Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Infinite Reach

"Always with the writing," she said with, I thought, a slight strain in her voice.

"Always with the writing," I affirmed quietly.

    - Interlude Terminales

As I commented in my last post, and in response to a few of the emails I've received since, the writing goes on.

I've been working on a new website. That should be ready for prime time in a month or so and, until then, I've set up temporary digs at a new blog site, The Infinite ReachThe Reach is dedicated to  scribblings about Fantasy and Science Fiction and will include commentary, essays, reviews, reports from the odd convention field trip and the occasional story.  I would be pleased and honored if those of you who've enjoyed your time at The Edge would stop by now and again for high tea and a wall of text.

The Edge has been a little blog.  The new website will be a bit more ambitious - certainly not something one writer can accomplish on his own.  Knowing you for the talented and insightful readership you are, please feel free to contact me if you develop the writer's itch and wish to propose or submit an essay, interview or review for the new site.  I can be reached at my usual mordfiddle gmail address or via my Mord_Fiddle handle on Twitter.

As to the Fiddler's Edge site, some of you have asked that I keep the dormant archive active as a player lore artifact.  I'm disinclined to do so for a number of reasons.  However, I'll leave it up for a few additional weeks while I have a think on the best way to sunset the site.  

Thanks once again for your thoughts, good wishes and parting shots.  Post-hoc rationalization is not uncommon when someone we know leaves the EVE Online community.  So let me leave you with a few assurances: 

My departure from EVE Online is for the reasons I outlined in That'll Do; no more and no less.  I have thought very carefully about the decision and have simply decided that EVE Online is no longer a game I can support financially or through my writing. 

Anyone who says otherwise is itchin' fer a fight.

My reasons for leaving have been off-putting to a few members of the EVE community.  Some have, for reasons of their own, attempted to dismiss my departure as rage-quit or burn-out.  The former is mere projection.  As to the latter, mine has been a very eventful life this last year and, to the degree I have had the quiet time needed in order to write, Fiddler's Edge has been a welcome refuge from my daily cares and no burden at all.

Monday, April 21, 2014

That'll Do

As Ripard Teg wrote in a recent blog post, CCP has undertaken to break the back of industry in EVE's highsec and lowsec space in order to make nullsec the center of gravity for most of EVE's industry. To the degree the current changes do not achieve that end, we may expect follow-on changes to further make industry anywhere but in sov nullsec non-viable. In effect the message for the casual player is 'go null or go home'.

This will make sov nullsec far more rich than it already is.  As entry to nullsec is controlled by a small subset of the player base, they will control who is allowed to immigrate to their industrial nirvana. And they will be able to eject any industrial players or entities that do not play according to such rules as the lords of nullsec lay down.

To the extent that lowsec is able to compete with sov nullsec, the latter has demonstrated both the willingness and the the ability to reach out using overwhelming capital and supercapital superiority and burn their lowsec competition to the ground.  Burn Jita, ice interdictions and the routine ganking of freighters at transit choke-points has already shown the lords of nullsec's intentions viz highsec.  Player control of POCOs and the removal of standings as a requirement for highsec POS has enhanced sov nullsec's ability to harrass any highsec industrial competition.

There are some players who have said that this will result in a healthier EVE; that the richer sov nullsec is, the more attractive it will be to pirates seeking to pillage and burn.  This is nonsense.  Nothing that is of value in Sov nullsec will be unprotected. The lords of nullsec are already wealthy and making them moreso will not make them more vulnerable.

Quite the contrary.

Though I spend most of my time in NPC nullsec, I believe diversity of play is financially beneficial to EVE Online. It results in a larger audience for a decidedly niche game and is vital to EVE's in-game economy.  I believe the casual player who prefers the sort of play available in lowsec or highsec to the high opera of nullsec are of value to the EVE community.  Indeed, it is that very diversity of play that makes us interesting as a community.

Now, the contempt with which the 'elite' sov nullsec players regard the rest of New Eden has become CCP's official policy.

For myself, I cannot continue to support a game in which my monthly subscription dollars are used to benefit a small subset of the EVE player base, both financially and in terms of quality of play,  to the detriment of all others.  I have no illusions that my departure from EVE Online will change minds or alter the present course of the game. Mine is, after all, a little blog; a tiny niche within the niche game that is EVE Online, with admittedly little resonance within the larger EVE community.  

I will leave The Edge up for a while longer to allow those of you with an interest to browse a bit before closing the site down. 

As I wrote earlier this year, I have found those of you who are regulars at Fiddler's Edge to be a satisfying audience to write for.  You have not only put up with my particularly esoteric and particular prose style, but seemed to enjoy it as well.  You have not been off-put by the esoteric, and have had the patience to follow what might at first glance seem impenetrable, trusting it would lead you somewhere worthwhile.  I have found you a worthwhile audience to cultivate, and you have repaid my poor efforts many times over with your encouragement and reader loyalty.

Godspeed, you capsuleers.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


"Any industry feature must be balanced around our risk versus reward philosophy."
      - CCP Ytterbium
For those of you who missed it, the value of nullsec real estate went up the other day

As more comes out about the changes I'll weigh in.  However, at first blush this strikes me as a high-risk strategy that rests on some very wobbly assumptions with regard to what the industrial actors in the EVE economy will do. I would very much like to hear what Dr. Eyjog's opinion of the changes were, assuming he was closely consulted.  He expressed misgivings with such a direction during the CSM7 summits and seems notably quiet on the matter during the CSM8 summits.  But then, more immediate concerns than the health of the in game economy may be driving design at the moment.

As Drackam over at Sand, Cider and Spaceships writes, this beneficence occurs on the heels of CCP's 20 million dollar write-down, and the collapse of their World of Darkness development project.  Meanwhile Dust 514 continues to perform poorly in the market, it's player base languishing under the 4,000 mark.

These dismal tidings are made all the more ominous with the departure of  Jon Lander, CCP Unifex,   who Ripard Teg credits with saving EVE Online after the Summer of Rage. CCP Unifex's departure is only the latest in an exodus of talent that has seen some of CCP's best and brightest seek greener pastures elsewhere.  Indeed, Poetic Stanzial commented yesterday on Twitter that all of the good CCP employees are jumping into life boats, and that none with any vision remained.

But perhaps visionary designers are, at the moment, superfluous to the situation on the ground.

With all of CCP's eggs now in the EVE Online basket, CCP seems suddenly and profoundly dependent the upon the good graces of sovereign nullsec.  Sov nullsec is, after all, home to many of EVE Online's 'elite' and high-profile players, and nullsec is the part of EVE Online that receives the most publicity from both the gaming and mainstream media.  With this in mind, CCP's sudden willingness to risk their game by handing the keys of the in-game economy to the sov nullsec player-base is not surprising.

Highsec and lowsec may pay the bills, but they rarely make press.

And I suppose, if there is an advantage to be had in any aspect of EVE Online, sov nullsec should have it. CCP's design philosophy says that a player's reward opportunities should be closely tied to the risk they face.  And as every capsuleer knows, life in sov nullsec is, without exception, one long unending roller coaster ride of heart-stopping peril and certain doom. Those who survive there are the steely-eyed masters of New Eden, the two-fisted heroes of EVE who eat lightning, shit thunder and before whom the very gates of Jovian space tremble.  Who among us would gainsay these digital demi-gods an absolute advantage in all things industrial?

Lowsec? Please! Doing industry in lowsec is for risk-averse pussies. 

With CCP's business model weathering recent set-backs and their design team apparently betting the farm on CSM Mynnna's nullsec-centric vision of EVE Online as their last best hope, one should not be surprised that CCP's visionary employees are seeking employment elsewhere. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Icarus Agenda

"You have no power or desire to lay New Eden low," unbending Hilmar called after him.  "And even didst thou, it is the stage 'pon which your own reputation struts.  Turn off New Eden's lights and you likewise stand in darkness.  Where, Mittani, would you go, New Eden having fallen?"

        Fiddlers Edge - Fever Dream

Every now and then I'm asked why I so dislike Goonswarm, Clusterfuck Coalition's (CFC's) dominant alliance.  The answer, as I've pointed out elsewhere, is that I bear them no particular ill-will.  Indeed, on any number of occasions I've allowed that I have a peculiar fondness for Goonswarm's rascally player base (by which I mean it's core, paleo-Goon membership) and that The Mittani® is much as I'd be if I let my darker self run off leash. 

In fact, regular readers of The Edge readers will recall that I had long foretold the sort of hegemony currently enjoyed by the CFC.

As long ago as August of 2010 I predicted that the Dominion sovereignty changes coupled with the then-nascent supercapital economy would result in the eclipse of nullsec's 'pure' PVP alliances by economic powers; merchant princes of nullsec who would leverage huge cash inflows in order to dominate nullsec's warrior class.

I've touched back on that theme over time as changes in game mechanics and the fortunes of war warranted.  For those of you jonesing for a Wall O' Text overdose, the full set of 'Carebear' posts can be found here: 

Rise of the Carebears
Rise of the Carebears (Part Deux)
Carebears Ascendent
Carebears Unbowed
Carebears Triumphant
Carebear Empires

The ascent of CFC has proven my 'Rise of the Carebears' hypothesis and disproved the 'Carebear Rot' hypothesis, supported by many detractors at the time I published the original 'Rise' posts.  In a very real way, Goonswarm's success has been my success; they have validated a number of key theories of mine with regard to the impact of EVE game mechanics on New Eden's political economy.

At this point, some of you might be scratching your heads and wondering why, if Goonswarm has demonstrated my bona fides as the Hari Seldon of New Eden, our relationship isn't much cozier. How can I claim a degree of commonality with The Mittani®, yet periodically thwap the suits on Goonswarm's leadership team with the rhetorical rolled-up newspaper? As a long time champion of economic complexity in nullsec, why aren't I a Goonswarm apologist?  In short, why aren't I on their side?

Well, that would be because I'm on EVE Online's side. 

At the end of the day the rise of economic power in nullsec was inevitable. The ossifying influence of Supercapital proliferation and consolidation on New Eden has been called out for years by a broad cross-section of the EVE blogosphere. Put the two together and the current state of affairs in nullsec was a foregone conclusion.  Although we told CCP in no uncertain terms what their designers should have seen coming, CCP couldn't be bothered to listen. They, after all, were the 'experts'. Cue a cascade of quite foreseeable macro-level outcomes to which CCP's design team apparently was willfully blind.

Now, it would be easy to get all mad at Goonswarm's leadership for acquiring a choke hold on EVE Online. However, it's important to bear in mind that they are playing the game CCP provides and can do no more than CCP allows.  While it's true The Mittani® and Goonswarm's leadership have a financial interest in maximizing their in-game notoriety and their influence within CCP and EVE Online, their gaming of the game is not new.  It is merely more efficient.  And while one might quibble over whether the advantage a well-managed semi-professional player enterprise has over a recreational player enterprise is 'fair', the presence of the former in EVE Online is not new either.

Eventually, someone with a sufficient insight, business acumen and time on their collective hands was going to take advantage of CCP's blinkered design approach.  If it wasn't Goonswarm sucking all the oxygen out of New Eden it would be somebody else.  Heck, it was almost the Drone Russian Federation (DRF). Recall it was Krutoj the Destroyer who famously coined the phrase 'ISK wins wars'.  They ran the nullsec table back in the Fall of 2011,  and looked to be settling in for a long turn as the big bad of EVE.

However the DRF had several things working against them. First of all, they didn't have an organization structured to cohere in the absence of a common enemy. Secondly, for the DRF, the in-game utility of ISK was limited to fighting wars. Military, not economic hegemony was their game, and ISK and production inflows were a means to that end. Finally, their ambitions ended at the borders of sovereign nullsec.  Once nullsec was won the DRF was rather at loose ends. Boredom set in, old grudges surfaced, and in the absence of external enemies they began to war among themselves. The  DRF's fall from the Technetium throne followed soon thereafter.

CFC is a different breed of organizational cat.

Goonswarm's leadership has structured the CFC as a hierarchy of alliances rather than a confederation of nominal equals. Federations of equals sound good on paper, but are very ineffective when it comes to collective action. As the alliance atop the CFC hierarchy, Goonswarm's leadership team consults with coalition alliances but wields the decision hammer with a firm hand.  For most CFC alliances this is a good thing as, thus far, it returns positive results. Even alliances at the bottom of the CFC reward hierarchy are averse to risking their protected space and income in nullsec's new order against an uncertain future elsewhere.

In order to avoid the sort of internal frictions that consumed the DRF in the absence of external enemies, aggressive tendencies in the CFC must be directed outwards.  With a lock on the supercapital high ground and their movement toward massed capital ship fleets, boredom is Goonswarm's sole clear and present existential threat. And the only preventative for that is new enemies and new conquests. If those cannot be credibly manufactured in sovereign nullsec, then they will have to be found in other parts of New Eden.

Goonswarm's leadership plays a broad-spectrum game of EVE Online. Their approach to the game is an intersection of war, markets, media, industry, intrigue and metagame.  In this sense they access a much larger set of in-game and out-of-game levers as they interact with the game than do their opponents.  And, unlike their opponents in the sovereignty game, Goonswarm's ambitions, both in terms of influence and income, do not end at the borders of sovereign nullsec.

Finally, it's critical to recall that Goonswarm's leadership in its present incarnation delights in playing EVE Online's players more than they do in playing EVE Online. Machiavellian metagame, not digital capture the flag, is their entertainment of choice.  For the Mittani® and his advisers, winning nullsec in and of itself is not winning EVE, though it is an important prerequisite to so doing.  In this extended game paradigm, hegemony in nullsec is merely one stage in a larger game that encompasses the whole of New Eden.  Victory is achieved to the degree that fun in EVE Online is a commodity Goonswarm's leadership can dispense or withhold at their will.

This is not a bad thing. Really.

As I mentioned above, Goonswarm has embraced industrial and economic activities as components of a larger strategy, forcing other in-game entities to think and play in those terms as well.  That makes EVE a more nuanced and interesting game as long as alternate play styles are viable and rewarding.  Further, from a narrative standpoint, the larger Goonswarm story arc with it's transition from Goons as plucky upstarts taking on the Big Bad BoB (Band of Brothers), to Goons as EVE Online's version of Firefly's Alliance, Star Wars' Empire or Game of Thrones' House Lannister is nothing if not compelling.  In a game that depends on player interaction to drive content, the value of a good, neigh-invincible villain cannot be overstated.

However (and you knew there would be a however) I believe certain of The Mittani® and company's out-of-game activities to this end go profoundly against the interests of the larger EVE player community. Thus, bide a moment while I roll up a copy of this morning's Post

In order to realize their in game agenda, The Mittani® and company are pressing for changes to a number of foundational game mechanics.  While pitched primarily as attempts to 'fix' the self-inflicted paralysis in nullsec, the desired effect is quite the opposite.  The primary immediate beneficiaries of the desired changes are The Mittani® and company.  They are intended to make holding sov nullsec even more profitable than it already is, and allow nullsec's dominant entities to further lock in their control of that space.  Further, the proposed changes allow the lords of nullsec to gain a stranglehold on New Eden's means of production and key inputs thereto.

The good news is that, should CCP implement the desired changes, any benefits that accrue to the lords of nullsec are likely to be short lived.  The bad news is that this would be because, at least as described, the desired changes would very likely bring about the wholesale collapse of New Eden.

Now before you set your collective hair on fire and start resorting to reductio ad tinfoilhattium, consider these questions: Would EVE Online re-engineered to be an MMORPG of, by and for Goonswarm be commercially viable?  What would be the consequences if the EVE economy went into a tailspin so profound that CCP could not prevent its effective collapse? 

To put it in classic science fiction terms: The Mittani® and company are meddling with powers they do not understand.  I appreciate they think they do; hubris is part of most tales that end in tragedy. And if they were taking upon themselves the attendant risk, I'd say 'godspeed', take out an insurance policy on them, and let them have their Icarus moment.

In this case, however, every resident of New Eden has some skin in the unintended macro-level outcomes looming in the digital wings. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Blog Banter #54 - Heros

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 54th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are visit the Blog Banter page.
* * * * *
Today's topic comes from Diaries of a Space Noob blog and other sources:

"Quick post. I was listening to a song and a question occurred to me.  Where are the EVE heroes? Against a dark background surely all we have are anti-heroes? A lot of mockery is aimed at any who attempt to be white knights. EVE is a dark place and yet pretty much all other MMO's try to place the player in the role of some form of hero, boosting the ego and taking the player out of the humdrum 1 in 7 billion that is RL. Why have I fitted into EVE? Did I never want to be that?  So Iguess my question is:

"Do classic heroes exist in EVE? Is such heroism even possible in EVE? How would you go about being one without opening yourself wide open to scams? Is the nature of the game so dark that heroes can't exist? How do you deal with that irony? What effect does this have on us and the psyche of new players coming in from other MMOs? Is it something special that we don't have classic heroes, or should we? Are our non classic heroes more genuine?"

First things first:

Virtue, goodness, codes of honor and the other generally accepted cultural markers of morality are not prerequisites to being a hero. Paragons of virtue can be heroes, but they do not define heroism. Acts of heroism as not necessarily virtuous acts. The relative morality of a person has very little to do with whether or not he or she is a hero.

  • Achilles allowed his fellow Achaeans to be routed and his best friend slaughtered because he was having a fit of pique over being denied a female prisoner he wished to enslave and rape. 
  • Thomas More burned 'heretics' while dreaming of Utopia
  • Galahad was a suicide. His father, Lancelot, was an adulterer and a traitor to his king.
  • Charlemagne, light of the early Middle Ages, ordered the slaughter of 4,500 unarmed Saxons, and enacted laws sentencing to death Germanic non-Christians who refused to convert
  • Lil Orphan Annie was watched over by two deadly Au Pairs; the assassins Punjab and Asp.  Plucky optimism is an easier world view to cultivate when a couple of morally unconstrained killing machines have one's back.  
  • Deception was wily Odysseus' stock in trade, and he shared Calypso's bed for years before finally returning to Ithaca after two decades of war, piracy and nymph-shagging. There he murdered from ambush the suitors gathered to court Penelope, his presumed widow
Forget about the distinction between anti-heroes and heroes. Anti-heroes are heroes. Period.  The only reason the term 'anti-hero' exists at all is that the various boards of censors during the twentieth century such as the MPPC, the CPTB and the CCA had so undermined and bound the core concept of heroism to a narrow moral code that such characters' utility as a compelling narrative force was severely compromised. An entirely new word was needed to reintroduce the morally ambiguous heroic figure back into popular culture.

So, jettison any lingering notions of 'Lawful Good' and the rest of the Dungeons & Dragons moral spectrum from your thinking. Get the trademarked Disney heroes out of your head. Prince Charming never got half the ass-kicking he deserved.

Traditionally, a hero is a protector or defender whose deeds are 'larger than life',  i.e., far beyond what we would reasonably expect of ourselves or others given a similar situation.  The hero usually battles against what would seem to be impossible odds and somehow manages, through strength, skill, sacrifice or sheer stubbornness, to beat them.  A hero may be a cultural archetype, but it is often a hero's distance from the archetype that makes his or her story compelling.

Finally, never forget that one group's hero is another group's villain. And yes, that means heroism is subject to moral relativism. Ajax and Achilles were heroes to the Achaeans, but little more than the worst of a grubby mob of thieves and murderers to the Trojans.  Crazy Horse was a hero to the Sioux, but somewhat less popular among the troopers of the US 7th Cavalry regiment. And I'm sure there are Imperial Storm Troopers who collect Sith Lord trading cards, hang Darth Vader posters in their barracks and have exceedingly unpleasant things to say about intergalactic terrorists like Luke, Obi-Wan and Yoda.

A number of writers in answering this blog banter have stated that there are no heroes in EVE.  EVE Online, they reason, is far too cynical and jaded for heroes.  

Piffle, say I.

The hero's natural place is among the jaded and the cynical. It is fallow ground for heroes precisely because it is when we need them most, and when they arrive most unlooked for and unrecognized.

My own list of EVE heroes is a long one that goes back to my earliest years in game. Some would surprise you. Many of them, as is true of most real-life heroes, are largely unknown to all but a handful of the EVE population.  They are and have been leaders, warriors, thieves, tricksters and industrialists. Their deeds of derring-do, self-sacrifice and steely-eyed courage will never grace the pages of EN24 or TMC.  Indeed, most do not consider themselves heroes.

I would not have it otherwise.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Blue Balls and Adverse Possession

If a barbarian horde comes over your borders and you won’t or can’t field a force to turn them back, you’ve no one to blame but yourself when they start drinking your tea, eating cake off the good china and leaving the toilet seats up.
“Hey, nice bit of real estate,” they’ll say “Good pig country. And there’s nobody using it. I think we’ll stay.”  Next thing you know, the locals are calling the lead barbarian “Your Highness”. 
     -  Fiddler's Edge, Barbarians at the Gates
The blue-ball doctrine is, in essence, the practice of denying fights to the enemy.  It is commonly employed by members of sov holding alliances when raiding parties roams their space and those home-defense forces willing and able to counter the interlopers are not sufficient to guarantee said interlopers are properly curb-stomped.

By denying a raiding party the kills and good fights they came for, the blue-ball doctrine seeks to discourage marauding bad guys without having to call in the cavalry.  When a band of desperadoes ride into nullsec town, guns blazing, the locals simply safe up and wait them out. And, absent an overwhelming home-defense fleet advantage, this makes perfect sense as there is no penalty for defensive indifference.

Everything of real value to the locals and the sov holding entity is protected by reinforce timers.  As you might imagine, returning to complete one's pillage and burn on a schedule known to local law enforcement is not in the raiding party idiom.  As such, high value resources are normally safe from roaming desperadoes, as are an alliance's sovereignty infrastructure. 

CCP has, of course, added deployable structures sans reinforce timers to provide targets for raiding parties without threatening the nullsec status quo.  However, at the end of the day such structures don't represent significant enough of a strategic or financial loss to get the locals or the sov holders onto the field of battle.  And, absent any motivation to defend one's space, blue-balling is the smart strategy for passive defense:  Deny the desperado fights. Deny the desperado kills. Deny the desperado fun.   A sufficiently bored desperado will soon be on his way to elsewhere, and slow to return.

Now, nullsec alliances often overextend their sovereign space, claiming more systems than they can actively use. There are a number of reasons for this, some financial, some logistic and some strategic. However, the end result is that much of sovereign nullsec is very sparsely populated.  As many players will attest, once you leave the main traffic pipelines and jump bridge systems, it is possible to travel through one sov-controlled system after another without encountering another player.

Yet, despite a near complete absence of resistance to their presence in such places, raiders can do little harm to a sovereign's interests.  And again, there's no penalty to sovereigns who fail to repulse invading subcapital fleets.

But what if there were?

There is a difference between holding sovereignty over a territory and controlling it.  Historically when barbarians show up to pillage the village the local sovereign may temporarily lose control of the village, but his/her long-term sovereignty is not in question.  The locals go back to generating revenue from the territory and all is as it was.  The status quo is maintained.

However, sometimes the barbarians don't leave.  Sometimes they hang around and prevent the local population from harvesting resources or generating revenue from the territory. Or they begin keeping said revenues and harvests for themselves.  Initially the barbarians are interlopers.  However,  unless sovereign takes umbrage at being so dispossessed and visits a big ol' can of kingly whup-ass on the barbarians in a timely manner, said barbarians become the de-facto rulers in the sovereign's place. This sort of thing isn't uncommon when sovereigns become too weak or distracted to take an interest in local affairs at the far ends of an over-extended empire.

An emergent form of game-play in EVE Online is for a gang of 'barbarians', especially those in need of cash, to hang out in a sov-nullsec system for a while, and rat some anomalies.  In addition to being a means of picking a fight with the locals (“Hey, I’m ratting your sanctum! I'm AFK taking a shower! Come stop me if you can!”), it is a much safer and more lucrative way to make ISK than ratting in lowsec.

With some slight tweaks to the sovereignty mechanics, this pattern of play could be leveraged to allow supercapital poor (or indifferent) alliances some stake in the nullsec game, and increase the amount of small an medium fleet action in nullsec.

For example: 

Rixx Javix and his merry band of piratical anarchists have begun to target a sov nullsec system. They camp the system on an ongoing basis. They rat its anomalies and pod any of the locals foolish enough to venture in their direction. They sell the mining rights, take over the POCOs and lie in wait using the miners as bait for sov-holder gangs. If a sov holder fleet too big to handle shows up, they fade away, but always return after the fleet is gone and take up where they left off.   They eschew any grinding of sovereignty infrastructure.

At a certain tipping point, such forces in New Eden as manage claims to sovereignty will say to the owners of that system, "Look. I know you claim overlordship of this system, but I can’t help but notice that Stay Frosty is actually running things there.  They are collecting a substantial majority of the system's revenues and resources.  You're not using the system and you are either unwilling or unable to prevent Stay Frosty from so doing.  Thus, you have tacitly surrendered control of this system.  I’m pulling your sovereignty."

I call it the Adverse Possession (AKA Squatters Rights) mechanic.

In such cases, from a design standpoint, there are several ways one could go. My favorite option would be for the Stay Frosty squatters to be offered sovereignty of the system as they have demonstrated effective control over time. In such a scenario, Stay Frosty would have the option to: 

Accept Sovereignty: In this case Stay Frosty gains sovereignty over the system with all the attendant rights and responsibilities.  All existing sovereignty infrastructure, including stations, SCUs and iHubs become Stay Frosty's.  If Stay Frosty doesn't have sufficient funds available to pay the requisite sovereignty costs, accepting sovereignty is not a valid response to the offer. 

Refuse Sovereignty: Sovereignty in the system is dropped. All existing sovereignty structures become unanchored. If Stay Frosty does not respond to the sovereignty offer notification within a set period of time, it is treated as a refusal of the sovereignty offer.

Ransom Sovereignty:  Stay Frosty may offer to ransom the system back to the former sovereignty holder for an amount set by Stay Frosty (pirates, after all). The ransom offer can be made only to the sovereignty holder. If the sovereignty holder accepts within a set period of time, they automatically pay the ransom and retain sovereignty over the system.  If the sovereignty holder refuses or cannot afford to pay the ransom, or fails to respond within the allowed time period, Stay Frosty retains the option to accept or refuse sovereignty, but may not make further ransom offers.

Of course, the sov holder can always unlimber his supercapital fleet and retake sovereignty of a lost system. However, beyond the costs and inconvenience of so doing, we've seen the awkward strategic, tactical and political blow-back that can result when sov is lost due to inattention.  And an overextended sovereign engaged in wars elsewhere may find that playing a continuous game of wack-a-mole to reclaim peripheral or low value systems isn't worth the while.

As I said long ago, one of the things I like about the Dominion Sov mechanics is that they require an active defense of one's space.  However, with the proliferation of supercapitals, only possessors of large fleets of these ships can contest nullsec sovereignty.  With the consolidation of such fleets into fewer and fewer hands, the need to actively defend sovereign space is on the wane.

Adverse Possession mechanics would provide subcapital fleets and gangs a meaningful role in nullsec.  Its requirement that sov-holders not only claim systems with sovereignty infrastructure, but actively control them, would inject risk into blue-balling as a strategy against small fleets, and should lead to more subcap PvP dust ups in parts of nullsec that have gotten all too peaceful.  

I do not expect the Adverse Possession mechanic to be popular with nullsec's current hoi oligoi. It will likely discomfort them.  Their empires would be smaller. Small players, formerly beneath their notice, would enter the sovereignty game. They'd see more visits from lowsec as naughty folk like Rixx Javix and Kaeda Maxwell would have a new way to pick fights in local, and to shake coin from the pockets of the mighty.  The lords of nullsec would rest less easily on their starry beds. 

But this is EVE, and no one should sleep too soundly.  

Friday, February 7, 2014

Spreadsheets in Space

In real life I do an excellent impersonation of a responsible adult.

While I don't hide the fact that I play EVE Online, it's not something I wear on my sleeve.  As a (ahem) mature player I am of the 'analog' generations. This is to say, I am old enough recall when vacuum tubes were the primary technology underpinning consumer electronics. 

'Analogs' tend to find MMPORGs (and social media in general) somewhat suspect and off-putting; life sinks that gobble up time and money that could be better spent on worthwhile real-life pursuits and persons.  Real adults, in the minds of many Analogs, don't play in online worlds, particularity adults who wish to be trusted with responsibility. Online amusements involving spaceships, vampires or wizards are 'kid-stuff' and, even in that context, are suspect.

Mrs. Mord takes a fiendish delight in 'outing' me as an online gamer.

This usually occurs at social events during which some combination of economists, lawyers, corporate execs or academics are chatting over drinks, and discussion turns to the role of online worlds in the dissolution of our youth and the overall decline of civilization.  Now, Mrs. Mord's intent in such cases is not to embarrass me, but to challenge the established Analog orthodoxy regarding adults who play MMPORGs.  She, in effect, is presenting me as the exemplar of the responsible grown-up; as mature, accomplished and charming as anyone else in the room.  It's really quite a lavish complement.

That, and she enjoys seeing me squirm.

However, it's usually done in a good cause.  Most recently she outed me in order to engage the two youngest people at a New Year lunch; the sixteen and twenty one year-old son and daughter of a multinational VP.   The mother of these youngsters was lamenting the fact that her children were wasting so much of their lives online when they could be developing 'real' friendships, meeting the right kind of people, planning their futures, and in general shaking the dust of their digital childhoods from their shoes.

There may have been something said about the importance of fresh air and exercise too. I'm not sure. She went on for a bit and I sort of checked out.

The sixteen year-old had drifted into the thousand yard stare as well.  He managed to look attentive and well behaved while he did, which speaks to the rigor of his upbringing.  However he was present in the room only to degree minimally required by the parental rule of law.  His elder sister, being the principle target of her mother's fears, was executing an impressive slow smoulder during the conversation.  Seems being disapproved of in the third person to a room full of boring old people was not a winning argument in favor of the 'real' world.

Suddenly Mrs. Mord found an opening.  "He plays EVE Online," she said, nodding toward me.

The room went suddenly quiet.  Everyone looked a bit confused - most because they had no idea what EVE Online was.  But suddenly the conversation had moved onto to familiar terrain for the kids and they engaged with a will, explaining to the room what EVE Online was, what the 'sandbox' was, and doing a rather good executive summary of how EVE compared and contrasted with other MMPORG offerings.  The sister sat down next to her mother and launched into a fairly sophisticated and well informed explanation of EVE's in game economy.

It lasted thirty minutes. Her mother looked daggers at me the whole time. 

In my responsible adult disguise I'm usually safely invisible to anyone under thirty. However, before they left, the sibs pulled me aside to talk a bit of MMPORGs in general and EVE Online in particular. They had both played it, the sister apparently on and off for a while. So I asked them why they didn't keep with it.

"Spreadsheets in space," said the sister.

"Those guys are assholes," said the brother.

Which brings me to my point. 

The sister is graduating with a natural science degree. Math and stats is in her wheelhouse. The brother is a JV lineman on his high school football team. I'd call him six foot six and two hundred twenty plus pounds of solid muscle, and he faces off against equally big guys for fun.  She's not afraid of running numbers and he's not afraid of conflict. Neither are put off by the game's complexity.

Yet, despite their obvious fascination with EVE Online, despite their being in the sweet spot of the gaming industry's target demographic, they don't want to play CCP's game.

It's nice that EVE Online is seeing a spike in player interest after all the publicity over recent events in nullsec.  However, if past precedent holds, not many will be engaged by the game and most will depart before too long.  CCP knows this occurs, but doesn't seem to know why it occurs. 

CCP knows a lot about the people who self select into the EVE Online community.  However the answer to why players leave will not be found among the the players who stay. CCP needs to go outside the EVE bubble if they're to find out why, beyond a relatively small and self-reinforcing subset of the gaming community, EVE is more interesting to read about than it is to play. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Mord, Lord of Delve

I've been thinking or ruling Delve.  Mord, Lord of Delve.  It has a deep, sonorous ring to it that's pleasing to to the ear.  It tolls majestically, as a name from  the Nibelung or the Poetic Edda.  OK, yes; Lord of the Rings too. Tolkien sourced his names heavily from old Germanic/Norse works.

Of course one should never make such decisions solely on aesthetic considerations.  Delve would not be my first choice of regions for a number of strategic and economic reasons.  Still.

"Mord, Lord of Vale of the Silent"
     Too wordy.

"Mord, Lord of Tribute
    It's all 'Lo, the tax man cometh!' 

"Mord, Lord of Period Basis"

"Mord, Lord of Outer Passage"
    Double Ew.

"Mord, Lord of Fade"
     As if.

"Mord, Lord of Querious"
    Well, I can be querulous at times. Still.

See? It keeps coming back to Mord, Lord of Delve. And Delve does have the advantage of being something of a turn-key rental operation. The tenants are already there and, with the right incentives I'm sure they could be encouraged to stay under new management.

Of course, the current landlords would have to be convinced of the wisdom of turning the rule of Delve over to me.  Hmmm. That could be a challenge.  I can think of four or five ways it might be managed and only two of them could be accomplished without a fanatical army/barbarian horde at my back.  And a quick glance over my shoulder confirms I'm a bit short in the fanatical army or barbarian horde department at the moment.

Well, perhaps that can be remedied.  This is EVE after all, and the play's the thing.  What with events in nullsec of late I'm sure there's more than a few fanatical armies/barbarian hordes jostled loose and wandering about, at loose ends and with an axe to grind.  In fact you may be just such a fanatical army/barbarian horde, in need of useful occupation and a bit of blood-letting.  Or you may be close friends with a fanatical army/barbarian horde in a mood to create some in-game events to call their own. 

If that's the case, we should talk. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Gaming Media

I'm in mid-think about events surrounding and related to battle at B-R5RB.  Most of what can be said about the immediate outcomes and aftermath has already been said.  The battle has been a high probability event and waiting in the wings for some time. In and of itself, the battle produced little more than shrugs in the offices at Fiddler's Edge.  The questions of where, when and of magnitude were much more interesting.  I've been reading and listening to numerous holdings forth on "what it all means" and most have, I believe, missed the mark by a wide margin.

I'll publish a piece once the current sound and fury dies down.

In the meantime, over at Mad Haberdashers, Corelein has taken Massively, an online gaming 'zine, to task for shallow coverage of the industry in general and the quality of its writing which, Corelin points out, are often no more than a restatement of a company press release. In particular, Corelin calls Brenden Drain (who writes the EVE Evolved column at Massively) to account.  Corelin suggests that Brendan, a paid blogger, should write at least as well as any number of unpaid bloggers such as Ripard Teg, Rixx Javix, Noizy Gamer or (ahem) Mord Fiddle.

A bit further down Corelin writes: 
"I’m just gonna link Fiddler’s Edge because… well… I have no interest in being fair.  Mord has Brendan beaten like a rented mule."
My blushes.

In the comment section, Matt Westhorpe of Freebooted fame joins the fray and comes to Brenden's defense.  He and Corelin have a very thoughtful exchange - one well worth reading.  Matt being the writer Matt is, the meat of his argument is laid out early on:
"I’ve always taken pride in ensuring that I try to I write something well-researched, fresh and engaging. However, you soon realise the folly of spending an entire working day (or longer) information gathering for and writing a 1200-word article when you work out the hourly rate. However, I have no intention of capitulating on my principles (which is why it is unlikely I will survive as a games journalist).

With this in mind, it is not at all surprising to see unpaid blogs written by people who write for the love of the topic and the joy of writing producing material of exceptional quality, whilst in contrast, paid writers find themselves increasingly pushed toward ‘churnalism’ by their paymasters.

Personally, I think Brendan does a good job of maintaining a balance between writing accessibly for an EVE-curious audience and delving into enough detail to sate those who are more informed.

On the other hand, Mord has the luxury of being able to focus his appeal on his choice of audience, providing some fantastic but very esoteric and often impenetrably niche material."

First of all, thanks to Corelin for his kind words.  Without taking anything away from Brendan it's always gratifying to have one's work held up as an example of a good read - in spite of my apparent tendency toward the esoteric and impenetrable. 

As Matt points out, anyone wishing to write a 'popular' blog will follow a well circulated set of rules and guidelines, almost every one of which I violate with abandon.  I do challenge my readers at times. However, I find that those of you who are regulars at The Edge are not only up to the challenge, but enjoy it as well.  You are not off-put by the esoteric, and have the patience to follow what might at first glance seem impenetrable, trusting it will lead you somewhere worthwhile.  I find you a worthwhile audience to cultivate, and you have repaid my poor efforts many times over with your encouragement and reader loyalty. 

While the act of receiving payment for work can change the nature of the work, this is not an absolute. Many writers like Matt stand on their principles, even if it means a reduction in output or an investment of labor that makes no economic sense in terms of shillings per hour.  However, writing content tailored to the payer's wants doesn't seem to be the issue in this case.

Brendan's difficulty does not seem to be one of editorial directives so much as that he does not have the time to write in-depth owing to the demands on his time by his Predestination project.  Assuming that's the case, both Brendan and Massively's editorial board are not serving each other (or their readers) well.  Brenden ends up providing Massively with low value-add content and Massively, occupied in pushing new content to drive revenue, ends up publishing low value-add content.

So long as no one holds zines like Massively accountable for the quality of the content they publish, zines like Massively will not hold the writers of that content (such as Brendan) to meaningful quality standards. And good authors like Matt, who are willing to put in the time and effort to write well, will always be undervalued by zines like Massively as long as the status quo holds and writers can get paid for submitting the journalistic equivalent of toenail clippings.

It is ironic that as Corelin attempts to hold Brenden and Massively accountable for their content, Matt is arguing against such accountability.  Of course Matt is arguing on behalf of a fellow writer, which is laudable. However, in so doing he is, by his own admission, arguing for a system in which talent like his own has little place. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Butterfly Effect

Once upon a time, roughly 1,150 years ago, a pimply teen-aged boy did what pimply teen-aged boys have always done since pimply teen-aged boys first walked the earth.  He screwed up his courage, asked a girl if she'd go out with him, and got shot down in flames.  Then as now, the pimply teen-aged boy ego is prone to bruising and, by all accounts, the girl in question was less than gentle in administering the brush-back.  There is no doubt the young man took it to heart.  However, as I often say, it's an ill wind that blows no one good. 

Thanks to his humiliation we have EVE Online.

Now, some of you may know precisely what I'm going on about and already made the necessary logical leap from a bruised medieval ego to digital spaceships.  For most readers, however, some elucidation is in order.  Pull up a chair.

You see, the young man in question did not have the option of retreating to his parent's basement and treating his wounded ego to a week of non-stop video games, pizza and Nirvana.  In Northern Europe in the 860s there were no video games.  None.  Not even Pong.  Depressing music was available, but monks were required (Ew.);  lots of monks (double Ew) if you wanted to crank it up real loud.  I'm not sure about the pizza, but even if some corollary to pizza existed it would have been topped with stuff like unseasoned mutton or smoked fish.  Tomato sauce was certainly out of the question as was anything we'd recognize today as pizza delivery. 

Lacking the modern balms for a broken heart, he conquered Norway instead.

I am, of course, referring to Harald Hálfdanarson, better known to history as Harald Fairhair, the first king of Norway.  Now in giving Harald the heave-ho, the cheeky object of his desire, one Gyda Eiriksdottir of Hordal, said something along the lines of “Sure, dweeb, I’ll go out with you. When you’re king of all Norway.”  

It should be pointed out that Norway at the time was comprised of a number of petty kingdoms, each with its own ruler. They were a proud, fractious and independent lot who, when they weren’t out raiding the rest of Europe, feuded mightily with each other.  The odds of anyone, let along a pimply teen-aged boy, subjugating this fierce collection of earls and petty kings under a single crown seemed so long as to be impossible.  Thus, Gyda was sending Harald off with the 862 CE equivalent of ‘When hell freezes over”.  It was a bit of girlish snark that would profoundly change the course of European history.

Like many young men of today, Harald was slow to take the hint.  As Gyda hadn’t said ‘no’ outright, and, being something of an optimist, Harald felt he was still in the game.  All he had to do, he reasoned, was become high king of Norway and date night with Gyda was on.  And he must have been looking forward to date night quite a lot, because a mere ten years later, at the battle of Hafrsfjord, the last significant opposition to his rule was vanquished.  Lo and huzzah, Harald was king of Norway.

And Harald was all “Yeah baby! How d’ya like me now?”
OK, loose translation.  But as it turns out, Gyda liked him well enough to become the first queen of Norway and bear him five sons.  In fact Harald would father no fewer than twenty one sons altogether (that we know of) with six different women.   So despite inauspicious beginnings, I like to think things turned out well for Herald.  He'd won the throne and he'd gotten the girl. Cue the triumphant end title music and run the credits.

Of course where there are winners, there are usually losers and the unification of Norway was no exception.  Things had decidedly not turned out well for the earls and petty kings who had opposed Harald to the bitter end.  At best they would be forced to submit to Harald and suffer the humiliation of accepting their place in the new order from his hand; a place likely beneath those earls and petty kings who had, through conquest, coercion or predisposition, joined Harald's side in his quest for date night.  At worst they would end up, like Ned Stark, an object lesson on the perils of opposing their sovereign.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, the leaders on the losing side were fierce, proud and independent.  Recall that, of all the fierce warlords of Norway, these were the guys least willing to bend the knee and play the game by someone else's rules.  As such, their chances of flourishing under Harald's rule, where the crown administered justice and held a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence, were quite poor.   Fortunately for them, in addition to being fierce proud and independent, they were mobile.  Unlike losers in many sovereignty wars before and since, the holdouts to Harald's rule were among the best seafarers of the day. 

Following the defeat at Hafrsfjord, many of what were arguably Norway's most dynamic, colorful and entrepreneurial people packed up such goods and wealth in their ships would hold and sailed away.  They set their courses for viking settlements abroad where they could live according to their own rules.  The Norway they left behind, while more governable without them, would be a much duller place thereafter.

Some of the travelers emigrated West, to the then recently discovered island of Iceland.  There they settled and whiled away the years, farming, fishing and occasionally feuding.  Centuries later their descendents would finally bend their knee to a king, but not forever.  And one day, in a future the earls and petty kings of old could not have imagined, some of their descendents would find the true calling, software development, and go on to create EVE Online.

See?  Butterfly-effect.  The snubbing of a medieval teen results in digital spaceships over a thousand years later.

I often think of EVE Online's nullsec as analogous to Norway in the pre-unification days.  It is comprised of a number of petty kingdoms, each with its own ruler(s).  They are a proud, fractious and  independent lot who, when they aren't out raiding low and highsec space, feud mightily with each other.

As with Norway of old, there are forces in play that seek to consolidate power in nullsec under a single administrative structure; to exercise sovereignty over this patchwork of small kingdoms.  This is an old story, played out again and again over the course of real world history. Perhaps it's endemic to the human condition and thus an inevitable outcome in our digital realms as well.  As events currently playing out in New Eden unfold, we'll see if nullsec's mead-hall paradigm can thrive in competition with Nullsec Inc.  At present, the state of play doesn't look promising for the warlords, but one never knows.

Butterflies are capricious things.

If the mead-hall is supplanted by the board-room, some of the present earls and petty kings will doubtless take a place in the new order.   Others, however, who either refuse to bend the knee or, having bent it and finding themselves ill-suited to PVP in service of a Disneyfied nullsec, would likely leave.  Unlike their medieval counterparts, however, New Eden offers these digital warlords no nullsec version of Iceland, Orkneys, Scotland or Ireland to which they can retreat.   Should they leave, many would likely set their courses for other games.

The nullsec they leave behind, while more governable without them, would be a much duller place thereafter.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Seraph Basarab and Org Chart of Doom

Over at EVE News 24, Seraph IX Basarab has written a good post on the organizational structure of Clusterfuck Coalition (CFC).  It is a significant piece and well worth your time. Much of the information was previously available in isolated works floating about in the EVE media cloud.  As such, the article won't raise eyebrows among the more erudite CFC watchers.  However, Seraph has pulled these islands of information into a single coherent work, adding analysis and insights of his own.  The result is a clear outline of CFC's internal clockwork at a macro level. It should certainly be on the recommended reading list of anyone wishing to understand the CFC either as a stand alone entity or as a participant in the economic/sovereignty wars that are presently consuming nullsec.

Much of what Seraph writes is not terribly controversial.  Indeed, many of his observations on the internal hierarchy of alliances and how resources/rewards are allocated can be sourced from CFC leadership itself; in podcasts, state of the alliance addresses and published internal communiques.

Given that, the attention Serpah's article have received from CFC's forum warriors is notable.  CFC posters have laid into it with a vengeance. Their primary accusation is that the article is mere N3 propaganda.  However, few if any of the pro-CFC commenter argue against the facts he presents, or call out facts not in evidence that he's ignored.  In other words, the information Seraph has presented is correct, but that the coalescing of those facts into a clear portrait of the CFC organization comes at an inconvenient time for the CFC.  I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions as to what CFC touchiness on that subject might mean.

So, the article is assuredly not propaganda and well worth a read, despite all the churn in the comments section.  It's a solid add to EVE player lore.  If Seraph has erred, it's in not anticipating the political churn and providing references to primary sources. However, that is a trivial criticism. Such references would not have blocked accusations of bias and most of the information he presents is easily fact checked by those who care to do so.

In fact, Seraph goes out of his way to call out bias on my part in my post Wolves of the Southern Wilds.  It's an understandable rebuke, given how I closed off that piece.  

We'll talk more about that next time. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Series of Unfortunate Events

"The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage."
      - Emperor Hirohito
Wars have consequences and the nullsec war in Fountain last summer was no exception to that rule. ClusterFuck Coalition (CFC) finished that war in an enviable position. They rested comfortably in their new region, wearing well-earned victory laurels on their collective brow. The spoils of that war included the extending of CFC frontiers through Fountain and possession of that region's enhanced moon income, as well as the establishment of a new rental alliance to further augment Goonswarm's income flows. 

While subject to light harassment, Goonswarm's home space in Deklein is far from its enemies and well buffered by territories held by other CFC members and Goonswarm allies. Goonswarm, which was comprised of  ~9,500 members before the Fountain war, has increased it's membership to over 11,000 pilots, some of the new members cherry-picked from the losing side of the war. Overall the CFC’s membership count hovers somewhere in the 40K range, up by roughly 30% since the height of the war.

With their borders secure, their fortunes increased and no existential threats on the horizon, CFC's leadership might have been content to watch from a distance for a time as N3 (a coalition led by Nulli Secundi and Northern Coalition[dot]) and Pandemic Legion (PL), who had entered the Fountain war on the side of Test Alliance Please Ignore (Test), feuded with the southern Russian alliances.  After all, a cardinal rule of foreign policy is to never distract your opponents when they are occupied with beating each other bloody at no cost to you. However, as autumn wore on and the N3/PL forces showed no sign of cracking, CFC's movers and shakers grew restless.  At the end of October, two proxies, Solar Fleet and Black Legion, were dispatched to assist the Southern Russians and hurry along the demise of N3/PL.

Two weeks later N3 and PL were still holding fast despite the new fronts opened up my Solar and BL. Indeed, the N3/PL morale seemed to be higher than ever as, confident in their supercapital superiority, they deployed capital fleets in a decisive manner that kept their enemies back on their heels. Thus, Goonswarm's leadership decided that it was time to up the ante and officially involve CFC forces in the conflict, albeit in a manner intended to avoid at least the appearance of a full blown sov war.

On November 15, The Mittani® announced that CFC were entering the southern war as 'honorable third parties' (HTP).  HTP status, you'll recall, is what N3 and PL claimed when they joined Test in the defense of Fountain against CFC's invasion of that region. Ultimately CFC was able to remove N3 and PL from the field by a coordinated attack on the N3/PL rental space by CFC proxies and CFC agents within the rental alliance.  That accomplished, the CFC was able to quickly overrun Fountain, the remaining defenders having been deprived of the supercapital high cover PL and N3 had provided.

According to the November 15 announcement, CFC was merely doing unto N3/PL as N3/PL had done unto CFC during the Fountain war.

Now, by way of fairness it should be pointed out that, in the case of the Fountain war, CFC was the aggressor; invading Fountain in order to forcibly acquire its moons, which had become much more valuable as a result of the moon-goo re-balance.  Further, none of Goonswarm or the CFC's territories were invaded or at risk, with the bulk of the fighting occurring in Fountain.  Nor was Goonswarm already under attack by the combined forces of Stainwagon, Darkness of Despair(DD), Against All Authorities(-A-), Solar Fleet and Black Legion at that time. Thus The Mittani®'s justification of mere tit for tat breaks down fairly quickly.

The Mittani® went on to write that, by declaring HTP status, CFC could pursue the war in the South without risking political consequences. "If your side wins, you share the glory; if your side loses, it was the other guy's fault because you were just a third party", he wrote.  However, the strident tone of the marching orders that followed exuded such confidence in a CFC romp over N3/PL that it undermined any chance of distancing CFC from any blame or blow-back were the new offensive to fail:
"I want nothing less than absolute cruelty and sadism on display. No honor, no fun for the foe, nothing but having their faces smashed in shit over and over and over again until they cry, beg, and plead for forgiveness for what they tried to do to us."
Thus, failure does not seem to have been entertained by CFC's war planners as a plausable outcome of the formal intervention announcement on November 15.  

Nonetheless, there is little doubt that Goonswarm's leadership wished to avoid at least the overt appearance of a Southern invasion by the CFC.  Despite the animosity between N3/PL and the Southern Russians, CFC must contend with the possibility that the Russians might put aside their differences with N3 and PL in order to deal with a greater threat to them all pressing from the North.  Such turn-abouts are not uncommon in EVE or real life.  Further, the large scale wars between Northern and Southern nullsec are not so far in the past that the participants, many of whom remain in game, have forgotten them.  Even years later, players on both sides retain many axes yet unground.

So, while the southerners may be persuaded to accept an expanded CFC presence in the south predicated on a mutual dislike of N3, that acceptance could evaporate if CFC pushes its Russian allies too hard or is perceived as a potential conqueror.

Following the HTP announcement, CFC deployed on multiple fronts against N3/PL, their primary force of CFC fleets fighting alongside the Southern Russian fleets in Catch and Curse.  With the main N3/PL forces pinned down countering the primary CFC fleets in Catch and Curse, secondary fronts were opened by CFC against N3/PL, such as Gentlemen's Agreement's (Gents) offensive against N3 assets in Kalevala.  While these enfilading attacks enjoyed some initial success, alliances supporting N3/PL, such as Insidious Empire (EMP) led by nullsec veteran Phreeze, deployed to counter them and quickly slammed the door the secondary fronts. By December 8, all lost ground had been recovered by the N3/PL.

Life as an honorable third party was was not going much better for CFC in the combined CFC/RUS/BL/Solar fleets on the Catch/Curse front.

Despite superior numbers, the combined coalition fleets appear not to have been well integrated, and operated without a unified strategy or command and control structure. RUS fleet participation in joint operations began to drop off, reportedly owing to friction with CFC command. To make matters worse, N3/PL stepped up support of their fleet actions with Slowcats; fleets of spider-tanked carriers armed with sentry drones.  The long jump range of the carriers allowed N3/PL to project both offensive and defensive power over a considerable distance.

Unable to come up with an effective counter to the Slowcats, or to effectively leverage the numeric advantage enjoyed by the anti-N3/PL coalition, CFC command became risk averse when it came to deploying their own capital fleets. The result was a slow erosion of CFC/RUS/BL/Solar supercapital high cover; a capital fleet gap that N3/PL would exploit to devastating effect on Friday, December 13.

On December 13, a fleet of Solar supercarriers was detected operating in 78R-PI.  N3/PL command  quickly coordinated a drop and in short order the 13 supercarriers were tackled and under attack by  N3/PL capital and supporting fleets.  Responding to a Solar call for assistance, Black Legion and Stainwagon rushed to the rescue in subcapital fleets. Goonswarm began to form up but, upon assessing the situation, stood down rather than risking a capital fleet fight for which PL/N3 was evidently well prepared.  Lacking capital ship cover, the BL and Stain subcaps were unable to execute a rescue and the entire Solar supercarrier fleet was lost.

That same night, hard on the heels of the 78R debacle, came the loss of a Goonswarm station egg while it was in transit to a friendly system in -A- space.  Apparently Goonswarm leadership was aware that the freighter carrying the egg was being tracked by hostiles, and had been scanned several times along the way.  Despite this intelligence, and despite repeated warnings up the chain of command, the operation was allowed to continue.  As might be expected, the freighter was intercepted short of its destination and destroyed along with its cargo.

Despite a public mea culpa by The Mittani® for the loss of the station egg, the two events rattled nerves within in CFC and caused consternation among the CFC's Southern allies.  Rank and file members among Southern Russian alliances began asking hard questions about Goon stations being deployed in Southern Russian space.  The repeated set-backs against an outnumbered and supposedly on-the-ropes enemy caused complaints in the CFC ranks against a Goonswarm military doctrine that depended heavily on grinding structures in stealth bombers (the antithesis of fun) and keeping capital fleets on a very short leash, despite that same doctrine's success in the Fountain campaign.

On December 15 The Mittani® announced that CFC was taking off the kid gloves and going all-in against N3/PL in Southern nullsec.  The timing of this second call to arms is notable.

First of all, given the approaching holidays, fleet participation was virtually guaranteed to slump in short order, negating to a large extent the immediate utility of a chest-thumping call to arms.  The Mittani is not normally so profligate with such announcements, knowing that to use them too often is to dilute their impact.  Throwing one away when it is unlikely to rally the rank and file and bring ships to the line, particularly in the face of a month long storm of ill-fortune, carries a tang of desperation. 

Further, the December 15 announcement was made only a month after The Mittani®’s previous call for the destruction of N3/PL by the CFC.  Beyond the announcement of Omegafleet (essentially a dreadnaught blob doctrine intended to counter the N3/PL Slowcats) it added little in terms of content to his previous call to arms.  The primary purpose of declaring war on N3/PL a second time seems to have been to invoke the ‘no political consequences’ clause of the HTP policy announced a month previously.  In short, The Mittani was announcing that the month-old war declaration didn’t count as it wasn’t serious, but in the face of CFC set-backs since then, ‘Shit got real’.

However, the THP policy announced in November was, by The Mittani®’s own admission, a blatant fiction aimed at tweaking the nose of N3.  He was on record at the time calling fervently for the destruction of N3/PL.  In that light he could not reasonably dismiss the previous month’s series of unfortunate events by saying CFC hadn't been serious and were just engaged in a bit of light-hearted hijinks.  ‘Shit got real’ in this context translates as ‘Mistakes were made'. 

None of this, of course, has been lost on CFC's enemies.  EMP and Test have begun a siege of Vale of the Silent and both BL and Gents have been redeployed North to defend that region. This amounts to the first significant attack on CFC territory since the DRF was driven out by Goonswarm and friends. Harassing attacks against Deklein have increased resulting in an uptick of CFC capital ship losses in that region.  Pandemic Legion is rumored to be on the verge of breaking their No Invasion Pact (NIP) with the CFC, which would be a precursor to their participation in an invasion of CFC territory.   
The smart money will remain on CFC, at least in the short run.  It has been one of the best led coalitions in the history of New Eden. Its leadership, when at its best, has operated like a cross between a Wall Street private equity firm and the Prussian General Staff, and the resulting string of successes these last two years have been startling.  However, ongoing success can be as much a curse as a blessing. It can lead to complacency; to an assumption that events will tend to break your way for no other reason than that they always have before. And that, my friends, is a wellspring of disaster.

When you start to try to force events, when you begin to believe your own press releases and think of yourself not as one navigating a sea of events, but as a fixed point driving events, you are in trouble. 

Assuming CFC's leadership hasn't become complacent, this recent series of unfortunate events will serve as a wake-up call for them. If they avoid recriminations and wishful thinking as they plan their way out of the current situation, it'll be Sally-bar-the-door time in Southern nullsec. 

If not, it's going to be a long winter in the North.