Monday, December 17, 2012

Farms and Fields: Misdirection

Dennis: What I object to is you automatically treat me like an inferior.
King Arthur: Well I am king.
Dennis: Oh, king eh? Very nice. And how'd you get that, eh? By exploiting the workers. By hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society.
- Monty Python And The Holy Grail

The lot of the medieval peasant was not a pleasant one.

Mind, if you had nothing with which to compare it, I suppose it was bearable.  After all, if filth, lice, malnutrition, disease, a relentless march of days filled with soul-crushing labor, suffering and an early death are what you expect, it's hard to feel disappointed when that's what you're handed.  Given this as your baseline for fun, the odd maypole dance, harvest festival or extra bowl of gruel would have come off as pretty good times. 

As bad as a peasant's day to day was, however, things were infinitely worse when life got interesting.  And when I say interesting I don't mean it in the "Hey Drogo, come look at this really interesting boil I've got on my nose," sense of the word.  Interesting for Drogo and his family usually involved lot of running, screaming, hiding and/or dying. Dull was good.  Dull was safe.  Dull meant the chances of dying a violent death at the hands of some armored stranger were somewhat remote.

The majority of medieval conflict was not the epic clashes of mighty armies a la Hastings or Tours.  They were usually smaller, more local events involving modestly sized forces. For any number of reasons, a feudal lord might call in his feudal obligations, assemble a force of fifty or so men and march on his neighbor's holdings. Unless caught by surprise, the neighboring lord would simply pull back into the castle with as much of his important people and goods as he could manage and bar the door. Lacking the advanced siege techniques and equipment of a later age, there the invaders would sit. Standing outside the castle. In the rain. Rusting.

However, the guy inside the castle wouldn't be smiling either.  For although the he was locked snug and safe in his castle, the same could not be said of his livelihood; his farms, his fields, any agricultural infrastructure and, more often than not, a lot of his peasants.  A feudal lords' income was normally dependent on agricultural output. Burn his farms and fields and you diminished his purse for the coming year.  Kill enough of his peasants, however, and you diminished his purse for years.  For, while peasants represented a renewable resource, infants make notoriously poor field hands.  Rebuilding a feudal estate's workforce took time.

And, since peasants were largely incapable of fighting back against armored men on horseback, killing them had more the tang of sport than of combat or hard work.  Thus, with the lord of the manor penned up in his castle, the raiders would begin the cheerful pass-time of raping, pillaging, burning and engaging in a jolly bit of peasant hunting.

Sigh.  Good times.  Good times.

This is precisely this sort of good time the The Mittani® hive-mind are offering up to PvPers with the 'Farms and Fields' initiative it is championing.

'Farms and Fields' was initially put forth by Mittensduring CSM 6, and after his re-election to the CSM chair he stated that he would continue pushing the concept during CSM7.  Unfortunate events conspired to remove him from CSM7, and he subsequently allowed his individuality to be incorporated into the The Mittani® hive mind.  However, the hive mind continues the good fight, promoting 'Fields and Farms' via its primary propaganda organ.

The idea goes something like this:

Nullsec is boring to small/subcapital fleets because it is a target-poor environment.  In terms of Sov warfare, there's no meaningful role for small fleets as there's little they can do to harm a large sov-holding alliance. Like our medieval raiders, a subcapital fleet roaming sovereign nullsec often finds potential targets locked up behind the castle walls of outposts and POS shields.  If the Sov holders were invested in a robust industrial infrastructure located in nullsec, the component POS-based structures would act as targets for the raiding fleet, like unto the fields and farms of a medieval fief.  Throngs of carebears, attracted to nullsec from highsec by the robust industrial infrastructure and abundant high-value raw materials would play the role of helpless medieval peasants.  Hapless and incautious, the bears and their armadas of mining and ratting ships would be lambs for PvP raiders to slaughter at will.  Under 'Fields and Farms', every day would be Hulkageddon day in nullsec.

Further, as a result of all this nullsec carebearing, the shelves in nullsec markets will be fair bursting with goods manufactured in nullsec, making the lords of nullsec very wealthy indeed and Jita freighter runs superfluous.  By attacking the yummy industrial targets, conventional fleets will be able to deprive the Sov holders of the industrial infrastructure and carebears upon which they depend for a portion of their income and for the materials of war.  Thus, in addition to having more fun, subcap and small fleet specialists will be provided a meaningful role in sovereignty wars.

Of course, anyone with an ounce of sense and a bit of experience in nullsec can see obvious holes in this plan.  It simply will not work as described.  Nullsec isn't highsec, and the idea that bears will behave the same way in both places is belied by nullsec's own history.  Ironically, bears are much harder to kill in nullsec for a number of reasons I've described elsewhere, and as the very success of Goonswarm and Test Alliance attest.  As I wrote in Creatures of Light and Darkness, 'nullsec' means that the only security you have is the security you can enforce.  And the enforcers in nullsec don't play by Concord's rules.

Both bears and nullsec alliances are motivated by self-interest.  Medieval peasants were tied to the land.  Drogo didn't have much in the way of career options and he couldn't move to another fief if he wearied of being hunted and having his life's work (such as it was) burned to the ground.  Nullsec bears have no such limitations. When things get "interesting" in nullsec, industrialists move their expensive toys out of harms way.  If things remain "interesting" on an ongoing basis, and the sov holder cannot or will not enforce an adequate level of security against raiders, the bears will move elsewhere.  Likewise, the hosting sov-holder is not going to go through the exercise of incenting the development of an industrial base for the sole purpose of allowing enemies and sundry raiders out for a laugh to burn it to the ground. 

The promoters of 'Farms and Fields' are on the record as opposing changes to combat, structure defense and sov mechanics that would diminish their ability to protect this new industrial infrastructure once it is in place. They also are on record as opposing changes to jump freighters that might diminish their access to high sec markets and industry should their internal markets and industrial infrastructure be compromised.  Thus, the originators of the policy want the increased industrial capacity and markets, but without creating any attendant vulnerabilities; the very vulnerabilities they are using to sell the carebearification of nullsec to a PvP community resistant to such changes. 

If the 'Farms and Fields' initiative is unlikely to support its publicized primary goal, we are left, once again, with one of two possibilities:  Either The Mittani® is stupid, or The Mittani is lying®.  Now, I don't know about you, but I don't think The Mittani® is stupid.  That being the case, the announced goals are likely a deliberate misdirection intended to distract nullsec and lowsec PvPers from the actual goals of the policy.  Which begs the question: If  'supplying the peasants to put to the sword' isn't the primary goal for 'Farms and Fields', what is?

The answer has to do with ship yards, super-veldspar and resource cartels.  We'll go into that next time.


  1. Mord Fiddle, maker and wearer of tinfoil hats. But then again, every time that you start to tinker a new hat, I have the strange (and rather uncomfortable) feeling that you are perfectly right.

  2. Reducto ad tinfoilhatium: Eve's variation on Godwin's Law.

    1. I mean that in a more positive way that it might have sounded.

      I didn't actually count them, but it seems that most of your blog posts target at the Mittani. At at times, it seems that everything they do raises your suspicions, even if they would start to give free plexes to orphans. It feels a bit obsessive.

      But then again in most cases, your suspicions make perfect sense and prove to be true in the long run.

    2. A very understandable impression.

      Bear in mind that most of my 'Mittani' posts fall into a two and a half month period during last Summer. During that time Mittens & Co. were conducting a campaign to intimidate bloggers who wrote negative articles about Mittens or Goonswarm.

      In response to his targeting of bloggers, and in the interest of free speech in the blogosphere, I began my 'reign of terror', the justification for which can be found in the post titled 'Lugoi'.

      Since that series completed in mid-July, and until 'Entropic Vector', only two "Mittens" posts were published at the Edge, ('Fly in Amber' and 'Who Owns the Mittani'). Those are bits of whimsey rather than alarmist or critical. Call it the price of fame and becoming a trademarked brand. If you call attention to yourself, don't be surprised if you get it.

      There are a few posts during that time about the political and economic state of nullsec in which Mittens inc & Goonswarm figure (such as 'Comparative Advantages' and 'The Monetized Coalition'), however when one alliance owns or has influence over 80% of nullsec they tend to figure large in writings on that subject.

      When BoB/IT loomed large in nullsec events, I wrote about them. When the DRF dominated the map, I wrote about them. Now CFC and HBC's are what's happening in nullsec. A year from now it will likely be someone else getting the lion's share of attention.

      The current three to four post series speaks to a set of changes to nullsec industrial & PVE mechanics for which Mittens and his proxies are aggressively lobbying. The impact of these changes would be profound, and would not be confined to nullsec.

      Thus, they warrant my attention.

  3. I look forward to reading your darker suspicions.

    With regard to Weaselior's piece on a POS revamp, I have only general observations concerning the so-called "meta-game" of reshaping EVE, having never, myself, delved that deeply into manufacturing in any space.

    Note that there are two very different orders of POS modification proposed.

    One consists of increasing the construction expense and destruction payout of POS operations across all New Eden. Such changes would not strain anyone's sense of participation in a SciFi universe. They would change "the game" but not break "the fiction."

    However, the more significant change proposed, the first, that somehow POS installations should operate with greater efficiency on the fringes and far from Empire space is a grab of such naked, invidious self-interest that it ought not be seriously entertained by anyone. It ought be laughed right out the door, probably taking with it the more reasonable-seeming portions of the proposal just on the odds that, with the company they keep, there's more to them than meets the eye.

    If any recall the witness interrogation from the comedy "My Cousin Vinny," it's as if Weaselior and company are asking for "magic grits" that cook faster on their stove than anyone else's in "the whole grit-eating world." A POS operation that, defying all fictive laws of physics, operated with greater efficiency in what is essentially one political space than another political space is utter nonsense, fundamentally disruptive to the imaginative experience that contributes to making EVE "EVE." One might argue it would make for a better "game," for some certainly, but it would tear violently at the "fiction," for all.

    Last point, which is general and not specifically addressed at Weaselior: Players who regularly play the "meta-game" of reshaping EVE for particular advantage ought lay off righteously thumping their chests, on other occasions, to proclaim the sanctity of "the sandbox," when they are stepping outside, trying to change its very shape and every sand, all the time.

  4. Well put indeed.

    But on to good suggestions ! What I am after in the blogosphere is some constructive idea as to how "building" can be encouraged and secured by mechanics in a way where destruction of the results will still be possible and not discourage (me as one of the) carebears too harshly.

    As the idea is called farms and fields : can't there be a mechanic where building is not meant to be forever, but only for a "season". Where you try to make it through the fertile season and reap the rewards -- as a group of bears, in cooperation with your Landlord and whatever he can do. And when season is over there is also a natural stop of building progression.

    If destroyed before season is over, the harm would still be limited.

    There could be different endeavours with different season lenghts and naturally increasing rewards if secured for a full season.

  5. This is a thought that has occurred to me that isn't thought out at all, just an idea. If nullsec wants a feudal lords style of gameplay why not have some manner of POS based automated mining activity (in belts, on asteroids) that was destructible, drones perhaps. If drone are being raped, and Ore silo's being pillaged they, like feudal serfs, don't have the option of moving fiefs, they just get raped and pillaged. Later on the null dwellers that holed up behind the force fields could come out and begin to repair the damages inflicted. And heck while we're at it put into place a system where sov bills are paid by this activity alone. Diminish an areas ability to have its hive out at work enough, and they lose sov if they are unable to protect these assets. Getting carebears to null isn't going to happen, they either go willingly or not at all. Just replace them with unthinking drones. Unless the peasant base are unthinking drones (or legally bound), this farms and fields will never produce the desired results. I will concede that the sov aspect of this line of thought assumes that ALL null sec participants desire a feudal kingdom style of gameplay. Surely this is not the case