Donnerstag, 7. April 2016

The War With A Dozen Names

The Situation

As some of you might have noticed, there's currently a minor engagement ongoing in the northern realms of what once was referred to as "the blue donut", the nullsec regions so far owned by the coalition that named itself originally the ClusterFuck Coalition (CFC), rebranded to the Imperium and is most currently referred to as "those bee guys" by the reddit community of Eve.

What was regarded as an invulnerable fortress by about all of Eve has come under attack by a loosely confederated bunch of entities that's most commonly referred to as the "MoneyBadger Coalition" (MBC), a pun which plays with the name of the former Coalition of some of the main players which was named Honeybadger Coalition (HBC) and the fact that this engagement was started by mercenary contracts, so the attackers were actually being paid to launch the attack.

The engagement itself has been named "World War Bee" by the reddit community, which has been picked up by CCP itself, while the defenders try to name it "the war of sovless agression" or something the like. Alongside of those there have been a number of other names popping up, so I'm gonna name it the war with a dozen names. Honestly, to me it's not even a real war yet, as currently there's no real reason to risk any major fleet engagements due to the disparity of power of the conflicting parties, it's just a sov-grinding contest right now.

The ongoing state of the engagement has been the almost exclusive topic of recent news entries and forum activity (especially on reddit, the origin of Test, one of the largest alliances attacking). Since several of those reports and voiced opinions have, in my humble opinion, been far off the mark, I'd like to do my own analysis of the current situation.

The Past

In the last two years the CFC has clashed repeatedly with the key actors in the attacking MBC, most prominently Pandemic Legion and Northern CoalitonDot. It's basically undisputed that the average skill level is far higher in those entities as well as for the lowsec entities or wormhole dwellers that joined the attackers and started the current invasion. In the past confrontations this would be made up by superior numbers and a perfect logistics department in the CFC.

This would usually be mocked as F1-monkeys (pressing only the F1-button for shooting the grouped weapons) fighting against skilled pilots, winning only by blobbing the opponent.

The CFC also always kept the narrative from the early days of its main alliance Goonswarm Federation to drown the enemies in droves of inexperienced young pilots, to revel in the fact that it frequently fucks up fleets, operations or whatever else could go wrong. Hence the name of the Coalition.

The opponents however frequently kept pointing out that this romantic image was misleading for quite a while, as the CFC not only built a logistics department of which many a real life business company would be envious, they also field a huge number of highly skilled pilots and the largest number of supercapital and titan pilots in any single entity in the game as well as some highly gifted and clever strategists and Fleet Commanders.

As always, the truth is in the middle. The CFC has quite an amount of good pilots and as pointed out above, some decent FCs and a terrific infrastructure. Yet the entities listed above take only the best pilots in the game, usually poaching them from other alliances (all roads lead to PL). As they only field handpicked elitist pilots, they can act faster, are highly trained and have no morons to take care off that might have made it into the fleet.
The CFC however does give every player in its ranks the chance to join any fleet he meets the requirements for. So each player which has learned the required skills on one of his chars and purchased a hull of the appropriate ship can get into a capital or supercapital group. Subcap fleets are open for everyone of course as well. This is good for the esprit de corps, makes everyone feel useful and allows everyone the chance to do what he always has dreamed of when he started with the game.
It also creates a slope regarding the personal skill of the players though. Where the elitist alliances only take veteran players that have proven in countless battles how well they perform, need to get vouches of current members to even be considered as applicant to those entities, there are doubtless players in the fleets of the CFC that perform subpar and harm the effectiveness of the entire fleet. 

The famous trail of a thousand tears, long time past, before Phoebe

However, the numerical and logistical superiority allowed the CFC to win every past conflict, causing grudges and vows of revenge in its wake, their enemies impotent to attack the only remaining powerbloc in the game. In consequence the game stagnated somewhat, causing many people to leave the game, not only of defeated enemies, but also their own players who deemed the game "won" or grew bored by lack of action.

The Current Situation

Before writing about the current engagment, I want to make clear that I'll continue to use the acronym CFC for my coalition, as I never was happy with the rebranding and it's simply far shorter to write. 
The CFC was an identity taken up by most of the members of the alliances banded together by skillfull diplomacy and clever propaganda in the past. When I started the game I was immediately impressed by the propaganda skills of Goonswarm as well as the artistic quality of their works.
The rebranding to the mostly bland and unimaginative name "the Imperium" (I love the roman empire, but hello, it's space opera here) took this away from the player base, which was basically not even asked about the decision (there was a poll which wasn't even taken for serious by the members, and its result was ignored by the leadership). The reason for the rebranding is common knowledge and doesn't need to be written about, but I'll ignore it as well.

As stated above, the CFC has been bleeding members to inactivity for a while now, also affecting senior managers and FCs. Additional to this finally some kind of fallout in the leadership of the CFC occured, causing a core corp, longtime management members and senior FCs to desert the CFC and some of them joined the current enemies.

In the beginnings of the current conflict the CFC got under attack from several sides and the member alliances were actually defending independantly at their regions. However it became quite soon apparent that the CFC was heavily outnumbered this time, as most of the remaining pvp-entities of Eve had banded together to use the most likely only chance ever to defeat them once and for all.
The CFC, so far regarded as unassailable, incorporating about 30k characters, was facing attackers with a membership of about 50k characters. Defending fleets sizing about 1k ships were facing attackers with twice their numbers. Adding into this situation the fact that the elitist organisations from nullsec as well as the known highskill entities of lowsec were also tactical superior in battle, it became pretty obvious that the risk of any further defensive battles was futile and it should be clear to any competent onlooker that it would only be a waste of ressources to have the fleets massacred without any hope of victory or even delaying the inevitable.

Thus the decision was made to evacuate several regions, stations were evacuated, towers were offlined and unanchored, stored for future use and the regions were cleared. 
The members of the affected alliances were pulled back to the current coalition staging system, some were left behind.

While the current narrative seems to be that the evac was going pretty rough, killmails getting linked and pointing out what all was left behind, the economic statistics from march, released by CCP show pretty well, how smoothly the evacuation of Vale really went:

148 Trillion isk exported from Vale of the Silent in March 2016

Did everything go perfect? Of course not, I personally was pretty disappointed with the support for the evacuation of the supercap and titan fleet and the solution for the remaining ships afterwards (we safely evacuated our titans and supercaps on our own through hostile territory, but shht, don't tell our superiors, nobody noticed cause we ain't incompetent)

Now I keep reading on blogs, reports, reddit, how desperate everyone in the CFC is, the alliances that watch their regions burn, the leadership of the CFC as they lose their precious RMT.

Are there people unhappy with the situation? Surely there are. 

Is everyone desperate in the CFC? Hell no.

Let's take a look at the real situation:

Option one: 
Burn Trillions of isk trying to defend basically not defendable and not very good systems in vale, fade and whereever. The money is lost for good, the pilots get burned out quickly and lose moral because they lose every engagement. The space and the assets are lost anyways.

Option two:
Pull back, let a couple of SCAA burn that couldn't be removed without losing ressources, lose money, but far less, harrass the attackers and try to make the new sov-system as painful for them as it can be.
Try to burn out the opponents instead of your own members.

Of course there are people quite unhappy with the situation, everyone can see this in the statistics, members are dropping from the CFC, even one large alliance switched allegiance due to complaints about lack of support by the coalition. People can't do their beloved 5-carrier-ratting anymore to pay their subscriptions. The retreat costs the alliance a ton of money, which is never a nice situation.
It might even come to the disbanding of major alliances of the CFC, a severe drop of membership is to be expected.

But people like Killah Bee know the truth, in his quite decent interview he was really cautious, trying to reign in the expectations, after all this conflict has just begun.

The Outlook

Now we're talking business: How will this confrontation develop?

My mystic chrystal ball has been in a quite good condition lately, but honestly, I wouldn't place my personal fortune on any predictions.

However, I disagree with almost all predictions and celebrations on reddit and Ripard Teg as well.

I see several possible outcomes of the current invasion and none of them is what is currently favoured by the majority of posters:

1. MBC stays stable, numbers stay up, CFC keeps failing

Even though the CFC falls back to a harassing tactic of denying fun, making opponents work hard for their progress, often proven successfull in the past, the autists of Test are not that easily put off and keep up the grind, the CFC continues to lose ground quickly, numbers of fleets in the MBC stay high, can field 5k players for a major battle.

Most likely in this case there won't even be a battle for Deklein. The CFC stays at its staging in Saranen and waits until everyone goes home to reconquer the whole lost ground in a short period of time once everyone has left (ADMs will all be nonexistant, grinding will be a hell easier than for attackers now). The coalition will bleed members for sure, but will claim it's all carebears and lowlifes, true allies and members prove their value in times of need, it's called trimming the fat, but the coalition itself will remain, most of the allies don't have anywhere else to go, unless GSF disbands the coalition, they all use their infrastructure, the FCs are there...

People tend to forget just how much cash the CFC has lying around and just how many supercapitals and titans. Even if a defense against the current onslaught is just not viable, nothing prevents them from capturing back what was lost within days after just a few Coalition members going home.

No property is currently being lost by the CFC aside from some Infrastructure items for moderate amounts of money and some supercaps that are aborted. PL is claiming egalization of B-R already now, before entering Deklein (disregarding the fact that even 70 assembly arrays aren't equal to 70 titans, else the CFC would be drowning in titans). Nonetheless it's just a months output of supercapitals being lost, if all of them were active, so it should be rather easy to count up how many supercapitals have been built in the past 3 years alone.

Probability: pretty high

2. Same as above, CFC doesn't retake sov

Same premise as above, but the leadership of the CFC decides it's time to step up the game as PL, NC. and basically every other high end entity of the game did and say a hearty "fuck you" to Greyscale, Fozzie and Seagull and stage from lowsec in future, concentrating on money moons and a nomadic live style. 

The game would lose it's stationary bad guy, instead the whole coaltion might go Reavers style.  

Probability: low, too many carebears and monetisation requries a flag on the map

3. CFC tactics showing some success, MBC members can be bought off

The sov-vulnerability has been switched to AUTZ, no more double vulnerability timers after completion of the process. Less people to grind the timers and harassment by CFC pilots slow the invasion significantly down, First entities that just joined for the fun and have no personal conflict with the CFC might pack up and go home, some might be bought off for significant amount of iskies.

The Invasion might linger at a standoff for a while, until more attackers quit or numbers in fleets go down. Then the CFC can crush the invasion and punish the defectors. The game would be over by then, no more reason to play for many people, veterans go back to hibernation (like myself).

Probability: rather low, doubt that the MBC falls apart fast enough, the morale seems to be pretty low with defenders too

4. Mittani calls it quits and disbands the Coalition, or too many high profile organizer leave

Only situation where I could imagine the coalition breaking apart completely after losing a war. Goons take sov elsewhere or retake just Deklein or take up a nomadic lifestyle for themselves, the remaining alliances basically falling apart. 

Eve Players like Ripard Teg would celebrate, until the next superpower rises up and seizes large amounts of space and make themselves unassailable. In the meanwhile they would notice that people who didn't try to take space in the Drone Region Federation rental empire or Stainwagon or in the West, won't get to hold space for an extended period of time in the north as well.

Probability: really low, all the efforts of forming a cross-gaming-community would be void, monetisation wouldn't be possible anymore, TMC Media would run into problems.

5. Mexican standoff: MBC bleeds enough members to make fighting viable for the CFC, no side wins

Same as 3., but without victory for the CFC, rather standoff or a bloody victory for the MBC.
The CFC would suffer hefty losses and bleed financial reserves, which would weaken them for a longer period of time in the future, attackers don't have any sov to defend and aren't affected in regards of their income, so they won't suffer in the same dimensions.

Probability: rather low, doubt the CFC will fight losing battles, if a longer standoff should happen, most likely other entities will run out of motivation/money first.

Personal War Experience

Ever since joining the CFC I have been absolutely impressed with the level of professionalism of the organization (as business consultant I have met bigger RL companies that were a LOT worse) and the inclusion of even the weakest and dumbest player into fleets, the helpfullness of members and the quality of the wiki and the doctrines. I have felt at home there, even when bored by having won the game we never thought about leaving, our corp rather went more and more inactive. If nothing else was possible, you could always go out with SIGs or take a bomber fleet with boat. Chances are good you're going to die in a horrible ball of fire, but you'll do so laughing and having fun.

My corp now had a record in players online for 3 years, we multiplied our recent peak logged in members by a factor of 5. Does that bode well for the game? My honest opinion: No

The reason for this is the current state of the game. People logged in, moved their caps like 3 jumps, swore a lenghty sermon of words I can't write down in good conscience and swore to not log in again for the next couple of years. 

While playing shooters or other games, people talk in voice comms and joke about pings for sword fleets or bombers only. A corp full of highly experienced and skilled bittervets wants to do other things than harass people with inties or bombers. We did this with Provibloc, we did it in fountain and halloween wars, but meanwhile we had won the game already, some people didn't fly anything but supercaps or titans for years, and surely as hell people don't want to entosis in frigates or cruisers instead of playing with the shinies. 

People might celebrate now, this might be seen as the requested result of fozziesov, but any game mechanics that makes the game unattractive for a part of the playerbase because one botched the game balance in earlier days can only be seen as a major failure in my eyes. Making supercapitals and titans, the most iconic and by far most expensive ships in the game, completely superfluous, barring any use at all within the current system, requiring people to fly beginner ships to guard their systems in space, can only be seen as a complete fuckup.

Maybe the experience of Fozziesov is something new and fascinating for Test or the horde, but for a large part of the returning players in our realm the game took a definite turn to the worse. In fact. I wouldn't even be sad if we lost all our sov for good, I can earn more money by trading, FW or incursions as a member of the line anyways, didn't rat for 3 years now, not to mention the by far most efficient way to make isk, that is selling PLEX. Maybe it's really time to take up the gameplay all other big players already did or do the only better thing, finally win eve and make place for the newbies that can enjoy entosing nodes for 5 hours a piece to win a timer for a single ihub. I only doubt that Eve as a really old game with incredible learning curve and a horrid new player retention is still attracting enough new blood to compensate the losses by leaving bittervets and supercap pilots.

I would rather guess the large spike we currently are seeing will drop below the numbers experienced before this winter when the war is over, the content provided gone for good and even more people leave the game due to burn out from the efforts of the war. Maybe some of the people might be retained by the citadel expansion, but I wouldn't bet on it, there are a ton of triple A titles being released this spring and early summer which will take their toll on the playerbase.

Before deciding about hibernation or winning eve for good, first I will make sure to make the invaders grind until they bleed out of their ears though, cause that's what we do in the CFC, we have done it in the past, suffering ourselves while having fun in chat and break the will of the invaders or at least do our best to try it.

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