Bee Careful What You Wish ForRipard Teg
Editor’s Note: There are few names as legendary in Eve writing than that of Ripard Teg in his blog, Jester’s Trek. Love him or hate him, you almost certainly read what he wrote and had an opinion one way or the other. We’re delighted that he’s dusted off his virtual pen for the first time in years to write for us here at CZ.
Hello. My name is Jester. I was once an EVE blogger but I have been clean for 674 days.
Aheh… sorry. I was done writing about EVE. I’ve been done writing about EVE for some time. I was happy to fade into some kind of obscurity, keeping my opinion mostly to myself except for the occasional comment on EVE media sites here and there. You know… just like any other EVE player! But in the final post of my erstwhile EVE blog, I stupidly mentioned that if something earth-shattering happened, I might be persuaded to write a guest piece somewhere. I even gave an example of what I would consider earth-shattering: the fall of the CFC. Yeah.
Even then, I might have avoided writing this – hell, something earth-shattering in EVE did happen last autumn, hardly anyone noticed(!), and I mostly managed to avoid putting fingers to keyboard. But then in the midst of the current war, a few people had to go and remind me of my stupid “promise”. I again would have been happy to ignore this except that it was posted on reddit and a couple hundred EVE players had to go and upvote it. This would be insignificant too except that the large majority of EVE posts on reddit gets downvoted into negative numbers almost instantly. You know how EVE players are. Something getting upvoted that much is actually fairly rare.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, something like two-thirds of the group of EVE players that I really really respect all sought me out independently in game and on Skype and on Twitter and on Slack and all of them had the same message for me: “It’s time.”
Screw you guys. Seriously. You pushy bastards.
Sigh. Very well. Don’t say you didn’t ask.
Events in World War Bee – lovely name – are proceeding along at a dizzying pace. It seems every single day, major events are taking place. The timer board is full to bursting, and yes, I’ve personally been right in the thick of it. “I was there” in the 1P-VL2 constellation fight on 28 March, and I was there again to help the UMI-KK station fall. More than this, I’ve been in the thick of the fighting since The Imperium invaded low-sec months ago. But even if I were an EVE politics expert (hint: I’m not) it would be impossible for me to write about the moments of this war. What I wrote would be out of date practically before I was done writing it.
Nuclear physicists like to talk about nuclear weapons in terms of nanoseconds. Most nuclear weapons have a “primary” explosive of compressed fissile material, the energy shock wave from which then sets off a fusion “secondary” where the real destructive action happens. In the ridiculously short time frame of nanoseconds, the movement of individual protons becomes palpable and the shock wave from the primary moves along millimeter by millimeter toward the secondary. On this scale of time, literally half the weapon can be an expanding sphere of plasma while the other half of the weapon just a few centimeters away is completely intact and untouched.
And that’s what this moment feels like: a nanosecond snapshot in time of the blast of a thermonuclear weapon. The primary has gone off, the shockwave is expanding toward the secondary and we might have a major explosion or we might what physicists call a “fizzle“.
So I’m not going to write on that scale. Others are doing their best with the day-to-day events… and after it’s all over, maybe someone will write a book about it or something. But what I have done in EVE with some success is written about the big picture, so that’s where I’m going to put my focus. It was the main uniqueness to my blog in any case. So, Jester opinion alert in two parts. Part one, today, “roughly how we got here” in the big picture. Part two, tomorrow, “how does this war affect EVE?” in the big picture.
Are you seated comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
“Shiny. Let’s be bad guys.”
So… how did we get here?
Let me start by saying that I am not “grr Goons”. If you read my blog or any of the short opinions I’ve written since, you probably correctly discerned that I have a lot of respect for Goons and what they’ve built. I have lots of old friends in LAWN (of which I was a member once) and in SMA and in AmokDOT and within Goonwaffe itself. I admire The Imperium for their discipline, for their messaging, for their organization, for their leadership, and for their accomplishments. Anyone who denies the success of Goonswarm and what they’ve built is being ridiculous.
“So Jester, if you love them so much, why don’t you go join them?” a number of you are thinking to yourselves right now.
And the answer is: because they’re bad guys! And I mean that quite literally. The Imperium are the baddies in this story. And they don’t get to complain about that characterization because Goonswarm and their allies have always cloaked themselves in the guise of being the bad guys. As the joke in the skit points out, those of us fighting them didn’t get to design their messaging or their actions.
The Imperium has their Ministry of Love – where enemies of the Orwell’s 1984 were tortured and murdered. And they have their Reavers – who in Firefly rape and murder their victims and wear their skin. Before MiniLuv there was Jihadswarm, complete with a fat bee wearing a shemagh and wielding Russian weapons and a suicide vest… do I really need to get into the symbolism of that? For virtually their entire existence, Goonswarm has advocated scamming new players, using rental and membership scams on corporations and whole alliances, and suicide ganking. The CFC and The Imperium have invaded and conquered more regions in New Eden than anyone in EVE’s history. “Never Not Shoot Blues” was invented in Goonswarm, you can buy it on a t-shirt, and has been put into effect on scales small and large. The Mittani boasted in his most recent “State of the Goonion” and in his most recent fireside chat of the destruction of whole alliances at The Imperum’s hands. And of course the leader of Goonswarm himself has his own unique bad guy moment which has become infamous in EVE lore.
The Imperium are the bad guys. They’ve voluntarily cloaked themselves in bad guy symbolism. But it goes deeper than this… and for the big picture, this next bit is very important.
If you are not in The Imperium or one of their allies, the chances are virtually 100% that your first encounter with them was negative, likely strongly so! I’ve already mentioned scamming, which all new Goonswarm members have been advised over the years to take up as an initial income source. If you live in high-sec, your first experience with Goons was probably a suicide gank, the loss of a tower or a Customs Office, or a scam. If you live in null-sec, your first experience probably involved losing sovereignty to the Goon military machine or hearing about a friend who did. If you live in low-sec, you might have thought yourself immune, until Jihadswarm swept through low-sec clearing reaction towers or more recently, The Imperium started taking money moons.
My own earliest memory of Goonswarm was hearing the tales of a friend of mine, a few months ahead of me in the EVE grind, who joined Ethereal Dawn only to be permanently rousted out of null-sec by a Redswarm Federation invasion of Etherium Reach. I headed in to watch the invasion for myself and observed the siege of ED’s home station first-hand. That was seven years ago now. Not long after, I joined a corporation that was associated with RISE, which had their own stories about Goons to tell (later immortalized in the “People of RISE!” meme). If you read that story, make special note of The Mittani of 2009 and the contempt he has for pets that aren’t allowed to own their own stations as well as the effectiveness of a tiny group of cloaky campers. The latter will become important in part two.
Put another way: virtually anyone who has a reason to like Goonswarm is already allied with them. Virtually everyone else despises them for one reason or another, most for more than one. They just weren’t in a position to do anything about it. Until now. It’s absolutely no coincidence that everyone wanting to get into the action in World War Bee is asking how their independent capsuleer or their small corporation can join the war to “kill Goons”. Hardly anyone is asking how to help them. Pandemic Horde? Up 2000 members in one month. Karmafleet? Flat.
The Mittani has been using the “we’re surrounded by enemies, being invaded by the entire rest of EVE” trope in his speeches for years, years before it actually came true. Hell, in the most recent fireside chat, he said with a straight face that even CCP is blatantly against them! From a big picture perspective, the only thing surprising about World War Bee is how long it has taken to finally happen. Why did it happen this time? Well, I am not an EVE politics expert, but I believe it came down to five Imperium mistakes, which happened so quickly, each one after the next, that they may as well have happened simultaneously.
And they all come down to startling failures of The Imperium’s diplomacy, long considered their strong suit.
1. First, the failure of the Fountain War Kickstater book, followed by Sion Kumitomo’s over-reaction to that failure (most notoriously in his “Shake It Off” piece), alienated a large portion of the politically active EVE player base, those that actually follow EVE media sites. The implication that EVE players were nearly literally “destroying the game” by not supporting the Kickstarter insulted many across a wide swath of null-sec. A particular focus of this insult was on current Fountain and Cloud Ring dwellers, who were threatened with invasion. This opened The Imperium’s western flank.
2. Next and nearly simultaneously, the announced Viceroy program greatly expanded that insult into low-sec. This announcement was punctuated by the invasion of northern low-sec by The Imperium forces. This invasion caused the first emergence of “Low-Sec Voltron”, as a half-dozen alliances across low-sec banded together against a common threat, something that never would have happened without the announcement and associated invasion. This opened their south flank.
3. Soon after, Bat Country left Goonswarm, which started a mass “brain drain” of other important or well-known members leaving The Imperium. Some departures were amicable. Others among these departing members were viciously insulted on their way out the door. The Mittani himself wrote about brain drain being an important factor in the fall of the first Northern Coalition and it has also become an important factor in World War Bee. Not only were the loss of leaders and content creators damaging to The Imperium, but these individuals fell into the arms of the remaining enemies of The Imperium and brought with them unique knowledge of Imperium weaknesses that could be exploited.
4. Not long after that, the leadership of SMA instigated a robbery of a quantity of ISK From EVE gambling site IWantISK. Whether you think the amount of ISK involved was significant or not, it created a motive and opportunity for a vengeance war against SMA and The Imperium’s center in Fade. It also created a schism both within SMA and apparently within The Imperium itself. The Mittani claims the amount of ISK lost by IWI was “insignificant”… but if that’s the case, why didn’t the vaunted Imperium diplomacy buy them off? This has been done successfully before.
5. Finally, The Imperium’s treatment of its “valued allies” in the east has been somewhat neglectful at best, shabby at worst. Circle-of-Two directly blames The Imperium’s diplomatic corps for their defection, and Sion Kumitomo’s vengeful selective airing of years of dirty laundry certainly does nothing to deny that allegation. Friends I’ve spoken to in LAWN and The Bastion also feel poorly treated, their morale is shot, and membership numbers in LAWN, Razor Alliance, and SMA are suffering badly. The Bastion is currently being reinforced with orphaned corps from these and other alliances.
The primary has exploded. The Imperium’s eastern flank is an expanding sphere of plasma as a result, advancing toward the secondary and either a thermonuclear detonation… or a fizzle. Will this war destroy The Imperium? Or will it fizzle out, doing some damage but not achieving critical mass?
Which brings part one to an end. Where are some of the places this can go? Stay tuned for part two.