Sunday, 27 September 2015

When the peasants revolt...

This is going to be a weird one. If you are time pressured, then this most likely isn't for you. To be clear this isn't an Eve is dying or Null is Dull post. Quite the opposite actually. But in the end that will depend on your perspective.

Eve is now 10 years old and changing before our eyes. Old certainties are being challenged. Some will be enhanced, while others will become historical footnotes. Change is never easy. Things break, people get angry and drama ensues until some sort of equilibrium is restored. What Eve is looking forward to now is a fundamental shift in its player organising principles. This could be a very interesting ride. Let me use a dodgy historical analysis to explain why...

When a social system starts to break down, it is the leaders or chief beneficiaries of keeping the status quo that are the last to read the writing on the wall. A mixture of complacency and denial prolongs the inevitable. Actions could have been taken to smooth the transition from one social system to another. But the powers that be either resist change or just don't have the insight to see it. Eventually it comes to a the point where something snaps. The trigger that disposes the old and brings in the new can be dramatic in such circumstances. Often these are characterised as a revolution or coup d'etat and  history is littered with such examples. From modern times we look at the likes of  CeauČ™escu or Batista. Going back further we have Marie Antoinette or the final fall of the Roman Empire after 1500 years. The important thing about these events is not what actually happened on those days. The French revolution wasn't about cake. More significantly, it was the world or country had become profoundly different after that event from what it had been before the event. The benefit of historical hindsight allows us to make that judgement. But the judgement was not made at the time, at least not by the individuals concerned. How could they not know? This is what always intrigues me. 

Keep with me. By 1453, Byzantium/Constantinople was always going to fall to someone. It could have been the Serbs but it ended up being the Ottomans. For Byzantium, like all of Europe had been mortally wounded by the Black Death. Killing between a third and a quarter of the continent's population, but for cities the proportion was higher and Byzantium lost 50%. It really was toast.

Elsewhere in Europe the Black Death had a equally profound effect on another social system the Romans had introduced. The decline of serfdom. Serfdom was the mechanism that bound a peasant to a lord. They gave up their freedom in return for protection, In exchange for a small plot of land they were bound to give their labour, products and rent to the lord of the manor. This wasn't just farming. It could involve working down a mine for example. It wasn't the worst possible system. Lords could be lordly and the peasants got to survive. However, if you survived the Black Death then all bets were off. Labour became scarce, It was a new world where land was plentiful, wages high, and social mobility increased. The obligations to the lord had all but disappeared. The beginnings of a market economy and indeed industrialisation as higher wages encouraged innovation..

WTF? This an Eve blog? OK, here is the thing. Eve has sort of undergone a Black Death of sorts. The war on bots and other changes to the game has reduced the population of New Eden in terms of active players. Space is plentiful and the legacy Alliances and Coalitions have retreated resulting in a Balkanisation of Null.  ISK is easy, available labour (active capsuleers) is a scarcer resource. Everyone is recruiting. SRP is a given. It has never been a better time to be an active independent capsuleer.

Yet still there are Corps, Alliances and Coalitions that place conditions of servitude on their members and renters. Sure they provide content, but it is content that serves the alliance and not the aspirations of the individual. Some like Nulli and Black Legion have seen the writing on the wall and have acted accordingly. But others continue as if nothing has changed. Now that can only be so because their members still consent to it. There is however discontent. Currently the blame gets focussed on CCP rather than their leadership as it is in the interests those leading to deflect criticism. The Russian burn Jita protest might be an example of this. This approach may work in the short term. But ultimately, if players believe the propaganda they will leave the game. If they get wise to it they leave the Corp. So it is not a sustainable position you would think.

It would seem likely that these resistant Corps/Alliances/Coalitions will have to change or perish. But are they capable of changing? What originally made them strong, the command and control mechanisms and policies underpinned with a robust infrastructure, could now be regarded as a weakness. Metrics based management (pap links) has had its day. Just acknowledging the change is not enough. Having built an organisation on one paradigm it hard to change it to another. For example, look at Eastman Kodak. A company that developed a commercial digital camera in 1975. It recognised the future but failed to understand the implications until the day it became bankrupt.

The most likely scenario then is there will be some dramatic cascade failures. It is hard to predict when it will happen. That depends on the single-minded the protagonists intend to be to resurrect the old status quo.

But consider this, the ultimate "blue doughnut" in 1914. A meta game of millions designed to keep the peace and balance in Europe after the decline of the Ottoman Empire. Essentially, a raft of hidden diplomacy to keep the established order. But then an assassination attempt bordering on comedy somehow kills its target in Sarajevo. While Gavrilo Princip may have only fired two shots, the act resulted in 17 million deaths, the collapse of four Empires and albeit briefly, the unified slavic state Princip had wanted.

With hindsight this was all predictable. The same will be so in Eve. What will the trigger be? An unpaid sovereignty bill perhaps? Nah, that could never happen. But something will. The writing is on the wall.


  1. Great article! unfortunately, the work done behind the scene by the current power holders and their influence on the rules of the games allows them to preserve statu-quo. In that sense, the odds are stacked until mechanisms that truly can challenge current empires (like entosis) stop being eroded.

    1. Thank you, I am not as pessimistic about that. Certainly, the in-game powers will fight for their interests. They would mad not to. So long as they can deliver player subscriptions, CCP will give them some attention. The alliances etc are merely vassals of CCP in that respect. If the vassals start failing to deliver - and that is the current trend at least, then CCP will look elsewhere because they also would be mad not to. Again it is hard to predict when the shift will fundamentally occur. Maybe it already has. Certainly some of the latest changes seem to suggest they are at least toying with the idea.