by Max Barry

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by The Republic of The Liberty Gala. . 72 reads.

The Liberty Gala 2020: Defender History Panel


HumanSanity:
We have an AMA in the loosely identified time block of "now". The AMA will be with a few of the greats of defender history including...

Benevolent Thomas, founder of The Order of the Grey Wardens and recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, who is here to talk about Fort Triumph or something

Numero Capitan, long time intelligence officer of the FRA, currently involved with Founderless, and the namesake of the Defending Awards' Intelligence Award

Ananke II, former ADN boss cat who was one of the primary organizers of the Puppetmaster Attack, former TITO Tactical Officer and Delegate of 10000 Islands

Blackbird and Dilber, two of the earliest defender intelligence agents in the game, one of whom also is the namesake of a defender award

And maybe some pitch hitting by Eist, former TITO Tactical Officer and also involved in that Fort Triumph thingy and the Renegade Islands Alliance

Anyways, ask away folks!

Aga:
How has the NationStates R/D scene changed since the start of the game? Why do you still stick around and remain loyal to R/D?
Atlae:
What's your favorite op?
Heavaria:
In your opinion, how would NS look if the concept of R/D had not developed or was not possible due to technical restrictions by the NS admins? (Essentially, how crucial was its existence and the impact it caused.)
Evil Dictators Happy Land:
Why did you originally decide to become a defender?
Benevolent Thomas:
EDH, I wanted to help regions like my own that were founderless. I witnessed one get griefed and didn't want any other communities to go through what RORMS did.
Aga:
What's the lowest point of your NS career?
Dilber:
Responding to 'What's your favorite op?'
Intruder the Stars of Sky op in TNP. That was a heck of a team to be apart of
Benevolent Thomas:
Responding to: 'How has the NationStates R/D scene changed since the start of the game?
The raiding and defending communities have given way to a wider gameplay community. Both defending and raiding are now a lot easier than they once were and the barriers to entry are mostly non-existent. There are far fewer founderless communities that remain and nations/regions are made aware of the existence of raiding far sooner than before.
Blackbird:
Well, in terms of history, let me start by talking a little bit about why I got into defending and defending looked like when I began playing. I started in December of 2002, about a month about NS launched.

In terms of my defense career, it was early 2003. We didnít have a name for defenders. My region, a left-wing region called the Proletariat Coalition of about 350 nations, had relations with other left-wing regions. And Nazi/fascist regions would invade us. Were we ďdefendersĒ then when we fought back? Maybe. It was purely self-defense at that point. Eventually, we formed the Marxist Anarcho-Syndicalist Socialist (MASS) Alliance, the forerunner to the Red Liberty Alliance. At that point, we were defender, engaging in joint actions with the Sarduakar Defender Confederacy Trust (SCDT) a group sponsored by the Senate of the New Meritocracy, as well as the Alliance Defense Network.

I distinctly remember the Alliance of Socialist States getting griefed by raiders. Saddest thing. I think the region had at least 200 people at that point. And really, there was virtually no way to get nations back in at that point. This would have been in 2003. Not all regions had forums then. I donít believe AoSS did back then. So when a region was griefed, it just utterly destroyed the region. It was very hard to get all the nations back, and thatís assuming of course that you could even re-take the region.

This happened while not quite every day, it was all the time. And because of the nature of forums back then, it was perhaps even scarier than the reality, because it was all through word of mouth. There was no regional directory, there was no functioning forums on the NationStates website, there were only the odd regional forum. So when we engaged in diplomacy, it was actually person to person, and thatís how you would learn information.

So thatís a long-winded way of saying: I got into defending because I didnít want my region, the Proletariat Coalition to be griefed. And then we formed alliances to make sure it wouldnít happen to anyone else.
Eist:
XKI was my first region, I think I chose it because it was the largest at the time. TITO seemed interesting, but I didn't really know what they did. Then I saw these regions that raiders were tearing apart for no reason. I know that it's just a game, but it annoyed me that innocent bystanders would come together for whatever reason, then get booted for no reason, probably not understanding at all why they were kicked from their region (did I do something wrong???). That motivated me at least. Always liked it when defended regions would thank TITO for our work
Dilber:
Responding to Aga Early R/D wasn't so much Raider vs Defender. It was kind of a misnomer. You had the earliest battles between invaders and defenders, but it shifted into more defender vs NPO. Early raider groups were so infiltrated it didn't matter. I think there was one point where almost all the raider leadership was actually intel agents. In terms of gameplay, a lot shifted. Influence didn't exist in the beginning, and was made because mods got tired of having to figure out who natives were.

There was no API, all spotting was manual. Region update times at update were random, and there was only one update

You could update multiple times in a single update, but it required you re-endoing since once you got hit things locked in

Early defenders were very good at early spotting, and manually moving on multiple ops at once. We usually had good intel because it was the thing we developed.
Blackbird:
How has the R/D scene changed? There were fewer general invaders and defenders. There were kind of lulz invaders, like the Pirates, the Farkers, people like that. Then some empire-building invaders, like the ACC. But most defenders were just groups of people all together who wanted to defend their regions. That was really it. It wasn't until later, perhaps 2004 (?) that we really saw universal defenderism form, and universal invaderism. People who just seemed to invade for its own sake, rather than out of some sort of political reason.
Dilber:
Yeah, when I joined in 2004, that was already where it was.
Blackbird:
As Dilber said, the early defenders viewed the NPO as a kind of invader force, where Francos Spain supplanted the natives of the Pacific. So there was a Cold War between defenders generally and the NPO. Although some defender orgs were more into than others.
Dilber:
You have to remember a lot of us gameplayers thought NS was going to die in 2006 because...the admins didn't listen
Witchcraft & Sorcery:
Listen to what?
Dilber:
To suggestions, how to make things better. There's a reason other nation-building games took off around that time
Witchcraft & Sorcery:
Ah. Yeah, I've heard about that
Sedge:
That would be the introduction of influence, specifically
Dilber:
Yeah, though influence came after the early exodus in January but the prevalent thought was gameplay was stagnant. Time dilation is a heck of a thing. GCR delegacies, ops, and everything else were significantly shorter. Elections used to be run monthly, early NS was more...fast-paced...so things started feeling oldhat
Blackbird:
Influence was never designed to make the R/D game better. It was designed to make moderation easier. Moderation was difficult pre-influence, because of the griefing and nativity rules. It required mods to do a kind of fact-intensive and divisive analysis of who a "native" was and whether or not they were griefed. The influence mechanic eliminated the necessity of this kind of moderation, so the mods could be hand-off with Gameplay, which they did and have essentially remained so.
Dilber:
To be honest, both sides griefed. BUT, it was part of the game. There was less OOC issues imo

Early game intel would be called griefing by today's standards.
Alfonz:
I hear a lot about how raiders used to grief often back then. Why did they stop?
Blackbird:
Invaders stopped because they wanted to become respectable. They wanted to get involved in the feeders, the sink, other large regions. You look at people like Halcones, other invaders, who wanted to play the political game and were tired of the flack that invaders got. And well, defenders let them become respectable, rather than treating them like the pariahs that they should have been. At least, that's my opinion.
Benevolent Thomas:
Some would resume if they could. Influence makes the jucier targets out of reach. They also work with organizations that refuse to take part in griefing. The most troubling and truest answer is that there are too few remaining regions that would make for a good griefing.
Numero:
Griefing was partially stopped by influence, but not completely. The creation of the Security Council is probably the biggest shift in this regard. There would be raider groups holding regions for months on end and sticking around after passwords were in place to finish the job, sometimes taking years because of influence.

Liberation proposals made that impossible to do and opened up a lot of regions that were being held in this way.
Witchcraft & Sorcery:
Interesting that you mention Halcones because my perception of Halcones was always that he wasn't interested in the political game in the last years of TBR. Did you perceive any kind of change around the time tag raiding started to take off?
Sedge:
Griefing (region destruction) mostly died with the introduction of SC Liberations. They were regular before then (Macedon, Fox Rite, Catlandatopia etc.) but were extremely hard to do without secret passwords. EDIT: Numero types quicker than me :/(edited)
Witchcraft & Sorcery:
Not just about Halcones but r/d in general. And raider/defender participation in politics? Idk if that makes sense
Numero:
W&S, There was a specific shift in late 2008/09 when a lot of active userites began to take more interest in feeders. For a long time the game had been shrinking in numbers and in the post-ADN/anti-NPO world people were much less keen to get involved in 'feeder politics'.

When I joined the game, feeders were something you stayed away from and feeder politics were talked about as being a web of complexity that was best avoided. After we saw the stagnation in feeder communities and that this was leading to coup after coup (Westwind in TNP, the Empire in TEP) there were a lot of active players (particularly raiders and defenders) who realised that taking a seat at those tables was important.

Todd McCloud kind of led the way in that regard and forced people to rethink their general perception of "raider = bad" in feeders, because he was a pro-raider voice who was passing reform after reform that strengthened the security and stability of the feeders he was in
Dilber:
So before tag raid stuff, earlier R/D was a lot more straight defending vs raiders trying to hold with more pile offs

Blackbird:
Defenders were always engaged in politics. TWP and TNP were always connected to ALL and the ADN. TSP was friendly to defender causes. All multi-regional alliances are political entities. So defendering was always political.
Benevolent Thomas:
Responding to: 'Why do you still stick around and remain loyal to R/D?'
It's my niche. I forsook roleplaying in favor of it and I've been unable to reverse course. The competitive drive keeps me in the struggle and drives my activity.
Blackbird:
Can't forget the Rejected Realms and the RAA for that matter.
Witchcraft & Sorcery:
Was there ever a moment in your defending career where you considered switching sides or quitting entirely?
Blackbird:
I retired. I've been retired since like 2006-07 when I went into CyberNations. What did it? Probably the BS fallout around the so-called "forum destruction" that surrounded the RLA, as well as the general defender politiking that became so distasteful.
Dilber:
Responding to: 'Was there ever a moment in your defending career where you considered switching sides or quitting entirely?'
I kind of did. Post Core coup in TWP, I got really disillusioned with the ADN backing it and went over to the NPO. Not to the raiders, but to the NPO. The ADN didn't act as defenders in TWP at that point. BB got thrown under the bus for forum destruction but defenders as a whole were in on it. I should know, I was on that night and in on it. We had to condemn it in TWP due to pressure.
HumanSanity:
Dilber, I sorta did want to ask about this. I don't understand some of the history here and I'm curious: you (and TWP in general in my limited understanding) had a staunch defender history early on but have shifted over time. Could you explain some of that history? (you seem to be starting to explain it now)
Dilber:
HumanSanity, I wasn't there for the shift tbh, but it's probably a result of the players involved between Westwind and co leaving defending
Benevolent Thomas:
Responding to: 'In your opinion, how would NS look if the concept of R/D had not developed or was not possible due to technical restrictions by the NS admins? (Essentially, how crucial was its existence and the impact it caused.)'
Heaveria, NS could very well be dead, but I think it'd still be here. Events like Z-Day would have appeared sooner and the site would be a lot better off without us gameplayers treating other people's communities like our playgrounds.
Dilber:
The core coup made me realize that a lot of people didn't see defending the way I did. Early TWP was the pinnacle of democracy, which is kind of funny nowadays
Blackbird:
Dilber, you mean with Westwind and all that crew?
Dilber:
No, before that. The Biyah coup, the one that he blamed me for breaking because he said I was weak and didn't see what needed to be done. But I only joined to learn intel, and then leaked it all
Blackbird:
Yeah, Lake Lanier is like the pinnacle of TWP democracy, no?
Dilber:
Yeah, Lake Lanier was
Benevolent Thomas:
Responding to: 'What's the lowest point of your NS career?'
Getting banned from 10KI. That region was my identity at the time and the banning came with an enforced isolation from many who I considered friends.
Eist:
Similar to Thomas, my lowest point was being removed as TO and then deciding to leave XKI because of that
Dilber:
Blackbird, I'd say the RLA-ADN spat in 2005 really hurt defenderism in the feeders
Blackbird:
It really did, Dilber.
Dilber:
I think the core coup was really a response to the TWP treaty with RLA I pushed through. The heavy ADN influence really led to a backlash against defenderism in TWP later, it took time for it to come through, but in my opinion it's what broke the staunch stance

Honestly, the funny thing about defenderism, is by the time I became a defender in 2004 TSP wasn't defender. So, they get credit for early defenderism but dropped out of it real fast for years. That was really a result of NPO influence that gets understated.
Blackbird:
Pretty much every feeder except the NPO maintained some ties to the ADN, RLA, and defenderism in general. People didn't always like talking about it or publicizing it. I created the TWP intelligence structure for Lanier, when I was ADN. Though I don't think TWP would have wanted that publicized. TNP was in the ADN, and ADN obviously did a ton of work along with ALL, RLA, EAA, among others, during the liberation against Great Bight, UPS Rail and the NPO. People like Thel D'Ran, the Delegate after the liberation, were eternally grateful. Even Infinite Loop in TEP kept a lot of social ties to defenders.
Dilber:
Loop kept ties with everyone
Blackbird:
What changed was that the NPO engaged in long-term diplomacy in the other feeders to turn them against defenderism. They used a lot of the RLA and ADN infighting as a tool for that, with RLA generally being more pro-NPO than the ADN.

Yes, he did, Dilber. Loop was quite the social butterfly.
Dilber:
The surprising backdoor was Kandarin. Most people think of him as a staunch defender, but he really played all the angles. There was a lot of dirt that was learned when we social engineered our way into the TEP admin panel
Blackbird:
Oh? I don't know that I remember that.
Dilber:
Me, got it via Thel
Atlae:
Was this to gain IPs?
Dilber:
IPs, emails, forum database. Was one of my last things as WPIA, TEP had a nice hidden intel forum where TSP, TRR, NPO, and TEP posted, and there was a secondary one with more ADN talks so that was the TEP backchannels to Pope and crew
Aga:
How did the intelligence game work?
Dilber:
How did the intelligence game work?
Aga, lots of proxy work and long term ops
Blackbird:
Yeah, people now think of forums as so sacrosanct. Which makes sense. Forums are your community, and plenty of them have existed now for decades. But back in the days of 2003-06, forums were viewed as disposable. New forums were made all the time: a new Delegate comes into a region, they make a new forum. New invader group General, make a new forum. Want to have a Summit with another region, make a forum. Part of the reason to make new forums was to harvest IPs. But part of it was control: the new leader wanted the admin panel. So when things happened like an invader forum was "destroyed," it generally meant that the Forum of the Week for that invader group got closed. This really wasn't viewed as an unacceptable tactic because forums were just so disposable back then.

And of course, no one was using paid forums. We're all talking about ProBoards and InvisiionFree and stuff like that.
Dilber:
To be an intel agent, at least a good one, you needed basic technical understanding of proxies. How to use multiple browsers at once, which was a pain in 2004 so you could be on IRC at the same time with different IPs and accounts. Also, a willingness to change hours so things don't line up perfectly, the ability to change your typing patterns, and weird random knowledge of another place so you could pretend to be from elsewhere. Just living in the same city as a more "famous" player made you suspicious. There's a reason IP books were huge
Blackbird:
We'd often pretend to be the opposite sex, or in a different country or something like that.
Dilber:
If you notice my typing now, I still have "tells", but those were things I trained in as me that never went away. When working undercover, I didn't have the same typing patterns
Blackbird:
I tried to develop tells. Like chuckles. So you know, my alternate personas wouldn't do the "Blackbird" things.
Dilber:
There are common letter switches you'll see me still make, also things like ':V' The stars of sky profile pic I belive was unistrut's girlfriend at the time
Blackbird:
Intelligence was pretty crazy back then.
Alfonz:
By Unistrut do you mean Unibot?
Blackbird:
No. Unistrut was a prominent ADN member. Very militantly anti-RLA. Very pro-Pope Hope. Very anti-democratic.
Dilber:
I still think it's hilarious he was originally a raider spy. He joined NS with some friends and they decided to be raiders, and he went undercover, and then all his friends left the game so..he just did what he did
Blackbird:
He was also a Consul of the Meritocracy.
Dilber:
Early NS was a lot of intel and political proxy wars
Numero:
I remember during the Westwind coup of TNP deliberately making myself as much of an asshole as possible so that raiders would assume I couldn't possibly be the friendly, helpful guy with the cute bunny avatar on their forum. And obviously, once one side commits on the intel game it forces the other sides to make it a focus.
Atlae:
How is the makeup of the current R/D meta different from in the past? Are Intel ops as prevalent?
Dilber:
Atlae, no. I don't even need to be in modern R/D much to tell you that, intel WAS the meta
Blackbird:
Part of the intelligence game was controlling invader organizations. That's where the RLA and ADN parted on policy differences. A story I've told before here is the Red Factions story. The Red Factions (TRF) was a Red Liberty Alliance Intelligence operative. I was the Director of RLA Intelligence. I sent TRF into the DEN, an invader alliance. TRF eventually became the head of the DEN, and we used him to sow dissent within the alliance, creating infighting, weakening it, directing its invasions against weak, unimportant targets (think tag-raiding), and informing when it actually invaded a more significant target.
Numero:
There isn't anywhere near as much payoff now. Most militaries focus 90% of their energy on tagging (which just isn't worth having intel on), communities are much more stable and have senior leaderships that take far too much time to infiltrate and there is an extraordinary amount of extra curricular, social investment that you have to put in to climb the ladder - which brings with it some ethical challenges too
Blackbird:
Eventually, the ADN learned about the operation, and Unistrut contacted TRF and told TRF he would "out" him, and that TRF had to destroy the DEN forum as a result. So TRF did. Eventually, those same self-righteous defenders in the ADN, pro-invader forces in the feeders, and the nascent invader politicians took this incident to make a pariah out of the RLA, and weaken defending generally.
Benevolent Thomas:
The meta now is to exploit game mechanics to make yourselves as possibly good at the on-site actions of your faction as you can possibly. It's all about timing and influence calculating now. Math is the meta now.
Blackbird:
BT, see that's why intel was fun. You didn't have to be the fastest, the best, or the person with the best scripts. You had to be able to talk to you and pretend to be a normal player. Intel was open to a lot of players whose timezones didn't have them around during update, and was a good outlet for those kind of people.
Benevolent Thomas:
We have reawoken some intelligence works in the past few years, and it is indeed fun.
Dilber:
The real fun thing was founding a raider intel group as a defender. I was one of the founders of the Carbonari
Benevolent Thomas:
Thanks to this panel, everyone will be suspicious of any new raider orgs founded in the next year.
Blackbird:
Chuckles.
Dilber:
See, there's the tell
Benevolent Thomas:
Now they no longer expect me to do it.
Dilber:
This was in an email to Blackbird LinkImage
Blackbird:
To show you how crazy I am... LinkImage

I have the same email still.
Alfonz:
This ones more for defenders that were active during the post-UDL period: How bad did Unibot wreck defender-GCR relations?
Numero:
Unibot was nuclear
Benevolent Thomas:
Alfonz, ever see a defender get accused of subversiveness? That's thanks to the UDL. Defenders in general are still relatively un-trustworthy in the eyes of many important feeder politicians.
Controlitia:
Unibot was catastrophic
Atlae:
What did Unibot do, exactly? I hear vague things about subverting but which regions did he target and how
Numero:
He would happily tell outright lies to try and bend feeders to his will, import voters into regions to get his own way and he couldn't make an argument without swearing five times a sentence. He was an imperialist and nothing more.
Benevolent Thomas:
UDL members joined feeder militaries and leaked operational intel. That's the longest-lasting legacy, in my opinion.
Numero:
Obviously, his lies would be outed extremely quickly, everyone would turn against him because of his attitude and he would be name dropping defending the whole way too, despite being no ones spokesperson. Having him near our faction was terrible and he had crowned himself king and emperor of his own organization, making himself a permanent fixture.
Dilber:
Stuff related to Ivan's takeover of TNP LinkImage

Alfonz, do you know how we unmasked Ivan's group in TNP? Because that 100% would not be allowed today

Most people were lazy about proxies on their home forums, because they felt safe. We sent out a PM to the NPD leadership team, with a signature attached to a private server. We also had an avatar hosted on it for general IP harvesting when they opened the PM, we were able to look at server logs, and then compare it our IP book, and since they were on their home server, they weren't masked
Atlae:
Wait, isn't that like phishing?
Dilber:
Not really, it's just an IP grab. It's 100% legal regardless
Alfonz:
So you practically kept literal databases of IP addresses?
Dilber:
Yes, everyone did
Benevolent Thomas
General Knot was doing it in 2015
Blackbird:
Yes, we all had IP books.
Numero:
Yes, thousands and thousands of IPs
Dilber:
But that's reason why for ages avatars and sigs were disabled. That specific WPIA op
Alfonz:
WPIA?
Blackbird
People would harvest IPs from scripts they put in their signatures.
Dilber:
West Pacific Intelligence, Alfonz.

Yeah, we pioneered that. Sleepy did it off his server, Ivan was pissed lol
Blackbird:
If you admined a forum, you would regularly check the IP's of your members to see if they had deviated. Were they giving access to their forum account from someone else, for instance?
Witchcraft & Sorcery:
Oh yeah. Ever seen a flag counter on a regionís forum? Wanna know why thatís there? Itís to grab your IP.
Blackbird:
I eventually got tons of old ADN forum posts from an invader who ... acquired Ivan's ADN forum account.

Old old New Sparrow conflict stuff.
Alfonz:
How did they get a hold of Ivan's account? Wouldn't they need a password?
Dilber:
He gave it, if I recall correctly. There's a reason old forums were more than just masking. There were also passwords that were regularly changed on forums themselves

My IP book was around....5,500 unique IPs I believe. I still have it, they were traded for other people's books
Numero:
I remember knowing the security questions on a few individuals NS emails in case they ever brought up a subject that told us the answer
Alfonz:
you traded IPs for IPs...
Benevolent Thomas:
To this day, your IP is still currency. Being an admin on a irc channel is where you rack up the numbers.
Witchcraft & Sorcery:
BT is totally right. Itís all to scan your IP info. I canít imagine what the size of Wordy or ADís IP book was
Alfonz:
Can't your IP be used to doxx you?
Dilber:
You are thinking of it from current terms, it wasn't then, the people with IP books weren't doing OOC stuff. We treated it as part of the game
Alfonz:
Got it. different time, different tactics
Dilber:
Crafting fake intel was an art because you'd use it to target the raider leaders that weren't defender intel lmao
Atlae:
How much personal information does TEP have on me through its forums, and how much do other regions have? :P
Dilber:
Atlae, more than you think, but not enough to do anything
Atlae:
Were there any major counterintelligence operations?
Dilber:
Mine was one of the largest at the time, there were ALWAYS counter-intel, it never stopped
Blackbird:
The distinction between intelligence and counterintelligence is a fine one. If you ran an Invader group, was it intelligence? Or counterintelligence, because you controlled their intel division too?
Alfonz:
Why is 2000s NS less OOC?
Dilber:
Early internet was different, well early web 2.0, it was more of a wild west in general but because of that I think it was treated differently. There were still creeps, let's be real, there always will be but most of the players at the time were younger. So a lot of the major intel people were like 16-18 at the time so it was more of a "game" for us than anything
Numero:
Responding to: 'Were there any major counterintelligence operations?'
Both sides were running intelligence so all intel work involved counterintelligence aspects.

The FRA identified dozens and dozens of raider spies, many of which were simply used for tedious activities that tied up their WA.

The one that was named and shamed was Savaer (under the name Ancestral Tachi) who was convinced he has infiltrated the highest level of FRA intelligence only to find out every single topic in there was a spam thread that had been creatively repurposed and edited by admins to look like fake intel dating back over three years.
Blackbird:
Responding to: 'Why is 2000s NS less OOC?'
NS is a really crappy game. If you wanted to play NS in 2002-03, it made you were a politics nerd, or some sort of RP nerd. "Gameplay" was always an afterthought. So you know, we RPed as nations, as these political personas often with RL politics, and engaged in politiking with other nations and alliances. The notion of doxing or engaging in OOC attacks really wasn't commonplace or done at all. I wish that the Meritocracy's forums were still around, so you could see how some of it looked. I had my nation "Cortath" there. If I wanted to debate on some legislation or something, my post might begin as, "The Senator from the Twenty-Third President of the United Socialist States of Cortath walked up to the gravel, shuffled some papers quietly, and said, "My fellow Senators..."
Numero:
There are people in the game today who are still bitter about us framing their genuine members...
Blackbird:
So when you're playing the game that way, those sorts of OOC attacks and doxing, which I gather is more common, didn't really come into it.
Humansanity:
Responding to: 'How has the pace of the game changed since earlier days (i.e. amount of GP stuff per units RL time)? '
I often feel like the Discord-ification of NS has sped things up - e.g. major diplomatic crises emerge and are resolved within 24 hours, etc. In my mind, the rise of mobile phones and generally more "plugged in" culture across NS and RL has contributed to that, but I wonder if that reflects reality as others understood it
Dilber:
HumanSanity, early NS was VERY fast-paced because the people involved were all nerds that wanted to be on a computer, elections were monthly or 6 weeks
Blackbird:
Early NationStates always struck me as very fast. Invasions would happen in a few hours. We would scramble. The next day it would be someone else. Invader alliances and groups might rise and fall in only a few weeks, before they'd be gone to something else. Perhaps because I contrast this in my mind to CyberNations, where wars last months or even years now, but early NS always seemed very fast.
Ananke10/29/2020
I think the political side of gameplay was faster paced in early NS, partly because so many things were going on in different spheres of the game and regional governments were less entrenched.

Defending might be 'quick' with triggers these days, but it's also a lot more boring imo. Back in the day defending took up a much larger part of the day, so more people could participate.
Alfonz:
So...best defender in your opinion? Can be from any period
Benevolent Thomas:
Myself. I can't do anything nearly as well as others can, but there's something about me, some X factor that really draws in my admiration for myself.
Numero:
BT might disagree but Anime Daisuki was the best defender in my opinion.

Special mentions to Wordy, Haku, Vinny, BT, Neas and Spartz
Ananke:
Ballotonia was a very good defender.
Aga:
Best contemporary defender? And why.
Numero:
Haku, because Haku. Total all-rounder who doesn't seek the glory and excels at literally everything to the point that we don't even comment on it most the time now
Dilber:
Yeah Ballo was fantastic, I don't think there ever really is one "best" defender imo
Alfonz:
Why are there so many defenders who are coders?
Dilber:
It's a niche game which attracts nerds. You'll see collections of coders everywhere lol
Eist:
Text based games from the 21st century will always attract a certain type of person
Numero:
We were also getting beat for years because we were trying to do everything manually. We needed new coders (other than Elu) and thankfully they stepped up and joined the cause.
Blackbird:
Also, you have to remember, this is a game that formed in 2002. The internet was still newer, not everyone had it. Computers, networking, etc., was harder. It took work to get things set up and working and maintaining things. You didn't buy a cell phone in a prepackaged ecosystem and everything worked. So I guess my old man rant is that if you were on computers in the 90's, you knew how to make them work. And most of the coding we did was not complex.
Alfonz:
Yeah but defender coders are more likely to be admins (Eluvatar, Ballotonia) and I couldn't list raider coders on the top of my head
Pelotudo:
Chingis? (As example of raid coder, not admin)
Atlae:
Chingis lol
Dilber:
Lets be honest, Puppetmaster was 100% an exploit but it was approved by the mod team
Ananke:
But we asked for permission before we used it
Dilber:
Yup, they (puppetmaster) were known individuals in the community with a known ability to try to break the game. Who better to admin it? They were known specifically for being good people which was needed post-Jolt. Jolt almost killed nationstates on it's own
Ananke:
If [violet] had said no, we wouldn't have used pre-endorsements for Puppetmaster.
Blackbird:
Free4ALL/Ballatonia always kept a really low political profile, much to his credit.
Alfonz:
Wait what's puppetmaster?
Ananke:
Puppetmaster was the plan which let us liberate TNP from Great Bight in 2004.
Dilber:
Stars of Sky was Puppetmaster II which was slightly modified

Actually, one of my favorite things from Stars of Sky wasn't the actual gameplay mechanic. It was the counter-intel work that went into it, preparing different pre-endo lists with different punctuation so we could see who leaked literally different punctuation, spacing, etc etc
Ananke:
In the early days the Moderation subforum on the official forum was pretty much the Gameplay subforum. Good times.
Numero:
Dilber, that's awesome! We use puppetmaster style tactics in some big liberations today now too
Blackbird:
We did similar things in intel. At the RLA, we had raider spies who had come in, and I assigned them to intel. I'd put them in forums like "DEN Spy #7," so you know, they'd go back and report to DEN that there were six other spies in DEN! Oh, hilarity.
Numero:
The other day, I was remembering that I'd artificially alter peoples post counts on the FRA forum so you wouldn't know they were posting in restricted (intel) areas
Dilber:
We used to create entirely separate intel boards to run spies off of which again..one of the reasons forums were considered disposable. We'd make them for anything, real intel boards, fake intel boards, a board that was just a gigantic flash game center
Atlae:
How and when did the perception of forum destruction change?
Dilber:
TRF destruction of the invaders, I believe. Big push politically that even in TWP we had to release a statement condemning it. Might have been DEN, there were two ops that did it.
Numero:
LWU getting their forum destroyed by DEN also had an impact on the wider perception, because they were more accepting of it as a tactic before then too
Ananke:
One of the reasons the puppetmaster tactic worked really well back in the day was because there were no national happenings (or other info), so the NPO delegate couldn't see which nations out of the thousands in TNP were involved in the liberation. That + we didn't need everyone to be online at update and only 3 people knew the name of the lead nation.
Dilber:
Ananke, it was also the fact that the lead could update surf as well, and come in with those endos at the last second so it helped avoid bans (if need be) as a secondary tactic.

Puppet Master was a REALLY cool thing
Ananke:
Yeah, and we could sign up people to provide UN nations without having to worry too much about spies. And we totally had a bunch of spies in the list of people signing up to participate lol
Dilber:
They sent in links for us to click, but it didn't join them to the UN, they joined later but didn't know who they endorsed since the first nation wasn't UN either yet
Blackbird:
It was really quite the operation. I sort of watched it from afar. By the time of Puppetmaster II, RLA and ADN weren't getting along, and I spent most of my political capital trying to keep TPC from withdrawing from ADN.
Dilber:
Btw, if you want to see an old piece of history, this is the top two endo count in TNP on August 19th, 2005, courtesy of BB LinkImage

This is what we used to have to use, there was no API so no fancy tools worked. That was from a brute force scrapeĖwhat did it used to take, Blackbird 45 min or so?
Blackbird:
It took a long time on the feeders. I automated my script to run them at night on my machine, because it took so long to do all the regions I scanned. Hours. I ran scans on 241 regions.
Dilber:
TWP same date LinkImage
Ananke:
I have an old screenshot of Francos Spain in TRR somewhere, right after he got kicked from TNP together with Great Bight. That's a nice memory.
Dilber:
Did you know FS tried to come back later?
Blackbird:
It pissed us off, because of how NPO had played his "departure."
Dilber:
FS was never the power in NPO, he tried again in CN btw. Without Mammo and Posk, NPO would have failed very early on
Blackbird:
Unlimited, Mammothistan, Warrior Thorin, a couple others. Really was the power that made the NPO into what it is.
Dilber:
Mammo and posk earlier, second wave was Unlimited, WT, Blackadder. Mammo came back again later...Sir Paul was the person that made the biggest dent in other feeders
Alfonz:
Didn't FS found the NPO?
Dilber:
He did, he got lucky
Blackbird:
The Pacific circa 2006. LinkImage
Dilber:
Sir Paul was legitimately the best propogandist to ever play Nationstates
Blackbird:
Sir Paul wrote a symphony for CN NPO!
Dilber:
Fun fact on that number 3 guy in that screenshot, he went by another name: Savage Lands Reloaded
Ananke:
I was still pretty new, when Savage Lands tried to take the delegacy in TSP and TWP, so that made a big impression on me, and made me realize how deep NS gameplay went.
Blackbird:
Lol, what Ananke said.
Ananke:
But didn't Savage Lands hold the delegacy of The Pacific a couple of times during TheDoc's time as well? So he went over to the NPO later or?
Dilber:
Yes, he did. He was...I think AA at the time but might not be 100% correct on that, this is from convos with dopp in like...2008 or so. I learned a lot of secret history from being NPO emperor in CN
Ananke:
I never really participated the intel side of the game. I can't lie to save my life, so I probably have less exciting stories than Dilber, Blackbird and Numero. Defending and regional building was more my thing.
Dilber:
Ananke was one of the best "glue" people in the game if that makes sense
Blackbird:
I never met a defender who could say a bad word about Ananke.
Ananke:
I do think I was fortunate to join The North Pacific during the time I did though, since there was no real government, just 3-4 people who traded the delegacy, so I got in on the ground floor and got to help build up the first government.
Blackbird:
Ananke, what was it like being in TNP in the beginning? And how was TNP involved in early defender politics and actions back then?
Ananke:
It was great. TNP was fortunate to have Nastic, Treenudity, Wilkshire and The Twoslit Experiment, who wanted the region to develop and each in their own way helped the rest of us along. What I most remember was how small and close-knit the community felt and we all just kind of tried things out, especially after the old guys faded a bit into the background and we were a group of new players who tried to develop the government and system.

So, having played this long, do you guys have any regrets? There's things looking, which with hindsight I could have done better, but there's only two things I still kind of regret not having done differently in NS.
Dilber:
Kind of? My regrets are more based across both NS/CN and it's more OOC than anything
Ananke:
First, during Great Bights takeover I was so busy organizing the liberation and gathering allies that I missed/downplayed the signs of internal discord. I should've been more inclusive and spent more time explaining to people why we were doing what we did. A lot of the later toxity in TNP came from that time.
Dilber:
Oh yeah 100%, the GiE felt slighted a lot. TWP had propped up the GiE and there was a lot of discord between natives and defenders, with a lot of natives feeling minimized but Ananke I don't blame you tbh, the GiE was kinda infiltrated to sh*t
Blackbird
The Government in Exile also was very miffed that they weren't included more into the ALL/ADN-led planned liberation, included more in the planning that is.
Ananke:
Second, I wish I'd been more involved in the resistance towards Pixiedance, but at that point, I was so worn down that just being admin at the TNP forum was bad enough, since I didn't enjoy it at all and only did it because I was the only option.
Numero:
I regret not putting a sleeper in TNI
Ananke:
Part of the reason we kept info about the liberation close was that we remembered how earlier pacific liberation plans leaked like a sieve. But also part of it, was that there was just not hours enough in the day to do everything we had to, so personally I focused on the areas, where could do the most.
Benevolent Thomas:
My only NS regret has nothing to do with NS, ironically enough. I was needlessly cruel to someone I cared about. Seeing as long as it took for me to type it out, I'm still grappling with it.
Ananke:
Going back to the 2nd part of Blackbird's question. In the early days (2nd part or 2003 and early 2004) a lot of TNP's defender orientation rested on The Twoslit Experiment really. We only got really active defending after joining ADN. However, from what I've been able to gather TNP people were pretty vocal about FS in The Pacific earlier than that and a number of people participated in some of the liberation attempts. It wasn't really coordinated.

The biggest reason I later joined 10KI was to get away from feeder politics and because I was pretty sure they'd never abandon defending heh.

Also, my first gameplay action in NS was Twoslit sending me into the Pacific to spy on FS. It took me like one day to find out that I'm a crap spy.
Blackbird:
Something I regret is not abandoning my duality. Back in the day, it was commonplace to have multiple nations who would participate in different regions differently. Some people's alternative nations would simply be outgrowths of their "main" while others would be entirely different. I had my alternate, "Cortath" be a totally separate nation in the Meritocracy. But eventually, more and more people abandoned the notions of duality, and people always wanted me to pick a persona, or pick sides. That was stressful and really made the game not very fun for me. People thought I was moving intel from one persona to the other, or influencing the Meritocracy to further some left-wing defender agenda, or giving left-wing intel secrets to gain credit in the Meritocracy. Things like that. Duality made me spread too thin, and I could never serve so many masters, especially as with IRC becoming popular, more and more people no longer made the distinction between duality. It's really what led me to retire from NS and go into CN.
Ananke:
I still can't believe was all kinda let Moldavi get away with claiming duality back then lol
Numero:
What was it about NS that got you hooked?
Ananke:
Participating in my first liberation of The Pacific. Made me realize that there was this whole other game in NS, which I was wanted to be part of. Took me a while to really get my foot in that door though.
Dilber:
The TWP community. I had an upset victory of Neenee for foreign affairs ministry using the forbidden tactic of PMing people to tell them there was a vote
Prarie:
Dilber, what conflict is there being in a relatively raider-aligned and meritocratic region while being a defender?
Dilber:
I'm not so much an active defender at this point tbh, I don't want to stay up that late
Prarie:
What about alignment-wise, though?
Dilber:
I wouldn't necessarily consider TWP to be fully raider aligned in the way that most people think and I will be more open to working with groups that we might not have otherwise before, so feel free to message me after next week :V
Prarie:
Defender TWP when?
Dilber:
Lmao, I wouldn't say defender TWP, but I will say that we are independent and perfectly willing to find fun wherever
Numero:
What do you think made the NPO and Gatesville great villains of the game?
Dilber:
Numero, the people and a willingness to play the villain. I was actually Gatesville HC for a bit
Blackbird:
NPO was smart. They really exemplified the notion that you should have roles in your region for every single type of player. There are players who don't want to raid, but want to write philosophy, so Unlimited made "Francoism." There are people who just want to do media, so they do that. Etc., etc.
Ananke:
The NPO people were also a lot more skilled than most of invaders at the time, so they were seen as the bigger threat.
Numero:
Do you think having a clear ideology is necessary for that too? (Francoism and the authoritarian policies of that group, the anti-UN position of Gatesville)
Blackbird:
Numero, not to get too post-modernist here, but everyone has an ideology. Not everyone writes it down though.
Dilber:
The fun thing about Francoism is people still don't realize it's not a real ideology. Francoism was whatever the NPO needed to be. The issue with later NPO (prior to current leadership whom are actually all great) is that they started huffing their own farts and believed in it. Having a set position that you can point to gives you a rallying point for your organization, NPO and Gatesville both used an "against the world" mentality to drive activity
Numero:
That might lead me into my next question - which adversary did you respect the most, and also, which raider did you respect the most (if different)?
Blackbird:
NPO and its Union of Sovereigns alliance was always something I feared most, because they had organization, they had smarts, and they had numbers in a feeder they could rally.

I was never really afraid of any invader group, because they could always be infiltrated and disrupted.
Dilber:
Can I give an answer about who I respected the least? Hint: it was the black hawks. I am amazed they survived, early black hawks were so goddamn bad at the game

TBH existed early on, I know they list a later founding date, but they were founded in 2005 and were just really, really bad at the game. But I respected NPO the most as well, it's one of the reasons I eventually went over to them over other orgs. I never had an urge to be a raider tbh
Ananke:
For invaders I liked Ackbar, but most invaders back then were pretty annoying, either they'd be griefing or assholes.
Numero:
TBH were truly awful, for quite a long time too
Blackbird:
A lot of invaders were younger too, I felt, or more immature, which you know, made it harder to relate to them.
Numero:
About 5 years probably
Blackbird:
And we were younger then! In the past. And they were younger still!
Dilber:
NS has technically been part of my life for half my actual life, even when I wasn't playing I'd check in to see the stories and say hi to people
Ananke:
Yeah, me too. Well, I've had periods away from the game, sometimes for years, but I still always kept my nation alive and endorsing the delegate.
Dilber:
Tbf, I did live abroad and NS was blocked in China for at least part of it lol, so my nation doesn't look nearly as old

Ironically, I'd have been a better updater in China, just think, I could have had update at noon
Ananke:
Having major update from 10:00 to 13:00 worked pretty well when I was still studying.
Blackbird
Yeah, definitely doable as a student. Can't do that if you're working a normal job. At least, this tired schmuck can't.
Ananke:
In the earlier years the Americans could still participate, even if they weren't around at update. When I got online a couple of hours before update the American defenders had often already spotted a couple of invasions and we'd keep an eye on invasions closer to the update.
Dilber:
I mentioned earlier about more piling happening earlier on, since update times were random for regions and all spotting was manual. There was still usually a good 15-30 updaters on every night
Ananke:
Being online during update, a lot of what I remember doing (other than spotting) was moving people from defense to defense and sometimes running after jumpers. Liberations were often spur of the moment, without a lot of planning going into it, other than possibly getting a password.
Dilber:
Yup, that's about right, lol
Blackbird:
So, Ananke, Dilber, what were you perspectives on the ADN "reloading" and the abolition of its democracy, from the perspective of feeder natives?
Dilber:
ADN did it's first reload before I was really active if I recall correctly
Blackbird:
Then I guess I'm thinking about the second one? Cuz you were my deputy as Secretary of State at that point.
Dilber:
Yeah I was. I remember still being really into the ADN at that point, I was a true believer at the time. It wasn't later until I got disillusioned. Ironically, one of my first disillusionments was when I was elected Dep Director. I still wasn't trusted enough for certain counter-intel even though I was leading WPIA, but Biyah was

I still believed in defending, but that was one of the earliest "cracks" for me where the NPO propaganda made some sense
Ananke:
Well, I supported getting rid of the constitution and making ADN reloaded. I felt bad about the secrecy at the time, but still felt it was the right move. However, looking back it was a mistake to only include e.g. TWP and some other regions late.
Dilber:
Yeah, TWP had been one of the major armies at the time and it was a big slap in the face to the region. It played into the propaganda from the other side that the ADN didn't actually care about us, and just wanted our numbers
Blackbird:
I had to place an alt in Nasicournia, and claim membership in the ADN there after my region, the Proletariat Coalition, withdrew.
Ananke:
ADN reloaded was partly to get rid of the bloated bureaucracy and partly to get rid of EuroSoviets/ASE. It was always going to create strife, but I felt like ADN was already getting torn apart by toxic politics, so I saw it as the lesser evil.
Alfonz:
Any advice for new/upcoming defenders?
Dilber:
Alfonz, enjoy the game. Never let it feel like work
Ananke:
Step back if it stops being fun. And with time you're going to look back at a lot of the NS rivalries you've had with people and not really understand why you didn't just work things out.
Dilber:
Ha, right?
Ananke:
Just think how much less gameplay action there would've been, if we'd all been less suspicious of eachother's motives. Looking back, there's a bunch of times where I was totally paranoid someone was doing something shifty and in hindsight, they probably weren't.
Blackbird:
Well, that's what makes it fun, no?
Ananke:
True. And it's not like paranoia isn't justified in a lot of cases too. Sometimes it just gets hard to distinguish.
Benevolent Thomas:
Also, I recommend that if you're going to commit to the game, really go for it. Make big plays and try to change the world.
Witchcraft & Sorcery:
That was always my problem BT. I wasnít ambitious enough. Iíve still got time. My job is only 13 hours a week rn
Benevolent Thomas:
At some point, every defender that has ever been commended decided that they wanted it and they went for it. Even if they won't admit it ;)
Ananke:
And don't be afraid to try new sides of the game - other than going raider of course.
Dilber:
Also, find and make protťgťs. If the game still exists 15 years from now, finding out the exploits of people you trained is a really rewarding feeling
Blackbird:
100%.
Benevolent Thomas:
1000%
Blackbird:
However much I've messed up in this game, it's beyond satisfying to see institutions you were part of persist, and to see people whom you worked with and trained to ascend to even loftier heights.
[gra] rom10/29/2020
Dilber:
Lmao, Blackbird, I forgot the last important defender feud. The Young World HATED Me
Blackbird:
The Young World ... that names rings a bell.
Dilber:
More spammy than TEP, they came from an offsite (youngworld) and had a cult of personality around their delegate. They claim to be the first to take all the warzones, but they weren't, the coalition of bored defenders did it. We stole a couple warzones from them and they were pissy about it
Ananke:
Corinthe used to have it out for CG and ADN, because we stopped an invasion, sorry "pre-defense" of hers.
Dilber:
Corinthe was a uh..."character"
Blackbird:
Oh god. Corinthe. Some of these early internet personalities. I feel like it's different today. But maybe there are regions out there run as cults of personality still.
Dilber:
TYW...called themselves defender, but they were uh, not
Sedge:
They were later on - by the time they were in the FRA. But I think Corinthe wasn't so relevant then, and it was Sir Lans, DYP, Gateborg and others who more more prominent.
Ananke:
Question for Blackbird; How did you balance being active in both ADN and RLA for so long? At some I had to pick one, since I couldn't take the constant sh*t talking from both sides.
Blackbird:
Well, it was a problem. I tried to stay in the middle, and by the end of it, neither side liked me. I mean, people on each side did.

But I lost power within the RLA, though this was during the RLA's decline. I remained a power within my region, but a new generation advocated for more open, more democratic politics. And I remained in my post at ADN for a while, though this was also during ADN's decline.

And eventually, the ultra-capitalists in the Meritocracy essentially deposed me as Consul, though they adopted my politics of Meritocratic Cultural Imperailism.
Ananke:
yeah, I did tried to do that too, but I just ended up constantly having to listen to everyone complaining about the other side, and since I liked most people on both sides it was just wearing.
Blackbird:
People like Eurosoviets, Xha'dam, and others in the RLA hated that I worked for ADN and were worried that I was secretly passing them info. People like Unistrut and Pope Hope felt the same way going the other way.
Dilber:
Yeah I was in the middle trying to mediate
Blackbird:
I feel like part of it was the personalization of politics in NS, that came from the more group dynamic of IRC and Discord. When you and I came up in an era when most political interactions were one-on-one through IM systems. That allowed the RP dynamic of having multiple nations to persist. But you can't do that when you're on IRC talking to groups of people.

So well, I guess that's my answer to your question.
How did you balance it?
Ananke:
I was less involved in RLA than you were, and I ended up picking ADN, because I knew people there better. I would've liked to have gotten more involved in RLA, if the ADN/RLA relationship hadn't been so toxic. Being friends with EuroSoviets was a real balancing act though. I got so much crap for that.
Blackbird:
Yeah. Eurosoviets was a good person, a good defender, and a good politician. But he had no tolerance for anti-democratic politics, so him and the ADN were just like water and oil. It could never mix.

And frankly, American RL politics made people very suspicious of the Red Liberty Alliance's politics, which spanned from more communist and socialist ideologies to more social-democratic views.
Ananke:
ES also thought 90% of the people in gameplay were morons and didn't mind telling them to their face, so didn't make a lot of friends.
Blackbird:
Chuckles. Yeah, he definitely thought that.
Ananke:
I remember around that time there also was some chatter on the official forum about opening up some old regional forums, so people could see some NS history. I spent some time with PH and Goober trying to find ADN threads we could make public, but most of the interesting threads still had stuff we didn't really want to make public without permission from the people involved, so it didn't get anywhere.
Blackbird:
I still have the old TPC forums. Always wondered if I should open that up.

I also have the RLA server backups. Not sure how easy it would be to extract content from that.
Numero:
I wondered if they would still be preserved somewhere, sadly most of the other NS forums have been lost
Blackbird:
Proboards is still around.
Witchcraft & Sorcrey:
All of the old invisionfree forums are totally lost it looks like

[Conversation fades to off-topic before becoming inactive]


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