Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Turtles all the way down

Every time I feel like I've drilled to bedrock in EVE, someone comes up to me and says "No, there's this whole other layer.  Let me show you."(1)

Once a week or so, someone sends me an EVE mail or a Twitter message asking for my help with something.  "How do I promote my blog?" or "What corp should I join?" or "What ships should I train for?"  Stuff like that.  Still, every once in a while, the request is "Will you read this and make suggestions on how to improve it?"  And if I'm not too terribly busy, I'm happy to help.

I got such a request in December... and what I was asked to read was the written equivalent of a case full of explosives.  In a minute, you get to read it, too.

First thing: I didn't write the document that follows.  It was sent to me.  I'm just the publisher.

Second thing: the document might be a massive (and successful) troll.  You have been warned.  Still, I have permission to publish this, and I have the name of an EVE player's account who will answer questions about it.  Initially, I was going to work with an EVE news site on this, but the author doesn't have a high opinion of EN24, and over the last month, I decided to run with it myself.  It might be a troll, but it's one of those things that even if it's not true... it feels true.  And whether it's true or not, it's not "news" as such.

Third thing: the document goes over some pretty ancient EVE history.  If you're not familiar with the names, you'll probably find the (now defunct) EVE History Wiki extremely useful.  In particular, CA is Curse Alliance and LV is Lotka Volterra, alliances from what I think of as the first age (2003-2005) and second age (2005-2007) of EVE Online, respectively.(2)  From my perspective, the second age of EVE Online ended when Shrike's first Titan died in the summer of 2007.  A solid majority of you reading this probably started playing EVE after that happened.  But the most interesting parts of the document end about the same time that Titan explodes.

Ready to read the document?  Here it is (download the original RTF):
The Story of the Master Strategist

Is what's in this document true?  I refer to periods lasting only two years as "ages" in the life of EVE Online because they may as well be centuries long.  Stuff that happened that far back disappears into the mists of people's memories, even assuming the people involved are still around.  Very few people have documented proof of anything.  Still, I spent some time digging and I couldn't find anything that directly contradicts anything in this document.  If it's a troll, it's a very well-executed one and maybe I just haven't been playing EVE long enough to see where it's obviously wrong.

Still, it corroborates a lot of the feeling that I'm getting about the number of layers in this game.  I'll have more to say on this topic in another day or three, but there are EVE players out there with quite literally more ISK than they will ever be able to spend if EVE is still being played 50 years from now.  Dr. EyjoG might believe that he has ultimate control over the levers in the EVE economy, and the average EVE player might believe incursion-runners are at fault for the price of PLEXes, but I don't believe those things.

Conspiracy theorists are looked at like they're nuts when they say that only a few people control the real-world economy.  But in EVE, I'm coming increasingly to the belief that's pretty much the truth.

I personally know an EVE player whose long-term goal in the game isn't to steal a trillion ISK or to own a Titan or to lead an alliance.  His ultimate end-game goal is to crash the tritanium market.  The entire tritanium market.  Across all of New Eden.  At the same time.  The last time I talked to him, his personal EVE finances ran to 15 digits... that's hundreds of trillions of ISK.  And this week, I talked to someone who claims 16 digits.  And based on what he told me, I have no reason to doubt him.  He says there's a small cabal of people who ultimately control PLEX prices, and I have no reason to doubt that, either.  In the real world, there are laws and governments to prevent this kind of thing happening, but New Eden doesn't have any of that.

So the idea that there is (or was) a small group of people sharing back-end top-level information about EVE's largest alliances is, by contrast, pretty easy for me to believe.

It's turtles all the way down.

Have a question for the author of this document?  Post it in comments.  I'll compile them and send them along.  Have some way of proving this document a troll or a falsehood?  I'd love to hear it.  In the meantime, failing that, I'll have more to say on this topic (plus some of the questions I asked him) in a day or three.

(1) When I tweeted this sentence last month, Duncan Feldane joked in return "You think that's bedrock you're breathing?"  Bravo!
(2) As far as I'm concerned, we're currently in the fifth age of EVE Online.  It began last spring when The Mittani became Chair of CSM6 and the Haven/Sanctum nerf led directly to the fall of the NC.


  1. "...there are laws and governments to prevent this kind of thing happening, but New Eden doesn't have any of that."

    Thats a good one.

  2. Mittens is chair of CSM7 as of -last spring-? That's quite the forward planning he has going on there.

  3. Really goes without saying...
    Can I has your stuffz?

  4. for the original author of the document:

    Where does one go for this sort of...education?

    I've gotten very tired of being an insignificant fish in a moderately large pond. Please evemail me, when you have time to talk.

  5. I like to stroke my ego by spewing fantasies about being powerful. In fact, I'm so amazing that I am undetectable! Please pay attention to me.

    1. +1. I too, can write fiction. The document sounds more American than British although I noticed no specific language usage clues (such as using "realize" vs "realise") to support or contradict that possibility.

    2. +1
      "Nobody knows who I am, but I do get contacted a lot to do stuff. Stuff that nobody knows about, except me. Hahahahaha."

    3. More importantly, include some real names in your fiction, especially ones well known for null sec intrigue like Lady Scarlett... yeah.

  6. The idea itself is not new:

  7. In before it turns out the source is Vonqueesha Shenaynay.

    Anyone can make those claims, it's about as provable as me saying I personally faked the NASA moon landings in my basement.

    If it had some confirmable information that corroborates the story then that would be another thing entirely.

  8. EvE is a spectator sport for the most of us. Even if you are in a massive blob. Even if 'you were there'. For the most part, you are watching someone else's plans unfold.

    I play, because on occasion through whatever piece of luck. I may get to participate in a great plan. One of my own making, one of someone else's making. Doesn't matter which. But that plan will usually lead to a good, if not great story. And that story will be told and repeated.

    EvE has an awful lot of great content in it. All of it made by us. Made by our anonymous methuselah player here. Made by me and the IEEE. Made by Veto. Made by CVA. By GENOS. The content that CCP provides for us is just the framework.

    And this is why, almost six years later, I am still playing this game.

    It ain't the game, it is the people and the stories we leave behind. And our friend the puppet master here.

    Even if it isn't entirely true, it is a good story, and you know what? That is what the game is actually built on. Things we do in game matter to us. And sometimes to other people.

    To our methuselah friend: Have a good time in your retirement. Come visit highsec and can flip for a while. It is good for the soul.

  9. Another quick note, if you really think the Haven/Sanctum nerf led directly to the fall of the NC you should brush up on coalition collapses in eve. The Sanctum nerf was a convenient rationalization for the people fleeing a sinking ship, nothing more. The NC killed the NC, and the DRF helped that death along.

    1. Good point. How about "contributed to"?

    2. "Contributed to" would be valid, although I would probably argue for it playing a much smaller role than often attributed. Nobody loses their space because it suddenly became less valuable to potential invaders.

      If anything, the major contribution the sanctum nerf would have had was psychological. Alliance members get saddened by a change (due to real or percieved disadvantage), and are less inclined to log in to fight. Just like the real world economy, eve is often influenced by our collective moods.

    3. Main fall of NC as far as I'm concerned was caused by Super projection I'm afraid, yeah sure NC players couldn't make sufficient ISK to replace losses quick enough, but you still had to have the losses. That and most NC super pilots either were no longer playing the game or had no wish to lose their super's to crashed nodes DDOS attacks, or simply by being out blobbed, once they stopped fielding super's, the moral of the Sub cap fleets also suffered.

      Other contributing factor was the change to the JB network, which inhibited defence fleets from moving around quickly, and last but not least complacency, if the NC had smacked DRF when they invaded Geminate as they should have, there is a much better chance they would still be there today. As it was, the momentum gained there, with the whole DRF and PL force was just too much to stop.

      You can probably trace it all back to the Valentines day massacrer if you try hard enough.

  10. I feel like i read this before, do you know where? I don't read too much eve stuff outside of this blog. maybe it was a draft version on reddit or something.

  11. Claims made that make no logical sense:

    1) "No one knows who I am (inferred throughout)
    - but I can fly around "Russian space" with impunity (suggesting the common gatecamper knows him / he is set +10 on a wide scale)
    - but people approach me to hire me, despite no-one knowing who I am


    It's a modestly well written account of someone's fantasy.

    1. My thoughts the same.

      On the other hand, though, if you offered this kind of services and noticed demand for it was slowly dwindling, wouldn't it be just so convenient if a blogger of a certain renown made a post about the subject?

  12. ................................
    Only in EvE

  13. 1,000,000,000,000

    That's 13 digits. It's 1 trillion. Your numbers are bad,Jester :/

  14. I have to agree with Raivi here...

    It's like the Octopus in 2010 that "predicted every game of the world cup" accurately. There are a million different things and predictors, etc... Someone is going to get it right.

    Until this guy gives definitive proof that what he says is true, I think it's just one giant troll.

    I do believe however that Ancient wealth controls this game far more than anyone likes to believe.

    I would not be opposed to a complete reset of the game and allow 100,000 players to start at zero experience, instead of 5,000. Would this not be a unique circumstance and opportunity to study human interaction?

  15. What is 'EN24' please.

    1. EVE News 24. http://www.evenews24.com/ Probably the most well-known website documenting events happening in EVE Online.

    2. sounds like a good story. But defining the end of an era by the retirement of one player (however influential) is like saying the sinking of the Bismarck marked the end of the Nazi movement. There's just no telling what's going to happen next in EVE, that's part of what makes it alluring. For however many people who are evil, calculating, mischievous, there's the many tragedies brought about by cheer luck or misfortune (depending on your viewpoint).

      I'm neither shocked nor bothered that there are power-brokers in the game of EVE. I merely accept their existence and continue to play the game on a micro-scale more attuned to the enjoyment that I derive from a monthly subscription. Blowing shit up will always be fun. Finding a new way to make ISK will always be rewarding. And wearing tinfoil hats has never gone out of style.

  16. Better read than 95% of the Eve Chronicles

  17. True or not, a damn good read. I want to say this was written by CCP because it is a seriously good marketing device for the sandbox.

  18. Meh... Pointless noise. 2000 words with little content.

    I was here from day one, I earned lots of money, I'm telling you I was there for all the major alliances, I'm saying I'm the greatest spymaster ever, but I'm not going to prove anything. I'm just going to take my trillions and live quietly in the Russian Drone space that I rent.

  19. Dunno if I believe this guys account of things, but certainly interesting. If he wants to retire then its perfect time to let it all out and let all the cards drop however they drop and whatever happens as it may. Most people in their old age like to come clean as they know they on their way out and it won't matter much at that point as they will be dead soon where it matters less.

    I do however more inclined to believe they are ancient figures with their fingers at work pulling the strings of some major things in the economy.

  20. I'm really surprised you'd publish something with absolutely nothing in the document that proves anything even remotely. Why, exactly, was he so sought after? What is this mystical planning ability he possesses? Here's a question he should be able to answer if "an alliance leader sneezed he knew about it." There were leadership members from 4 alliances and 3 specific corporations not in those alliances that were planning a major op this time last year (if you have notes, initial discussions took place on or about Jan. 20th and major planning began on or about Feb. 7th). They code-named the op "Fried Chicken and Potato Salad." All of the individuals, corps, and alliances involved are well-known and though the plan wasn't instigated, a modified version eventually was. The events were covered in part on EN24 and several other venues. Name any 3 of the alliance leaders or CEOs and the alliances they belonged to at the time.

  21. This is fundamentally a question of epistemology: why do we believe what we believe? The author tells a good story, but with the exception of claiming membership in some very ancient corps/alliances, no concrete details are provided. While it is possible that his story is true, there is no reason to believe, with even a moderate probability of confidence, that the story is true. If you want to point to a story about the importance of the meta-game, there is a YouTube video of PL bumping a Titan out of it's POS and killing it.

  22. I don't buy it really. The kinds of people who run alliances aren't normally the kinds of people who look for external strategists because this undermines their own intelligence.

    I am happy for someone who has "hired" a strategist to disagree with me.

    1. I don't know. When the MC lead the sacking of the north back in 2006-2007 (ish) the vast vast bulk of the planing was done by a then friend of mine. And he wasn't an alliance leader.

  23. It reads very very similarly to an interview on Mittens blog: http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/76964

    Not sure I believe in either, but as I have no way of verifying one way or another I won't let it bother me.

  24. I believe the story is untrue but still an interesting read. I don't believe it was written by a 22 year-old or that they are British. The writing seems to be in American vernacular and by an older fellow say in their late 30s. It's reasonable to think they have played EVE for the amount of time claimed and they know a few interesting tidbits. If they were half as good a planner as they have indicated they would have chosen a different method and perhaps another venue for this narcissistic revelation.

    1. "If they were half as good a planner as they have indicated they would have chosen a different method and perhaps another venue for this narcissistic revelation."

      What better method is there than getting a document, claiming things that may seem wildy outrageous while providing less than sufficient evidence supporting such claims, published by one of the mostly widely read, and recognized bloggers currently active in New Eden's metagame?

    2. I'm glad someone else mentioned this, being British myself I was skeptical as soon as the author claimed to be British. The whole structure of their writting is in a very American vernacular. It is made all the more unusual since the author claims to be well spoken. This will probably seem rediculous to non-British readers but it would be very uncommon to read phrases like this written by a Brit;

      "Hell, Mittens himself built..." In British English 'Hell' is a place, not an interjection like 'gosh' or 'darn'. That kind of use is very American. To put it in context its a bit like someone claiming to be American saying "Blimey".

      "As a kid I would..." This one is borderline, but Brits don't often refer to themselves as kids, particularly well spoken types.

  25. Let me tell you a story about how my dad works for the illuminati....

    It all began in the summer of 1972, on a plane to Bora Bora....

  26. Sounds like somebody just finished the Shadow Broker DLC for ME2.

  27. Or the lead in for one very elaborate scam...?

  28. Certainly a good read.

    I didn't understand it completely though. He was apparently a long range strategic planning consultant. Then something happened recently that made long range strategic planning pointless. What?

  29. This reminds me of a character in the "Empyrean Age". Also, I saw no references to specific incidents that this character could point to and say "I did that". Nice fantasy.

    1. This. To me it just sounds like "The Broker" (lol) roughly translated into ingame terms. And with an even vaguer ending, like a spooky story you would tell your children.

      In other news I used to be the king of Yulai, but I retired and allowed my protégé to move the market to Jita.

  30. It is not like there was ever only one. When someone else takes your job, don't go bragging about it.

  31. "The kinds of people who run alliances aren't normally the kinds of people who look for external strategists because this undermines their own intelligence."

    The kinds of people who run alliances would have a hard time believing that anyone outside their little clique could possibly have anything to teach them.

    "I personally know an EVE player whose long-term goal in the game isn't to steal a trillion ISK or to own a Titan or to lead an alliance. His ultimate end-game goal is to crash the tritanium market."

    Eve's ultimate care bear could also do this quite easily, as he has never refined any of the ore he has mined.

  32. Replies
    1. The story reminds me of the Stones song Sympathy For The Devil.

  33. this rtf is just puppetmasta fappery; alliances don't hire outside consultants for strategic advice, and anyone involved in any of the entities the article cites would know that

    basically if you buy this in any way you're a toolshed and probably post earnestly on failheap

    well, cya

  34. so hes 24 now in 2012. lets go 10 years back there he would have been 14 years old in february of 2002. 4 months before that would have been september or october 2001 or even earlier depending on if he just turned 24 or a while back. eve wasnt in beta there yet. still he claims he got into beta 4 months before he turned 14?

    if we take into account that you got his document in december that would mean he claims to have joined eve online beta in july 2001. nope not possible. super strategist? intelligence above average? and yet he cant remember when he started eve or how old he was during that time? he cant do simple math? a "super strategy brain" wouldnt make such a mistake, so this is just a troll.

    furthermore if he recycled his characters and used a fresh one for each infiltration do you really think it would have been that easy with pretty much no sp to move up in the ranks that fast as he claims?

    until there is some actual proof this is a troll of aome wannabe who wants some attention, a lot of his phrasing speaks for that actually

  35. Let's assume it's true.

    Kinda a shame dude didn't give us the big reveal at the end, or even more concrete details about his escapes. Y'know.

    Like Who is Keyser Soze.

    Or Rosebud.

    The Dude who killed Laura Palmer.

    Mother. (http://youtu.be/MIt0VY7Yg2w)

    Without it, his story lacks a certain amount of *oomph* and significance. Without concrete details, it becomes a bit of a milquetoast tale and easily forgotten. Which might be the point of what he has written.

    But if that is the point, why bother writing anything at all? Even a fictional or played-for-LOLs reveal would have worked.

    Which brings me back to the beginning of my reply: Let's assume it's true... so what?

    -1, mate. Your story needs a climax.


  36. Cool story bro.

    Sorry, that is all I have. You have this document which contain no verifiable claims, does not anchor itself to actual events, and basically reads like a longer, vaguer horoscope reading.

    The real world laws only exist to stop you getting in on the gig without an invite.

    How does one "crash" the market for an extreme volume commodity that has virtually limitless supply? Buy all the stock for a few mo this, then dump it all back on the market faster than anyone can consume it? That is an awesome wealth redistribution gig :)

    I am sure there is a coherent thought in there somewhere, but if I leave it vague and disconnected perhaps some blogger will pick up on it.

  37. From QEN Q4 2010 page 18

    "In Q4, 2010, EVE‘s subscriber count grew by 9%, which translated into an increase in money supply. The money supply rose by 11% in Q4 2010 and there is now a combined 445 trillion ISK on all accounts within EVE. That represents the sum total of ISK in the game, on both active and inactive accounts."

    Kind of hard for a multiple players to have hundreds of ISK in this environment(though it is a bit out of date).

    1. Those numbers are meaningless, I've discovered. If you really want to make ISK in this game, it helps not to have any actual ISK.

      The first guy has a huge amount of his ISK tied up in tritanium. Caches of billions of units of it, spread all over the place. The second guy has most of his ISK tied up in PLEXs. Thousands of them.

    2. Having a 10 trillion isk in tritanium or plex is a huge problem if your goal is not to crash the market. Because you will have a hard time to change those assets back into isk without crashing the market.

      So its not really the same to actually owning those "hard" earned isk.

    3. No, it's better. They don't need to change all of their assets back into ISK at one time, unless they are making a conscious decision to crash the market, and any player (with the amount of effective ISK Jester has suggested) would know that.

  38. The tone of the piece really speaks to someone who is patient, intelligent, and, most dangerously, aware of how delicate their success is. What bothers me is, who trusts ANYONE in this game. When the mantra is "don't undock what you can't afford to lose" why on earth would you hire someone based on "reputation".

    It's a fantastical tale, well crafted (and, as many have noted, reads better than most of the EVE Fiction), and actually stirs me to want to roll into alliance leadership. It makes me want to brag about this game to my friends. This story is cool, no doubt.

    But until there's anything he can point to, or people who will attest to hiring him, this is nothing more than a parable. It's a ghost story that's as much mysticism as it is politics.

    On the other hand, I can't help but look at my own cynicism. Why should I assume that what he's saying isn't true. If it IS true...does the layers presented here not make EVE Online one of the greatest games, or greatest creations of the modern age? When a 14 year old can make grown men rage quit and have their actions make it into the news?

    I think EVE has been missing some of that awe lately. True or not, it's nice to think there's a chance we could get it back and leave the "bittervet" syndrome in the dust.

  39. This guy was Master of the Universe but can't spell my name right? Cripes... :)

  40. If true, I feel truly sorry for this guy.

    From age 14 to 22, I had a hell of a lot of fun in RL - experiences which I would never consider trading off, esp. just to be the ultimate unknown spy master in a computer game.

    No matter how you slice it, this is a rather pathetic story of how to waste a good chunk of your life, and certainly nothing to be admired or emulated.

  41. "This one time, at gate camp"

  42. Yeah, wow, this was totally anti-climactic after yesterday's post. Sorry, but this reads like a boring personal fantasy, with absolutely no facts, written by a bad writer who thinks he's slick. *snoooooooze*

  43. I didn't find it that interesting, "self indulgent fantasy" I think sums it up adequately. I suspect I'm one of the most vociferous Jestertrek supporters but on this occasion I'm suprised you've syndicated this. I would have thought you'd want a little bit more than occasional eloquence, even some shred of evidence to support such amazing claims.

    Anyone can drop a few old names and say "blob X hired me to do vauge job Y". But there isn't really any substance to go with it. The authors precise role in this whole buisness never really gets pinned down to anything that specific. Besides all else it flies in the face of conventional alliance logic which is that it takes vastly complex layers of organisation and infrastructure to control large groups of players - more than one person can achieve. The real trick to blob alliances in particular is distributing power enough to create a flexible and organised group without distributing it so far as to facilitate seperatism or infighting.

    In my experience the shadier a task the more most alliances wish to keep said task within the upper echelons of their organisation. The concept of hiring a big bad puppetmaster (who really secretly controls you) is all a bit too "men in black" for me.

    Delusions of grandeur much?

    1. I'm waiting for someone -- anyone! -- to come out and say: "That's BS. He wasn't involved with XXX crashing, because that was all me, baby." Or something like that.

      Anything like that, really.

      2000 people have read this post so far, and nobody's said that. A lot of people say "delusions of grandeur", sure, but you'd think that SOMEONE would have some kind of proof that this doc is BS if it were.

    2. The nearest to a verifiable claim is that this guy was working for Curse Alliance, and CA leadership knew that he was in contact with Xetic/XIF at some point. So, good luck verifying the only marginally verifiable claim in the whole story. Nothing else in this story is easily verifiable or falsifiable.

      Short of that, there is the claim that the public alt is well known, but counter to that he disposes of characters so routinely that he has no identifiable main.

    3. Though because everyone likes a good story, how about this: the reason there is so much NAPing and NIPing in null right now is because not one single person in any alliance in null sec has a clue about how to run an alliance level strategy without our anonymous hero?

      Yeah. I know. But I had to try :)

    4. Not to mention, there is no reply to Anonymous Feb 2, 2012 10:35 AM:

      "They code-named the op 'Fried Chicken and Potato Salad.' All of the individuals, corps, and alliances involved are well-known and though the plan wasn't instigated, a modified version eventually was."

      That sounds like a very easy situation to verify, don't you think? After all, if someone makes a claim that "any time someone sneezed, I knew about it" they would actually know the name of major political plans, wouldn't they?

    5. Why? It's not like he makes any particular claim that needs explaining away? Alliance X crashing, could just be Alliance X crashing.

  44. "I keep creating new alts and no one knows who I am, yet I keep being contacted on my newly created alts by experienced players wanting to pay a noob for advice on how to do super awesome stuff I am incredibly vague about."

    Very badly tought attempt at fiction or egobating or both. At least come up with something believable on your next attempt at becoming eve famous...

    1. I presume that if one were to do this, you'd have a stable out of game presence (hotmail/gmail address as dead drop).

  45. This is all bullshit! This guy is me!


    I think its legit. Cool sounding guy too, ask him what he does for a living and what other games he is playing.

  46. I agree with Mittens and Elloise here. This fantastical account of some young boy swindling and dealing alliances into doing what he wished or what he suggested on behalf of someone else has nothing to support it's validity, No chat logs, no wallet screenshots, no ts recordings, etc. As others have said, how many successful alliance/coalition leaders/leadership believe or trust the word of any but themselves. A lot of alliance leaderships don't even completely trust their allies or each other. And that's not even including the discrepencies between his age and the actual release of the Eve beta as put forward by an anonymous commentor. I have come to learn that the only thing you can trust in Eve is what you physically see on your client, and what you yourself write/do. TL;DR This story is a hoax, much like the War of the Worlds, but much more poorly written and les interesting

  47. Read just like religion.

    Believe it, if it makes you feel better.

    Asuri Kinnes/ADHC

  48. Hmmm... 1 thought...
    To quote:
    "He says there's a small cabal of people who ultimately control PLEX prices, and I have no reason to doubt that, either. In the real world, there are laws and governments to prevent this kind of thing happening, but New Eden doesn't have any of that.

    So the idea that there is (or was) a small group of people sharing back-end top-level information about EVE's largest alliances..."

    EVE is a program run on servers owned and operated by CCP.
    In EVE, there is a whole staff of 'gods' that CAN stop that.
    I hope they do.

  49. Speaking of Meta, who is Moose?

  50. Pretty sure I know who it is, or at least his public alt. If it is him then I can believe what he says.

    Little annoyed he didn't tell us he was retiring from the game in person.


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