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.
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?