An interview with the CEO of OUCH

I started playing Eve back in 2006, as Black Claw. Over the years, I’ve done a lot of things, put my hand into many different ventures. Even started a new character (Alexia Morgan) to focus on a career of covert ops PVP. One of my ventures was creating the Open University of Celestial Hardship (OUCH) to provide noobs and carebears nullsec survival and PVP training.

It was an awesome ride, and I built it up into something I could be proud of. And then I handed it over to others who I was happy would carry on with my vision for it, while I continued exploring new ventures. One of which was continuing my travel around the New Eden cluster, which I tried to start back in 2006.

Today I have the honour of interviewing Bren Genzan, the current CEO of OUCH, to talk to him about what OUCH does. It’s been my privilege to have maintained a friendship with him over the years, so he was happy to be interviewed when I talked to him yesterday. I hope you enjoy having a read of this.

Hi Bren. Thank you very much for agreeing to this interview, I really appreciate your time. First up, could you tell us briefly about yourself and what you do?

I’m the Director of Operations for Open University of Celestial Hardship [0UCH].  We are a not for profit organization that teaches Null Sec Survival and Basic PvP. For want of a better description, we’re what you get 9 months after Eve University and Agony Unleashed go out drinking together and wake up naked in bed with each other the next morning, with no memory of what happened the night before.

At this point Bren laughed. A strange laugh, as if he had intimate experience with what he was talking about. I shifted uncomfortably in my chair. He continued.

We’re kind of a boot camp for people who want to learn how to live in null security space, but our techniques work in Lowsec and Highsec, if you’re in a militia or a wardec’d corp.

Can you briefly explain what those techniques are, for those who don’t know?

For the Nullsec Survival half of our program, we show people how to build their overview and client to maximize tactical information, teach them how to use their onboard directional scanner, and use various bookmarks and safe spots for travel. For the Basic Combat Pilot of the program, we teach people how to tackle, how weapons work from a game mechanics point of view, teach them how to operate in fleets and give them an idea of how to assess threats and targets. Overall, the 12 hour course is a primer in how to be a fleet scout, in that scouts jump into systems, assess threats and escape in their ship, in order to provide that intel to their fleet.

Have you ever been wardec’d, and if you did, were you able to win the war? How did you win?

OUCH has been wardec’d a few times

He chuckled at this point. I nodded as well, knowing full well about the wars that OUCH had been involved in, which I had been part of myself.

The first two times were before my time in OUCH unfortunately, but I don’t think we lost them… we lost ships, but we didn’t lose the war to speak of. The corps that attacked us did not get any big kills, just frigates for the most part. The last war… we lost three or four ships, all mine I think.

He grinned, maybe a bit sheepishly, and then continued.

I was one of the FCs and we ended up in a wardec with a small corp of guys looking to fight us. They flew a lot of faction frigs and T2 frigs, but still frigates, so we were making plans to fight them in their high sec systems instead of our high sec systems. But then we were simultaneously wardec’d by another corp who flew a lot of Battlecruisers, Heavy Assault Ships and Strategic Cruisers. We couldn’t match that kind of firepower without taking a lot of losses… we didn’t have pilots really qualified to fly at that level of play.

So after I lost my last cruiser in high sec, we decided to just move our operations fully into nullsec. What we learned was, guys who like hunting people in highsec during a wardec, they don’t like going into nullsec where their T3s can get shot at by everyone. They made it as far as lowsec, and then called us cowards because we were hiding from them in null. Ironically, I think we were in on an Aeon kill that same week in Curse… RMOC I believe.

I remember. Isn’t it also ironic that they call you cowards for changing the rules of the war on them, while they refuse to cross over the line to follow you. But I digress… Would you say that a great way for a corp to defeat a wardec is to invite them into nullsec with you?

Absolutely.  OUCH hasn’t been wardec’d since that time.  We’re much better PVPers now, but if OUCH was wardec’d again, I would just go to high sec and gather up our students and ferry them out to be trained in the safety of null sec. The mechanics of highsec PVP favor the aggressor.  But the guys who do highsec wars typically do not know how to travel and live in lowsec or nullsec space. Where we live, in Curse, it’s pretty hostile territory to travel through to get us, not to mention the pain of some outsiders trying to handle the logistics of moving to nullsec.  It’s not just “walk in, shoot noobs”.

So OUCH is a nullsec survival and PVP training corp, but do you do train only nullsec survival without the PVP?

I was thinking about that the other day.  We look at our number of graduates as completion of our training, which is 4 classes, a 30 jump survival run through nullsec, and a handful of kills in a fleet with us, for experience. OUCH has a little over 200 graduates, but I really should go through our records and see how many people took the nullsec survival portion of our course.  These are people who just wanted to learn how to avoid the mean people trying to take their ships. I think that I’d probably be surprised, and really do think OUCH should count them as a mark of our success as a training organization.

As you’re aware, I’m running a pacifist corp these days, with people who don’t want to PVP and who are quite interested in embracing a pacifist lifestyle in this violent galaxy. Would you consider offering graduation courses on nullsec survival only, without the PVP part being required?

I’ve been considering that. It wouldn’t really change what we already do, it would be a matter of packaging it so that the student can choose to take just the nullsec survival part of the course, which is what they are doing already. From my point of view, it would be a way for OUCH to take credit for more success stories.

How would you be able to take credit for success stories? How do you see that happening?

Success from OUCH’s point of view: we train people to live and die in nullsec, and a measure of our success is a Graduate. But if the student has no intention of being a PVPer and they leave, then we would consider it a failure on our part. So I guess I am saying we should take credit for the successful training of a nullsec survivalist that isn’t combat trained. The problem that I have with it, is that a lot of the things you learn in the combat portion of our program is how combat pilots think. OUCH pilots follow the teachings of Sun Tzu, as the Art of War Alliance.

“Know your enemy and know yourself and you will be victorious in a thousand battles.”

But battles don’t necessarily result in ships lost. Part of the battle is manuever, it’s intel, it’s feints, and bluffs.  PVP doesn’t necessarily end in a killmail. So the guy who doesn’t do the combat portion, they are missing out on important things they should know about the people who are out to get them. As I said, this is something I’ve been considering for a bit. It’s not as cut and dry as I would like it to be.

I remember (as Black Claw) introducing survival and PVP training according to Sun Tsu’s Art of War, which was also one of the reasons why I created the Art of War Alliance. You still base your training on a lot of those same principles?

Well, Black claw, our founder, was a student of Sun Tzu.  He wrote an adaptation of the Sun Tsu’s Art of War for Eve. I too am quite fond of The art of War, so it was easy for Black Claw to rope me in to staying in OUCH once I joined. Over time though we learned that in order to be really good at something, you have to specialize, so we concentrated our efforts into nullsec survival and basic combat. All OUCH instructors are PVPers who understand that the primary mission of OUCH is to train pilots so that they can do what we do, which is live in nullsec without fear. OUCH pilots handle their own logistics, make their own incomes, and continuously mentor and train students.

Originally we had guys who PVP’d, guys who trained, guys who handled supplies, guys who did PVE.  We burned out our trainers and our supply lines were inefficient. By having the shooters all be the guys who train, we’ve focused the corp behind Black Claw’s original Vision. It’s been a long road, but in that time, OUCH had risen from a Rank 80K corp on Battleclinic to close to #500, and Art of War alliance is approaching the Top 100 Alliances. In the meantime, we’ve made allies who can help our pilots with their own personal development. We roam in small gangs and do black ops operations with guys who used to shoot at us, after earning their respect as pilots who are hard to kill. It’s worked out well for us.

But to your original question, we do follow the Art of War.  Problem is, our opponents do not understand that The Art of War is not about “good fights”, it’s about winning. That’s where OUCH’s “Kill More, Die Less” philosophy kicks in.

Are you able to share what Black Claw’s original Vision was, so that the readers can see it and how you’re following it?

Black Claw was interviewd on Massively once, I’ve maintained that interview on the Art of War Alliance Blog.  We’ve had 3 CEOs since Black Claw retired.  CampoV, our original Training Director, Miss Teri, the OUCH Top Killer, and myself.  I was the original PvP Director, and for the most part, that’s the role I am most comfortable with. But I’ve gotten used to being the head cook, so to speak.  I have good people in positions of authority that do what needs to be done to keep OUCH running smoothly.

So, back to the this pacifist corp that I’m running. What do you think such a corp should teach its members?

Well, I think what anyone playing Eve needs to understand is Eve is PVP game.  The people in Highsec flying from station to station, they are PVPing… they just haven’t been shot at yet. But it goes deeper than that.  The miner that puts his ore in a freighter and takes it to the place where he can make the most money, he is PVPing too.  It’s because Eve is competitive… if you interact with players, even on the market, it’s PVP (player vs player). If you’re going to go into nullsec or lowsec to mine or make your fortune, avoiding combat pilots, pirates, whatever you want to call them, that’s PVP too.  Once again, no killmails are generated if you go to a safe and cloak up in your industrial while the other guy tries to find you.

So I would say first, understand that while all you want to do is explore, maybe make a little ISK, you’re going to have to learn all the tricks of the trade that a lot of people take for granted.  Knowing how to figure out if the next system is camped using scouts and pickets to give you intel while you do what you want to do. That’s how you survive to play your game. Once you understand that this is a competitive game, you have to figure out your goal and don’t let the other guy dictate the terms.

So if you are traveling, then travel. Don’t travel and think, ooooh let me fit for a fight if I get just in case I get jumped, unless you are capable of fighting back in the first place. If you are mining or ratting in nullsec and someone jumps into local, get safe until they leave. Don’t dual purpose ships; a good PVP fit is not a good PVE one, and vice versa… don’t try to fight in a PVE ship, you’ll lose. Basically, set your terms, be patient and refuse to play the other guys game. The other guy doesn’t like that. As a combat pilot, I’ve made a career of fighting only on my terms.  It applies to everything in Eve.

Thank you Bren. Is there anything else you’d like to add before I close this interview?

Just that I am glad you’re back and trying to teach people how to survive in New Eden.  The Eve Online player base is full of people who make it their business to eat our young.  Eve needs more people willing to teach people how to fish, instead of throwing them a net and telling them, the water is that way, watch out for sharks.

Thank you again!

Readers – is there someone you would like to be interviewed? Or maybe you’d like me to interview you? Please contact me to organise it.

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