When the 20th century opened, there were six major powers in Europe: the British Empire, the French Republic, the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Russian Empire. Associated with them were a smattering of smaller powers such as Italy, Serbia, Bulgaria, Belgium, and Romania. Warfare as a means of gaining territory or resources was slowly going out of style. It was considered much more civilized to engage in strategic alliances to prevent such things.
Still, in an obvious contradiction, all six major powers were more or less completely confident in their ability to simultaneously fight off several of the others if need be. In an even more glorious obvious contradiction, virtually all of them also had territorial or resource ambitions at the expense of the others. This caused each of the six major powers to establish interlocking alliances with several of the others in order to balance alliances established by perceived threatening powers. Each alliance had conditions under which they would automatically go war to "defend" their allies. And several of them were itching to do so thanks to those territorial or resource ambitions.
Needless to say, this combination of factors was not stable. It was inevitable that sooner or later, some excuse would cause many or all of those interlocking alliances to come into play. Austro-Hungary invaded Serbia, which caused Germany to invade Belgium which caused France to attack Germany which caused Britain and Russia to defend France and the Ottoman Empire to defend Germany. Before long, between all these powers and their colonies, pretty much the entire world was at war.
And all of them were pretty sure they were in the right, and all of them were pretty sure they were going to win.
Jade Constantine is a very polarizing figure in EVE. Depending on who you ask, he is a folk hero... or the worst thing ever to happen to the CSM and to New Eden... or both. Regardless, he's never exactly been shy about voicing his opinion or shaking up the community. And to make a long story short, he's doing so again.
Around 7 June or so, Jade's alliance, The Star Fraction, got itself war-dec'ed by Goonswarm. Now this kind of war-dec happens a lot and Goons of course have started their "Ministry of Love" to foster just this sort of thing. Jade was an obvious target of the Ministry; we all know what high respect The Mittani holds for Jade. A lot of corps would laugh off such a war-dec.
Jade decided to have a little fun with it instead. Taking advantage of the new ally system, he first declared the war mutual (thereby chaining himself to the Goon war-dec), then he asked for allies.
Lots of allies.
In fact, he asked pretty much everyone in EVE that wasn't a Goon to be his ally.
I encourage you to go out and read the posts, because Jade makes his case far better than I could. I myself found it quite amusing. The ally system was built for this exact circumstance: allow a lesser-powered entity to defend itself against a more powerful aggressor. This is what those that have been asking for balance in war-decs have been asking for for years: a means to defend themselves when they are not as strong as the corp war-dec'ing them. If a 9000-man alliance declares war on a 100-man alliance, what is the smaller entity supposed to do other than recruit thousands of allies of their own? Try to fight on their own? Ha.
What CCP clearly didn't plan on was someone literally chaining themselves to such a war-dec and then selling the ability to shoot the aggressor as a service!(1) A couple of people had this idea before Jade, but Jade was the first person to put it into actual practice, and to get results with it. Hundreds -- maybe even thousands -- of EVE players moved to ally themselves with The Star Fraction lured by the promise of Goon kill reports and the ability to laugh at the Goons en masse. Initially, Jade was open to Goon surrender... for five billion ISK per ally he recruited. Once it was clear how successful this was going to be, though, Jade declared that the mutual war and the free ally membership for anyone who wanted in on it would go on... forever.
In the first 48 hours of this unexpectedly massive "foreverwar", the Goons started losing ships at a hysterical rate. Suddenly realizing that they had a tiger by the tail and finding that they couldn't cast off the mutual war chains linking them to The Star Fraction without using the new surrender mechanics, the Goons did something rather un-Goon-like. They panicked. Some, in fact, would say that they whined. In a game that historically has consequences -- most of them bad -- they tried to make the case that this was a consequence that CCP did not intend. Consequences are bad, right?
Did CCP really intend for all of New Eden to be able to come to the aid of an aggressed corp? Particularly an aggressed corp that seemed to welcome the attention of the war by making it mutual? Particularly forever? In short, did CCP intend to let anyone who wanted to be able to shoot any Goon they wanted to, all across New Eden? You don't mean that, CCP? Do you? Right?
Turns out, the answer is "no". CCP has blinked, they've blinked big-time, and they blinked fast. In the feature-set for the upcoming Inferno 1.1 release are these notes:
- Ally contracts have fixed length of two weeks
- Allies can not be part of mutual wars – defender cannot hire allies into mutual wars and existing ally contracts are cancelled (with a 24 hour grace period)
This is doubly ironic when you consider this started on the same day that Mittens said he was thinking about offering bounties for Hulk kills in perpetuity.
Needless to say, the drama storm is just getting started on this one. Did CCP cave to the Goons? Did Mittens pull out his vaunted CCP Rolodex and start making phone calls? That's certainly what a lot of people seem to believe. Most of the CSM is engaged, the thread is up to 21 pages already, and it's growing at about a post every two minutes. And that's before all the other controversial things in the Inferno 1.1 feature list. Everyone buckle up!
EDIT (13/Jun/2012): It's worth noting that Yuki of White Rose Conventicle, another of the Goon's permanent war targets, has left EVE and taken the WRC blog down as a result of the Goon war-dec. Now granted, I wasn't exactly Yuki's biggest fan... but he didn't deserve that.
(1) Yes, I know that Jade was "selling" this service for free, but you get my point.