Internet Spaceships Super Drama

By Jim Rossignol on February 5th, 2009 at 11:38 am.


In what is probably the biggest backstab in Eve Online’s rather stabby history, a director of one of the key corporations in key PvP alliance Band Of Brothers has turned out to be an agent of their biggest enemies, the Something Awful spawned GoonSwarm. The consequence of this is some huge in-game material losses, but also the disbanding of the alliance itself. This means that the sovereignty game mechanic which holds Band Of Brother’s galactic empire together has gone offline, leaving them horrendously exposed to attack. Worse, Goonswarm have stolen the name and ticker of an alliance that has been running for almost five years.


GoonSwarm director The Mittani has had the pleasure of disbanding his enemies, reportedly thanks to access granted via a disillusioned BoB player turncoating to the Goon side. After deciding to backstab his former chums the BoB director was able to get to the controls and kick out the member corporations, and a steal a huge stack of capital ships and cash. Spying like this does not involve illegal activities such as hacking accounts, it’s purely down to players lying, and is therefore a valid tactic within the game.

This event is now the most significant coup in Eve history, not because of the money lost, but because the disbanding of an alliance means that all its defensive infrastructure lies exposed. Without alliance ownership various system-access jammers, jumpbridges between systems and other vital machinery of Eve’s alliance mega-game are put offline. It’s a titanic victory for the Goons, who had often quoted griefing Band Of Brothers as one of their core goals. The catastrophic effect this has means that BoB’s empire is now totally exposed to attack from its enemies, and Goon fleets are reportedly already at the heart of the former BoB stronghold.

While this is indeed an impressive work of infiltration and an amazing betrayal of trust, and wholly in the spirit of Eve, I can’t help feeling sad for the thousands of players who put so much into that alliance, only to have it taken away by a single person. Theft of the name itself is, indeed, a painful thing. In some ways it proves what an astonishingly clever space of possibilities Eve provides for this kind of meta-gaming, and in others: what a total bastard.

(Thanks to the two dozen people who mailed me this morning.)

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226 Comments »

  1. Mythrilfan says:

    Wow. Reading about EVE always makes me forget how incredibly slow and unfriendly it is for newcomers.

  2. Maurice says:

    So if I understand it right there’s some guy from the clan GoonSwarm and he made a second character, got it into a rival clan, built up trust so he got promoted and then took the clan apart from the inside?

    I never played Eve Online..
    It ain’t the type of game I play.

    It’s kind of mean but as they say; all is fair in love and war.

  3. Fede says:

    Very interesting.
    For more about The Mittani, this article comes to mind.

  4. Tei says:

    “It is known that there are an infinte number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely products of a deranged imagination.”

    Douglas Adams.

  5. Skwizzal says:

    Holy shit.

    This is hilarity on a level of such that makes me feel that buying this game right now, suscribing forever and giving up most of my mind to think my way through this may actually be a constructive time waste.

  6. FunkyB says:

    Flood of ‘Jumpgate: Evolution’ preorders predicted as people can’t face EVE anymore :)

  7. Schtee says:

    Stories like this always make me want to play it properly, but when I have a go at the trial it seems I’m just clicking buttons and watching stuff happen. Really non-interactive. Am I missing the point?

  8. Wallace says:

    No alliance lasts forever in EVE, but that is a crap way to go out. It’ll be quite interesting to see what rises from the ashes.

  9. Meat Circus says:

    Hahahaha. Amazing. I love EVE. It is win.

  10. Yargh says:

    Schtee, you may be missing out on the talking to other people part of the game, along with the setting of common goals and strategies.

  11. Schtee says:

    Yargh, I understand it’s an MMO, but I meant in terms of game mechanics.

  12. ChaosSmurf says:

    Awesome. Basically.

  13. Shotbeak says:

    @Schtee. Yes. This makes me want to get a 3rd trial and play the game again, but the amount of time needed to do anything useful is just too ginormous for the casual mmo player.

    *sigh*

  14. Tei says:

    Jumpgate?
    But EVE is more like “mothership combat” than “world war II: dogfight” combat.
    EvE is like Nexus: beyond jupiter, like Jumpgate is more like Tie Fighter (I suppose).

  15. Jockie says:

    Heh, i got myself a 2nd EVE online trial yesterday coincedentally, just because the news stories about it are always so entertaining. As opposed to my last free trial i’ve decided instead of bumming about in space with a couple of mates, to join up to a corp, and we signed on to a PvP training corp in the ‘donkey punch’ alliance.

    Still, the lengths some people will go to, to win at this game are like nothing else. Hopefully I’ll get a bit closer to the core game of EvE this time, to see what all the fuss is about. Last time it was basically about mining/grinding missions to get enough ISK to afford a better ship and modules.

  16. Heliocentric says:

    Alliences live and die, griefers are eternal.

    BoB will return but imaginary money and imaginary property has been lost, also imaginary territory conceeded.

    If BoB were anything but tinpot dictators they can make it back. Interesting to see the Goons achieve something so epic, when fundementally the site was purely parasitic in form but classicly, parasitic in nature.

    This all horrifies me though, I’d want to create something, own something and have a place in the world, an allience is one of the few ways to achieve that and even that is vunerable to things like this.

    Makes me realise you can draw comparisons to real life and history, but never did “I’m sparticus” drop an automated deffence system. I guess decentralisation is key.

  17. Heliocentric says:

    I meant to also say that the act they performed was “parasitic in nature”. Stealing etc.

  18. Acosta says:

    Wow…

    Is there any official statement from CCP? Frankly, even if is was not “illegal” I find it too “Meta” for my taste to the point of unfairness. There should be mechanisms to avoid a single player to destroy something like the alliance, we are speaking of years of real time and effort put on this. They should had the chance to fight for it, but they didn’t have even the right to lose everything in a battle.

    At the same time it´s hilarious and a amazing strike from Goons, and a powerful example of the brutal nature of Eve, but I can’t help to thinks it´s wrong and a bit sad.

  19. Kelduum Revaan says:

    i should probably mention E-UNI again…

    Those of you thinking about a trial and getting involved in Eve for the first/second/forty-fifth time should look up Eve University. Just short of 1000 active members, almost 5 years old, and a great environment to learn how the stuff works.

  20. Naurgul says:

    I feel exactly the same way as Mythrilfan and Schtee.

  21. Duoae says:

    What? So basically someone lies and cheats their way to ruining a prefectly good competition between two empires and people say it’s ‘awesome’. It’s poor sportsmanship…. not like this is a real war or something.

    How can any alliance ever be formed again in Eve? Won’t Goonswarm just self-destruct after their short-lived ‘win’ because now that it’s be established that you can steal and dissolve enemies instead of fighting them why would you bother? The strongest alliance becomes one which knows all the people with power within that alliance and because Eve is an MMO that’s unlikely to be a very large alliance or corp.

    I played Eve in the beta but something like this would stop me from playing. I never liked the idiots over at SA….

  22. Dante says:

    Sometimes I wish I could get into Eve, but it’s insanely user unfreindly.

    I guess in the end it’s better to just hear about it instead.

  23. user@example.com says:

    No, he didn’t create a second character, join BoB, and get promoted – one of BoB’s directors defected after finding that goons were much more fun to play with, and mittens got together with him to plan out how they were going to do it. The director was an actual BoB director, not an infiltrator or spy.

    I guess the moral is that you should not be a dick to people you’ve given lots of power to, because they’ll get fed up with you.

  24. Still annoyed says:

    This sounds stupid, tbh. If the mechanisms of the game allows something as insane as this, there’s something wrong with them.

    I will never play Eve, that’s for sure.

  25. Leelad says:

    Yeah well I was a Netherwing Egg away from getting my drake last night when my router decided not to talk to my ISP.

    SO THERE

  26. Dinger says:

    Yeah, this is a classic development in a fundamentally tribal organization. Corporations and Alliances are not held together by many rules: it boils down to personalities. You have the power because you convince the most people it’s beneficial. When you run out of charismatic leaders, the whole structure rots from the inside.

    The same thing happens to mod teams, only not so often with treason.

  27. Dan Harris says:

    Crazy stuff. I don’t really have an opinion on whether this is awesome or sad. If the EVE players like their game to provide the opportunity for this sort of thing to happen, then more power to them. If not, they can leave.

    Are there not laws in place in EVE which would allow for the prosecution of the guy who ‘defected’ though? Sounds like industrial espionage to me. Or something.

    Or he could just be hunted down and killed. In the game, I hasten to add.

  28. teo says:

    EPIC

    And Jim, why the hell would you feel sorry for BoB? lol
    Feed them to the dogs

  29. Hypocee says:

    Yeah, meta’s the sticking point for me too. If this had been something like the Guiding Hand Social Club heist – a theft by one party for the sake of revenge by another – that’d be awesome, but the Goons’ goal isn’t money or power or revenge or protecting their friends, it’s MAKE EVERYBODY MAD LAWL LOOK HOW DUMB YOUR GAME IS TYPE /RAGEQUIT NERD. In trying to be immersive and integrated, EvE’s made itself extra-vulnerable to assholes who aren’t actually playing the game.

  30. dalig varg says:

    the dark days are comming

  31. Ian says:

    I really enjoy reading stuff about EVE, but I’d never ever want to play it.

    Mostly because of stories like this which strike me as simultaneously awesome and terrifying.

  32. Janek says:

    I’m a little shocked that the game mechanics allow this – obviously spies, lies, theft and treachery are part and parcel of the game, but you’d have thought that it wouldn’t be possible for one dude to make an alliance go poof overnight, with all the associated logistics going out the window instantly.

    Guess I was wrong, eh?

  33. kert says:

    Its a fricken game. I could play a game of chess for two years and whine when i eventually lose too.

  34. El_MUERkO says:

    ouch!

    now comes the fun as alliances all over EvE attempt to take BoBs space and stuff, it’ll be like Far and Away only with more bottom

  35. Cunningbeef says:

    This is why I love to read about this game, but not play it.

    The “anything goes” mechanics are just great (thinking UO pre-Trammel/Fellucca) for stories, but in action, well, I’ll just leave it the people with a little more free time.

  36. R. says:

    Once again, Eve shows us that all the best MMO stories are found within its near-impenetrable shell. I truly wish I had the patience and desire to play it because I utterly adore reading all these tales of betrayal and subterfuge it creates.

    But, y’know, mining. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. There’s just nothing like enough instant gratifcation for a shallow fellow like myself to last more than a few hours with it.

  37. Tei says:

    @the comments “this is too meta to me”:

    CCP Wrangler (Eve Online Community Manager) :
    EVE is a dark and harsh world, you’re supposed to feel a bit worried and slightly angry when you log in, you’re not supposed to feel like you’re logging in to a happy, happy, fluffy, fluffy lala land filled with fun and adventures, that’s what hello kitty online is for.

  38. MultiVaC says:

    Yeah, it seems like this is kind of a design flaw regarding the way alliances work. I mean, what sort of real-world organization could something like this happen in? It sort of makes the entire game pointless, doesn’t it? One guy can completely disband an entire alliance… doesn’t sound fun, fair, or realistic. And why play a game if it’s none of those things? Although, I guess if that’s the way it works, it’s just a matter of time before the guy who did this gets backstabbed himself. He seems like kind of a dick.

  39. Jim Rossignol says:

    /creates Hello Kitty account.

  40. egg says:

    Yay. Although this kind of thing sure looks like a great achievement in a big way, it feels like bad sportsmanship. I mean, if you are going to win, do so by fighting the other dudes in the battlefield.

    It just feels as if GoonSwarm was having trouble fighting BoB and then decided for an alternative way of ending victorious.

    Maybe these possibilieties are what is so great about EVE. But that’s just oh so lame too.

  41. Dreamhacker says:

    Survival of the Fittest just got digital, eh?

  42. Ben Abraham says:

    Was this the Roman Empire of EVE? Taken down by the barbarians? Ouch.

  43. iainl says:

    That’s EVE all over, though. Consistently there with the most interesting stories of how someone has gamed the system to destroy the work of thousands of others, but there’s absolutely nothing in those stories that makes me want to be part of them myself.

    Which is a pity, because the game looks like shiny overload.

  44. Dinger says:

    Yeah, you mean like Barings PLC? Never happens in the real world.

  45. Ben Abraham says:

    Also: LOL at the second comment after the forum reveal post.

    “We didn’t want that alliance anyways.”

  46. teo says:

    EVE is about being mean to other people
    The scale of it doesn’t matter as long as it remains within the game

  47. Down Rodeo says:

    Is there a way to stop the one person from getting that much power in an organisation?

  48. Kelron says:

    Yes. The CEO of a corp has ultimate control over who gets into positions of power. Not sure how it works for alliance controls, but still someone has to have promoted the spy into the position of power.

  49. Jim Rossignol says:

    I’ve clarified the story: the access to alliance controls was actually granted by a long term BoB member who became a double agent for the Goons, rather than a spy infiltrator.

  50. Acosta says:

    @Tei

    No. See, I have no problem with that mentality, it´s what Eve and it what makes it interesting: You can lose. Great. If someone infiltrates to steal a Titan, well, that’s pretty awesome, a great story and is something I could imagine inside the boundaries of the game.

    But one guy disbanding something like the alliance pressing some buttons for the shake of it is not something realistic at all in the context of Eve, it´s a flaw of the design. You can make a dangerous world, but it must be fair and coherent. If a director is a traitor he should be able to make tons of damage, steal tons of cash, give a fleet to the enemy, whatever, but not disband and make worthless every structure. It looks a flaw on the design of the game, alliances should have more strict mechanism to avoid one guy having all the control with a few of fast clicks.