Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Espionage, Tournaments and Assassinations Eve Online politics

I play the MMO Eve Online. It is in my opinion the most fascinating of them all. I originally avoided it when I first heard of it because I knew I would get sucked in, and I have.

What originally drew me to Eve Online was the Guiding Hand Social Club Heist possibly the most famous MMO event in history. Surely to be eclipsed by the events of the last week. This last week has shown that Eve Online has its own culture, its own civilizations. For several years there has been a war between two major alliances. Band of Brothers (BoB) and Goonswarm. Goonswarm came to the game from the Something Awful Forums. BoB's goal in the game was to dominate it, and for a while it seemed like they were going to. They controlled vast amounts of space, but were an overextended empire, something that the Goons exploited. Goonswarm's agenda was to 'break' Eve. BoB eventually consolidated it's control over two very resource rich regions, Delve and Querious. Querious is behind Delve, and one must go through Delve to get there.

Now recently there was a heist, where Goonswarm was able to turn a BoB director over to their side. The defector was able to give the keys to La Mittani of Goonswarm, who in a flash of inspiration realized he could dissolve BoB, the most famous alliance in the game. So three hours later he did it. Here is the full story of how he did it. After dissolving the alliance Goons immediately snagged the copyright.

So in the world of Eve Online they brought low the greatest alliance by stealing it's copyright. The reason it worked is because of the Eve Sovereignty system. The Sovereignty system is tied into the alliance framework, and is based on the alliance's force projection. If you have more than three more Player Owned Stations (POS) than your nearest competitor, you own the system. This means you can rename it, you get benefits like the ability to build your own Jump Gates so you can jump from system to system. Being able to control a large territory gives you the ability to build massive industrial capacity, as well as giving you unfettered access to ore. A lot of the ore you can get in these systems is rare and very valuable. So controlling your own space has real tangible in-game benefits.

So when BoB's sovereignty went down, so did their jump gates, some of their factories and a lot of their protective systems. They were smart though, they had a backup alliance ready to reclaim the sovereignty and so they got back to sovereignty one in many systems quickly. However, this opened the floodgates and other alliances made a push into Delve. In the first couple of days hundreds of ships were destroyed, it might be thousands by the time I write this. Keep in mind that in Eve Online all the ships that fly in a fleet are flown by players, you cannot control an NPC fleet under you as a fleet commander, the closest you can get to that are drone ships and carriers with fighters that are as powerful as the midrange ships by themselves.

So as of this week the entire balance of power in Eve has shifted.

In other news in the game, the Sixth Eve Alliance Tournament was underway. Alliances field competitive fleets over the course of about a week or so. In one of the tournaments Issler Dainze of The Honda Accord alliance was assassinated by his own teammate, who held a grudge from another alliance. They went on to win anyway.

To understand all of this you have to understand that all of the player owned ships are built by players from ore mined by players, using manufacturing processes refined by players, in an economy driven by the players. The logistics required to control a region like Delve are pretty mind-boggling. There are so many things that go into it that I couldn't possibly explain it in this blog post.

This shows a new evolution in human storytelling, levels of human creation and understanding that go beyond anything we've had in our past, it's the creation of a whole other world, to which many people dedicate themselves for better or worse. It is a world where a McDonald's Manager can rule an empire. The skills required to pull these things off are the same skills that an executive of a real world corporation needs. Some of the talent will be dedicated entirely to the game and we will never see some of the world's tactical and logistical geniuses devote their skills toward building in the real world, but inevitably some of them will.