AU History chapter 5
Original text by Rells
Copyright Agony Unleashed
Chapter V: Venal, Errors in Leadership and the End of an Era
As the corp members began to need more and more funding, it was clear that they would have to disperse to their mission agents because the Pure Blind region simply couldn't support the needs of AGONY. As a result people were spread out all over the universe and often logging in just for scheduled gangs and for a quick gank in x-70mu. On top of that many in the corp had become complacent. Pure Blind had mostly cleared out of any serious threat and camping gates that didnt fire for 9 hours straight was not in the nature of AGONY pilots. However another mini-crisis was brewing as well.
In the lead up to Venal, AGONY had recruited heavily and as a result had a large number of potential pilots in the corp that needed a bit of mentoring. All sorts of mistakes were being made that were, in the minds of leadership, stupid at the best. Haulers were jumped into 0.0 without waiting for recon reports, pilots were flying into obvious traps and being popped like pinyatas and the general quality of PvP had been watered down. Although it wasn't exactly the fault of the newer pilots, they needed training is all, but it was also a fault of leadership. Gone were the days when AGONY could simply assimilate new players and hope they picked up living in 0.0 by osmosis. AGONYs policy of recruiting newbie players (which in the long run turn out to be some of the best) contributed to the problem.
There was a third and ultimately more devastating problem pending. At this time AGONY was trying to keep corp hangers full of tech 1 gear, frigs and destroyers and some cruisers for members to use. One problem that was that some people were appropriating ships from the hangars and then tossing them away in stupid maneuvers because they didn't have any vested interest in the ships themselves. This is a natural byproduct of being given things, people tend to value those things less. Combined with the increase in pilots, logistics had become a daily 6 hour job for about 10 people in the corp including Rells. Life was consisting of logging in and replacing things in hangars, starting jobs getting the over 200 blueprints researched and then logging out tired and unhappy from having done no killing. AGONY for many in logistics had become a job, not a game. Many logistics people drifted off to other corps and the load was increased to the point of ridiculous. At one point Rells tracked that he had been spending 52 hours in one week doing logistics and hadn't run a gang in weeks.
Clearly this was an unsustainable situation and so Rells began to look for ways to make corp members more independent and fatten their wallets. he reasoned that if they had more money they would be more likely to buy thier own ship or module rather than wait for someone to fill the gap in inventory. Rells also hoped that making the pilots richer would give more desire to stay in 0.0 space and not be transient 0.0 arena folks. A move was in the planning with leadership and Venal was the target. It was rich, it was far into 0.0 space which discouraged transient pilots, it was hostile giving players more challenge and it had NPC stations, essential for a corp without the moxy to hold space.
The move to Venal was received with lukewarm reception at best which really surprised Rells. Rells attributed this to apathy and the obvious challenge that pure blind meant and pushed forward eager to create a crucible once more. He didn't want the pilots happy and comfortable but rather fat with isk and raving maniacs with bloodlust. After some convincing carrier flights began to hop gear up to the Sisters of Eve station in 6NJ8-V, Venal. Pilots began to filter up to the new home base and get the lay of the land. It was a tense time in AGONY. Many felt that Rells had made an awful mistake and some thought he was being outright pretentious and arrogant but most of AGONY persevered. The locals, however, were not amused.
Phalanx alliance had held that space with tacit approval from their friends for as long as they could remember. They were not happy with their new co-habitant and less with the flippant attitude the new corp seemed to have towards diplomacy. Dimplomatic efforts were rebuffed with "no, we don't want a NAP." Furthermore, threats to crush AGONY just seemed to make the CEO chuckle and say, "Bring it on." Rells was far to concerned with internal strife to care one whiff about Phalanx Alliance and their posturing. Phalanx did try to make good on their threat to destroy agony and tied to enlist their allies in the process. Now began the Phalanx Alliance campaign which had something of a bittersweet ending.
Phalanx was aggressive but not too bright. Many agony tactics worked beautifully on them. In one event Beef Hardslab managed to kill several interceptors returning from a fight with only the help of Rells' interdictor. The smartbombs did the trick. AGONY was anywhere and everywhere. Station camps were treated with flybys and other demoralizing tactics. On top of that psyops was in full force. Rells had become a bit bummed about the reception to the Venal move and had resolved to take out his anger on Phalanx alliance. Rells left a number of clues to Phalanx which indicated that their closest ally had actually hired AGONY to get rid of Phalanx so that the ally could have the system. Rells refused to confirm the allegations saying that he could not discuss the business of AGONY with their clients. The resonances had been set up and now just needed to be nurtured and they would rupture Phalanx. Rells then ordered pilots to not attack their supposed client if Phalanx was present or to allow the other alliance to escape from fights. Intel from Phalanx began to report these things and an earthquake built up in phalanx. Under the combined pressure of killing Phalanx peaceful ratters and interrupting their lucrative one jump trade missions, Phalanx began to crack. Obscenities began to be common in space and AGONY delighted in getting them muted by devs for obscenities not necessarily because they cared about the obscenity (agony were all adults after all) but because it pestered Phalanx and Phalanx earned it with their mouth. Phalanx were bad sports, horrible at pvp in numbers less than 30 and couldn't take the pressure. Corps began to peel off phalanx, they cancelled their NAP with other alliances and the breakup had begun.
However, at the same time AGONY had its own problems to deal with. For one thing, the European players were under far more pressure than the American ones and it was far too late before Rells realized the enormity of the problem and many euros unfortunately took that as a sign of indifference. Rells actually didn't understand until he took a day off work to see what the problem was. Phalanx had the euros camped in a lot and it was much tougher to implement the guerrilla war that was the hallmark of AGONY during that time frame. Rells, finally realizing the problem started to advise ways of countering it and stepped up his psyops that he was hopeful was about to crack phalanx in half, relieving the pressure on the euros. Unfortunately it wasn't enough and Rells felt he had let down his euro players. But his next mistake would be one that would almost kill AGONY.
The AGONY directors had met and decided that PVP-BASIC and WOLFPACKS wasn't enough, that there needed to be more formalizzed training beyond that. Venal had exposed the weakness in training in some pilots and the leadership wanted to plug these holes. As a group they decided to introduce certifications and military rank (which had up to then been honorary) and to require certifications for rank. Furthermore they reasoned the seasoned experts in AGONY would quickly run their certs back to the requirements of their rank. It seemed fair at the time to require everyone have the same qualifications to reach a rank and all of the leadership agreed to set an example by knocking out the certs they needed themselves. Rells brought the new ranking system to the membership and the reaction was entirely unexpected.
Long time players, friends of Rells, were extremely angry at the rank reset and the certification requirements. They didn't feel they needed to justify their ranks and were pissed at being asked to do so. Many apparently felt it a betrayal of trust which was certainly not the intention of Rells or anyone else in the corp leadership. Several people immediately announced they were leaving and Rells was the lightning rod of their ire. Rells hadn't anticipated this reaction but rather thought people would be happy to have a formal rank structure. The anger completely caught him off guard and depressed him. Between the combination of the move to Venal and the cert system, long time friends had decided they didnt want to be part of AGONY anymore and Rells hated every leaving thread. Leaving threads snowballed and gained momentum and soon a large contingent was leaving and a large contingent was just as intent on staying. A civil war had erupted in AGONY.
One hazard of being a CEO is that people sometimes forget you are a real person. Rells was crushed at what was happening to the corp and didn't know how to fix it. Furthermore, long time friends of Rells that he had flown with for 2 or more years had started to issue epithets, and accusations that were incredibly hurtful. Rells passed it off as anger and frustration but in reality few knew that Rells was a basket case, depressed and upset on a daily basis. Twice Rells offered his resignation to be rejected and talked down by leadership. It got to the point where many of the ex agony pilots were not only being extremely nasty to their former CEO, but they were doing it very publicly. Rells didn't give a damn what strangers though of him, only people he cared for could hurt him and some of them did. He knew that they had some valid points and some legit complaints but when the insults and nastiness came out, Rells just disconnected and went into something of a zombie mode.
The exodus had started to subside and AGONY was in a bit of a state of shock. Like a boxer stunned by a right hook, AGONY was on the floor and struggling to get up. Rells was in much worse condition having canceled and reactivated his account seven times in a month. However, things began to stabilize because of the resilience of the pilots and the fact that the rest of the AGONY leadership handled it far better than Rells. Phalanx, for their part coincidentally decided they wanted to evict AGONY for good and set up bubbles on the station and kept them there for days, manned 24 hours a day. The USA agony players were able to harass them and even get them to blow up their own bubbles on a number of occasions when no one in their corp could unanchor. However, the euros had a much harder time of it with fleets of 50 often in the system. Rells had made the mistake of not requiring enough diversification of where equipment should be put in several stations and even systems to allow options in the case of camping. Ultimately Phalanx ended up ending their own siege and giving up on driving AGONY out but at the same time AGONY was in a horrible state of affairs with a lot of animosity on both sides, the decision was made to withdraw agony first to h-pa and then back to pure blind. Coming back felt bad, as if AGONY had been defeated for the first time. The corp was in a bad state and Rells had just about had enough of Eve.
Back in Pure Blind, AGONY began to recover some of its strength and added some new memberships. Dozens of posts that had exchanged nasty comments from both sides, Rells included among the transgressors, were moved to archive to facilitate the rebuilding and prevent recruits from seeing the carnage. Agony began to prosper again after a while but Rells had faded from the game for the most part, often not logging in for weeks at a time. It was time for new leadership of AGONY and it wasn't long after that when Rells finalized his resignation nominating Bamar as his successor, started to look at other games and having bad luck in them, quit MMOs for over a year. The corp that Rells had founded so that he could PvP without ever having to rat or mine again, was now honestly better off in other leadership and Rells was officially burned out on eve.
However, AGONY began to take new directions. Bamar, began to put his own imprint upon the corp and the corp began to recover a lot of its former glory. Not too long after, Bamar would reverse out the horrible mistake of the certs and move the corp in his own direction and it has prospered under Bamar possibly more than it ever did or could have under Rells.
So ends my personal recorded history of AGONY. Naturally it is recorded from my own point of view and others had different impressions of certain incidents. However, perhaps for the first time, some may know my view of things. Writing this has been an emotional experience.
Today the pilots of AGONY are known Eve-wide as being lethal and innovative and under fantastic leadership with fantastic people staffing the fleets. Bigger organizations than AGONY have a healthy respect for the pilots of AGONY and you can see it in how they try and fight you. I hope that I had some part in starting the ride but it is for all of you, every one of you, to take that history, that fight for survival, that wonderful coalescence of tactics and keep the name high and honored among the corps of eve. In AGONY's beginning no one knew who AGONY was -- and many that were known before, are lost to be forgotten by history but AGONY remains. Now few dont know AGONY.