The History of the Great Empire of EVE: An Outsider’s PerspectiveAshterothi
Author’s Note: I have never really been part of nullsec politics. I have no access to any smoke-filled rooms, and only really knew what was going on after the fact. Using the combined information I have collected from years of watching the CFC with interest, combined with the excellent presentations by Andrew Groen, I have attempted to piece together my understanding of this culture, their strengths, weaknesses, and psychology.
Many facts may be manipulated, as history is written by the winners, or in EVE’s case, often simply the loudest narrator. Either way, I hope you enjoy this trip through the history of one of the most powerful Empires in video game history.
The Imperium of today is in jeopardy. Rome is burning as the cattle are butchered where they stand. The barbaric hordes have broken through the gates and ravaged the countryside. Those that remain loyal to the Empire sit nestled in their final bastion of Saranen, already whispering of a grand day when they will “take it all back”.
But it wasn’t always this way.
The defining psychology of the community is that there is “us” and there is “them”.
To best understand Goonswarm, you must first understand Goons. The Goons, along with other organizations such as TEST, are not native to EVE Online, but rather are a form of invasive species. The Goons come from the Something Awful forums, which is a highly insular online community whose biggest defining feature is the $10 entrance fee. The defining psychology of the community is that there is “us” and there is “them”. Non-members are inferior to members, and many Goons delight in the misery of non-members, or “pubbies”.
EVE Online is not the first game to be visited by the Goons, nor will it be the last. The Goons move like locusts between online games, establishing themselves quickly and attempting to conquer the game in order to inflict the most misery for all those not part of the swarm. Almost every major competitive online game has a clutch of Goons, deconstructing the game and their enemies.
However, in EVE they found something different. They hit a wall.
Band of Brothers (BoB) was a force of order in EVE. The expounded “space honor” and found the notion of Goonswarm abhorrent. This was a time of powerful organizations embracing RP to fuel their wars, and here was a group that was new, irreverent, and against the established order. So BoB sought to crush the menace.
This is where the strength of the community comes in. Instead of breaking apart, the Goons stuck together. Retreating from the EVE community, they looked inward for an answer and outward for an ally. An opportunistic diplomat by the name of Vile Rat was present at the Siege of C-J6MT and witnessed first-hand what the dedicated Russians could do. He reached out and secured an alliance where the Goons could provide the bodies if the Russians could provide the expertise. Red Swarm was born, its title born from the name the Goons took for themselves: Goonswarm Federation (GSF).
The Russians had been hardened by conflict, and in losing their space had developed a cold bitterness that can only come from the unforgiving motherland. While they taught the GSF how to fight they also instilled in them the bitterness of the scorned. The combination of that spite, along with the Goons’ natural desire to see their enemies driven before them, forged a new form of Goon. No longer were they just mucking about and having fun. EVE Online was going to be a major rallying point for the Goons for years to come. Now it was personal.
Regardless of whether you believe The Mittani’s or Darius Johnson’s versions of events, what we do know was that BoB was dismantled largely from within by a BoB director who defected to Goonswarm’s side. The GSF and their allies capitalized on this collapse and secured victory over those who once tried to wipe them from space and memory.
For years the GSF fought, and soon a movement formed. Irreverence for the game and other players became a defining notion of EVE culture. Additionally, the GSF formed strong alliances, and eventually stabilized as not only a major cultural force, but a large, powerful mainstay of the political landscape.
Then they really got to work.
While this mentality has always been part of EVE’s nature, it had never been seen at this scale.
If there is anything true about Goons it is they are smart, capable, and willing to push any boundary and shatter any rule, to achieve victory. Casting honor aside, they mock those who wish to gripe about unfair tactics and dodge accusations of more game breaking activities as revealing the terrible strategies “for the good of the game.” While this mentality has always been part of EVE’s nature, it had never been seen at this scale. Eventually the GSF found common allies and as the Northern Coalition (the old one, comprised of alliances including Morsus Mihi, Mostly Harmless, and Razor Alliance, and not to be confused with contemporary powerhouse NCdot) began to enter its waning years, the Clusterfuck Coalition (CFC) was born.
Eventually, the CFC began leveraging everything that their home regions had to offer. They maximized profits by controlling the market for the goods they could provide, most notably through the ice interdictions and OTEC. OTEC was a cartel of alliances, built around an agreement between the CFC and Pandemic Legion, who sought to control the vast majority of the supply of Technetium in the game. While Technetium is used in almost all T2 production, the supply easily kept up with demand. However, OTEC was able to artificially control the price. This provided some things the Goons had not truly had before: boundless wealth and comfort.
Over time the CFC went from power block to superpower. This journey culminated in the battle of B-R. Up until that point everyone had mostly agreed that the CFC numbers could destroy any subcap defenses they set their mind to, but that their Supercap forces were no match for the combined efforts of N3 and PL. However, due to the slipup in B-R the CFC decided to strike and ultimately to put that assumption to the test. The victory of the CFC in B-R echoed in the psyche of New Eden. The CFC was unstoppable.
Something else had happened just a year prior, though. A new developer, and former PL member, CCP Fozzie decided to make a name for himself early by taking OTEC on directly. His solution was simple: create an alchemy reaction for Technetium that was well above the normal expected price of Tech, but far below the asking price of OTEC. In the end this had the desired effect and OTECH was dissolved.
With the military strength demonstrated at B-R, the CFC reinforced the image that they were unstoppable, and people flocked to the winners.
It became clear to the CFC that they must find different ways to secure the financing they had now become accustomed to. Prior to this the CFC, as well at other members of OTEC, mocked those who had “renter empires”, but it turned out that what was good for the goose was in fact good for the gander. Ultimately they seized Fountain from their former ally TEST, sealing an already growing animosity between the two organizations. Once the property was secured they began fattening themselves up. With the military strength demonstrated at B-R, the CFC reinforced the image that they were unstoppable, and people flocked to the winners. More and more of the CFC’s renowned organizational skills improved infrastructure and created what is likely to be the most complex and robust player organization that gaming has ever seen, or likely will see for years to come. Soon after, the new agreement with Pandemic Legion was formed protecting their renter empires, B0TLRD was born.
Eventually the question of “what next” settled in combined with a bit of hubris from years of winning and controlling both the in game politics and out of game narrative and feedback channels, such as the CSM. Finally they rolled out their answer, a rebranding of their organization under the new, more intimidating persona of “The Imperium”. This was coupled with the advancement of the media group started with the TMC. The goal was to lay the foundation of a publishing company, culminating in a lucrative book deal celebrating the defeat of TEST Alliance in Fountain.
This is the point that most people become very familiar with the story and how the dominos fall. The community mocked the project and the true weakness of the Goons started to show. The Mittani and other leaders were incapable of accepting the mistakes that were made, and proceeded to blame others and become increasingly isolated from the “community” that had turned on them.
At their core, the Goons harbor an “us vs. them” mentality everywhere they go.
Knowing what we know about the Goons and Something Awful, this makes sense. At their core, the Goons harbor an “us vs. them” mentality everywhere they go. They operate as aliens in a foreign land, only there to harass the natives that they are clearly better than. Although these decisions were likely not in the best interest of the Empire that had now grown like a soft shell around the hard core of the Goons, the operating forces within this monolithic organization was one of destruction. Soon the cognitive dissonance of the chaotic Goon and the ordered Imperium fragmented the order. Eventually accusations of “true goons”, “old guard”, and “traitors” resulted as long allies caved to the pressure of an overwhelming enemy.
However, this is not the end of the Goons’ journey.
Loss in a game, especially a game they have invested in, is not something Goons take well even on the best of days. Additionally, Goonswarm has the bitterness of the early Russians coursing in their psyche. The Mittani doesn’t see himself as losing his people, as his people are not the ones leaving. The MBC and others are sandblasting away the soft shell, but the hard core remains. Not only that, but this core has been fattening up for years, and likely has more than enough to bridge the gap until they can resecure lost ground.
The “true goons” have no reason to quit, and every reason to stay.
The Mittani is confident in the face of disaster not because he is delusional, but because he sees how pointless the effort truly is. The “true goons” have no reason to quit, and every reason to stay. They have something they haven’t had in years: a purpose, and on top of that they have a war chest the likes of which they have never had before.
No war machine runs forever, and the Goons really need the Imperium to still bring in as much as they can possibly get away with, on territory secured by the Goon rage. If all goes according to Imperial plans, the symbiotic relationship between the citizenship of the Imperials and the war machine of the Goons will be an interesting one. We have already seen arguments that leaving the head of Goons as the head of all of the Empire causes more problems than it solves. We will have to wait and see what the Imperium have in mind for their next move, but make no mistake, there will be a next move.