The universe at war

EVE is about more than just combat tactics. It’s about organization, camaraderie and morale. How do the commanders leading these troops keep players coming back night after night? These aren’t grizzled combat troops - they’re gamers, subject to the same whims, commitments and emotions as all of us. It doesn’t always feel like fun when you spend hours waiting for something to happen, or when your assets get blown up because your fleet had to go to bed.

BoB commander Tristan Day told me that much of what his alliance learned was focused on how to manage large groups of people and keep morale high, rather than simply mastering the game itself. “Primarily you need to keep participation up, which is critical for space holding and conquest. You need to keep EVE fun. Whilst we run a very militaristic chain of command in BoB we make sure that we remember that EVE is, after all, ‘just’ a game. The best game I’ve ever had the honor of playing, but a game nonetheless. If anything you must learn not to get attached to your virtual assets - you can’t take them out of EVE, after all.”

How did RedSwarm rally quite so many players to their cause? The Goon commander Isaiah Houston is fairly forthright in his opinions about this. “BoB’s sense of arrogance and superiority ended up killing their more worthwhile and useful allies,” says Houston. “At the same time we were able to unite with Northern friends and work for a common goal.”Houston is pleased with the way his once-wild horde of Something Awful forumites handled itself in the war. “There have been some minor strategic mistakes along the way, but nothing absolutely critical. I really feel as though we’ve done an exemplary job throughout this war. You have to understand, at the beginning things were very much not in our favor; BoB was the oldest, richest, and had the most experience at this sort of thing.”

So: was the war simply about GoonSwarm getting revenge for those initial lost conflicts in the early days of EVE? Perhaps, but Houston says the Goon motivation was more about carrying out their general mandate as the gaming world’s griefers. “It was about griefing the oldest and most established players in the game. Making them eat their own words just happened to be the best way of doing that. We’ve had some scores to settle along the way, it’s true, but really the impetus has just been us staying true to our roots as Goons.”

Nevertheless, despite their current dire straits after a year of war, Tristan Day is philosophical about Band of Brothers’ position. “At the end of the day the end result is the same: we’re getting a lot of combat without having to do any travel. We’re having more fun now than at any time ever before... so we’re not complaining.” And would our BoB commander do it all again, given the chance? “In a heartbeat,” says Day. “Only better.”

May 15, 2008