Friday, December 20, 2013

Wolves of the Southern Wilds

And now, what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
They were, those people, a kind of solution.

      - C.P. Cavafy - Waiting for the Barbarians

The word 'barbarian' was coined, to the best of our knowledge, by the Mycenaean Greeks.  It is an onomatopoeic word, intended to reflect the sound of barbarian-speak as the Greeks perceived it.  Seems Agamemnon and his lot found the speech of non-Greeks to be coarse, guttural and rather silly; they mocked it as sounding like” Bar, bar, bar".   It was pretty funny at the time, or at least everybody who spoke Greek thought so.  And they all had a good laugh at the expense of these benighted outsiders.  Mind, the joke lost a little of its jolly when the bar-barians sacked Pylos and the other Mycenaean citadels sometime around 1200 BCE.  

Who the barbarians are has always been largely a matter of perspective. It is an exclusionary word, intended to draw a distinction between persons outside a group and persons inside a group.  In particular, the word is loaded to underscore the relative superiority of the insiders and, especially, the inferiority of the outsiders.

To Goonswarm, we are all barbarians.  

And that's a bit ironic since, upon a time, Goonswarm itself was viewed as a bunch of pubbie barbarians; their tactics at the time depending on overwhelming the enemy with a mass of inexpensive ships flown by inexperienced pilots.  But, as they say, the only constant is change.  Band of Brothers (BoB), nullsec's major power of those early days is no more, laid low by the very barbarians they scorned.  And now Goonswarm sits in the seat of empire, enjoying a degree of hegemony unseen in nullsec since the founding of New Eden.

Indeed, Goonswarm has completely rewritten the character of nullsec and the playbook for holding and extending sovereignty here.  Wherever Goonswarm and its proxies in the ClusterFuck Coalition (CFC) hold sway, nullsec is a relatively risk free place where the living is easy.   Wars are imposed on others and are fought elsewhere, allowing ISK to be easily harvested and flow without interruption in to the imperial coffers. As CFC member Razor Alliance’s leadership recently pointed out to its membership, it “… doesn’t have to do anything but joining fleets and making ISK”.  

Having ‘won EVE’, one would think Goonswarm’s leadership could rest easily 'pon their starry beds.  Alas, one can do anything with bayonets but sit on them.  And. for some reason, empires tend to evidence a strange compulsion toward controlling populations for whom they historically express contempt.  As in life, so in EVE.  For Goonswarm, the elimination of meaningful threat is no longer the point.   All barbarians (i.e., non-Goons) must be either be domesticated or eradicated. 

Thus the empire assembles a vast host and marches south in all its strength.  The wolves of the south wait for them, and sharpen their knives the while. 

We are all barbarians. It’s only a matter of whether or not you’re wearing Goonswarm's collar.  That is the narrow choice before free nullsec.  You can be Goonswarm’s dog, or you can be a wolf.  But you can’t be both.

Choose well, my friends.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Spies Among Us

Seems that when an Pakistani nuclear scientist, a Venezuelan embassy driver or a senior member of Iran’s republican guard knock off for the day they, like many of us, are in the mood for a bit cartoon mayhem.

Beware, my children, for there are spies (or at least high value Sigint targets) among us.  And where those targets go, the British and American intelligence community follows.   

The tone of the article is a bit mocking; sort of a sneer that the NSA is using tax-payer dollars to hunt for spies in MMPORGs.  I can, of course, understand the humor angle here: The image of a bunch of mouth breathing NSA interns logging on to WOW in order to hunt down enemies of the state among wood elves and goblins is… intriguing.  I can’t tell if it’s comedy or drama. Maybe both.  It’s like someone has announced new entry in the FX Spring series line-up. Sort of, Homeland’s Carrie Mathison and Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper as real world spooks stalking each other through Second Life.  

Still, can you really blame them?  I mean, if it was found out that an international conspiracy was successfully launched against the developing world from an MMPORG, there'd be hell to pay. Just imagine the hearings on Capital Hill. Our spymasters would be slow-roasted in public for allowing our enemies the MMPORG high-ground. Congress would be all: "Help me understand, Director Brennan. Why wasn't America logged in with special-ops dark elves to prevent this debacle?" 

Sigh. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t, it seems.

EVE Online isn’t named in the article, which surprises me. I would have thought that EVE would be hip-deep in spies of every stripe. Heaven knows we’ve got the digital analog of them down cold. And EVE, to my mind, draws a more worldly and nefarious crowd than other MMPORGs.   

Then again, spies, turncoats and masters of international intrigue may find it difficult to relax by playing EVE at the end of a long day of deception. Time among us might a little too much like their day jobs.     

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Let's imagine that everyone's worst nightmares about EVE and RMT are true.

What if RMT (by which I mean the trade of EVE's in-game currency, the ISK, for for real world currency) is not only being done on large scale by EVE online players, but has become the primary reason for EVE Online's existence.

Let's just say for argument's sake that major in-game sov-holding entities and alliances, EVE gambling sites, EVE web hosting sites and a parade of EVE services purveyors, both in and out of game, are taking big stacks of ISK and systematically rolling them over into real world money.  And heck, as long we're blue-skying here, let's say that CCP is not only unable or unwilling to stop EVE's RMT trade, but are actually knowing participants and beneficiaries of the trade.  Let's say that CCP is colluding with key RMT interests for a percentage of the take and in order to optimize CCP's RMT yield.

Let's say EVE Online is no longer an entertainment for spaceship geeks of all ages and nationalities. Let's say it merely exists as a money spinner, a machine for generating game world transactions that, in turn, generate real world transactions, thereby making real world money out of thin air.

After all, it's not like this sort of thing is science fiction. It's commonplace in the financial world. Wall Street is chock a block with financial organizations whose stock in trade is turning over transactions that have no point beyond the transactions themselves. The firm takes a small cut of each transaction, adding nothing of value to the item transacted. In such cases, the item and its value (or lack thereof) is not the point; the transactions, not things or services that provide utility of any sort, are the product.

Spinning money, it's called.  Right? OK, so let's say for just a moment that all this is happening in EVE,  and CCP (or key elemens thereof) are hip deep in the trade of real money.

Would it make a difference?

Think about it. Would you stop playing? Go play something else? Would it change the game for you?  Would you be less entertained? At the end of the day, does it matter? And if not, should it?

Just something to think about.