Combat in EVE Online is easily the most difficult aspect of the game for any player. A good portion of activities in EVE Online are inherently laid back, but combat—specifically small gang player versus player combat—is as immediate and threatening as a hammer to the face. It’s unsurprisingly then, how many pilots have shunned it altogether, all but declaring themselves pacifists of the stars. Agony Unleashed rejects that idea, and they just happen to have the tools to teach you how to do it too.
Since 2006, Agony has been brawling across the expanse of New Eden, but unlike the thousands of other explosion seeking corporations, Agony has built a firm reputation for forward thinking tactics, for masterful execution, and for teaching others how to perform at the same level. Instead of getting involved with the messy politics of holding space in sovereign null-sec, Agony is entirely dedicated to finding, what CEO Gizznitt Malikite explained as, “good fights”.
“We’re not afraid to put our ships at risk,” he told me during an interview. “We just like to go out, have fun, and try out new tactics.”
In a sense, Agony are very much scientists, except that their field of study is in discovering the most efficient and fun ways of causing ships to explode.
Agony Unleashed was founded back in 2006 by Rells, a pilot who was looking to break away from the established fleet doctrines at the time; something he thought was inherently unfriendly towards new players.
Flying around New Eden today, it might be hard to believe, but there was a time when the galaxy was dominated by the superiority of battleships. The great wars of null-sec were fought with fleets consisting of these hulking brutes, with little room for experimentation or new strategies. Rells, convinced that there was more to combat in EVE than forming wrecking balls of death and finding out whose was bigger, began working to help develop an emerging form of combat: small gang PVP.
“He really thought that you could make a big difference with frigate hulls and destroyer hulls,” Gizznitt told me. “Which were, generally speaking, relegated to new players being told they could go in a frigate hull and try and hold tackle while a sniping battleship would come in.”
“That tactic didn’t work out very well for frigate players.”
Rells capitalized on the mobility possessed by smaller ships to help concoct a strategy that involved guerilla warfare and hit and run tactics.
“His whole vision was to use groups of frigates to take down battleships.”
It was a vision that, through various changes and balances to the game, has now become a major aspect of combat in EVE Online.
Until the upcoming summer update, which seeks to revamp null-sec sovereignty systems, EVE has been dominated by a combat doctrine that often veers towards fielding the biggest ships in the highest numbers. Small gang PVP is substantially different in methodology, so much so that an experienced combat pilot used to fighting in massive fleets, might feel overwhelmed at just how immediate and personal small gang PVP can be.
“The actions of the individual have a major impact on the outcome of a fight,” Gizznitt said.
“A lot of times with [sovereign warfare] it’s just a question of who has enough DPS to break the other’s [repair chain]. If it’s a war of attrition, once your number comes up you just die.”
By comparison, small gang fights feel frantic and fluid. Even though gangs will still have a fleet commander calling targets and directing the group, the responsibility each pilot bears is much higher.
Since its founding, Agony Unleashed has always paid a considerable effort to not only developing new and progressive tactics, but also teaching those tactics to players—regardless of affiliation. PVP University, Agony’s own educational program, has been around as long as the corporation itself. In just under a decade, the program has cut thousands of player’s teeth on EVE‘s most terrifying aspect.
“We’re never going to be as good in any one area as a corporation that is dedicated to it,” Azomdeus Valar, CEO of EVE University, explained to me in our first issue of Final Frontier. Both corporations have similar goals: teach players how to play. Agony Unleashed, however, has a laser sharp focus on PVP, which allows them to excel beyond EVE University when it comes to making pilots combat ready.
Agony Unleashed doesn’t pull any punches with its students. While admission is open to anyone willing to pay their modest fee, it does require a readiness to learn and a willingness to fail. Doing is learning, and Agony believes in lots of doing.
Unlike EVE University, which is akin to going to an actual university and living day to day with your other classmates, Agony’s PVP-U is more like taking a night class. Each of their classes are only held a few times a month, and in between those times players aren’t affiliated with Agony in any sense. Agony Unleashed is still a separate entity entirely, but Gizznitt describes PVP University as “a service” for the EVE community; one that Agony members help organize out of their own desire to give back.
Classes are spread over a wide range of aspects of small scale combat, starting off with the PVP-BASIC, before moving on to more in-depth topics covering fighting in everything up to battlecruisers, as well as commanding a fleet, covert operations, and the art of interdiction. Typically, classes are divided over a few days, with the first day covering the theory and the second day acting as a live fire exercise as players are led on roams lasting upwards of six hours into dangerous null-sec territories.
“Once you’re in fleet, we treat you like a fleet member,” Gizznitt said. “A lot of times veterans come to the classes and are like, ‘oh my god, I learned something new!'”
Cracking the null-sec nut has proven tough. The inherent lawlessness flies in the face of most pilots’ instinctual need of self-preservation. While waiting for the upcoming changes to sovereignty mechanics due this summer, Agony Unleashed has relocated to low-sec for the time being, but traditionally they have operated out of NPC owned null-sec.
Living in NPC null-sec affords Agony all of the benefits of null-sec, but none of the messy politics that comes with owning a system. Something that, as Gizznitt told me, has never really been of interest to Agony. They held space briefly for a time, but only because the area had been designated as a fight club by several similarly sized alliances. But testing the boundaries of the established metagame has always been Agony’s sole focus, and leaving complicated politics behind means more targets for Agony to experiment with.
While PVP-U is open to anyone willing to sign up, joining Agony Unleashed itself is another story.
“We have a really long trial process that lasts around three months,” Gizznitt told me. “We’re a little bit more selective in terms of how we bring people in.”
“When most people say they’re a little bit more selective it means you have to have ‘x’ number of skillpoints or whatever. We just want to know that you’re interested in small gang PVP.”
The three month trial is, Gizznitt told me, simply a courting period for potential recruits and the corporation to see if things are a good fit. It’s a rather interesting deviation from a lot of corporations in EVE, which often seem more than willing to fill out their ranks with little care to how those members might complement one another.
Agony’s approach to masterful PVP is surprisingly accommodating of players, however. Gizznitt described the culture within the group to be casual, where players are free to organize fleets and roams and chase targets of opportunity at their will. Without a home system to defend, the corporation is free from the dreaded “call to arms” that bigger null-sec alliances frequently utilize, meaning players are free to come and go as their schedules allow. In fact, aside from being an active member within the group, the only hard and fast rule is being on Teamspeak so members can communicate effectively over voice communication.
Passing the trial period does present one obstacle: all recruits must learn to command a fleet.
“A lot of times that gets people understanding how to call targets. It gives them an idea of which targets should you make a priority or to avoid,” Gizznitt said. “We want people to develop their knowledge and enjoyment of PVPing in the game.”
With so much destruction being unleashed at any given time, the big question is how Agony recoups losses.
“The truth is,” Gizznitt said. “We leave that up to the individual.”
During classes, Agony members can expect their ships to be reimbursed, but the rest of the time, each member is expected to maintain their own income to fund their destructive exploits.
“You’re always responsible for keeping your own ship alive.”
That tough, independent mentality is one of the core pillars that has helped establish Agony Unleashed as one of the foremost PVP corporations within EVE Online. The truth is, New Eden is a dark and scary place, and while many pilots prefer the safety of high-security space, Agony has, for almost a decade now, been actively working to bridge that gap and help pilots unlock their true potential.
Those looking to take one of Agony’s PVP-U classes can find more information on their wiki, which also contains a wealth of information for pilots about the corporation itself and their favorite activity. Players can also join the in-game channel AU_PVP_UNIVERSITY for more information.Related: Column, Community, EVE Online, Interview, The Final Frontier