October 6, 2017

Drama Finally Strikes Mercenary Academy

Drama is a way of life in EVE. As a director and former CEO, I'm all too aware of this fact. But it's still never pleasant when it happens, especially when it comes as a surprise from people who you never thought would be its source. Yesterday, as some of you may have already read, some students (acting independently of Mercenary Academy) were under the assumption that they had a binding contract with Mercenary Coalition (or at the very least, some of its members) to help defend an Astrahaus in wormhole space. Of course it didn't turn out so well, or I wouldn't be here telling you this.

When I first heard about the situation, I was playing DCS World (A-10c module) with Mercenary Academy's CEO, Cassidy Skye. One of the directors of 007, Dani, dropped into our Mumble channel to let us know that some students were freaking out about a wormhole. Cassidy casually mentioned that the students were made aware that Mercenary Academy wasn't ready to branch into wormholes officially and that they were wished luck, but had no official backing. Dani kind of reiterated that they're freaking out, and Cassidy said he'd drop in and handle things when we were done playing. We didn't know at the time the details, of course.

We continued playing until I realized Cassidy wasn't in my Mumble channel any more and was in a chat with Sabre A and Deletor - Mercenary Coalition High Command. Clearly something bigger was happening. I continued playing, assuming things would get sorted quickly and Cassidy would jump back up and resume flying with me.

Unfortunately not.

It became clear soon after that two members of Mercenary Coalition had set up a deal with four members of Mercenary Academy (again, acting independently of the academy) to defend an Astrahaus for a price of 1B ISK. 

Issue #1 and #2. We'll come back to these.

After reading the logs, the order of events as I see it is  as follows:
  1. Student contacts MC member for help
  2. MC (A) member says they'll help using an MA fleet (so far, no issues from MC's perspective)
  3. MA member mentions an ISK amount
  4. MC (A) member seems to misunderstand, thinking that they're offering a payment
  5. MA member, perhaps flustered, continues the line of thought, legitimatizing the payment
  6. MC (A) member likely doesn't feel comfortable leading the MC fleet and passes to the other MC member (B)
  7. MC (B) member takes ISK payment
  8. MC (B) member can't muster enough people for the op (Issue #3)
  9. MC (B) member notifies MA members that the contract is off and refunds payment of 1B ISK
  10. MA members are justifiable confused, angry, and betrayed as they watch their Astrahaus destroyed
I don't believe that either MC member were acting maliciously and did have the goal of defending the Astrahaus. It's clear to me that MC (B) was looking forward to receiving payment directly for a contract, which is something that doesn't happen very often in MC any more for pilots, as I've reported before. Both MC members claim that they did not (and still do not) see how anyone could misunderstand the conversation and think MC was officially involved. As I've told MC (B), this is naive. When you do anything in EVE, especially take contracts - intentional or not - you are a representative of MC.

Regardless of intent or miscommunication, there are four major issues that I've outlined that are, in my view, unacceptable.

Issue #1

MC does not and will not ever take money from Mercenary Academy or its students to support their ability to learn or have fun. It's in Mercenary Coalition's best interest to ensure that Mercenary Academy is a welcome, enjoyable place to be. We support the alliance for free. Any member of MC should know this and the fact that they still took money is appalling to me.

Issue #2

There is a proper way to set up contracts. Members have been made aware and there is a stickied forum post with the people on the team. When this procedure isn't followed, critical steps can be missed, prices may not be accurate, and any number of issues may arise. There is a reason we have this procedure, and this example is proof of why.

Issue #3

The internal communication of this event was equally horrid and poorly executed. if you're going to accept a job, even inappropriately, at least do something right! Not a single member of leadership within Mercenary Coalition or Mercenary Academy knew this event was happening. If any one of us did, we could have at least defended the Astrahaus successfully, averting so much of the drama that ensued. Points #1 and #2 would still remain and have to be dealt with, but the fallout wouldn't.

In the end, the people involved from MC have been dealt with at the corporate level. I'm pained to say that one of them is a member of Noir. In Noir., we've worked tirelessly to hold ourselves to a higher standard. We believe that our reputation is our calling card and our word our bond. Mercenary Coalition also shares these values. I can't convey the frustration and disappointment that Noir. leadership has over this incident. It's unacceptable and once we understood the situation we reacted immediately to fix the problem.

I reached out personally to the main person from MA who was involved and was reassured that he was not upset at us and was incredibly happy with the resolution. He said the incident, "leaves us in a much better position than before with access to mentoring to learn what we are passionate about." A small silver lining in an unnecessary event.

In the end, I questioned whether I should write this whole post, but I felt that it's better to lay out the actual order of events and steps taken rather than let people make guesses and conjecture when they're not informed. It's inevitable that something would happen eventually. An alliance like Mercenary Academy who accepts anyone into the organization with no check is going to have people who like to try and flame a spark into a flame. Internally, this incident is already over and done. It was resolved in a matter of hours and no one actually involved from MA's side could care less. 

I like what the student said: this incident leaves us in a much better position than before. And that's true. Drama happens, that will never change. But I am very proud to say that, internally, we're stronger than we were before this. We've all learned something from this: the students from MA have learned how serious MC takes their situation and our reputation. In MC, we've created better processes to avoid and facilitate future situations, and we can now move forward to tackle the next real challenge rather than an imaginary one.

P.S. I don't know why I didn't publish this at the time, but I noticed that it was in my drafts, so I hit publish. Very late, but still an interesting topic.