In having such a rich and vibrant defender history, we could find no better way to visualize it than with a tapestry. The goal of the Defender Tapestry will be to show all the themes and organizations that make defending history what it is, both past and present, by sewing together the timeline of the Regional Sovereignty cause and representing each organization the way they wish to be remembered.
How to participate:
Each defending organization, inactive or active, is welcome to submit a work of art depicting themselves in a visual way to the #tapestry discord channel for The Liberty Gala by October 30th, 2020. For example, TITO would be Knights, Mordor would be Sauron/Nazgul/Orcs/ect.
These works are encouraged to be original pieces of art, created by members of your community for the broader defender community. Submissions should also have a transparent background so they will be incorporated easily into the Tapestry in the final product.
Also, please be patient. I do not have an artistic bone in my body, I just come up with really, really, ridiculously good ideas. I will be leaning on those of you who submit artwork to help stitch the Tapestry together, so please send me a DM @Benevolent Thomas#1213 on Discord if you'd like to help in these efforts.
These works of art will then be placed on a visual timeline at the time of their organization's founding. These submissions will be accompanied by additions depicting the highest and lowest points of our cause throughout history. This living tapestry will be updated as we head into the future with the goal of never being completed.
It would be remiss of us to not remember the individual people who have contributed to our wider defender history, and we've decided to once again attempt a Defender Family Tree. It's been done before, with varying degrees of success, but the Defender Family tree seeks to map out the generational continuation of the Regional Sovereignty cause.
This year, we will try to simplify this process with a leaves-down approach. This means that you can only add yourself and one nation that you consider to be your primary mentor in your path to becoming a defender. It's more common for multiple nations to be involved with your training and overall growth, but we ask that you only submit one name in addition to your own for the sake of simplicity. You may not submit anyone you have claimed to have mentored. It is up to that nation to name you as their mentor, not the other way around. The tree will only go as far as the last reachable defender.
How to join:
Submissions for the start of the Family Tree will begin on October 25th, 2020 and end October 30th, 2020. These submissions should be made in the #family-tree channel in The Liberty Gala's dedicated Discord Server. Periodic updates to this tree will be planned during future events.
As we approach the 18th anniversary of our game, the formative years of our five feeders are no longer in the collective consciousness of most NS-ers. These regions were formed primarily to provide a specific function for the game and were anarchies by design. New nations would join these regions at uncontrolled rates with no structures or systems to manage these accidental communities. There was no established framework for regional government or security, and little binding the regions together as a community.
Of course, the feeders we see today are very different. Automated welcome messages to all new nations direct them to countless resources, guides and areas of interest. Large regional governments managing the standards, expectations and priorities of the communities within them. The entire message history of the regional message board is accessible and searchable. And all five Pacifics now have their own ideology and identity, unique to each feeder - legacies of the attitudes, philosophies and interests of regional leaders who have gone before us.
We still hear about the formative days of some of those regions. We learn about Francos Spain’s August Revolution and the formation of the NPO. We may even have heard the names Great Bight and UPS Rail and learnt the chaotic history of the North Pacific that has informed it’s present-day stability. We hear of the legacy of Loop in the East Pacific and the Farker origins of the present-day community.
I wonder how much you have heard of the chaotic beginnings of the South Pacific, heralded as NationStates oldest democracy? This essay explores those early days, and the first signs of what we now understand to be the key values of modern day TSP.
Did you know about the would-be couper who inadvertently created the foundations of regional security and justice in the South Pacific? Did you know that one of the NationStates world’s most famous, commended Delegates started their life as a spy? Did you know that the region’s defender history didn’t begin with the Resolution on Adopting Defending Military Principles in 2019?
Early Signs of Society in the South Pacific
The world was very different in its early days and as many will know. Originally the NationStates world started with just one ‘feeder’ region - the Pacific, with the other feeder regions quickly following in early 2003.
Regions of all types struggled to organise in those early days, with regional message boards limited to only ten messages and no archived history of discussions. Within the first six months of the game’s launch, nations were beginning to create offsite forums and infrastructure to overcome these issues. But some groups came to the game with those organisational tools already in place. One such group were the Farkers of Fark.com, who joined the game en masse in March 2003 with plans of domination and destruction.
One of their early targets was the Heartland, where they launched an extended campaign to seize the delegacy from the native, Ineptia. Word of this reached the South Pacific and a force of 15 nations quickly mobilised in support of the native delegate, making the Heartland the region's first ever defender operation. The defenders from the South Pacific remained in the region for some time, allowing the Heartland to trade the delegacy with the Farkers and ultimately hold them to a stalemate. The conflict is credited as having directly led to the introduction of regional control powers including bans and ejections, founders, regional passwords and the creation of the Rejected Realms. Ineptia was a Game Moderator and the first to be given the opportunity to become a founder (and remains Founder of the Heartland to this day).
After the conflict, nations of the South Pacific returned to their original home only to find that it was their own delegate that had been overthrown. Killer Monkeys, previously the sitting delegate, was betrayed by the nation ‘New Ali’, who had seized power with outside support from the Atlantic. Frustrated with both the actions of the couper and the failures and attitude of the original delegate, the returning fighters from the Heartland backed one of their own, Goddessness, as the new delegate. Once delegate she maintained the regional military that had formed and utilised it primarily against the Atlantic, including during their invasion of the East Pacific.
The organisation of a region the size of the game’s feeders was no easy task and many early delegates did not make it a priority. At their height, these regions exceeded 20,000 nations each (although this eventually stabilised at around 4-5k nations). Goddessness and her followers oversaw the creation of an offsite forum for the South Pacific and the beginnings of a structured government.
One day, however, Goddessness lost around 400 endorsements in a game glitch - later alleged to have occurred during moderator action against a single nation with 105 ‘UN’ multies. Goddessness was replaced as delegate by a nation ‘The XYZ Affair’ as a result and fled back to the Heartland with a number of her supporters. The XYZ Affair took authoritarian control of the region, ejecting any close rivals in endorsements, and the international community responded. After a number of liberation attempts a different nation was eventually installed as delegate - the Fathoms Below. However, after a short time they also began to grief the region, eventually ejecting themselves and pushing another nation (Alpha C) into the delegacy. I understand from conversations with LadyRebels that it was thought at the time that the Fathoms Below was hacked by the nation behind the XYZ Affair.
After a few swift changes in delegates (with two found to be UN multis), the nation LadyRebels (ironically also an Atlantic Alliance member) took the delegacy. Unlike the others, she was able to consolidate her position and create the conditions needed for the community to truly organise. Following the XYZ Affair, natives began to build new forums and begin to envision what the South Pacific could become. LadyRebels told me that in creating the new community of the South Pacific they “wanted to give the huge region feel with a small town joy”. They also agreed that the people of the region should have a say in its management, and drew up the basis for the democracy that remains in the region to this day.
The Coup That Never Was
In all the stories you might have heard of NS history, I wonder if the name Harkinnen has ever come up? I wonder if any memory of the World Unification Front still exists?
It may surprise you to know that the nation Harkinnen was infamous in the early days of NationStates, at least within early feeder communities. The World Unification Front was their invader military, and operated out of the region Fortress Harkinnen. Harkinnen primarily set their sights on the feeder regions, and the West Pacific and the South Pacific in particular.
The World Unification Front described their operations as ‘peacekeeping missions’ but Harkinnen told me more honestly earlier this year that they had a simple goal; to “take over the world”. On a personal level, Harkinnen saw the game as an exercise in psychology - a chance to see "what traits are valued and what makes a person trustworthy in a world where no one can see each other”. Records from the time show the kind of recruitment that the group undertook to recruit new and existing players to their cause:
If any of these are you, join the World Unification Front today! We are based in "Fortress Harkinnen" with a few nations. We intend to carve out an empire spanning 100 regions and 5000 nations. With your help, it can happen. We have the drive and dedication to do it, all we need is the manpower. UN and non-UN nations are all welcome, just move to Fortress Harkinnen or Krath Empire (a new province) and telegram our founder."
The World Unification Front began life with a raid of the user-created region SciTechnius, holding the region for several days. It was led by three prominent members, Harkinnen, Anstinon and the First Imperium/Glouss. A native of the raided region, Greater Equaldom, wrote that even after the WUF raid on SciTechnius they remained a “constant threat” to the region. The tactics were fairly rudimentary but methodical:
Although simple invasions were their first steps in military gameplay, their plans for ‘world domination’ started with the South Pacific. LadyRebels had no issues remembering Harkinnen when asked about him earlier this year: “Hark came at [the region] and myself like a freight train when we were just getting things started… it got really crazy there for a while”. The threat to the delegacy (and to the fledgling democracy that it was enabling) required a multi-pronged response from natives.
What made the World Unification Front a threat was the tactics they employed. At times they were incompetent, and mocked by some, but their determination made them dangerous. Harkinnen was ultra-aware about PR and this is evident in all their telegrams and press-releases at the time.They had no set manner of operation, they would undertake conventional invasions, but also release propaganda lying about their reasons for intervening.
They would apply both soft and aggressive methods to achieve their goals. They would message new nations to recruit them from within the South Pacific. They would endotart meticulously, sending messages to every UN nation in alphabetical order. They would try to acquire the passwords of other nations (voluntarily) who might be willing to watch their regions burn. They would claim to be anti-invader and sought to recruit would-be defenders to their ranks under the name of world unification. They quickly made a name for themselves with these practices - and quickly made enemies, including the South Pacific.
Intelligence and the surprise beginnings of a NS Hall of Famer
With no established security systems in place, members of the growing off-site community in the South Pacific started to use their own initiative and keep watch of the World Unification Front’s activities. The first to do so was Freedom_Fighter who infiltrated WUF for a short time under the name Moxie Lovers. Freedom_Fighter remained a trusted member of TSP for many years after. The second was called God-Emporer, but they did so under false pretences truly being a double-agent and a leading member and admin of the World Unification Front (under the name the First Imperium). Later, a member of the World Unification Front (Mouldy Pumpkins) defected to the South Pacific under the name More Tree Huggers and provided intelligence too.
However, the most significant intelligence agent was a new nation, only two months old, who had joined the region’s military and taken an interest in regional security - Fudgetopia. Of course, Fudgetopia is better known now as the longest-serving delegate of the South Pacific, with a reign of 1276 days from July 2006 to January 2010, and one of its most beloved citizens. Her work as a spy has largely gone unheralded but was immensely significant in this formative part of the region’s history.
Fudgetopia first went undercover in November 2003, resigning UN status on her main nation and joining the World Unification Front under the alias Anarchist Elves. She informed the new Security Council of her operation a week later but was cautious about the security of the operation and kept her alias secret for many months. Those initially overseeing the infiltration were LadyRebels, Tsunamy, THE MATT-DUCK and other agents with access to the intelligence section of the forum (initially Bistmath, Freedom_Fighter and Skyliner but later many others).
Recalling those days, LadyRebels told me that “Fudge was awesome at getting intel out of Hark… If it had not been for the awesomeness of the members of the First Security Council and new members like Fudge, THE MATT-DUCK and others, we would not have made it”. Her skills in the role were impressive, quickly gaining the trust of the leadership and becoming a close confident of Harkinnen himself.
Raiding, the GLA and the World Unification Front
The World Unification Front were drawing the attention of other groups too. Logs from those days show that their attempted raid on Monte Carlo was crushed by the relatively new defender movement, specifically defenders from the GLA. By late 2003 defender groups were getting significantly more organised and logs show the GLA regularly preventing WUF raids.
Former GLA member, Riemstagrad tells me that “spotting was much easier back in 2003, because many raiders were not even aware of the update. Often they announced invasions on their RMB, then jumped in with 5 UN-nations in the course of 6 hours of time. Then we jumped in at update to kick them out again. We had plenty of time to spot them.
I don't know about other orgs, but we had a basic record of regions and their update order which was very helpful, because we didn't lose time and could pull off several defenses in one update and sometimes even keep regions under protection for a few days while defending others.”
Although the leadership of WUF clearly did understand the concept of update and organised on AOL Instant Messenger, it appears that many raid plans were discussed on regional message boards - giving away the plans to the defenders, and the GLA in particular.
The GLA was initially formed by a group of mostly Scandinavian players during ’the Hula wars’ - a defense of the region Hawaii in summer 2003. Later prominent defenders from the regional military of Belgium (the Armée Belge/Belgisch Leger (ABBL)) such as Ostendt and Riemstagrad were amongst those to join the group, but the group itself had no hierarchy or leadership. The group have commonly been known as the Global Liberation Army but Riemstagrad tells me that the GLA forum actually referred to the group as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance. They became a regular enemy of the World Unification Front and senior members of the South Pacific reached out to them.
WUF were also aware of a spy from a defender/liberator group called the Elite Ghosts within their ranks and also ended up in conflict with other groups including the New Meritocracy and Atlantic Central Command - for various reasons. Natives from the region they first targeted, SciTechnius, also formed a spy network within the WUF - led by the nation Bigger Sameness. Intelligence from Fudgetopia shows that WUF had nations deployed in the North Pacific, the Pacific, the Rejected Realms and the West Pacific, as well as TSP, and a loose alliance of regions were working behind closed doors to prevent their efforts at every turn.
With increased attention, Harkinnen and the rest of the WUF leadership pushed for ‘better planned and more successful’ attack strategies. They talked regularly of improving their “rapid response capabilities” and organisational improvements. They developed the concept of ‘waypoint regions’ individual to each invasion, the first kind of Instant Jump Points (IJPs) I can find record of, but in this case the IJPs were used to disguise movements of nations from defender spotters (rather than dodge update).
The Evolution of Feeder Security
Fudgetopia’s intelligence efforts greatly helped the continual monitoring of the group and their changing tactics. She was able to verify suspicions that God-Emperor was really a WUF spy, removing that asset from the equation. Despite the group's attempts to disguise their raiding activity, they were regularly beaten by the GLA and others leading defender operations against them. The infiltration attempts were having a significant impact on the group’s ability to operate. When I asked Harkinnen about this he said “defections and informants were major setbacks, but still provided useful data. I’d say I still learned a lot both regarding counter-intelligence and through the thought processes of the kind of people who play this game seriously.”
In December 2003 Harkinnen decided to refocus more time and effort into feeder activities. Harkinnen had previously attempted to seize the delegacy in the South Pacific in summer of 2003 under the name Merkolten, but had been ejected from the region after refusing to join the new forums (due to an inevitable IP match). Not to be deterred, they announced to the rest of WUF that they would be unavailable for day to day operations, stating “I am off to start the revolution”. They also began to gain endorsements in the West Pacific to either challenge Norion, the sitting delegate, or ‘gather a following’ to return to Fortress Harkinnen with. They instructed Fudgetopia (as Anarchist Elves) to join the West Pacific forum and begin “spreading propaganda”. Of course, intelligence about their plans for the West Pacific were immediately passed onto Norion and the West Pacific leadership.
In January 2004 the group also began to approach natives in the South Pacific who were gaining endorsements, offering to help put them in the delegacy "in exchange for ruling in our name and soldiers from their region”. They publicly denounced another attempt (by Savage Lands Reloaded - supported by Francos Spain) to seize the delegacy in order to soften people's views towards them. However, the leadership of the South Pacific knew their true intentions and the WUF were still actively approaching natives behind the scenes - including Parrrrtay, who rejected their offer and left the region for 24 hours to reset their endorsement count. Despite the useful intelligence coming through, the South Pacific government still had a difficult time dealing with the varied tactics that the World Unification Front employed. LadyRebels described how she would be “on the offsite [forum] dealing with some of his mess [while Harkinnen] would be in-game creating more mess”.
These tactics taught the South Pacific to create new and effective ways of monitoring threats, including the formation of the region’s Security Council of trusted members, the creation of offsite infrastructure and IP checks, active counter-intelligence, developing an endorsement counting script, intelligence sharing with other feeders, and even monitoring and recording all instances of ‘dissent’ and suspicious activity. It also provided a trial run of the systems that had been developed for the region’s judicial process.
LadyRebels told me that “the whole thought... was that we were going to use the system that we were working on with him [Harkinnen]. He wasn’t the first ban in TSP….however [he] was the first official ban in TSP with the judgement of the court, with Slackervania ruling that his ban was to be held until his nations CTE’d”. Similarly, the experience refined how they handled internal security: “Thanks to Harky we figured out how to check the boards to make sure that it was only one person per nation to be able to vote [but] they still got past some of our security”.
You might be wondering how close the World Unification Front really were from succeeding in one of their attempts? Records show that on occasions endotarters were within 18 endorsements of LadyRebels. One, Robsfurt, known to have been contacted by the World Unification Front on multiple occasions, never complied with the Government’s legal requirements to desist and was ultimately ejected from the region.
LadyRebels also revealed to me that a number of foreign powers kept a permanent or semi-permanent UN presence in the region to counter the threat from Harkinnen. She told me "Other groups in NS at that time helped us out because I asked them for the aide. I made them no promises because that wasn’t my place, so they moved UN Nations into TSP and endorsed myself and Hark. Then at key points they removed their endo from him”. LadyRebels told me that loose alliance of regions included the East Pacific, the West Pacific, the Rejected Realms, the Meritocracy and her former group, Atlantic Central Command. Records from the time verify this, at least on some level. For example, Blackbird’s nation in the Meritocracy - Cortath - is shown to be in the region propping up the delegacy in January 2004.
Eventually Harkinnen accepted their failure in the South Pacific, but their feeder interest didn’t end there. Harkinnen told me “I eventually sided with Norion and became Minister of Defense” in the West Pacific. Although he did still admit that “there was a plan to attempt unification of the TWP and TSP defensive ministries, but that failed”. In contrast, LadyRebels reflects on these events in the first year of TSPs life as a victory for the region. She told me that “Hark tried to take TSP over when TSP was still trying to figure out what direction it wanted to go in. Sadly for him (and happily for us) it didn’t work, and as a group we stayed true to the way we wanted to play NS and hold onto a birthing region. We won the war because look at TSP today, I am so happy that it is where it is today."
These interviews, and the data preserved in archives of the South Pacific teach us a lot about the early days of the region and the threats it faced. It shows the tactics created by natives, defenders and raiders, many of which continue to this day. It shows that the South Pacific’s defender values are rooted not only in its modern tradition but in the very formative moments of the regional community.