We pick up from the weekend, in which Kesper North of GENTS interviewed Sion about how GSF's diplomatic corps works. This week, we pick up with them talking about the Corps Diplomatique's more problematic aspects, as well as the state of modern nullsec.
KN: Is there anything about running CD that can be trying? Is it full of preening, egotistical would-be Princes of Space, or are things pretty chill?
SK: When your alliance is led by a preening, egotistical King of Space, that's all there's really room for in an organization. As I mentioned before, we're low visibility group, in no small part because nearly everything we do isn't of a public nature. Because of that, about the only place you can talk about CD related stuff is in CD. Indeed, the bulk of our diplomats are not well known even inside GSF itself. This is perfectly fine, and is part of our design. Glory hounds tend not to last, but people who genuinely care about furthering the goals of the alliance and the coalition do.
CD is difficult at times, but not trying. It helps that I'm lucky to have a bright and dedicated staff who are usually very chill. We're also very close knit, after all, in some cases we've been working with each other in the same capacity for years. We don't always agree of course, but we perfectly capable of disagreeing without being disagreeable.
KN: How does CD deal with a 'problem' ally? At what point do you decide they are not worth bothering with anymore?
SK: There's usually a bright line that alliances will cross. Treason is one, refusing to be useful in any capacity at all is another. All of the resources we've taken as a coalition has been on the backs of every coalition member who shows up in fleets, and that is something that alliances forget at their peril. The best examples of this are probably BCA and OWN, who were ejected from what was then DekCo for outright refusing to contribute toward coalition aims, among other transgressions. Any less than those two situations is almost always possible to fix.
KN: Are there any particular tools you use to do your job - task tracking software, spreadsheets, pad and pen? If so, how do you use them?
SK: CD keeps records of a sort, but in general we're pretty ad hoc about task tracking and such. I use jabber, in game mails, voice chat software, and all the other usual stuff you'd expect to use when communicating with people. We rely heavily on regular contact with each other to keep track of the various goings on rather than any strict organizational structure. Every once in a while something slips through the cracks, but follow through is one of those thins you have to do effectively as a diplomat anyway, so it isn't often that we drop balls despite tracking software or the like. We're also lucky to have an incredibly deep institutional memory from which to draw.
KN: What's it like to represent GoonSwarm? Do you have any problems dealing with peoples' preconceptions of what Goons are like?
SK: Representing GoonSwarm is fun and certainly interesting. We have a unique culture which does lead to certain expectations people have when we're conversing with them, and I have indeed had issues dealing with peoples' preconceptions.
An excellent example of this is when we were first starting our jabber server for the movers and shakers of nullsec alliances, Jabberlon 5. It was more than a bit difficult to convince people that it was something real and not a troll or scam. This was not helped at all by our notorious shoddy IT, which at one point caused the entire channel to somehow get purged.
Some people, such as IRC, still refuse to participate in the initiative despite numerous overtures and invitations on our part. CVA's diplomat straight up blocked me for having the temerity to invite them into the clubhouse. You get used to it after a while, and frankly it is amusing to see people pursue what I would consider to be suboptimal courses of action.
KN: Tell me a funny story from your diplomatic work.
SK: Funny stories from diplomacy probably aren't that funny. It takes anywhere from weeks to months for amusing things to play out, after which time the only people who find it funny are you and other diplomats because they are the only people who remember what was going on at all.
KN: Let's talk a bit about modern nullsec. What's your take on the major players right now? Are there any up-and-comers we should be keeping an eye on?
SK: EVE politics is a sea of unintended consequences and probabilities, and currently things are particularly volatile and complicated. There has been a good deal of shifting around of many of the major players, and it remains to be seen how it will all pan out.
As for up-and-comers, it is really hard to say. It is exceedingly difficult for a new alliance to make it in nullsec with the state of the game being what it is, which is something I hope CCP will address in some fashion at some point as it would nice to see some new grudge matches rather than seeing the same grudge matches play out time after time. As is, nearly all “up-and-comers” will be somehow sponsored by a major bloc power. The HBC has taken in a handful of alliances new to 0.0, so my guess is that they'll have the next crop of solid people to keep an eye on.
KN: There was a time when the primary source of nullsec political intelligence was Kugutsumen. Has that changed? How do you personally gather the information you need to do your job?
SK: I'm not sure I agree with the premise, as most nullsec alliances have well fleshed out intelligence gathering arms that provide political and tactical intelligence directly. Kugu is a good place to make such things public, and to discuss metagame events as they happen, among other things. Also, the worth of Kugu as a narrative driver is unquestionable, and even if you totally ignored the potential intel value, it would be invaluable for that purpose alone. I don't think that's likely to change anytime soon.
My position is unique in that I have a huge wealth of resources from which to draw, including Kugu. In total, it is more information than I can reasonably process by myself, so I rely a great deal on my team and the GIA to keep me up on what I need to know and distill down the important and relevant bits.
KN: I stand corrected. It was, however, the primary source for people below the leadership level, or who did not have organizations like the GIA. You mentioned driving narrative, a subject that is close to my heart. Could you talk a little more about what you mean by that?
SK: Narrative provides the reason for people to fight and is what keeps people logging in over time. As I noted earlier, I unsubbed for a long time following Delve II. At the time, I thought my story was over in EVE. Our old enemy was dead, what did I have left to do? Moreover, I wasn't the only one that felt that way. Plenty of Goonfleet guys dropped off then for similar reasons. The story was over, we won, the end. Except of course it wasn't the end, there were still wars to fight and drama aplenty in Goonfleet's future. But anyway.
I'm not going to go too far into narrative in general, and indeed I'd direct people to your EVE Vegas presentation if they'd like to know more. In this context though, Kugu serves as a singularly important resource to convey narrative to others and to your own people. It provides a platform for story, and for various personalities to interact directly in a very public way. This creates conflict, and thus, content.
Really, with the dearth of tangible incentives to fight for and defend space in nullsec right now, narrative is more important than ever, and might be the most powerful motive force for EVE conflict.
KN: The topic on everyone's lips right now is the sudden chilling of relations between the "Dotbros" coalition of Northern Coalition., Black Legion and Nulli Secunda. What's your take on this? Is their coalition collapsing, or is this dispute being blown out of proportion?
SK: We knew there were personality conflicts in NC. as far back as their titan welp during fanfest. The surprise breach of the OTEC treaty had their roots in those same personality conflicts and differing visions. But I'm not sure if I'd call it a collapse of their coalition though, Vince could apologize to Elo and Black Legion, and maybe that's all it would take to smooth things over. There's no question that Elo was the heart and soul of the Tribute defense to this point, so I'd expect NC. to do everything they can up to and including groveling to bring them back on board.
Really though, I'm convinced it is an elaborate troll designed to lull us into feeding them yet more fleets in AUTZ.
KN: Another thing people often ask about is whether there will be war between the CFC and the HBC now that those entities have largely reset one another. Do you see that happening any time soon?
SK: Nope, not going to happen. TEST are our bros, and right now they're pushing through and doing something we couldn't do: they're killing -A-. Running a coalition is hard work, let alone leading a coalition to the conclusion of a successful bloc war, so I'm immensely proud of what they've been able to accomplish. They've come a very long way indeed from from crashing in the testagram to owning a huge chunk of space in the south and running their space empire. Incidentally, I hear this question quite often myself as well, and it still puzzles me. TEST has grown up, they have struck out to pursue their own destiny, and that's good and I'm as happy for their successes as I am for GSF's. We have our shared history and experiences and will remain buddies.
KN: Let's assume the CFC achieves its stated goal of conquering Tribute and the NCDOT-held portion of Vale of the Silent. What then? Is there still a future for sov warfare in the North?
SK: That's looking too far into the future to predict. As the cliche runs, the only constant is change, and that's the only thing I'd be willing to bet on if forced.
KN: The southern alliances have been at war with the HBC for a long time now, and that doesn't seem likely to change any time soon. Do you think either side will get tired of fighting? Where do you think it'll end up?
SK: Someone will break. Grinding wars tend to come down to stamina and will, and from all the indications I've seen, the HBC has both in abundance and -A- will soon be pulling their patented “retreat to Stain and maybe they'll get bored and go away” maneuver.
KN: What's on your 'wish list' in EVE? What do you want to see happen, both in-game and as far as changes to game mechanics?
SK: There are a handful of things I would really like to see. At the top of my list is a revamp of the risk to reward ratio of nullsec, and some kind of changes to make it easier for newer, smaller, entities to get a toehold in nullsec. As is, if you're a newer, smallish group, you'd be far better served doing wormhole operations or faction warfare. More isk, and no risk of having your stuff smashed to bits by a super blob. And if you're a solo guy who just wants isk, you can abuse the faction warfare system for tens of billions of isk per week for little in the way of risk, few skillpoints, and the cost of a bomber.
As it stands right now there is very little incentive for new people to get involved in nullsec. There's really not much reason for established people to stay in nullsec either, beyond perhaps a name on a map. What I can say is this, as a diplomat in a coalition that owns a fair chunk of solid space, if I had any interest at all in making personal ISK, I'd be doing it in empire. And that's kind of sad.
I should be clear, I don't begrudge players for choosing what is certainly a more lucrative and safer route in wormholes or empire, but the strain on 0.0 vibrancy is showing. Worse, 0.0 drives the narrative and publicity engine of EVE. The New York Times and the BBC don't care how much isk per hour you can make doing faction warfare versus sanctums. They care about narrative, and very little besides nullsec provides that kind of gripping broad base appeal that prompts the media and bloggers alike, many of whom don't even play EVE, to marvel in awe at our spaceship game.
Weaselior laid out the problem quite well, and I think he is spot on in his assessment that nullsec should be a place for space empires. But I'm deeply concerned that CCP's focus lies elsewhere as I've seen no evidence whatsoever that they understand what 0.0 is supposed to be or are actively engaged in working on it. I sincerely hope things change, but time will tell.
Organizing tens of thousands of dudes is an incredible undertaking. But without reasons and incentives beyond map blobs, I'm not particularly optimistic about the fate of EVE's great narrative engine.
Anyway, go read Weaselior's article. He expressed this much better than I am now.
KN: If you had to pick one alliance that isn't in the CFC that you'd like to pull in, who would it be, and why? And how would you convince them to join?
SK: Not sure offhand, and I'd suspect that there are surprisingly few alliances that would even be interested in the CFC. Our reputation as no-honor skill-less blobbers is pretty powerful. And accurate.
KN: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!
SK: Thank you!