Conflict Is Not War: The Ecosystem Fallacy

2021-01-09

Header art by Cryo Huren

After consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, an acquaintance of mine spent the rest of the evening trying to explain to me that if one accepted Immanuel Kant’s preconditions, then his arguments were irrefutable. The most recent ecosystem devblog didn’t quite give me deja vu, but it came close. If one accepts that “scarcity breeds war,” then CCP has done an absolute cracker of a job rebalancing the economy, working to make everyone poor. However, I must ask, in what world does scarcity breed war? Scarcity does not breed war in EVE or the real world. So, where would CCP get this idea?

Part of CCP’s blindspot seems to be cultural. The closest thing to a war Iceland has waged since its independence was some nothingburgers over fish. Despite the risible name of the Cod Wars, they were not wars. Iceland isn’t even a violent place; less murders have occurred there in the past 20 years than happen in one holiday weekend in Chicago. Perhaps CCP thinks back to the Viking Age, where the longships would pull up, the vikings would take all the gold and the pretty girls, then torch the town on their way out. That also was not a war.

See, what scarcity breeds is actually conflict. However, one should not confuse conflict with war. Conflict is what happens when my family gets together for Christmas. War is what happens when the United States has grown tired of another country’s shit. The Somali pirates face some of the scarcest conditions imaginable, yet they don’t go to war. They engage in piracy. The ability to make war is beyond the ability of the pirates.

War, on the other hand, has been a chief export of the United States since 1941. For me, it’s been a family affair, with my father, grandparents, and brother belonging to all three branches of the military and the US Air Force. I am a US Marine veteran, though, dear reader, you can be excused for not knowing this as I don’t append USMC to my name or anything. I am proud to have been a professional warfighter and experienced war close up and personal.

Wars are not cheap. A war requires the full focus of a nation to prosecute, with vast amounts of national resources committed to the act. When the United States and United Kingdom invaded Iraq, they committed over 200 thousand troops. More military hardware in the form of armored vehicles and aircraft than Iceland’s 2003 entire GDP could afford rolled into Iraq and laid waste to the Iraqi military. Deploying—just getting that hardware to the warzone—alone cost more money than Pearl Abyss paid for CCP.

The United States did not emerge from Iraq better off in terms of resources. Not to get too political, but it wasn’t a war for oil. 

To borrow a quote from General Patton: “Through various towns in southern Germany and Austria, whose names I cannot pronounce, but whose places I have removed”—wait, wait. Wrong one. CCP doesn’t “know any more about real battle than they do about fucking.” Don’t take it personally. War is something that one has to experience to know, and Iceland is fortunate that they don’t know war.

There are a few good examples of one country invading another for resources. The most recent was Iraq invading Kuwait for their oil to pay for the war debts Iraq incurred in the Iraq-Iran war. To put this into perspective, in 1991, Iraq had the 5th largest military, and Kuwait had a division. Iraq took over the entirety of Kuwait in two days. To compare, this would be around the equivalent of the US 2nd Marine Division showing up off the coast of Iceland and invading. Let’s not call the Invasion of Kuwait a war, even if it meets the dictionary definition. 

In EVE terms, the Invasion of Kuwait is analogous to one of the major null blocs taking a moon from a low sec corp. 

In 1937, Imperial Japan invaded China. At the time, Japan was an industrialized military power, who deployed 600 thousand well-equipped, well-armed troops to a fragmented and weak China. I hope, dear reader, you are seeing a theme here. If one is facing scarcity, and one wants resources, knocking off a weak neighbor is the way to go. Countries never got past the ‘beating up the weak nerd for lunchmoney’ phase of life.

The ending to Imperial Japan’s tale is well known. Ka-BOOM. Twice.

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.

In 1995, Peru faced off against Ecuador in the Cenepa war over a stretch of disputed territory. The war lasted a month and involved less people than World War Bee.

In 1998 Eritrea invaded Ethiopia regarding a territorial dispute. Neither country was in good economic shape and war only made the problems worse. Both countries ended the war poorer than when they started.

In 1967, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan invaded Israel over a territorial dispute—they didn’t think Israel had the right to exist. Over the course of six days, Israel gained territory. 

The list does go on.

In 2013, the CFC invaded Fountain with the goal of expelling TEST. The leadership of TEST had become increasingly hostile to the CFC, and the continued existence of a powerful hostile on the southern border of CFC space posed a clear and present danger. Flush with ISK from the Technetium moons, the CFC was able to evict TEST from Fountain.

In 2016, flush with casino cash, the rest of EVE invaded the Imperium in the Casino War. With almost unlimited funds unlinked to any sort of ingame activity, the Money Badger Coalition was able to evict the Imperium from Deklein. Due to changes in moon mining, the Imperium could not compete with the casino cash advantage.

In 2020, Vily, a former FC of the Imperium, gathered an alliance with the rest of EVE sans Imperium. Ancient grudges break to new mutiny as World War Bee kicked off in July. The ongoing war has already broken world records. The Imperium spent the years since their eviction from Deklien fortifying Delve. Many trillions of ISK have already been spent on a war for a mostly worthless region, thanks to CCP’s resource changes.

The largest war in EVE’s history and the marquee event for 2020 is a war costing players huge amounts of ISK. If there had been a large wealth inequality like the Casino war, then World War Bee would have ended by now. If both sides had been poor, there would not have been a war in the first place. EVE players well know not to fly what one cannot afford to lose. Both sides calculated what they can afford to lose, and the war will go until they reach that point. If neither side could afford to lose trillions of ISK, then roaming fleets and border fights would be the soup du jour.

Thousands of players have already come back to EVE for this war, injecting real life dollars into CCP’s bank account. The Ferengi Rule of Acquisition No. 34: war is good for business proves true in game and out.

There is an example of a game that exists showing how injections of wealth prolong the game well beyond its intended point: Monopoly. Monopoly was originally invented to show how bad capitalism was, and if played according to the rules, the game goes quickly, with players going bankrupt left and right. However, house rules, usually involving Free Parking and picking up the pot of cash from fines and what not, keep injecting cash into the system. A short game becomes an hours long affair.

For EVE, the goal of CCP is, I hope, to keep people playing. Injecting cash keeps the war going, it keeps people playing. In the past few months, the war has ground to a halt as the both sides sheppherd their resources. Gone are the marquee battles that make the news, the supercapital clashes. Both sides realize they cannot afford it. Everyone is thinking of the future and their ability, or lack thereof, to rebuild their losses. It’s leading to a very boring game.

War is what null sec is built around. For years, both sides have built up the cash and material reserves necessary for the big one. In between the Imperium has deployed forces to glass regions, or harass enemies, but that was not war. That was a mere conflict.

Pride breeds war. Insult breeds war. Greed breeds war. Human nature breeds war. A fight over some fish is not a war, no matter what it’s called. It’s time for CCP to remove the cultural blinders and see what war is and start designing EVE for it. At the very least, they should listen to the professionals.

Addendum:

This was written before the first M2-XFE Meatgrinder. CCP is going to use this as part of their marketing, piggybacking off all the media coverage that will come out of the battle. The number of titans killed will be plastered all over the internet. Someone will make a real life money comparison to the losses.

The M2- battle was born out of abundance. Building those fleets took years, and countless thousands of man hours of the most boring PVE in any MMO. All the changes CCP are making will only make that PVE more boring, less rewarding, and more tedious. In turn, this means that there will be no more battles like M2-, or B-R5. Great fucking job, CCP.

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Comments

  • Simon Chui

    Perhaps what the game needs is cycles of feast and famine. If everyone’s hungry, no one can afford to fight. If everyone is well fed, there’s nothing to fight over. It’s changing conditions that motivate changing behaviour. It’s new opportunities that provide impetus for new conflicts. CCP making lowsec ores more valuable has invigorated lowsec somewhat, has it not? If it weren’t for the PAPI invasion, I would be expecting the null blocs to make a move into lowsec. Imagine, a year or two from now, a new equilibrium is reached in lowsec, and nullsec is starved out. At that point, nerf lowsec and buff nullsec again. Everyone rushes back out to nullsec to fight over the best space. That’s one way to keep things fresh.

    January 9, 2021 at 7:32 AM
    • Arrendis Simon Chui

      If everyone is well fed, there’s nothing to fight over.

      Except for power, greed, spite, old grudges, new insults, and all the other reasons people go to war.

      January 9, 2021 at 4:26 PM
      • Simon Chui Arrendis

        Yeah, you’re right. I keep thinking surely no one would be stupid enough to risk the good position they have, to go after some greed or grudge. Then I remember what TEST is doing right now.

        January 10, 2021 at 12:05 PM
        • Garreth Vlox Simon Chui

          Exactly the only reason to go to war in this game is when you know you can afford to replace what you lose. And no one is going to feel that way for a long time with the current poverty patch in full effect.

          January 10, 2021 at 9:26 PM
      • I don’t remember the grudges etc causing many total wars between Casino War and the present Delve thing though?

        January 13, 2021 at 5:12 AM
        • Arrendis Ganthrithor

          No, because then the ‘can’t afford to lose our supers’ comes into play. PanFam has the opportunity to engage in supercapital fights at rough parity when we went north to glass Tribute two years ago. They (correctly) opted not to risk losing their supers.

          This time, they’re willing to invade because they’ve managed to stroke Vily’s ego enough to flip TEST (Piggles, after all, has been sucking Vince’s nut for ten years, despite NCdot setting Nulli up to be murdered by PL), and so they think they have enough of an advantage to be safe.

          Reality seems to think otherwise, though, and I’ll wager they’re not too happy with the results of their risk analysis.

          January 21, 2021 at 5:49 PM
          • Oh, yeah, the “can’t afford to lose supers” thing. Yeah– true.

            January 21, 2021 at 7:08 PM
  • kwnyupstate .

    Or you could say plethora breeds war/conflict since people have all the things needed to kill that enemy they’ve been itching to eliminate. Wars aren’t over resources; they are due to interpersonal dynamics.

    January 9, 2021 at 8:17 AM
  • Guilford Australis

    CCP is laboring under the false belief that players go to war over ore, ice, and ratting opportunities. I’m not aware of a single war in EVE’s history that had anything to do with resources.

    World War Bee was planned long before the effects of CCP’s “Grapes of Wrath” era began to be felt in earnest, and it’s ridiculous for them to imply that they caused the war with scarcity. WWB is about settling grudges and enjoying the big fights, which is what ALL wars in EVE are about. CCP needs to find some way to cram that reality through their skulls.

    The real irony of CCP taking credit for WWB is that scarcity actually makes conflict *less* likely. Wars over grudges and a desire for good fights are a lot less appealing when your alliance can’t afford to replace anything it loses.

    January 9, 2021 at 1:33 PM
    • Garreth Vlox Guilford Australis

      “World War Bee was planned long before the effects of CCP’s “Grapes of Wrath” era began to be felt in earnest, and it’s ridiculous for them to imply that they caused the war with scarcity.”

      And if their idiotic poverty patch does anything it will be to END the war in a shorter time period due to increasing costs of materials. These idiots have no idea what they are talking about, but that won’t be apparent until either we lose and test settles delve only to have it become nothing like the money making powerhouse it once was, or until we win and then leave anyway because they nerfed delve into the floor along with all the rest of deep nullsec space.

      January 10, 2021 at 9:25 PM
  • Rayford Carpathia

    The Ferengi have Rules of Acquisition. Not Rules of Accusation.

    January 9, 2021 at 4:13 PM
  • “Part of CCP’s blindspot seems to be cultural. The closest thing to a war Iceland has waged since its independence was some nothingburgers over fish.”

    as my eyes scan over each word I realize, yeah, we’re gonna go there

    January 9, 2021 at 10:01 PM
    • Sometimes, we need to point out the elephant in the room. So, yeah, I went there. And oh boy did I hold back from my initial rant.

      January 19, 2021 at 12:28 AM
  • Gray Doc

    But I LIKE landing on Free Parking when there’s a ton of cash in there. C’mon man!

    January 9, 2021 at 10:30 PM
  • George Ewing

    Scarcity breeding war is a well-known and exhaustively documented phenomenon throughout history. Not sure where you got the idea that it doesn’t.

    January 10, 2021 at 2:15 AM
    • Deni'z von Meanace George Ewing

      What actual war was started due that?

      January 10, 2021 at 6:28 AM
    • Nate Hunter George Ewing

      Only if your target is weak and has something you need. If you have a grassland you don’t go to war for more grassland in hopes of finding trees.

      January 11, 2021 at 6:02 PM
    • kwnyupstate . George Ewing

      However scarcity in eve means it is evenly distributed so there is no relative scarcity hence no reason for it to lead to war.

      January 12, 2021 at 7:03 AM
  • that ‘scarcity breeds war’ ’nuff said bullshit was a bunch of cocaine hubris one-liners

    January 10, 2021 at 6:23 AM
  • Libluini

    To add another fun war to the real world list, in 2020 Aserbaidschan invaded Armenia over old grievances relating to territory that’s claimed by both nations, thanks to bad history going back to Soviet-times. Unexpectedly, despite Armenia winning the last war, this time they were apparently surprised by the high amount of drones Aserbaidschan’s well-prepared troops brought to the table, and got absolutely demolished.

    Anyway, I always translate “warfighter” in my native German in my head and it makes it sound even more ridiculous. People from the US are so weird sometimes.

    January 10, 2021 at 11:06 AM
    • Deni'z von Meanace Libluini

      It’s always hard to fight against well equipped and experienced forces and in case of Armenia they faced against Turkish proxy hires whom been moved to the conflict from Syria and Lebanon’s areas.

      January 10, 2021 at 12:19 PM
    • doccat5 Libluini

      https://t.co/tJUAfBdEdK?qWvGRa8

      January 10, 2021 at 12:58 PM
  • Deni'z von Meanace

    I’m really surprised that you’ve been applying to CCP’s good will and knowledge. Its ok if CCP had developed dozen of successful ( well balanced, user friendly etc. etc. ) MMO’s but they didn’t. And lloking through the history of how they treat their best GM’s who left the game one by one, I’m pretty confident that current team of Devs are far away from what you might expect in terms of overall knowledge of life. Back tothe Seagull’ ages and Fozzsov we had a constant criticism of what they’ve been doing but looking at what is going on atm I’m pretty close to the idea that this project won’t last to long and would be a true geeks toy vs. massive all arrounder MMO.

    January 10, 2021 at 12:26 PM
  • Covewolf

    Yes but we need to remember, Japan didnt gamble with Pearl Harbor thinking that they would get a ton of resources out of the United States. The Gamble was that Japan knew they didnt have the industrial or resource capacity to fight the US long term. So they hoped that by inflicting such a devastating attack on Pearl Harbor, they would inflict enough damage that they could knock out all of the US’ Capital ships before they even entered the war. Thus preventing the US from fighting back against Japanese aggression, and allowing the Japanese to push all the way to the west coast, where they could stop our naval production.

    Imagine Test had knocked out all of the Imperium’s Titans before WWB2 began. This would be an entirely different war.

    January 16, 2021 at 4:19 PM
  • Arrendis

    Resources were part of the reason Japan invaded China, yes. But also factoring into that was that Japan was industrialized, and China wasn’t. Technological imbalance / colonialism drove that decision. The attack on the US was an attempt at a headshot, in order to keep the US out of the war. And we know how well headshots work.

    January 21, 2021 at 5:54 PM