The feature was published in their October issue, and it was exciting to see my words there for everyone to see! Thanks EON. :)
However, due to space constraints they had to edit out a lot of the information I sent them, so I wanted to put that information here, in my blog, so that the missing gaps were available for people to read. Please enjoy.
HOW DID YOUR AWA GET STARTED?
A long time ago, back when I first started playing Eve Online in 2006, I got the idea to translate "The Art of War" by Sun Tsu into something that was applicable to Eve Online. Ever since then I've been playing around with the Art of War theme, writing the occasional Art of War articles for my blog as well as having some of them published on various Eve-related websites. I was also featured for this on www.massively.com some time ago, but I've not completed publishing my series of articles. When I was trying to come up with a name for my alliance, it struck me that a good name for it would be the Art of War Alliance. I was surprised it was available, and snapped it up as soon as I thought of it.
I think it lends well to the theme of OUCH, teaching nullsec survival. A theme I'm thinking about at the moment, but yet to implement, is having the alliance available to teach corporations the 'art of war', or how to survive wardecs. Where OUCH teaches individuals how to survive in nullsec, AWA might teach corporations how to survive wars. I've survived two major wars so far in the past four years, and even won two wars against pirates, forcing them out of the area they were inhabiting, so I feel like I have a small amount of experience to draw upon as I work out how I'm going to move forward with this idea. I'd like to incorporate Sun Tsu's Art of War into what I teach within the alliance.
OUCH WOULD APPEAR TO BE THE FOCUS OF THE ALLIANCE. TELL US ABOUT WHY YOU SET UP OUCH?
Towards the end of 2009 there was some discussions within the Eve blogging community about Eve University, and how it was difficult for new players to get to learn the game because of politics and elitist attitudes. On December 2 I made a blog post that said:
"Here's a tip for the new players:
The best University is in 0.0 space. Suck it up, gather your belongings, and head out to the Open University of Celestial Hardship (O.U.C.H.)* and you'll learn more there than you could ever possibly imagine...
* Just in case you're wondering, O.U.C.H. is not a real university. It's more like the 'School of Hard Knocks', but O.U.C.H. sounds better than S.H.K...."
From that off-the-cuff bit of satire sprung an idea. The next day I started using Google Wave to invite discussions on the idea of a corp that provides nullsec survival training. By 14th of December, OUCH was brought into existence as a real corp providing nullsec survival training. We had donations of ISK and material resources, and was invited to join an alliance that would help provide support. We officially opened on December 29th, and started accepting applications. Within a month we had over 100 members. It was an exciting beginning!
WHAT IS THE FOCUS OF THE OTHER CORPS IN THE ALLIANCE?
I'm currently very relaxed about alliance membership, as right now it's simply about three things: 1) getting numbers into the alliance, 2) providing industrial support to OUCH, and 3) facilitating further PVP training or operational activities.
Any corporation that wants to join AWA is made to understand that as far as we're concerned, the only requirement we have of them is that they continue their normal operations that they did before joining the alliance. Being in the alliance allows them to participate in training or PVP operations in lowsec and nullsec should they want to, or allows them to build ships and fittings for OUCH and the alliance - again, should they want to.
We've just recently got a corp that wants to focus on wormhole PVE operations, and another that plans on using a wormhole POS as base of operations for PVP raids into lowsec and nullsec, so they're planning on working together. These corps, and the industrial member corps, not only benefit from being able to join in on OUCH's training and PVP operations, but OUCH members benefit by being able to join in on the operations of these other member corps as well.
WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF THE ALLIANCE AS A WHOLE?
When I formed the alliance my original plan was that we'd have our own sovereignty in nullsec by the end of 2010. However, I've come to understand that I might have been a little hasty with such lofty ambitions. For now, the alliance is simply to bring together a bunch of like-minded corps who want to have some fun doing their own thing under a common banner.
Member corps know that the focus of the alliance is with OUCH and nullsec survival training. All members understand that alliance activities and operations revolve a great deal around OUCH's operations and goals.
As we move forward, I'd like to see some very strong corps join the Art of War Alliance with a strong commitment to help the alliance obtain and hold our own sovereignty in nullsec. When that happens, then I can start working with the CEO's of such corps with plans on achieving this. Until then, we're just out for some relaxed, casual fun with the focus being on teaching people how to survive in nullsec and get more kills than losses. I operate on the principle that 'if you build it, they will come'.
WHAT WOULD A CORP MEMBER GET FROM THEIR TIME IN OUCH THAT THEY WOULDN'T GET FROM EVE UNIVERSITY?
When I first started discussing the idea of a nullsec survival training corp on the Eve forums, I was ridiculed by a number of people, particularly by some Eve Uni 'enthusiasts'. It was their opinion that in order to start up a training corp of my own that I should join Eve Uni to see how the 'professionals' did it. That seemed ridiculous to me. The whole point behind OUCH was to move forward with my idea of what nullsec training should be like, not what Eve Uni thought it should be. I thought it was sad that my invitation for discussion on the forums quickly sank into such fanatical outpourings of negative emotion, but it only reinforced in me to provide something different to what Eve Uni does.
To my understanding, there was a lot of political infighting and strangled policies last year which caused the problems amongst new members not being able to get any appropriate training. Since I established OUCH, however, Eve Uni's leadership changed and I believe it's been for the better. I was approached by their new CEO and we had a great discussion about mutual goals and beliefs, and we're blue and friendly with each other.
However, I believe that Eve Uni still only provides highsec PVP training, but their biggest problem is the number of wars that they're involved in, which forces them to almost always be operating under wartime operations policies. This really screws things up for free and easy PVP training in highsec, as they always have to hide from war targets looking for easy kills against the noobs.
OUCH provides nullsec survival and basic PVP training. Training and operations in highsec are rare to nonexistent for us. A number of our members and trainers live in lowsec and nullsec, and as for myself, I'm a -9 security status pilot/pirate who just stays in lowsec as much as I can.
The 'celestial hardship' part of our name is true. We don't protect people from the harsh realities of life in lowsec and nullsec. In fact, we push them into it.
War? In nullsec you're ALWAYS at war. Every day, every minute, every second, you're doing everything you can to stay alive. If you see someone who's not blue, you can be guaranteed they're looking at you as a potential target. Unless they're flying a PVE or industrial ship, in which case they're looking at you with fear, knowing THEY'RE likely to be the target.
OUCH teaches people how to survive in nullsec. Simply put, Eve University just doesn't teach that. They teach highsec PVP, whereas we teach nullsec survival. We cater to different niche areas of training.
What Eve Uni teach would actually complement what we teach. The two aren't mutually exclusive, but can go together. What you learn in Eve Uni can then be applied in nullsec once you learn how to survive out there.
Of course, we also teach some basic PVP, but we teach it in T1 frigates and cruisers. Using cheap and expendable ships and items, we throw our members into the deep end and they learn from practical experience. We provide theory and instruction, but the experiences are real. OUCH members learn from getting their asses kicked by hostiles out there in nullsec. Repeatedly. But our motto encourages this. We don't pussy-foot around. We don't have tissues for people to wipe their tears. We shove them into a ship, and get them out into nullsec. As they die, they learn, and the more they die, the more they learn.
There's a reason we're called OUCH!
WHAT ARE YOUR RELATIONS LIKE WITH OTHER LEARNER CORPS AND ALLIANCES IN EVE?
Apart from Eve Uni, we have no relationships with other learner corps and alliances. We've pretty much mostly kept to ourselves. We provide a niche service and as far as I know, no other corp or alliance in Eve Online provides dedicated nullsec survival training 'for noobs and carebears' like we do. Obviously there's a lot of corps and alliances in nullsec that provide PVP training, but they also expect their members to have already learned some basics of nullsec survival before they've joined.
There's been a couple of corps I've heard of who also provided training to some extent, but my approaches to them were ignored, so nothing ever evolved to the point of even discussing any kind of relationship.
We don't mind being alone, with few blues. It just means there's more targets to practice against.
YOU HAVE VERY LOW ENTRY REQUIREMENTS - VIRTUALLY NONE, IT SEEMS - IS THAT EVER A PROBLEM?
I've tried to maintain strict security policies in line with the 'open university' theme. Everyone is welcome, and there are no security or reference checks. We used to have free ships and items, which most members were grateful for. But it's been the few idiots that come along and decide to take everything they can for themselves that have slowly caused an evolution in the availability of free ships for our members.
By evolution, I mean we no longer provide free ships or fittings. Instead, we provide cheap ships to corp members, and the ships are built by corp members who are looking to make a little bit of money and support OUCH at the same time. We're also just starting to develop a program of providing pre-fitted T1 ships / fittings for members to buy as a package deal, jump in and then lose them in combat.
And that's when our ship reimbursement program comes into play. Every time a member loses a ship, all they need to do is send me an evemail with the killboard link of their loss and OUCH reimburses them for the value of the lost ship. Combine that with their insurance payout and they can actually afford to buy another ship with fittings and maybe even come out with a profit!
So our ways of supporting our members have had to evolve to cope with the selfish, greedy blackhearts that think it's a great idea to steal donations from the corp, and screw things over for as many people as they can.
But we'll never increase our entry requirements. All that's required is a commitment to learn how to survive in nullsec. We no longer provide access to corp hangars, and no one person ever has access to anything more than the ships available for a cheap price via corp contracts.
When people find they can no longer steal from us, or they're unable to gain any kind of selfish benefit, they quickly move on. They're not the kinds of people we want in the corp anyway, so they're quickly weeded out without much effort at all.
WHAT IS YOUR OWN PERSONAL ROLE WITHIN THE AWA (ARE YOU DEMOCRATIC, AUTOCRATIC, ETC) AND HOW DOES YOUR ALLIANCE OPERATE INTERNALLY (WHAT DIVISIONS, ETC)?
The alliance is about 3 months old, and I'm still building it. As per some of my comments above, with it being a casual and relaxed organisation, there's no 'divisions' as such. Instead, we have the member corps making their various operations available to other members of the alliance.
I run OUCH and the alliance like a 'democratic dictatorship'. All CEO's and Directors of member corps are invited to be on an Executive Council. Everyone can tell me what they think is best, and if I have an idea, I present it to corp or alliance members for feedback, discussion, criticism and suggestions for improvement. The ultimate decision rests with me, but I take note of what people are saying, and I'm willing to change my plans according to better ideas, or significant rebellion against my own ideas.
At the end of the day, while I have a vision about where I want to take AWA and OUCH, I'm aware that it's much better to tread softly than to bash heads.
COULD YOU LIST WHO THE MAIN DIRECTORS ARE AND WHAT THEIR ROLES ARE?
Black Claw. And.... my alts.
And... oh wait... no, just me.
I learnt a long time ago with past corps I've been in, and an alliance I once took over, that if I have others sharing the control, then I have no control. So I now make sure I keep all the control. This baby's mine, and if people don't like it, they don't have to be part of it. It's that simple.
IN WHAT ECONOMIC SPHERE DOES YOUR ALLIANCE OPERATE IN? HOW DOES YOUR ALLIANCE PRIMARILY MAKE MONEY (AND WOULD YOU SAY YOU ARE SUCCESSFUL)?
Make money? Hmmm... Maybe I'll get back to you on that once we start making money....
WHAT ARE YOUR POLITICAL AFFILIATIONS WITH THE FRONTIER (O.O) ALLIANCES AND THE CORE EMPIRES? AS A "NEWB" ALLIANCE YOU MUST BE LOOKED DOWN UPON?
Mostly hostile. We have more reds and oranges than we do blues. Our standings scheme is simple: reds are those who actively seek us out, looking for the easy kills against our noobs, and oranges are those who are known to be hostile but we should simply be cautious around. But anyone not blue is a target to us, as we operate on a NBSI (not blue, shoot it!) policy.
I think the ones who we've made red to us are probably the ones that think it's a great idea to hunt out the noobs for the easy kills. I'm not sure that achieves what they want to achieve, since that's what OUCH is all about - the more we die, the more we learn, and the better we become. They're helping us, rather than hindering us.
Some of those who are orange to us have actually learned to respect us. There's a lot that can be done with T1 frigates in nullsec, and some of the local inhabitants have learnt to be very cautious if OUCH members are around. I like that a lot. And some even run in fear. I like that a lot too.
IN WHAT REGION(S) OF SPACE ARE YOU BASED AND WHAT IS LIFE LIKE THERE?
Our highsec location is Derelik, which is right on the border of Curse, a nullsec region that is NPC-owned. We chose this spot because there are less gate camps controlling entry into nullsec, which makes it just that little bit safer for noobs and carebears to use as they learn how to operate in nullsec. With less focus on 'chokepoint' ownership from the nullsec inhabitants, it becomes more like lowsec but with nullsec PVP tactics, and that makes it an ideal environment for nullsec survival training.
One of the goals I have is to 'own' our area of NPC-nullspace, simply by our presence. I want dozens and dozens of OUCH members in the nullsec systems that joint with lowsec, so that WE 'own' the chokepoint. I think that would make it a lot more interesting and exciting to provide the nullsec survival training that we do. We would base ourselves in nullsec, instead of where we're currently based (lowsec and highsec).
Life in our little area is still quite interesting. Because it's on the edge of nullsec, we still get some of the nullsec corporations hanging out in our area and providing some tension. And of course, there's a corp that are all flying battleships and simply engage in large-ship PVP in lowsec, and ignore our T1 frigates buzzing around. Occasionally large fleets of nullsec alliance pilots fly through on a roam, and we all dock up and wait for them to pass by. Life is great.
HOW WOULD YOU RATE YOUR COLLECTIVE COMBAT ABILITIES AS AN ALLIANCE?
Well, if 1 is a bunch of noobs that have no idea, and 10 is a fleet of Titans, then we're probably about 2.5. Our killboard has a lot more green than red, which is nice to see when I wake up every day.
UPON WHICH MEMBERS WOULD SAY YOUR ALLIANCE MOST DEPENDS, AND WHY?
Apart from myself as the alliance leader, I'd say there's no single members at this stage that the alliance depends on. We're still growing, and I'm sure such dependencies will come in time. Just not right now.
WHAT ARE YOUR LONG-TERM GOALS FOR THE ALLIANCE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ENSURE IT SURVIVES BEYOND THE OTHERS?
To own our own sovereignty in nullsec, so that we can have a nullsec base of operations where our members can hang out in, learn nullsec survival and PVP, and have some safety to go ratting or do missions in the nullsec systems that we own.
For AWA to survive in order to reach its goals I follow a simply philosophy: NEVER SURRENDER. Always push on, no matter what.
The only reason corps and alliances fail is because their leadership quits. If you don't quit, your goals WILL be realised. You just have to keep striving for them.
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR 3 OR 4 MOST SIGNIFICANT MILITARY OPERATIONS TO DATE (COULD YOU STATE WHAT REGIONS THEY TOOK PART IN, WHEN, WHO THEY WERE AGAINST, A BRIEF SUMMARY OF HOW IT ERUPTED, WHAT HAPPENED AND HOW IT CONCLUDED)?
1. When I created OUCH I joined an alliance at its executor's request. He wanted to support OUCH's goals, and after much discussion I joined with him. However, I think it was in January that our membership of that supporting alliance fell apart. The alliance executor decided he wanted to move the alliance to a different region, and follow a different goal. He tried to hijack OUCH and pull it out from under me. His manipulation of OUCH members led to about 20% of our members at the time leaving OUCH and going with him instead of staying with OUCH.
2. Two weeks after OUCH's departure from that alliance, we had war declared against us by some unknown highsec griefing corp that seemed determined to destroy us. We'd never encountered them at all until they declared war, but they told me they had a budget for the war, and their excuse was that we had been seen flying with a previous enemy of theirs. Sounded like mercenaries to me, and I thought their excuse was pathetic, since they weren't attacking their 'enemy', only the weak corp (us) that had been seen flying with them....
That war lasted two months, and moved from highsec, to lowsec to nullsec. We transferred the 'battlefield' locations into areas that we had a more even footing by allowing others to get involved on our side. Eventually, after 2 months of sustained war, they cancelled the wardec and moved on.
I was very proud of OUCH members for holding on during such a period. At the end of that 2 month war I went from about 140 members to 130 members. We lost some, we gained some, but in the end we survived their attempts to destroy us.
I always wondered who paid them to seek out OUCH's destruction. I'm sure it wasn't the alliance executor who tried to hijack OUCH and then steal all the members for himself....
WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO? IF NOT, COULD YOU MAKE ONE UP, PLEASE?
"You're going to die. A lot. But along the way you'll learn how to die less."