"Now comes the, uh, the really icky part." - Dr Okun, Independence Day
Unlike many of my colleagues these days, I am very zen on the subject of nullsec.
Much is being made lately of the pacification of nullsec. There's a great deal of hand-wringing and apocalyptic chatter going on in the blogosphere. And, yes, I know it's all a bit dull at the moment.
Two very large coalitions that have a shared history, player DNA and close ties presently dominate the sovereign nullsec map. They have vanquished the elite PvP coalitions and alliances by a combination of punches that include overwhelming force, canny leadership, deep pockets and effective diplomacy. Their remaining potential enemies in nullsec have no stomach for being rolled over by either coalition and have turned their attention to tearing each other to rags. As they do, I've no doubt all sides in these conflicts are maintaining a smiling diplomatic face to the technetium throne. After all, when you wake to a grizzly bear in your tent, it's best to maintain good relations.
Of course, if the bear has decided you're either food or threat, smiling won't do you any good. But it can't hurt.
The fate of the vanquished varies. Some, like White Noise, have disappeared entirely; as never was. Some, like Raiden[DOT], have made common cause with their conquerors; accepting a vast slice of humble pie and severing the last emotional ties to BoB of old in exchange for a place at the table of sovereign nullsec's new order. Smaller alliances in enemy coalitions that show particular promise in defense of their systems are occasionally solicited by CFC or HBC to switch sides and hold their space under the region's new lords and masters. This policy at once secures vassals prone to fighting hard for their space and undermines the cohesiveness of the alliances remaining in the enemy coalition. And, of course, still other enemies have retreated from sovereign nullsec altogether, to NPC nullsec or lowsec.
From a political standpoint, nullsec has achieved a rare state of stability under what I regard as a single monolithic power. I say rare, because nullsec in Eve is, by its nature, resistant to stability. There are a number of factors that make it so. While the current lords of nullsec have shown remarkable insight into identifying and offsetting some of these factors, there remain a sizable number of them that are, by definition, beyond their control. Thus, despite many advantages, not least of which is imposing size and an aggressively cultivated reputation for invincibility, both the CFC and the HBC are engaged in a delicate balancing act and are vulnerable to being upset by external (and internal) events. Things, as they say, fall apart; the center will not hold. And, in Eve, the center is a very unstable place.
As with gravity, entropy works.
Everybody loves a winner, as the swollen membership of both coalitions will attest. However, there is something in the rush to join these coalitions that is reminiscent of the irrational exuberance of investors who buy only when the markets are performing close to their peak, on the assumption that past performance will predict future results. Their ride is usually a pleasant one at first; until suddenly it's not. And, since late investors are least likely to have recouped their initial investment before things go sour, they are commonly the most likely to suffer when the the bubble pops.
Mind, it isn't that I necessarily want the two coalitions to fall apart. I regard Gooswarm and Test Alliance Please Ignore as an extension of the nullsec bear experiment begun with the alliances of the now defunct Northen Coalition (not to be confused with the DOT alliance of the same name). Now, with members of the massive coalitions blue to each other and a non-aggression pact in place between the CFC and HBC, huge swaths of space have been pacified to the degree possible in player controlled nullsec. In pacified nullsec, industrial bears can ply their trades far from potential enemies and largely undisturbed.
With the number of viable external threats dwindling, Goonswarm in particular appears to be taking a long hard look at how to develop its nullsec markets and develop its non-supercapital industrial capacity. For political reasons, this is largely pitched as an economic war against empire space; leveraging nullsec resource advantages in order to replace high and lowsec as Eve's dominant source of high value manufactured goods. However, despite their easy access to a vast wealth of rare ores, nullsec faces profound obstacles to developing a robust industrial sector. Some of them are already emerging in articles and posts in the Eve press and blogosphere. Others have yet to surface. We'll talk about both next time.
Some of these obstacles are build into the game mechanics, which Goonswarm is already lobbying to have changed via its media arm and CSM connections. Many of the obstacles to industrial nirvana, however, are internal and will involve tough changes to long-held nullsec attitudes, practices and economic givens. And it must be remembered that CFC and HBC are composed of a diverse collection of alliances, many of which have conflicting cultures, play styles and interests. Implementing even needed change across coalitions, the allegiance of whose member alliances are based on the success of status quo, will be what organizational behaviorists call 'the really icky part' of managing for the lords of nullsec.
It's going to get interesting. Sooner, I think, rather than later.