Sins of a Solar Spymaster #41 - Galaxy in Flames
Wretched peace has plagued New Eden for months, and if we are lucky that will soon come to an end. Spring is upon us, and with that a new crop of wars are just beginning to blossom across the galaxy. There was some mild chaos (and implosions, of course) amongst the major powers in EVE in the recent past, but since the end of the last Great War (more than a year ago) the prospect for a massive clash of the powerblocs was dim. Not for lack of trying; there was probably going to be a new Great War between IT and Goonswarm, except that Goonswarm set itself on fire and imploded before any serious war began. Whoops. So we find ourselves in April, nearly a year since the last time more than a few tens of thousands of players squared off against each other in a grudge match. Let's examine the hotspots and see what may come of them.
The Demise of CVA
Space Junkie's recent article on the early stages of the CVA/-A- conflict is an extremely cogent analysis which I won't attempt to out-do. Since its publication, Atlas and -A- have hit the pause button on their offensive. Providence has ~50 stations, the process of taking all that space is a tremendous amount of effort. However, the initial core of CVA resistance has been broken. Perhaps unsurprisingly for those who watched the first Great War closely, Paxton Federation (A micro-alliance which somehow held off the combined might of the BoB bloc in one system in Providence for weeks in GW I) has offered some of the toughest resistance to the invaders.
My take on the situation is that CVA illustrates a pair of critical flaws in a post-Dominion alliance. First, with a completely obscene amount of stations and jump bridges, the coming of Dominion not only made CVA's space attractive for the first time (being a trash region pre-patch, and upgradable post-patch) but the new infrastructure costs of holding all those stations, keeping them jammed, and maintaining a bridge network scald the conscience. In this, they were even worse in adapting than Goonswarm, who had a similarly bloated infrastructure network in Delve/Querious. Also, remember that for CVA, as a roleplaying alliance, having their space suddenly becoming more valuable is a bad thing, because it made them a worthwhile target for the first time in their history. Pre-Dominion, CVA was not unlike the Pyrenees in Europe: easily defensible while simultaneously not worth invading. Stripped of all the excess sovereignty upgrades, Providence looks mighty fine for a few small alliances backed up by a Great Power.
Closer to my heart, CVA has always been obsessed with a form of e-honor which I find particularly nauseating. They refuse to engage in any kind of espionage, or the more ruthless sorts of diplomatic negotiations which allows a nullsec alliance to survive. For many years they have been able to get away with this, simply by virtue of how irrelevant their space was; however, they did not see that correlation. Judging by the statements of CVA's leader at a recent EVE-meet, their leadership seemed to believe that their 'success' of not having territory worth invading pre-Dominion was proof of the superiority of their honorable, anti-metagame stance. It's been rather endearing to see these 'noble roleplayers' violently disabused of the notion that espionage in EVE is irrelevant.
Implosions Continue: the SOLODRAKBANSOLODRAKBANSO [LODRA] Saga
And you thought that merely forgetting to pay their sov bills, abandoning the most valuable region in the game, and then having their CEO steal all their isk and disband their alliance was enough drama for goons. You thought wrong!
Nothing is quite as sexy as civil war. Darius JOHNSON, CEO of Goonwaffe, crankily demanded that ElitistOps, the independent Black Ops/Recon subgroup of SOLODRAKBANSOLODRAKBANSO [LODRA], formally join the alliance. Not appreciating his tone, ElitistOps refused and split in two, with some pilots joining Goonwaffe and some going rogue and hunting their former goon brothers. Drama reached a fever pitch when ElitistOps made contact with Karttoon, the previous CEO of Goonfleet who had disbanded the Goonswarm alliance; Karttoon, who controls the 'Band of Brothers' alliance, added ElitistOps into BoB.
Not content to simply have a splinter with extra helpings of irony, several member corporations in SOLODRAKBANSOLODRAKBANSO [LODRA] seized upon the ElitistOps drama as an opportunity to form their own alliance, 'Here There Be Dragons'. They planned in secret to arrange the schism, but had their plans foiled when they quietly informed Goonwaffe member Bu Jinkan, the most dangerous troll on goonfleet.com, of their intentions. Bu, being Bu, immediately took their secret plans and splattered them loudly across various EVE-related forums, all the while denouncing the idea as doomed to fail. This caused the most important of the schismatic corporations (Merch Industrial, the Penny Arcade corp) to reconcile with the SOLODRAKBANSOLODRAKBANSO [LODRA] leadership, cutting the legs out from under the rebellion before it began.
There's a ton of other hilarious drama going on with this, and it may or may not reach the pitch of a war between the loyal goons and the schismatics. Either way, this alliance of 3000+ people is lurching about like a drunk on a highway in a stolen Ferrari; at one point last week we were about to move 8 regions away and attack -A- while basing out of Curse, then two days later our course was changed again. All the while, the infighting intensifies. Good times.
MAX DAMAGE 2.0
The big news is that the most poorly concealed secret in nullsec is finally out! Sir Molle, leader of IT Alliance, has announced that (gasp) IT and -A- will be invading the Northern Coalition in hopes of breaking that most venerable of powerblocs up. In the process, IT will be setting blue the entirety of the rest of EVE, no doubt complaining about 'blobs' all the while. I wish I was exaggerating about this, but if this war goes as planned, every major powerbloc in the game which isn't blue to the Northern Coalition will be actively attacking it in different sections of its space simultaneously.
On the one hand, this is great news - if it goes as advertised, we're back in the land of the Great Wars, where 30k+ players face off against each other on each side. On the other hand, if you listen to the recording, the 'plan' sounds suspiciously similar to the failed Band of Brothers 'Max Damage' campaign, the last time they attempted to invade the NC. Just like in Max Damage, the plan involves 'not taking stations' and 'not focusing on moons or conquest' but 'doing damage'... and if that requires taking stations and moons, so be it. In short, it's a contradictory muddle. Which, while that might not be so effective on the battlefield, will result in some amusing chaos when things begin to go awry.
Speaking of awry, the biggest worry about the outbreak of a new Great War is the lag. Since Dominion we've been sent back to the dark ages of Apocrypha-era lag, where fleet battles of even 300 people bring the servers to a crashing halt. In the midst of the drunken haze of the GDC a few weeks ago, I ran across the CCP developer in charge of 'Core Technology' - for some reason he cringed when I proceeded to repeatedly and loudly refer to him as the 'Lag Dev'. Regardless, he reassured me that he has entire teams of people working on the lag issue, that CCP is well aware of it, etc etc. We haven't had anything close to a Great War level of player conflict since Dominion was released, so this is going to be a real test for the Lag Dev and his intrepid team of code monkeys. Wish them luck!