The story of one EVE ONLINE player and the sacrifices she made to shape a virtual empire.
Alice ‘Draleth’ Bevan-McGregor wasn’t having a good day. Beyond the transparent shimmer of her covert ops frigate, Brave alliance – her alliance – was having an old fashioned witch hunt, and their pitchforks were pointed at her. Two years of her life had been dedicated to shaping Brave from a group of fledgling newbies into one of the biggest alliances EVE Online has ever known. But that was all over now. She was public enemy number one. And so she sat, watching the drama unfold with a smile on her face.
“There was a hunt out for me,” she says. “And I’m just floating in space laughingmy ass off.”
Earlier that day, Draleth had resigned from her post as director of IT and Diplomacy for Brave Newbies Inc., ending a two-year term as one of the most important people within the organisation. She quit because she felt she had to. Brave Newbies was not the same group of plucky newcomers she had invested two years of her life building. It was becoming something different, and she wanted no part in it. But in true EVE Online fashion, her exit was anything but quiet. And there were those who wanted to make sure she bled on her way out.
In an alliance as big as Brave, players like Draleth find satisfaction not by playing the game but influencing it from the outside. As director of IT and Diplomacy, Draleth was the voice of Brave, forging new alliances and spending her evenings negotiating deals with other players – often without logging into the game at all.
She also was responsible for building and maintaining the latticework of services Brave needed to function effectively. Organising over a thousand people is no simple task, and Draleth was not only in charge of building websites, forum boards, and setting up voice communication channels that the alliance needed to survive, she also built the wall that would keep these sensitive networks secure from outside intrusion. Two long years, millions of lines of code, hours of every day spent in service to a cause that she believed in.
Your life in EVE Online can feel like a second job, where day after day you punch in and out just so another player who doesn’t even know your name can grow their empire. But Brave Newbies Inc. was shaking up the status quo. “The early days,” Draleth recalls fondly, “were absolutely ridiculous balls-to-the-wall fun.”
BRAVE NEW WORLD
Nancy Crow, Brave’s current CEO, was there at the beginning. He describes how Brave reinvigorated EVE Online for thousands of players; a community free from the bloated bureaucracy that had been a slow poison for the average citizen of the game’s massive player-run empires. “We didn’t care if we won or lost,” he said, “just as long as we were having a good time doing it.”
Brave’s success was staggering. In the span of months it ballooned from a corporation of dozens, into an alliance of corporations with thousands of members. But as the alliance grew, the dream of an EVE Online where players new and old could join together in the name of fun was already fading.
As a rag-tag group of friends, Brave flourished under its hands-off approach to management, but as an alliance looking to conquer territory owned by other player empires, the strain was becoming too much.
“Our leadership system at the time was essentially useless,” Nancy says.
The vision for Brave Newbies was quickly eroding before the waves of success the corporation had achieved and those who sought to manipulate it for their own agendas. “It was a tsunami that I could see no way around,” Draleth says.
A plan was put in motion that would democratise power in the alliance, stripping it from directors like Draleth and placing it in the hands of each individual corporation. Slowly, council meetings between Brave’s directors became longer – some of them stretching on for five hours as Draleth and the others debated issues related to the alliance. Brave’s members were no longer inspired to try new projects, lead fleets, or go on disastrous voyages. They needed to fall into line, show up for war, and work for the good of the alliance. Bureaucracy was forming.
Draleth felt that Brave was dying, and she was going to do something about it.
ONE LAST CHANCE
Sitting in space, watching as her reputation was burned at the stake, Draleth was thinking about her sacrifice. Over two years she had given countless hours and thousands of dollars to hosting Brave’s network services, consequently shaping the alliance and helping it grow. She tells me how, during a four-day bus trip across Canada, she hand-coded Brave’s internal forums. She did it because she believed in Brave. And now, she was its greatest enemy – all because she refused to abandon the philosophy that had made Brave great.
“Draleth saw the potential that Brave had to change the way the game operates, to completely shift away from the politics, to be a beacon of how things could be. She was an idealist,” says Lquid Drisseg. He also joined the corporation in its early days, eventually becoming Draleth’s confidant and second-in-command of Brave’s growing network infrastructure.
Earlier that day Draleth made her final stand. A meeting was called of Brave’s council, a group of its most respected leaders, and here Draleth unveiled the counter-proposal that she hoped would cure the poison seeping into Brave’s ranks. Instead of handing power to the corporations, who Draleth believed were dismantling what made Brave great, she proposed the forming of a triumvirate consisting of herself and two other of Brave’s directors.
Nancy wasn’t fond of either plan, seeing both as an avenue to even more bureaucracy and neither as solution to Brave’s bigger issues. “Both proposals were pretty obviously self-serving,” he says, adding how Draleth’s plan was perceived by many as a ploy to consolidate her power within the alliance. In the end, Draleth was voted down unanimously. Seeing no other option, she left.
“The agents of malcontent are many,” Draleth wrote in her resignation letter, “and range in subtlety from the gross to the faintest whisper. We can never hope to fully armour ourselves against their efforts while remaining true to ourselves, though we can choose to not give in to the fears, uncertainty, and doubts that they sow throughout our experience here.” She then asked a question, the importance of which would not be realised until hours later. “Has our faceless enemy already won?”
Lquid was appointed as her successor, leaving him in charge of the legacy of technology she had built. The transition between them was meant to be smooth. “When I stepped up to take over, she gave me a timeframe for when her servers would go down,” Lquid tells me. “But there was this tiny glimmer of hope for her.”
Brave’s founding father, Matias Otero, was no longer the active leader he once was, but his position of power was absolute. He could be the one to pull Brave from the quicksand Draleth felt it was sinking into. “I spoke to Matias and explained the situation,” Draleth says. “At that point he had made it clear that he had been convinced by everyone else that it had been my intention to take over the alliance in some way. I realised that, at that point, there was no hope. He’d given up on his own dream.”
What hurt more wasn’t that Matias Otero was abandoning his own vision for Brave, but the fact that Brave’s leaders – Draleth’s friends and peers – had seen her plan as little more than a cheap ploy to take control of the alliance herself. She had given so much of herself to these people, and this was the thanks she was to get in return? “At this point I was like, well fuck it. I’ll bring the servers down.”
In an instant, Brave was plunged into chaos. The infrastructure the alliance needed to function was pulled out from under them, leaving them unable to communicate except for the archaic in-game chat channels.
“I was surprised more than anything,” Matias Otero says. “I saw Draleth as someone who had the corporation’s best interests at heart. I did not expect her to nuke our IT backend when she didn’t get what she wanted. I thought that if you wanted to give up and not be a part of this, at least don’t burn the ground behind you.”
“I think it was fucking selfish and stupid what she did,” Nancy says. “It’s totally unfair that you’re going to pretend like it’s a democratic process and we’re going to vote on it and you lose, and now you’re going to storm out and knock over as much stuff as you can on the way out – that’s pretty fucking immature.”
Draleth knew her fate with Brave was sealed, and so she retreated to the safety of her covert ops frigate to avoid being banished from the alliance, relying on a small wrinkle in EVE Online where players cannot be removed from a corporation unless they are docked at a station. But little did the rest of Brave know that an even bigger tidal wave was about to strike.
DEATH OF DRALETH
“The truth doesn’t matter in EVE, it really doesn’t,” Draleth tells me. But even as she says that, she has to admit that what happened next doesn’t exactly make her look innocent.
That evening, as Draleth retreated to the safety of her ship while Brave’s members raged over the collapse of their network, a new account was registered in EVE Online and made a post on official forum boards. Contained within were the access keys to the private character information of every pilot in Brave, keys that each Brave member would create when logging into Brave’s network. Using those keys, anyone could read their in-game correspondence, see where their money was coming and going, and know the location of every asset they owned. It was a security breach – and a betrayal – of the highest order. Who owns that account we might never know, but its name, Faceless Enemy, was a clear indicator to many of who was truly at fault, and there were a few in Brave who were determined to have their revenge.
“That’s when shit hit the fan.”
If Draleth was going to leak the alliance’s private information, a few members of Brave decided that it was only fair to repay the favour. And before she knew it, she was no longer just Draleth to these people. She was Alice Bevon-McGregor, a software architect living in Montreal, Canada.
“Shit got real when the ‘doxing’ happened,” Alice says. “There were a few really vocal people that started rallying the troops.”
“My immediate gut reaction was how am I ever going to explain this to my employers? I knew there was little they really could do to affect my life. It’s just really fucked up – there’s no other way to put it.”
Before Alice knew it, her real life and her virtual one collided violently, and from the safety of her ship all she could really do was watch.
Alice is made of stern stuff, however, and in the end she would prevail. Those who leaked her personal information were swiftly banned by EVE developer, CCP Games, and condemned by Brave’s leadership. Draleth was eventually forced to dock at a station, and handed an official notice of termination from Brave.
“I’m not going to be OK with Draleth for what she did,” Nancy says, “but she didn’t deserve real-life consequences.”
In the year that followed, Brave’s attempt to form an empire was a catastrophic failure. The alliance was hammered into a full retreat by enemy forces and victim to a series of coups attempting to displace its leadership. In the end, Nancy Crow would take over operations as CEO, and begin picking up the pieces.
Perhaps the biggest tragedy is the death of Draleth, the person who gave two years of her life to build the empire that, she feels, betrayed and effectively killed her. Though Alice has many characters in EVE Online, she can never truly be Draleth again. And the larger universe of EVE Online will remember Draleth as little more than a traitor.
Like Alice said: “The truth doesn’t matter in EVE, it really doesn’t.”.