Header art by Major Sniper
Author’s Note: This piece is written by Malcanis as a direct response to Seir Luciel’s disingenuous and dishonest piece of longform agit-prop, published 16th June 2021 “What’s Papi’s Caus Belli?: Too Big To Fail vs Allowed To Lose”
As a piece of work, it is a very well written, tighly phrased, with cleanly focused construction of elision, cherrypicked examples, unspoken assumptions and other fallacies. Luciel should be proud of his work, because at first reading it feels convincing and substantiated. I trust that he has been rewarded, or at least appreciated, by those whom he has served so well and so articulately.
In his introduction, he lays out some goals: to discuss how WWB II, or whatever we’re calling it this week, ends; and to change the way people view personal agency to alter the landscape of EVE, and most importantly whether a group can be “too big to fail.”
Quite the risk, one feels, to raise that last topic, but unlike his coalition’s Fleet Commanders, Luciel is quite willing to take a risk for a big win. I’m going to take a risk here too, in presuming on your attention. It is unfortunately much quicker to tell a lie than it is to refute it, so this will necessarily be a long piece and, I regret to say, I will still have to skip over a few of Luciel’s little gems.
After his intro, Luciel then moves on to a discussion of game mechanics. Not all of the mechanics involved, naturally, but the ones he would prefer us to consider in the section titled “The Technical Front.” Of course we move right on to Papi’s second favourite Dolchstoßlegende, the second battle of M-2XFE.
The first battle – over the armour timer – was by all accounts an essentially even outcome in terms of ships lost. And indeed, Papi actually won the objective, by committing their supercapital fleet (more on this later, oh so very much more), and the M2-XFE Keepstar was reinforced into its final timer. The Imperium’s supercap fleet was not able to prevent the massed capital forces of Papi from putting a contested online Keepstar into reinforce.
What both sides were able to do was inflict virtually identical casualties – plus a Rag here, less an Erebus there – which is actually of not much of an achievement for the Imperium when you have tether and Keepstar weapons on your side. It’s also a Phyrric victory, when you’re the outnumbered, defending side. The defender must inflict disproportionate casualties in order to keep defending. (Please note that I cast no aspersions of the skill of the Imperium FCs that night. I’m talking about outcomes, not expectations).
So M2 round 1: the attackers trade evenly while successfully assaulting a Keepstar against a fully formed Imperium. That outcome actually sounds pretty good. Speaking as an Imperium member, I recall our FCs going in to the battle of X47 speaking of such an outcome as being at the upper end of their expectations. The attacker must usually expect to take higher casualties than the defender, after all.
Then came round 2. This is where Seir Luciel would have us believe that CCP failed their customers and forced an undeserved defeat on his noble comrade crusaders by their server node falling over.
Let’s back up, because his account misses a couple of very important facts, which is Seir Luciel’s signature style. He wields those missing facts with all the deceptive deftness and dexterity of one of those incredibly old dual-wielding guys in those Wuxia movies.
Papi logged off in front of the Keepstar. Their titans were damaged and low on cap, ammo, and strontium clathrate; their supercarriers and carriers fighter squadons were depleted, and a large fraction of them were bubbled. Those that weren’t extracted back to their staging, but they left approximately 300 of their titans, plus a large number of supercarriers and capitals in an incredibly vulnerable position, bubbled in a known spot, under a hostile Keepstar.
When PAPI came back later in the day, a few hours after downtime, they returned via an incredibly poorly positioned cyno, to a point where there was no hope of tethering. They landed among a pre-positioned cloud of heavy fighters – that fighter cloud, by the way, was putting out enough DPS to kill a well-fit Avatar in the same time it takes a Fleet Auxilliary to lock and land two repair cycles.
Although Seir Luciel would have us believe that the forces of the decadent imperialistic node conspiracy stabbed PAPI in the back and robbed them of a deserved victory, the simple facts are that the Fleet commanders made two gigantic tactical errors.
Far from betraying PAPI into defeat, the lag in the second battle of M-2XFE saved hundreds of PAPI titans from dying in a haze of Goon bubbles and probably ending the war right there in catastrophic defeat. Had there been no lag, it is questionable that even as many as half of their supercapital fleet would have been able to extract. Furthermore, no other than Vily himself admitted that the order was given to jump in the subcapital fleets in the hope that this would crash the node, or at least increase lag sufficiently to limit losses.
To summarise the two salient facts that Seir Luciel wishes to elide:
1) EVE’s server nodes – when in reinforced mode – were quite adequate to allow PAPI and the Imperium to conduct the first battle of M-2, and to trade evenly despite Imperium’s defensive advantage.
2) Papi are not interested in fighting “relatively even” battles. Before and after M-2 they had literally dozens of opportunities to tempt the Imperium to engage on this basis, and as an explict matter of policy, declined to do so every time.
3) When EVE’s server node did fail, this was at least partly due to the deliberate action of Papi command, in order to save their supercapital fleet from a huge blunder.
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Charge,” was the captain’s cry;
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s but to do and die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred
As an aside, it’s a rarely understood fact that the Light Brigade did actually achieve their objective. They made it to the Russian guns and killed most of the gunners. Yet we do not speak of it as a victory.
Lag as Imperium’s “Saving Grace”
In the next section of Luciel’s jewel, he talks about the lag monster as being the Imperium’s “saving grace” and a “challenge for PAPI.” This seems like the blackest ingratitude towards a demon that has saved your supercapital fleet, but let’s move past that for now.
He then sensibly tries to pre-empt any such analysis as this one by dismissing it as “re-hashing old news” and goes on to raise the spectre of the terrible risk that EVE faces from “no defeat conflicts” due to an “inability to support the scale nullsec war has grown to.” Let’s be clear here: the “injustice” that Luciel is concerned about centers around the Imperium trying to avoid defeat by a coalition that is three time larger than the previous record. It is unjust, do you not see, that the Imperium not be defeated. CCP must enable it to happen. Vox populi, vox dei.
Three Red Herrings
Then we move on to the sections entitled “The Engagement Aspect,” “The Right To Lose,” and “Is The Imperium’s Right To Lose In Danger?”
These three sections all revolve around the same essential thesis: The Imperium played the game too much and too well, made too much money, got too strong and that is a Bad Thing. He talks eloquently about how very dreadful it would be if EVE were to fail by “not allowing” Goons to lose. He raises the dreadful prospect of a game that continues to have Goons in it as a power after the war. He’s clearly mortified by that prospect, but he treats it as a settled matter that it is a terrible outcome. There is “something kind of awful” – well played there Luciel – about the prospect. But he doesn’t say exactly what is so bad about it; it’s just assumed that the reader agrees – a most effective rhetorical device for persuading the reader to agree.
He talks about the Goons getting rich, but ignores that other groups have also gotten very rich. He subtly implies that unfair advantages have been gained, but there’s no mention of how or why these advantages devolved disproportionately to Goons, and he ignores the fact that Goons “got too rich” by logging in and doing an incredible amount of in-game activity.
The unspoken principle (one can’t call it a fact, as such, because it’s a belief) being put forward here is that it ought to be considerably easier than it is for a large group to permenantly and irrecoverably defeat a smaller group.
Now that that principle has been spoken, let’s talk about it for a moment. Seir Luciel simultaneously complains that the Imperium – Goons – had been “allowed” to grow too large and powerful, while also complaining that it’s too hard for large and powerful groups to extirpate smaller ones. Thought provoking, isn’t it? And an insight into the minds of the people he represents, and of course this section is another beautiful example of his deadly Missing Facts.
He then, in a moment of presumably inadvertent honesty, touches on something a little deeper. He mentions that the Goons used to boast about how much ISK they were making in Delve and asserts that this was done as a deterrence bluff. Again, this snippet is more revealing about his mindset than revealing about Goons, because any Goon you ask would be pretty clear about what the MER hurf-blurf on r/EVE was about – and avoiding fights was absolutely not the point. Then he leads into how glad he is that all those symbols of conspicuous consumptions were burned down so easily in the actual attempt; another example of a thing claimed to be impossible that is actually doable for those who try.
The important thing to note here is that no actual figures are mentioned – this is a purely emotional argument devoid of evidence. The real problem is that Goons acted rich. They went around telling everyone how rich they were. This was the problem; the perception of Goon wealth which – in his mind – was a deterrent. There is no analysis here of how much ISK is too much or why it’s a problem.
Even more tellingly, there’s not the slightest consideration of any other group’s wealth, assets, or income. Once again there is an unspoken assumption here, and it’s treated as alarming that Goons have matched the projective power of PanFam. We’re supposed to be worried that NC + PH + PL aren’t the “Too Big To Fail” group now, as if that were the true and right order of things, and anything different is disturbing.
We should also consider further back in EVE history when, compared to the economic mayfly economic boom for 2017-2019, NC and PL (and Nulli Secunda, but who ever cared about them?) ruled not four regions but 20, and extracted the cream of the game’s wealth for almost half a decade.
And not only did they have the money but they had the power; essentially all of EVE’s active supercaps were concentrated in a single coalition (I’m not including titans used for bridging that never ever under any circumstances ventured out of a POS field). Although their income later dropped, we should presume that they still retain an exceedingly great deal of money and assets – certainly Kenneth Feld in his Meta Show appearance did not give the impression of a player who was worried that he or his alliance would ever be unable to find an Aeon or two down the back of the couch should they need one). As Seir Luciel does not pull a single example from, or devote a single word in his article about, this long period in the game, we might infer that he doesn’t feel that EVE suffered much if at all from unassailable wealth and far more unassailable power when that wealth and that power was largely held by what is now PanFam. Or even before that when it was held by the original Northern Coalition. Or Band of Brothers. So many historical examples of exceedingly rich groups, most of which were rather more overbearingly powerful than the Imperium were in June 2020, and not a single word noting how bad any of them were, even if only to show that the Imperium is somehow worse. The inescapable conclusion is that it’s fine for groups to be exceedingly rich and overbearingly powerful as long as those groups are not Goons.
To summarise the important points that Luciel tries to blur over here:
1) Asserting that “Goons are too rich” without any analysis of what “too rich is” (again this is something the reader is expected to simply agree with) and a singlularity-level blind-spot about thinking about how much wealth other groups have (as opposed to income).
2) Other non-Goon groups have previously been relatively richer and relatively far more powerful than other groups in game than the Imperium was in June 2020, and by that date, Vale had been consistently outproducing Delve for months, and while no individual PanFam region exceeded Delve, in total PanFam’s output was at least as high as the Imperium’s for some time before that – but he is OK with all of that because they weren’t Goons.
3) He – like his coalition, despite their strenuous pearl-clutching denials, are absolutely thinking in terms of permanently exterminating Goons as a group with an identity. It was, is, and will be their true victory condition, and whatever settlement comes out of this, they will not truly count it as a victory unless they achieve it. And they will think CCP has failed them by failing to facilitate it.
The Results Section – Seir Doubles Down
Luciel doubles down (well, quadruples if we’re going by section titles) on his thesis that Goons had more money and power than they should have been allowed. We see the Keepstar resentment surface again.
He sermonises about “the right to lose” as if losing is something that is foreign to the Imperium culture and that we just really need to experience it at least once, for our own moral good, gosh darn it. This is a prime example of what Stephen Colbert calls “truthiness” – something that sounds good because it appeals to what everyone wants to believe, as long as you don’t actually think about it very much.
Of course, even a few moments of reflection remind us that, like all truthiness, it’s absolute balderdash. Goons, still less INIT., don’t have anything to learn about losing. We’ve been through crushing defeats multiple times, thanks to previous groups who had all that overwhelming power and wealth that were just fine for the game, so Luciel’s touching concern for our “healthy gaming motivation” is not required. Most recently, in fact, in 2016, AKA the last war but one, INIT went through a well established cycle of pissing people off until lots of them jumped on us. Goons go through a regular cycle of making a space-empire, then getting complacent, and lots of people jump on them. To read Luciel’s rhetoric, you’d think that no one in the Imperium has ever had their character built by being forced to evac their shit out in a friend’s carrier, in the snow, uphill both ways. This perception is just historically completely inaccurate.
To summarise the important point that he simply lies about here: Goons have been defeated (in the ordinary in-game way) plenty of times in the past and indeed their culture has been deeply shaped by these experiences. They are not an unstoppable infallible Borg menace that there can never be an answer to.
“Talk Shit, Get Hit”
Ah but what’s this. When he talks about “losing” he doesn’t just mean “losing a war.” He means losing your alliance altogether. What he really means is that it would be good for our moral character if Goons were to be beaten so badly that they had to disband and had to do some kind of BoB-to-Kenzoku-to-Ncdot multi-fail-cascade Trail of Tears before earning the right to claim to have been truly beaten.
Then, there’s some nonsense about “Goons say it would be bad for the game for them to experience real loss.” This is a willful misunderstanding – I know because I’ve seen people explain it to him several times – of what is being said. Luciel is trying to pretend that he doesn’t know that a group like Goons (and indeed INIT) is not primarily an in-game entity.
The in-game EVE alliance of Goons is, at most, the branches and leaves of a very deep-rooted tree. You can’t make a group like that “lose” in the way that he demands – for our soul’s sake – no matter how many titans you have, because the roots and trunk and sapwood don’t have any surface that’s exposed to the power of a coalition like PAPI. It’s not in CCP’s gift to make it happen in game, no matter what, and all he and his blue doughnut boys can do is wither a few twigs. PAPI needs to destroy not their titans but their forums. Not their Keepstars but their comms. Not their sov but their history. Not their iHubs but the engagement of thousands of real people participating in the game of EVE Online. That they have so far failed, and most now accept that they won’t succeed, doesn’t change the fact that PAPI wanted to undo those very things and still want to achieve this goal with all their hearts.
That is what Goons mean when they talk about EVE “needing Goons”: the only way you can destroy Goons is to destroy en masse goons’ willingness to play EVE at all, and that would be a tragedy for the game. Unlike Seir Luciel, I will give an explicit reason for the assertion: EVE cannot afford to alienate a piece of the player base as large and as active as the Imperium. Neither Goons nor INIT are (to borrow The Mittani’s excellent analogy) “pickup” groups like most of the PAPI alliances. We’re in our alliances because these are the people we want to play with, not for the space or the ISK or the killboard padding. A “true” defeat of the Imperium in the form that Luceil wants (a complete failure cascade) means that a large fraction of them would simply leave the game for good.
Which, as per above sections, is what he’s indirectly confirmed he rather wants to happen, or at least he’d rather see us leave than remain in a large, independent, powerful group that’s relevant in sov nullsec instead of humbly applying to join their renter program, and he blithely handwaves away the mere idea that it might be bad for the game. It seems that some players are a great deal less equal than others in the Lucielverse.
To summarise the truth that he doesn’t want us to think about: the existence of the Goon culture and player base is the real target – and cause of this war. INIT being the secondary target here but they would still very much like to see us dissolve too.
Now we get another sermon on the Great Cycle of the rise and fall of EVE. Again, not something that the Imperium needs to be taught about by anyone, thanks. Because we lived it and to a great extent, made it happen. The important reveal comes in the last paragraph. The ill-advised (and frankly patronising) excursion into factuality is abandoned in his impatience to get to what he really wants to do: make a direct and blunt appeal to emotion. It doesn’t matter exactly how rich the average Goon was, or whether the Imperium actually had a supercapital fleet to match PanFams. What matters is – as foreshadowed in the previous section – that they hurt people’s feelings.
The missing fact here is is essentially a restatement of a previous argument: that it’s somehow a moral imperative for Goons to taste crushing humiliating defeat, even though they’ve been through the cycle of eviction and complete territory loss at least three previous times.
What is Papi Fighting For
Luciel sensibly notes that PAPI is far too large and diverse a group for this question to have anything remotely resembling a single answer, but then immediately gives the answer. He summarises most of what I’ve written in the last sections in a single sentence: because “I don’t like you.” Here’s another example of inadvertent honesty. No, indeed: he doesn’t like the Imperium. He wants it defeated, humbled, humiliated, gone, dead destroyed, erased, and he doesn’t want any further defeats along the way.
I can’t exactly call this a missing fact as such, because it’s right there in plain view. This is more of a Purloined Letter.
The Reality Of The Enemy
Luciel notes some of the famous and/or notorious things that Goons have done and, in a telling phrase, frames the context as “when I entered the game, Goons were already established as legends.” To return briefly to something he complained about above, the idea that EVE would be less of a game without Goons – why does he not want legends in his game?
Then he gives the “true Causus Belli” – Mittani’s taunt. So, again, not actual facts (we’ve seen that), not actual deeds (we’ve seen that too) but because Goons dared to claim to be strong and safe in their home. “Alarm bells should be ringing,” he says of a group that had been established in their current region for just over three years while he is in a coalition that has squatted like a toad under a notoriously uninvadable rock for almost eight years.
Goons deserve to be attacked by the entire galaxy for something they said. PanFam has been safely ensconsed in their current home since 2013, but that’s fine because they didn’t say that they’re very well fortified in there. Everyone knows it, no one denies it, but because they haven’t “taunted” the rest of the game to come and get them, their unassailability is of no concern to anyone and doesn’t harm the game at all. Apparently they don’t have nearly the same right to lose as Goons and INIT.
The missing fact here is, again, essentially a restatement, this time of Missing Fact no 4; that the tallness of the tree that he’s in easily matches (and in PAPI significantly exceeds) the tallness of the tree that he claims ought to be cut down.
This is the shortest section, but one of the most revealing. He essentially admits that Goons, and the Imperium in general, outplayed and out-planned the other major nullsec groups “years back” (again I assume he refers to the period 2017-2019 when Delve was the most productive region). No mention of the subsequent era when Fraternity’s “activity and planning” outpaced everyone else’s, but as we’ve seen demonstrated over and again, he does not apply his standards remotely evenly.
Then he asks the key question “So what? Are we supposed to lie down and die?”
What indeed? In his view, which I feel comfortable in saying is strongly representative of PanFam’s culture, there are only two states possible: Ruler or Ruled. If you’re not dominating another group, ipso facto, they’re dominating you. In this world-view, independence is quite literally a threat: by the mere fact of refusing to be dominated, you assert domination.
He illustrates this perfectly when he then asks “Are we supposed to accept that the future, our future, will always be dominated by Goons?”
As we have seen so many times already, he just assumes that the basic axiom behind this – Goons are too strong to be ruled, ergo they are our rulers – will be intuitively understood and accepted as obvious common sense by the reader. But while this is absolutely true of his coalition – we’ve seen that PAPI is extremely hostile to any non-aligned groups who don’t “bend the knee,” and is eagerly gobbling up the once free regions as fast as they can – history shows that it’s not true of the Imperium. Goons are notoriously content to sit in their space and generally mind their own business until someone pokes the Hive, and INIT are sufficiently
bad at indifferent to holding on to space that we just don’t matter in this regard. Although there are other examples, we need only cite the previous war of 2018 for the best example: after absolutely winning that war, the Imperium did not try and make any other groups “bend the knee,” did not turn all the conquered regions into yet more dreary renterspace, did not, in fact insist that anyone “accept that the future, our future, will always be dominated by Goons.”
Indeed, the Imperium entered that war specifically to save Legacy from “accepting that the future, our future, will always be dominated by Panfam.”
Goons – and INIT – have in common that we understand that it’s best to leave an enemy alive where you can see him and where he can be an enemy, because a game with no challenge or threat is a dull game indeed. Further, while both alliances approach the idea of loss in battle differently, we end up in a similar place: what you lose matters nothing; what you win matters everything.
In contrast, it is nakedly obvious that the culture of PanFam is shaped by their memory of the glory years of the previous decade when they could do whatever they liked, to whoever they liked, and never face any prospect of actual loss (dictor lives don’t matter and you know it) or be challenged. An outcome in the game where they do suffer serious losses – even if they win the battle – is unacceptable. They are entitled to choose to fight only where they can incontestably win. They genuinely believe that this is “good for the game” because their worldview is shown time and again by Luciel – they are “the game.”
The long and short of this war is that the true root cause of it is PanFam’s driving fear that Goons and the Imperium are just like them and have the same goals as them and the same need to relate to others either as masters or slave, which is their view of the game. The outrage and the shouting and the unfairness of game mechanics and the reason we’re still holding in the last free constellation and the reason for all this hypocritical nonsense about not really being a blue donut is that we’re not and we don’t.
We will never serve you. You will never rule us.