Monday, March 28, 2016

Flashpoint: The CFC Reckoning

I was a part of Razor Alliance back when it owned only five systems in Pure Blind, before the conquest of the north. I participated in that campaign, as the CFC conquered region after region from NC., White Noise, and other alliances that were well-entrenched there. I was proud to be a part of that effort, because we were taking on the larger coalitions.

It was a great time to play the game. We were losing fleets, but we were learning, proving ourselves relentless, and welding together a bunch of alliances into a coalition of interconnectivity. We fought each campaign together, and started to feel camaraderie with our other coalition alliances. The goal was always to blend the fingers into one fist, and that worked remarkably well.

As time went on, though, I started to become aware of a number of trends. The pilots became increasingly arrogant and focused on blob tactics. I watched small gang content be constantly ridiculed, and the arrogance factor of various CFC new recruits ratchet up several notches. The CFC would wave its power around like the captain of the football team five years after graduation, no longer a heavy hitter and now just an asshole. With no existential threats, it became indiscriminate in how it behaved, and devalued anything that didn’t rely upon blob warfare and an approved way of thinking.

Because only alliances – not players – die in Eve, every war saw more players have a reason to hate the CFC. During every Burn Jita event, high-sec players interacted with the CFC for perhaps the only time all year – and it was in the CFC ganking their ships.

They told everyone “we’re not here to ruin the game, we’re here to ruin your game.” They scammed players relentlessly at every possible opportunity, and with very few exceptions. In their eyes, they were living up to the very point of Eve – whatever you can do, you may do.  And they were right.

But they were also creating a lot of ill will. They were engendering a lot of hate. Yes, the CFC positioned itself in the role of villain, but every good story requires the fall of the villain to be truly satisfying.  And every day saw the number of people who saw the CFC as a cancer increase.

Add on to that, the audacity and hypocrisy of some of its policies. When renting out space became “a thing” again, they suddenly started the Greater Western Co-Prosperity Sphere, the ticker of which was PBLRD, or a derogatory term for casuals (publord). Even when they wanted folks’ money, they still insulted them. They suddenly banned rental scamming, as if that would suddenly make everyone forget their years of abuse. As a result, PBLRD was a dismal failure compared to Northern Associates and Brothers of Tangra (NC. and PL’s, respectively).

Now, we’re seeing a massive group of alliances coalesce around one unified goal: making the CFC suffer.  It’s been done before, but never before under FozzieSov. And it’s already accomplished something the other attempts haven’t been able to accomplish: to force the CFC to abandon a region of space, Vale of the Silent.

No matter what happens from this point forward, this attack has already done something that cannot be taken back, cannot be undone. It’s destroyed the myth of the CFC.

The CFC had its time. They could rightly claim that they remained unconquered from its origin to the end of the “age of empires” that culminated with FozzieSov and jump fatigue. At that point, huge empires became more of a liability. Hostiles were further away, and the bubble wrap that protected alliances started strangling them instead. Content was more difficult, and the CFC grow beyond its means of entertaining it.

So, people started leaving. And not just people… content generators like FCs, logistics folks, and diplomats all left. Many of the “names” of the CFC realized they had created something too big to be effective, and they decided to go back to their roots. Suas, Vily, Endie… these names were force multipliers in any fleet, and they all left because they felt they needed to in order to enjoy the game.

In their place poured the carebears it desperately needed to maintain activity defense modifiers (ADMs). These players are the lifeblood of modern sov ownership, of course, and I don’t use the term in a derogatory manner. These pilots do the daily work of securing space, and FozzieSov was intended to make them necessary. It succeeded.

But it also diluted the desire to PvP among its members. Lured by the desire for safe ratting space, the pilots who joined had little interest in fighting for the empire. Increasingly, they weren’t the ones who fought for that empire, in fact. They wanted security, and the CFC provided it to them. And they’d remain, so long as that security remained.

As a result, though, the coalition became increasingly filled with pilots who didn’t feel nearly as loyal. It wasn’t their ships that exploded in achieving the hard-fought prize of the north, nor did they lose sleep during alarm-clock fights. They cared for the space based on what they gained from it, not what it meant.

Players who hungered for the kind of PvP that keeps you sharp and who had a desire to seek out that kind of content found that conquering an empire and maintaining it were two very different things. The success of the CFC made it unlikely that anyone a) would want to waste their time attacking, and b) could hope to successfully attack the coalition. Opportunities for the glorious battles that drew players to the CFC became rarer and rarer. Deployments consisted of desperate, kind of sad efforts to find content for the membership anywhere it could. That it was so obviously failing to provide that content became impossible to overlook.

The systems were in place, and they were good systems. The leader remained, and The Mittani is a very smart man. He’s capable of motivating and leading people. But, keeping so many pilots marching in the same direction requires narrative and spin to drive them onward, and that kind of propaganda eventually wears thin. It also works more to achieve a goal than to maintain that goal over time. As players become wealthier, more successful, and more comfortable, they lose the edge that drives them to achieve great things.  The foundation beneath it – the desires and circumstances of individual players – changed dramatically, and was no longer suited to the structure atop it.

And so, you see this talent drain, even as the coalition accrues so many enemies, and so much hate, paired with a narrative that casts everything the CFC does as absolutely reasonable and appropriate. The effect is one of an echo chamber, with individual pilots buying into a narrative that neglects the animosity it’s producing.

Recently, I had a pilot in my corp comment that this siege on CFC territory is solely driven by isk. IWantIsk is paying people, so that’s the only thing motivating them.  I’ve heard this repeated by many pilots from multiple CFC alliances. They hold this belief that everyone in Eve is simply a mercenary, and if they can outlast the isk flow – or pay them off – things will let off and the assault will end.

I think, with all due respect, that this is a horrible mis-read of the situation. Yes, I don’t doubt that IWantIsk paying TISHU to camp SMA’s space was certainly motivated by greed. I was in TISHU during that campaign, and very few pilots expressed anything akin to hatred for the CFC as a whole, or individual member alliances. Most folk in the alliance couldn’t even name a single pilot from SMA they’d recognize. It assuredly wasn’t personal.

But, during that wildly successful campaign, we savaged SMA’s pilots and eradicated their ADM levels, leaving them heavily exposed. Our success was so tremendous that other alliances started doing the same thing. And you know what?  We demonstrated that guerilla tactics worked extremely well at disrupting a sov-holding alliance’s ownership.  Extremely effective.

We exposed the weaknesses that a lot of writers and players had talked about. There were a lot of theories about how to dislodge the CFC, but TISHU proved that they were viable. And we didn’t even have to take a single system to do it. TISHU’s success wasn’t based on seizing sov, but rather puncturing a hole in the myth of CFC invincibility.

They were impotent against us, and the rest of the game took note.

And, they started to believe. This was their time. Finally, they had been shown a means of releasing that repressed anger from every single conquest, failcascade, gank, scam, or deception ever perpetrated by a member of the CFC over the better part of a decade.

And that’s what we’re seeing now.  The isk being thrown around is certainly a motivator, and was at the beginning, but now, it’s taken on a life of its own. Alliances smell blood in the water, and there’s a growing sense that this is the best time there will ever be to extract some of that revenge.  The CFC has defined itself by its sovereignty and inviolability. The thought of being able to take that away from them is impossible for many to resist.

Don’t believe me?  I didn’t, either, so I asked the question on reddit recently, about what was motivating pilots to attack the CFC. I received 40 replies in an hour, and a total of 102 replies overall. Read through some of those responses, and pay attention to the top-upvoted responses, as well.  Each one of those represents an opinion many of the readers agreed with.

Isk from mercenary contracts is a motivator for a small portion of alliance leaders who would be negotiating those contracts, and it isn’t a motivator for line members at all.  By far, the most common – and commonly upvoted – reply was the sense that the CFC deserved to have its face kicked in after the grief they’ve inflicted over the years. In many cases, pilots specifically called out, “It’s not about the money,” but rather the sense that this was repaying Goons’ attitude, arrogance, and nastiness with interest.

Health hath no fury like an Eve player scorned.

Narrative is catching up to the CFC. But it’s important to remember that this is the price paid for “living the Eve dream” of being a dick to everyone you meet. The natural reaction is for them to try to get you back. And that’s part of the cost of the actions, some of which happened half a decade ago. It’s inescapable in a game where players don’t lose skill or ability over time, no matter how many times you kill them.

This is not a financial decision for many people. It’s one of passion, and that bodes very ill for the CFC.  They’ve cultivated a desire for folks not just to burn down their castle, but to mix the ashes with gasoline and light them on fire again and again.

On the other hand, some people aren’t motivated by hatred. I, for example, certainly am not. For me, it’s ideological. I’ve started to view the CFC has antithetical to everything good about this game – the risk, the joy at an against-the-odds victory, the desire to improve your flying every day and pursue constant betterment. The idea of fixed coalitions holds all of that back, and is a brake on the unleashing of the chaos that not only makes Eve fun, but also makes you better. For, this is, after all, a game, not real life. The stability and reliability valuable in real life is just awful gameplay in a leisure activity. I’m in it to be vindicated that a post-CFC world filled with fallout is much more enjoyable than a directorate-approved and agreement-constrained coalition environment.

But the third group is perhaps the most important, and the one that leads me to believe this all has a chance of resulting in the death of the coalition as a whole. That’s the group filled with people who don’t want to have to tell his friends he chose to sit out the fall of the CFC. The group that wants to be part of something that will be remembered. The group that wants to participate in the taking down of a titan.

After all, the CFC is the only remaining titan left, the only behemoth on the map. The only entity capable of organizing a Burn Jita event or a Hulkageddon. The only entity capable of organizing a B0TLRD agreement or the OTEC technetium cartel. The only entity capable of exerting its will upon any corner of the galaxy it desired.

It’s the only entity whose downfall would really be a worthy story. And no one wants to miss it.  Attacking the CFC has taken on a life of its own now, as everyone wants to participate in the end of that tale.  They believe it’s possible to participate in that story now.

This group of alliances aren’t ganging up on the CFC because they’re being paid to – not anymore. They’re releasing pent-up hostility, attacking a wounded animal, and writing themselves a small part in the story of the fall of this coalition.  They feel the time is now, and they don’t want to miss this chance.

Combined, I don’t see how the CFC survives this intact. I doubt Goonswarm will suffer significant harm – they’ve been poaching talent from the other alliances for years – but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the CFC alliances lose their space and many of their members by the time it's over.  I suspect one or two might switch sides to avoid that fate, as well.

More importantly than those details, however, is the fact that the myth about CFC superiority and the inherent value in hiding behind a coalition is over, shattered by cold reality. More than one alliance will take a long, hard look at itself and realize the value of integrating with their allies in the CFC quickly turned into dependence on the CFC.  They’ll see the talent who left for Goonswarm proper, and realize that they were sucked dry of independence, which was far more damaging to their health than even losing all of their space by standing alone.

How can I say that?  Because the enemies facing them all made the opposite choice – rather than bending the knee to keep their space, they fought hard, and are largely intact compared to where they were.  Fighting the CFC resulted in internal strength with great loss, whereas joining it resulted in great profit without independent strength.

Now, that’s an irony for you!


  1. You realise that by calling them CFC you effectively nuke any ideas you are being objective, right? Other groups have changed their name, so it's not like you can claim it's that it's just frowned upon to change and identity, it's just frowned upon that goons did it. I try to stay away from either side but all the propaganda on this one makes that hard.

    The reason this whole war is happening is because it's easy and low risk to do but allows a lot of players to beat their chests and pretend they are accomplishing a lot. Goons have made it their place to be the evildoers of the game and there's always been fights around that narrative, and up until now that's been pretty effective. But the new sov system effectively makes it orders of magnitude of difficult to defend than it is to attack, and a lot of people are now capitalising on that, but what they don't realise is all they are doing is showing how easy it is for a rag tag bunch of unorganised players to hold an advantage now.

    Because let's face it, goons aren't failing here because they've taken too much space or are failing to defend it. If the allies were to invade rusblock space for example it would be a turkeyshoot and they'd probably lose half their space in a week. All it's really showing is that anyone thinking of taking sov shouldn't bother because any non-sov holder can roll on through and take it.

    Goons partly proved this with their assault on provi, where we had to put our heads between our knees and watch our ADMs get destoryed. And that was only a short while after fozziesov was in. Now the tactics have been refined we'd not stand a chance.

    One thing I do find strange is that you claim here that the myth of the inherent value of hiding behind a coalition is over. This couldn't be further from the truth. IF SMA weren't in the coalition, they'd be dead. Also, the allies have had to form a coalition to make headway, and any small alliance would stand absolutely no chance of fighting back if those same allies came for them. If the goons with their accumulated wealth and number are having to fall back, what change does a 500 man alliance have of retaining it's space if attacked by a large group?

    All fozziesov does is make it difficult to own space and impossible if your enemy is better funded than you. Once goons are gone, other people will realise this as people stomp through their space with relative ease. In essence goons have succeeded in their plan to ruin our game. By owning the space they do and forcing small groups to demand ways to root them, they've forced CCP to implement bad mechanics.

    1. Fair point, but I'm not exactly impartial. I DO want the CFC to fall; it's time has passed.

      I do defend using "CFC" inn this case because i specifically want to point out the connection between the rage-inducing actions of the past few years with this current attack. To call it the Imperium would minimize that connection.

  2. Thanks Tal - I am glad you wrote about this. Always enjoy your blog.

  3. Great read. I would be also curious to know how many of the Imperium's carebears toons are owned by players that have their main PvP alt in one of the "allied" group?

  4. Great article as always, Talvorian. I share the romance with this whole war. When all of this is over, I want to be able to remember what I was doing in game at that time; regardless of the ultimate ending.

    As far as this war showing the weaknesses of Aegis SOV, that's good. Just because SOV exists, doesn't always mean someone NEEDS to take it. SOV is a part of Eve, not the other way around.

  5. Very enjoyable read - I think you've got this situation analyzed correctly. However, I wonder how long the loose confederation of Money Badger / Voltron / The Allies / whatever people are calling it will sustain their onslaught. Will they go all the way and take all of the Imperium's space? I will be watching with great interest to see how it all ends.

    1. I doubt it, but I don't think it's even necessary. They've already done catastrophic harm to the myth, and that's the most important thing. Without the ability to defend - or even care about - its allies, what good is the CFC? Why deny yourself content by living in bubble wrap if you don't get any better protection from it?

  6. Good analysis. I'm certainly motivated by all the nastiness the CFC (and I agree, they are the CFC, nothing else) inflicted on New Eden, over the years. I am definitely not looking for ISK rewards; I'm investing my ISK in this. And yes - I want to be able to say "I was there" in a few years' time!