This article is intended for both older and newer players regarding the events surrounding “World War Bee.” The article is not meant to paint any side as “good” or “bad, ” and as far as I’m concerned, no such thing exists in EVE, to begin with. It should be noted that I, like anyone else, have my own perspective on the events, some of which I was involved with on a personal level. As such if you have something to discuss, please keep it to the articles and stay factual. I always welcome debate.
First off I will say that throughout the article I will refer to this conflict as “World War Bee” as opposed to “The Casino War.” Even though I actually like the name “Casino War” or as some others have suggested “The Mercenary War” because they fit my image of cyber-noir that is Eve, WWB is much more widely used and accepted. “Casino War” also has some propagandist leanings as an attempt by the losing side to save some face. It’s similar to how some people in the American south refer to the Civil War as “The War of Northern Aggression.”
The Imperium’s Origin Myth
To understand WWB and just how big of an impact the Imperium (formerly known as CFC or Cluster Fuck Coalition) losing the north, we must understand some of the backgrounds. The CFC, rebranded as the Imperium, like many great empires has its root in a myth. A myth that has a seed of truth and a lot of embellishment. The myth I am referring to originates in the fall of an even older hegemon by the name of Band of Brothers. The myth goes that BoB, the elitist, overbearing mega Empire was brought down by the scrappy Goon upstarts. Specifically, their current leader, The Mittani, managed to recruit and convince a BoB director to disband the entire alliance thus paving the way for Goon success and the building of their own coalition.
In reality, the BoB director by the name of Haargoth was just a guy bored with the game. Not only was The Mittani not really “behind it” he was scarcely involved according to his former peers. Instead, he’s been described as just sort of being the room while other people in a position of power handled it. As fate would have it, The Mittani would become the main power in Goonswarm to a significant part by pushing and using this myth of his primary role and to further cultive an image as a “spymaster” This image gave him carte blanche to impose his designs for Goonswarm and build one of the strongest and longest lasting coalitions in the game. To understand Goonswarm and the Imperium, one must understand the importance of this event. This story is often repeated, some would say ad nauseam, even as recently as March 3rd on The New Yorker Radio Hour. Despite all of this happening about a decade ago, “Goon media” frequently recount the fall of BoB. Whenever the Goons would have an upcoming conflict with NCdot, an alliance which has many ex-BoB elements within it, the memory of Band of Brothers would be invoked. Goons were simultaneously both victims of BoB’s oppressive elitism and defiant victors. BoB was both an entity that The Mittani had undone, while simultaneously an ever present malevolent force to guard against.
Pride Cometh Before the Fall
Fast forward to mid-late 2015, the coalitions apex. The Imperium under the leadership of Goonswarm had grown to a massive Empire. The entity that had initially advertised itself as an entity that does not take internet spaceships seriously had ended up taking it more seriously than anybody else. They held arguably the richest portion of nullsec and had the organization, structure, and numbers to absolutely dwarf the combined strength of the next closest rival entities. The idea of the Imperium ever losing its space seemed completely impossible in the minds of the majority of New Eden’s players. The few that do call for a coalition to form and take the fight to the Imperium are universally mocked and ridiculed. The most “elite” and pvp capable alliances are quite fragile when it comes to ego and image and a reliance on that air of elitism that prohibited doing anything that would risk or threatens their existence or self-perceived status. At this point in time, the Imperium is so secure in its position that it attempted to carry out three major objectives.
- The “Book Kick Starter” was an attempt, by The Mittani, to bring in an author and write a piece of work detailing Goonswarm’s previous victory in the “Fountain War” against another rival alliance by the name of Test Alliance Please Ignore. Despite the conflict being a few years old, one could argue that the topic merited this kind of attention due to the size of the two alliances. Others would say that TEST, having lost its leadership, had little business being in a war to begin with and was a factor which saw many of TEST’s nominal allies depart resulting in “war” that turned out to be little more than a glorified cleanup operation. Regardless of the narrative, the attempt at asking for money, $150,000 total, irked most of the Eve community who then saw the Kick Starter campaign simply as an attempt by Goonswarm to stroke its ego. Concerns also erupted over how the money would be managed and the nature of the “prizes” for the project donors. One particular donor prize, a chance to party with The Mittani himself on a yacht, generated universal outrage and ridicule. The entire event was mocked by most of the non-Imperium members of the community and received only lukewarm support internally. In reaction to the communities negative response to the campaign by the Eve community The Mittani and his inner circle went on the offensive and attacked the Eve community on Reddit as being hateful and jealous. This did little to change anyone’s mind and only succeeded in escalating the ridicule further. With the kick starter failing, The Mittani suspended the project and decreed that it would be re-attempted in a few months later, and then laid the blame for the failure at the feet of some of the projects team members. Little did he know that the next few months would bring his coalition to the brink of its own destruction.
- The Kick Starter fiasco was soon followed by the “Viceroy Program.” Imperium diplomats, known as “Viceroy’s”, would approach entities throughout EVE and give them a choice between paying a tribute to the Imperium or be assailed by Imperium Military SIGs. This underlined just how untouchable the Imperium viewed itself at this point and that the Mittani thought he could ransom the universe. This too was mocked throughout the community, particularly, when ChaosTheoryDOT, a new alliance recently formed out of breakaway Imperium members, called the Imperium’s bluff and the Imperium did nothing. Alliance’s through out Eve took note of the Imperium inability to enforce its demands against such a new and small alliance and wondered if the Imperium was as invincible as believed.
- The third action, taken in the background of both previous elements, was the Imperium’s invasion of “Low-sec” space. At this time, “low-sec”, was home to many medium sized alliances that were relatively wealthy and whose line members had a much higher skill point average than most Imperium Alliances. These “low-sec” entities such as Shadow Cartel, Snuff Box, Psychotic Tendencies, Dead Terrorists, and etc. often fought one another, traded allies, and carried a variety of long standing personal grudges. When the Imperium announced they would invade low sec to take valuable moons and purge ‘low-sec” space in late 2015, the low sec entities formed a loose, informal coalition that became known as Low-Sec-Voltron or LSV. Despite being outnumbered 3 to 1, LSV proved remarkably apt at fighting and defeating the larger Imperium Fleets. The Imperium pushed a narrative to console it’s line members that the acquisition of the LSV moons, deemed “objectives”, was more important than “ISK the Imperium lost in the engagments. However, the sheer amount of ISK the Imperium lost was becoming staggering for the small gains made. Engagments generally saw LSV fielding around 300 man Machariel fleets against much larger 700-900 man Imperium fleets. LSV would trade extremely favorably until the Imperium would, in attempt to stave off the losses drop a mass of super capitals. At this point, LSV would pull back and the Imperium would acquire a moon making 1 to 4 billion isk in revenue while having paid tens of even hundreds of billions in lost ships. The importance of LSV’s engagments with the Imperium was twofold: first they showed that the Imperium could be challenged by a smaller coalition, in fact, a sort of precursor to the “Money Badger Coalition; and secondly, that the Imperium’s fabled bark was much more fearsome than its actual bite.
Throughout 2015, the Imperium suffered an increasing amount of “brain drain” of key leaders from within the coalition. Individuals such as Vily, Blawrf, Endie, and SUAS who had been key leaders in the building and development of Goonswarm as an alliance and the CFC/Imperium’s dominance as a coalition, had departed, usually on bad terms. Venom and animosity was exchanged between former comrades, and much dirty laundry was presented on Reddit for the entire EVE community to see and highlighted. This section alone could be an article by itself, and even though I am keeping this portion shorter for the sake of simplicity, this factor should especially be kept in mind throughout the article.
Enter the Casinos
Even before the individuals known as Eep and Lenny, the “casino barons” became involved, there were a number of individuals that worked in parallel, often without the knowledge of each other, toward building contacts and relationships in order to topple the Imperium. However, all this planning and plotting required enough of a monetary incentive to push the Imperium’s enemies past the idea that fighting the Imperium would be suicide. People like Eep and Lenny for a variety of reasons that have been detailed in several past articles decided to fund opposition groups to fight the Imperium. Rather than supporting a single unified force, the idea was to back several separate entities on different fronts. This way the ever shrinking pool of talent in the Imperium leadership, due to the aforementioned brain drain, would be stretched even thinner. Perhaps the earliest front was opened up in Tribute and Lonetrek by Mercenary Coalition and Project Mayhem along with other local allies when they fought against Circle-of-Two, arguably the most pvp competent alliance in the Imperium. (Keep Co2 in mind for later.) This initial front and opening rounds of World War Bee saw both attacker and defender fight skillfully resulting in more or less an initial stalemate. What really punctured the Imperium’s hide would be a somewhat unusual alliance by the name of Psychotic Tendencies or TISHU.
(Full disclosure, during WWB I was part of TISHU’s leadership acting as a diplomat for the alliance.)
The iteration of TISHU that formed in 2015 was a combination of a couple Syndicate based corps (Adversity which was the executor as well as IAGO) combined with much of the US time zone of the recently disbanded Black Legion. BL itself had been an extremely competent PVP juggernaut known for its risky drops that more often than not resulted in some pretty “clutch dunks.” Some would even say Black Legion while not as large or super cap heavy as entities like Pandemic Legion or NCdot, was pound for pound the most dangerous single alliance in EVE itself. Much of the US time portion of that found its home within TISHU making up about 80 percent of the alliance. Straddling Syndicate and Placid, TISHU engaged in lowsec brawls, took part in the LSV campaign but was generally indifferent to the whole idea of fighting the Imperium. Some people in leadership were interested but there also needed to be some convincing done. That came in the form of around a trillion ISK to be paid to us for attacking SpaceMonkey’s Alliance, the 2nd largest alliance in the Imperium and the game itself. The prevailing attitude was “Hey if some rich guy wants to throw his money on us to use Black Ops battleships on some trash tier alliance, let him.” And the justification was, in the immortal words of Spaceball’s Lone Star, “We’re not just doing this for money. We’re doing this for a shitload of money!” And so at the start of 2016, TISHU packed up its things and moved north to strike at SMA.
SMA was expecting to be wardecced and have someone camp them in Jita. They were not expecting anything of what was to come. The best visual I can give you of the conflict between TISHU and SMA would be a professional MMA fighter punching a toddler in the face repeatedly before drop kicking it off a bridge. TISHU applied with alts to join SMA corps, bumped expensive industrial ships out of their own poses and generally acted as a malevolent force in their space. During TISHU’s active timezone, there was also a constant Black ops fleet of 50-70 characters logged in. On off times there were several people simply sitting around with cloaky sabers targeting anything that they could catch. TISHU was getting paid by the corpse. Perhaps even more importantly was the kind of damage TISHU did to SMA internally as well as publically. TISHU would destroy some high-value target and post about it on Reddit. On Reddit, the already galvanized anti-Imperium sentiment (due to those three objectives listed above) would escalate the notoriety and ridicule.
Internally SMA members were blaming each other and arguing. SMA leadership attempted to damage-control the losses with propaganda but came off as detached from the plight of the line members. TISHU leaked voice meetings and cheesy attempts to raise morale. Forums posts were leaked and even figured out how to turn SMA’s futile attempt at security against them. When you posted a screen shot from their forum, the picture would have a particular signature to show who took that picture. So anytime you posted a screen shot you would burn an account. TISHU figured out how to falsify that signature framing multiple people as being leaks and causing internal drama over it. When Goonswarm attempted to step in and provide assistance, SMA reacted negatively causing a rift between the two. Now the two largest alliances in the Imperium and EVE as a whole had a wedge driven between them. Before SMA leadership could put out one fire, fifteen more erupted behind them.
All this continued for most of January, and in turn, the blood in the water attracted even more sharks in the form of Pandemic Horde and other alliances. “The Horde” is the new player friendly “junior” alliance to the super-cap heavy Pandemic Legion. What Horde provided was complete occupation and presence over all of SMA’s space. Over the course of the next three months, SMA was reduced from the 2nd largest alliance in its coalition and EVE as a whole, into a non-factor. Their inability to deal with TISHU attracted other attackers and Goonswarm’s failure to protect their ally, not for lack of trying, further showed that the Imperium was not the invincible entity so many had considered it to be. Out of Sight and Omega Security Services struck from the vast NPC region of Venal in combination to the continued assault by Mercenary Coalition and their allies in Lonetrek and Tribute.
Short statement on the “RMT cheater narrative”
There have been some assertions, mostly on the losing side of WWB, that casinos in EVE gave an “unfair” advantage to the attacking force as an unassailable source of income. I would counter that point by stating that the attacker’s success would be based on that if they ever had to use that money to SRP their losses. In the vast majority of cases, this was never necessary. Beyond that, that same criticism could be leveled toward the Imperium whose own media site makes money which could, in turn, can be converted to ISK via PLEX. Furthermore, The Mittani also attempted to start his casino for the same purposes. So this argument against the casinos is not one of principle but of scale. The claim for RMT affected the success of the attacking force is also weak. Casinos make ISK reliably. The attacking forces were paid in ISK. In no part of that transaction would RMT be a factor even if members of these casinos sold their ISK. If anything, selling their ISK for real money would weaken the casino’s purchasing power for the attacking forces, not strengthen it.
The Nightmare becoming Reality
By March, heavier and larger alliances such as Pandemic Legion, NCdot and TEST had more or less committed to the idea of fighting the Imperium head-on. The Mittani tried to rally his members with declarations that thousands of his alliance’s members would resub their accounts and “forge the Goonhammer.” This proved to be wishful thinking. Most would consider the involvement of NCPL the “start of WWB” and perhaps for most this is when they became involved. However, none of this would have been possible without the initial stages of the “advanced guard” alliances that first broke the skin and assured these larger alliances of the possibility to win. By the time the larger alliances became involved, much of the Imperium had already been profoundly demoralized and had to rely on a small handful of FCs. The Mittani deployed his alliance to Saranen, a low sec system next to Pure Blind. With SMA more or less a non-factor and the deep north of Branch and Tenal mostly abandoned, Tribute and Vale of the Silent in the East remained as real positions of resistance. Here a combination of Circle-of-Two, The Bastion, and Get Off My Lawn were catching the brunt of the invasion. Co2 had seen the writing on the wall long before leaders in Goonswarm did and as such planned accordingly. Their plan was to build a mini-coalition out of Bastion and LAWN, and put up a retreating defense toward Tribute until the attacking force would bypass them or give up.
Co2 had had a long and turbulent relationship with Goonswarm within the Imperium and felt that GSF diplomats were heavy handed with their demands at times. This can be debated elsewhere but what we know for sure is that Bastion and LAWN decided to abandon their sov with Goonswarm and most of what remained of the Imperium and move to Saranen low sec. Rather than follow suit, Co2 decided to go their own way and defected from the Imperium.
Circle of Two defecting from the Imperium had spectacular implications. The obvious implications are the direct military factors of losing your strongest coalition member. Just as importantly if not more so was the shattering of morale on multiple levels. The day the defection occurred saw Imperium members stunned at the loss. Lenny referred to the defection as a critical point of the conflict, and the moment the Imperium stopped any significant military operations. Mercenary Coalition’s leader stated that it flat out won the war for the attackers. Pandemic Legion’s Grath Telkin said it was the tipping point of the whole conflict while Endie, former head of GSF intel turned PL, stated that the defection also robbed the Imperium of their most competent supercap ally and led the remaining coalition members to prioritize saving their assets and looking for an exit. Even Bastion’s leader, Carneros, referred to the event as unquestionably relevant and having a substantial effect on the conflict. On top of all that, Co2 also provided the attackers with intel on all titans and super capitals that were still in build within the coalition many of which were quickly aborted costing many fortunes in wealth.
Vily, a former GSF FC who had joined TEST Alliance, stated something particularly important on a public podcast the night of the defection: “The Co2 backstab was the biggest backstab in Eve history. Bigger even than Haargoth backstabbing Band of Brothers.”
Why is this particularly important? Remember my overview regarding the whole mythology for Goonswarm and The Mittani surrounding the fall of BoB right? GSF and The Mittani portray themselves as the masters of meta. Their phrase is “We control the meta.” The Mittani fashioned himself the “Solar Spymaster.” Their intelligence agency is carried the ominous name “the Black Hand.” Everything is done to push a particular image in the minds of others oriented toward a no-scruples cut throat organization that does what needs to be done to ensure its interests. “Best of friends, worst of enemies.” Co2’s defection showed just how untrue all of that was. They were completely blind-sided by the defection despite Co2’s head diplomat being in discussions regarding such a possibility for months. The Haargoth Betrayal, the “meta maneuver,” that had been used to forge The Mittani’s and GSF’s image, the supposed apex of meta-gaming, had been usurped in that very same move that sealed any possibility for them to reconquer the north.
Overnight, Goonswarm Federation, the alliance that valued scamming and meta-gaming above all else while mocking concepts of “space-bushido” and “honorable space warfare” had become downright irate. Co2 were good for nothing traitors that would soon meet their vengeance and destruction at the hand of the Imperium. The Mittani swore oaths of revenge through gritted teeth uttering promises to “fuck them to death and twist the knife.” New Karma fleet recruits are taught this most bitter of events even today where the topic is still a sore subject. In the wake of Co2’s defection, GSF put out three main messages. First, they posted a heavily doctored chat log between their head diplomat and Co2’s showing how benevolent GSF had been. Secondly, a mirror alliance was made as an offer to Co2 corps that wanted to remain in the Imperium. None opted to rejoin their former coalition. Thirdly, as an attempt to save face for their intel group, they created the narrative that they had avoided a non-existent super cap trap supposedly set by Co2. Zero evidence has been provided to prove this and as someone that was directly involved in Co2’s departure while in TISHU, and later serving as a diplomat for Co2, there was never such a plan in play. You can’t blame them for trying to maneuver out of the tailspin. However after this point, for all intents and purposes, the Imperium had lost the war.
For the next few months, they sat in Saranen taking out interceptor fleets while their territory was absorbed by entities like Pandemic Horde and Darkness. Once in a while, they’d manage to catch the occupying forces off guard and snag a few wins from NCPL who were weary of camping low sec. The occupation was probably the most difficult time for the attacking forces. While the attackers were getting bored, the Imperium continued to bleed members at an alarming rate. Perhaps one could argue that if the Imperium forces had held off and kept up the Vale front, it would have given them enough time to online the new citadels and at the very least be able to maintain Deklein and some of the more northern regions. Co2’s front had been the most successful war theater defending the Imperium by far right up until their coalition decided to abandon the space. We’ll never know.
What we do know is that despite The Mittani’s many speeches stating their intent to retake the north by taking a system, mining up ADMs, installing citadels, piece by piece a more reasonable plan was composed. The remnants of the Imperium, now without FCON, RZR, EXE, SMA, and CO2, decided to invade Delve. The Initiative would as always operate at an arms-length, Get Off My Lawn was severely depleted while Baston did what it could to absorb whatever fractured corps would join them from the aforementioned former allies. One can say that the Imperium handled the war with disastrous results, but if any entity could survive such a spectacular fall, it would be them. Their unparalleled organization and sheer size, despite their recent loss, made short work of the small divided Delve alliances that would soon be evicted. There was an attempt by TEST to make things as difficult as possible, but by now the attacker’s coalition, their task of expelling the Imperium from the north, was quickly dismantling itself. Goonswarm and what remained of their allies would be left in relative peace to rebuild.
A New Myth
For the average member of Goonswarm, their WWB experience was composed of a couple of major battles, everything around them catching fire, a retreat to low sec, and a lot of speeches from their leaders. The speeches usually revolved around the blame of allies, or cheating, or some claim of unfairness. These excuses do nothing more than mask the frustration and fail to address the underlying problems. Resentment can be a powerful tool, but for the newer generations, it is foreign and at best, a cheap imitation. It gives them nothing new to work toward.
They have a real opportunity to hit a “reset button” of sorts in regards to their relationships. GSF needs diplomacy now more than ever. The current trend to turn inwardly and name everyone an enemy will only further isolate and harm their interests. With the “Haargoth defection” usurped in terms of prominence and effect, they can instead look to their survival and recover in Delve as their new point of origin. They survived a fall most entities would not have. That alone is worth celebrating, and regardless of how you may feel about Imperium or the Goons, it should be applauded.
I intended this to be a short “primer” on WWB, but while writing this, I learned that many key points needed to be addressed and put into context. I’ve left out names and retelling of major battles as they can probably be found elsewhere and focused more on the unique political and diplomatic aspects of the war which really shaped events.