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I focus almost exclusively on PvP, whether solo, small gang, or large bloc warfare. In the past, I've been a miner, mission runner, and faction warfare jockey. I'm particularly interested in helping high-sec players get into 0.0 combat.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Though Much is Lost...

My favorite novel is The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay. Not "one of" my favorite, and not "a good book". My single, favorite novel of all time. It’s a fantasy story that is very, very light on fantasy – limited to a young boy who can see what’s happening around his family members, specifically when they’re in danger.

The novel itself is a parallel of the Moorish kingdoms at the dawn of the Spanish Reconquista. It’s a tale of the lesser kingdoms of Al-Rassan as they struggle with the fact of their waning power in comparison to the strength of three successor kingdoms of Esperana, specifically the kingdom of Valledo. To top it off, Al-Rassan follows the religion of Ashar, whereas the kingdoms of Esperana worship Jad, the god of the sun. Added into the mix is the Kindath, a religion of wanderers hated by both.

Pretty basic stuff, right? You’ve got surrogate cultures representing Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, and a setting that closely mirrors the Spanish and Moorish kingdoms when the tide turns on the Iberian Peninsula. You can find the same thing anywhere, right?

The difference comes in the way Kay presents his five main characters, weaving compelling and heart-wrenching characterizations that you, as a reader, can really relate to. For, even though each has a religion and a nationality, throughout the story, Kay offers compelling reasons for each character to feel torn in their loyalties. I’ve never read a story that better conveys the sense of confusion and uncertainty when one culture gives way to another.

The themes are magnificent and eternal. It undermines the glory of war, the demonization of the other, the value of religion, and the debt owed to the culture and religion one was born in. You find yourself admiring the beauty, sophistication, and elegance of Al-Rassan, even as you’re disgusted by effects of internal brutality and inter-family bloodshed not only on those involved, but the innocent people of the towns and countries affected. Al-Rassan is moderate in its interpretation of religion and tolerate of outsiders, except for the occasional need to demonize and slaughter them for political purposes.

At the same time, the kingdoms of Jad are much more straightforward in their objectives, and the Jaddites are more honest in their sense of honor, but they are fully without any sophistication or appreciation for anything resembling culture. And always present are the Kindath, the most intelligent, most skilled members of both societies, yet forever seen as outcasts.

Naturally – as we all know how the Reconquista ended – Al-Rassan falls, but by the time it does, you’re left with a hollow sense that something beautiful and precious has been snuffed out of the world. Yet, at the same time, it’s clear Al-Rassan had its fatal flaws that could not and would never result in long-term stability. It was a hot mess, but one that contributed to everything that makes life worth living nonetheless.

And in that, I find myself sharing the same sentiment as one of the main characters, Ammar ibn Khairan (all of the proper nouns are cities and cultural centers that patronized the arts in Al-Rassan, left smoldering ruins by the machinations of both Jaddite and Asharite lords):
Ask Fezana what has become of Fibaz,
And where is Ardeno, or where Lonza?
Where is Ragosa, the seat of great learning,
How many wise men remain there?
Where is Cartada, city of towers,
In the red vally of its power?
Or Seria where the silk was spun?
Where are Tudesca, Elvira, Aljais,
And where, in this twilight, is Silvanes?
The streams, the perfect gardens,
The many-arched courtyards of the Al-Fontina?
The wells and fountains weep for sorrow,
As a lover does when dawn comes
To take him away from his desire.
They mourn for the passing of lions,
For the ending of Al-Rassan the Beloved,
Which is gone.
It’s a remarkable story, and it bears more than a passing resemblance to what’s happening now in Eve.

For, just like Al-Rassan, the CFC is being destroyed for its sins, for the greed and arrogance of its leaders, and for the crimes it has perpetrated among those who now gather for its destruction. Just like Al-Rassan, the core principles and behaviors that led to its creation in the first place have been eroded by time, leaving a rotting power structure with no steel beneath it. Just like Al-Rassan, the CFC lives more as an idea than a reality.

And yet, one cannot deny that the CFC created a culture that certainly contributed positive things to the gameworld, and showed Eve a vision of what could be. Through the CFC, Eve saw the advantage of growing deep roots and lasting connections among various alliances, along with the pooling of spoils doled out according to contribution. During the conquest of the north, Goonswarm granted large tracts of very good space to its allies and made them strong. No other organization save Provibloc deserves the title, “Coalition”, and the fact that the CFC was able to keep so many players as happy as it did for so long was remarkable.

Combined comms, combined jabber, combined forums… and that was only the least of the benefits. Several regions of safe ratting space, fleets run 24/7 during deployments and at least once in each time zone when not deployed, the opportunity to move around alliances freely without restriction… and intel channels, which made virtually everything else so much more effective.

The level of sophistication, the scale of organization, and the ability to drive over 50,000 players in one direction are all consequences of the CFC. They all showed Eve a vision of how far players could mold and craft the game. They took the sandbox and pumped it full of steroids.

And like the Jaddites in Lions, the forces destroying it are destroying a culture as they slowly strangle the CFC to death. They’ve already killed the myth of the invincible coalition, and in so doing, they’ve already destroyed the most powerful part of the coalition: its reputation. But the death of the CFC will also bring about the death of a style of gameplay.

Yet, die it must. Like the petty kings who succeeded to the power of Al-Rassan in the book, they suffer fatal flaws that deserve the destruction they receive. Yes, a culture was destroyed, but that was an unfortunate side-effect of the errors of the city-states who practiced it.

In Eve, the CFC made many decisions, demonstrated several kinds of behavior, and displayed an arrogance that has resulted in a fearsome collection of enemies, and all are justified in wanting its destruction. Just because something unique is being destroyed doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve its fate.

Only, as we witness and participate in the final dismantling of a myth and a culture, let us recognize the complexity of what we do, and feel conflicted. Al-Rassan deserves to and must fall, but we can still feel a little sad when it’s gone, even if we were the ones wielding the axe that felled it.

For, the myth of the CFC is, indeed, gone.
Ask Tenal what has become of Fade,
And where is Tribute, or where Vale?
Where is directorbot, the seat of great pinging,
How many supercap battles shall be announced there?
Where is Deklein, region of ratting carriers,
Basking in the glow of its power?
Or Pure Blind where the reclaiming was sprung?
The tears and fountains weep for sorrow,
As a lover does when dawn comes
To take him away from his desire.
They mourn for the passing of bees,
For the ending of the CFC the Protected,
Which is gone.
Let us at least acknowledge the accomplishments of our enemy as we put him down.


  1. "But the death of the CFC will also bring about the death of a style of gameplay."

    Unfortunately you don't spell out the exact kind of game play you think it is that is dying out? Or did I miss something?

    1. There are a few things that the CFC provides that cannot be found elsewhere. The level of sophistication and inter-alliance connectivity, the sense of shared community across alliances, the opening of high-opsec fleets to everyone in the coalition, the subsudizing of fleet fights via the most robust and comprehensive SRP in the game (including allowing pilots to profit from dictor and logi losses), tracking tools that allow unmatched visibility into alliance and coalition activity... the kind of gameplay I'm talking about is high-sophistication gameplay.

      To be clear, you can DO anything outside of the CFC that you can do within it. I'm not claiming it's essential. I'm only claiming that within the CFC, it's done in a highly efficient, organized way, with many highly developed systems to support it.

      That's a kind of culture that is being crushed. Whether that's a good thing or not is up for debate, but I doubt we'll see a similar level of deep integration emerge in the near future. It's kind of amazing it happened at all, in fact.

      Not redemptive, but certainly remarkable.

  2. Very nicely done. I wish more would attempt this level.

  3. The biggest problem with all of this is that the CFC aren't even remotely dead yet. They aren't even in as bad a position as they have been in the past, and if MBC are already celebrating success then they are likely to fall apart when things get tough - and they will get very tough. This is not a short war and to consider it a success at this stage is vastly underestimating the opponent.

    1. As entities, no, they're not. However, many of the component alliances are in very, very bad shape, have seen their talent erode and be poached for years, and are clearly dependent on Goonswarm for content and survival.

      And, add to that the fact that the CFC was brought together as a coalition specifically to prevent the level of attack we're seeing now. People weren't supposed to even countenance the idea of trying to kill the CFC, and the coalition was formed to prevent anyone from ever making any headway. That's the formative principle that built the CFC.

      As we're seeing, it no longer holds. The coalition's structure can no longer achieve its key end, and we HAVE been seeing clear and repeated evidence of that. When your best option is to retreat and let several of your regions be burned, you've failed in your objective.

    2. But they aren't really in bad shape, only in reddits minds are they in bad shape, in reality most of the alliances are in a better shape than they were in the fountain war, and they are far more organised and economically stronger. The propaganda is not the reality.

      They weren't put together to prevent this level of attack, they were put together to survive it. An single alliance would die a horrible death when hit by a coalition the size of MBC, especially if a corporation making up 10% of them defected like CO2 have. They are only alive because they are in the CFC, and MBC are only able to deal damage to them because they are in a coalition, showing that to survive the large scale wars in this game a coalition is a must-have.

      Retreat is inevitable to some extent, especially with the new sov system. The amount of space an at-peace alliance can protect is far higher than the amount of space an at-war alliance can, so at war alliances have to sacrifice some of their space to reinforce their defenses. Up until now it's been unclear how much space needs to be sacrificed but CFC are learning. The smaller they shrink, the harder it is for attackers to breach until eventually they reach a stage where the attackers cant; make headway like they have been. At that stage do you really expect MBC to be able to keep up the pressure longer than the CFC can sustain it, all while protecting their own vital assets? I can't see it happening.

    3. Having been in the CFC for four years, I'd disagree on your assessment; it didn't gel with my own observations. But I respect your take on it.

      I'd only point out that CFC alliances wouldn't face a coalition like the HBC if they weren't in the CFC. The hate is real, even if the hype is exaggerated.

    4. The CFC/Imperium is dead. Whatever may carry its name now, isn't what CFC was at it's height.

      Goons will endure, but be different than they are now, but sacrificing those they claimed as allies so blantantly, well, that action is the core here. They may even still have a pet alliance or twon after this is all said and done, but CFC IS dead.

      The goons will come....they must come....

      THAT is why it is dead in the here and now.

    5. As my previous speakers (mostly) said. The GSF will prevail. They'll actually grow in size and will be much bigger after the war than they were before. But GSF is the only CFC alliance that can look at an increase in player numbers. All the other CFC alliances (or at least the ones which are invaded atm) are loosing members.

      The GSF won't die. I think they'll even stay in Nullsec and might still hold Deklein tbh or big parts at least. But the CFC will be dead. Because a coalition includes more than one alliance.

      The problem is if you take a look at the numbers GSF fields, you'll notice that there barely 1k people active in total. And that's a very generous estimation. And alliances like Test seem to be very determined to hurt the GSF very very bad.

      When the MBC hits Deklein and if nothing large happens, (PL switching sides kind of large) they will hit Deklein, I suppose that the GSF will finally throw in its Supercap fleet. And that'll be the point where we see who is going to win this war.

      But either way, the CFC won't be there anymore to witness its outcome. Because if the MBC hits Dek, they already rolled through all the non-GSF territory. I'm sure that the CFC would still exist in name and on paper, but not in reality. If the MBC wins, there won't even be a CFC on paper. And if GSF wins, they'll have to rebuild an entire coalition from scrap. That'll take time.

  4. I'm a huge GGK fan too (Sailing to Sarantium is still one of my favorite books, and I just re-read Tigana last week). It is interesting to see the parallels you lay out. It will be even more interesting to see what happens in Eve and whether it follows the allegory.

    1. My wife is of the opinion that Tigana is superior to Lions. I disagree, but they're pretty close together.

  5. to quote Mr Olivander "Did great things. Terrible, yes. But great."


  6. Question: Did the Allies claim VE when they kicked the Axis out of N Africa? Deklein still stands; we still live in a world where you need to actually checkmate the king before claiming victory. I know its hard to accept when everyone was awarded a trophy for showing up. Yea I mean you if your under 30

    1. Knocking Italy out of the war was a victory, liberating France was a victory, Crossing the Rhein was a victory.

      They weren't total victory, but they were necessary to it.

      Without France, there was no invading Germany, without Italy, there was no distracting of the threat to the D-Day landings.

      You can build a victory hard and fast, or slow and secure. Blitzkreig didn't win Hitler the war, Deep Operations won Stalin the war.

  7. My problem with you, Tal, is that you always say something I'm thinking, and then you take the opposite line.

    So, here it is, the tale of Mittani the Magnificent, the marvellous magician of meta.

    There are many magicians in the world, some are well known, such as Elo Knight, the master of black and white, and some are less well known, such as Sajuuk, lord of the wind. However, none are more well known the the Mittani, master of belief.

    The Mittani was a magnificent wizard because he could make people believe anything he wished them to. A wave of his wand and a twist of his wrist, and any man, no matter how incredulous, would believe the incredible.

    And with his magnificent power, The Mittani did great things: He led armies to war, and men to fight. Great men, men of valour, followed his words, because he made them believe.

    He made his enemies bow, magicking them into mistrusting their own. Magics unparalleled muted their minds, meddling with their thoughts and feelings. He led his armies to forge an empire, beyond anything before seen in the world, or so he said. Magnificent were its works, and magnificent its leader, or so he said.

    The multitude acclaimed him, Mittani the Magnificent, the Marvellous, the Munificent. They saw the works he had magicked and believed them unvaunted.

    But his magnificence had made him mad, mired in a swamp of false belief. He made himself believe, and began his self destruction. He made offers of peace with the other wizards, those he had invaded and expelled.

    But the other wizards gathered against him, mis-believing his peace accord. They saw with their spells that the marble palace of the magnificent one was made of mossy rock, and the magic he had raised melted before them.

    The other wizards raised up their magic against him, and magic fought magic in north and east, south and west. And everywhere the Mittani was, their magic followed.

    And Sajuuk and Elo Knight and all the other wizards came to the palace of the Magnificent one, and found it hollow. For, as the Mittani's magic was, so was his might.

    And everyone knows the Mittani, the wizard who made the world believe, but built an illusion.


    That turned out *way* longer than I meant it to.

    My point, incoherent as it was, is that much and more of the myths we've learned to believe, may be just that: myth.

    Sion showed us how 'valued' allies were treated, The Mittani showed us 'how' the Skyteam functioned, leaks showed us how the organisation 'worked', and *every time*, it turned out to be a myth.

    Was the CFC ever as effective, as efficient, as disciplined, as coherent, as well-constructed as they said it was?

    I don't think the CFC was ever anything special, they just had the luck and the balls to make the myth big enough to believe in.

    1. Beautiful, and i don't disagree with you at all. The CFC is assuredly a myth, but myths have a power that manifests in the real world. So it was with the CFC.