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.)

.

226 Comments »

  1. Shihouka says:

    Goons committed themselves to taking Delve and as a result they are losing all of their space to AAA/Atlas. They already lost their high end moons and thus lost their income, so i think this was a move of desperation.

    Their last attempt to make ISK turned sour as their main FC stole the titan that was stolen from another goon director who was accused of… spying. This titan was supposed to be sold to pay for POS fuel bills.

    Current state of fighting in Delve is… if the initial battles are to be believed, goons are losing. Compared to the first Delve invasion, BoB is in a much better position. Even without SOV, they now have much stronger allies, so goons cannot simply use the strength of numbers.

    Should also be pointed out that, even tho goons claim the credit, its not actually “goons” that’s fighting, but a mega coalition of about 80% of EVE’s .0 alliances versus GBC/AAA/Atlas.

    EvE is so complicated… -.-

  2. stero says:

    Shihouka > As a counterpoint to this G_C mouthpiece, it’s worth noting that due to this betrayal, TAFKAB(The Alliance formerly known as BOB) released a full publish of their director-level forums. Included inside are posts where they more or less rag on their “stronger allies” and how, prior to this occurance, they were very soon going to kick the majority of them out of their space.

    Shihouka also reads from the party line that goons are broke(a slight mistruth spread by -A- ‘spymaster’ Jake Noble) and glosses over some truths of the initial battles in Delve(so far goons have aborted at least one titan-in-production – and later admittedly had a near-miss on some of their own.)

    Ultimately I suppose it proves what’s really epic about EVE – the faux-reality fostered in the gameplay where information itself really is a commodity due to the singular nature of events. He and I will both read from our respective sources about what is going on in the game, but it’s unlikely either of us know everything about these events – if it’s even possible for one person to know.

    Only time will tell how this will all settle.

  3. lePooch says:

    In two years of playing EVE, I STILL have trouble figuring out who is part of what alliance and how many people are doing what and which ship is now in need of nerfing. But I am still alive because it is not crucial to my survival.

    For those of you wondering whether the world is Goonswarm, BOB, and nothing in between, rest assured that while the big game is there, there are far more Corps than I care to count who generally just align themselves with whichever alliance is closer, and then ignore any call to arms, instead choosing to quietly slink away…

    For those of you concerned with real world comparisons, how about this: my university is a “Pepsi campus”, which means we get money from Pepsi, Pepsi funds some research, and Pepsi sponsors student concerts etc. Other universities are Coke campuses. If Coke and Pepsi go to war, the universities are not obligated to join in, but there is the prospect of more moolah if they do.

    Replace the above references with Goonswarm and BoB, and assume a future where corporations can and do kill each other, and you have a shaky real life analogy.

  4. Dinger says:

    Statements of fact do not consist in lowering the tone.

    A corporation is a fictional entity that has the legal standing of a person (in equity in the Anglo-American system). In other words, like a person, a corporation can own and alienate goods and has legal standing. As a matter of fact, guilds were among the first corporations in history (right after monasteries), hence their medieval latin name universitas, or “being-turned-in-one-directionness”, the entirety of those doing the same thing.

    So corporations in EVE more than fulfill the definition of “corporation”, as do guilds in most fantasy role playing games.

    Your argument, as I read it, is:

    Modern corporations are not dictatorships.
    *Proof: there are numerous checks and controls on executives.
    EVE corporations are dictatorships
    *proof: there are no checks and controls on executives. This is clear from the BoB event under discussion.

    Therefore, EVE corporations are not realistic, because this would never happen in real life. Moreover, the “game mechanic” is broken, because it’s neither fun nor interesting.

    First off, this argument ends with an obvious false conclusion (“this would never happen in real life”). I cited, for example, Stein Bagger, who managed to earn all kinds of awards for his company, including those from top-shelf auditing firms, before disappearing with a ton of money.
    Rogue executives can and do destroy companies.
    Second, while the alliance known as BoB may have dissolved, most of the underlying corporations are intact, and have reformed their alliance, and, as noted here, their losses will be somewhat less than total. So it was an extremely damaging act, but not a lethal one. Now we’re getting into the realm of quite common occurrences in the modern corporate world.

    Furthermore, the reasoning is specious, because it takes the notion of “dictatorship” differently in the two cases (aka fallacy secundum quid et simpliciter, for those of you scoring at home). For the modern world, the insistence that corporations are not dictatorships is based on internal and external regulations governing them; but on that measure, many EVE corps are not dictatorships, either. And no alliances are dictatorships. There are rules of governance hard-coded in, and many have rather sophisticated procedures for deciding on a plan of action, and executing it. The director who turned in this case had a lot of power, and he was able to turn over a lot of assets, but he was aided by the vulnerable location of many of these assets (capital ships). And practically everything he did was against internal corporate regulations. If there were a government overseeing them, they could sue.
    So if by “dictatorship,” you mean access to powers that can do considerable harm to the corporation, well, that’s true of practically all chief execs today, and many of their underlings.

    Finally, the idea that this is a bad game mechanic is just wrong. If anything, it’s served to energize BoB and Goonswarm, as well as many of their neighbors. Stability is a bad thing for a PvP-based MMO. Moreover, this is a compelling story, and a compelling story can be measured in terms of player hours on server and new subs.

    But I’d rather not waste everyone’s time explaining these things, when a one-sentence reply gets the point across.

  5. Kadayi says:

    @Bobby

    I’m not assuming it’s bad game design, it’s abundantly clear its bad game design, and no amount of ad hominems is going to change that. The point about real world corporations is that it seems the game should be emulating them in more than name only, esp given the scale of the operators within (the efforts of so many players in the balance). That someone is given a directorship shouldn’t suddenly mean they are given Carte Blanche over a clan/company/corporations entire financial/power structure without some form of vote agreement/approval requirement from other directors within the game on an ongoing basis. If to achieve what was achieved say required 2 other directors to be in on the sting and approve the decisions and the events still occurred, now that would be an audacious move/coup, but as it stands one guy shitting on everyone because he wasn’t ‘loved’ enough seems rather pathetic to be honest.

    Also you seemed to miss the point about a physical hack. Sure such things might be in breach of the EULA, but could you actually prove them? Within the operators of the game, if you’ve access to the account, you are the user for all intents and purposes.

    @Dinger

    A company and a corporation are entirely different things. You need to appreciate the difference.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporation

    If that’s lost on you, I recommend you check out the film ‘The Corporation’ as well, as it explains the concept in depth.

    As regards the issue of dictator. The point is that within a corporation a directors actions are accountable to the board and it is generally the case that company strategy is agreed at board level. It’s not simply a case of you’ve got the job, here’s the keys to the executive bathroom, now do as you wish (including setting the building on fire). My position has nothing to do with corporation as dictator as you seem to imply (allows fallacy arguments to fall flat on the floor..no amount of Latin will save you there I’m afraid), more to do with leader(s) as dictator(s). “A Director should not be in the position of being a dictator” – Kadayi. Whose the one making the assumptions now?

    As for Stein Bagger, I don’t know enough about the case to genuinely comment, but from what I’ve briefly read it seems to be more a case of a long con at work and not of actual corporate espionage/sabotage.

  6. Dinger says:

    Well, it’s over 200 posts, nobody else is reading this so, here goes:

    hat someone is given a directorship shouldn’t suddenly mean they are given Carte Blanche over a clan/company/corporations entire financial/power structure without some form of vote agreement/approval requirement from other directors within the game on an ongoing basis.

    In fact, this is how the BoB Alliance worked. The person in charge didn’t have de iure carte blanche. To do what he did would require agreement among the directors. He didn’t. That’s why he’s no longer a director. And that’s why the member corporations have reformed an alliance.

    I have no problem stating that the Wikipedia article defines a corporation as a modern incorporated company. Just look at the lead:

    A corporation is a legal entity separate from the persons that form it. It is a legal entity owned by individual stockholders.

    This is wrong. Corporations are not formed by people. They are legal fictions, and they are formed by whatever the law says they are formed by. As an officer in a corporation, and a member of several others (most of which are not companies), I do not “form” it, but fulfill a function with respect to the corporation.
    Moreover, “ownership by stockholders” is only one type of corporation, and historically, corporations existed before the notion of stockholder. Cities, churches and monasteries existed long before stockholding.

    And no, I don’t watch fictional movies to learn the meaning of terms. That would be irresponsible. Besides, you get a much clearer idea of these things studying history.

    Oh, and much of CCP’s time is taken up with appeals concerning hacked/compromised accounts.

    And I suggest you look up the definition of ad hominem. If you think I’ve committed one, feel free to show me where. Don’t worry — nobody else is reading this.

  7. Kadayi says:

    1) LOL. Corporations aren’t ‘magicked’ into existence, they are created by people, to argue otherwise is the height of foolhardiness. ‘The corporation’ is a documentary, not a work of fiction. I do recommend you watch it, because you are so far off base with what a corporation is as an entity it’s kind of hilarious to be honest. Appeals to archaic usage aside, the modern understanding of the term is very much centred around business.

    http://www.investorwords.com/1140/corporation.html

    2) Also did you miss the entire bit about me not likening corporations to dictatorships as you boldly claimed? Way to fail. In fact go to fail, go directly to fail , do not pass ‘no, you’ do not collect delicious cake. Ears burning now? Enjoy the humiliation (that was your intention no? With the little latin outburst?).

    3) When you make a point of qualifying peoples opinions as ‘unsubstantiated opinions’ then I’d say your firmly in the realm of the Ad hominems. Feel free to argue otherwise, and feel free to realise I’m still laughing about points (1) and (2).

  8. Dinger says:

    1. You keep returning to economic definitions for corporations. Corporations are legal fictions. Yes, that means they’re created by people, but it doesn’t mean they’re constituted by them. You yourself recognize that the definition you defend is overly restrictive, since you brought the whole thing up by saying “In business”. Corporations exist outside of “business”; their idea and usage existed before they were adopted into the business world, and many corporations exist for non-business reasons (So, who are the shareholders in the Catholic Church?). So why insist that a science fiction game extrapolate the notion in some other direction?

    2. I have no idea what you’re talking about. You stated:

    because it’s a common flaw across many MMOs (leadership is dictatorship).

    That constitues aAn unbased assertion that for many MMOs, the leadership position is one of dictator. That’s incorrect, and only works by confusing the mechanisms of power for the structures built around them. A soldier has a gun, and could walk down the street, shooting anyone he pleases, but he wouldn’t be behaving as directed.

    3. You are not your opinion, nor is your opinion sacred. If you hold otherwise, there’s no point in discussing or listening to you. That your opinion has not been substantiated constitutes a point of fact germane to the discussion. “That’s my opinion” is often used by those who are weak at argumentation to claim as sacred a fundamentally flawed and contradictory position.

  9. Bobby says:

    Kadayi:
    That someone is given a directorship shouldn’t suddenly mean they are given Carte Blanche
    Who made you king of the game and able to decide how things should be? It just happens that isn’t the way things are. Once again you mistake the real world outside the game for the in-game context.

    In the game a directorship is carte blanche, this is an incontrovertible fact. Thus players know it and have to work with it. The BoB guys knew it as well as anyone and made the decision to trust the eventual turncoat with the power to destroy them. As it turns out he eventually sided with their enemies and allowed them a mighty blow from the inside, which is fair game.

    And even if by some chance they weren’t aware of the fact then it’s actually their fault for not paying attention to the game they’re playing. It’d be like losing at chess and claiming a foul because you didn’t know all the rules.

    As for the hack, the necessity of proving it has no relevance whatsoever here, since the present case is not a hack, and we have proof of that (the turncoat himself).

    You may claim it is a design flaw all you want, yet it’ll still be debatable, because it’s actually not for you to decide how the game should be played, it’s entirely up to the devs and them alone. Maybe they do want people to be able to give such power over an alliance. It’s the ultimate proof of trust, after all. You can claim it’s unfair, but then thankfully nobody’s forcing you to grant this proof of trust.

  10. Kadayi says:

    1)Given that EVE is a game very much centred around economy & control I ‘d say the business definition is more than apt. However the operation of corporations as entities is what I was referencing, historical setting is moot tbh. The principal operators of board and member voting on large scale future actions is the common theme. The board agrees the strategy, then the members assigned implement the tactics.

    (2) Again where do I actually say that corporations are dictators as you claim? You can infer and misinterpret all you want, but the reality is it was neither said by me or inferred. Your position is redundant, and no amount of wriggling is going to change that fundamental fact I’m afraid.

    My point is about the fact that in the atypical MMO (of which I’ve seen my fair share), once someone is in a senior position within a clan it’s rare if ever that their conduct is brought into question by the game mechanics. It is only through other clan player observation that their behaviour might be brought into question, when problems arise. Leader(s) as dictators as I said before.

    (3) I’m pretty sure I never said ‘That’s my opinion either’. I’m offering up an observation based upon my experience of MMOs, as a player and as a designer. You might disagree with it, but it is anything but ‘unsubstantiated opinion’, so to make a deliberate point of labelling it as such, given that phrase could be bandied around at pretty much all posts here seems far less about making a constructive counterpoint and far more about an aimed attempt at personal dismissal.

    @Bobby

    The Hell? If the best you can muster as a defence against bad design is that the developers made it that way, that’s not much of an argument tbh. Developers are not, contrary to popular belief all knowing, omnipotent and omnipresence. The very fact that pretty much all games end up being patched/balanced after release should be proof positive of this.

    From a design perspective the only thing I’ve argued for is a degree of safeguards, nothing more (on a broad level). I’d say it’s a fairly reasonable request and would be conducive to a positive gaming environment for players. I’m not seeing the problem with that as a proposition.

  11. Tei says:

    @Kadayi: I suppose the dev’s are omnipotent on the alfa server, or something like that. Going “God mode” in a server with real customers has to be bad bussines. Even If fun.

  12. Erik says:

    Does anyone have a good recommendation where I can go to get updates from the fighting? That radio thing with the two interviews was pretty fucking entertaining but it seems like they dont have many recordings available on their site.

  13. Kadayi says:

    @Tei

    Heh. I’m just pointing out that Devs are human beings and not the ‘make no mistakes’ gods some people seem to think. MMO games are probably about the most complicated software programs out there given the number of variables they have to contend with, the notion that the people who develop them are able to accurately predict every possible event that can occur in them is flawed is all.

    Someone I know on another forum (who does play EVE) summed it up fairly nicely:-

    “I agree that its pretty shit that one person can ruin 6 years of work over a matter on 10 minutes and I would imagine now this has happened on such a large scale some kind of measures will be put into some of the next patches to stop it from happening again.

    My guess is CCP just didn’t see this kind of thing happening and therefore didn’t put in any counter measures to stop it from happening because it really sucks that so much work has gone down the drain.”

  14. Premium User Badge

    Kelron says:

    @Kadayi

    Players can be given a number of roles that give them control over areas of a corporation without giving them the same level of access a director has, it’s not simply poor game mechanics at fault here. However, there are certain areas that a player other than the CEO only has access to with directorship.

    What I’d like to see in a future patch would be to make a few more assignable roles separate from directorship, so a trusted player can be given access to control much of the corporation without having the power to destroy it entirely. I’d also like to see improvements to the voting system, which is pretty much redundant as it is now. Basically give the CEO more options to customise how the corp is run.

    For example, they could choose to have it work like your suggestion, where directors would have to vote on major actions such as withdrawing a large sum from the corp wallet, kicking a player or offlining a starbase. They could also have it so the directors can initiate these actions, but they have to be approved by the CEO before they go ahead, or the option would still be there for the corp to remain as it is currently, with directors having power to do almost everything the CEO can. These would introduce safeguards that are, speaking as a player who loves the darker aspects of EVE, entirely within the spirit of the game. They don’t introduce artificial safeguards against spying and infiltration, but they could prevent large organisations from being destroyed on the whim of a lone player.

  15. Mil says:

    I second Erik’s question:

    Does anyone have a good recommendation where I can go to get updates from the fighting? That radio thing with the two interviews was pretty fucking entertaining but it seems like they dont have many recordings available on their site.

  16. Kadayi says:

    @Kelron

    I’m not disagreeing, in fact I’m fully in accord with what you’re saying. Perhaps ‘poor’ is the wrong word, but clearly the mechanics lack the necessary depth and forethought to reflect the complexity of the game at the level it was operating at, to the point that personal ‘trust’ in the individual played too much of a part in the process to the detriment of the game.

  17. Agam says:

    @Mil > There really isn’t a consolidated source of information on this. Information is power in this game, if only to keep your own corp members reading only your propaganda and not realizing how bad things really are.

    CAOD on the official forums will generally headline most of what is going on, but there’s little discussion and everything should be viewed skeptically. Mostly because 90% of all posts there come from people involved in a conflict, posting on unaffiliated alt-characters as though they weren’t involved.

  18. Cutter says:

    Apart from understanding why anyone wants to play EvE (so I can be a miner or engage in combat, wow, what a thrill), I certainly love the tales of high drama and con jobs that surround it. Those tales are cetainly edifying to anyone with an interest in game design. It’s too bad CCP always seems so unresponsive to fixing these issues.

    After going through most of the comments I’m surprised that no one has mentioned just how unrealistic this whole scam was. This isn’t akin to the people of Troy wheeling in the Trojan horse, it’s akin to someone highly placed in a Fortune 500 company somehow managing to tank the company by himself. It just can’t happen.

    Honestly, this would be like Steve Ballmer signing over everything MS owns to Sun. It just can’t happen. Even if Steve wanted it to. It ignores any common sense rules of how corporations are governed, nevermind the checks and internal security within the corporation, or even the legalities involved. What happened here is an example of a deeply flawed game mechanic that CCP needs to address – but probably won’t, which is why they’ll never be more than a very bit player in the MOG scheme of things.

    Now a corporation in the real world has all manner of avenues open to them to tank themselves, ranging from the legal to wholly illegal – e.g. Enron. Yet, there is no possible way for a single individual to scuttle a large and powerful organization in the manner in which it happened here.

  19. well says:

    CCP deliberately leave these kinda things to be possible, because it is what makes the game The Game. EVE is not about flying around mining and fighting. It is about avoiding to (or attempting to) get into this kinda situation, and having to do so requires interaction between players. And that’s why EVE prospers.. EVE forces people to treat people as people (hmm) which takes the game onto a new level.

  20. Kadayi says:

    @Well

    So basically you’re saying, it’s not that the developers didn’t see this coming, it’s that they deliberately planned it this way? I hate to question your abundant faith in CCP, but do you have any evidence to support this assertion?

  21. Funky Badger says:

    Cutter: Madorf?

  22. Kadayi says:

    @Badger

    The general consensus is that he wasn’t working alone, and others in the company were certainly complicit in fraud. It should also be stressed that the guy didn’t dismantle the company, he just basically ripped off his customers.

  23. Tasoth says:

    @Kadayi

    That’s really funny to see a person chatting with gamers, claiming to be a designer and saying sophisticated words such as “bad design” and “lack the necessary depth” while demonstrating complete incompetence in the subject.

  24. rand0m says:

    I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this, and I’m not going to read all the replies, but for everyone saying “Bad Mechanics!! How could this happen??” There are actually ways to prevent this, but people got lazy and didn’t implement them correctly. If they had they would have never ended up in this situation.

    Like most things in EVE it’s driven by the players. The leaders of the alliance had the option to make it so that a vote would have been called that all the directors of the alliance would have had to participate in to dissolve the alliance. But they didn’t bother to set it up and so they allowed one person to flick the switch.

    The fault lies with the executors of the alliance, not with any game design flaws. Just though I’d point that out for the people who don’t know the intricacies of the game.

  25. B1tch says:

    What a brilliant effort, i love it, makes me want to play more

  26. tomx says:

    The game allows the alliance to decide who gets which privileges. If BoB hadn’t given access right to pretty much the entire alliance to this one character, they wouldn’t have been hit by this.
    personal wealth academy