The Battle For Providence In EVE Online
The Curatores Veritatis Alliance is the most successful roleplaying-focused organization in EVE Online.
The Curatores Veritatis Alliance is the most successful roleplaying-focused organization in EVE Online. During the past month, this storied alliance has become involved in a conflict with the Against All Authorities alliance, a well-established null-sec alliance that is also the leader of the powerful Southern Coalition. This has resulted in a steady series of defeats and a major loss of military/political power for CVA, which now seems destined for destruction.
This article explores the significance and details of this fracas, and the unique role that CVA has played in the political history of EVE Online. It also explains ways to monitor and explore the situation from a third party perspective, as events continue to develop.
This article is an experimental foray into describing an ongoing political development in EVE Online. Please let me know what you think about this article and this kind of content, on the Ten Ton Hammer forums. Note that I have no investments or ties with any of the alliances involved, and have made every attempt to be factually accurate. Please accept my apologies in advance for any errors or unflattering portrayals.
The Curatores Veritatis Alliance
Originally a pro-Amarr, anti-pirate alliance based in high-security Amarr space, CVA consolidated their control of the null-sec region of Providence in 2007, where it has since remained entrenched. Aside from its longevity, the alliance is noteworthy for being composed largely of roleplayers (not the best PvPers in many players' minds) and for its "not red don't shoot" policy, in which neutral ships are not automatically assumed to be hostile, and are given full access to CVA's stations and space.
Though other large alliances have tried to maintain a "NRDS" policy over the years, each has eventually failed or been destroyed, in favor of alliances that aggresively defend their territory against all trespassers. CVA is the sole remaining holdout. They maintain an open region, attracting those that wish to use their territory, as well as a sizable pirate presence. Indeed, Providence is regarded as something of a hunting sanctuary for dedicated PvPers because of its high population.
This open-door policy, coupled with Providence's lack inherent value as conquerable space during much of its history (see below), has created a uniquely stable socio-political bubble. A bubble that will shortly pop.
The Current Conflict
The current conflict between CVA and -A- may be traced to four key events:
1) CCP has incentivized control of stations and territory in the Dominion patch. Before this patch, Providence was a wasteland of shoddy moons, and asteroid belts full of lousy ore and lousier NPCs. Since Dominion, Providence station systems can be improved with infrastructure hubs, and are potential cash cows if rented out.
2) The CVA bloc of alliances have outgrown Providence. Prior to the current conflict, Providence was the most densely inhabited region of conquerable space. They were stuffed to the gills, with fifty out of eighty-three systems containing a player built station. This great population burdened the CVA leadership with a false sense of confidence, which they have since come to regret.
3) When -A- became enmeshed in a protracted with the now-defunct Goonswarm alliance, in Querious, CVA's leaders saw an opportunity to invade northern Catch, especially the strategically critical HED-GP system. Though the CVA bloc would never, in my opinion, work with the Goonswarm alliance, they thought they would be able to attack an already beleaguered foe. Unfortunately for CVA, Goonswarm went the way of the dodo, and CVA is faced with -A-'s full attention.
4) Finally, the -A- alliance has a strategic need to pacify their neighbors so that they can go on road trips to attack other alliances. If they want to be involved in the incipient "South Versus North" conflict that seems to be brewing, they need to remove the expansionist CVA bloc and install client alliances, as a buffer.
In the past, Providence lacked inherent value in the eyes of most null-sec players. This is because it had none of the features that attract powerful alliances seeking to line their pockets. The NPCs were bad, consisting mostly of low-bounty cruisers. The asteroid belts had terrible ore that was probably worse than the rocks found in high-security space. The moons found there contained none of the rare, valuable minerals that alliances fought bitter wars over. Its proximity to high-security and low-security space, as well as the pirate-infested region of Curse, make it an often dangerous region to travel through. In short, it stunk, and nobody in their right mind would try to take it over.
Because of these deficiencies, Providence has usually been ignored by alliances looking to accumulate new territory. Some half-hearted attempts have been made over the years by alliances with nothing better to do, but the incentive has never been compelling enough for a serious spaceholding alliance to make a play at invading. Not to mention, that would deprive null-security space of one of the best places to find small-scale PvP action.
CVA's Profit Model
CVA has made the best of a bad region by relying on its unique strengths: having an open corporate culture with free access to their region, and being very, very close to high-security space.
Having an open region allowed CVA to collect docking fees, office rental fees, lab and manufacturing slot fees, and so forth. It also allowed them to take a portion of any minerals refined in their stations, which could then be resold or used for revenue-generating projects. Some of the corporations living with them may have paid some kind of fee for the protection they were afforded, as well, though this is speculation. All these little figures add up, eventually.
Secondly, proximity to high-sec made assembling the minerals and trade goods necessary for building supercapital ships very easy. These two ship classes cannot be built in stations, but rather are constructed at POS, meaning they are theoretically vulnerable to attack. This means that only stable, well-defended regions could construct them, making their already expensive sale value even higher. Until Dominion, the sovereignty game mechanics made "constellation capitals" nigh-invulnerable to tampering, meaning that partially built titans and motherships (now called supercarriers) were perfectly safe during construction, so long as the space is not being invaded. And why would anybody invade such a terrible region? Blowing up baby titans might be entertaining, but not entertaining enough for a major alliance to spend weeks dismantling sovereignty, for no payout, since blowing up the POS module used to assemble them does not actually drop anything valuable. Since nobody in their right might would invade Providence, CVA and friends could make and sell the ship hulls in perfect safety.
The Dominion patch changed all that. POS modules in capital systems are no longer invulnerable, and building supercapitals has become very risky. Particularly so in Providence, which is easily surveyed by neutrals, and easily accessed from adjoining regions.
Why Invade Providence, Now?
Dominion has made owning stations in a stable area of space very lucrative, if you can find renters willing to pay for the privilege of living there. Renting out station systems to corporations has become one of the major revenue sources for alliances. As time goes on, it seems likely that alliances living outside of the Technetium-containing northern regions will become more and more dependent on rent for paying their bills.
There are fifty stations in Providence, making it the most settled player-controlled region of space in EVE Online. Every one of those is a potential income source that exceeds the value of most moons found in the southern portions of EVE, when it is rented out to a corporation looking to buy a home in null-sec space. Corporations are suddenly more interested in moving to null-sec space because the development indexes introduced in Dominion allow a system to be improved, making the anomaly encounters in that system more or less equivalent to the most valuable areas of null-sec space. Providence is no longer such a bad invasion prospect, after all.
The Writing On The Wall
In the minds of many onlookers (including myself), the question of the military outcome in Providence has been completely resolved. Nine station systems out of Providence's fifty are controlled by -A- and -A-'s strategic partners. CVA has also lost something in the vicinity of 250 members, and their strategic ally, Libertas Fidelitas is down 800 members and 8 corporations.
CVA have not enticed any other null-sec political entities to intervene on their behalf, and are unlikely to do so because of their historically poor relations with surrounding entities.
Leaks from what I assume to be their alliance forums indicate that their war strategy hinges on -A- losing interest because of a lack of resistance, and eventually turning on each other. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, boring opponents rather than fighting them can be sound strategy. This is generally useful in protracted wars that are near-deadlocked, or when one's opponents are distracted by attacks on another front. -A- and its partners have no compelling distractions, and though there has been some infighting between -A- aligned alliances in Esoteria (a backwater region with decent moons), there are no signs that the most significant parties involved in the Providence offensive will turn on each other.
CVA's leadership has been presented with several peace offers from -A-, which were declined for roleplaying reasons, and because the CVA leaders could not tolerate being subordinate to -A-. With diplomatic resolution looking increasingly unlikely, the fate of Providence is sealed.
The cause of CVA's troubles are complex, and so liable to contention by Providence-dwelling readers that I almost did not include this section. I think there are some valuable lessons to take away from all of this, though.
Consider the words of Makaly Zarya, CEO of the relatively unimportant Smegnet Incorporated, a corporation that recently fled Providence:
"Which brings me to the point that I have made a number of times on the [fleet commander] forums and was bashed and ignored, no military decisions should be made based on [roleplaying]. To your average pilot in [Providence] it is not about Amarr or god, it's about winning, and when they can't win they will go somewhere where they can win. And now we can't win, we woke up a sleeping bear who is not going to stop and not going to get bored until the job is done."
While not the most significant person in CVA's camp, this (along with the accompanying naive replies) is pretty telling with regard to why defending Providence with an army of roleplayers has proven to be an uphill battle. Because of its history of not being seriously threatened, it has leaders making decisions that affect the survival of their alliance based on ephemeral roleplaying concerns. It also means that instead of a coalition of hard-boiled space PvPers, Providence is being defended by pilots that are largely unprepared for the lag, node crashes, late nights, and other tropes of fighting over sovereignty in null-sec space.
Additionally, CVA has always had an absolute stance against metagaming, including the use of spies or non-roleplaying alliances. This is an enormous albatross around the Providence bloc's neck. They are probably the only significant space-holding alliance to oppose spying on moral grounds. According to one of their diplomats, any pilot that uses spying or metagaming will be ejected from their alliance. The use of "honorable" tactics used to be all the rage back in 2007 when CVA was first formed, but was selected against, in a Darwinian sense.
If Providence had remained worthless, and CVA's leaders had not desired more territory, I think CVA could have lived there indefinitely. No major alliances would have the motivation to invade, and most PvPers probably like that there's a region full of roleplayers and "NRDS" proponents nearby, to gank in. It's a bitter pill to swallow, but CVA is a dinosaur that has not adapted well to the changes that have taken place in EVE Online over the past few years.
The Greater Significance Of This Conflict
The nigh-utopian Providence culture that has persisted for years has afforded a warm home to roleplayers and players that might otherwise prefer to live in high-security space. It was arguably the most newbie-friendly region of null-security space in EVE. If rumors are to be believed, more than a few CCP staff members can be found among either CVA or its' roleplaying rival, Ushra'Khan. Thus, the political dynamic of Providence and the CVA corporate model may have both been disproportionately influential to the way players and perhaps developers understand EVE Online. The experience of playing in Providence is so totally unlike the rest of null-sec, that I can't help but speculate that it has sort of been pulling blinders around the edges of some eyes at CCP headquarters.
Let it not be said that CVA was a failed experiment. It did something that no other alliance in EVE managed to do, despite some serious handicaps. It managed to thrive and profit in a useless region, surrounded by unstoppable megalliances, without compromising its roleplaying character, open-access ideals, or paying tribute to protectors. They got space rich off letting strangers wander around their space. I'm curious what an alliance with more effective leadership, a willingness to utilize the metagame, and no roleplaying crutch could do with the NRDS model. Will the next inhabitants of Providence have the same policy? Despite noise to the contrary, I very much doubt it. Is NRDS dead for good? We'll see.
- As the situation develops, the most important site to watch is Dotlan's 'changes' page for Providence, which lists stations and solar systems changing hands over time.
- Verite's visually pleasing influence map may be of interested to readers that are less familiar with the alliances involved in this conflict.
- The Scrapheap Challenge thread about with Providence politics contains battle reports and noteworthy changes, though it has been quiet for a few days.
- The ever-quarrelsome Kugutusmen forums contain a surprising amount of insight into this conflict, though interspersed with a great deal of trolling (as usual).
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