Diplomacy in New Eden is a world which is wide, wild, wily, and wise. Often the interactions and perspectives of leaders and diplomats happen outside of the view of the common line member and lowly miner. This interview is an attempt to bring some of that hidden perspective to light.
As part of my interview process with the significant leadership, diplomats, and FCs of New Eden, I asked each the exact same questions as a way of standardizing my approach and also soliciting answers which would reflect their own unique views. These views and expressed opinions are their own and, except where the interviewee is the alliance leader, are not reflective of the views or official position of their organization at large.
Reporting on the Diplomacy of EVE Online has brought me into contact with the notable, the notorious, and the space famous. The following gentleman is all three.
Jurius Doctor: For those who are unfamiliar with you, who are you and what do you do?
Mittani: In Eve, I’m “The Mittani” and I lead an allaince, Goonswarm Federation, as well our coalition, the Imperium.
JD: What can you tell me about yourself and what you do; i.e. your role in GSF?
TM: My role in GSF is to be the final decision maker. That means staying out of the way of the directors and line members when things are going well, as 99% of the time the institutions of the organization manage themselves. I don’t interrupt our logistics guys and tell them where to put citadels, I don’t tell the FCs what ships to fly. Most of my efforts go to finding ways to improve the organization itself to make life easier for everyone, and to step in and make decisions when there’s a novel situation we haven’t encountered before and there’s no consensus among the directorate about how to approach that situation, or in scenarios where an existing system has broken down and someone needs to step in from the outside and fix things. When stuff is working well, I get to focus most of my efforts on communicating with our members and coming up with new ways to make our hobby more fun, or focus on ways to mess with our external enemies who are trying to interfere with our people.
JD: How’d you get your start in EVE? Did you start with planning to run an alliance?
TM: I got started in EVE in June 2005 when I was bored of WoW and looking for something fun to do with goons. I read the EVE Megathread on Somethingawful.com and joined up with a small Gooncorp called Lordless. Lordless imploded in drama, like a lot of small corps do, and I quit for a while afterwards. I came back to the game in early 2006 when my friends from Lordless had gotten back together and started up a new corp called Goonfleet; I joined up, was promoted to the directorate due to being a vet from the Lordless days.
What most interested me about the opportunity of EVE was the espionage meta-game; I never intended to run an alliance, and thought I’d be horrible at it when leadership was once dropped in my lap by surprise in 2007. I wanted to make myself useful to the new Goonfleet organization instead of being simply a good-old-boy director, so I started up our espionage division, known then as the Goonfleet Intelligence Agency, now known as the Black Hand.
JD: What, for you, was the hardest part of growing (into) your alliance? What do you struggle most with now?
TM: The biggest growing pains of Goonswarm in the early days were the fact that the entire game was trying to exterminate us, and was aided and abetted by a dev who was in BoB and cheating on their behalf – T20. We were in the trenches fighting not for our space but for our right to even play this game against a hypocritical and wretched enemy backed up by corrupt devs – by the time we came up for air and had somehow survived and won, we had skipped the ‘growing pains’ stage.
It was constant warfare of annihilation with everything at stake from July 2006 until July 2009. We didn’t ‘grow up’ like a typical EVE alliance, which is reflected in our fortress mentality. We assume that the vast majority of pubbies are hostile and seek our doom, which they do pretty regularly every few years. We don’t forget and we don’t trust easily. Makes for very strong internal cultural cohesion, though.
JD: How did you broach diplomacy when you were first growing your alliance; what were the early challenges?
TM: I wasn’t the leader of Goonswarm when we founded our diplomatic section. Vile Rat created Corps Diplomatique, based on the principles from his day job at the US State Department. We’ve always had a top-tier diplomatic team, and since Vile Rat the group has been led by Sion Kumitomo and Mirana Ba’lari, masters in the field. The chief diplomat is my right hand, and they’ve make my job as alliance leader much easier. At the time our diplo organization was being set up, I was running the espionage division; for timelines, keep in mind that Goonswarm was founded in September 2005 and I became CEO in May 2010, before that point I was the spy guy, not the boss guy.
JD: How does diplo currently – or continue to – shape your day-to-day and the experience of your members?
TM: Diplomacy is everything in nullsec, and those who try to claim otherwise usually watch their alliances implode – or never get started in the first place. Human groups always talk before fighting, and that’s reflected in EVE, not something that originates in EVE. Diplomacy provides both soft power in the form of influence which benefits a group, and is a tremendous source of intelligence. There’s a reason espionage agencies and diplomatic corps are always interlinked – a diplomat has eyes and ears like a spy, and people will casually reveal secrets to diplomats that they are desperately trying to keep hidden from spies. It’s uncanny.
JD: From the high-level, what’s the unspoken or unsung role of diplos that most people don’t get to see?
TM: Diplomats spend all day every day talking to people in other groups. It’s when diplomacy goes well that you don’t hear about it; a good diplomatic relationship is smooth and open. So a diplomat involved in a high-profile conflict has drawn a bad duty or is doing a bad job, depending on the assignment, and in EVE that’s when you’ll typically hear about this or that diplo in whichever alliance. A bad diplomat like TEST’s infamous Viktor Villiance becomes a punchline across the galaxy for years. A good diplomat maintaining a successful relationship, by contrast, no one knows of them or what they’re doing all day.
JD: Do you ever feel diplos are sometimes in the position of creating more problems than they solve?
TM: Diplos don’t create more problems than they solve in a healthy diplomatic corps. We regularly recruit new diplos and replace any who have lost the plot. Certainly in other alliances, a bad diplo can ruin everything and bring about the fall of their alliance – see Viktor Villiance mentioned above.
TM: Drone lands don’t have much in the way of regional politics. Death and Mactep have been slapfighting over who gets to rent out the drones since the moment the drone regions were added to the game; everyone of note stays out of their way, and the entities renting or living up there are just that – renters or serfs.
JD: Does the situation in DRF differ significantly from the North, or the Southwest (in your opinion)?
TM: I don’t pay much attention to whatever is in the ‘DRF’ at any given time. I don’t keep track if SOLAR or XIX are friends or feuding, it changes regularly. The important rule of thumb is to not get involved in the middle of Russians fighting each other. GSF has always been friends with the Russian player base since 2006 when Red Alliance was one of the only entities (along with Tau Ceti Federation, the French) to stand with us against BoB. Red Alliance split up into SOLAR and XIX and various other entities after the Great War, and we don’t get involved in fights between former Red Alliance entities. If it wasn’t for Death, Mactep and Nync in the early days, GSF wouldn’t be here.
JD: By your assessment, are there problems diplos are incapable of solving?
TM: I don’t know and I don’t put limits on our diplos when it comes to trying to solve problems. Diplomacy is ultimately about de-escalation, negotiation, co-operation and mutual benefit, so it’s hard to think of things diplos cannot solve even in the middle of a hot war. Diplomacy solved the hole in the ozone layer in the real world. Diplomacy ends wars and prevents wars, when done right. Like with many professions in EVE, the limits are often in your own mind; it’s better to try the impossible and fail than not try at all, otherwise how do we know what’s possible?