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A War In Space: The Banker Who Gambled Everything And Brought Eve's Greatest Empire To Its Knees

Special report

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Payday

A tiny fleet wandering around

The fleet commander is still looking for a fight.

“We’re just cleaning up now,” says progodlegend. “I’m serious this won’t last much longer. They retreated out of all their ‘sovereignty space’ and they live in low-security space now. But their original home systems in Deklein were Y-AO and V-FK – and we own both of ’em now.”

Deklein is the Goons’ ancestral home. And TEST has marched right into it, along with the 27 other mercenary groups paid by the bankers to sack Imperium territory. They’ve occupied the capital systems there and are working their way into neighbouring regions, chasing fights and getting into skirmishes.

“We’re going to have [the rest of] Deklein in two weeks.”

Meanwhile, the Mittani has ordered all Goon ships to retreat into low-sec, to the system of Saranen, and adopt guerilla tactics, essentially surrendering his homeland. But progodlegend doesn’t think they’ll ever be truly destroyed.

“They’re definitely not dead,” he says. “The alliance ‘Goonswarm’ is still strong and they still have most of their leadership… The difference in the past is that they’ve always had more numbers than everyone else. You know, in the Fountain War when they fought back strongly they were able to start outnumbering us.”

“This time, they’re starting to lose allies quickly because they’re losing all their space. This is something I’ve always wondered… Goonswarm hasn’t fought a real defensive war, where their space is under pressure, since 2010. So it’s been six years since they’ve really been truly attacked… They’ll fight back and they’ll probably make some ground back but I don’t think they’ll be the same.

“At that point its just going to be: how long are they going to stick around in low-sec and put pressure on us and how long do the Iwantisk [the casino] guys want to pay us to sit on their face, essentially.”

He knows these financiers are pumping money into his alliance and, by extension, his own pocket. And he is candid about the deal.

“Yeah, we’re still being paid,” he says. “Although at this point we’ve had so much success… that if the money dried up we would still finish the job.”

He lists off the bankers behind the war – Lenny, 1RONBANK, Eep Eep. He knows that they manage the casino, that they are absurdly rich, and that they are the financial fuel behind the entire conflict. But he doesn’t necessarily know the individuals behind these names – whether they are “alt” accounts of another entity, or whether they have their own agendas in the war.

“All I know is we get a paycheck.”

Corruption

From left to right: progodlegend, Eep Eep, Lenny Kravitz2, The Mittani, Widget Zombie and Binary Zombie

Lenny is still making money. The dividends from the casino are still rolling in, and the cash from his trade deals is keeping him afloat. He is spending a ridiculous amount of money but the war chest has yet to run dry. Meanwhile, the Goon diaspora in low-sec sees itself under constant persecution. According to Moneybadger pilots and propagandists, many Goonswarm-affiliated pilots are unable even to undock from their space stations to go “ratting” – the practice of killing NPC enemies for cash and loot. The moment they leave the station, they are attacked by the pirates and mercenaries who despise them. Making money as an individual Goon is supposedly becoming harder every day. They are becoming refugees in a game that was once theirs to pillage.

The bankers, meanwhile, have not been invulnerable. There have been accusations that players working for Iwantisk.com have been trading ISK, the in-game currency, for real money. This is something that is forbidden by the developers of the game, CCP. Their terms and conditions state that to play you must agree not to exchange ISK for pounds, dollars, rubles – anything. Doing so is not only a breech of those terms, punishable by a permanent ban, it is also unpopular with many of Eve’s pilots.

It’s unclear where these accusations of corruption came from (one might guess Goonswarm but there’s no proof of this). Wherever they originated, it was enough for CCP to ban 15 bankers from Iwantisk.com, pending an investigation. Eventually, all but two of these accounts were reinstated after 30 days when they were found to be innocent. The two bankers who are still banned may well have been breaking one of the only laws of New Eden, says Lenny, or they simply might not have submitted a support ticket of “appeal” to the developers.

“We don’t know,” says Lenny “because we haven’t heard from them for a while.”

He insists that the practice of “RMT” (“real money trading”) is something the casino frowns on.

“A lot of the bankers in Iwantisk don’t like that either, because it causes a lot of issues with us.”

If the bankers are banned from playing EVE pending an investigation by CCP, he says, they can’t work. The casino loses the people who keep the place functioning. If a banker is found doing this within the organisation, he assures me the casino will likely fire that person themselves. “Self-regulation” in action.

“Afgoonistan”

A soda advertisement, yesterday

It is the dead of night when I run the blockade to reach Saranen. The Goon “refugee camp” has been set up in a soda warehouse orbiting the moon of a gas giant. Even now, in “ghost time”, when the number of players is reaching its daily low, there are still 220 Goons in the system, most of them sitting in the station where I’ve just docked. Local chat is filled with noise, insults are being hurled, propaganda is being shared. Far from being cowed and frightened, the Goons are in good spirits.

“This is awesome,” says Lion Rafale, a rank and file member of the GoonWaffe who agrees to talk to me. “Never had so much fun.”

Even though the ‘Swarm is on the run?

“Hardly on the run, really,” he says.

Lion Rafale, a GoonWaffe member and happy 'refubee'

He says that they are fielding hit-and-run ‘swordfleets’ – designed to make life as painful as possible for anyone attempting to tame the system. This is all part of the leadership’s new “Afgoonistan” strategy, whereby the Imperium hopes to wear down its enemies with constant guerilla harassment. Lion is just fine with that. A week ago it was much hotter, he says, when Moneybadger destroyers were on the prowl. But now, everything is hunky dory.

“Saranen is clear as hell now,” he says.

I look at my map. 264 people have been killed in the past 24 hours. It is the second-highest death rate in all of New Eden. Only a flashpoint in the region of Fade is currently more deadly (and only by 20 deaths).

A map showing the danger zones of the space around Saranen

“Sov [sovereign space] is in flux,” he says. “But I’m loving dishing out the pain and sadness to the enemy… Loving all this fighting.”

I ask about The Mittani. Does this fighter pilot think his Emperor is doing a good job of the war? He nurses the question like a true Goon.

A loyal Goon.

The Mittani unbowed

Somewhere in Saranen, the leader of the Goons is relying on men like Lion. But manpower alone won’t save him. In Eve, much of the war is fought on message boards and Reddit, on Twitch and YouTube. Endless propaganda spews forth from either side, bolstering the morale of current troops while also enticing new recruits to the cause, as well as “lapsed” players. The Mittani is one of the game’s most notorious spin doctors and intelligence chiefs. He even runs his own media outlet, specialising in news for Eve Online. He has branded this conflict a “hellwar” and scathingly refers to those who oppose his empire as “summer children” – the entitled ‘millenials’ of New Eden who don’t know true hardship and will inevitably be defeated through a war of contrition.

“The betrayals of the Easter weekend changed everything,” he says in one of his war addresses. “Hatred has returned, that outrage demands vengeance, and every single entity which has come at us during this affair must now be deliberately and systematically crushed out of existence, even if it takes us years.

“…our enemies include thousands of younger entitled players who feel that Eve is about ‘dank frags’ and ‘good fights’, who disdain metagaming and will run to reddit to shriek at the drop of a fedora the moment the going gets tough or you don’t play by their rules. The post-BR-5 generation are the summer children who have never seen a bloc war, much less a hellwar; they legitimately believe that our coalition has never fought a defensive war and never in history been outnumbered.”

The Mittani, or 'Mittens'

He has a point. The Goons have always prevailed, even when backed into a corner. The Moneybadger Coalition has been itching to fight the super-capital fleets of their enemy, but at every possible encounter The Mittani has denied them that satisfaction. He believes that these gargantuan fleets are the cornerstone of any military power, much more so than “land” which can always be re-taken later. He didn’t just witness the loss suffered by Pandemic Legion in the Bloodbath of B-R5RB, he was one of the causes. He knows how crippling it is to lose your best ships, how it can take years to recover. In this way, his “Afgoonistan” strategy makes sense.

But much of the true damage is being covered by spin, and sometimes outright falsehoods. He says that the Goons are gaining tons of new members, flocking to join ‘KarmaFleet’, their Reddit brigade. In reality, member numbers are more or less the same. Worse still, top-level directors have been outed as spies and a series of chatlog leaks are still ongoing, with his infamous “Black Hand” agents unable either to discover or disarm the sources. All the while, the enemy propaganda machine churns on. Recently, a Moneybadger pilot thought the Goons “could use a care package”. He flew into Saranen, the Imperium’s new home, in a diplomatic shuttle and got himself blown up. When the Goons picked over the ship’s corpse, they discovered a cargo hold full of skill books – 441 copies of “Leadership”, 10 copies of “Corporation Management” and 1 copy of “Empire Control”.

Yet The Mittani has never been one to bend the knee. He has only done this once, symbolically and jokingly, to the Space Pope. In a colourful address to his people, he stands defiant and pledges not to rest until his ‘Swarm is on top of the galaxy once again.

“Hellwar is a path for only the most dedicated and motivated,” he says. “We should not look down on those among our allies who are not excited by the prospect of years of struggle, hardship and vengeance; until now the Imperium has only known mere bloc wars – though across the coalition there number thousands of veterans of the last hellwar, which ended seven years ago. We have our own summer children who have never known a world where we did not have absolute military superiority, those raised after B-R5; it is up to us to harden them now, just as the crucible of Syndicate did for us in 2006.”

A peaceful system in New Eden

Back in high-security space, Lenny the banker is far from being delighted at the Moneybadgers’ ongoing victory. In fact, he is a little disappointed. The goal wasn’t simply to “balkanise the north” and destroy the Imperium’s super-coalition, he says, but to fuel a war that would last a long time and bring some excitement to New Eden, as well as new players. But the Imperium has already scattered. Their home systems are occupied, their allies are abandoning them in droves.

“Goons just kind of up and died on me,” he says.

For now, the front is quiet. It is expected to get even quieter over the next week, as the generals and stockbrokers of Eve Online make pilgrimage to Iceland for the developer’s annual “FanFest”. There they will drink with one another, play poker and plot against their enemies (not to mention their friends). It will be a welcome hiatus for the fleet commanders and propagandists of the Northern War. Some time to enjoy the peace and quiet.

But one man is not going to FanFest. For him, “quiet” does not mean “over.”

“Our enemies have declared that ‘there are no goons’,” says The Mittani. “Then as now there will be no quarter, no diplomacy, no negotiation…

“They will all burn.”

For a list of all the important figures in Eve Online’s new conflict check out our “Who’s who?”

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Who am I?

Brendan Caldwell

Features Editor

Brendan likes all types of games. To him there is wisdom in Crusader Kings 2, valour in Dark Souls, and tragicomedy in Nidhogg.

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