Face value

Goonswarm is an alliance of griefers – with some qualifications. GSF is the largest alliance in the game and is surprisingly diverse. It’s not a monolithic entity. Regardless, it draws a lot of attention from both the community and the broader gaming media for large-scale and/or innovative ‘griefing’ activities.

More importantly, though, it’s an alliance of posters. Don’t forget that a Goon is not an EVE pilot – a Goon is an active member of the Something Awful forums. Playing EVE is something a small minority of Goons do. (The general lack of understanding of this distinction is apparent if you actually read the EVE thread on SA.)

As a forum-based culture, ‘good posting’ is actually important to GSF line members. If you’re a ‘bad’ poster on SA, you might not even make it into the alliance. The Goonfleet.com forums are probably the most tightly moderated in EVE, and the forums we spawn from? Even more so.

The point I’m trying to make here: Goons care about posting. To be a member of GoonWaffe, you have to be at least a moderately tolerable & active poster. Weaselior, the man mostly responsible for this year’s technetium bottleneck, is a moderator on SA. He spends a good chunk of his time ensuring good posting there, and then liberates himself by trolling the hell out of the official EVE forums. (Pushing people’s buttons on eve-o is something of an official GSF pastime.)

When we see bad posting – your image macros, your shit grammar and twisted ideology, your hysterically paranoid anti-goon posts, your 500-page My Little Pony threads… well, we think it’s funny. Hell, FYAD is basically founded on the idea that bad posting is funny.

The Ministry of Love isn’t about silencing our opponents. It isn’t part of some kind of master plan, there’s no strategy. The Mittani isn’t going to “force his will” on highsec with a couple dozen goons in bombers and Falcons. All this is about is blowing up space-stuff – in this case, the space-stuff of offensively bad posters, because it tends to provoke a gut-bustingly hilarious response.

Silencing critics? Being targeted by Miniluv just makes people louder, if Krixtal is any example.

So how did this relatively innocuous idea – fighting people who don’t like us – get blown wildly out of proportion? There’s the Goons Are Doing Something And I’m Angry factor, of course. But this is more than that. I think I know what it is.

Remember a little less than a year ago, when Goonswarm Shrugged was announced? The thread in question was reposted from Goonfleet.com to Kugutsumen and linked all over the official forums.* Relative to the actions of the past few months, it was a small step into the market manipulation game. The large heading near the top – “We’re going to wreck the entire EVE economy” – was for propaganda purposes. A big, bold, attention-getting headline to drive up participation and provoke a response. The ice interdiction succeeded beyond GSF’s wildest expectations, but the game’s economic engine kept on humming with a few hiccups and coughs.

The greater community – bloggers and posters – could have laughed this off. Pointed out the overreach. Instead, they took the propaganda at face value and ran screaming to the forums about Goon Oppression and Destroying The Game where we could laugh at them.

The Ministry of Love is turning out to be pretty effective as a gigantic ‘bad posting’ generator, designed to provoke the most paranoid response from forum warriors and tinfoil-hat pubbies. It works, right down to the 1984 reference in the name. Yes, Miniluv exists. There are Goons flying around highsec killing people who we don’t like and who don’t like us. This isn’t new – anyone here remember Rens 911? Jihadswarm? No?

Funnily enough, narrowing the scope of ‘Goons in highsec’ has provoked a stronger reaction. Let’s say we accept the premise that in-game actions should be viewed through a real-life moral lens. Isn’t fighting between those who actively and mutually dislike each other more acceptable than the alternative – me and my friends blowing up exhumers and barges regardless of their name or affiliation? What’s more ‘moral’ – an assassination or a massacre?

The correct answer: it doesn’t matter, because EVE is a video game and CCP doesn’t care. Nor should they.

No matter how many times someone blows you up, you’re free to express your opinion. No one’s right to speech is infringed by the destruction of their pixel-spaceship. The whole argument that this is anything new or crosses any lines in EVE just doesn’t hold water. Are you a rational human being? Do you choose not to spend your time posting threads that compare Goons to Nazis or disbanding BoB to the Holocaust? Then you’re fine. Keep being reasonable. Sit back and enjoy the show as Goonswarm & friends poke crazy people with a stick and see what happens.

*One of my favorite things about this was confused people wondering why ‘kugutsumen’ was censored on eve-o. A taste of history.

Evolution of a ganker

I remember my first attempt at a suicide gank. It was late September of last year – day one or two of Goonswarm Shrugged. Gallente space was full of Goons in Brutixes (Brutices?). Atrum Veneficus would soon earn the nickname ‘the Scourge of Deninard‘. Mittens himself was slaughtering Mackinaws left and right, and a new generation of highsec killers – Fuujin, Gorn Arming, et al – was born. The talent lost or buried with the demise of Jihadswarm was being rediscovered.

I was mostly not aware of this. My knowledge of game mechanics was shaky at best and at its most unreliable in highsec. Security status, aggression mechanics, GCCs, CONCORD? All annoying as fuck and usually confusing. Nullsec is both simpler and relatively safe for a GSF member.

So: I decided to make absolutely sure I would start on a good note and score a kill. I picked a Hulk in a belt – completely oblivious and stationary, typical at this stage – and lugged a Dominix over from Dodixie. It was kitted out with one of the old 2009-era Jihadswarm fits still on the wiki. Big fucking blasters, drones, damage mods, scram, web, everything needed.

Good warpin, stationary target, massive firepower. Piece of cake.

While I was in warp, I became concerned. I still couldn’t believe that the guy wouldn’t notice a Velator sitting 200 meters away. (I had forgotten just how miners tend to play this game.) As soon as I landed, I targeted, scrammed, opened fire, everything. Hit all the buttons.

I didn’t notice that I’d bounced off a chunk of ice and was now travelling that about 2km/second away from my target.

I’d already aggressed. Miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, pop. Dominix gone. The Hulk probably didn’t even notice I was there. Mittens was on comms and his scout was in the belt. “Hey, who just flubbed a gank in a Dominix?”

CRIPES. (He was cool and helped me clear CONCORD, but still. Cripes.)

The point I’m trying to make here is that ganking is simple, and that it’s not. There are so many things to fuck up. You can land out of range. You can bounce. You can forget that CONCORD is in the belt. Forget to overheat your guns. Aggress, and watch the miner warp out – you didn’t fit a scram. Effects are glitched, so you couldn’t see that the Orca was repping your target. Faction police jam you early. CONCORD hasn’t been previously spawned in the system, so they pop into existence – right on top of you.

I’ve killed at least a hundred exhumers now and I’m still refining my technique. This video, which was recorded about a month ago (and which I’ll comment on further later), shows a pretty clean kill, but I run my ganks rather differently now. The Orca is too slow and clumsy. Two Catalysts aren’t usually necessary. Tabbing between windows is inefficient. Back then, it was almost perfect – overkill and I missed the pod, but still. Now it looks sloppy. If I ever make a proper exhumer-ganking tutorial video (and I intend to) I’ll have to account for these differences in style and tactics. What’s appropriate and when?

I bring all this up because of a conversation I had in local a few weeks ago with a miner. He said that CCP was coddling gankers, that the Catalyst is too powerful, that exhumers and barges should have about twice the HP they do now. ‘Suicide ganking isn’t PVP’, he said, and that’s a phrase I’ve heard often – presumably from angry miners who are Elite Killboard Superstars in their spare time.

Ganking is PVP – by definition. And it’s more complicated than you think it is. More importantly, defending yourself is a lot easier than you think it is. Do you have two or three brain cells you can rub together and make a thought? Then you can align out and watch your overview! Hey, you’re practically invulnerable now, because you’re paying attention to the game. Like the gankers have to.

A start

Hello! I am Alikchi, and this is a blog about EVE. And maybe some other things.

I have been playing and reading about this game for a few years now. My first character was created in early 2009, although I was just dabbling, really. I stuck my toe in after reading This Gaming Life by Jim Rossignol. Typical EVE newbie story: I got bored after a few months of playing with my roommate – trained into a Hulk, heh – and dropped it.

About a year and a half ago I came back as a member of GoonWaffe and had a dramatically different experience. Being part of a like-minded group made this game fun – but that had more to do with the amazing community built around GSF than the game itself. I was showing up for the big wars and the fleet battles, but not necessarily logging in on my own time or for my own reasons. I posted and talked on jabber and shot POS.

This past month, EVE has finally engaged me completely. I am Logging In and Doing Stuff. Every day. Consequently, my partially-formed opinions and observations about EVE and its inhabitants have grown into big annoying boils of thought that can’t be crammed into 140 characters.

So what will I be posting? Mostly EVE-related stuff, but I will spiral off into other games and media occasionally. Maybe even important, non-entertainment things. Probably nothing overly personal, but you never know. 

As far as EVE goes, I am no expert or old pro. My best character has 24m skillpoints and I lose ships regularly. I kill shit, too – but I’m no ELITE PVP killboard fetishist. I don’t play the markets much. I don’t rat unless I have to (sec status!). I don’t manufacture and I very rarely mine. What I do is suicide ganking, wartarget hunting, and regular 0.0 fleet warfare. Expect some posts about these things.

What I especially intend, though, is to spend some time talking about the culture of EVE and its denizens. Why do some groups so completely misinterpret the motivations of others? Why are many players beginning to equate in-game behavior with real-life morality? What is culture in terms of EVE and the broader gaming community, anyways? How about the gender, race & sexuality issues? This is the sort of shit I will be digging into. Hopefully it will be illuminating.

I am going to try and take this .. well, not entirely seriously, but I will do my best to be reasonable. At the very least, I’m not going to force you to read words like ‘ePeen’ and ‘iskies’ and ‘lol’ and ‘Fluttershy’. Maybe an ironic ‘o7 m8’ every once in a while.

I’ll probably update every few days or so (although not on weekends). This blog will occasionally be used to simply vent about the game or its community. I could go completely off the rails and ramble about politics or whatever! That’s OK – I will strive to be at least a little entertaining regardless.