Recently I’ve noticed an increasing number of discussions by EVE Online players about the end of the current war, which so far is one of the biggest and most costly conflicts in the history of the game. We may well wonder: what constitutes the end of a war in EVE Online and what constitutes victory or loss. Right now, as many of you know, many players are focused on the events surrounding the Imperium Capital system of 1DQ. Many argue that its hypothetical fall would be the end of the war. Also, hypothetically if the Imperium simply moved all its assets to NPC null space but continued attacking TEST and BRAVE, could we really call that scenario the end of the current war? Or, would that be considered a new war? There are many different views on this depending on whom you ask.
Wars as Chapter Headings
This history of EVE is a history of war. Even in the real world, why is it that we always break up our history by the wars? You crack open a book of 20th Century World History, you get chapters regarding World War 1, World War II, The Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, etc. You don’t get chapters entitled “The Marshal Peace,” “The NATO Peace,” or “The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.” The reason for this is because wars enthrall us and because on some level people like to see something big fall apart or blow up from the inside out. Cascade failure is the best popcorn show in New Eden. Let us examine what has been coined as “The Great War,” which started in 2006, as our starting reference.
The Great War
The Great War refers to a series of conflicts surrounding Goonswarm, which was in its infancy, and Band Of Brothers (BoB). BoB was a heavy-hitting powerful alliance at that time and was already in a war with the largest military-industrial bloc in the game, Ascendant Frontier. Long story short, over a few years Goonswarm rallied most of the in-game powers to fight against Band Of Brothers. There were shenanigans, controversies, titan kills, civil wars. Whole regions were conquered and reorganized. At the end of the conflict, there was a clear-cut end to the war with a clear winner and a clear loser. BoB suffered several setbacks, the biggest of which was when one of its own disillusioned directors hit a button and deleted the alliance. All its sov, capital fleets, and holdings went away in a single day. The war was over, for all intents, because BoB didn’t exist anymore. The Goons even quickly started a Band Of Brothers alliance so the name could never be reclaimed.
BoB attempted to reform and start from scratch as Kenzoku. Fighting continued against Goonswarm. In 2009, the player base was referring to this conflict as Delve War II, which also had a clear-cut end with a clear winner and loser. Kenzoku’s director ordered his forces out of Delve and Querious, with them essentially giving up. So, do we count all the conflict I’ve mentioned so far as The Great War 2006-2009, marking it as having a clear beginning, middle, and end? Do we extend it to the alliances Kenzoku pilots moved to and their subsequent wars? How far down the rabbit hole do you try to chase the “truth?”
This is usually what historians do in the real world. People like to read a narrative; it’s how their minds organize information. They want their history to have a clear beginning, middle, and end with clear good guys and bad guys, almost the way you would organize a work of fiction. World War 1 for example: the Allies are good; the Central Powers are bad. The Allies win for many reasons, including the addition, late in the war, of American troops. When did World War 2 start? Was it in September of 1939 when Germany invaded Poland? Or on September 3rd 1939 when Britain and France declared war on Germany? Or do we go back to 1937 when Japan invaded China? Or do we go all the way back to 1931 when Japan invaded Manchuria? Or, did it not truly become a “World War” until America entered the war late in 1941? Since Germany was considered the driver of the war, deserving of the most focus, historians settled on September, 1939. But, if you ask a Chinese history, you will still get a different answer.
The Casino War (or is it WWB?)
The closer you get to the present the better idea you get of how history really forms itself. Let us examine The Casino War, AKA The Mercenary War, AKA World War Bee from 2016. The beginning of the conflict is debatable. You could conceivably roll the 2014 Halloween War into it. You could look at it as starting with the bad blood between two groups in what was the biggest ISK business in the game at that time, player-run Casinos. The community was also angered by a Kickstarter program to get an EVE history book published. Certain facets of gameplay were also stagnating, and there were a lot of scandals and leadership changes. Alliances were demanding tribute from each other to respect borders. Any one of these events, or all of them blended together, could be pointed at as starting the war. But, in brief, a Casino baron provided a coalition of separate in-game entities (which came to be known as the Money Badger Coalition) over seven trillion ISK to invade Imperium holdings in the North.
Did that conflict have a clear-cut end to the war with a clear winner and a clear loser? Yes, but it is nevertheless contested. A director on one side of the conflict stated that as soon as Co2 defected, for all intents and purposes, the Imperium had lost the war. This version doesn’t seem fully accurate, as fighting continued for quite awhile after that. What can’t be argued, however, is what the Imperium actually did. They lost three regions in the north, partially moved their holdings to lowsec, and invaded Delve. TEST, the small, divided Delve alliances, and the depleted remains of the original invasion forces were not strong enough to stop them. Then, because most of the fighting ceased and TEST ended up signing a non-invasion pact, most considered the war was over.
Who Writes the Histories?
You could get every EVE pilot in the game arguing about this war just by saying Goonswarm lost, or Goonswarm did not lose. Some players want to uncouple these events into two separate wars, so that they can clearly argue that the Imperium lost the war to hold the north, but won a war to conquer Delve. Other players call the current conflict World War Bee, which started with the breaking of the Non-Invasion Pact by TEST, and they may provide a convincing argument that Imperium never lost anything.
Here is the truth as I see it. The people fighting in the war right now won’t be the ones to name it or decide who won or lost. They don’t get to study it. They’re living it. The further forward we move in time, and the clearer events become (supposedly) in hindsight, players that others pay attention to will ruminate on old shenanigans, controversies, titan kills, civil wars, and add their own spin.
So, I’ll see you at the front lines of World War Bee, World War Bee 2, The Casino War 2, The Merc War 2, Delve War IV, or whatever the hell we’re going to call this one. When will the war be over? When we decide it is.