Greetings Citizens! Today we bring your the first The Relay exclusive interview. Our very own Erris sat down with Sailor67 to discuss Operation Pitchfork.
As the creator of Operation Pitchfork, Sailor67 has some great insight into both the Operation, and the game itself. Audio and transcripts below!
Erris: Joining me today is Sailor67, who is the creator of Operation Pitchfork. Sailor, thank you very much for taking the time to sit down with me.
Sailor67: Glad to be here.
Erris: In case anyone isn’t aware of what it is, can you give a brief explanation of Operation Pitchfork? What’s the plan? What’s the goal? And why do you think it’s a good idea?
Sailor67: Operation Pitchfork is a backer event at the end of the beta. It is a general attack against the Vanduul. The goal was to celebrate the game, the Vanduul were just handy. Our main goals are community-based. One is just to have fun and do something epic, to put a period on this ride that Chris Roberts invited us all on. The other is just try to make history – let’s get as many of us involved as possible. Chris Roberts asked us to help write the Star Citizen story. Well, you know, let’s exceed his expectations and do something really really outlandish. That’s Pitchfork in a nutshell. We have one in-game goal: change the lore in a way so anybody can get insurance and thus fly a Vanduul ship. There’s only a couple hundred of us who have access to one and are actually able to fly one. It has morphed since then and grew obviously… but that’s where we started.
Erris: I have to say, that’s already a lot more inspirational than I thought this would be before we started talking.
Sailor67: Thank you.
Erris: Do you think that repatriating Orion is an attainable goal?
Sailor67: You know, that’s a funny thing. Just take a step back. Pitchfork is consensus-based. We talk about things and we reach a consensus and that’s what we do. The whole goal of Orion and how we’re going to go ahead and liberate Orion kinda morphed into doing that over the first 6 months or so. And because the Vanduul aren’t in Orion all the time… we had to do something else. If everybody shows up and there’s no Vanduul there, then it’s kind of a waste. But Tiber, which is where the Vanduul are staged to raid into UEE space, is right next door and you have to go through Tiber to get to Orion unless you go through Nul. And because it’s such a logistics centre for the Vanduul, tactical thinking is that we need to reduce the Vanduul presence in Tiber. Lore calls it The Grinder – the UEE has been trying to move the Vanduul out for 250 years and have been unable to. So… that sounds kinda epic to me! So that’s how we got to the… we’re going to secure Orion by taking Tiber. That was a long dialogue with a lot of us talking back and forth over a series of months, people offering suggestions and talking things through. That’s kind of how we do things internally. Everybody has a voice, everybody has a chance to speak.
Erris: That sounds pretty fantastic really.
Sailor67: Well, we don’t have a set heirarchy. My job is basically to keep our culture right. The way you get a job in the organization is by going and doing it. If you have an idea, you own its implementation. That’s how Pitchfork got started. They said: “Hey, you came up with this thing. You run it.” So, that’s how I got to be the lead or front or whatever you want to call it, of Pitchfork. So, then we sat down and figured out… okay, how do we make this work? That’s where we came up with the flat structure where it’s based on our member organizations’ own leadership and structure. There is no Grand Admiral. That’s not how it operates. The idea is if you have an organization, you run your people. They trust you, you understand the level of organization they are willing to tolerate.
Erris: So it’s a group of loosely connected organizations, right?
Sailor67: Yeah, last check we were way north of 160.
Erris: That’s pretty awesome.
Sailor67: Oh yeah, and you know some of these organizations have one guy in them, some have hundreds. The Imperium, the last time I really looked was a year ago, had 350 folks who were going to join.
Erris: I am sure there are lots of people who haven’t necessarily signed up for the operation yet, right?
Sailor67: Yeah, we’re pretty conservative about the numbers we approach. Last check, inside the organization itself there were 2700. Ships we had north of 6000. We have a Google page where people can sign up, or not, at their convenience. We’re saying, “Join us, do what you think is fun and that’s the role you can fill.”
Erris: That sounds perfect.
Sailor67: Oh yeah, actually it’s working. We have folks who like SAR (Search and Rescue), who do the logistics things, folks who like to organize things, folks who want to do salvage and repair and all of the puzzle pieces are fitting together and it’s growing organically and it’s working out very well.
Erris: I’m sure you’ve been asked this before, but where did the idea come from and did you ever expect it to take off to the extent that it has?
Sailor67: You know, that’s kind of a funny thing. I’m a long time backer, Golden Ticket, that whole nine thing, and there was a thing on the forum where a guy was suggesting a general attack on the UEE… but the problem with that – you can never get a consensus because the law and order types would oppose you and it would be watered down.
Erris: And there wouldn’t be much of a consensus, right?
Sailor67: Exactly. But the Vanduul, we can all agree on. I mean, they attack everybody. So, that’s kind of where I got the idea. This idea sounded really cool but there was a problem with it, so let’s look at the idea… pull it apart and see if we can make it work somehow. Because, the idea of celebrating the game together has merit. But… how we can we do it such that we can all have a goal we can all agree on… so that’s where the Vanduul come in.
Erris: They fit that goal really well, right? So that makes a lot of sense.
Erris: How much has gone into the player organization for the operation? The organization, like you said, has a flat structure but there has been an incredible amount of support for the operation so far. What have you and others been doing to keep everyone organized and on target?
Sailor67: Fortunately, we’ve got some really hardcore folks who are helping us out. We have a whole document that lays out the organization, the different roles, and all of that sort of thing. And, one of the things we do when we want to talk about something in detail is we’ll pull 10 or 20 people into what we call a Tiger Team. A couple members of the staff, some long-time posters, some new folks, and some folks picked out at random are asked to participate and we just kinda talk it out. Everybody throws some ideas in and we mull it around and mull it around until something good comes out. Then that’s put into the main thread on the RSI website and then the whole dialogue is captured and put into its own thread in the Operation Pitchfork website. So, everybody has a history and sees how we got to the conclusions we did.
The last time we did that was a few months ago. We had a dialogue on what happens if there is a Gold Horizon station in Orion, Tiber, or in that area. How do we deal with that? So, we got a bunch of people together and we talked it through and then that was all reported out. That’s how we do things. It takes a little time, it’s messy, but it works and the key is that everybody owns the outcome. Because we exercise no control over anybody, everybody has to buy off on what we’re doing and why.
Going back to your question about the organizational structure. We’re all gamers, though the diversity of our member base is huge… we’ve got hardcore ex-military types who are looking for that kind of structure and we’ve got the free thinkers who just want to go in and shoot at Vanduul and everything in between. So, the structure has to lend itself to that and be scalable. So, the idea is that we set a set of goals. We all know what we want to do and why. The actual implementation is up to the battlefield commander in his specific instance. So, think of it as a thousand first lieutenants all controlling the battle in front of them. And, with instancing, that actually works.
Erris: It sounds pretty much perfect, the way the game is built just works for the operation, because you’ll have a thousand little tiny battles all going at the same time that all matter, right?
Sailor67: It’s like a thousand little battles… or like a thousand Thermopylae. I mean, that’s kind of the cool thing. Because of the instancing, it’s like you have your flanks anchored. Only a certain number of enemies can come in on you, so it’s like Horde mode, wrote large, but they can only come in at a certain pace.
Erris: Again, that sounds awesome really, I’m running out of unique words to use.
Sailor67: Well, you know, a lot of people said you can’t do this because of instancing, and all this other… instancing, I’m kind of a student of the game, and we’ve been talking about instancing since the livestream. So, no, this was all structured around that limitation, and to take advantage of it.
Erris: It sounds like you guys are doing a lot of really good, really impressive work so far.
Sailor67: Thanks. Like I said, there’s a lot of really smart people in the forums, and I’m privileged enough to have a bunch of them involved in Pitchfork. This all ain’t my idea, I’m here to tell you.
Erris: Well, I mean it’s kinda your idea, so… So what was it like the first time that CIG said that they were supporting Operation Pitchfork, and what do you think of the amount of support that they’ve shown for it so far?
Sailor67: Absolutely. The first time was Ben, on naming me MVP for the Pitchfork thread, and there’s a picture of him holding a pitchfork, or actually a devil’s trident, on the OP, and then a link to the episode, I think it was 42 of Wingman’s Hanger. That was the first time CIG took official notice. And we’ve done some things, I’ve got some extremely dedicated and hardcore members. We have an official blacksmith. Every time you look at 10 for the Chairman, and you see the knife on the back, that was created by one of our members, LelesPL, along with the pitchfork in the Customer Service office in Manchester. I mean, these are handcrafted, real weapons, and he just did it to support the cause. Two of our members, well, when the knife was delivered, Ben The Rogue (?) drove up from way up North, a 2200 mile road trip, to deliver the knife to CR in the Santa Monica offices. And then the Pitchfork was delivered at Gamescom last year, by Marcus of Colonial Movers fame, by the way he’s running our intel section, so it’s kind of, we’ve got some awesome people involved. It’s humbling to think it got like this.
Erris: So recently, CIG released an Operation Pitchfork ship skin for the Aurora. First off, I guess you’ve seen the skin?
Sailor67: Oh yeah, actually, Will contacted me a week before it went live and we were talking about it a little bit. My reaction was Awesome. That is awesome. I consider it the same thing as, we have our own merchandise store, run by Sketch, you can buy patches, our symbol, we actually have a challenge coin and pins, t-shirts, so I consider it in the same vein as that. I know there are others who have different opinions than that, and I respect that, but that’s my take on it.
Erris: So did CIG consult with you before putting the skin in?
Sailor67: Yes. And I was totally for it. It didn’t even come up that we wouldn’t do it.
Erris: Nice. So, you like the skin, and you’re pretty okay with what CIG’s doing with it so far, I mean, that’s what I’m getting…
Sailor67: Oh, yeah, I mean, the thing is, there’s more to it than… This is a synergistic kind of thing. We need CIG to create the content, to make the mission work, so we’ve been trying to be engaged with them since day 1, ‘cause it would really, really be no fun to board a Vanduul carrier and see a big sign inside saying ‘under construction, love and kisses, CIG’, you know? That would not be a good scenario. Funny, but that would not be a good scenario. But, going back to the support for CIG, two of our members were at PAX in Australia, and they got to spend about an hour with Chris Roberts, and one of the things they’re working on, directly as a result of Pitchfork, is a conquer mechanic. So what can happen is, if we move into a space, and use the UEE as an example. If we move into Tiber, and are there long enough, and control it long enough, the UEE will move in with infrastructure and patrols, and slowly conquer the area. And you can take that to Orion. So, it’s literally a win condition for Pitchfork. Now, the issue with that, is our mandate is just for one weekend, so that’s something we’re actively discussing, how we’re going to play with that. Plus, a good chunk of our members are pirates, and might not necessarily like the UEE moving into anywhere, so I’m under the assumption that it’s UEE factions. So, in a perfect world, what I would like to see is the Pirates from Nul move into Calliban, UEE to move into Tiber, and then an NPC faction to act as a buffer in Orion, to be truly neutral, so a place where Pirates and lawful can go and interact, and there can be some really interesting gameplay developed in a truly neutral, Switzerland kind of place. That would be in my perfect world, we’ll see what CIG has to say about it. Cause I have no idea what their plans are. We do know that we will probably change the lore. How? No idea. And, to be honest, I really don’t want to know. This is a surprise. It’s more fun that way.
Erris: Exactly, I mean, it’s all about enjoying the game, right?
Sailor67: Exactly. Our main goal is for every member to have fun. I mean, this is a game, we’re playing it for fun, let’s not make it work. In fact, that’s one of our standard operating procedures, is to not make it work. I’ve had to actually grab a couple of our guys by their ears and say hey, knock this off, take some time away from this, just because I don’t want them burning out. The other key on this, to making Pitchfork work, is pace. We don’t want to burn anybody out. We don’t want to peak too soon, and people lose interest, we don’t want to peak too late, we just… maintaining the pace has been the biggest challenge.
Erris: It’s a marathon, right? So, I know I’ve seen a number of complaints on the forums, that CIG is money grabbing with the skin, and that they’re taking credit for a players’ ideas. What do you think about that?
Sailor67: I don’t buy it. I mean, if everybody in the Org bought it, it would be $10,000. Let’s be honest. If they released the [RSI] Orion right now, it would be $1,000,000 in 24 hours.
Erris: At least.
Sailor67: At least. The key here is that, it was a nice thing for them to do. And that’s the sum of it. They couldn’t use our symbols because of IP regulations, and because all the other skins are $5, that’s just the way they do things. So no, I have no problem with it. I mean, heck, we sell patches, I can hardly dig CIG for doing the same thing.
Erris: So how do you feel about the claim that’s going around that this is special treatment for an organization?
Sailor67: You know, that’s a funny thing. Initially, I didn’t want an Org. Just because of that. We’re an alliance of Organizations; it’s a player event. We have no Org assets, by design. There are no dues, there will never be an Org coffer. That’s not how we operate. The only reason we stood up the Org is, when CIG announced that an Org will be able to share real-time tactical map, and an Org will be able to, through the friends mechanic, reinforce specific instances. The tactical advantages of those two things are too darned profound to not have. I mean, think about it. We engage a Kingship, right? And we have 50 pilots. We need to be able to get other people into that specific instance. That includes bombers, repair, more fighters, boarders. I mean, that’s just too big an advantage not to grab hold of with both hands. So that’s why the Org was stood up.
Erris: Makes sense, I mean, you want to make a War of this, not just a bunch of separate disconnected battles, right?
Sailor67: Well, you know, the idea is we kind of joke. Everything we do in Pitchfork is tongue-in-cheek. I mean, our ranks are Baconmaker, come on. So, we poke fun at ourselves. And I mean, let’s face it. The idea that we’re going to survive is kind of stupid. But we’re not going to fight stupid. Going back to it, there’s a lot of smart people on the forums, and many of them are in this organization. Many are not in the organization, but, a lot of thought’s gone into this. So no, while we might be stupidly suicidal, we’re not going to fight stupid.
Erris: So, is there anything else you’d like to add? Any questions you want answered or rumours you want put to rest, anything?
Sailor67: Golly, you know what? I’d just invite everyone to join us. You know, this is for fun. I mean, I alluded to it earlier, that this backer thing we’re doing with Chris Roberts and CIG, it’s unique. It will never happen again. I would tell everybody, to get as much from this experience as they can. ‘Cause it’s never going to happen again. So, Pitchfork is a way of celebrating that experience. Join us.
Erris: Yeah, I mean, what else can you say? I’m in. You have my ships. But, before we go, do you have any plans for Operation Pitchfork post-launch? Hangar parties, one-year anniversary’s, that kind of thing?
Sailor67: Well, as for hangar parties, we’ve got one planned where I’ve invited the whole community into my hangar, when the social module drops. There’s a thread about that, and you’re welcome to come and join too.
Erris: Oh, I will.
Sailor67: It will be a good stress test. Anyway, as far as… there’s been some talk about different things, but, you know, I kind of downplay it a little bit. Let’s get the mission done first. We’d look awful silly making these grandiose plans for post mission activities and then fall on our face. So, let’s get the mission done first. The Beta will close, we’ll have a few weeks before the PU opens back up again, we can talk about it again then and figure it out. But, I just as soon stay focused on the mission. Let’s get it done.
Erris: Well, thank you very much for doing this interview, and for creating the Operation itself. I’m super excited to see how it plays out and how it changes the lore in the game, really. It really represents everything good and unique about this game, so… thank you.
Sailor67: Hey, it’s just been, like I said, I’m just humbled by the support it’s been given.
Erris: Okay! Well, thank you very much, that was the first The Relayterview, I hope you all enjoyed it, and thanks Sailor for coming out!
Sailor67: Glad to be here.