History and Description of the Paperless Movement, written by Mikey
Dubbed by some as "The FA Revolution" paperless is a philosophy of Foreign Affairs the emphasizes flexibility and strong but informal friendship. The term "Paperless" comes from the fact that its most visible feature is an absence of the treaties, (paper) that has been the hallmark of Foreign Affairs in past nation simulators. It has become one of the two dominant strains of FA policy in Project Terra. The policy was first seriously though about and discussed when Mikey of SK and Prefontaine of Guardian separately started suggesting and pushing it during PT 1.0 After long discussing within and between many different alliances, the Paperless Movement got its real jumpstart when Seven Kingdoms and the New Pacific Order officially declared they were paperless in early March 2012. Withing a few months, Liquid Zero and the Black Knights followed suit, giving the movement even more impetus.
Paperless does not mean neutral. Many paperless alliances have alliances they plan to defend, and plan to be defended by, as well as rival alliances they compete with. Political rivalries, coalition warfare, multiple "sides" over a given issues, etc, can all exist in a paperless world.
The only difference is that paperless "allies" are more like real life friends who you trust and count on to have each other's backs, than the traditional concept of alliances (as seen in Cybernations) with legally binding treaties requiring both parties to come to each other's aid. As you will read below, this provides much needed flexibility, greater incentives to maintain close relationships, and safeguards against stagnation.
The paperless movement initially arose as a reaction to the stagnation and rigidity in games such as Cybernations brought about by treaty webs, and the prevention of such stagnation is one of the major reasons behind going paperless. In Cybernations, the traditional FA model involved alliances trying to grab as many treaties as it could, to better ensure its safety and dominance in war.
The effect of this treaty-grab was to tie the world up in an ever more complex treaty web. Alliances had to tip-toe around each other for fear of dragging the whole world into conflict. Small conflicts between feuding alliances gave way to pent up frustration and unsolved disputes that exploded every year into a large, months-long global war that affected nearly every alliance. Even worse, these wars were won or lost before any shots were fired - whichever side could activate the most treaties and bring in the most muscle was guaranteed to win. Rather than act as exciting and suspenseful conflicts, wars became stale statistical equations, with alliances going through the motions as their dull choreography reached its mathematically inevitable conclusion.
Moreover, due to the complexity and interconnectivity of the treaty web, alliances sympathetic to Side A would often wind up tied to, and forced to fight for, Side B, as the treaty obligations of their allies, and their allies allies formed a chain reaction dragging them in.
The Paperless Movement seeks to fix that stagnation and add an element of surprise to the game. In a paperless world, wars are no longer black and white; X treaties versus Y treaties. Gone is the reliable mathematical equation, in its place is uncertainty and excitement. The rallying cries of rival sides could gather any alliance to its side. Who will join side A? Who will join side B? Rather than sitting stony-faced in front of their monitors, running statistical regressions on the NS value each side will inevitably bring in, alliance leaders are hanging on the edge of their seats, racing into last minute negotiations to convince others to come in to the fray or stay on the sidelines, constantly wondering who will support whom, which way the scales will turn.
Leaders must also think carefully about their reasoning for going to war; who will my casus beli turn off, and who will it turn on? No longer able to war "just because" and have treaties drag everyone in, alliances will have to fine-tune their messages and communicate to others just why their cause is just, and why they should take part.
Some people will argue that getting rid of treaties is destabilizing - the added uncertainty making it harder to plan for future wars and know what you will be up against. Wars, now far less certain, will be harder to fight. And this is true, wars will be more difficult to plan for, and potentially harder to win. And we think that's a good thing.
Yes we now face a greater challenge, but we also face a much more enjoyable struggle. There is a reason you play on higher difficulty settings when you get better at a game; while playing on the lower settings makes it much easier to win, the game and the win itself are much less satisfying. Winning is a destination, and one that in itself is relatively worthless - it is the journey to it that gives it meaning, and the more meaningful the journey, the more meaningful the destination. We would rather face the challenge of the unknown than the certainty of an excel spreadsheet - we think you would too.
Paperless doesn't just help rid the game of stagnation, it also lets you take full control of your foreign relations back into your own hands. Using the paperless approach, alliances can never be dragged into conflicts that they do not support, and will always have the freedom and flexibility to defend who they wish. No more will alliances be forced to utter the dreaded phrase, "We do not support the actions of alliance X, however due to our treaty obligations we must come to their aid and fight for their cause."
Paperless can help with these and other sticky situations. What if two of your friends are fighting? If you are treatied to one or both of them they can argue that you have a legal responsibility to intervene, forcing you to take sides or perform the ultimate taboo and renege on a treaty.
What if one of your allies does something you find morally wrong and end up in a war because of it? With treaties you are stuck fighting for them, even if they were dicks and demanded someone's disbandment for no reason or planted a spy-ring and got found out. Just as I wouldn't defend a real life friend if he punched a cop in the face or punted a baby and ended up in a fight because of it, I wouldn't defend someone I considered an ally if they did something morally wrong and deserved the beatdown.
With paperless, your course of action is in your own hands.
Some say that paperless is just an excuse for cowards to be able to weasel out of conflict rather than face the music. This is certainly a risk of being paperless, but it is one that we think is minimal. The alliance that would abandon you while paperless is the same alliance that would e-lawyer their way out of fighting for you, or only fight with the bare minimum to technically fulfill obligations if it had a treaty. The potential for those without honor to ditch you is something we face in either FA model. I trust those I consider friends to stand by me, and more often than not they will. Just as I do not require my RL friends to sign a contract pledging to have my back in a fight, I don't feel the need to make other alliances sign similar contracts. We like each other. We are friends. We have each other's backs. If that needs to explicitly be spelled out and enforced, you probably shouldn't be binding yourself to the other alliance in the first place.
It has been said that if you curate your treaties carefully, you can avoid being stuck defending something you do not support. If you trust an ally, they say, you should be able to sign a treaty with them, and not worry about what happens if they turn out badly. Even if they do end up doing something wrong, you are honor bound to defend them - its what real allies do.
To this we reply, simply, "no". First, you are never bound to defend the actions of a friend that you do not agree with, that is mostly certainly not what real friends do. If one of my RL friends goes crazy tomorrow and tries to carjack someone and they fight back, I am not going to help him, and nobody would expect me to.
And real trust is trusting that they will defend you without a treaty. Having the option to sit out is a contingency for rare and unfortunate circumstances when your friends do something you find morally objectionable. We don't expect our allies to betray our shared ideals, however it could happen. Leaderships change after all; a new group that we don't know as well could be elected in the next election cycle and start trying to disband other alliance/ engage in other douchebaggery before we can see it coming.
Believing that the alliance you like today will always be the same and that there is no chance it can go downhill is not trust, its naivety. Real trust is saying that you don't think you need a treaty to count on the others support. Real friendships is saying we won't tie you to us in case we do something stupid/wrong in the future.
What are you waiting for? Trust in your allies, trust in the future of the game, and take the plunge - freedom awaits.