Header art by Cryo Huren
World War Bee is now the longest-running high intensity conflict in the history of EVE. Yet, since the fall of M2-XFE, protagonists from both sides have entered a new phase. The PAPI coalition now control all but one constellation of Imperium space and are facilitating their planned occupation by destroying the remaining infrastructure. In contrast, the Imperium are split between fortifying the 1DQ constellation whilst also destroying hostile structures in the now vacant Legacy regions. There is a stalemate in sight – the Imperium will not concede 1DQ and PAPI will not be able to claim total victory until Delve has been fully secured. In this article, we will look at how wars – both historically and in EVE Online – have been concluded, and examine the likely possible outcomes that will see the end of WWB.
How do wars end? To rely on the writings of Clausewitz once again: if a war is the extension of politics by other means – namely violent actions – then a war will end when the violence ceases and politics resume. Wars can end when protagonists impose their will on another through military power. Historically, this occurs through inflicting a defeat upon the antagonists – in battle or in a campaign – to remove their geographical territory or population from their sphere of influence.
The other and more numerous instance is a war that ends in a political settlement. Occasionally brokered by a third party, it may be mutually beneficial or inflict damages onto the party that had the greatest losses during the fighting. These two examples sit on a spectrum, and examples exist between them.
The reasons for a conflict, and the objectives set during it, are also important in determining the outcome. The war goals set by the PAPI coalition have been well documented: the ‘war of extermination’ set by Legacy leader Vily, although powerful in its mantra, is highly unlikely to be achieved as EVE players cannot be “purged” in the same way that combatants and populations can be in the real world. The Imperium’s war goals were poetically phrased by Merkelchen on The Meta Show; “We Will Survive” is an equally strong discourse to deliver. Yet, in EVE Online, if survival means continuing to play, then all EVE wars would have no decisive outcome.
Therefore, how do we, as observers, assess the outcome of a conflict if one side has a completely unachievable war goal, whilst the other has a very low bar for achieving victory? For the purpose of this article, the concept of casualties is best equated to the loss of motivation to play, whether through boredom, losses, or a cognitive change. This also relates to the objective of violent conflict which is to “shatter an enemy’s will and cohesion.”
It is important to view the discourse presented by both the victors and the defeated in EVE Online. As an example, the Casino War resulted in the Imperium being removed from their space by a large coalition that was blessed with seemingly endless funding. This ending, by all metrics, would be deemed as a defeat. However, most Imperium members would see their move to Delve and the subsequent growth of power as an eventual victory. After the armistice in World War 1, the conflict, resolved diplomatically as a result of excessive casualties and war weariness, saw all parties return home “undefeated” militarily. Yet the terms of the armistice set the conditions for the start of World War 2. Clear comparisons can be drawn between the Casino War and World War Bee.
The war of winter 2019 against DARKNESS saw a different outcome. Midway through the conflict, alliance leader Sort Dragon agreed to a conditional surrender to end the war against Goonswarm and passed control of 40 faction Fortizars to The Mittani as part of the deal. However, this negotiation didn’t end the whole war, and eventually DARKNESS fell to other alliances. Similarly, the TEST vs Fraternity war of 2018, although the latter were losing, saw the war end with a NIP in exchange for Keepstars. Both these wars exemplify conflict being resolved before the total defeat of either party.
How do these historical conflicts relate to the current war? The simplest resolution for WWB would be a successful PAPI assault on 1DQ. Capturing the iHub and destroying all Keepstars and faction Fortizars would present one of the most complex military challenges ever faced by an attacking force. If this scenario is achieved, and the Imperium are territorially removed from Delve (not to mention the super and titan losses), there would be very few counters to the claim of a PAPI victory.
However, the situation at the moment looks akin to siege warfare. One side is embedded in a fortress with impenetrable walls, while the other side scours the countryside burning all they can. Sieges end in three ways: 1) the castle is stormed, at great risk to the attacker and is either conquered or the assault is repelled; 2) the castle can be starved or pressured into submission and surrender; 3) finally, the besiegers cannot maintain the siege due to starvation, disease, loss of combat power and even lack of will.
We have discussed the assault on the castle, but what about the second option? Is it feasible to starve an alliance out in a game where you do not require food? Ships and ammunition can still be built; money can be earned in different parts of space on alternate characters. And starvation of content is unlikely due to the presence of a hostile coalition at the gates. There is a possibility that the Imperium may lack the will to continue after months or years of siege warfare, but the rhetoric of The Mittani and his “no surrender” policy make that unlikely. If 1DQ falls, there is nowhere to fall back to.
In contrast, the other option is that the besieger breaks the siege. In siege warfare, this would represent a withdrawal of sufficient force that would allow the defenders to sally out and break the encirclement. The WWB equivalent would be the gradual decline of PAPI fleets or the breakup of the coalition, causing one or more elements to return home. It appears that this is the most likely course of action – reinforced by the scorched earth policy being enacted upon the Imperium in Delve. They are inflicting maximum damage before the war ends.
There will always be contentious discussion about the result of any conflict, and EVE is no different. The objectives set out by both sides mean that neither will come away with the victory they intended. Each observer will have their own perspective, but we can use history to guide us. If the war reaches a settlement where the Imperium control 1DQ but PAPI control all other space, there will be a constant battle regarding who has emerged victorious.
But is there such a thing as victory? What does it really mean? Nazi Germany recovered so well from their defeat in WW1 that they were able to conquer most of Europe 20 years later. The end of WW2 saw the unconditional surrender of those Axis Powers, but did it bring a new age of peace? No; tensions and competition resulted in the Cold War that began immediately afterwards. The Imperium have always stated that, if removed from 1DQ, they will never leave Delve and will remain fighting from NPC space. It is likely that war would continue, even if 1DQ falls and PAPI claims victory.
Ending a conflict where both sides refuse to admit defeat and refuse to acknowledge when they are beaten will be difficult, especially when genuine animosity has been borne through the past nine months. It will be just as complex to decide when this war will end – some Goons think this is an extension of the Casino War with a 3-year interlude. Without a universal governing body to bring the waring parties to the table – how will negotiations be managed? Maybe Chribba needs to return to act as diplomat. Whatever happens in the next few months, the disruption caused by the conflict will continue long after the shooting stops. Then, we move onto the next phase: unfucking the mess of the aftermath.