Tuesday, June 10, 2014

TGRAD and Razor Behind the Scenes

Flatterpillo ran a very well-researched article about the recent departure of both hirr and The Graduates from Razor Alliance.

Those who have read this blog before know that I’ve been a member of Razor since early 2012.  In those two-and-a-half years, Razor went from a barely-burning ember holding sov in 5 systems in Pure Blind to owning Tenal for the past two years.  We’ve had great successes, great failures, and have generally waxed and waned in power and ability over the past few years.

It may seem a little strange that a Razor blogger hasn’t covered everything happening in Razor over the past few months.  Up until now, I’ve tried to play it close to the vest out of respect for the troika and to prevent headaches for my own corp leadership.  If I say something controversial or air dirty laundry publicly, it’s not really good form, and my corp will hear complaints about it.

But with the recent article about Razor I’ve come to the conclusion that silence will only serve to propagate some false beliefs about what the real story is.  I aim to rectify the narrative now.

I don’t know much behind the hirr departure, so I’ll let others speak to that.  But I was one of the people discussing some issues of culture in the Razor forums, and can speak on that topic, and how it affected the Tgrads situation.

Let me say one more thing before going into this article in force.  Those of you who have read this blog before know I take self-reflection very seriously.  I don’t believe in using this blog to promote propaganda.  As such, what you’ll get here is my genuine opinions; not a candy-coated version. 

It’s also worth mentioning that I’m just a regular member of Repercussus, and don’t hold any leadership roles in Razor itself.  So, take what I say as a personal opinion based on my observations, not an official statement.  I actually believe that’s a benefit to you… my interest is in telling the truth, not spinning propaganda.  But, it’s truth as I see it, limited by my own finite view.

So, without further ado…

Razor Est Omnia Divisia in Pars Duo

To understand what happened with Tgrads and Razor, first you must understand that Razor is not one, but two separate organizations.  The first is the EUTZ, which is overwhelmingly dominant.  Fleet doctrines are composed for EUTZ numbers, the vast majority of corporations are primarily EU, and the culture is overwhelmingly compatible with an EU worldview.  The EUTZ is by far the strongest, and while leadership is generally respectful to the USTZ, they make decisions about deployments based largely on the EUTZ; this is only appropriate; you need to lead with your strength.

Then you have the USTZ.  Up until a month ago, it consisted almost entirely of Tgrads, about half of hirr, and Repercussus, my corporation.  Yes, there were a number of USTZ players in other corporations, but no corp had the numbers to really have a “critical mass” of members other than Repercussus and Tgrads; hirr came close.  A Razor FC can easily stamp his foot at the ground and have a fleet spring up around him in the EUTZ, but in the USTZ, we had many fewer numbers – the split was purportedly 60/40 among characters, but it was actually more like 70/30 for actual players.

I’m a USTZ player, and can really only play in that time zone.  So, for all intents and purposes, content generated for the EUTZ doesn’t really “exist” for me.  The players I see regularly are all USTZ players, along with a few EUTZ players who stay up late for early US fleets.  Nor is this experience atypical.

But, by and large, the culture of both EU and US are fundamentally different.  US players tend to be more small gang-focused, while EU players live for large fleet fights.  US players tend to be more individual and follow more of a “pursue individual self-interest and we all profit” attitude, while Razor’s EUTZ culture is much more “follow your leaders and we all profit”.

This not only influences the types of fleets we tend to fly – small gang roams for US, larger fleet strat ops for EU – but also the forum culture.  US players tend to be the ones who argue “trust is earned” and want to understand the rationale behind decisions, while EU players tend to be more, “Trust is owed” and want to know what troika wants them to do.  Maybe part of it is cultural, but I think a lot of it is that to survive in the USTZ with smaller numbers, you need to be suited to flying in smaller fleets and running your own content; that naturally makes you more suspicious, questioning, and self-focused.

Adding Spice to the Mix

In addition to these two very different experiences (EU vs US), there was one other factor.  A couple corporations, including Tgrads and Oberon Incorporated, had very specific corporation rules; specifically, they did not believe in shooting first in low-sec, and were forbidden from roaming in low-sec-specific fleets.  For Tgrads, this policy stems from their mission statement and the way they view PvP in Eve. Whether it’s right or wrong in and of itself is not really the point.

However, if you look at Eve in the age of B0TLRD and the existence of pretty much renters, fellow CFC coalition-mates, N3, PL, and Provibloc, it’s not outrageous to say PvP is in life-support in null-sec.  You’re almost guaranteed to experience only one of the following: blobs killing you, your fleet blops dropping a ship that has no possibility of resisting, or 100+ pilot fleet fights.  It’s extremely difficult to find and fight a relatively even-strength fleet that would fit within the small gang category.  Sure, you get the large fleet fights, but they happen perhaps once every couple weeks; not enough to sustain daily PvP desires.

Not so with low-sec, which is quite literally teeming with life and combat.  In low-sec, it’s very common to find a fight of relatively even numbers.  People are willing to limit their fleets to provide an even match.  1v1s are easier to find.  FW plexes allow you to limit ship types to ensure relatively even fights.

Then there are wormholes, which occasionally provide fights, but more often than not are in the “gank” category… you find a ratting carrier, jump ships in secretly and blap it before it can call help in.  Wormhole corps can get even fights, but null alliances often face heavily uneven fights.  That kind of fighting is exciting, I suppose, but the only time you really improve at PvP is when you decide to fight an enemy that stands a chance at killing you.  That kind of fight lives in low-sec these days.

Yet, Tgrads members were forbidden from joining any fleet that roamed in low-sec.  If they were in a fleet in null that strayed into low, they couldn’t engage first; they had to wait for the enemy to engage.  They weren’t even allowed to join lowsec gangs at all.  It created a dilemma.  The fights that would make us better PvPers were in an area of space that only a small pool of pilots were permitted to travel to.  Our USTZ numbers were effectively cut by about 60% when we went to where the fights were.

What about OI?  Well, they are an EUTZ corporation.  Because the numbers in EUTZ are so much higher – and the majority of corporations are EU-strong – the loss of OI pilots didn’t constitute a significant drop in overall pilots eligible for low-sec fighting.  OI can afford to be quirky because the loss of their numbers doesn’t cripple the EUTZ.  So, the suggestions in the mittani.com article that OI is going to be the next to leave are silly.  Quite frankly, their cultural corporate quirks aren’t an issue.

Kicking It Up a Notch: Critical Mass

Razor comms don’t have a common general chat channel.  Actually, we do, but because Razor has so many players, having 200 players online in the same chat channel would quickly become a chaos of voices.  So, chat and socialization naturally shifts down to the corporation level.  It only makes sense; you see their comments posted in corporate chat, and it’s just convenient to split apart based on who you intereact with most.

Earlier, I mentioned “critical mass”.  Impromptu roams form when someone decides they want to roam, identifies a core of interest, then opens it up to the whole alliance and gets the roam started.  In the Razor USTZ, a lot of corporations don’t have a whole lot of players online at one time.  They lack the critical social mass to really breach the, “Wanna roam?” question and gather the interest from 4-5 people to form the core of a fleet. 

The two corporations in USTZ that could easily do that were Tgrads and Repercussus.  So, a lot of roams began through those two corps.  Yet those two groups have very different ideas of what PvP roams were about.  The result was having two halves in the USTZ, not a whole.

Culture Clash

My perception of Tgrads is that they value and cultivate large fleet PvP skills, while RP appears to value the individual pilot skill, decision-making, and ingenuity borne out of small-gang.  They are fundamentally different perspectives on combat.  Both can create good, useful pilots for sov null-sec.  But, they take different approaches and created a clash of culture.  To make it worse, both cultures were at odds with the overall EU culture, which ratcheted up the tension.

Being ex-Morsus Mihi had nothing to do with the clash of cultures.  Having corporations that have differences in rules of engagement did.  And this found its way into the forums.  Debates became very heated at times.  Most players aren’t skilled in the art of debate, and discussions of policies and positions would tend to devolve into personal attacks and insults that quickly scaled out of control.

Some of the long gaps between my posts on Target Caller were caused by me spending all my time writing and debating some of these points in the Razor forums.  I feel passionately that imposing artificial limits on what sort of and where you will engage in PvP is absolutely ridiculous; I say either go full NRDS or NBSI.  I felt passionately that an alliance shouldn’t tolerate differing rules of engagement by its member corporations, and I tried to persuade others to hold to that.  Others on the Tgrads side did the same.  Ultimately, it became clear that neither side was going to budge at all.  It was a point of culture that had significant consequences to day-to-day operations and couldn’t be overcome.

Tgrads Leaving and the Future

Tgrads’ CEO commented that “the next few months will be challenging for Razor,” and “When we left, [Razor leadership] was not working the way it was intended to work.”  The mittani.com writer suggests that the peace brought on by the “cold war” in Eve has caused issues within Razor to bubble to the surface.

Let me hit this square in the head.  The author’s absolutely right.  Issues that have simmered beneath the surface for years bubbled to the top.  Tgrads’ policy was an irritation among some Razor pilots, including myself.  As a result, I believe they began to see themselves as a wronged party, to some extent.  They tended to stick together more and more.  They complained that their young FCs were trolled when they opened fleets to Razor members, and they ran their own fleets with more and more isolation.  They stayed in their own little neighborhood up near Cobalt Edge and were rarely seen – particularly relative to their numbers- outside of strat ops.  That isolation only ramped up the sentiment against them.

They became, in my eyes, a self-enclosed subculture within Razor.  I found that personally annoying (in one instance, I was hunting neutrals in Tenal, and Tgrads had a fleet up doing the same; even when I was giving them intel and asking to join their fleet, they wouldn’t combine our efforts).

Tgrads wasn’t a wronged party.  They’re a corporation that knows exactly who they are, recruits to that mission, and communicates that mission to its members.  They are very clear on that they’re all about, and I respect them for that.  They have a dedicated logistics and leadership team that will ensure that they thrive on their own.  They’re a well-organized corporation, and they did their best to make it work in Razor.  They’ll surely remain strong and viable on their own.

But they didn’t fit in Razor.  Razor’s leadership didn’t take any action because it valued the numbers Tgrads brought to strat-ops (and they did have good fleet participation numbers), but the corp ignored an area of space containing the vast majority of PvP with the highest potential for improving your flying.  And worse, their presence “crowded out” other possible US corps that would have brought more content to the rest of the alliance.  Thus, far from being the symptom of a larger issue, Tgrads’ departure represents a step on the route to resolution.

They realized they weren’t a good fit and decided to part ways with class and grace.  I look forward to flying with them in CFC fleets.  But I’m glad they’re out of Razor.  Just because a guy is your friend and you respect him doesn’t mean you want him sleeping with your sister and joining the family.

The Question of Leadership

The article also suggests failures of leadership in Razor.  Elise Randolph’s comments aside (am I really going to care about the opinion of Pandemic Legion, who I refuse to fight unless I have to because I don’t respect them philosophically?), yes, we do have some issues.  But – again – I find it supremely humorous that a PL leader would point to any factor except supercap numbers in any discussion about success/failure of a null-sec alliance.  If PL’s lowering themselves to casting silly insults at Razor, their position must be weaker than everyone thought (smash B0TLRD and begin full-scale invasion, anyone?)

I’m not going to go into what those issues are – again, that’s an internal matter – but I can say that the loss of ill-fitting corporations only serves to improve the overall uniformity of the alliance.  And that’s a good first step.  Successful alliances have a singularity of vision that’s communicated, reinforced, and bought into by members.  And the loss of Tgrads, who is a strong, self-aware alliance who simply didn’t fit, only serves to improve that singularity of vision within Razor.

We know what those issues are, and we will resolve them.  All this has happened before, all this will happen again.  Razor has endured for almost a decade, and it’ll continue to do so for years to come.  Some faces may change, but the blade will remain.

In Conclusion

War time is easy… you have an external target to kill and you’re busy doing it.  It’s peace that’s hard.  Differences rise to the surface.  It’s a time for reflection.  Idleness is a furnace that turns the heat up much higher than warfare does.  And in that fire, you burn away the impurities.  What remains isn’t necessary better, but certainly more unified.  In times of peace, people either leave the table or double down.

Some more corporations may very well leave Razor in the coming months (though I admit I don’t have any reason to believe anyone’s planning it), but I can tell you the vast majority are pleased as punch about being in the alliance.  And those corporations that remain are going to be the ones that best fit with Razor’s culture and share that unified vision of what Razor should be.

We’ve got waves of disturbance, not tsunamis.  And waves make for fun surfing.  Tsunamis just smash everything to pieces.

Failcascades stem from poor systems, structures, and logistics.  From not having a core group of corporations that buy into the alliance vision.  And they happen because you aren’t willing to make necessary changes that involve a little pain.  Razor has strengths in those areas, not weaknesses.  While some corporations may elect to part ways with Razor, the future of the alliance itself isn’t in doubt. 


  1. Razor is everything into two portions?

  2. "Razor is one divided into two parts."

  3. HONOR is always looking for new corporations to join us. Great fights... everyday.

  4. "I feel passionately that imposing artificial limits on what sort of and where you will engage in PvP is absolutely ridiculous; I say either go full NRDS or NBSI."

    Uh... both of those are completely artificial limits made up by players. Nothing in the game compels or prevents you from following either style, or even something else all together.

    1. NRDS is, to be sure. By definition, NBSI, as a universal engagement profile, isn't (and in some cases, it even includes shooting corp mates). You could take it further, but that's reducing it to the absurd.

    2. NESI - Not Even Shoot It - Shoot all players who have an odd number of characters in their names

      NFSI/NMSI - Gender Wars in space

      NGDS - Exterminate glasses-wearers

    3. Is it the sandbox if the sandbox limits the sandbox? Oh... my head....

  5. you know that MrRx7 ripped an inactive hirr director's API to infiltrate hirr's forum include director subforum, and mirrored it/broadcasted through rzr jabber about a few days ago.
    feel free to go read the whole thing, surprisingly you can't find anything against rzr even in director chats, until they got booted that is.

    so any comments regarding this breach of trust of their ex-member, and shot themselves in the foot? also on the razor forum whenever you type 'RAWR' (morsus mihi's ticker) it will automatically correct into MM (any old morsus mihi would hate it)

    1. I can't say anything about that definitively. I've not seen any proof to support that (your comment is the first allegation I've read). However, I can confirm that Razor leaders did present some logs that they claimed supported allegations that hirr was trying to steal folks away from the alliance.

      My understanding is that when they became aware of hirr's intention to leave, a few corporations asked hirr what their plans were, at which point hirr discussed their plans to create a new CFC alliance.

      Seeing that TheMittani shot hirr down then accepted TGRAD's efforts ten days later, I tend to suspect he saw something in hirr that he didn't much care for. I can't say what that was, but my experience with hirr was that they had a number of good PvPers (Razor leadership would point to their poor participation, but I'm specifically referring to small-gang and individual skills, which I personally value much, much more). I can't speak to their corp leadership, whether they were asses to deal with, or whether they were the wronged party, since I'm not privy to any leadership discussions.

      But, as I mentioned in the article, The departures aren't about "right and wrong" ways of playing the game as they are "compatible and incompatible". The core group of corporation CEOs in Razor have a very specific way of looking at the game; it's not particularly rare or difficult to find in prospective new corps, but it is a flag planted in the ground. Some folks match, some don't.

      If you want to make allegations against MrRx7, please present proof. I'll even post it here if it's legitimate. Otherwise, you're hiding behind Internet anonymity to malign people, and I do not hold to that. (the very fact that I approved publishing of this comment shows I'm willing to discuss the issue. Just keep in mind that blogger doesn't permit me to edit any comments... if I find witch-hunting, slander, or vulgar language, I have to decline the entire comment; so present your proof without vitriol and I'll post), so we can discuss.

  6. That was a great read, thanks for sharing your thoughts!