Reply to AtM

[b]RE: Testers and game shaping[/b]
Having not been a tester, I can’t comment on test zone politics, except to say that what you describe is entirely plausible and that as long as it stays on a “here’s a possible systemic issue with how test zone operates” level, I have no problems with your reading of it. I’m not exactly sure what you mean when you talk about a “Fury-centric” view on the game, but I do know that many core Fury members and ex-testers have a similar concept about what drives a game like this: primarily, that genuine competition is the result of worthwhile limited resources and that conflict and activity is due to alliances having incentive to fight for that resource, not because they have been arbitrarily equalized in the attempt to keep small alliances “competitive.” Maybe this is “Fury-centric” and maybe this isn’t. Either way, it’s an idea Fury members believe in and argue for because they see it as crucial to the long term health of the game, and one that, to my knowledge, has never really been accepted or adopted by the admins. Except for the dropping of alliance caps in 2.5, which was almost a purely cosmetic change, the game hasn’t been shaped in a direction remotely resembling anything that we favor, which is why the allegation that TDZK has somehow become our custom ideal play ground is so absurd to me.

As you point out, there is a huge difference between what you discussed and a organized conspiracy to ruin the game and give Fury whatever advantages possible. And aside from you briefly in recent times on a couple of occasions, and then in more detail in your message here, the huge majority of accusations that get tossed around out there fall heavily on the latter side of the spectrum. That’s what frustrates me. I have read an endless amount of raving, moronic “Fury leaders are using test zone to test their designs and trick the admins into making the game into raid only Fury TDZK because the admins only listen to them!” posts, and they bother the hell out of me, because if anything, the opposite is true. We are EXTREMELY careful to avoid anything that might possibly be construed as test zone abuse because we know how badly that would bite us. Test zone has never been anything but a hindrance to me; being unable to ask my better members about, say, what they think about, say, NPC bashing because they worked with NPCs in test zone is very aggravating.

If it were up to me, I’d just as soon have had no testers at all.

[b]RE: Recruiting testers[/b]
Regarding intentional recruitment of testers, I am glad that you realize that these kind of allegations are silly, but there’s more to it than just the general absurdity of a conspiracy theory. The fact is that, as a matter of policy, we don't proactively recruit ANY veterans, not just testers. This is due to two things. One is ethical; veterans are usually tagged and I have always considered it to be extremely bad form to make any attempt to recruit tagged players. The second is more philosophical. Beyond the basic attributes of teamwork, intelligence, likeability etc., by far the primary thing I'm looking for in recruits is that they're seriously interested in making Fury a permanent home, and that they are the right 'fit' for the alliance.

As such, I consider it entirely useless to have a player be here if he doesn't want to be here, regardless of how much I may like him or want him here. One of the primary ways we screen for this is by forcing veterans to come to us if they want to join, avoiding putting any pressure on them to make a decision that might not work out in the long run. This way, I can be assured that people are joining Fury for the right reasons, not because we guided them into it.

There are obviously a few exceptions to this, such as the occasional suggestion a player talk to us in a AR thread, or harassing old members to rejoin, but it does account for the huge majority of veteran players that join here, especially the standouts that weren’t originally Fury members. For example, I had my eye on Iccyh since 2.1, when he immediately stood out as one of the brightest and most talented new players I'd seen. However, we made absolutely no attempt to lure him into the alliance, and when he joined in 2.3, it was entirely of his own initiative. The same was true for Alucard; when he showed up in 2.5 or whenever, he immediately stood out as a rare player who I thought would be perfect in Fury. But again, we made no attempt to recruit him or suggest he should think about joining Fury, and when he did, it was with the group of ex-ES that applied here. Identical case for ZmZ; Iccyh in particular would have killed to have him in Fury, but when he finally decided to come here, it was entirely by his own decision. There are many other examples of good players we've secretly wanted here who all joined Fury without any prompting or suggestion; Mak, Greg, JPR, Harbinger, Mardak, and so on.

I have faith that the quality of the alliance ultimately speaks for itself and will attract the kind of players we want here, and it works; we have an excellent retention rate with people we like, and we generally do end up getting the sort of people we actually want here applying here. Thus, while it's entirely true that there might have been testers who were familiar to us, stood out to us, and who we longed to have in the alliance, we actively avoided making any effort whatsoever to bring them here.

[b]RE: Planet Builders[/b]
I’m guessing from your numbers that you are basing your calcs on what was needed to build 8002. It’s true: it would have been no trouble to use the turns of our existing members to build up the planet, and in fact, that’s exactly what we did when we rebuilt the rock near the end of 2.6. No planet builders were used for that.

What you are not factoring in is that our plan for 2.6 was a lot more ambitious than just 8002. We were also actively working on rebuilding all the other minor planets we raided in order to make them profitable and do something other than look pretty. For every rock, this meant a lengthy process of demolishing and restructuring the defenses, then a huge number of production buildings and good extractors to make them self sufficient and anywhere near profitable. The number of turns needed for this was huge; production oriented planets like those required WAY more buildings than fortresses.

To give you an idea, I believe we owned around 13-16 planets at our peak, and in the three months until 8002 happened, using not only a highly organized system of planet builders, but also plenty of turns by the “real members,” we were only able to build a little less than half of them. You may rightfully question the role that planet builders should have in TDZK, but they were absolutely necessary for us to even think about carrying out our plan and not at all superfluous or brought in for a “small bit of efficiency.”

[b]RE: Jump on AD/JT in 2.7[/b]
I’m assuming you’re referring to our jump on your raid on our planet in 13181, early morning on June 16. Looking over my logs, our jump on your raid was scheduled, not spontaneous. It was obvious you had been turn saving for the week and would be hitting on that weekend, so we had posted up threads asking people to be around early on those mornings. The reason why we were able to jump you so quickly and why we were able to get so many ships online at that god awful time was because we had prepared for you.

[b]RE: Professionalism in general[/b]
I will address this point from a different perspective than I have on the forums, because, while I can entirely accept that we can be a conservative alliance, the topic of our supposed “calcing” everything, supposed lack of risk taking, and supposed refusal not to fight without sure odds of winning has been so frequently and tiringly debated that I really have no patience for discussing it further. Suffice to say, we play with a mixture of common sense (ex. “15 KAOS on and we only have 5 cover. Time to reschedule our raid“), calculated moves, (ex. The 2.6 game plan) and spontaneity (ex. Countless unplanned jumps with absolutely no guarantee of victory). I think that this kind of balance isn’t at all abnormal or unhealthy, and that it should be perfectly easy to see all three elements of our style for anyone who wants to look as us with an open mind.

Having said that, Fury was from the very beginning designed to be a competitive alliance, and I wouldn‘t have it any other way. We’ve always played to win, and by that, I mean that we’ve always played to be successful in this game. When I say successful, I am talking about success in the terms of more traditional measures of power, ability, unique achievements, victories, etc. and not a feel-good “if you have fun you’re successful!” way.

I make no apologies about that because I think the game is at its best when there are alliances like us around. For example, I think 2.1 was easily one of the best rounds TDZK ever had. Sure, it had some balance issues, but it also had a huge number of alliances -- “large,” “organized” alliances of 60+ members, all of whom arguably “played to win.” Off the top of my head, KAOS, SH, ASx, Imperials, GC, HH, IR, STS, LoF, HOLY, TPx, Rens/EV, SG, and Fury all were around or over 60 members. All of these alliances had raid teams capable of hitting high level ports, territorial and political ambitions, and goals that were more far reaching than, “let’s chill out and hunt and do whatever”

In 2.1, the game was vibrant. There were wars, activity, complex politics, and real competition -- everything that has been increasingly lacking as TDZK ages. People tend to look at the trends of the game and see that the decline of the kind of competition that early 2.x and 1.0 had in droves correlates with the rise of Fury to dominance and draw their conclusion from that: Fury must be killing the game. And then the “analysis” begins. Fury is too professional! Fury is too organized! Fury is too large and is recruiting all the good players! Fury raids too much! Fury does too much planning!

My take on it is that we’ve been running this alliance in pretty much the same way since 2.1 and, I would argue, have not significantly deviated from the way the majority alliances of played when TDZK was at its peak -- a way that was common, expected, and accepted for any alliance wanting to make an impact on the game.

You have had experience leading a good sized and significant alliance, Andrew, and therefore have a good idea of what sort of organization it takes to run an alliance like that. At the start of the round, you make sure you have a raid team you can count on. You recruit and try to train the newbies you get. You make sure you have a leadership structure that allows the day to day functioning of the alliance to run smoothly. You make a general effort to keep improving the quality of the roster, keep people active, pruning inactives, trying to pick up good players. When you get in a war, you make a global to being careful about drones and emphasize safe docking and the importance of showing up for ops and being active so you can win the war. When it’s time to raid, you try to protect your raiders and you do what you can to not to get jumped so that your op doesn’t get shut down. You make sure people aren’t flying completely idiotic designs and wasting AA money, and you try to keep the AA balanced and healthy. Longer term, you identify planets you would like to take or alliances you would like to beat down and make plans to do that. You post up op times in the forum with enough advance warning that people will be able to show up. You number-crunch and design your raiders so that you are fairly sure they won’t die -- because, let’s face it, losing raiders really sucks.

Those are all organizational characteristics of the big alliances that were so common back in 2.1, and none of them are at all unreasonable or, I think, indicative of any sort of rigid professionalism towards the game. These were simply things that you did if you wanted to have a good alliance, and everyone did them with varying degrees of success.

The fact is, the list I gave above almost *exactly* describes the way Fury is run. Much as it pains me to say so, it is nothing special. I think I am a good leader, and that Iccyh has a brilliant mind for the game, but I am under no illusions that we have some kind of ultra-refined or ultra-effective approach to running a TDZK alliance that is radically different than what came before. We organize the alliance and make the sort of moves as leadership that competitive alliances have been making since the start of the game. We just do them quite well, because we have leaders that care, members that are active, and a generally high level of competence and intelligence throughout the alliance.

Now, I’m sure you can find plenty of examples that seem to show a level of organization beyond what the standard big alliance would use. There are four main ones that I think stick out: our usage of planet builders, the development of a ship database, the large scale alliance level trading sprees at the end of 2.6 and the start of 2.7, and of course, the detailed and ambitious round plan for 2.6. Those are all things I am freely willing to admit represent a level of organization unique to us.

Planet builders I discussed before and were mainly a function of our 2.6 plan, which I’ll cover below.

The ship database was a sophisticated way of organizing all the random scans, ship stats and locations that would otherwise be scattered in random threads throughout the forum. It was extremely useful and functional, but the truth is that after the initial novelty of having it, it was hard to get people to consistently use it, and the main thing we ended up using it was for displaying the scout data we’d collect the hour before an op so we could plan out our target list -- basically, the exact same thing that you’d put in the forums before an op. For all the fuss about “stat gathering” and “number crunching” from the community once the secret was out, the ship database was for most of its existence just a way of displaying op scout data in a nice list with pretty colors.

I am proud of our trading sprees and the fact that I have an alliance with the dedication to make a lot of money when we need it. We did this twice. The first was to raise the money to rebuild 8002. This was not an option I favored at first, but it became quickly clear that this was our single option to have a chance of wining the war. In the weeks after 8002, KAOS, SD/XF/GoD and Ronin all actively raided us out. We lost all of our planets. We lost all of our raiders. Frankly, even without 8002 none of those alliances would have stood any chance whatsoever alone against us, but taken together they totally removed our ability to fight back effectively. Rebuilding the planet that would allow us to have a raid team that could survive for more than a few days was the only option, and especially after 8002, we were in it for revenge.

The second time we had a large scale trading spree was in 2.7. This was before the horrible balance and general stupidity of the retro round became obvious, and when we naively believed the hype that this would be an ultra active round and all the old TDZK veterans would come flooding back to relive the glory days of 1.0. Looking at the numbers and equations that were released, two things were obvious: planets were genuinely useless, and max level ports were completely flimsy and easily raidable within a minute or two. Thus, we were expecting a round with high activity, tons of raiding, and safe docking being non existent. Because of this, we expected to be taking a huge number of pods from incidental raidouts and decided that it was important that we build up a large AA early, before the mass raiding started, so that we could constantly replace our losses with interest. Of course, 2.7 ended up being a flop with practically no activity and only a handful of raiding alliances, and we ended up being totally wrong and having way more money than we needed, but that was the rationale behind that.

Finally, the 2.6 round plan was, indeed, exhaustively planned out and we made huge efforts to organize the alliance properly so that it could work. We did this for a number of reasons. The first was to prove to a doubting community that Fury was fully capable of standing on our own and not merely the inferior half of IGFury people liked to think of us as. The second was more idealistic. In a time in which morale about the game was dropping, everyone was complaining that planets were useless, and there was generally a large amount of whining that the game was boring, wars were unwinnable and alliances couldn’t do anything, we were hoping to prove that with a bit of organization and effort, alliances still had the power to make great and interesting things happen in the game. We wanted to show that if Fury could be successful through hard work and good activity, so could anyone else, and that no one needed to wait for the admins to fix things for the game to have big wars, big battles, and lots of activity.

Obviously, that was a complete and utter disaster and that easily stands as the most depressing thing I have ever seen happen in the game. Instead of the community reacting positively and realizing that, even if the game itself wasn’t ideal, we as a player base were not dependant on the admins and that alliances still held the power to make the game competitive, active and dramatic, the community turned on us, accused of us cheating in every way imaginable, and attacked every single characteristic that had allowed us to be successful. They denounced any form of organization and planning as being no fun and ruining the game, and the hatred of “big alliances” got taken to its highest extreme. It was, by far, the most disappointing reaction Iccyh and I could have ever conceived of.

Finally, the third reason for the 2.6 gameplan was that we were planning on disbanding the alliance after 2.6 (back when we thought 2.6 was the end of the 2.x series and before 8002 happened) and wanted to go out with a bang.

All that all said, the extreme level of planning that people think is so pervasive in all aspects of Fury has been unbelievably overstated and exaggerated. We’ve had so many players hear all the stories about how tightly we’re organized and then join and go, “wait, what? Aren’t you supposed to be organized? Where‘s the structure?” Particularly older players who join us are completely under whelmed by our forums and organization because they have been exposed to so much hype about our extreme organization and formality. The jump over 13181 at the end of 2.7 that the Rens group continues to bitch about was literally a post on the forums saying “Hey, there’s going to be an organized fight on this date. Show up with you can,” and a 2 minute “hmm, let’s use droneships” discussion. My main use for lemmy-sim was simming L10,000 ships against squads of five small ships out of general curiosity. We post up our ops in the forums and say, “hey, we’re raiding on this day, please show up” and they are notorious within the alliance for being disorganized and never starting on time.

My point with talking about all of this is that the level of “professionalism” and organization commonly assumed to be so sinister and well developed in Fury is nothing atypical for an alliance with the traditional values of wanting to be successful and influential in the game. Organizationally, we approach the game in a way very similar to the way all alliances that did anything did back in the better days of the game. We DO have a much higher emphasis on teamwork than most other alliances, because that’s the kind of alliance I want lead, and for me, teamwork is the entire reason to have an alliance. But teamwork is not professionalism, at least not in the negative sense that we are labeled with.

If you look at the forum community today, you’ll see that words like “big alliances,” “planning,” and “organization” have become almost dirty words, used derogatively. Even something as basic as good ship design, which is as fundamental to TDZK combat as you get can, has turned from something that alliances emphasized and were proud of  into an almost negative quality.

This is sad to me, because planning, organization and sufficient numbers have been essential requirements of alliance-level TDZK success since the start of the game, and planning and organization have been behind ever famous raid, notable achievement, and great alliance in the game. As I talked about above, planning and organization are inherently necessary just for any ambitious alliance to run, and when alliances are have the ability and numbers necessary to actually affect the people around them, the game is competitive and healthy. It is commonly said that if all alliances played like Fury no one would play TDZK, and I think the opposite is true. There was a time when lots of alliances played like Fury and wanted to be successful, and that was when the game was at its best.

[b]RE: Public Attitude and Perceptions[/b]
If my own posts seem aggressive, confrontational and hostile, it‘s because they are. I have nothing but loathing for most of the web board community these days, after having seen for years how poorly it’s treated my alliance. I have absolutely no desire anymore to pretend to like people who have been so vicious towards us.

Without meaning to condescend, I think it’s impossible for you to appreciate the amount of abuse this community has heaped upon Fury without having been in the alliance. We have been accused of everything under the sun: admin favorites, multis, talent-less drones, systematic gang bangers, malicious game shapers, ass kissers, test zone abusers, game ruiners, fun-destroyers, exploit abusers, elitists, etc… it just goes on and on. Every single thing we’ve ever worked hard to achieve has been attacked, mocked and trivialized. It happens on IRC, it happens on the web boards, it happens regardless of what we do or how we play. It has become so pervasive that there have been instances where we’ve messaged complete newbies for recruitment and gotten replies like “no, I heard about Fury and I only want to join an alliance that plays with honor.” How, by any stretch of the imagination, is such an engrained anti-Fury sentiment good for the game?

What made it worse for me was that so much of this was obviously unfair, but no one in the community was or is willing to really stand up for us. For example, ZZ is a great guy. While all this was happening, he knew -- and said as much in private at the time -- that this kind of crap was unfair and unwarranted. But in public, he encouraged it and actively worked to turn public opinion against us. As he pointed out recently, we were just an easy target, and as a KAOS member, that was of course what he‘d do. A person like Drunkenduo, who I talked to frequently and who was well aware of how ugly people were being towards us, had no small amount of respect from the community and could have acted as a neutral voice and headed off some of these accusations before they really took off, but he never did.  There are countless others who could have said something but preferred to keep silent and watch what happened. I don’t hold this against any of them, but it was frustrating.

Maybe the most depressing element to it all is seeing the hatred and harassment directed at anyone just for being a Fury member. Take someone like Makaveli. He joins Fury, sees how things really are and how we really operate, and starts pointing out, “hey guys, what you’re saying isn’t actually true.” And what happens? His supposed friends turn on him. He gets told that he’s some kind of traitor, a liar, Fury scum, just another brown-noser sucking off Solace and so forth. I’ve seen this happen far more than I’d like and I’ve seen how these “friends” drove him near the edge of quitting in disgust multiple times.

I have also seen how constant harassment has alienated and jaded Iccyh, who is one of the most honest, bright, optimistic, and genuinely *good* people I have ever known.  Nowadays nearly anything he says about the game is attacked as being part of some kind of subversive plan to give Fury an advantage. I’ve seen how this, among other things, turned zer0das, who started off as one of the most perceptive and optimistic players in the alliance, into one of the most cynical (and rightfully so) people in the game. I’ve seen my own attitude towards the community turn from goodwill and optimism to incredulity, resentment, disgust and finally apathy.

Now, I can entirely understand why people might not like us. We don’t do a lot to make ourselves popular and we beat down a lot of people. We have traditionally been a mainly self contained alliance that doesn’t interact a lot with the rest of the community. And yes, we do have people who can often make asses of themselves on the web boards. VT and hybridxaos both wear their hearts on their sleeves and some of their posts make me cringe. The more frustrated Iccyh gets, the harder he can be to follow, and Minion was just an idiot and very abbrasive. When I post, it is more often than not on a heated topic and in defense of Fury. The joke thread with Makaveli was the result of random messing around in #fury that later got out of hand and turned into something far uglier than we intended. We did not come off very well in it, and I appreciate why that offended some people.

But while some general dislike is perfectly understandable, that in NO WAY justifies the level of and type of scorn and abuse that has been directed as us. The joke thread lasted half a day, and at the end of it we apologized for it. I have never seen anyone apologize to Fury for years of harassment. I’ve never seen anyone that carried out lengthy public campaigns against our integrity step back, look at the facts objectively and say publicly, “you know, I was wrong about this, it wasn’t right of me to make these accusations.” It’s just been more of the same, maybe carried on by new people, someone diminished in fervor as the community gets more and more dead.

So in the end, your analysis is pretty much spot on. The more we’re attacked, the more we’ve withdrawn into ourselves and the less we think off the community. I won’t say that public opinion doesn’t matter to us, because it obviously does, but the pervading attitude with many of us is “fuck the community.” By absolutely no means is Fury perfect, but we’ve done our best to be an active, contributing, ethical alliance in the community and have largely gotten nothing but negativity and slander in return. The anger and frustration you now see so often from us is the result of that, and that leads to an even greater rift between us and the community. It’s an unfortunate cycle. Sad? Absolutely. Understandable? If you’re been in Fury for long enough, you understand.


There you go, AtM. That’s about as complete a perspective on how I see Fury and the game as I can give you. (And I beat you in length! Hah!)