Conflict Is Not War – The Counter


Header art by Major Sniper

CCP’s Ecosystem Outlook last year has caused a lot of contention amongst the players of EVE Online. Opinions have been widely shared; largely against the approach of “dynamic redistribution.” The article Conflict Is Not War – The Ecosystem Fallacy on INN by Sophia ‘Alizabeth’ S took a stance against CCP’s aim of causing conflict by decreasing wealth. The quote “I must ask, in what world does scarcity breed war? Scarcity does not breed war in EVE or the real world” formed the basis of an argument that does not reflect the reality of warfare, both simulated and real.  To counter this idea, I dusted off my copy of On War, written by one of the finest minds in warfare: Carl Von Clausewitz.

The original post cites several examples that try to create an argument out of moon goo. “Listing all the wars that had nothing, or very little to do with scarcity would take more words than I care to write in a lifetime. Here’s a short list of the fun ones.” It would be a much harder job if they tried to find wars that did not involve some element of scarcity. Let me do the English thing of delivering a perfect forward defensive shot against those examples.

Somali Pirates hijack boats because they do not have income to buy food. The 1991 Iraq War occurred because of the $30bn debt incurred by Saddam’s regime during the Iran-Iraq War and the low oil prices that prevented Iraq from restarting its economy post war. The Second Sino-Japanese War was expansionist, with Japan seeking to expand its access to raw materials, food and labor. The Pacific theatre of WW2 was triggered by an oil embargo. Peru vs Ecuador was a territorial dispute with one side wanting what the other claimed. The Yom Kippur War & The Six Day War, all through a scarcity of territory and control over key areas. The list goes on.

Understanding War

To state that as Iceland has not been heavily involved in a major conflicts and thus has limited understanding of war is fanciful. “War is politics by other means” is the key message in Clausewitz’s “On War.” In 2020 we now live in a world where adversaries can operate in a hidden manner; the term “war by other means” has become prevalent in militaries across the globe. Economic warfare, cyber, espionage, terrorism, insurrection and sedition all exist underneath the threshold of what would constitute armed conflict, yet are the most common forms of inter-state friction that we see today. CCP & Iceland need no medals to show they have an understanding of war. We live in a time of perpetual conflict. One has to only lift a newspaper to grasp modern war. Anthony Beevor (author of Stalingrad, Berlin: The Downfall 1945 and The Second World War), a fantastic military historian performed National Service for three years of peace. Does this devalue his understanding of military affairs? I think not. The same could be said of Niall Ferguson (Collosus: The Rise & Fall of the American Empire) or Alan Clark (Barbarossa) – both of whom have produced wonderful works on warfare and imperialism without having ever “been in the shit.”

To experience war is not to understand it – the infantry private, in general, has as much understanding of the strategic reasons for the war they are fighting as the F1 monkey does in Eve. Neither are scholars of war. Yet they are the ones that truly know what warfare takes, the challenges, both mental & physical. These challenges are apparent in both “wars” and “conflicts” and in fact to a far lesser degree in Eve Online. It is not our lives and way of life that is being threatened, but our enjoyment.

War or Conflict?

All wars are a conflict. Yet not all conflicts escalate to war status. “War is nothing but a duel on an extensive scale . . . an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfil our will” wrote Clausewitz. The same is true in EVE. The scarcity that affects the players now will cause these frictions between groups, leaving the decision to fight or be deprived up to the players.

Scarcity of resources is the beginning of all conflict. We are seeing it now all across the globe; oil wars, water wars and lack of basic amenities that cause mass migration. Even after a brief venture post Cold War into ‘trying to make the world a better place’ the dominant economies resorted back to the constant international competition over resources. Here we can see the comparisons to conflicts within EVE Online.

Corporations who used to generate X income from their systems now must look to expand to maintain their stations, buy the ships they want, and be able to defend themselves. Hisec pilots, no longer satisfied with the meagre returns, move to nullsec, increasing populations and requiring some alliances to further expand their territory. Alliances locked in the constant power struggle, the battle of “mutually assured destruction,” and titan proliferation must find a way to keep producing supers at a sustained rate, lest they appear weak to their neighbors and risk invasion and elimination. And TEST, behind all the hyperbole and vitriol, really just wanted Delve.

What is CCP trying to achieve?

Sophia states that CCP had got it wrong. Although the example that World War Bee (the current one) would have started without the reduction in resources has some element of validity, it is not entirely accurate. Because this is a game. We play for enjoyment; fights are fun and the rush we get from watching fleets go toe-to-toe with an adversary is the games’ pinnacle. None of us are going to die in the real world because we cannot mine enough veldspar from that ore belt that spawned next to Walmart. Yet, in a microcosm of the real world, it is an effective way of generating conflict (that may escalate into those large alliance-on-alliance duels).

Remember that scarcity is the tinder; people are the matches that start the fire.

Some may argue that in EVE abundance breeds war as pilots and alliances are more likely to engage in fights when they have sufficient resources. But CCP isn’t looking to start more wars, nor do they need to. Wars in EVE happen naturally because they are enjoyable for players. CCP is looking to make these wars more decisive. We were rapidly approaching an EVE Cold War, the titan umbrella preventing any real decisive action in the same way that intercontinental ballistic missiles guaranteed that there would be no winner in the actual Cold War. The plan was the remove the ability to create these weapons en masse and give their smaller cousins opportunities to act decisively in large scale conflicts.

M2- was the capstone of a well-executed plan by CCP. The biggest fight in the history of our beloved game with hundreds of titans destroyed. The vacuum left by these losses will be more strongly felt since resource scarcity was implemented; it is clearly visible when TEST fleet commanders are purchasing titans from lowsec groups, as the alliance does not have the stockpile to support them. The future may see the rebirth of battleships as the meta, with supers and titans only being deployed in critical escalations, but with many players and corporations having titan reserves, this is a long way off. For now, M2- has all participants fixated on either extracting, or eliminating, those superweapons. CCP’s plan is working – they want to make titans die faster and be replaced at a slower rate. The next step is recovery.

How does CCP achieve balance?

World War Bee may be giving CCP the headlines that generate their income, but the knock-on effect of resource scarcity is also damaging that. The ecosystems needs a revamp to coincide with these changes to ensure that players are able to gain ISK at a sustainable rate in order to buy ships to throw into the fray. At present, new players will have to grind more to get their first battleship, and when they have that shiny new toy they will be very reluctant to throw it into high risk scenarios such as Level 4s, Low Sec PvP or diving into wormholes. As an example, the prominent wormhole PvP group “LegionXX” have noticed a decrease in players risking larger ships inside wormholes and thus a lower amount of content for those players who live in or dive into wormholes. That may result in a lack of interest in their game and people unsubscribing. This is an eventuality we all want to avoid.

So how does CCP stop super alliances from becoming unbeatable due to their innumerable titans, while also allowing new players to have fun with bigger toys? A student of warfare I am, but of economics, I am not. I will leave that one up to the experts! What do you think?

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  • Simon Chui

    If all we do is trade oversimplifications, we’ll never get to any real answers. For someone to start a war over resources, they must first have enough resources to build an army, then one of their neighbours needs to have other resources they want. It’s not a simple matter if scarcity or abundance, but a more specific situation of you having more military than your neighbour, and them having something you can take.

    One way this can happen is if a temporary abundance of food leads to a population explosion. When the food supply returns to normal, you have more people than the local agriculture can support, so they go on a big migration / invasion to find / take other agricultural land. This might be analogous to Fraternity’s current attempts to expand and secure more ratting space.

    But this is very basic biological stuff, no more sophisticated than an algae bloom or a locust swarm. We want to think that humans are smarter than that, and are able to come up with more creative responses to changes in resource availability.

    January 26, 2021 at 11:49 AM
  • Guilford Australis

    Comparisons between historical wars and EVE wars are nearly always unhelpful because the two are almost completely unrelated in motivation, process, and outcome. But if we’re going to indulge this, I guess I’ll point out that EVE wars are more like the ethnic wars across the Balkans and Middle East than any of the article’s examples.

    Those wars are largely motivated by tribal differences, personal vendettas, religious disagreements, historical grudges, and cultural resentment passed down through the generations. The belligerents literally live right on top of each other and stand to gain nothing from a resource standpoint by killing their ancestral enemies. But they do it anyway, frequently and enthusiastically. So the statement that resource shortage is the root of all conflict is manifestly untrue.

    If we look only at the history of EVE wars, very few could support an argument that resources (typically understood as a byproduct of regional sovereignty) played a significant role in their motivation. True, PGL and Vily pivoted to the land-grab narrative after their war stalled. But I’ll point out that the ONLY narrative for six months was that Goon culture is bad, Goon leadership is bad, Goons are bad, and these bad, bad people need to be “exterminated and removed from the game.” They literally call us “the bad guys.”

    Conspicuously, PGL and Vily didn’t discover that it might be nice for TEST to live in Delve until they finally arrived in Delve. So I don’t buy the 11th-hour narrative shift to “it was all about squatting in Delve after all, we knew our originally stated goals would fail.” If an invading force plans a war for stated reasons but later finds that it likes the place it is invading and might like to keep it, it doesn’t follow that the land grab was the cause of the invasion.

    January 26, 2021 at 1:30 PM
    • I get what you are saying, but if we toss the 11th hour shift to “We really wanted Delve,” what we are left with as the casus belli is . . . “extermination,” an idea so absurd that it’s hard to imagine to grown men a) coming up with it and b) believing it. Based on one of PGL’s recent pronouncements, I think we should entertain another option for why at least TEST is at war – a desire to hurf everywhere and often. He stated that PAPI didn’t log back in after the first M2 battle because he didn’t want Goons to have a chance to be smug. Over 300 titans trapped because he didn’t want Goons to hurf–no, that’s a TEST exclusive. And now back to the post’s point: So, yeah, scarcity doesn’t really enter into the cause for conflict. The desire to brag on reddit plays a much more important role than scarcity.

      January 26, 2021 at 2:36 PM
      • Guilford Australis Gray Doc

        That is certainly consistent with TEST’s culture. I think PGL and Vily were also desperate to make a name for TEST after getting kicked to the curb during the Fountain War and spending the next several years living in the shadow of PanFam and The Imperium despite their size.

        I admit I don’t really think of PGL and Vily as grown men, quite frankly. From their ridiculous fantasies, childish way of addressing their alliance, and general incompetence, I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think they *did* believe Goonswarm would be exterminated. They must have realized that in order for their gambit to work, they *needed* that to happen or else they’d be crushed once PanFam ended the alliance they’ve already said is only temporary.

        January 26, 2021 at 3:37 PM
        • Hence the “coin flip” talk. I like the gambit analogy though. I always think those are cool in chess, but they almost never pan out as well in actual game play as you hope they will.

          January 26, 2021 at 4:50 PM
        • Garreth Vlox Guilford Australis

          “I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think they *did* believe Goonswarm would be exterminated.”

          And this is where a lot of tapi’s and specifically test’s issues come from. They are lead by a duo who believe they can do the impossible and base all of their plans on the unattainable, then when it blows up in their face they oh so predictably claim that was never what they wanted in the first place. Their have been some decent groups of people lead by some spectacular idiots over the years in Eve. And test just like all the rest is going to follow them into the dumpster.

          January 26, 2021 at 6:40 PM
    • George Ewing Guilford Australis

      WWB is all about “tribal differences, personal vendettas, religious disagreements, historical grudges, and cultural resentment passed down through the generations.” It’s only framed as “just a game” when PAPI is losing, which is why that keeps getting mentioned when their leaders speak.

      January 26, 2021 at 5:06 PM
  • Nate Hunter

    All CCP has given us with resource scarcity nullsec goes to war vs lowsec or highsec raids nullsec, etc.. There’s almost zero resource reason beyond DBS (and only if you overfarm your systems into the ground) to invade your neighbor within nullsec. If CCP made it so moon ores were exclusive to only certain regions and normal ores were exclusive to certain regions then nullsec areas would be different from each other and that would create some tension for conflict to spawn from.

    January 26, 2021 at 5:56 PM
    • Menaiya Nate Hunter

      I kind of miss having that Certain moon ores exist in certain areas. However this also led to groups forming Cartels too. On the flip side, If they balanced the recipes and allowed local ship building but only of a certain class for each region….

      January 26, 2021 at 9:05 PM
      • Nate Hunter Menaiya

        Yeah an overhaul of the unrefined reaction process is overdue but it is a very complex basket to get right, there’s 20 minerals leading to 21 intermediates and 15 outputs like ?. As well the regional ores give non regional common minerals, really its all a mess.
        Also there is already regional ores, but you can still find them in small amounts everywhere. Line member gathering moon minerals killed any kind of cartel that could arise, too many individuals to control.

        January 27, 2021 at 12:37 AM
  • porky75

    Anytime people postulate an idea for a game that is based on some analysis of the real world I just start laughing. It’s a bit like looking at clouds and seeing images; yeah the clouds are there but it is entirely up to the viewer to interpret. In this case, one can look at the real-world data and make case for or against a synonym. Parallels between things are often just an interesting perspective but in no way should they form the basis of actual decision making.

    Now as for my own perspective of a player who has played for a long time: When there are small inequities, small groups fight and big groups squabble. When there are large inequities, large groups make deals and small groups get wrecked (current state). Most fights were a fight for power, control, fear or in some cases the fight it-self. CCP using the distribution of wealth as a fight generator is silly. If they said “we changing stuff to make it different and if it breaks shit we will adapt” it would be more palatable. Just my humble opinion.

    January 27, 2021 at 11:01 PM
  • I still think they should just delete titans. Refund them. End the dumbfuckery.

    January 28, 2021 at 1:34 AM