WWB is a Question: “How should EVE be played?”


Header art by Quendan Comari.

It is a question with two conflicting answers vying for supremacy. Andrew Groen, an EVE historian, wrote the two volume book The Empires of EVE. At the 2016 Fanfest, he gave a presentation about the book, and the lead up to “The Great EVE War” of 2007-2009. Groen says his book discusses  “how the first nullsec governments began to form. It’s about how those governments began to come into conflict with each other and how their ideologies began to clash with one another. Because we kind of take that for granted nowadays in nullsec, that nullsec is the way it is because it’s always been that way. But in the early days there were a lot of clashing ideologies about how nullsec territories should be used. Should they be locked down to the mightiest power? Should they be free and open to the public of EVE? There were all these kinds of ideologues and political icons who would come out and espouse their ideologies about how this territory should be used.”

WWB Exemplifies a Philosophical Divide

Our battles today are similar in motivation to the past Groen speaks about.  The current WWB is ideologically and philosophically motivated. Evidence even exists in the reasons for the assault on the Imperium, and the annihilation of Goons. It includes statements like: “[Once Goons are eliminated] EVE will finally be a game worth playing.” Or, “[EVE] could be a much better video game than the one we’ve been playing for the past four years”. Both come from TEST senior FC, Progodlegend. (The original Twitch video no longer exists.)

In them, Progod levels a fascinating accusation at Goons. He argues that EVE is stagnating, in large part due to Goon leadership. He claims they are “corrupt[ing] a once-great organization” which now gets lost in “pseudo intellectual musings about empire building in what is supposed to be a f—ing video game.”

Contrast this with The Mittani’s stated reasons for hating TEST. In his July 4 State of the Goonion Address, The Mittani states that Goons are ending the 14 year “most ruthless, vicious, and thorough campaign of revenge in the history of gaming.” He says “we are moving on, emotionally, to our new favorite enemy. I think it’s best for Goonswarm, it’s best for NCdot, and I believe that it’s best for EVE as a whole.” The Mittani levels a number of insults at TEST, but claims that “What makes TEST special is that they are quite possibly the most annoying alliance that has ever existed. That’s because TEST is an alliance made primarily out of badposters, blabbermouths, and backstabbers.”

It is this last element, that TEST are backstabbers, that receives the greatest vitriol. Backstabbing is the cardinal sin, the abomination, the taboo.

Cultural Sins

Whether or not TEST are actual backstabbers is debatable. That debate, however, misses the point. It is the concept of backstabbing that Goons and The Mittani find so appalling. It is an evil so vile, it’s worth shifting hatred from their former enemies to the new enemy TEST. This is a cultural reaction, one grounded in a specific paradigm of how EVE should be played. Such a hatred pairs rather well with Progodlegend’s exhaustion with Goons’ “intellectual musings about empire building.” A little like Roman imperial culture, the culture of Goons has somewhat of a classical value system: a belief in loyalty, in honor; a hatred of betrayal, and a duty toward vengeance when attacked.

Perhaps Progodlegend has a point: Goons have a culture that takes “Empire building” roleplaying seriously. Politics are meant to be played. Treaties are meant to be kept. Leadership is meant to be respected. And wars are meant to be fought because they make sense economically, to expand the empire, or because political grievances warrant it. Fighting for its own sake isn’t an acceptable motive. It goes against the logic of empire; it is nonsensical. That isn’t how the game is supposed to be played.

Progodlegend, however, asserts that EVE is not about empire building; it’s “supposed to be a f—ing video game.” This centers on a peek behind the curtain. Behind the narrative of empires, factions, and treaties, are people. And the people behind the bureaucracy, and intelligence agencies are just a bunch of video-game players. And they want to sit down for an evening, get into some action, and have some fun. To sit down at one’s computer screen and not have a fight to get into, or some war to mine for, sounds like a pretty boring time.

Why build all these ships , or create all these guns and ammunition to not use them?! Maybe in real life we want peace with allies and only wish to go to war when there are no options left. But EVE isn’t real life. This is a video game; I come here to shoot people! Peace until grievance means no content. It means grinding for ships that we won’t use. It means mistaking this game for real life, real politics. That isn’t how the game is supposed to be played.

To Bee or Not To Bee: That Is the Question

Neither perspective is wrong, per se. However, they are completely different paradigms, different logics, different philosophical conceptions for what EVE is supposed to be. TEST’s actions look barbaric from the perspective of Goon logic. Goons look bad for the game according to the logic of TEST. That is why many within Goon circles are asking: “Even if Vily/PAPI wins, what then? Has TEST thought this through, and thought about who might be attacking them once they’ve created a power vacuum?”

The insinuation is clear. If Goons were taken out it would lead to greater destabilization of nullsec, especially where TEST is concerned. Hence, TEST is shooting themselves in the foot. Whether that is true or not, such an insinuation is positioned within the Goon logic of empire. Within such a logic, such a culture, such a value system, such destabilization would appear to be utterly foolish, irrational, unthoughtful. But the anti-imperial logic of Progodlegend (“this is just a video game”) wouldn’t view destabilization as a problem, but a redemption from stagnation: the real evil.

Whichever cultural logic you use as a lens through which to view this war, the romantic imperial role-play of the Goons or the cynical-realism of Progodlegend, you might end up agreeing with Moomin in his recent article: “The great thing about this situation for me is that I cannot lose. . . . I would have played a small part in one of the greatest gaming moments in history. I fail to see a downside.” Ironically, this sentiment gives some credence to Progodlegend’s argument about how EVE should be played.

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  • Rammel Kas

    I think there is a telling pattern in the way I’ve seen Piggles conduct himself on strategic objectives that involve a bit of work. Like SOV entosis. He gives up if he loses more than two rounds of node spawns, or a fleet. Whichever of those comes first. Likewise his views on EVE seem to be patterned after a lower denominator of effort and application. Not every other player wants to play on easy mode though. I think he’s just found a cute way to smith words so that he can lounge back and let other people do his work for him. There may be no more brain to the operation than slouch.

    September 26, 2020 at 8:23 AM
  • Gray Doc

    Beyond the philosophical question you’ve discussed, I find another also working among the combatants of WWB: Can we tolerate more than one way to play Eve? Eve online once seemed so vast that it could be played in a lot of different ways: someone who just wants to mine and chat with friends had room in Eve. Especially since redistribution, CCP seems intent on taking that option away. Other ways might involve ratting or exploring. Other players loved wormhole space. Others were market traders. Others enjoyed high sec space because they loved a space game but didn’t want to risk all their assets getting blown up. I find the idea that there is one way every player should play very arrogant and narcissistic.

    September 26, 2020 at 11:11 AM
    • Guilford Australis Gray Doc

      That was my first thought reading the article. Who is Piggles to decide what makes EVE “a f****** video game?” It’s a sandbox that was intended to be played in any and every way the mechanics allow.

      Now, Piggles might answer your first question by saying The Imperium’s playstyle is a problem for him because he wants more conflict and instability, but as I point out in my lengthier comment on this article, he’s a hypocrite. Not only does TEST exemplify all the things he claims are bad for EVE, Piggles is trying to eliminate the chief source of conflict and instability in nullsec from the game.

      September 26, 2020 at 11:35 AM
  • Guilford Australis

    Classic false dilemma. EVE is not a binary choice between stagnation and instability, or empire-building and conflict.

    But if we start from that assumption, then Piggles is a manifest hypocrite. TEST loves empire building. They sit in Esoteria krabbing all day while their Russian coalition members sit around to the east krabbing all day. They love planting structures all over their kingdom and dropping supers on anything that breaches the walls. The last time TEST deployed on a major campaign was nearly three years ago (Horde campaign around January 2018 – which lasted a few weeks before Vily decided he was done feeding cap fleets). So I don’t buy Piggles’ posturing about wanting to eliminate empire-building.

    Meanwhile, The Imperium loves instability and thrives on it. We’ve deployed on major campaigns at least once a year since we settled in Delve and send SIGs all over the map to fight virtually everyone. We are one of the greatest sources of content in EVE, serving up content on a silver platter, free of charge, to all of New Eden, every single day. We are one of the chief contributors to instability in nullsec. That we also enjoy empire-building is beside the point, because that is not incompatible with creating instability. So, once again, Piggles is a rank hypocrite if he claims to want more content, instability, and conflict in EVE but also wants to eliminate one of the primary drivers of those three things from the game. That math no work.

    As for Piggles’ “[it’s] supposed to be a f****** video game” canard, The Mittani says on every single Meta Show that his favorite thing in EVE is “bashing spaceships together for fun” – and we do it more than any other nullsec bloc. So basically everything I see, hear, and read about this war reinforces the reality that it’s essentially a war over rhetoric rather than actual ideology.

    September 26, 2020 at 11:18 AM
    • Moomin Amatin Guilford Australis

      Very much agreed. I would say that a person should be viewed through their actions and not what they say. While PAPI are talking about destroying empires they are all vying to take up the mantle should The Imperium fall.

      I am loving the hypocrisy of it all. It is almost too much!

      September 26, 2020 at 12:54 PM
    • Seir Luciel Guilford Australis

      I never claim that how to play EVE is a binary choice between any two philosophical logics, whether it be Goons/TEST or anyone else. In this sense I agree with you: its not a binary choice.

      But I absolutely think there is a dilemma at play, and that you are wrong to say this is only a “battle over rhetoric rather than actual ideology.” Firstly, I think it is doubtful that all EVE players approach the game with the same idea of how it should be played, with the same attitude. It is doubtful that there is some kind of homogeneity in such attitudes. Rather, I think there is a wide diversity of ideas about how the game should be played, if not existing in the current board, having existed at different times throughout EVE’s history.

      And I don’t mean diversity on a small, material scale: whether one wants to play EVE by hauling and trading, or mining all day, or PvPing. Such individual play styles and preferences are a given and this is not what I mean when I talk about diversity of thought. I mean diversity in how one believes the meta-play of the entire game ought to be formulated. And in this sense I think there is a great deal of diversity between players and groups. My suspicion, though, is that groups of players tend to influence and mutually affect each others’ views as they spend time in close proximity, creating different tribal philosophies almost by social law. I mean, I am almost trying to find words to define “culture.” And culture is not a binary choice, nor a false dilemma but a real struggle for what ideas should be valued, what values should be valued.

      I won’t claim that these cultural/philosophical differences are the main reason for conflicts between groups, but I think it would be silly to claim that they don’t play their part. And I think they are at work. It is only natural for cultural differences to affect groups’ relationships with eachother.

      Most importantly, and where I don’t expect many to agree with me, I think there should be a distinction made between actions and one’s meta-philosophy about EVE. I think it is fair to say: “TEST loves empire building. They sit in Esoteria krabbing all day while their Russian coalition members sit around to the east krabbing all day. They love planting structures all over their kingdom and dropping supers on anything that breaches the walls.” But I think this actually misses the point. I am not defining “empire building” as a series of actions, mainly those that aim to concentrate power, but a cultural view. Pointing out that China and Russia do similar things, like building military bases and navies, doesn’t mean they don’t have different cultures/philosophies, different geopolitical strategies.

      Weapons and krabbing are tools. Not ends. And actions point to ideology and inform it, but they aren’t identical.

      September 26, 2020 at 2:45 PM
  • Simon Chui

    It doesn’t matter how much you hate krabbing, if it turns out that’s how the Imperium stockpiled enough resources to win the war. And it doesn’t matter how much you like empire building, if it turns out the barbarians can raze it all whenever they like. Survival is the ultimate test of any philosophy.

    September 26, 2020 at 1:41 PM
  • Taxea

    Escape stagnation? – They just had to disband Test. Hey it is not about empirebuilding so why hanging on to your own?
    This does not go down into philosophical depths.
    But it sums up that this kind of social-infrastructure is just logical in an uncertain and dangerous environment.

    September 26, 2020 at 11:05 PM
  • Alaric Faelen

    Progod is full of shit. He is just trying to sell the completion of the ‘blue donut’ as somehow something else.
    Contrary to popular belief, null sec isn’t a blue donut as long as there are superpowers opposed to each other. What Progod and Vily want is to remove that conflict and complete a total blue donut of null sec. To essentially end PvP in null sec so they can krab and BOT without anyone to stop them.
    The Imperium merely stands in the way of an NCDot blue ring around the whole of null sec. Rather than liberating Eve, these nitwits only want to enslave it further- only to themselves of course.

    When the average player hurls around terms like blue donut, you need to frame your war as something more noble. It isn’t. They want a blue donut in their favor. They don’t give a damn about Eve as a whole, they don’t give a damn about any space but what they own or player that isn’t part of their donut. This is entirely about consolidating a total monopoly on sov space in Eve Online.
    So go ahead and grrr Goons right until there is no more sov game in Eve because one group got to own it all. See if the backstabbers and botters bring anything to the rest of the game….

    September 27, 2020 at 2:13 AM
  • Vertigoe

    I call it the Gudfite culture, TEST believes in this that fighting for the sake of fighting is the correct way to play the game. I think this comes from people who have played fps video games for so long that they think EVE should be the same.

    September 27, 2020 at 3:30 AM