Diplomacy in the Age of Coalitions

Now that war has been averted, it’s time to take a step back and reflect. Lots of digital ink is going to be used writing about what happened and the persons involved: The Mittani, Montolio, Shadoo and a few others. While the personalities are important—talking about the American Civil War without mentioning Lincoln would be historical malpractice—there is a systemic reason for this almost war: a misunderstanding of diplomacy in the age of coalitions.

In 1914, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne was assassinated. The reason why anyone remembers this is World War One happened as a result. What should have been a small regional conflict turned into the second largest war of all time because all the major powers in Europe had spent the last century acquiring a list of blues to fight with them if things should hit the fan. If Austria-Hungary had realized invading Serbia meant total war across all of Europe, they probably would have decided to do something more fun, like fondue or something.

That was the lesson Montolio learned this week, if one is to take Bring Stability, the official Honey Badger Coalition (HBC) diplomat to the Clusterfuck Coalition (CFC), at his word:

(12:07:42 PM) Bring Stabity: It's the most eloquent way to kill FA without starting a CFC war

(12:07:51 PM) Bring Stabity: that way montolio gets what he wants, without a CFC war

(12:08:22 PM) Tector [CONDI]: why do you want to kill FA, other than the fact that they didn't respond to Monty's initial trolls?

(12:08:55 PM) Bring Stabity: Because if FA goes away, so does most of the animosity TEST has with the CFC

Montolio’s initial mistake was treating Fatal Ascension (FA) and Goonswarm Federation (CONDI) as two separate entities; they are not. Of course, they are two different alliances with different cultures, leadership and space. However, this is the age of coalitions. Both are solid members of the CFC; in no way, shape or form was CONDI going to sit by and watch the HBC destroy FA. Montolio’s notion that he could get rid of FA without a full CFC versus HBC war was roughly the equivalent to someone believing that they can fight the US Marine Corps without the US Army getting involved.

Coalitions have changed in EVE. The Greater BoB Community (GBC) might count as a coalition, but the relationships with their blues was very much a master/pet relationship. Pets are out. The Southern Coalition (SoCo) was the last example of a master/pet organization. Makalu Zarya would unironically yell at people, “You do not talk back to -A-.” Parties interested in what happened to -A- and the SoCo should check the sov influence map. They will find that -A- is not on the map.

Additionally, in the past, coalitions were put together ad hoc and then dissolved when the goal was achieved. The Drone Russian Federation (DRF) was created specifically to counter the Northern Coalition (NC). Once the DRF destroyed the NC, they dissolved. Most of the DRF alliances are either gone or shells of their former selves. White Noise, for example, is gone. Raiden. is now a member of the HBC with only seventeen systems’ worth of sovereignty. No one is going to make the mistake of dissolving a proven coalition on their own ever again.

CONDI and TEST are on good terms with each other at not only the leadership level but at the line member level as well. They both are clans with a home that is not founded in EVE Online: Goons hail from Something Awful and Dreddit hails from Reddit. When alliances or corporations are dealt a huge setback, such as losing all their space, that can lead to a fail cascade, such as happened to Morsus Mihi in the wake of the collapse of the NC. However, if tomorrow CONDI lost all its space because of the external forces at play, the alliance would not fail cascade. A few players and corps other than GoonWaffe might leave, but the alliance would remain comparably strong. The same is true with TEST and Dreddit. There was an attempt to keep the blue standings between the alliances in recognition of this, for lack of a better term, bond. However, both alliances are leaders of two separate coalitions. While it is possible to maintain friendship, blue status was overreaching.

The lesson that diplomats across EVE should take away from this event is simple: treat coalitions diplomatically as a single monolithic entity. Of course, in wartime, every attempt should be made to fracture them. In times of peace or neutrality, diplomats should not feel that CONDI can be treated differently and separately from the CFC. It will save lots of headache, late night Jabberlon 5 conversations, emergency Skype calls and acrimony.

In the past, CCP has responded well to the needs of the players, giving them better tools to do what they already were doing. When players were living out of giant secure containers, CCP introduced POSes. When corporations were banding together, CCP added alliances into the game. Sadly, CCP seems to have drifted away from this mindset and worked instead on things like monocles. With CCP’s latest announcement that they are not going to be redoing POSes any time soon, introducing coalitions into the game in the next expansion would win them some brownie points with the null-sec players. It could even come complete with its own marketing, a perfect way to comment about how huge EVE is. If I were to direct that video, I would start with a close-up of a battlecruiser firing its guns. A movie announcer voice would narrate: “This is Vic. Vic’s out flying today. Someone decided to attack Vic, which is a big mistake, because Vic is out flying with two thousand of his closest friends.” The camera would then zoom out slowly to reveal a giant fleet shooting another giant fleet. This would be much cooler than the Widow shooting mining frigates.

Coalitions are here to stay. They have existed in EVE for a while. Going forward, null-sec sov-holding alliances are going to go the way of the dodo. It’s going to become mandatory for sov-holding alliances to form coalitions. Currently, it’s difficult. Any information on who belongs in what coalition is posted on third-party sites or not at all. Some line members of certain alliances that are in coalitions have no idea whom exactly they are in a coalition with. For the ongoing health of null-sec sov space, CCP needs to implement in-game tools that players can use to form and manage coalitions. Diplomacy in the age of coalitions is difficult; for the sake of null-sec, CCP should make it easier.

Image: "Badge Warsaw Pact. The Union for Peace and Socialism," ©2012 Greite, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

On hiatus. On Twitter @AlizabethVea