Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Perceived Polarity

The World has changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was, is lost. 

In his latest blog post, The Tri-Polar Galaxy, the Mittani laments what he perceives as a collapse of nullsec's formerly diverse landscape of power and politics.
2009 saw the apex of the traditional bloc as an entity. At on point, there was Pandemic Legion, Goonswarm, IT Alliance, The Northern Coalition, the 'Drone Russians' (Solar Fleet, Legion of Death, Red Alliance), Atlas Alliance, the 'Southern Russians' (AAA, Red Overlord, Stain Empire). Each of these entities had roughly independent political destinies, different leadership styles, and was a force to be reckoned with in their own right.
Now, according to the Mittani, that beautiful dance of powers has collapsed into a tri-polar galaxy. There, three monstrous power blocs, The Drone Russians, The Northern Coalition and  IT Alliance, hold sway over New Eden. We face, he says, a future without political diversity in nullsec, with a fixed set of players hunkered down behind static borders.

As usual in Mittani-land, the source of this bleak future is the Dominion Sov mechanics which, he asserts, makes defending space far too easy and quashes diversity. 

Piffle, I say.

Now, while I don't piffle the Mittani lightly, in this case he needs a serious piffling. In order to make the case that nullsec power has been consolidated into the hands of a very few at the expense of the many, he has to dispense with much that is evident in the current political churn - to filter out obvious facts and trends that don't support his line of reasoning.

First of all, the Mittani's case for a static, tripolar universe assumes Dominion favors the defender more than did the old POS-based sovereignty model. In fact, as I wrote in Paradigm Shift, the opposite is true; and the pace and volume of combat-related territory turn-overs since Dominion bears this out. The Mittani suggests that alliances like Atlas fell because they had rotted from the inside. However, if Dominion so favors the defender, even a weakened Atlas should have been able to defend itself. In fact, the alliances that have fallen so far did so because their combat tactics and command structure had not adapted to the up-tempo Dominion paradigm.

Secondly, the idea that we are down to only three nullsec power blocs doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

The Mittani lumps The Initiative, which owns large swaths of former AAA space, into the IT Alliance coalition. He gives no real reason for this alignment and, aside from the cooperation shown at the end of the Catch Invasion against AAA, there's no reason to think that their current non-aggression is so much a matter of common cause and political unity as it is mutual convenience. The Initiative, Systematic-Chaos, Circle of Two and Dead Terrorists, known collectively as the Central South Coalition, meet all of the Mittani's criteria for a distinct power block, separate from IT Alliance.

Consider Atlas Alliance and Against All Authorities. The corporations that comprised Atlas have not simply evaporated. For the most part they have formed or joined new alliances. Meanwhile, though deprived of nearly all its space, AAA is still is a viable alliance. It and the rest of the Southern Russian Coalition are diminished, but still a non-trivial force in nullsec.

Any discussion of Goonswarm as an entity separate from the Northern coalition is dismissed by the Mittani as "...tedious and irrelevant to a practical analysis". This is analyst-speak for "I don't have a succinct counter-argument and it messes up my central thesis".  It's hardly a compelling line of reason, and somebody please slap me if I ever use it. Whether or not Goonswarm and Test Alliance (aka the Deklein Coalition) constitute an independent power bloc remains an open, arguable, question.

Pandemic Legion is dismissed from the ranks of nullsec power blocs by the Mittani, despite the fact that they've been playing King-maker in the post-Dominion nullsec, because they hold no territory. Holding territory is apparently central to the Mittani's definition of a "traditional" power bloc. This seems to say more about the inflexibility of the Mittani's definitions than it does about whether PL is a power in nullsec. A power bloc definition that excludes an entity whose support is a key factor in any major nullsec conflict is not a terribly useful definition.

Finally, having said all this, let me agree with the Mittani that we are seeing a shift away from the traditional power bloc structure as he knew them back in his pre-Dominion days.

However, I don't see influence coalescing for any length of time around a few actors. I think just the opposite is occurring. We are seeing the the breakdown of the old power bloc system into something much more fluid - pocket coalitions of smaller alliances that coalesce into larger political entities, break down and then reform into new entities; constantly shifting in response to political, military and economic conditions. 


  1. I agree with your assessment, the Mittani was way off base in his article and far too pessimistic. Its only a matter of time before the Goons decide they don't like someone in the NC.

  2. I'm going to disagree with Kirith. NC and GSF are distinct, but the relationship between them can be viewed here:
    It's best to treat them as a unified power block looking in 2 directions; goons west, NC looking east.

    I don't know enough about southern politics to know if IT and the rest of the south can be grouped into one block or not. I only really see northern politics. Fiddler, where are you in the EVE universe? What political groups can you speak authoritatively about?

  3. I've been a southerner, so I've only begun studying the NC recently - one reason why I say Goon as an indi power block is an open question as opposed to offering my own opinion.

    Having said that, your description of the NC GSF relationship is in synch with what I've been able to gather so far.

  4. After thinking about it all day while at work, your last paragraph about new power blocks constantly dissolving and reforming strikes me as correct, except for one rate limiting step.

    New alliances that form in 0.0 require new management personnel, either drawn from highsec, existing alliances, or new players. I propose that the number of new leaders is limited due to depletion of highsec and existing 0.0 corps over the years. Most EVE players are bittervets; if you haven't started a corp now, you probably won't in the future. Corps that have moved out to 0.0 from highsec may find it in them to become great, but it's been a year since dominion, and all those that would do so have. New players are far and few between in EVE these days.

    [Prediction: next quarter's economic report will not feature the number of players vs time chart, as it will have fallen for the first time in EVE's history.]

    In other words, I propose that there is insufficient fresh blood to start the new alliances that could make Fiddle's last paragraph true.

  5. Arg - The last paragraph doesn't speak to the creation of brand new alliances. Think in terms of coalitions of alliances.

    Dominion, combined with weaknesses in the Alliance management software may have killed the monster alliance model. I'll be surprised if IT Alliance isn't much diminished by this time next year.

  6. What do you see it turning into, then, Mord? Loose federations of somewhat smaller alliances, like NC and the Drone Russians? Or something else?

  7. tMmM - Likely a lot of variation on the theme in the structure and relationships of combined alliances. Eve org structures are hard to anticipate - there's always someone out there innovating.

  8. I agree with your IT comment, but due more to player apathy. It would be nice to see more of your views on that.