Earlier this week players in Eve Online were involved in one of that game’s famously large and expensive battles. But sources tell Talkgamer that this was just the opening round of what could be the largest military mobilization in that game’s history. Digging deeper into the subject, we’ve been able to chart the rise of a new in-game faction, called the Moneybadger Coalition, a group of thousands of players being bankrolled by an online casino.
Eve Online is a famously complex — and famously tedious — massively multiplayer online game set in a science fiction universe. Some call it the most thrilling boring game in the universe. But it’s more than just a spreadsheet in space. It’s also one of the most fascinating space operas ever made, an experience so rich that it’s been made into a history book by journalist and author Andrew Groen.
Groen’s twitter feed is a great indicator of what’s new and exciting in the world of Eve Online, and earlier this week it lit up like a Christmas tree.
Hearing rumors that the biggest battle in EVE’s history may be about to kick off soon.
— Andrew Groen (@ScienceGroen) March 28, 2016
Talkgamer reached out to some of the major players in the battle to find out what’s going on, and how it could change the universe of Eve forever.
The rise of The Imperium
For years now the largest and most successful player-led coalition in Eve has been known as the Clusterfuck Coalition, hereafter referred to as the CFC. The leader of that coalition, Alex “The Mittani” Gianturco, was originally part of a group known as Goonswarm and has been instrumental in leading CFC in their rise in power. Around this time last year the CFC decided to rebrand itself as The Imperium. It was a cheeky move, but also a clever way to give their coalition a kind of legitimacy over every other group in the game.
They even went so far as to swear fealty to a quasi-religious Eve cosplayer who goes by the name Maximilian Singularity VI as a publicity stunt.
So yes, this is a picture of Gianturco kissing the ring of the Space Pope.
But over the past few years, a growing sense of unease has been brewing among the Eve community. First came a series of tithing agreements, whereby The Imperium allowed other player-led coalitions to pay them regular sums of money in exchange for “protection.”
From our December interview with Gianturco:
“We thrive on having our enemies be completely unhinged and hating us,” Gianturco said.
He says the real reason why people have grown to hate The Imperium so much is because it’s actively begun to court smaller fringe groups in-game by implementing the same kind of tithing systems first used by the ancient Persians.
“We figured out a scalable way to conquer the galaxy without taking any territory,” Gianturco said. “Which is why our enemies, who have all congregated on r/eve, have completely lost the plot and are trying to manufacture something, anything to stop us — but the antagonism just makes our guys more aggressive.”
Around the same time, Gianturco also launched an effort on Kickstarter to fund a novel about Eve celebrating The Imperium’s rise to power. The campaign was set upon by certain members of the Eve community as being self-aggrandizing at best, and at worst a flagrant misuse of in-game power for real-world profit.
The campaign was ultimately a failure, falling well short of its goal before being canceled.
While Rome burns
Mark “Seleene” Heard, long-time Eve player and a former employee of developer CCP, says that, in his estimation, players outside of The Imperium’s sphere of influence have had enough.
“People have watched Goonswarm become the CFC and have watched the CFC monetize itself into The Imperium,” Heard told Talkgamer from his home in Germany, where he works for the U.S. Department of Defense. “They’ve watched Mittani do all these interviews and all this other stuff, and I think that the collective psyche of the Eve community has gotten tired of it.
“They want to see the game represented by a plurality of what the player base is, as opposed to … almost always having something to do with [CFC] guys.”
Since November of last year, Heard says, a massive new coalition has been gaining momentum. It’s called the Moneybadger Coalition. Heard’s own in-game organization, called Mercenary Coalition, is just a small part of it.
Earlier this week the Moneybadger Coalition struck along the south eastern edge of The Imperium at a system called M-OEE8.
Screenshot from the front line of this huge EVE Online battle happening now. pic.twitter.com/4OcaNYNLJg
— Andrew Groen (@ScienceGroen) March 28, 2016
The damage from particularly big Eve battles is generally measured in real-world dollars, because in-game currency essentially has a real-world value. While the butcher’s bill for this fight is still being tallied (and it’s unlikely to be all that high since, sources tell us, the big capital and supercapital ships weren’t involved) it has been nonetheless disastrous to The Imperium.
Developers at CCP have stated it was the single largest number of player-vs-player kills in the game’s recorded history.
Circle of Two (CO2), a skilled group of fighters in control of a large piece of territory including M-OEE8, has left The Imperium. That removes a big chunk of real estate from Imperial control, and may have the effect of rallying more disaffected groups to the Moneybadger flag.
But what caused the Moneybadger fleet to form in the first place?
Both Heard and a player who goes by the handle Killah Bee, a 21-year old physics student from Germany and fleet commander for an in-game faction called Pandemic Legion, say it stems from a dispute with a third-party online casino.
“The CFC managed to rile a lot of people up against them with the Kickstarter book,” Killah Bee told Talkgamer via Skype. “But then some drama happened.”
That drama, say both Heard and Killah Bee, happened between a CFC-allied group called Spacemonkey’s Alliance and part of the banking conglomerate at I Want ISK.
Merchants of death
I Want ISK is a gambling site where Eve players can take their in-game currency, called ISK, and basically play slots. Someone from Spacemonkey’s group ticked off one of the bankers behind I Want ISK, a player named 1ronBank, so badly that he hired an in-game mercenary group to harass the fleets in their sector.
The entire effort snowballed, so now 1ronBank and the other bankers at I Want ISK are bankrolling what may prove to be the largest war effort in Eve Online history.
Killah Bee confirmed that Pandemic Legion is being directly funded by one of those bankers.
“Pandemic Legion has always gotten very lucrative contracts because people know us,” he said. “People know that if they contract us, the job gets done, no matter who they contract us against. It doesn’t matter who it is that we’re getting paid to shoot at, we always get the job done. That’s why they pay us.
“How lucrative is this compared to other contracts? It depends on how long this war will go on and what happens in the end, but it could easily turn out to be the most lucrative contract Pandemic Legion has ever had.”
It all depends on how far the Moneybadger Coalition, which is so far virtually leaderless, can press its luck.
“At its most basic level I believe that the Coalition wants this big, monolithic structure of The Imperium — of the CFC — gone,” Heard said, “Like any empire that lasts too long, hubris starts to bite you in the ass. You start to make mistakes. You start to not appreciate the people that keep you in power.
“Like any empire that lasts too long, hubris starts to bite you in the ass.”
“There’s one or two people in charge of each front line,” Heard said, “so there’s no single person who’s in charge. … You could say that the I Want ISK guys … got the ball rolling. But this thing has started to take on a life of its own because there’s blood in the water.”
Killah Bee is taking a more detached point of view, as befits a mercenary for hire.
“For me, the personal goal is just to have as much fun as possible and provide my alliance with as much fun as possible,” he said. “I want to have the people that join my fleets to have as much fun as possible.”
We’ve reached out to both Alex “The Mittani” Gianturco and 1ronBank for comment, and will have more coverage on this story in the days and weeks to come.
Talkgamer Backstory is a podcast celebrating conversations about the games we play. Here’s our talk with Andrew Groen, author of the history book Empires of Eve.