A Cautionary Tale of Fear and Hope


Greetings fellow Empyreans, I am Ashterothi, and I haven’t been this happy to be proven wrong in a long time.

First of all, let me start by saying this is going to be a bit different than my other pieces on this site. Notably, I am giving up my air of ‘professional writing’ and making this more of a blog post of sorts. This week has been an interesting one for me as my last article has garnered a lot of attention and response. While I have received a lot of well thought-out responses, there were clearly some who didn’t read past the title. The last few days, including reading Niden’s last article, has given me pause for thought, and I figured given the hornets nest I seem to have stirred up, I owe you guys a bit of a follow-up.

Is EVE Dying?

EVE is going strong, and the playerbase is every bit as passionate as it ever has been

Let me start by answering this from my perspective: No. I mean, In the Tibetan philosophy/ Sylvia Plath sense of the word I know we’re all dying, but EVE is going strong, and the playerbase is every bit as passionate as it ever has been. The future is bright and full of possibilities.

So, why write an article entitled “EVE is Dying”? Well, to put it simply, it was meant to draw people into a discussion. The most important half of the title seems to be the part that didn’t get read as much: “and we’re the ones killing it.” The goal of the article was not to accuse EVE of decline, but rather call out our community for the counter-productive language and behavior we have adopted. However, in the process, my voice turned into the very one I sought to call out. By facing the monster, I became it. This seems like the theme surrounding the article, it’s motivations, and it’s results.

So let me back up, for those of you who don’t know, I joined EVE in the Summer of 2011. At that time PI was the freshest thing in the game, and the nano nerfs were still grumbled about as the last thing CCP had done to forever kill the game. I joined at a golden age for EVE’s storytelling (there have been at least three) and got to meet Dropbear as he sent his army of Sansha loyalists to fight any capsuleers who dared face him. I witnessed first hand the events of Monocle Gate, and watched in horror and intense curiosity as it played out. I got to shake the hand of CCP Soundwave as the wore his “Ask me about my monocle” t-shirt.


I watched as EVE developed and grew, slowly adding my own voice to the mix. One of my goals was to never become the dreaded “bittervet” that I saw so frequently plaguing EVE forums. All of my writing about EVE comes first and foremost from the position that EVE Online is a game that I love.

That being said however, I have feared for EVE. When the Summer of Rage happened, and CCP fired 20% of it’s staff, I wondered if it would ever recover. Subsequently, every time the players threatened to riot since, over often petty things, I feared that perhaps we the players were the worst enemy of EVE.

EVE is a hard game to master, but it is even a harder game to manage

EVE is a hard game to master, but it is even a harder game to manage. In EVE victory does not come from triumph of combat and skill alone. In a world of immortal space-gods you conquer your enemy through crushing their morale. Only by forcing them to quit the fight, or quit the game, can one truly call a foe vanquished. Combining that with the years of effort it takes to achieve the lofty goals that many have, you have a system that rewards those who push the line, and favors those who can set sportsmanship aside, and make things personal.

This frequently spills out into the community, and this isn’t a “Goon” problem, or a “PL” problem, it is comes from all sides. Bitter losers tear down the game that has driven them to spite, and sore winners “twist the knife” and revel in behavior only truly capable by those who have dehumanized their enemy. Seeing all of this, I often wonder if there was a better way.

Goons have always been terrible, and I am not even going to entertain an argument from them otherwise. This is organization that was founded under the very principle of separation breeding elitism. From their home in Something Awful, they would move from game to game, passing judgement upon the “pubbies” they encountered. As I wrote about previously, the Goons found a good home and an interesting challenge in New Eden. They came in and laughed in the face of the values and “honor” of those that came before them.

When World War Bee started, it grew so fast not because of the ISK, but because people found the behavior of the Goons to be abhorrent. This is why as the Goons turned to retreat they were given no mercy. Why when they cried against the mechanics, they received no pity. This organization had become what it was by its willingness and eagerness to overstep the bounds of sportsmanship and the game rules themselves. Anything they complained about was simply dismissed as poetic justice.


And that’s the crux of it. I don’t mind the “bad behavior” of the Goons too much. As Mathias Sinistar wrote in his piece In Support of Villainy, EVE needs a villain. For EVE to work the way it does people need to be able to be that terrible thing. Since I started playing I have said “I do not play EVE to be a villain, I play EVE to be a hero in a world where that choice matters”, and while I may not always be ‘heroic’ I have never scammed another player, and help wherever I can. Goons were the villain, and they were good at it. Through their antics, and the antics of their allies, we as a people could explore what was and wasn’t acceptable for ourselves.

However, Nietzsche wrote “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster,” and as the war waged on, and as no real opposition was put forth, I saw the monster embraced by some within the wider community. Whether this was real, or merely perception, I am not really at a place to say at this point, but either way what I saw troubled me.

I feared that we as a community had lost the script

My proposal from my last article wasn’t that EVE is losing subscriptions, or is worse of a game than it was before. On the contrary, I think the game is mechanically more sound than it ever has been, and many agree. However, I feared that we as a community had lost the script, and that in order to react to some of the more extreme rhetoric being put out, we ourselves lost ourselves to the extreme.

We live in a time of potential for EVE. Valkyrie and Citadels did not usher in a grand explosion of new players as many hoped. Now we must live with the reality we have, and plan our way forward. We now live in a world in which the Imperium no longer hold tyranny over the galaxy, a goal we have sought for years. However, now we must ask ourselves what it is that we want to do with this new universe. EVE can be anything we make it, and I would love to see this as an opportunity to work together to make even more lofty goals, and even more violent conflicts.


Niden was right when he wrote that we must “walk the walk”. For years we have bristled under the behavior of the worst among us, knowing full well that the CFC was too mighty, and offered them too many protections. With the Imperium stripped of their power over the cluster, it now becomes our responsibility to discover a better way.

By no means am I suggesting we stop fighting, and all sing kumbaya, that misses out on the very nature of the game I love. What I am suggesting is that we begin to create a culture within us where we can as people help build our community, make great creative works and support them, and provide good constructive feedback, even as within the game we seek to destroy each other. For years we have spoken about how great the community is in the game, and I hope that we all can walk the walk and remember that at the end of the day we are all people who love a stupid video game about internet spaceships.

EVE isn’t dead, and I hope it won’t be for a long time, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without issues. CCP struggles daily to give us what we want, and we don’t make it any easier. The war is over, and if it is in fact true that the “good guys” won, then let’s prove it by making the game, our culture, and our community better for it.

Thank you all. Now hold still so I can point you.


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Tags: Ashterothi, community

About the author


Ashterothi has spent the last five years learning and teaching EVE Online. He is a host on the highly successful High Drag and Hydrostatic Podcast.

  • Asher

    Goons are the heroes of the game, they saved the game from SP elitism and barriers to entry based on having already played the game for years. Before Goons no serious nullsec groups took brand new players and put them into the best part of the game. They made players slog it out for years to meet their elite pvp requirements, and game subscriptions languished because of it. Once the success of Goons became clear other groups like Test sprouted up that started emulating the same policy of recruiting anyone from their social groups without “you must be this tall to ride nullsec” requirements, still later Brave Newbies came in with an even more inclusive policy but it proved unsustainable. Goons broke the back of the elite pvp bullshit that held back nullsec for years and were the reason Eve grew from the awful sub numbers before they joined.

    3 cheers for Goons, the heroes of Nullsec, savoirs of Eve, and unfairly maligned by people who can’t see the forest for the trees because they probably know someone who got recruitment scammed or freighter ganked.

    • Rob Kaichin

      You dropped your sarcasm tag.

      Here: /s

    • Free Can

      Sure, what else were they going to do. “Come and play this game, oh by the way let’s not play together for the next 2 years”. Any outside group is forced to be inclusive. it’s not exactly a choice. All you are saying was that they were the first major outside group to play eve.

    • Vertigoe

      Thanks for saying this better than I ever could.

    • lolz

      There were plenty of Bullard alliances that took on low SP characters. Rewrite history more.

    • Messiah Complex

      Continuing the transition from loyalist to cultist.

    • Concerned_Citizen

      I would never deny the points that Asher has but forward in his argument. They are true. The Goons started as a bunch of scrubs fighting back against elitism. However, you became that which you were fighting so hard against. You took the power and used it to put down others. You cannot hold onto the mantle of the underdog when you are sitting in the same position as your former enemies. People do not hate the Goons for what they started as. They hate the Goons for what they have become.

  • DireNecessity


    Your mea culpa starts out well enough but peters out halfway through when your essay switches from “I” to “we” and it’s a damn shame because the net result is not a genuine mea culpa at all but rather a repeat of your original “Eve Is Dying And We’re The Ones Killing It” where “we” mostly means “you.”

    You hammer Goons, you hammer the people that hammer Goons but sadly, when you reach those parts of the essay you abrogate any further attempt to interrogate yourself and your small part in the panoramic mess.

    Personal essays can be insightful, powerful and effective but to truly function you can’t end them by ducking out to hide in the crowd. Ruthless self-honesty generates their appeal, not obfuscation. This entire piece would have been much more powerful if the order had been switched, beginning with “we” and ending with “I”.

    • Ashterothi

      I am really glad you wrote this, because you are absolutely right.

      There was an additional thread that I missed in this writing which is that in my attempts to be a voice of positivity among the cynicism I too succumbed to what I sought to combat. That was why the responses, and in particular Niden’s article (which wasn’t written with my in mind I may add) struck me so hard. I have had a lot to think about, I am glad that my fears were unfounded, and this was more to do with an introspection as to what generated those fears in the first place, so that they may be dispelled.

      As far as goons, I don’t like to think of myself as hammering them, they are a community and a vibrant one. The “villainy” tone is because the audience is more for MBC and other people who used the portrayal of the villainy to construct a more perfect enemy in their mind.

      I agree it would have been a much better piece with that, and I regret missing it, but I can’t write any more pieces on this topic or else I fear people may lynch me. 😉

      • Drahma Lhalma

        Prior to the Casino War the CFC were trying to find some hate somewhere that could trigger more content for their members. The expectation was that any foe would be very beatable because Alliances had been made and steps carefully taken to only stir up beatable enemies. Yes I called it the Casino war because the money from the Casino site acted as the glue to unify all of these potential enemies (who alone were easily beatable) into the most powerful coalition of Alliances the game had seen (although actually similar in scale relative to the target as the war against BoB). At this point, as the Money Badger Coalition rolled forward, the war definitely became World War Bee. In truth I WANT ISK managed to satisfy both the leaders in the MBC (they each took most of the ISK that was given) and the line members, who got something big to be part of that punished the hubris of the ranting, smug, Goonswarm leadership.

        But the Fabian strategy ruined the spectacle, interceptor fleets belittled large scale fleet combat and the big toys stayed in the box denying CCP publicity and MBC leaders a “BoB war” style titan congo (Delve – Nol). High Sec folk shrugged and carried on playing but nulsec folk who experienced the unsocial experience of entosising stuff I guess saw this as a pretty rubbish end game. Members of the biggest alliance in the game felt picked on, butthurt and logged off en masse.

        I don’t care if the game is dying or thriving, I care if when I log on there is fun stuff to do. Everyone else should feel the same, it’s a personal thing. Our reaction may indeed be killing the game, the Fabian strategy may indeed have been killing the game, PL leaders smug may be killing the game, the power of Casino ISK may be killing the game ….. perhaps your next article should be about considering where the game is today; what will increase PCU count by 10,000 in the next 12 months? Perhaps that is worth a debate on TMC – have panel members from Empire, bitter vets, PL, Wormholers … and add the This is Eve video to the start of the show for inspiration 🙂

        • Verdis deMosays

          I would absolutely second a panel type discussion. Let people air their thoughts, and others see the side they never get to.

          I’ll be willing to donate my two cents from a Wormholers perspective.

  • Slowdive

    Eve thrives on conflict. And goons have a vital role in this ecosystem. Wether you call them destructive or the saviors is subjective and misses the point. CCP, in my opinion, have started turning their heads when goons speak – which is a mistake. As you said, we cannot all hug and sing kumbaya. Except when we’re drunk and stoned at Everstedam – Skááááááááááááááááááááááááááááááááááááál

  • shwarmaking

    Its dead. Has been since approximately 2012. As someone, somewhere said recently, EVE is destined for Ultima Online territory. A core of lifers and no one, literally no one, else. It’s great that the blog roll wants to keep playing, but the game is dead. Once the flow of new blood stops, that’s it for a game.

    Dream on if you like, but it’s over. Enjoy fighting over the same old space against the same old people you’ve been fighting for the last 4 years. Enjoy the endless loop of meaningless grind-for-isk activites. Enjoy the endless loop of warfare driven by a narrative conceived in a different time, for a different audience. By the same people who were playing then and playing now.
    but don’t pretend that somehow the game is alive. If it were, there’d be an endless flow of new players. There isn’t. There won’t be. EVE is on life support.

    • Bill Bones

      That was called “inmigrants vs colonists”, meaning that old established players are very powerful because the game is shaped after them and what they did when the game was young. But new players don’t start in a young game without established powers, but in a game ruled by those veterans, same as “inmigrants” come to a land and must fit with the locals or be vanquished.

      That is quite less interesting than being a “colonist” and making the rules yourself. Specially when “colonists” are just happy to drive everybody else out of the game…

    • Ashterothi

      But that is provably wrong. Most of the streamers I see for EVE are < a month old. I see new players in the newbie systems all the time. I get asked the same newbro questions over and over. The idea that new blood isn't coming in is just not true.

      Our problem is and always has been retention, we are just talking about it more sanely than in the past.

  • Kinis Deren

    The last Great Evil (CFC) has been defanged. No longer do we have multi-region spanning coalitions holding the game back. New Eden faces the dawn of a new era were conflict occurs throughtout the cluster everyday rather than a set piece huge max TiDi battle once a year.

    My belief is the MBC’s goal was to return EVE back to a period before the mega coalitions stagnated the game. The CFC was the last barrier that needed to be broken down to allow EVE to progress. It wan’t about goons per se (but their doxing, failed quasi-RMT kickstarter, pressure on devs ect. all helped as motivation). No, it was really about the type of future desired by the EVE community.

    • Free Can

      There is still xdeath and drone lands Russians. That should include also NC and PL since they all work together hand in glove to milk the entire east for botter isk. All very quietly. The sleaziest most underhand coalition and space, makes CFC look like angels.

  • trollsroyce

    EVE, just as every other game before it and after it, has a lifespan.

    The inevitability is that an old classic game will draw less and less newcomers while players retire in a constant fashion.

    The only thing that has kept this going is that there have not been any contenders in this game niche.

    There is a misconception that EVE relies upon an appearance of “stability”, that it would work only because it’s forever and you get to keep the stuff you build. The nature of game lifespans dictates otherwise.

    This is why EVE2 is required.

    CCP should drop the cash grab on dwindling game strategy and make EVE2 before someone else does it.

  • Provi Miner

    oh crap what garbage, follow the script that is as anti eve as you can possibly write. That’s up there with “video games kill brain cells” its tripe its a lure and it is patently false. The concept the idea the goal of eve is to “not follow a script”. I live in provi we are “supposedly” this RP group for the amarr empire…. we most of us just don’t follow that script at all. When we say Amarr Victor we typically flying cancer sticks, blops from widows, and flash form cerbs. There are even a few who have taking the RP turned it on its head and are now called Heretics by the mainline RP’ers its funny as hell. The point is there is a script but no one “rightfully” is following it for the most part. Death to scripts long live freedom.

  • Trajan Unknown

    Well written, I had a long response to the previous article but that got lost because I simply forgot to hit that button before I came back to the pc.

    Over the past years this friendship thing in EvE grew to levels that are weird I´d like to call it. I don´t mind it too much but when it comes to a point where I hang around with other leadership/fc´s in channels, arrange fights and have drinks it makes my old bones sick. Maybe I am too much of an oldschool clan/guild guy here but I rather have the chinese cluster than ours. It looks like people want to befriend each too much instead of sticking to their own corps/alliances. I personally don´t care supporting stuff outside of EvE that is made/created or supported by my enemy but I would by no means befriend them. Respect them if they deserve it? Sure, that´s part of my character but that´s the line I draw. With this whole new world of friendship and people all over the cluster befriend each other the natural conflict drivers getting weakened. You simply don´t utterly destroy a friends sandcastle or try to destroy his “existence” you rather arrange fights and call it a good fight after or cry a bit because the other side played “unfair”. What is the point of permanent asset loss when you don´t aim for your opponents heart but trying to slap him on the wrist instead? It is a bit of an extreme point of view and I don´t want players to quit because they lost all their stuff but currently you can´t lose anything of value anymore except you´re part of team retard and if so, well, you deserve no better. That being said, I would not deny help outside of the game to my enemy but once help is served I will show him/her the door and tell him to leave. If we´re like minded we end up in the same alliance if not there is not much to with each other else I might hesitate to burn his house the next time I fly by.

    • Marsha Mallow

      Good points, keep posting – and always copy your text on long stuff, cos ‘forum ate my post’ after you crack out dozens of feverish paragraphs is enough to shut some up for a bit.

      It is fair enough that at the higher levels people are mates and sit in ingame channels/3rd party apps etc. But the grunts can see it happening, and there’s resentment ingame from them directed at an ageing oligarchy pulling the strings whilst not even logged into the client. Because it makes all the fights feel pre-arranged. Or that smaller entities have to conform to being part of a larger batphone coalition, or get crushed out for being defiant.

      These guys can be mates in social channels, but if all of the ‘top-level’ FCs and leaders sit in niche channels you make the game BORING. Shut your ingame channels and shoot each other/stop acting like a bunch of gossipy old hens already.

  • Easy Esky

    I have supplied the can-opener for the feast of worms. I do not agree that Eve needs villains, because in Eve they have failed to inspire heroes. For years the Goons were largely unopposed. Indeed, they more likely inspire more villainy. CODE is prime example of that. In the Butterfly Effect trailer – the miner gets rescued. But it should come with a blinking warning (a’la Hitchhikers Guide) “This never happens”.

    The game dies when I lose interest. Given the same tools and same mechanics – I can theorize that I am not alone in this. It does not matter to me if the game continues after the cessation of my final subscription. I, and others will go quietly into the night. And lost is a name in local, less goods bought and sold, a potential threat or ally or target.

    I used to be passionate, a single expedition frigate fired up my interest in Invention, Manufacture, Exploration and Dangerous Harvesting. Now it is an apprehension that Industrial Arrays become yet another entrapment.

  • CarlGustav

    Honestly. Before there was only goons who actively recruited to nullsec noobs. Then came test. Why did cfc win fights before. Numbers. Numbers. 3vs 1 wins the game.

    Wwb( or casino war) changed this. Opponent in form of ph and test with lowsec allies formed the number base while pl and nc held the super fleet in stasis. Cfc. Had no options but to lose.

    I have said for years the only way to beat cfc was to beat them number wise with warm bodies.

    The pitfall here is the that I don’t believe ph will last. There lack of Srp and high taxes and some quasi goblon economy is just a breeding ground for mistrust. The lack of support from other ratters is also worrisome like the one who lost his paladin in there home system in standIng fleet fighting off centers for 5 minutes. Like wtf.

    I also still believe that mbc will implode hard. Pl/nc will start to rape the other groups and like Moa there will be cracks. And are your allies ready to support you fighting them????

    Still it’s good that more then one side recruits new players. As the old test drive it’s our Ritter players of yesterday is our drake pilots of today

  • luobote kong

    I really thought you were going to reflect and redeem yourself. But then you double down on WWB being more than the sponsored sideshow that it was. WWB is over. Let it go and move on – which BTW is precisely what the dead cat bounce in player activity shows other people have been doing. I really can’t see why you aren’t focusing on your journalisic strengths? Ask yourself why is serenity activity increasing while tranquillity is falling? Its the same game just about. And yes Eve has just an acidic reputation there as here so it is not that. Want a hint? Try SP. You’ve written before about that right? Try Marketing. Try promotions. Tiancity send me more juicy communications a month than CCP do in a year. Forget playing to the selectorate. Do a bit of digging. There is a story there.

    • Marsha Mallow

      You know, a comparison between CCP and Tiancity might not be a bad idea in terms of marketing. If you don’t have time to write it up you could always submit the data to one of the journo sites and recommend they do. Might be a worthwhile discussion pops out.

      • luobote kong

        Been there, done that, and bought the official Eve Online rucksack. Just use the Eve China label on my old blog. Pretty sure I have spoken to Asterothi about it on slack or something too. Maybe when he gets some perspective back he can take a look.

  • Zaand

    I like how you rail against goons and how terrible we all are while at the beginning of the article you try to establish your bona-fides by shaking hands with one of the gooniest goons the game has ever seen.

    If the problem with the game is the death of community then maybe you should look to goons for a solution. If they’re not the most successful community in EVE then they are without a doubt the most resilient. I’m truly sorry that we don’t we don’t share your limp wrist, laise fair, live-and-let-live attitude towards other communities, but we are under no obligation to recognize your group, much less treat them as equals or give them any quarter.