Eve Online Inferno Scorches the Mittani’s Knickers; CCP Turns Down the Heat
So boys and girls, the second great scandal of 2012 in Eve has struck over the last couple of days when the implications of the Inferno wardec allies system led to just the sort of emergent gameplay we’d been reading about CCP developers praising to great heights during Burn Jita and Hulkageddon.
But First a Little Background
At fanfest 2012, the leader of Goonswarm alliance and chairman of the CSM (elected player council) got drunk on stage and ended up calling for a fellow EVE player to be driven out of the game and encouraged to “kill himself.” There was uproar, huge scandal in the gaming press, massive threadnaughts on the EVE Online forums, and eventually The Mittani was driven from office, and was fired and banned for 30 days after his attempted resignation from the chair didn’t satisfy CCP. It’s fair to say The Mittani was pretty livid at this outcome and while tweeting and blogging about being “thrown under the bus” by CCP he made his plans for revenge on those who had spoken out against him publicly.
Mittani’s “ministry of love” initiative was a plan for endless empire wardecs on vocal opponents of this behaviour at fanfest and sold to his membership as appropriate revenge for him losing the bully-pulpit of the CSM chair. There is plenty of factual evidence of just how ‘mad’ he got available for download on the internet – ‘State of the Goonian’ addresses and general speeches to the troops all make this pretty clear. Mittani wanted to hit back at the people who had dared criticise his behaviour and he wanted CCP to step back and not interfere as he unleashed his goons on Jita and Hulkaggeddon – two wide-trumpeted paragon-events of emergent sandbox gameplay.
So it was to nobody’s great surprise that once Inferno hit the Mittani laid out his wardecs against anyone he perceived to be an outspoken foe of this people. Honda Accord were targeted because CSM Issler Dainz makes that alliance her home, Star Fraction was targeted because it’s my alliance, several other smaller entities were also placed in the crosshairs due to Mittani’s dislike of bloggers saying bad things about the Goons in Eve online.
Inferno had brought a number of interesting things to the wardec system: first CCP had patched out the loopholes for wardec evasion and jumping ship. Next they’d increased the cost to wardec a large entity while keeping it cheap to wardec small targets, they’d also given some teeth to the mutual wardec option and allowed it to lock-in an attacker for the first time in Eve’s history (needing an agreed surrender to then break the war) and most interesting of all, it had introduced an wardec assistance “market” where if you got war-decced you could now advertise “help needed” and people could offer to join the war for a variable fee. All pretty fascinating it did have the potential to be a brutal centrepiece of the summer expansion.
Early Rumbling of Discontent
But all wasn’t happy in wardec-land. The CCP devblogs made it clear that the developers hadn’t really thought terribly well about the implications of some of these features. The permanent lock-in of allies into a defensive dec was an obvious problem. CCP didn’t know what to do about allies involved in mutual decs, and various representatives from the EVE Online “mercenary community” were loudly complaining that the potential for cheap (or free) allies for defensive decs would undercut their attractiveness in the market.
This “mercenary community” is a bit delusional unfortunately. They seem to have misunderstood what exactly people want mercs for in EVE Online. Time and again we’ve heard that free defence offers from trade hub raiding chancer corps will price the mercs out of the market. But who really pays a merc to do random PVP at trade hubs in Eve? The answer is “nobody.” This niche has been filled for years by outfits like Privateers and The Orphanage who will wardec your foes in hisec to gank them at trade hubs for the price of the wardec. Nothing more, nothing less. “Serious Professional Mercenaries™” were never able to compete with that and they never will be able to compete with that.
When people go to hire a mercenary in EVE Online it’s to do something other than randomly camping undock in Jita 4-4. Its POS takedowns, POS defence, CO removal, 0.0 area denial, targeted assassinations and serious work. Stuff that takes effort, that’s hard to do, that isn’t necessary fun consequence-free PVP. This is the kind of thing they get paid billions of ISK a week for, not randomly camping the trade hubs with Tornados and popping capsules.
Undeterred by these realities however the “mercenary community” headed up by some of their CSM reps decided that the reason their in-game corps couldn’t land a decent contract was not that they weren’t offering the right services but because they were being undercut by a host of new “mom and pops trade hub raiding” outfits that had popped up and were offering to ally on every hisec war for free.
“What was needed”(they argued) was a complete nerfing of the ally system so that people could not count on significant free (or cheap) allies and they’d need to come to the professionals instead! Great plan perhaps, but it doesn’t really explain why people would start paying billions a week to let lazy merc corps engage in “fun pvp” at the trade hubs.
And of course at the other end of the scale we had the very large alliances now looking at the situations of their wardecs and wondering where the near endless stream of free allies to their targets would end. TEST alliance representatives were the first to voice some rumbling through their CSM, but gradually we had Goons coming out of the woodwork and questioning a system which they thought should have been “fixed” entirely in their favour but seemed to have a certain potential for the underdog fighting back that nobody had paid that much attention too in the planning.
Honda Accord vs Goons/TEST alliance
This was the first truly impressive defensive “dogpile” – now, bare in mind, Goons and TEST pay 100m or so each for these decs per week. It’s the tiniest drop in the ocean for the two largest alliances in game and Mittani (and his TEST puppet) declared these would be “forever wars” that would exist on whatever alliance Issler Dainz should inhabit as long as she kept playing eve.
Honda Accord decided to ask for assistance in the new Inferno Wardec system and soon offers of assistance were flooding in. The accord attracted dozens of free allies to both decs (they could have been charged but this is a free market economy) and the “serious mercenaries” had no specific talent or skillset that made Honda wish to employ them in addition for this role. Both Goons and Test alliance got literally crushed in hisec and lost many many times the isk value that Honda and their free allies suffered, despite the total weight of numbers still remaining massively in favour of the nullsec powers. Test specifically began to complain about this situation. (They wanted the ability to “grief” Honda Accord specifically, not to get “griefed” in turn by Honda’s allies).
CSM Summit Iceland – Wardec Meeting.
Currently we don’t know that much about this meeting. The specifics will come out in a few weeks with the CSM minutes. What we do know is that the situation of Inferno wardecs, the Inferno allies system, and the “plight” of the “mercenary profession” was raised as a priority and various fixes to the problem were debated. The fix that would ultimately be placed onto the test server was apparently disliked by all (or all bar one) of the CSM present depending on who’s recollection we are going by.
Now the irony here is that CCP Soundwave eventually decided on a course of action that would make several sweeping alternations (nerfs) to the Inferno wardec system that have currently got a lot of the community in an outcry because the implication on the game is a massive advantage to large alliances specifically.
But whispers from the CSM are coming out that it “could have been much worse.” Alekseyev Karrde (NOIR mercenaries) for example apparently wanted a fix that more or less removed the allied system from the game in order to make Mercenary corps the only people you could get on your side in defence of an incoming wardec. This to push the somewhat delusional belief that people would start paying “serious mercenary” rates to defend against 100m isk incoming “grief decs” from large 0.0 alliances.
So it might be that Soundwave inadvertently spared us the worst of the changes the “mercenary profession”CSM’s wanted to foist on us. Seems incredible to look at it this way – but the real tragedy is that the CSM itself was so massively packed with large alliance/merc protectionist candidates it couldn’t look at the bigger picture and propose a workable compromise that would benefit the whole of Eve Online not just their own petty little interest groups.
Goonswarm vs Star Fraction wardec (the scandal explodes)
So Mittani got round to wardeccing the Star Fraction. I had after all been an outspoken critic of his behaviour at Fanfest 2012 and bouts of drunken internet bullying and had been on the receiving end of Goonswarm harassment in and out of game since 2008 when I ran my own CSM campaign to become the first chairman of the player council.
But I’d seen the example of Honda Accord and saw another opportunity in the Inferno Wardec system that I perceived Mittani had overlooked. “Mutual War.”
A little background is again in order:
Previous to Inferno wardecs in Eve Online were widely perceived as a “griefer’s charter” or “pay to grief” system. Though this is not a view I shared, I can understand why people saw it that way because the problem was – wardecs are essentially a consequence-free tactic for the aggressor. You declare war, you pay the bill, you may or may not fight the war, you may or may not go looking for the enemy and any time you want out of the war you just stop paying. There is no penalty to the attacker for doing this and no way the defender can punish you for an unwise wardec. Advantages were generally in favour of the attacker and most outmatched defenders would simply run away, skip corp/alliance do their logistics out of organization and generally play the boredom card to respond.
Even mutual war (where the defender decides to “double down” and let the attack stop paying) had no real consequence because the attack can still drop it – only difference being a slight wording change in the end of war mails (surrender rather than concord invalidates) – but no fiscal penalty of any kind.
But with inferno – well, things were looking much more tasty – because making the war Mutual meant that now the attacker had no way to leave the war without making a formal contract surrender to the defender that could include ISK and needed to the accepted by the enemy before the war could end.
My Inferno War tactics
So then, I combined the Honda defensive dog-pile of trade hub raiders with a declaration of mutual war. Implication being that Goonswarm would never get out of the war without my say-so and that any corporation or alliance in New Eden that wanted a piece of the largest alliance in the game could join the war for free. I made a post about it, I explained my thoughts and understanding of the wardec system and I invited allies. I considered this a great test of emergent gameplay and an important demonstration of CCP’s commitment to a level playing field where the little guy can sometimes turn the table on the big fish in nullsec.
The invitation was wildly successful and so were the first days of the war. Within 4 days I had 40 allies and those allies had managed to kill 10x as much ISK as they lost including a fully-laden jump freighter full of goon moon-minerals bound for market. It’s fair to say the goons had a mixed message in response in first 48 hours – they went from saying they felt it was the “best thing ever” to beginning to shuffle their feet uncertainly and claim I was “exploiting” a flaw in the wardec system and boasting about how they would get it closed. Then we began to get various sob-stories from the Goons about how the “flaw” needed to be closed so the poor “merc profession” could flourish and how there were other ways for us to fight back that involved coming out to goon-controlled 0.0 rather than bringing allies into the war etc.
But it wasn’t until CCP Soundwave would begin posting in earnest on his belief that the unlimited defensive allies system was wrong because it well, was too “fair” (or otherwise advantageous to the defender) that the Goon posting squad got fully into gear and started spamming in favour of the 1.1 change.
Details of the 1.1 change.
In essence the allied system of Inferno is getting heavily nerfed.
1. Defensive allies will have a two week timer with no auto renew (so a guaranteed 24-48 hour downtime per 2 weeks)
2. Defensive allies beyond the first will be billed on an exponential scale starting with 10m up to a 20 limit (that will cost apparently 5 trillion per 2 weeks for the 20th ally) – No I am not making this up.
3. Mutual wars can no longer include allies period.
4. Cost of declaring on a large entity is capped at 500m (which is still a tenfold increase in default cost from pre Inferno system).
And so to the drama
So I posted in response to the test server rollout of this change. I said quite bluntly that I felt this was a change purely in the interests of the largest alliance entities in the game and for it to happen in a short time since the release of Inferno and given the results and allies involved it all smelt a bit fishy.
What do I mean by this?
Well, I’m not saying that CCP Developers are being intentionally corrupt and giving their mates advantages (T20 style). But I definitely think there is a case that the Developers specifically involved with the wardec system have lost their objectivity over what is good for Eve Online as a whole in these changes. I think it’s no real secret that CCP this summer have been revealed as blushing 0.0 Fanboys. We’ve seen Goonswarm events and initiatives triumphed in the gaming media and used as examples of good emergent gameplay from all levels of CCP employee – from the official forums to first party news sites and developer conferences.
We’ve heard the message “Eve isn’t fair” “War isn’t fair” “HTFU” to justify this kind of fanboy approach time and time again and my allegation is not one of specific corruption and malfeasance so much as the developers have just gotten swept up in the culture and ideology of the dominant players in 0.0 space and lost their view of how it is in the rest of Eve (and how these things look to people in smaller corps and alliances).
The same can be said of the current CSM. It’s made up mainly of representatives from 0.0 alliance blocs who have adopted the dominant culture and ideology of CFC-inspired Eve Online. And CSM and Developers bounce off each other through Twitter, through blogosphere, and become inculcated with the prevailing spirit of 0.0.
This all became fairly apparent in the “tinfoil” backlash against my posting on Eve Online. We had developers, CSM and CFC posters hurling rebuttals against things I hadn’t even said – to defend a position that we were asked to believe “was not set in stone” (while of course it had been set in stone weeks earlier).
Notorious blogger Poetic Stanziel lays on the liberal attacks of the “Jade Constantine tinfoil” suggestion that the 1.1 wardec changes are to the benefit of the large alliances and ends up with CCP Soundwave giving his nod to the blog on Eve General forum.
When another noted blogger Jester writes a piece that isn’t hostile to my position he’s immediately spammed by dozens of angry Goons and has the Mittani coming close to calling for his head on twitter.
There is a lot of emotion here.
And I really do understand why people have gotten defensive at the suggestion this these are biased changes to benefit the dominant powers in 0.0. CCP is still sensitive about notions of developer corruption and it’s an easy thing to switch from jokes of “devswarm” and “dev batphones” made by CFC guys in threads swapping quips with the developers – to an actual accusation of such things which would be horrendously damaging to CCP if proven.
So to clarify then: I don’t really think that Mittani has phoned up CCP Soundwave and told him “fix the wardec system we’re getting owned.”
But I do think pressure has been brought both overt and covert to rush these changes through far more quickly than they should have been. This pressure has come in parts through the CSM (both from the large alliance route to their candidates and from the “merc profession” route through their guys. The more I think about it the more I think that CCP Soundwave’s Iceland Wardec meeting will show (when we get the minutes) that there was no rational middle path proposed by our candidates for most players, and the only hearing was nullsec or “merc profession” special interests and CCP thus didn’t get a proper scope of advice on this issue.
And more pressure has come from CCP’s innate and now obvious fanboy relationship with those they consider the originators of emergent gameplay in Eve online. Burn Jita ends up with a “heh we don’t care about anyone losing their ships that’s consequence!” Hulkageddon is met with “cry more miners!” and both are lauded as triumphs of the sandbox. But with this change to the wardec system with Inferno 1.1 its all “oh noes the plight of the professional mercenary and those 40 defender decs were silly because Eve is not supposed to be fair!”
If not corrupt, it is at least a tremendous double standard and I think the only reason that CCP is not seeing this right now is they are too much in love with the legend and mythology of Goon-dominated 0.0. The defence of the “merc profession” with Inferno 1.1 is just an unconvincing fig-leaf that even the “merc profession” itself doesn’t believe capable of covering the shrunken genetalia of the brutally nerfed wardec system we’re ending up with.
Fallout and the Future
So one side says “its all tinfoil! Its Jade and friends jumping at shadows and pointing at devswarm corruption!” The popular kids on twitter laugh about how the CSM came together to stomp and troll Jade posts on eve-online. “The war is won! Sing the Goonswarm posters (safe in the knowledge they will shortly be protected from counteraction and their griefing decs will go on in relative peace).
But all over Eve Online players are logging onto their Teamspeak Servers and saying “So it looks like CCP caved into the Goons over wardecs.”
Ordinary players are looking at the facts and seeing that a 10,000 man alliance can wardec anyone they want for 50m isk and keep the war active forever. While anyone wanting to strike back in earnest would have to pay 10 TRILLION ISK per 2 week cycle to bring 20 allies to the fight.
These are crazy numbers. This is a frankly insane knee-jerk of a fix. Its ideology and dogma driving game design and reaching cloud-cuckoo-conclusions, this is developers high on 0.0 macho reading printouts of whining eve-mails from ganked miners and wanting to join the cool-kinds in the Mittani compound and share the hulkageddon coolaid. This is a round table discussion that begins “so how can we balance the wardec system?” And getting the reply, “balance? Game balance? THIS IS SPARTA!”
And the outcome? Well, sadly it’s one of those things like titan-dropping 100 armour hacs on a 20 man T1 cruiser gang that provides a bit of vicarious thrill for the winners for about 20secs before they realize they tagged 3 of the enemy and the rest have docked up and gone to play Battlefield3.
War in Eve doesn’t need to be strictly “fair” or scrupulously “balanced” but it does need to be competitive. If both sides don’t have a chance of improving their odds and gaining a fighting chance then there simply isn’t going to be a fight.
And this is the most glaring problem with Soundwave’s “Eve isn’t fair and nor should war system be” philosophy. If it isn’t perceived to be “fairer” or at least more competitive to both sides then people are just going to ignore it. If you really can’t build a defensive coalition to fight back against a giant 0.0 alliance with 100x your number for the same isk they pay to make the war in the first place then people will just shrug and say “bloody CCP making the game for goons only – I’m off to run sanctums on my CFC alt.” There is no motivation to fight a war you have no effective way of winning or indeed improving your position in.
“Fair” really is a double-edged sword. And the problem with this fix is it’s all about trying to be super-fair to first the so-called “merc profession” (so much so they have asked for direct developer intervention to price fix their services!) and second to the giant alliances to ensure their numerical advantage and price efficiency in wars is absolute protected. These 1.1 changes are about as un laissez faire as they could be. It’s all about protectionist intervention and training wheels for mercs and nullsec powers.
“War is not fair, Eve War is not Fair! Therefore Inferno 1.1 Wardecs will not be fair!”
(But its also not FAIR that large attackers get dog-piled so we’re going to make an exception to our policy of not fairness and be specially “fair” to large alliances only!” But thats okay because we’re being unfairly fair while we do it!”)
Endgame and a plea for common sense.
So, to the pitch I made to CCP Soundwave, to the CSM, and to Eve in general when these changes were announced. It’s pretty simple:
1. Ally contracts are for 2 weeks (auto renew available so the 24-48 hour pause can be avoided if war is continuing charges can be auto billed if applicable)
2. Ally contracts have a minimum price tag (as per soundwave’s plan but without 20 limit or the crazy money multipliers) but only if the new ally would push the total size of the defending coalition (defender + all current allies) in excess of the size of the attacker.
3. Optionally, if the defending coalition is larger than the attacking coalition the attacker can add allies to match.
And that’s about it. It will address the issue of “dogpiles” on small wardec corporations as well as the Soundwave 1.1 patch will (because it’s essentially the same when the attacker is smaller than the defender). But it will allow a much smaller defender to add enough allies to take on a massive alliance as is the case with Inferno 1.0.
More importantly – it lets wars grow as an organic and dynamic conflict where both sides can be taking moves and counter moves and ironically it will lead to people competing for the best mercs eventually.
Now of course I already pitched this widely. Most actual players seem to believe it’s a good fix, certainly the majority response in the devblog/test server threads believes it’s a better fix than the Soundwave option.
Soundwave himself disagreed on the grounds that it was:
A) too fair (and eve is not meant to be fair – except to the “merc profession” of course)
B) he didn’t believe it would help the merc profession
Now first point I have to refute because his own team’s devblog goes on about how the mutual war business becomes a mano-a-mano (lol fair fight) which in itself flies in the face of the Eve sandbox player led consequence theme. This comes alongside new ally fees to make things “more fair” for the attacker and the “merc profession”. And of course, as I’ve pointed out widely on Eve-Online as long as these are wars where the attacker is smaller than the defender (ie a professional merc taking a meaningful hit contract) then it’s precisely the same as the offered 1.1 patch.
Of the CSM well, to be honest it hasn’t been too useful, some are 0.0 puppets, some are “professional mercenary” guys tied to their own interests and some are just a bit useless anyway. I don’t think many players had much expectation for this CSM so it’s fair to say they haven’t disappointed that much.
So that’s where we are.
My “tinfoil” seems very widely shared across the length and breadth of the Eve community, judging from thread responses, blogs, and general conversations in Teamspeak, the collective feeling is that CCP is too much in love with the culture of 0.0 and has been suckered into the belief that emergent gameplay and consequences flow only one way (from nullsec to hisec).
It’s widely considered that the “plight” of the mercenary profession has been used as a fig-leaf to cover up a change that is massively to the benefit of nullsec powers continuing “grief-only” wardecs against their targets without significant opportunity for counteraction.
I think CCP has supped on Mittani’s coolaid certainly, but it needs to take a leaf from its own promotional videos “the butterfly effect” and “I was there.” Eve is not just a game for huge 0.0 alliances and their egomaniac leadership to design emergent gameplay/hisec ganking campaigns against a captive audience of subscription-paying victims.
Eve is a sandbox where anyone should be able to invent cunning counter-strategies and have the chance of turning the table on the bullies and fighting back in earnest.
Inferno 1.0 gave us a wardec system where hisec could join together and strike back against the dominant 0.0 powers in Eve. With Inferno 1.1 CCP is snatching that system away from us and piling the advantages back onto the big guys alone. And this and no other reason is why the commonality of Eve players outside the mega-alliances is looking at this decision and muttering darkly about CCP bending over the table for Goonswarm.
Inferno allied wardecs were butterfly effect in action.
CCP just stamped on the butterfly and turned a fire extinguisher on Inferno.
Current drama is the consequence of that decision.
- Jade Constantine
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