that was insanity. I can’t tell. But at least I know something: the guys that managed to keep this thing up and alive, will keep working hard to make sure it remains. Because if we have learned something, is to be resilient.
What is dead may never die.