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Whose Victory in Delve is it anyway?

October 26, 2021

By Seraph IX Basarab

At the start of August TEST’s leadership along with other elements of PAPI Coalition announced their immediate withdrawal from their campaign against the Imperium. This article will analyze the mistakes made as well as the various narratives being thrown around as to why the campaign failed. Who is to blame if anyone? What does victory look like?

The initial goal of “exterminating Goons” as stated by PGL was never feasible in a game where you get to respawn. This more than anything else was the argument that we saw on a weekly basis on Imperium’s media site. “Not exterminating us fast enough” was the constant echo behind every other point being made. As system after system fell, and structure after structure was crushed, Goons made full use of their extensive media capabilities to say “nuh-uh” in the face of reality…and it worked. Despite the major losses taken, the Imperium was much better at delivering a unified message to their coalition. PAPI on the other hand had different alliance leaders voicing messages that were even if only slightly different, enough for the Imperium to point out and note differences. When the Imperium’s narrative shifted, such as when the M2 Hellcamp ended on March 7th of 2021, everyone at INN quickly followed lockstep. The story changed from “we will hellcamp forever” to “actually dropping the hellcamp is a power move showing how strong we are.” Even a casual observer can tell that throughout the war, media narrative the one area the Imperium dominated. Conversely when individuals from PAPI contacted me about countering INN’s narrative, I said I would only fact check rather than counter spin and if they would provide support. They turned the terms down saying that I should just do it out of personal conviction pro bono. Even if just an anecdote this hints at the kind of importance was placed on narrative building. For PAPI it was too little too late.

On the military front PAPI made fairly rapid advance in the regions surrounding Delve. Mittens went from daring NCdot to push into Fountain’s J5A from Cloud Ring and swearing countless casualties of the attackers, to writing off the entire region as “just a floodplain” when Fountain was taken and razed. Querious, Period Basis and most of Delve followed. The problem with this is that it robbed PAPI of opportunities to drop on any Imperium targets scurrying about their regions. By taking all the farmlands and fields, all the villagers were now in the castle where it was much harder to find and kill them. Furthermore as INN’s own writers admitted in an article titled “TEST’S SWORD OF DAMOCLES” these regions became worth far less due to the scarcity changes implemented by CCP. PAPI’s gains were simply scorch earthed away by scarcity. Sure the Imperium had a hard time making income in null, but PAPI wasn’t much better.

The Honey Badger “Coalition” of WWB spent the first three months of 2016 utilizing hit and fade tactics and essentially killed the Imperium’s 2nd largest alliance, SMA, before the conquest of territory had even begun. Lighting a bunch of smaller fires in various Imperium held territories and then watching Mittens and Goons attempt to put them out put their incompetence on full display. So much so that after three months Co2, arguably the Imperium’s most pvp centric alliance holding the most successful defense, reached out to me for terms regarding their defection.

The Imperium abandoned all sov and retreated to Saranen because according to Mittens “Aegis sov favored the attacker.” Afterward his narrative quickly turned to “Aegis sov favors the defender” when the Imperium’s “Fabian strategy” sputtered. Simply goes to show that sometimes you cannot win by your own competence alone, but must create an environment where the enemy’s incompetence can comes into play as well. By pushing all of the Imperium into one corner PAPI gave no opportunity for the Imperium to screw up, nor was there a chance for a “Co2 moment” to develop. Instead it became a fight of who could convince themselves the longest that they were winning. The war became one over perception of reality rather than objective metrics. For example when PAPI jumped their supers into M2 where many of their members never loaded grid or had their titans show up with no modules on the other side, the narrative on INN was that “PAPI should have known that server issues would occur.” It was supposed to be some masterful Imperium strategy that the servers failed to properly function. Essentially “You should know the game would break in such a way to favor us.” Later on you even had certain Imperium members claim that there were no server issues at all but that the Imperium forces were simply so competent that they were simply killing titans before their modules could load. Imagine that.

The unfortunate truth of why PAPI did not invade and take the last constellation is really quite simple: the servers made it impossible. You could not cyno in without having another M2 happening where much of the titan and super cap fleet was simply black screened or loaded grid without modules. You could not gate your supers and titans through either as a similar outcome would have happened. There was no terrible blunder by PAPI, no masterful defense by the Imperium. It was simply server issues no matter how hard some may try to spin it. Truth be told that’s extremely unsatisfying for both sides because neither group could feel accomplished in giving it their all. Instead the result was decided by the limitations of our technology. The only people who could feel any satisfaction were those indulging in spin where the outcome was already decided in their minds. No one was to blame, no one was really able to take credit. The same result would have happened if the situations were reversed. And PAPI were the defenders holding out in one last constellation. Blocs have grown so large now that they are too big to fail. The limitations of the servers themselves will not let “that final big battle” occur. Right now with the limitations of our technology there’s really no solution to that. At most CCP can continue to try to implement changes that incentivize having smaller groups…but this too is extremely challenging as people will always find more security with numbers. One would hope that at the very least the players involved could recognize what decided the war instead of having some delusional scenario playing in their head. Unlikely that won’t still occur as often happens in Eve.

The entire Imperium narrative of being the victors in Delve hinges on one simple thing: “Muh call for extermination” that PGL made. Had PGL not made the claim and instead simply remarked that he wanted to glass four regions of the Imperium, and did everything else exactly the same, PAPI would have been victors. In this sort of meta madness of deluded perceptions and self-convincing the entire result of the conflict becomes a sort of Schrodinger’s Victory. Of course basing an Imperium victory upon PGL making some senseless claim is just as senseless as the claim of extermination itself. Not that that is stopping anyone from the defending side of doing it. But let’s look beyond the spin of both sides and objectively point out some key points.

  1. Imperium had a much better narrative game going into this. Their use of media was the key focus of their war effort while PAPI’s messaging was jumbled and sometimes even self-contradictory. Even when the Imperium had to shift their narrative 180, as was the case with the hellcamp of M2, everyone adapted quickly and seamlessly.
  2. Server issues were the defining factor that stopped PAPI from attempting to push through into 1dq. If you have even the slightest grasp of Eve or reality itself, you should have no problem recognizing this. There wasn’t some mastermind Imperium masterstroke strategy. Simply nobody wanted to have another M2 server black screen modules not loading onto titans event.
  3. Legacy is in tatters and they took a huge political hit in this war. If their messaging and communication was better, the fallout from retreating from Delve would have been much more manageable. But the Legacy portion of PAPI failed to prioritize the meta game and lost unquestionably on this front in the face of the Imperium.
  4. With the exception of one constellation in Delve, the Imperium had 4 full regions glassed and trillions upon trillions destroyed. The Imperium went from out of the best financed groups (if not the best) in the entire Eve universe, to being relegated to holding a single constellation. Even Pyrrhus of Epirus would wince at such an outcome. Some of us may be playing long enough to remember when the Imperium glassed a single region held by Panfam (Tribute) and bragging about it incessantly. Even if we want to say PAPI and Legacy specifically lost the war because they did not carry out the end to the letter of PGL’s unrealistic claim of extermination, it’s hard to see where exactly the Imperium’s victory is. Even if the Imperium was wiped out of Delve and they only had a 10 member corp living in highsec, by insisting nonsensically about PGL’s “extermination” statement, they could still “technically” claim a win. This “victory” is just a scaled down version of that delusion.

It’s hard to see a group that’s had all but one constellation wiped out as a winner. We could say that Test lost but survived, the Imperium lost but survived, and certain elements within PAPI flourished. Winter Coalition is perhaps the best example of this. Within about a year they saw two of their biggest rivals smash against one another while consolidating more power. PanFam seems to be in a great position relative to the Imperium and Legacy as well. It was great watching trillions of resources burn up in the numerous battles that have occurred during this war. Power has shifted and the universe is quite different from the one we saw a year or two ago. Let’s just hope that when the next big war happens, we’ll have the technology to see it through to a satisfying end with ship wrecks rather than just talking points.

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