Did the CFC Just Win EVE?

TMC Archives 2014-02-20

INTRODUCTION

The “Halloween War” took a sharp turn when CFC/RUS triumphed over N3PL in the great titan clash of B-R. The battle was quickly followed by evacuations and retreats by N3PL forces. This led many EVE players to ponder the question of whether anyone can pose a threat to the CFC anymore. Some observers suggest that the CFC’s supremacy in nullsec will continue indefinitely, if not permanently.

The theory is that the only counterweight to the CFC’s vast population was the formerly-great N3PL supercapital fleet. Then, in B-R, the CFC proved itself capable of fielding (along with RUS) an even bigger supercap fleet. N3PL’s prized supercaps were shattered, leaving them with no way to stop the CFC.

That’s the theory, anyway. And judging by the chatter on EVE-related blogs and forums, it has a lot of proponents. In a post entitled “The Last War“, Jester’s Trek wrote:

“But this war is over. And get ready to yell at me: I hope you enjoyed it because it’s probably the last that EVE is gonna see for a long while. Additionally, it’s a good bet that B-R5RB is not only the costliest battle EVE Online has ever seen, it’s the costliest battle EVE Online will ever see… [I]t also feels to me like a loss of the large number of CFC pilots needed to make the fall of the CFC happen (if thousands of them decided to switch to Star Citizen, say) would also be an existential threat to EVE Online itself… So to CCP, I suggest you guys make hay while the sun shines. B-R5RB is a fantastic marketing opportunity! But it’s never going to come again.”

N3 leader progodlegend seemed to agree. In a comment replying to the Jester’s Trek post, progodlegend wrote a bitter epitaph for the anti-Goon forces in EVE:

“You know what I find amusing? So many people seem concerned about goons becoming the dominant force in EVE, yet so few of you were ever willing to line up against them and fight them. The reason goons are so dominant is because EVE is full of risk averse pussies, that’s the beginning and the end of it. You have no one to blame but yourselves.”

Countless other writers remarked along the same lines. If they’re right, then it’s game over for nullsec, and the great story of EVE has reached its conclusion. As for me, I strongly disagree with their assessment. In this article, I’ll explain why.

THE IMPACT OF B-R

The battle of B-R did have serious consequences. In the short-term, the loss of trillions of isk forced PL to abandon its allies and withdraw from the war. Evacuations by N3 alliances followed. B-R proved that no alliance or coalition in EVE is capable of shrugging off the loss of a supercap fleet. Supercaps are absurdly expensive. If you lose a supercap fleet, you’re pretty much out of the war. This was one of the criticisms I made in my earlier editorial on supercaps. Despite all the bluff and bluster about replacing supercaps (which continued even after the battle was over), this criticism proved to be well-founded. A few days after B-R, PL leader Grath Telkin announced PL’s retreat, explaining:

“That said, my corp, my fucking corp, took a hit of around 1.5 trillion isk. My alliance as a whole took a shot to the nuts somewhere in the neighborhood of 4.5 trillion isk. Those numbers are beyond staggering in nature and dwarf the amount of money more than half the alliances in EVE will ever see, much less recover from.”

As a side note, other of criticisms of the current supercap mechanics were also supported by what happened at B-R. The battle was decided entirely by titans, since the only counter to a supercap fleet is an even bigger supercap fleet. Which is to say that supercaps don’t have a counter–in spite of the CFC’s endless quest to find one.

Meanwhile, sub-capital fleets, which counter neither capital nor supercap fleets, were confirmed to be deadweight. CFC/RUS actually ordered their sizable sub-cap fleets to leave the B-R system, as they contributed more lag than firepower. The sub-caps were directed to remain in other systems and intercept enemy reinforcements. Some argued that this was what sub-caps should always do. Personally, I doubt CCP intended for the vast majority of ship classes in EVE to be consigned to the role of station-camping in other systems while the caps and supercaps do the fighting.

The battle of B-R also had significant long-term effects. The reputation of PL’s fleet commanders took a major hit. It’s difficult to describe the kind of mystique and level of respect that PL’s FCs enjoyed prior to B-R. One way of illustrating it is to point to the fear that CFC and PL have always had of each other. This mutual fear has resulted in numerous pacts and a persistent “frenemy” relationship. The difference is that PL has feared the CFC because the CFC outnumbers them by a ridiculous margin; the CFC has feared PL because of PL’s FCs (and supercaps).

Prior to B-R, there was always a sense that if a major capital/supercap engagement occurred, the CFC was destined to lose because somehow PL’s FCs would pull a rabbit out of a hat. This didn’t happen in B-R. More importantly, it was discovered that N3PL’s loss was due in large part to the mistakes made by PL’s FCs (especially fleet commander Manfred Sideous) during the battle. N3PL was outnumbered, but they were also outclassed.

The image of PL’s line members also suffered as a result of what happened during the battle. As the engagement in B-R unfolded, PL put its faith in its U.S. time zone (USTZ) titan pilots. Because PL had a strong advantage in that time zone–very late hours for CFC’s RUS allies–it was hoped that sufficient reinforcements could jump in and turn the tide of the battle.

Early on, PL leader Grath Telkin considered the effect of time-dilation and the overall numbers involved. He realized the battle would continue through USTZ prime. Grath also correctly determined that the battle, which began as back-and-forth trading of titan kills, would only devolve into a one-sided massacre once either CFC/RUS or N3PL tried to withdraw. Even if N3PL was guaranteed to lose a lot of titans, as long as they held the line, they could guarantee that CFC/RUS would also lose a lot of titans. Grath’s conclusion: Get as many supercap pilots into the system as possible and hold the line until downtime.

What Grath failed to account for was the nature of his (and N3’s) supercap pilots. The supercap pilots already in battle were committed. They were committed before CFC/RUS forces had started winning. The N3PL supercap pilots of the USTZ, on the other hand, were not committed. When their hour came, they could choose either to log in and fight, or not. They could risk their titans and possibly save the day, or they could sit out the battle and keep their precious titans safe while their friends died and their coalition lost the war.

This was a great test for PL’s supercap pilots. Previously, they had developed a reputation for using their supercaps aggressively. PL’s fans credited the supercap pilots with having courage, for “fighting like lions”. Skeptics said PL’s “courage” came from using an overpowered game mechanic–that PL pilots knew they never really risked losing their titans. Which was true? As the USTZ hours approached, the supercap pilots read the frantic orders for them to log in and enter B-R as soon as possible. They also read the reports of N3PL losing titans at a faster rate than CFC/RUS. This time, if they logged in their supercaps, they risked losing them.

They didn’t log in.

As the hours ticked by, PL’s leaders were exasperated by the USTZ pilots’ failure to materialize. Once it became clear that the cavalry was staying logged out, N3PL supercap pilots began to panic. Against orders, they started to leave the system. Grath tried to raise his supercap pilots’ spirits, claiming there were more friendly titans left in system than was actually the case. They didn’t listen. The N3PL titans continued to desert their brothers-in-arms until there weren’t enough titans left to break the enemy titans’ tanks. Without hope of inflicting further losses on the enemy, the fleet commander finally ordered a general retreat, and the predicted one-sided massacre took place.

Thus, both the leaders and the line members of PL failed to live up to their legendary reputations. Although they can grind up enough isk to replace their ships (eventually), the harm done to their prestige cannot be so easily erased.

THE GOONS DIDN’T WIN B-R

Having read the preceding section, you probably don’t think I’ve done a very good job of debunking the “Last War” theory. If anything, my description of the USTZ titan pilots reinforces progodlegend’s complaints of “risk averse pussies” who care more about Being A Titan Pilot than beating the Goons.

However, there are some important points to be made. First of all, the Goons didn’t win the battle of B-R. Who do you think won B-R: Was it the CFC, or was it N3PL? Your answer, of course, should be neither. The CFC didn’t win B-R; CFC/RUS did. It might sound like I’m splitting hairs. Very often, “CFC” was been used as a shorthand for CFC/RUS in the Halloween War, and often RUS was overlooked entirely. The supporters of the “Last War” theory say it will be the CFC, not CFC/RUS, who will dominate EVE. But the distinction is actually very important.

The CFC didn’t win B-R because the CFC couldn’t have won B-R. Without RUS, not only would they have lost the battle, it’s likely there wouldn’t have been a battle. The RUS-supplied supercaps were absolutely necessary. Even with PL’s disastrous decision to target dreadnoughts (and later, the predictably über-tanked Sort Dragon), the battle remained very close for the first several hours. RUS supercaps tipped the balance.

RUS also gave some much-needed encouragement to the CFC FCs. Throughout the war–and long before it–the CFC’s FCs had been wary about going into a capital/supercap battle against PL’s fearsome FCs. RUS’s leaders were less intimidated by PL and stiffened the spines of the CFC FCs.

Already we can see why the CFC might not reign supreme in nullsec: What if RUS don’t let them? It’s questionable whether the CFC would win a war against N3PL without RUS. Worse, suppose RUS joined forces with N3PL against the CFC. Would the CFC supercap fleet stand a chance?

Some might scoff at such things. The leaders of the CFC and RUS might, today, waive aside such an impolite notion. They might even raise a toast to their eternal friendship. But the CFC and RUS are both coalitions. CFC/RUS is a coalition of coalitions. If history is any indication, that isn’t exactly a guarantee of stability. Quite the opposite, in fact.

A STRONG, INDEPENDENT ALLIANCE

I’ve written a few times before about the effect of the shift from alliance-driven to coalition-driven politics in nullsec. On its face, it’s a very simple concept. It’s just alliances working with other alliances. Big deal. Yet the implications can be as subtle as they are far-reaching. Some nullsec leaders have demonstrated that they grasp the implications. Other nullsec leaders have not. Some lost their empires solely due to their lack of understanding of coalition politics. Remember when TEST held more space than any other alliance in EVE?

In mid-2013, TEST still held the distinction of being the largest sov-holding entity in nullsec. For various reasons, TEST decided to leave the HBC, the coalition it co-founded. TEST leaders announced that they were fed up with coalition politics. Immediately TEST members began repeating the meme that they were a strong, independent alliance that didn’t need a coalition. They were wrong.

As it turned out, there’s no such thing as a strong, independent alliance anymore. You can be strong or you can be independent, but you can’t be both. If you want to hold space in nullsec, you must be a member of a coalition. Indeed, if you want to have any impact on nullsec at all, you must join a coalition or work so closely with one that you’re a de facto member.

TEST was doomed from the moment it announced its independence. The CFC and N3 both seized on the opportunity to teach TEST what it meant to be coalition-less in today’s nullsec. Invaded on two fronts, TEST made a Carthaginian peace with N3, enlisting their support in exchange for a quarter of TEST’s own space. N3, despite declaring its undying hostility toward the CFC, never attempted to launch an offensive against CFC space during the war. The CFC eventually straightened its fleet doctrines out, N3 eventually got worried about RUS attacking their homeland, and TEST got crushed.

TEST went from having more systems than anyone else to having no systems. But things only got worse from there. TEST didn’t engage in the traditional post-defeat practice of joining a coalition on the other side of the map. TEST wasn’t interested in joining a coalition; it planned to make money in lowsec and return to nullsec later, when it was back at full strength. The plan didn’t work. The alliance fail-cascaded and lost two-third of its membership. TEST still has the potential to be a factor in nullsec, but only if its leaders abandon the idea of an independent TEST. To return to power, TEST must find a coalition to join.

The lesson of TEST is important because it can be applied to any nullsec alliance. If GoonSwarm Federation decided to withdraw from the CFC, it would share a similar fate. As the Goons’ enemies enjoy pointing out after every fleet battle, the Goons only field a relatively small percentage of a CFC fleet’s ships. The Goons are powerful because they are willing to make themselves dependent on their fellow CFC members.

But coalitions are unstable. They tend to be bound together only as long as their members share a common objective. The Goons’ original coalition, the RedSwarm Federation (principally consisting of the Goons and a Russian alliance), fell apart. The HBC itself was widely considered a match for the CFC; The Mittani himself declared the CFC’s odds in a war against the HBC to be no greater than 50/50. The HBC, too, disintegrated.

Could the CFC also split apart, or even face a civil war? If you think the answer is no, you might want to read on.

COALITION CONFUSION

I would like to illustrate one of the less-appreciated features of coalition-driven nullsec by posing a trick question. Which of the following currently has sovereignty in the most systems: The CFC, N3PL, or RUS? If you answered the CFC, you’re wrong. N3PL is also wrong, and so is RUS. CFC/RUS is wrong, too, in case you thought you were getting clever. The correct answer is that each coalition holds sovereignty in exactly the same number of systems–zero. Only alliances can hold sovereignty. I’m sure this sounds like more pedantic hair-splitting, but I’ll explain its importance in a moment.

For the “Last War” theorists who fear a CFC-dominated future for nullsec, consider the following scenario: The CFC, bloated by its conquests, falls prey to an internal struggle between its member alliances. The leadership of The Mittani and the Goons is challenged. As hostility increases, the coalition splits in two. The remaining half of the CFC loses a giant swath of its territory to the departing half. The animosity between the two powers results in a civil war. Does this scenario sound likely?

I suspect many readers would answer with some version of, “That scenario is all well and good on paper. But as a practical matter, the way people actually play EVE, it just won’t happen. The CFC will stick together under Goon rule.”

That’s a fair response. But it’s wrong. You see, the CFC civil war already took place, and it involved the greatest defeat in CFC history. What, you didn’t hear about this? Welcome once again to coalition-driven EVE, where even the biggest failures can be concealed from the public eye through propaganda.

This brings us back to the point about coalitions not being able to hold sovereignty. Nullsec has outgrown the old game mechanics. In the old days, two alliances would go to war and have fleet battles consisting of only those two alliances. Any EVE player could observe the course of the war simply by loading the in-game map and looking at sovereignty.

If a player tried that today, he would be lost. He would have no idea where coalition lines are drawn. He might think entities like Brothers of Tanagra and Greater Western Co-Prosperity Sphere are powerful because they hold so much space. He would have no way of knowing they are renter alliances with no power and no space to call their own. (Gratuitous side note: Six and a half years ago, I suggested that the Band of Brothers name its renter community the “Greater BoB Co-Prosperity Sphere”. Needless to say, BoB’s leaders didn’t go for it. The CFC has a different sense of humor.)

In modern EVE, it is no longer possible to follow events in nullsec without reference to out-of-game resources. Everything occurs within the context of the meta-game. That means every event must be interpreted by the players. The alliances of nullsec are very interested in shaping those interpretations to their own ends.

THE CFC CIVIL WAR

The CFC evolved from the Deklein Coalition, which itself evolved from earlier coalitions. The most important element of the CFC was the marriage of GoonSwarm and TEST. After all, what could be a bigger “clusterfuck” than a coalition of Goons and Redditors? The CFC proved its worth by dominating northwestern nullsec. Then, in the summer of 2012, the CFC set its sights on southwestern nullsec, controlled by the Southern Coalition (SoCo).

By this point, TEST’s leadership was getting concerned about the fact that they, despite their alliance’s size, were merely the junior partner in the CFC. They started talking about being the “Honey Badger Coalition” (HBC). If TEST were actually announcing its departure from the CFC, that would have been a major split. Initially, the CFC didn’t take the HBC references as a serious warning sign; they thought TESTies were just spouting some (outdated) memes about honey badgers. Montolio later admitted that there was no clear beginning to the HBC, and that it wasn’t planned.

Regardless of the honey badger meme, TEST remained a member of the CFC. They shared the same standings, fielded fully-integrated fleets, and shared out-of-game forums and communication channels. TEST’s leadership continued to be guided by the CFC. By every metric, the CFC remained solid. EveNews24, the largest EVE news organization in the pre-TMC days, openly declared its refusal to use the term “HBC” until the HBC’s members took some action separately from the CFC.

There was no separation. The CFC, TESTies and all, invaded SoCo space with the intent to divide the spoils. If the invasion was successful, TEST was to receive most of the territory, but a decent chunk of each new region would be kept under GoonSwarm sovereignty. This was essential because GoonSwarm wanted to build a network of Goon-controlled outposts with jump bridges reaching all the way across CFC territory from north to south.

With the aid of Pandemic Legion, which formed increasingly close ties to TEST, the CFC drove SoCo out of Delve, Period Basis, and Querious. It was a monumental triumph for the CFC, which reached the height of its power. Observers began to worry about what would happen if the CFC continued the march eastward and took over the rest of nullsec.

Instead, the CFC descended into civil war.

With the war against SoCo at a close, the CFC finished grinding structures in their new southwestern regions and prepared to divvy up the territory. But TEST’s leader, Montolio, had a different idea: He wanted TEST to take everything for itself, leave the CFC, and partner with PL to make the HBC a reality.

As you might expect, GoonSwarm’s leaders were stunned. They had just spent the summer completely devoted to conquering those regions. Planting GoonSwarm territory in each of the regions had always been part of the deal. Many felt that TEST hadn’t even carried its share of the burden, especially when it came to the boring structure-grinding aspect of the war. Still, Montolio insisted that the Goons should not hold outposts in the southwest, and he began to stoke anti-CFC sentiment among TEST’s line members. It was an incredible betrayal–one of the greatest in EVE’s history.

Montolio’s betrayal of the CFC was also perfectly timed. The CFC was exhausted. The only alternative to agreeing to Montolio’s demands was to declare war against TEST (possibly PL, too) and grind the regions all over again. GoonSwarm’s leaders didn’t have the stomach for it. Montolio assured them that the HBC would always remain friendly to the CFC; they just wanted independence. Ultimately, the CFC had no choice but to accept Montolio’s terms.

With the metaphorical stroke of a pen, much of the CFC was obliterated. They lost TEST, which was roughly the size of GoonSwarm, and they lost four regions. It was the CFC’s biggest defeat of all time, and it had taken place without a shot being fired. Now GoonSwarm had a new problem: How would this catastrophe be explained to its members–and to the public?

GoonSwarm’s leaders decided some thing were better left unsaid. If they told the truth, it would only encourage hostility against Montolio and TEST, neither of whom they wanted to attack–yet. Instead, GoonSwarm propaganda told a touching story about Goons wanting TEST to stand on their own two feet and fend for themselves. According to GoonSwarm’s leaders, they had no objection to the new arrangement. Indeed, it was all they had ever wanted for TEST, ever since they discovered the cute little newbies cluelessly bouncing around in Rifters.

None of it was true, of course. The Goons never entertained any altruistic impulses toward the TESTies. Rather, they coveted the immense manpower that a Reddit-based EVE corporation could provide. The Goons recognized Dreddit (the corp that would later form TEST) as the second incarnation of the Goons’ own EVE experience; one day those thousands of newbies would grow up. The Goons moved quickly, establishing themselves as “mentors” so they could harness Dreddit’s potential. If possible, they wanted to assimilate the Redditors into GoonSwarm Federation itself. Montolio’s betrayal closed the book on that failed policy.

But the EVE community swallowed the Goons’ propaganda. True, some Goons grumbled about an ungrateful TEST getting all of the space they’d conquered. For the most part, though, everyone went along with the official narrative. Goons, the CFC, and the HBC were viewed a single, monolithic bloc. Anti-CFC voices still breathlessly voiced their fears of Goon dominance and an emerging “Blue Doughnut” in nullsec. They completely missed the fact that the CFC had suffered a devastating defeat with long-term consequences.

As 2012 turned to 2013, Montolio finally decided to pull the trigger. He didn’t want a cold war with the CFC; he wanted a proper one. He went to PL and made the case for a full-scale invasion of CFC territory by the HBC. PL leader Shadoo was unimpressed. The CFC was weaker than it had been before TEST’s secession, but it was still at least as powerful as the HBC. War could result in defeat and ruin for TEST and PL. Therefore, PL vetoed the plan.

Montolio was extremely frustrated. He had left the CFC so TEST could make its own path. Now, even as a co-founder of its own coalition, TEST was being told “no”. Montolio had the option of sending TEST into war alone, but he knew that was folly. He needed PL. So he attempted to force PL’s hand by making his desire for war public. Montolio understood that PL was very protective of its reputation as an alliance of fearless PvP’ers. Maybe he could shame them into agreeing to go to war. Otherwise, they would seem afraid.

Shadoo was indeed embarrassed. PL was forced to declare its desire for peace with the Goons. It was humiliating; it did make PL look weak. Shadoo attempted to explain away his reluctance to go to war. He claimed he only opposed war because it would involve too much structure-grinding. He said PL was tired of dealing with broken sov mechanics, and that until CCP fixed them, PL wasn’t interested in a long-term war. He proposed a series of “war games” instead. This only added to the humiliation, and Shadoo became the target of widespread mockery. Shadoo blamed Montolio.

This time it was PL who felt betrayed by TEST’s leader. PL announced its departure from the HBC. This effectively shattered the HBC. It still contained numerous weaker alliances, but they were no more than the husk left behind when TEST, too, called it quits. PL, unlike TEST, understood that an alliance needs to join a coalition to be of consequence in modern nullsec. So PL moved east and joined up with the N3 coalition, where they happily engaged in the very structure-grinding that Shadoo had said they didn’t want.

In the summer of 2013, TEST was weak and alone. The CFC finally took its revenge by invading and conquering TEST’s vast holdings in the southwest. Of course, these were the same regions the CFC had already conquered the previous year. And when, at length, the CFC finished retaking the southwest, the anti-CFC voices repeated their earlier concerns about a Goon-dominated nullsec.

The story of nullsec during this period was widely portrayed as a series of victories for the CFC and the rising tide of GoonSwarm. The true story of nullsec was one of a crushing defeat for the CFC, a civil war, and the CFC’s eventual recovery–which took well over a year. Because of the nature of coalition-driven politics, it was possible for the CFC to wrap these events in layers of propaganda until it seemed that the CFC was always winning.

When convenient, TEST was classified as part of the CFC, or an ally of the CFC. Later, TEST was an enemy of the CFC. TEST’s defection from the CFC was not seen as a defeat, because history was rewritten such that TEST wasn’t a part of the CFC to begin with. Thus, the CFC was viewed by the EVE public as a victorious conqueror, even though it spent the better part of two years conquering the same regions twice.

THE UNFLUSHABLE TOILET

The true nature of nullsec is misunderstood by the “Last War” theorists and others because they view nullsec powers as static: CFC/RUS is assumed to be a permanent super-coalition that will never break apart. Coalitions like the CFC are viewed as solid structures, immune to civil war. When an alliance or coalition is driven out of its territory or out of nullsec completely, it is considered dead and gone forever.

With such a view, it’s possible to imagine an unbreakable CFC (or CFC/HBC, or CFC/RUS, or any future super-coalition) stomping across the map, creating a Blue Doughnut and winning EVE. It won’t happen. Powers in a coalition-driven nullsec are not static. They are ever-changing.

The shifting, mutating quality of nullsec coalitions can only be seen with historical perspective. It can be viewed by taking a snapshot of the coalitions of today and comparing them to the past. As a demonstration, let’s have a look at the battle of B-R.

The battle of B-R consisted of CFC/RUS versus N3PL. If we take a step back to the war of the CFC versus SoCo, it’s apparent that a lot of mixing and matching has been going on. RUS contains many of the same entities who were members of SoCo. These entities changed, but they didn’t go away. The CFC (and later, the HBC) “destroyed” RUS alliances back when they were members of SoCo, but then they came back and fought on the same side as the CFC.

During the war against SoCo, PL was on the CFC’s side. Among the SoCo powers PL helped defeat was Nulli Secunda, a founding member of N3. Nulli didn’t disappear; it came back to nullsec, helped create a new coalition, and fought in B-R alongside PL. So at one time, PL was helping the CFC attack Nulli, and later, PL was defending Nulli against the CFC.

Coalitions and allegiances are constantly evolving. Since they are not static, things can change rapidly in nullsec. TEST went from being the biggest sov-holder in null to having no sov. At one point in the summer of 2013, the CFC was in such a sorry state that its pilots were only allowed to fly fleets of Caracals, and the morale of its pilots almost reached the breaking point. Half a year later, CFC/RUS won the biggest supercap battle in EVE’s history.

In EVE as elsewhere, people wrongly assume that recent trends will continue indefinitely. But the long-term history of nullsec is one of conflict, upheaval, and change. Note that the critics who talk about stagnation in nullsec never talk about its history, only its future. They can never provide evidence of nullsec’s stagnation; they can only say the stagnation is just around the corner. Then, instead of peace, nullsec always finds itself gripped by another war, because the coalitions just get reshuffled; some part of some coalition is always willing to flip.

Once again, only historical perspective can paint a picture of just how easily nullsec alliances change partners. During B-R, a titan pilot named Shrike was flying under the banner of N3PL. In contrast to N3PL’s fateful targeting of über-tanked Sort Dragon, the CFC deliberately avoided calling Shrike primary. CFC FCs knew he was likely to be fully tanked up. Shrike is the titan alt of a fellow named SirMolle. Most EVE players today have never heard of SirMolle, but years ago he was the most famous character in the game. SirMolle was the leader of the Band of Brothers (BoB), the Goons’ traditional enemy. But the Goons weren’t the only alliance to have SirMolle as their arch-nemesis. Pandemic Legion hated SirMolle just as much.

PL was officially founded by one of the alts of an EVE player known today as Kugutsumen. A hacker of some note, Kugutsumen enjoyed “spying” on the third-party forums of EVE alliances by hacking into them and downloading their contents. In December 2006, Kugutsumen broke into the forums of a BoB corporation named Reikoku. SirMolle wasn’t a member of Reikoku, but he was incensed that one of his alliance’s corps was compromised. Kugutsumen and his modus operandi were notorious, so it didn’t take SirMolle long to learn who was responsible. A truly epic feud began. Without exaggeration, the vendetta between Kugutsumen and SirMolle would change EVE forever.

To begin with, SirMolle was informed of the details of Kugutsumen’s real-life identity, and the nature of the hack. SirMolle was so angry he couldn’t think straight. He didn’t know how to handle being on the losing end of something in EVE. He’d never lost a war. BoB rarely lost battles at all, not even small-scale engagements. BoB’s security had never before been compromised; there was no history of spies infiltrating BoB or leaking material from BoB forums. Since Kugutsumen had crossed the line by hacking a BoB forum, SirMolle felt justified in crossing a few lines of his own. SirMolle went to the official EVE forums and posted Kugutsumen’s real-life information, including the name and phone number of Kugutsumen’s employer, encouraging EVE players to harass Kugutsumen out-of-game and get him fired. This, of course, was a permabannable offense.

Kugutsumen was taken by surprise. He knew SirMolle would be angry, but he didn’t expect him to be so reckless. By conducting the harassment campaign on EVE-O (in addition to third-party EVE websites), SirMolle had guaranteed himself a permaban from EVE. Kugutsumen petitioned the posts. BoB’s alliance leader had sealed his own fate, or so it seemed.

Then something truly peculiar occurred. The offending posts were removed by the EVE-O moderators, but SirMolle didn’t appear to have been punished. SirMolle wasn’t even temporarily banned from posting on EVE-O, much less permabanned from the game. Kugutsumen was amazed. Other EVE players took note, but no one could explain the phenomenon. Something strange was afoot.

For years, there were rumors that CCP had some special connection to BoB. At the time, CCP employees were allowed to have characters in nullsec alliances, but CCP always claimed that they were sprinkled throughout the galaxy to prevent any possibility of favoritism. When Kugutsumen initially hacked Reikoku’s forum, he didn’t fully review its contents. He didn’t know what he had. It was only after witnessing SirMolle’s EVE-O vengeance and CCP’s refusal to punish him that Kugutsumen began to understand the full gravity of the situation.

Kugutsumen tested his suspicions by looking for evidence of CCP devs in Reikoku. He found it immediately. All it took was a quick search of the IP addresses recorded on the Reikoku forum posts. In Reikoku alone–just one of the BoB corporations–there were five characters posting from CCP headquarters. Kugutsumen concluded that CCP devs were heavily concentrated in BoB–which just happened to be the most powerful alliance in EVE.

There was more. Kugutsumen had evidence of a CCP developer cheating on BoB’s behalf. He released his findings to the public, and the t20 scandal was born. The media took notice and CCP took heat. At first, CCP was unwilling to take action. So Kugutsumen continued his efforts and began to unmask additional CCP devs’ in-game characters. One after another, devs were found in BoB and BoB’s allies. The EVE community went into an uproar, convinced that the game was rigged. Under pressure from the players, CCP changed its policy on developers playing EVE: Henceforth, they were forbidden from joining any nullsec alliances. This caused additional anguish within BoB, as some of their best players suddenly vanished overnight. In the meantime, more members of BoB started spamming Kugutsumen’s real-life information on EVE-O and elsewhere, trying to get players to call his boss and have him fired.

SirMolle was never punished for posting Kugutsumen’s real-life information on EVE-O and encouraging players to get him fired. He was not banned from the game or from the forums. (Indeed, one of his most famous posts, “Chowdown, we’re stealing your targets”, was made shortly after these incidents took place.) Kugutsumen received phone calls from angry EVE players, but he didn’t lose his job. What SirMolle failed to realize was that Kugutsumen’s “employer” was actually a company owned by Kugutsumen. Players called Kugutsumen’s “boss” and tried to get him fired, but they got Kugutsumen himself on the phone.

Meanwhile, back in EVE, Kugutsumen’s characters were all permabanned. CCP e-mailed Kugutsumen and told him that by exposing characters as CCP devs, he had committed the permabannable offense of revealing the real-life information of EVE players. Kugutsumen was quick to point out the hypocrisy, but CCP’s decision was final. Unlike SirMolle, Kugutsumen could no longer post on EVE-O, so the only place to read further revelations about CCP was on Kugutsumen’s website. It grew into one of the most popular third-party EVE websites, and it remains so to this day. Kugutsumen’s friends in Pandemic Legion felt he had been treated unfairly, and they declared a holy war against BoB.

All in all, it’s fair to say that there were some hard feelings between SirMolle and PL. Yet on the day of B-R, SirMolle’s titan flew with PL against the forces of CFC and RUS. If that can happen, anything can–it’s the EVE equivalent of French resistance fighters marching alongside the Nazis. Not that I’m equating BoB to Nazi Germany, of course. Such a comparison would doubtless offend both groups.

My point is that if SirMolle and PL can work together, there’s no reason to think the powers of nullsec won’t continue to shuffle themselves in endless combinations. The vanquished powers are knocked down, only to pop back up in new coalitions. Nullsec, then, is not a Blue Doughnut. One could compare it instead to an Unflushable Toilet, with the same human waste endlessly circling around and around and around. Not that I would make that comparison–I love everybody.

CONCLUSION

The CFC didn’t “win” EVE, because it’s impossible. A single coalition cannot conquer nullsec. Contrary to popular perception, the powers of nullsec are not static; they are constantly mutating. Victories are always temporary in coalition-driven nullsec. No one can be driven out of nullsec permanently unless they allow themselves to be. Nor are any bonds permanent. History has shown that the willingness of EVE players to cut ties with friends and join with their enemies, when convenient, is limitless.

The battle of B-R provided a prime example of the nature of coalition-driven nullsec. The CFC needed the help of RUS, which contained many of the same powers that the CFC had previously defeated. Their enemy was N3PL, which consisted of former friends as well as other powers that the CFC previously defeated. If one cannot build permanent friendships or permanently destroy enemies, there is no such thing as a permanent victory. One can only continue the cycle. This fact is obscured by blankets of propaganda.

Success can never be total, but the greatest share of success goes to those who best understand the nature of EVE coalitions. The EVE community is frequently gripped by anti-Goon hysteria and paranoia. What makes the Goons so special? Once upon a time, they awed with their massive numbers. No longer. Today, only a small fraction of the Goons’ own coalition consists of Goon pilots. GoonSwarm is strong because it is willing to make itself dependent on the rest of the CFC alliances, who greatly outnumber the Goons. What the Goons actually provide is leadership in the form of The Mittani and those to whom The Mittani delegates power. The CFC trusts that their leaders will reward their loyalty with good leadership.

Now it is left to the enemies of the CFC to prove themselves capable of understanding coalition-driven nullsec at least as well as the Goons. Coalition-driven nullsec is a numbers game. The object of the game is to build the biggest coalition. To clarify, the object of the game is not to complain about the other side’s numbers, or to assert one’s own elite PvP credentials, or to rely on dodgy game mechanics. Just as the CFC gave up trying to find a counter to supercaps, so too must the CFC’s rivals endeavor to beat the CFC at its own game. That’s not the answer they want to hear, but it’s the only honest one they’re ever going to get.

Any force that intends to oppose the CFC must sell potential partners on the benefits of that coalition. What are the rewards? How are they going to get them? The sale isn’t made by signing peace treaties that exempt the CFC’s territories from attack. Just the opposite. The sale is made by convincing people that they’ll be able to take space away from the CFC and keep it for themselves. And should a rival, fearing the CFC, look for easier conquests elsewhere, they will only weaken and alienate the very same third parties they’ll need for their coalition.

In closing (yes, this article is actually going to end now), I leave the reader with a few famous words from Benjamin Disraeli:

“I know what I have to face. I have to face a coalition! The combination may be successful. A coalition has before this been successful. But coalitions, although successful, have always found this, that their triumph has been brief. This too I know, that England does not love coalitions.”

For all of the “Last War” theorists out there, I invite you to stick around. There’s plenty more EVE yet to come.

This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by James 315.

Let your voice be heard! Submit your own article to Imperium News here!

Would you like to join the Imperium News staff? Find out how!

Comments