I'll make this quick.
Now that my vacation is over (very restful, thank you), I've been spending the last couple of days becoming familiar with what was going on in EVE while I was away. Not much, it turns out. Looks like most of you were on the same vacation I was. Even the fight up in Branch seems to have moved the lines on the map only a few inches, if at all.
One of the items that I've read today was this piece focused on IRC's problems going into the new year. The piece is labeled as "analysis", but honestly, comes off as being written by a bitter ex-IRC member. Still, speaking as someone who's been a frequent opponent of IRC over the years -- I don't think I've ever been in an EVE alliance that was friendly to them -- I have to say the piece is truthful in a lot of respects. If the fleet I'm in is disciplined at all, I feel very comfortable taking on an IRC fleet that is three times larger than my own (if not larger) because I know that once an IRC fleet starts taking losses, their fleet members and their FC will start to panic.
And panic is contagious. Once it spreads, it'll turn a defeat into a rout.
Still, it's not my intent today to beat up on IRC. Even the piece itself grudgingly admits that the IRC command recognizes the issues within their own alliance and are looking to fix them, and I wish them luck there. Still, it speaks to a larger issue.
CCP is no doubt making their plans for 2012, both large and small. But winter is here, and the biggest problem facing EVE in 2012 is the same as the biggest problem that was facing EVE in 2011. And while it's tempting to call that problem "stagnation" (and I've done so in the past), I'm becoming increasingly convinced that it's incorrect to refer to the problem that way.
After all, if you look at the map as it existed at the beginning of the year, you'd have a tough time finding parts of it that didn't change hands. The Goons started the year in Deklein, of course, and that's where they end the year. Red Alliance, Solar Fleet, and Legion of xXDeathXx are also pretty much where they started the year (though of course their influence has greatly expanded). And IRC is where they started the year; they've held Cobalt Edge for almost exactly two years now.
But every other part of the map changed hands this year, from locations as diverse as Tenal in the far, far north, to Period Basis and Feythabolis in the far south. So, in that way, you can hardly call EVE "stagnant". Stagnant isn't the right word when that much change happened in a single year. So I won't be using that word to describe the EVE political scene any more... except in a very limited context.
I say the piece about IRC comes off sounding like it was written by a bitter ex-IRC member because parts of it seem to invite attack on IRC! It really reads in part like the author wishes someone would come along and kick IRC out of their long-held region. Maybe the author hopes they get kicked out of their space. But maybe... just maybe, he hopes that they'll get kicked out of their complacency.
Because that's how every single part of New Eden that was lost in 2011 was lost... and it was lost to alliances who had already held space. NCdot, White NoiseDOT, and RaidenDOT went from holding regions in the south to holding regions in the north. Morsus Mihi went from holding space in the north to holding space in the south to holding no space, losing it to GSF, who went from holding space in the north to holding space both north and south.
All of it was due to internal rot. Loss turned into panic. Panic turned into a rout.
But there haven't been a lot of new faces in 2011. Unless I've missed them, there hasn't been a hungry new alliance taking space and spoiling for a fight. The same faces that held space when the year began pretty much hold space with the year ending, though they've changed names here and there.
As many people have pointed out over the last few years, sovereignty in EVE is never won by the victor. It is lost by the loser. Whether through complacency and rot, mismanagement, oversight, or flat-out idiocy, it is never grand strategy that wins campaigns. Even well-loved truths of war such as striking for the center of gravity are of absolutely no use in EVE. To take space in EVE, you strike for the edges, not for the center.
If CCP is looking for a big picture item to fix in EVE in the coming year, that'd be a good one to look at. I know that sovereignty is again on their minds. It'd be nice to be able to read about an alliance that lost their space only after a grand campaign filled with glorious battles, wouldn't it?