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Sins of a Solar Spymaster #56 - Escape from Freedom

Posted Wed, Jan 05, 2011 by The Mittani

Alliance structure as we know it began from the primordial ooze of the first corp, the single-celled autocratic organizational lifeform, the default government of New Eden. From that exceedingly simple dictatorship a whole variety of political systems have developed over the years, sometimes mirroring those in reality - as real-world models are the only ones players can source their ideas from - but usually diverging wildly as time passes due to the unique circumstances of ‘life’ in a post-scarcity world where everyone is functionally immortal.


The first developed form of advanced EVE government is what we might call ‘Space Feudalism’, where a powerful alliance rules directly over explicitly subordinate renters or serfs and extracts both financial tribute and military service from them. Because nerds playing spaceship games are hardly known for their loving kindness, the lot of a serf is rife with humiliation; members of the ‘master’ alliance glory in reminding the serfs of their place in the pyramid, and - for a time - the serfs accept it; usually they hope to somehow impress their masters enough to be recruited to the primary alliance.  This brain drain, where the competent players native to a serf alliance are sucked up into the master alliance, has the primary impact of keeping the serf alliance both talentless and docile; any leaders who would emerge to take the serfs in a new direction are co-opted.

Most of the Drone Russian territory is run under this system; covering the Northwestern section of the galaxy; IT Alliance and their forbearers in Band of Brothers were at one point similarly proud of their ‘pet’ system. Yet, while it is quite profitable to have a legion of serfs under your whip, the lords of old have discovered a frightening truth: the feudal system is militarily helpless before more modern systems of government. In a straight up war, the serfs - humiliated and treated like bumbling incompetents - melt away to Empire, leaving their lords impotently pointing towards the front lines, orders quietly but firmly disobeyed. With their talented members stolen, serf alliances are also completely incapable of standing on their own as effective entities; they cannot be relied upon to accomplish independent objectives.

EVE Fleet

Unsurprisingly, the feudal system sows seeds of bitterness in its wake; every former serf who hasn’t become completely lost to sycophancy resents their former bondage. In a backlash against the feudal structures, some alliances began dabbling in democracy.

The Council system grew in EVE not only as an attempt to import real-world political ideals into the game, but also as a reaction against the injustices of the Feudal system. Councils (and the whole spectrum of representational government, of which there are myriad flavors) have several legs up on the Feudal system. It’s much simpler to form a Council alliance, as the government seems less threatening to member corps than an autocracy. While with a feudal alliance you typically need one strong corp to overpower the others such that the authority of the leader is not questioned, councils allow corps of roughly equal power to come together without fear of domination. Councils also tend to get along better with their allies, as they don’t view the game through the lens of entitlement.

Yet despite their ease of creation and better diplomatic skills, Council alliances have met ignominious fates in New Eden. Ultimately this is a game of military might, and centralized decision-making is key. The bickering within councils not only makes it easier to form an alliance, but easier to cascade as well. Just within the past few months we have seen a number of ‘hilarious’ Council-related idiocies, such as the Mostly Harmless high command kicking out one of their corps in a fit of pique, in the process severing the absolutely crucial EC-8PR empire bridge network, which was used by not only Mostly Harmless themselves, but the entirety of their Northern Coalition allies. Similarly, the avid democrats in Majesta Empire recently voted out their most successful leader in an opaque backroom deal between council corps; their pilots have since decided to layer on the excitement even thicker by staging a ‘peaceful protest’, staying logged into EVE but pointedly not joining alliance combat operations in order to make a political point.

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