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. Rei Onryou says:

    I love reading about EVE. Just a shame I couldn’t get into it. Now if combat was Tie Fighter style, it’d be a done deal. Here’s hoping Jumpgate: Evolution nails both of the above.

    I’ll be interested in seeing what happens next. All that is really lost is a name (and some expensive stuff), but surely if the BoB leaders are dedicated enough, they can reform under a new name with limited loss. Of course, in 24 hours, the whole of BoB’s territory could be lost. GoonSwarm is the Joker personified in a game.

  2. Will Tomas says:

    As others have said, this is the sort of thing that makes EVE facinating to those of us who don’t have the time/patience/inclination to jump in, but who love to read about it.

    I actually really like that something like this can happen, because it just makes things much more geniune – less like a game, and more like an alternate universe. ‘Games’ wouldn’t let this sort of thing happen as it breaks too much of what’s gone before – but since EVE does, I respect it for that. Facinating stuff…

  3. cyrenic says:

    They should name the next expansion “The Age of Paranoia”.

  4. Cooper42 says:

    I love hearing about EVE’s end game – it’s the only MMO I know which has that deep level of payer involvement in the game itself, which is the only reason I see a point in having an MMO… I have promised myself to try it out again in the not-too-distant future. Once I find all that spare time. Probably somewhere under my bed.

  5. unique_identifier says:

    hahha. best post evar from the news-breakin’ thread in the eve online forums:

    Ess Erbe (GoonFleet): CULTURAL VICTORY

  6. Tworak says:

    if eve didn’t suck it might’ve been good. love the eve-o-drama, though, it’s awsum.

  7. MetalCircus says:

    The guy who did this isn’t a bastard; this is downright impressive. More power to him.

  8. Biggles says:

    You know, they should make more spin off games based around EVE. I love this sort of backstory, but the core game requires too much commitment. To change that for the sake of appealing to people like me would be a mistake, I think.

    But it would be nice to have some sort of low commitment way to play in the world they’ve created. Especially if it somehow was able to tie in to events in the game propper.

  9. Nimic says:

    I find it hard to use words such as “awesome” over this. Basically one player undid literally years of work from who knows how many people, and just because he wanted to be a jackass. I don’t like EVE’s apparently policy of “if it’s not hacking it’s fine”. I think you can have a high level of player involvement and actual consequences without letting major-scale griefing like this happen.

    I would never play EVE. Granted, not only because of this.

  10. Evangel says:

    Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Eve is brutal, corporate warfare. Not honorable, middle ages knights in shining armour. Subterfuge, betrayal, theft and lies are integral to the entire game.

    2 600 man strong fleets meeting in the field of battle would have been nice to watch, but laggy as fuck and a rather pathetic strategy.

  11. iainl says:

    Nimic – does it really count as griefing any more when being an arse to as many other players as possible is pretty much the central goal of the MMO? I hate everything Something Awful have ever done as much as the next person, but you really shouldn’t bother playing EVE if you don’t want this sort of thing to happen.

  12. Eternal_newbie says:

    Cant wait to see what the result of the fallout will be. Will BoB members reunite to try and take back what was theirs, (maybe using guerilla tactics?)(or is it too late?).
    Certainly this will cause players to leave and join. but which will be greater? And designer of MMO’s will have to consider how they can prevent this from happening in their games and whether they want to. Remember some people like playing games like diplomacy precisely because you can use tactics like this. How long do you think it will be before someone creates an MMO where this is a valid tactic?(!)

  13. Tei says:

    No related news:
    Two good animes, with a interesting plot, that include “power take-overs”.
    - Speed Grapher
    - Code Geass

  14. Janto says:

    Well, there you go Jim, you have a mandate now to do a follow up piece once the official CCP response has been announced and the initial aftermath has resolved.

    Skimming over the turgid waters of the forum, there’s a couple of things that need clarification. Is this an inherent weakness of the system, or just lax alliance security? Also, this is an alliance, not a corporation, so presumably all the other corporations involved are still sitting there with their resources intact but no blanket border protection?

    In fairness to those crying foul, it would seem that all CCP needs to do is possibly create an Alliance management panel that functions like the alliance’s constitution, with each option hardwired to being an executive decision that anyone can change with the right code, or alternatively anyone of the right rank can try and make an ammendment but only through submitting it to a vote of all ‘citizens’, etc.

  15. Swift Voyager says:

    Yes, it’s epic. Yes it’s really sad for BoB members.

    but…. I play Eve and I don’t see how this affects me. I’m not a member of BoB. The space BoB controlled will be controlled by someone else, and it won’t be me. When I log in today, the game will be exactly the same as it was yesterday. In fact, I bet it would be very hard for the average Eve player to find even one person in-game that is affected by this directly.

    I haven’t spoken to anyone in BoB in about 6 hours, but according to someone from BoB management, they were under the impression that it was an account hack and they had a petition filed. I would wait and see what the truth is before believing anything.

  16. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    How accurate are the accusations of this being “too meta”, though? I’m not wise to the ways of EvE, at least not in depth, but it seems to be every part of the game as space combat and exploration do. It highlights precisely what the genre stands to gain when it leaves behind a similar design applied in single-player games – stagnant economies, political backstabbing which we are usually only witnessing and never being a part of, a static gameworld which doesn’t take into account anything meaningful we do (or try to).

    The impact this kind of event seems to have on gamers, both the fans and the outsiders, is that it seems unfair. It totally is; there is nothing more unfair than seeing your hard work undone by people who betray you, by making a bad judgement call, by not being aware of all the gears in the clockwork. But it is part of the game. Is it really “too meta” to operate under the rules of the game? Try applying that reasoning to the field of secret intelligence in real life. Was it unfair you had spy networks during World War II disrupting the hard work done in the frontlines with petty machinations and turncoating? Totally. Yet, no one would scream about how it shouldn’t be done. It was one of the pillars of the war; the unseen one which has unfathomable repercussions.

    People claiming it’s “bad sportsmanship” don’t seem to get it, either. It’s not a sport. It’s war. It’s politics. It’s scheming. You’re not in a universe or gameworld about friendly competition and as such, it’s naive to expect its players all give out friendly warnings across the board to those they are going to attack.

    Admittedly, I would feel pretty bad if I was affected in such a way, but I wouldn’t blame the rules of the game when these events *are* the game. What next, no more team speak in Team Fortress 2 to discuss tactics because that would give an unfair advantage to those who don’t do it? Or even forum talk to discuss strategies for a game later on?

    To quote a replay to Space Giraffe’s negative reception made by a fan of Jeff Minter, man up and grow a pair.

  17. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    ^reply, instead of replay.

  18. phuzz says:

    Perhaps if CCP added some new functionality to the alliance controls to require authorisation from multiple directors for some actions it would help cut down on this.
    In RL it takes this kind of security breach before people upgrade their systems so it would kinda work in game.

    Otherwise, EPIC!

  19. Calabi says:

    That is just silly, surely in the future they would have means to deal with these sort of things. They would have something close to a proper democracy at least whereby single individuals are not able to reap utter destruction. Or a collective whereby many individuals have to give authorisation for things that have large scoping effects.

    This sort of thing is bound to happen in a game though where you are able to be all powerful and have little to no responsibility, everyone gets bored eventually.

    Maybe that even happens to real coorporations, microsoft got bored and decided to mess with people by releasing vista, and the zune.

  20. SoftRevolution says:

    EVE has always had a lot of metagaming at the big alliance level.

    BoB are certainly no strangers to this kind of tactic.

    I’m in a Northern Coalition (some of the guys fighting against BoB) corp with this name and our forums got compromised the other month. Big panic, everybody changing passwords.

    What’s more this is only arguably metagaming as I understand the term because it involves a defector rather than an alt spy.

    CCP have always said that they make betrayal possible to give trust some real value in EVE. Seems like that principal at work.

  21. Gap Gen says:

    I calculated that the real-world-equivalent losses were somewhere in the millions of dollars. Insane.

  22. teo says:

    BoB have used foul play many times themselves
    They’re the biggest assholes, or they were at least

    Of course it’s “unfair” but that’s how the game is. Is killing someone with 20 bil ISK who’s defenseless in a freighter unfair? Yes but that’s the game. It’s never been about being fair

    You can avoid this side of the game if you want to but these guys have been doing it to other people for years. They were the bullies. No remorse

  23. Acosta says:

    @Diogo

    Your line of thinking is fine, but let me use your own example against it. This was not an spy network breaking the supply line to the front, that actually takes lot of effort and sacrifice. This was Hitler having a bad day and deciding all was worthless and he was going to have some fun, making worthless every tank, plane, defensive structures, everything. Does that sound logic to you? Things don’t work like that.

    Actually, the “victory” of Goons goes against Eve itself and prove their point. With a traitor in such position they could have made something much more spectacular in the own context of Eve, but instead of that they just disbanded the alliance, unplugged the power supply and showed their victory in forums, out of the game. It´s not a complex political setting inside the game, it´s just something they won using msn and the boredom of one guy. Eve was not needed at all in all this process and that make it quite unnecessary, only a silly game, just like Goons like it. The real war was in the forums and this just proved it.

  24. xiko says:

    got the trial and in 2 daysI bought the first month through steam (only 15$ w00t).

    I joined a pvp corp, got evemon and other utilities and I must say that I am a happy person. Yes, it will take time to learn the big ships but right now I can use some modules to help up my corp kill some ships and it is very very very very fun to do it. I might be in this game for a long time, it is nice.

  25. Klaus says:

    Aren’t there (official or otherwise) systems in place that limits the amount of power one individual has so he/she can’t dick around and blow them to kingdom come?? Sort of like – person A and person B have each have keys to the warehouse of money that can’t be opened without the other.

    Stopping one player from causing all this damaged using legal game tactics seems to be punishing creativity and rewarding lethargy. Is there really a reason to try too hard if there is a system in place that sustains enough of your wealth and power no matter how devastating your opponents are.

  26. Tei says:

    Somewhat random:
    I am moving in spiral with my comments.
    My next stop is Doom comic.
    http://www.doomworld.com/10years/doomcomic/comic.php?page=6

    “At this particular moment in time. I don’t believe I have a healthier or more deeply-felt respect for any object in the universe than this here shotgun…”

  27. Eamo says:

    It just strikes me as odd that an alliance is something that can be disbanded. An alliance should be something that individual corporations can join or leave or that they can vote to remove another corporation from. Just like you can’t disband NATO in the morning but individual countries can choose to join or leave.

    This strikes me as exploiting a poorly structured game mechanism.

  28. user@example.com says:

    Eamo: The alliance is created by and focused on one central corporation. The director disbanded the central corp.

  29. user@example.com says:

    Which is a bad system, yes. Many systems in EVE are, but they don’t tend to get fixed when they’re good for BoB. Someone hurts BoB, though, and oh noes those exploits must be fixed!

    Hopefully they won’t roll this back.

  30. Erik says:

    I love all the EVE-related stories here on RPS even though I never got into the game myself. It kinda feels like standing on the shore watching a ship on the horizon, its buzzing with life but I just cant bother to swim in ice cold water to catch up with it. Either way, this is very cool and EVE has some qualities that I hope to see in future MMOs.
    Oh, and yea, good luck to BoB. Going to be interesting to see how this unfolds.

  31. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    @Acosta:

    I’m having a hard time buying into that. Would it be more tolerable if they’d stuck to whatever EvE uses as a communications instead of exchaning intel and planning through a common chat program? Again, when chat technology is so integrated into a gamer’s way of life, it would be asinine to refuse it because they were planning things outside the game. How to set up a meeting? A game session? A reunion between alliance members if, say, more than half are at work and not in the game? We can never tell, and considering any and all such communication as bad sportsmanship is tenuous at best.

    Showing their victory on forums doesn’t seem to me like it’s exposing a weakness of EvE, its mechanics or its players. Boys will be boys, as someone once said. After TF2 sessions it’s not uncommon to find someone posting images of who scored more often, who died more often, who got dominated and by whom. You could argue that what really made it metagaming was the fact that such an act was born out of forum intrigues and not whatever intrigue may have been created in the game, which is true. But this is a natural aspect of communities using videogames to challenge themselves and others. It’s no different than being dominated in TF2 by the guy you banned from your forum. It might have started with two teams competing for fun, but someone will always make it personal on the battleground.

    Disbanding an entire alliance and thus disable its economic and military power isn’t logic? I suspect that, judging by some commentaries, the way it’s handled in EvE is not particularly good, but it seems no more different than the typical layer of abstraction in videogames where certain elements of gameplay are abstracted. Like unit or infrastructure building in RTSs taking seconds or minutes rather than weeks or months.

    Maybe it is unfair, and maybe EvE could refine those play mechanics so as not to shaft all those players. But then, this would be a problem with balance, not because they played by the rules.

  32. Hypocee says:

    Tei, Softrev, Diogo etc – the problem’s not that people lost or that the war was decided by something other than splodes, it’s that the wrong people with the wrong goal won – and yes, that does matter when I’m deciding whether some action is neat. The betrayal/agent/whatever thing is fine; again, I think the GHSC heist was a shining exemplar of what EVE has that nobody else does. This wasn’t done for any in-game reason, and by in-game I include the interpersonal stuff that makes trust a currency. This was done in order to reduce this little universe full of interest and intrigue into nothing more than the pew-pew grind that forms its first tier, because the group that did it abhors the idea of anyone enjoying anything.

    If I shoot you in Counterstrike, I am adding to your multiplayer fun. If I DoS your servers for a week, I’m not.

  33. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    JESUSFCHRISTONACRUTCH what is it with RPS not letting me edit my posts?

    @Acosta, where I wrote:

    “doesn’t seem to me like it’s exposing a weakness of EvE, its mechanics or its players.”

    it should read:

    “doesn’t seem to me like it’s exposing a weakness of EvE, or its mechanics; just its players’ ego.”

  34. TooNu says:

    WOOOHOO!!!! ITS TRUE!!
    HAHA! great news, fantastic news :) So who just cancelled their accounts??? come on don’t be shy, Jim is one of them? I’m definetly NOT! HAHAHA! great, bye bye Bob

  35. vinraith says:

    Events like this in EVE are always fascinating to read about, but they’re also reason #1 why I would never play that game. As you said, “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.” One gets screwed over enough in real life, why would you want to put up with it in your entertainment?

  36. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    @Hypocee:

    “the problem’s not that people lost or that the war was decided by something other than splodes, it’s that the wrong people with the wrong goal won”

    How does one decide the right and wrong goal? True, we can say the SA Forumites are always on the side of wrong. And stupid. But… Where do we draw the line? EvE, the game, doesn’t. It’s the communities that start to decide, on their own terms, who they’re supporting, who they would like to see victorious. GoonSwarm may have just been a petty excuse to hurt a community, true – but if SA weren’t involved, and this was made by someone else with no agenda other than dominion or advancement in EvE, would people’s reactions be any different?

    I suspect many would still make the claim that this was unfair, poor sportsmanship and whatnot. The wrong people with the wrong goal won – but we call it wrong because we were exposed to their reasons. What if we hadn’t been? Who could determine who was right or wrong?

    And besides, the wrong people with the wrong goal winning happens everywhere, everytime. It doesn’t make it necessarily excusable but it’s a truism of all things in life. People going into a game like EvE and expecting otherwise were probably kidding themselves.

  37. Hypocee says:

    GoonSwarm may have just been a petty excuse to hurt a community, true – but if SA weren’t involved, and this was made by someone else with no agenda other than dominion or advancement in EvE, would people’s reactions be any different?

    Mine would be, and has been.

  38. Mike says:

    Oh, man. Very Star Wars. I can’t wait for Episode IV.

  39. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    Mine would be, and has been.

    And what if the motivation had been just as petty as SA’s was, but never came out into the public? How could you determine who was the wrong side, or if you’d react any differently?

  40. Anonymous says:

    @Swift Voyager

    Nobody’s account was hacked. An account was shared, but that was a private forum account, not an EVE account. All of the turncoat actions were done by the turncoat himself on his own account, so it is completely legal from a TOS perspective.

  41. Danfishblue says:

    I get the feeling that if someone other than the goons did this, they uproar wouldn’t be as bad.

    Meh, I don’t play but it’s a nice story to hear. Schadenfreude or whatever it’s called.

  42. Hunterprime says:

    I just wanted to point out that Goonswarm is alot more people then just SA. You had guys from tons of places joining up because they hated BoB

  43. Hypocee says:

    And what if the motivation had been just as petty as SA’s was, but never came out into the public? How could you determine who was the wrong side, or if you’d react any differently?

    Then golly, I’d be wrong about something for a period of time. Irrelevant to this situation where we do know that a large outside community set out to destroy a game. I also feel that your hypothetical’s pretty farfetched; in any situation with a petty nihilist aim, making a big gloating announcement both pre- and post-deed is pretty much the point.

  44. clovus says:

    There should be some kind of in-game mechanic where the members of BoB would be able to stop this from happening.

    For example, they would have to come up with an insane amount of ISK in a very short time. And the only way to do this? A talent show featuring breakdancing!!

  45. Hypocee says:

    Not until Walking Around, sadly.

  46. Rob says:

    This seems like a legitimate way to break an alliance to me. Double agents or defectors are always very dangerous. Sure, not completely realistic, but IS IS A GAME.

    Look at it like this, IRL the BoB director defects to the other side, but before he does this he uses his top-level clearance to load a massive virus into the alliance network, effectively disabling all their defenses. When he flees he steals a huge chunk of cash (life isn’t cheap) and as his ship leaves the system the Goonswarm moves in and captures everything they possibly can.

    Now, in EVE he just had to press some buttons, but I can make up a good enough story behind it that I buy it.

  47. Eamo says:

    On another note, all analysis of whether it should have been possible or not I can’t help but think that disbanding BoB will be better for EVE overall. The problem for a long time has been that BoB had basically won the game, there was no real way anyone arriving now could compete. A lot of their power was just a relic of being one of the first big alliances.

    In the long run I think if BoB is gone the inter alliance story is going to be a hell of a lot more interesting and maybe the ongoing story will be more interesting and available to more players because of it.

  48. Jon.J says:

    I love EVE, always have, always will. I was planning to re-sub come march for the new expansion anyway, this just makes it better :D

    This is in no way too meta, there is no game out there like EVE, it is the marmite of MMOs.

  49. kororas says:

    Im quite sad to hear that. Yes Bob has done many similar underhanded techniques before in its time but none quite so abrupt as this.

    I agree with other posters that it is far too easy to let huge entities go in Eve with the click of a button but hey thats Eve for you! No doubt CCP will strengthen the game mechanics surrounding this in time but the damage is already done and I dont see them trying to reverse it (contrary to a lot of skeptics beliefs).

    This would never happened under old Bob management. But then again come to think of it there was this time when i was given (accidentally) access to the ‘capitals’ and ‘directors’ hangers, oh the damage I could of done. But also the guys were a good (if a little too dedicated) bunch of guys (and some gals) so I left it.

    Now all is left i suppose is to watch Goonswarm eat itself from within, or start griefing empire carebears on a massive scale again.

  50. Anonymous says:

    Also, anyone on the fence about this game who thinks that they could never catch up to the players who have been playing forever should keep in mind that Goonswarm is primarily made of relatively new players whose purpose was to prove that newbies could stand up to established powerhouses. BoB was one of the longest standing powerhouses. Even though it took a turncoat to do them in completely, they’ve been on a downward slope for a while and have been coasting on their good name for a year or two.

    Now, that doesn’t mean that every new player will eventually be a playmaker in 0.0 space like Mittens, but it’s all a matter of what you want out of the game, you can be ‘that guy’ too if you want it bad enough, and if not there are plenty of other niches you might find fun. But one of the important things to know about this game is that you can’t go at it alone, if you try and “solo” your way through your trail you’re probably going to get bored of doing NPC missions and mining Veldspar to cover your losses. Join EvE University and from there try and find a niche that you like.

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