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Duncan King

Alliance Creation 101

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I wrote this for NATO's Carnival and thought I'd share it with the wider community as well. Feel free to comment.

Notations from 11/4/2010 are in green

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How to Found a Small Alliance and Not Get Pwned

So you'd like to found your own alliance? Sure, you've got an idea picked out and you're sure that your alliance has what it takes to succeed, but does it? Are you sure that when you post your DoE (if you don't know what this acronym means, you're not ready) you will not be laughed off the face of the OWF (ditto)? Are you actually going to have time to run the alliance three months down the road or are you just founding it because you have some free time this week? Do you have access to Tums? If you can't answer yes to any of these questions, you're probably not ready and the following is for you. If you could and you're still planning to launch, you may want to read this as well. It takes talent to create an alliance, and it takes even more to run it... and not into the ground (believe me, I've done it). If you read on, you will learn about the mysterious ways of alliance creation from someone who has done it... TWICE (with varying results).

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you:

Duncan King's Guide to Alliance Creation!!! (This is where you go "ooooh.")

Before I get going, I'll tell you a bit about myself and a bit about this guide. I started the game in November of 2006 and immediately joined GATO, where I stayed until April of 2007. While in GATO, I served in some lower level positions in the Ministries of Domestic Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Due to political disagreements with some members of the GATO government, I resigned and worked to start my own alliance, the Independent Coalition of Nations or ICON. I was in charge of the foreign affairs side of the alliance and arranged many treaties with alliances. However, while our foreign affairs were strong, our internal affairs were weak as none of the leaders were good at or willing to recruit. As a result of this, ICON did not grow and soon fell into stagnation. When my repeated efforts to revive the alliance failed, I left ICON to join NATO. In NATO, I served as the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of State, working in both internal and external affairs. At NATO, I not only learned about how to work in a big alliance, I learned a lot about nation building and how to maintain a roster. Additionally, I made a lot of contacts in NATO's allies. After being in NATO for a few months, I got a bit antsy and wanted to go out on my own again. I got to talking to four of my friends and we founded our own alliance, Zenith, on July 3-4, 2008. Zenith has done far better than ICON for a variety of reasons, which will be detailed below.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all things you must do to be an alliance leader, rather, it is a compilation of tips and tricks that have been the most useful to me over my two years in the game.

Authors notes: Zenith did fairly well for almost two years but we eventually succumbed due to issues that can't really be fought against with any guide: inactivity and war damage. We were seriously wounded when some of our government deserted before the Karma War and never fully recovered. We were pounded again in TOP/CNG and never was able to recover from that wound.

Also, I've been playing for four years now. :D

Things to Make Sure of Before Founding an Alliance.

Before you post your declaration of existence on the Big Board, make sure you have the following:

- experience

- a charter

- a flag

- active members

- forums

- an IRC channel

- a protectorate treaty

Experience

Experience is vital in the founding of an alliance. Cybernations is a game with a fairly steep learning curve and unless you know the ins and outs, your alliance will not survive. I strongly recommend that you do not found an alliance unless you have been in another alliance for at least three months but preferably six months. By being a member of an alliance, you will have a first hand view of the inner workings of an alliance. While you are in the alliance, be sure to work in as many areas of the alliance you can. Doing work in a government ministry is like a free education in the area of the game that the ministry serves. The experience that you gain from working in an alliance will be invaluable once your new alliance starts because you will not have the benefit of the knowledge base of your former alliance and will have to mentor members and govern the alliance on your own. If you're lucky, you may be able to recruit some players who are experienced in the game, but you should not count on that happening and need to prepare to have to run the alliance using only what you know.

Charter

A charter is like a constitution and legislation all put together and is the framework of an alliance. It determines not only an alliance's laws, but also its idealogical and the conduct of its members. Because of the great importance of this document, it is vitally important that it be written correctly. Sometimes, people are so caught up with content that they miss structure and grammar. If your charter is not written well, it will hurt your alliance's development. Some alliances can cope with a bad charter, but many are handicapped by it.

One of the most important purposes of the Charter is establishing the government of the alliance. Having the right type of government is important for an alliance. In terms of government structure, the general rule is the fewer decision makers, the better. Activity issues and time zones can make large governments unworkable. For example, some alliances have governments composed of seven members and can only make decisions based on majority rule. This means that they have to wait for 1/2 + 1 of the government members to log in and voice their decisions. While this message can be quick if everyone is on the same page and keeps the same hours, it can take days if the government members are in different timezones or just forget to check the boards that day. It can take even longer if they don't agree. One of the most popular types of government in Cybernations is a triumvirate. These bodies are composed of three leaders that make decisions by either majority or full consensus vote. My preferred method is the first because if one triumvir isn't available, the other two can still make the decision. The composition of a triumvirate can be determined in a variety of ways and each way says a lot about the alliance's priorities. My alliance, Zenith, for example, has an Internal, an External, and an Executive Triumvir. The Internal triumvir is experienced in Internal Affairs and the External Triumvir is experienced in Foreign Affairs. The Executive Triumvir is a generalist. In some alliances, the Executive Triumvir would be replaced by a War Triumvir. We contemplated doing with with Zenith but decided not to because we did not want to put that much emphasis on the military. A more militaristic alliance may have a triumvir of war. Another way to arrange the triumvirate is to just have three generalists. While this method has its benefits as all three are experts in most areas, the structure does not give weight to either Internal or External affairs and may be lacking in one of them if none of the triumvirs have worked in that area before. The final common type of government is an Empire. Empires have one central official. While this type is good because it makes it obvious who is in charge, having one central official bear the weight can burn out that person. Plus, if he or she is sick, the government can totally stop.

Once they type of government has been chosen, the method of choosing the government must be chosen. Although many alliances aspire for Democracy for certain OOC reasons, on Planet Bob, Democracy does not usually go that well. Having a democratic alliance demands an active and involved member base, something that is hard to come by in a game. To be run well, a democratic alliance needs members with experience. If the elected leaders do not know what they are doing, the alliance suffers. While it's true that some democratic alliances are fairly stable and successful, what often happens is either not enough people run for office to fill the positions or people who are inexperienced win by default. If you are insistent in having a fully democratic government, I recommend that whatever type of government you use, the terms be at least two months but preferably three months long. Alliances with one month terms have a lot of turnover. Plus, when someone is newly elected, it takes at least a week for him or her to get going. This, combined with the fact that the typical election period lasts at least a week means that the government that is elected is only able to concentrate on governing for about a two weeks. This does not give a lot of time to get anything done.

Another popular type of government is the totally appointed government or meritocracy. These governments work like they sound, the head authority, usually the Emperor, in the alliance appoints the other members of the government and these officials serve at the pleasure of the head authority and serve until they either resign or are removed. While this method has its benefits, mainly consistency and making sure that the people who are in positions of power are qualifies, it also means that the positions are static and a log jam can develop at the upper ranks, with there being more experienced people than there are positions for. This can result in a high rate of resignations among experienced players as people get frustrated at the logjam at the top.

A compromise, and a type of government that I recommend using is the hybrid. It has a mix of permanent and elected members, so new members have a way to get into government but there is some stability. In Zenith, for example, we have a permanent triumvirate and five elected ministers. The Ministers are the ones that actually run the day to day workings of the alliance and the triums have oversight and fill in where needed. We also have two appointed Ministers at Large. The MaLs are flexible players who assist the other ministers when needed. The positions were created to give people who either cannot win an election or won't run a chance to be in government. When we were writing the charter, we thought that doing this would be a good idea to take some of the stress off of the ministers and get more people into government. Thus far, the have worked out really well.

As for the specific ministers, the bare minimum an alliance should have is ministers of Domestic Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Finance, and Defense. Domestic Affairs is responsible for internal affairs such as recruiting, trades, member training, and rosters. Foreign affairs is responsible for foreign affairs such as diplomacy and making treaties. Finance is responsible for organizing alliance aid and member growth. Defense is responsible for organizing the military. In my experience, I've found that Domestic Affairs tends to become overstressed by having to work on trades and recruiting as well as rosters. To remedy this, in Zenith, we split the Domestic Affairs duties into Domestic Affairs and Development, with Development doing recruiting and member training and Domestic Affairs being responsible for trades and rosters. By doing it this way, we are able to make sure all areas of Domestic Affairs are tended to without members being burned out. We recently added an office of the Regent to the government. Essentially, the Regent functions as a fourth triumvir and can make small calls unilaterally (not war declarations or treaties). The Regent, like the triumvirate, is a permanent official.

Once you have the government established, make sure you have codified procedures for disciplining members and amending the charter. While you may like to think that you will never have a problem with discipline, stuff does happen sometimes and you will need to have to deal with it. Some alliances have long, drawn out disciplinary processes, but these have their drawbacks as sometimes, some situations are too severe to wait. When when of your members goes nuclear rogue on a member of another alliance, that alliance does not want to wait a week for you to act. The best disciplinary action is quick and fair. At Zenith, we make decisions by a majority vote of the triumvirate with a majority of the ministers having the power to overrule the decision of the triumvirate. This way, we are quick to act and there is a check to make sure the triumvirate does not arbitrarily run someone out of the alliance. Additionally, you need to make sure that you codify a way to amend the charter. Without a way to amend the charter, your alliance will not be able to adapt. We had this problem in ICON, and had to first amend the charter to make it amendable, not exactly a fun task.

Before you post your charter for the view of the world, read over it again to check for spelling, grammar, and look. Make sure that your spelling and grammar are correct. Many readers of the Big Boards are very well educated and will point out the errors in your writing. In my experience, I find that a simple outline structure works well. By making the charter short and simple, it will be easier to follow.

A Flag

A flag is the symbol of your alliance. A bad flag will probably not hurt a strong alliance but an ugly flag can sink a weak one. Therefore, it is important to make sure that your alliance's flag is presentable. In terms of what to put on the flag, the simpler the better. Your flag should incorporate the color of your alliance's home sphere and should contain symbolism that evokes the name of your alliance. You should have a big copy of your flag (at least 800 wide by 400 tall) and a small version (approximately 400 x 200). To get an idea of what a flag should look like, look at the ones added to the game.

Active Members

Once you have your charter established, you are ready to govern... but you need someone to govern. Without active members, your alliance will not survive. It is extremely important that you recruit as much as you can. However, it's important not to overdue it. If an alliance grows too big too quickly, it can become bloated and unmanageable with new players going rogue. The best way to grow is to recruit until your alliance reaches 30 members and then concentrate on growing and educating those members. Once they have stabilized, recruit again up to 50 and repeat. Once an alliance reaches 30 members, it starts to have some staying power. Once you get the members in the door, you need them to be involved in the alliance and active. If a member is not active, this member is essentially dead weight and will not be there for the alliance when you need them.

To get the members involved, you need to teach them about the game. Therefore, some sort of training program is very important. Training your members not only helps with their nation growth, but it also gets them involved in the alliance and makes them easier to control. A member who understands the alliance's policies is less likely to break them. How is a member supposed to know that your alliance doesn't allow tech raiding if you don't tell them? At a minimum, your training program should focus on game mechanics, basic alliance procedures, and where to go to meet their basic needs (aid, trade, defense, etc). Other good areas to add are tech dealing, war, and recruiting. Some alliance training programs, such as the NPO's are fairly difficult. Others are more lax and amount to little more than having a member change his or her alliance affiliation and post an application. If a new alliance's application program is too strict, this alliance will have difficulty adding members. If the program is too loose, it will have problems with admitting anyone and being unstable. A good way to go about this is recruiting broadly but having a training program that filters out inactives. I've found that putting a ten day deadline on training works well. If an applicant does not complete our initial training program in ten days, they are denied admission to Zenith. This gives the ones that are good time to complete the process and eliminates the ones that are not.

Once you have the members in the alliance, you need to keep them involved. Some members will drop off as they lose interest in the game, but others can be cultivated into future leaders. To get your members involved, I recommend doing contests and lotteries to make coming to the forums for members. A good one to try is a lottery where you create thread and invite the members to post in it. Of the members that post, randomly choose one to give three million dollars to. Doing this every week or so encourages them to come to the forums and makes it fun for them to do so. Another good way to get the members involved is a mentor program. By pairing newer nations with more experienced ones and encouraging them to work together, you can help acclimate the newer nations to the alliance and give the older nations more involvement as well.

Forums

A forum is a vital part of an alliance. It is where the alliance lives and represents the public face that your alliance presents to the world. Therefore, it is very important that your forum look as good as it can.

There are some easy things that you can do on any forum software to make it look as good as possible. First, make sure you have spelled everything in the forum areas correctly and use proper English. To a visiting diplomat, improperly spelled forum names or government positions are not good signs. If you don't know how to spell "alliance," you probably aren't ready to be founding one. Second, make sure your forums look good. Use colors that look nice together and preferably colors that match the color team that your alliance is on. Don't use clashing colors unless you are the test pattern alliance. Third, make sure all of your HTML tags work. Broken code makes you look like an newb. If you don't know how to do something, ask for help. Many people in the CN community are web designers who would happily work on your forums for free.

In terms of specific forum software, there are two main types, free and paid. Free software is free. It is hosted on the servers of the company that is providing the service, so they take care of the maintenance. However, you are at the mercy of the company's servers and when they go down, your board goes down, too. In terms of the specific service providers, my personal favorite free provider is IPBFree, powered by Invision. It's relatively easy to use, looks great, and has a lot of toys and IP search capabilities that you won't find on many paid boards. Paid software is what it sounds like, paid. To use it, you need your own webspace and are responsible for the maintenance yourself. However, you get more features and get to customize your board more. The three main paid forum providers are PHPBB3, SMF, and IPB. PHPBB3 forums look great, but are the most labor intensive and require more maintenance from the owner. SMF forums are more user friendly but the interface is a bit clunky and the code in the posts isn't very compatible with the code in posts on Invision products, which are used in most CN forums, including the Big Boards. Both SMF and PHPBB3 are free platforms that you have to host on your paid webspace. IPB forums are the corvette of forum software. They look really good and they are used on many CN related forums. However, they are expensive and you have to pay for the hosting and the license from Invision to use them. The specific webhost you use doesn't matter that much. I use Bluehost because the support is good and they have a lot of built in scripts. But there are a lot of fairly decent free hosting services as well. Just use on that you like. For more information on creating forums, check out this guide.

The specific organization of your boards is flexible. Every alliance has their own thing. I've found the following structure to be effective

THE GATEWAY

- Member Application Area (open to all)

- Diplomat Sign In Area (open to all)

- Resignation Forum (open to all)

THE COMMONS

- Social Area (open to all--diplomats like to play too)

-- Subforum: Spam and Games (open to all--the place for counting games and the like)

-- Subforum: Members Only Area (private space for your members to hang out)

INFORMATION DESK

- Charter (open to all, post your charter here)

- Treaties (open to all, post your treaties here)

- News Agency (open to all, post announcements here)

LEARNING CENTER

- Guides (open to members, post guides here)

- Academy (open to members, train new members here)

- Q and A (open to members, have your members post questions about the game here)

ALLIANCE FORUM (all forums in category open only to members)

- Assembly Hall (talk about alliance life here)

- Ministry of Defense

- Ministry of Domestic Affairs

- Ministry of Finance

- Ministry of Foreign Affairs

- Government Area

-- Subforum: Member petition area (members ask the government questions here)

-- Subforum: Government Chambers (public deliberation chamber for government, members can see but not post)

--- Subforum: Private Chambers (Visible only to government, private discussion here)

GLOBAL COMMONS (all forums here visible to members and ambassadors)

- Global Bazar (trade circles and tech deals)

- Embassy Row (embassies)

ARCHIVES (visible to members only)

- Open Archive (general archive)

- Closed Archive (government archive for classified documents)

IRC Channel

While forums are the internal voice of your alliance, IRC is the external voice. Every successful alliance must have an IRC channel, there is no way around it. Because there are a lot of good IRC guides out there, I am not going to go too far in depth about the specific IRC commands.

At a minimum, an alliance must have at least three IRC channels: a public one, a member one, and a government one. The public one is the one that visiting diplomats go to to find members of your alliance. This is your alliance's public face for IRC, so keep in mind people are watching it. Make sure you voice all visitors to the channel, it's a respect thing. The member channel is for members of your alliance only and is primarily for members to get to know each other. You'll want to protect it with a password or an access list so only your members can access it. The government channel is for government members only. Again, this should be password or access list protected.

A Protectorate Treaty

In the days of yore (pre GWIII and the rise of tech raiding) an alliance could run fairly well without a protector. However, with the increasing acceptability of tech raiding and the rising tech raid thresholds, a new alliance really needs a protectorate treaty to get going safely.

What a protectorate treaty is is an agreement by a larger alliance to protect a smaller one from harm. Usually, there are some conditions on it relating to foreign affairs and war with the smaller alliance agreeing not to make treaties or attack anyone without the approval of the larger alliance. Often, there are tech dealing agreements as well with the smaller alliance agreeing to sell technology to the larger alliance.

While the temptation is to have the alliance that you came from protect you, I'd actually recommend against doing that. Although the government of the original alliance may like to have the new alliance close, the situation is hard on the members of the original alliance as they wonder why the members that left are still on the forums, albeit in a new capacity. Tensions can flare and relations can be hurt. For these reasons, I recommend not signing a protectorate with the alliance that you came from. The separation will be good for both groups as they get used to being apart. Once both alliances have settled in to the situation, they can reestablish ties. While protected, a protectorate alliance should be on the same team as its protector. This creates more opportunities for trade circles and makes things easier for the protectors as they are familiar with the politics of that color sphere.

To make sure that an alliance does not remain protected forever, I recommend using the milestones of 3 months, 50 members and 500,000 NS for graduation. Once an alliance reaches these milestones, it is pretty much self sustaining. An alliance should not take on a protectorate until it is 1 million NS. Otherwise, it may not be able to actually protect their protectorate.

Author's note: Most of this is still accurate and worked pretty well for Zenith. The only disparity that I really should mention is that IPBFree closed down last year, taking all of its member forums with it. Zetaboards and Jcink are two viable alternatives.

I should also mention that you definitely need a protectorate to even get a start now. Tech raiding is much more popular now than it was two years ago and alliances will attack you if you're not protected.

Starting Out

Once you have all of these done, you are ready to launch. One of the most important parts of the launching of the alliance is the opening post. This is many people's first impression of your alliance so it is important to do it right. At a minimum, make sure you list your alliance's flag, charter, forums, IRC channel, and government. For an example of a good alliance announcement, click here. For an example of a bad alliance announcement, click here. In the second post, the formatting does not work in the charter, the government is not listed, and the IRC channel is not listed. Additionally, there is no protectorate. The actual alliance may be fairly decent and well run, but the first impression many will get of the alliance is bad. Also, make sure that your first post on the Big Boards is not your alliance's DoE. It's not a good indicator of experience and activity.

Additionally, you should post an ad in the Player Created Alliances forum. This is essentially a classified ad and is meant to woo people to your alliance. You should list your flag, charter, forums, government, IRC channel, and basic ideology. To make sure that people can see your topic, bump it at least once a day. For an example of what to do in a recruiting thread, click here. For an example of what not to do, click here. The second link lists no charter, no IRC channel, and does not use proper grammar. It also has not been bumped since it was posted.

Although the temptation can be to sign as many treaties as possible, I recommend not signing any treaties while you are still under the protectorate treaty. Your job as a protectorate is to grow internally and focusing too much on foreign affairs can detract from it. Sell tech, do aid falls, and recruit like there is no tomorrow. If you alliance makes it out of the protectorate, you can do treaties. This isn't saying that you can't do some diplomacy, but if you do, keep in mind that your goal should be internal relations. Once you do clear the protectorate, don't forget that the Internal must be treated as carefully as the External. Wars can kill an alliance but inactivity can too. Alliances can and do wither and die from the inside while their foreign affairs remain intact. Your first duty as an alliance leader is to your members, not to your allies. Remember that.

Once your alliance is launched, read and post on the Big Boards. It is important for an alliance to have a public face and posting on the Big Boards helps people get to know you. I have had people join Zenith because they liked what I said on the forums, so it does help a lot. However, make sure you know the rules of the Big Boards before you post, it's embarrassing being warned for signatures that are too large or inappropriate post content.

Author's notes: Here are some recent examples of good and bad DoEs as well as why there are so.

Good DoEs

DoA DoE: Other than the acronym meaning "dead on arrival," I can't find anything wrong with this DoE.

THE DoE: The post is well done here and the charter and graphics are cool. My only possible quibble with this is that the opening membership may be too small.

Exodus DoE: Totally awesome start here. This is the first one I've seen that topped Zenith's triple post. Snaps for this.

Bad DoEs

UTC DoE: This is missing a charter, forums, flag, and actual members.

GRUE DoE: it has a good theme, but the funky pictures detract from the actual message and the reader is left wondering what the point is.

Sons of Aiur DOE: The charter is poorly formatted and the person making the announcement didn't clear things with his protectors first, as evidenced by this post.

Some Final Thoughts

Before I end this guide, I'll give you some milestones to keep in mind: 5, 10, 15, 30, 50, 500K, 1 million.

- 5 is a common threshold used to determine whether or not a group of nations is an alliance. Anything smaller than five members will probably not be considered an alliance. Therefore, make sure you have at least five members when you launch

- 10 and 15 members are two other common tech raid thresholds. If you do not have at least 15 members, consider having a protectorate.

- 30 members is a level at which your alliance shows it has some staying power. It is also when alliances typically start having growing pains.

- 50 members and 500K nation strength are levels at which an alliance should do well on its own and does not need a protectorate anymore.

- 1 million nation strength is a level where an alliance can consider taking on protectorates.

I hope this has been helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to PM me.

- Duncan King

Edited by Duncan King

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