Art by Redlline XIII
The alliance Circle-Of-Two (CO2) announced on Dec. 2, 2018, that they were disbanding. INN released a brief news hit to mark the news, but I felt the disbanding deserved a longer treatment, because CO2 is one of the reasons, in a roundabout way, I joined EVE. Before I started playing I read about the fight over X-47 and I was amazed at the complexity of the backstories behind that fight and the history that trailed, like a comet tail, in the wake of the ships. I read many more articles about some of EVE’s most important events: the Casino War (World War Bee), the Fountain War, and the almost unbelievable story of The Judge’s action against CO2.
In the mix of many of these stories I kept coming across the name “CO2.” While there are much larger alliances, and more powerful and older, I’m not sure there has been any alliance more interesting than Circle-of-Two, and almost certainly none that evoke such strong feelings, both positive and negative. So, I bring you a requiem of sorts, told from a lot of different perspectives by people whose EVE experience got tangled up with C02 in one way or another. Note that I don’t intend this piece to be an historical overview or in any way complete. The history of C02 is very complex and would take far too much space to deal with here. Rather, I will include just enough history to provide context for the players’ perspectives I’ve included here.
The history of CO2 goes back for many years and cannot be separated from their controversial leader, GigX. I’ll pick the story up when CO2 joined Goonswarm, not that their history starts there, but that their story picks up momentum then. Once in the CFC, as The Imperium was then called, CO2 quickly gained traction, and members, and became one of the more active and aggressive groups in New Eden.
Let’s hear from two people who flew with CO2. The views are so very different that you can quickly get a sense of how polarizing the alliance can be. First, from Arabella Meyer:
Whether or not they acknowledge it, the Eve Online community lost some great people [when CO2 announced it was disbanding], dedicated to inspiring leadership, content, and integrity. No one has a right to say otherwise if they never flew under the banner of Circle of Two. I’m genuinely sad to see it come to this, and I truly wish Sebastien and GigX nothing but the best in their respective futures. People who allied and coordinated with them want to spin the narrative that they have the right to judge CO2 due to their poor experiences. That is simply the equivalent of crying over a hi-sec gank. Asher and The Mittani felt personally wronged by GigX, so they made it their goal, both in-game and out, to end his legacy and his followers not once, but over and over again. One day, it will come back and bite them in the ass. Despite them taking their narrative to this new level, the efforts and indoctrination will not be able purge the positive influence that CO2 impressed upon this game and its members, as well as countless others with shared distaste for the unethical tactics that targeted them. The name CO2 may be lost for good, but anyone who learned from them will carry their legacy to always take the fight forward. The name will be slandered by weak minded “nobodys” for a long time, but Circle-of-Two will be sorely missed by many others. To anyone in the alliance who can no longer find a reason to play, all I can say to you is fly safe and be well. (Arabella Meyer, Northern Coalition FC and former CO2 member)
Next, we’ll hear from The Judge, who flew with CO2 and worked in leadership roles as well:
When I joined CO2 in 2012 the alliance was a totally different beast [than it is now]. We were living in a single constellation in Tribute and things were great. We were a thousand-person elite PVP alliance, and I loved it. I was a nobody line member until early 2013 when I approached the then head diplomat and asked if there was a way to climb the ladder and become an alliance diplomat. Between doing diplo work and talking to my own contacts within other alliances I started to get a read on who was positive and negative for the alliance. The head diplomat I mentioned earlier was one of the negatives, being someone who at times was even harder to work with and was even more disrespectful to line members than GigX was. Eventually he was kicked [for] lying to gigX and the CO2 leadership team, while at the same time trying to undermine others in CO2’s leadership to get them kicked. That lead to me being installed as the head diplomat for CO2. From there everything was downhill. I’d been handed a diplomatic corps with nearly no diplomats (gigX and the former head diplomat didn’t trust anyone) and an alliance reputation that was irreparable. I decided to stick around for the move to Impass after the Casino War and hoped everything would get better . It didn’t. (The Judge, formerly of CO2, now in KarmaFleet of Goonswarm Allilance)
Early rapid growth and a reputation for being an elite PvP group led to CO2 wanting additional space, which in turn caused conflict with CFC leadership. These conflicts grew increasingly toxic, with each side claiming the other side was unreasonable. These tensions culminated about two and a half years ago, in late March of 2016, when CO2 controversially left and reset The Imperium, as they were then rebranded, after the battle for control of the M-OEE8 Infrastructure Hub.
Imperium FC Kendarr reflects on how those events two years ago led to the recent disbanding:
[I] wasted about seven hours of my life trying to defend the M-O iHub with [CO2] for them to bitch quit on us. After we expunged them from Impass and they reformed, had they not become PANFAM pets they would have never fallen into our cross hairs again [and] would likely still be very alive and kicking today. They could have settled anywhere in New Eden. Anywhere away from us and Legacy anyway. They needed like one constellation of space to live. There are so many places in New Eden out of reach or away from people that wanted to hurt them that they would have been fine. (Kendarr, of Zebra Corp, Goonswarm Alliance)
The next dramatic event followed fairly quickly after the reset with The Imperium. CO2 worked with Test Alliance Please Ignore (TEST) for a time and participated in the Sarenen fights against The Imperium. Other fights ensued, mostly against PanFam groups.
Trouble seemed to follow CO2. By August, 2017, CO2 was feuding with their ally TEST. The logs released on EN24 show a diplomatic nightmare blowing up for all New Eden to see.
The Judge, who was still in CO2 at that time, speaks about this time period:
After a number of months work making backroom deals [with] our enemies and working with our allies to secure some rental space we started to see substantial ISK growth for the alliance coffers, and that is when my relationship with gigX started to fall apart. gigX has always been really good at spending every cent the alliance has as soon as it comes into the wallet. Once I’d secured the first months rent and the ISK started to roll in gigX got greedy. He wanted all the ISK transferred from the rental alliance as soon as the month’s rent was paid (which I would drip feed to make it last) but most of all he wanted more rental space and more ISK. This led to a lot of strain between CO2 and TEST. In the next couple of months gigX made diplomatic blunders left and right, culminating in a secret meeting between the rest of the alliances that were part of Legacy right as I was travelling from Australia to Iceland for a CSM summit. Over the next few days everything fell apart as it leaked that the other Legacy members voted to remove CO2 from the coalition and while I was trying to represent the player base at CCP’s offices, gigX was more concerned with throwing gasoline on the fire, burning bridges and pointing fingers.
Then came what has come to be known as Judgment Day. Much has been written about that event so the recap can be quick. The Judge flipped on CO2, took over 1.5 trillion ISK and gave a Keepstar to The Imperium, CO2’s most hated rival. GigX then asked for The Judge’s personal information and made threats against him in real life. When the dust settled, gigX was banned by CCP for life and The Judge, ironically in control of CO2, disbanded CO2 the first time.
Several players mentioned this event when speaking of the recent announcement concerning the disbanding. First, Killah Bee:
To me CO2 was dead when gigx got banned. They were a good group for the game at the time but the second reincarnation was nowhere near CO2’s prime. Sometimes dead things are better left dead. (Killah Bee, of Shiva corp in NCdot alliance)
I’m just surprised they got back together after the disband. It was like a relapse. Well the disband of CO2 by TheJudge. GigX should have never been banned or perma-banned at least. But I’m surprised all of those corps would decide to rejoin CO2 after it reformed. (Progodlegend, of Moosearmy, in TEST Alliance)
After the first disbanding, CO2 remarkably recovered. Still, to this day, after the second disbanding, EveWho shows CO2 having 1355 members (as of Dec. 7, 2018). The group shows resilience and loyalty among its core members. Given the rebirth after the first disband, we may ponder if this most recent disbanding represents the final end for CO2.
The Judge, for one, is not so sure:
The thing to understand is that the people at the top of CO2’s leadership, including gigX, have their identities and lives so wrapped up in being leaders of the CO2 cult that I don’t think they can ever fully let go. I’m sure in the not so distant future they’ll try to reform CO2 under the same or a different name in hopes that people will forget how they’ve treated people and the bridges they’ve burnt. I hope they keep in mind the CO2 mantra… “we do not forgive, we do not forget,” because EVE will never forget and if they do ever return they’ll never have a place in EVE to call home.
Jurius Doctor also considers the possibility that CO2 might just be rebranding itself:
It is very much how gigX phrased it in their announcement about shutting their doors. It is a matter of having a name which has become well-known enough to make them a target. It’s become a bad brand by extension of their leader’s shenanigans, ban-skirting, diplomacy, poor internal culture, and simply being a dog big enough to kick, as it were. Now, this is not to say there aren’t some really great people in CO2, or that there aren’t excellent FCs, or that gigX wasn’t at times a capable leader. However, they have suffered from a lot of problems which are in common with other organizations suffering failure cascade, which include developing a bad brand, being known for a detached or uncaring leadership who are unreasonable or unwilling to take criticism or accept new direction until a pivot is too late, and internal stakeholders who have become so disenfranchised or jaded that they’re willing to burn the house down just to see the flames. The Judge leaving wasn’t just Imperium having good side chats over CSM meetings, it was created by gigX’s leadership, or lack thereof. At the end of the day, Circle of Two is doing what any corporation attempts to do in the real world when their name has become preceded by a reputation or a singularly bad bit of PR—they’re trying to escape it by changing name, changing location, drawing back into themselves, and attempting to pivot. However, that pivot cannot happen with any cult of personality inside of CO2. The leadership and the membership both need to wake to that reality and either reform under someone else, or walk away from the burning building.
If the second disbanding sticks, we have seen the end of an era for EVE Online. The alliance has been intensely drama-filled and has provided a lot of content in New Eden. No history ever written about EVE can fail to place CO2 as a key ingredient in the odd mix that is this game. And so I end this requiem while I continue to wonder . . . Is this really the end for CO2?
UPDATE: As of December 8, 2018, Pandemic Horde Alliance is showing CO2 as one of their participating corporations.
Thanks to the many people who took time to reply to my requests for comment and also to Dirk Stetille and Moomin Amatin who provided me some helpful background information.