Once in a while I write about it too. This here destructoid blog discusses the game in a more tie-wearing, serious-business fashion with less focus on readers that already play the game. For less formal 'jeans-and-a-tshirt' style EVE blogging, I have a tumblr titled A Really Bad Spaceship Game where I post quotes from Jabber, screenshots taken during ops, and write about whatever I feel like.
Note: As always, this map serves as a good way for those unfamiliar with the EVE landscape to understand what and where I'm talking about. Most of the events in this post happen in the South/Southwest.
Another Note: Sorry for the walls of words, but Eve politics are impossibly complex, and giving a cliffsnotes of the situation to someone who isn't keeping up with the daily news is basically impossible.
The last couple months have been busy in New Eden. In a previous post I summarized the (at the time) current relations between the two largestalliances in the game, and how the situation between them might play out. As it happens, nothing happened. Tempers cooled, Montolio, the leader of Test Alliance Please Ignore, resigned from his position, and things went back to normal. At least as normal as anything ever gets in Eve Online.
Following Montolio's resignation, TEST went through a leadership shuffle, burning through two alliance leaders in as many weeks, until a player named BoodaBooda stepped into the role. While this was going on Pandemic Legion quietly bowed out of Honeybadger Coalition to do other things. The fact they hung out as long as they did is surprising, because PL have crafted a reputation as a very successful nomadic alliance and mercenary group. Commonly viewed as the alliance with the most skill and largest capital fleets in the coalition, and often considered the best alliance in the game, this was a blow to the coalition's morale. To many people just the thought of having PL on their side was enough to convince them of their invincibility.
All of this happened around the time Fanfest was going on. As the largest player gathering in the world for Eve players, hosted by CCP itself in Iceland, many of the game's leaders and public figures make the trip every year. Goonswarm Federation's the mittani, Progodlegend - the leader of Nulli Secunda, Sort Dragon - the head of Honeybadger Coalition (which TEST is a prominant member and founder of), Shadoo of Pandemic Legion, and many other people made their way to Iceland.
A trailer that premiered during the EVE Online keynote speech during Fanfest. A must-watch.
Fanfest is usually a time when people set aside their in-game differences and rivalries, instead getting drunk together with the game's developers, and partying at the top of the world for almost an entire week in Reykjavik, Iceland. This year however, the partying resulted in the death of a coalition.
Allegedly Progodlegend, while drunk, insulted Sort Dragon's wife, leading to resentment on the part of Sort Dragon. The full extent of the situation is a little fuzzy, as other Fanfest visitors recalled Progodlegend as a very affable person during the rest of the event. Upon returning home, Sort Dragon declared that the HBC was going to war against Nulli Secunda.
Honeybadger Coalition is kind of an unusual player organization. It's much more like a loose federation of buddies than a strict coalition that almost always moves as a single entity (a la The Clusterfuck Coalition). Member alliances were allowed in for a variety of nebulous reasons, ranging from "You're sense of humor is similar to ours" to "You hate Goonswarm and that might be useful if shit hits the fan". This allowed the HBC to balloon it's member count to astronomical levels, becoming the largest player organization in the history of the game. This was helpful because during last year's summer conflict colloquially known as "Delve 2012", the HBC hoovered up incredible amounts of space, and they needed warm bodies to fill it with. The HBC at it's peak could claim to have control of all the space from Fountain in the west all the way to Catch and parts of Immensea in the southeast. TEST was actually officially recognized by CCP as breaking the record for the largest number of controlled systems by a single alliance. At the time they had sovereignty control in four complete regions: Fountain, Delve, Querious, and Period Basis.
A compilation of video taken during TEST/HBC operations in mid-late 2012. This period was characterized by massive expansion. The video has the characteristic irreverence of most TEST propaganda in it's choice of J-pop music for the soundtrack.
Many of these coalition members were considered "renters". A renter is exactly what it sounds like: An alliance that rents space from a larger or more competent alliance. This is a very traditional way of earning money in Eve, especially in the south, because most of the space there is poor quality, and lacks valuable money moons. The idea is that the renting alliance pays another alliance for the right to live in their space and make a living. The space-owning alliance then uses that income to protect it's renters. Over the years this system has been given various (mostly derogatory) names, such as "Space Feudalism", and "Serfdom Online", and renters have been referred to as "pets" or "meat shields".
The point of explaining all of this is to shed light for the average person as to why the HBC collapsed as easily as it did. There were several reactions from alliances throughout the coalition to the announcement of a grudge war with Nulli Secunda. Most people didn't really have anything against them, and Sort Dragon had failed to craft an engaging narrative to justify the war. Others didn't want the war because it would cut into their profits. The further east you went, the less enthusiasm there was to fight because Nulli's territory was half a galaxy away. Test itself was against the war. After Goonswarm and Test reset standings with each other, Many of Goonswarm's combat squads deployed down to NPC-owned space in Delve and Fountain to fight with Test or harass their renters. Test didn't have any free time to fight somebody else's war.
Shortly after the announcement, Test decided to withdraw from the HBC. Rumors said that Sort Dragon somehow made threats to Test if they didn't follow his lead. Possibly hinting at removing Test members from positions of power within the coalition. As the largest alliance in the coalition, and one of it's founding members, they were somewhat of a lynch pin for the whole organization. When they left, the coalition instantly fractured. Raiden and Tribal Band withdrew with Test, along with their renters. Most of the former HBC alliances in the south began forming smaller miniature coalitions in an attempt to rebuild a semblance of safety in an area littered with dozens of small alliances all hoping to come out of the situation ahead of their neighbors. One of the coalitions that managed to gain some traction called itself The Dinner Squadron, and consisted of several of the more known alliances in the south, including Here Be Dragons, Sort Dragon's alliance.
This roughly covers events up until mid-May. The HBC is shattered, a new expansion for the game is on the horizon, and this is Eve, so anything could happen.
There are well documented patterns of player behavior on a corporate or alliance level in Eve that happen when a corporation or alliance are faced with intense adversity. Many wars in Eve are trivial in terms of actual combat and hardship. As described in the above link, most player groups reach a breaking point, and once they snap, hostilities are effectively over and all that remains is cleanup (conquering their space).
Some alliances buck this trend by displaying a level of tenacity and resilience that most organizations don’t have, and for their effort their stories are the ones people remember in a game with 10 years of player-driven history behind it.
Red Alliance is one of the game’s oldest surviving alliances, being created in early 2005. These days RED is only a pale shadow of it’s former strength, but back in 2006 it was the largest and most powerful russian alliance in the game. Living in the southeast and villainized by the rest of the south, RED found itself at war with an entire coalition of alliances bent on wiping them off the map. They slowly lost territory until eventually only their capital system of C-J6MT remained under their control, but they never broke, and managed to eventually retake their homeland and take part in the Great Wars against Band of Brothers. Despite their lack of status in nullsec these days, this is what many players remember when they hear about Red Alliance, and it’s a standard that most newer russian alliances try to hold themselves to.
Despite their status as one of the game’s largest and most successful alliances, Goonswarm started out as a young underdog alliance in a universe that reviled new and unskilled players. Band of Brothers, widely considered the strongest alliance in the game at the time, decided that Goonswarm was a plague on the greater Eve community, and decided to snuff them out before they became too much of a problem. BoB camped the fledgling alliance into their home station in NPC Syndicate for two weeks, refusing to allow them to undock, and even remotely buying all of the station’s supplies and relisting them at exorbitant rates. After those two weeks, Goonswarm had stopped showing signs of life. They weren’t posting on the forums, and weren’t flying in nullsec. With the now infamous phrase “There are no goons.” BoB declared victory and returned home. What really happened is that for the two weeks Goonswarm was trapped into their station alliance leaders put out a gag order on the entire alliance to give the illusion of abandoning the game. They vowed to themselves that no matter what they did they would wipe BoB off the face of the game’s map forever as payment for what had been done. They allied themselves with Red Alliance, moved to Insmother, and began systematically annihilating every alliance in the south between them and BoB. Three years later, they had conquered BoB’s space and forcefully disbanded their alliance. To this day Goonswarm has had a hand in defeating no less than three different incarnations of the alliance Band of Brothers.
Band of Brothers
The Great Wars was an extended conflict that had two seperate parts, known and the first and second Great War. The First Great War began with the unveiling of the game’s first Titan by Ascendant Frontier, followed by it’s destruction by Band of Brothers, and ended with the Red Swarm Federation halted at the gates of “Fortress Delve” (consisting of the three neighboring regions of Delve, Querious, and Period Basis). With all sides thoroughly worn out from 18 months of nonstop warfare, battles slowed and the conflict petered out, with Band of Brothers and it’s allies losing nearly the entire south, but still in control of the most coveted regions in the game. The second great war didn’t go so well for them however.
I saved the best example for last.
The conflict last summer known to everyone as “Delve 2012”, and to some as “Delve IV” or “Delve V” (it depends on how many times you’ve been there) turned out to be a complete rout. A war that was hyped up to be the clashing of two massive powers ended up being a one-sided curbstomp. The Southern Coalition managed to put up so little resistance that TEST and the CFC gave complete control of strategic subcapital fleets to whoever wanted to command them. Junior FCs ran wild through Delve blowing up anyone who would undock, and massive supercapital fleets reinforced and destroyed sovereignty structures so fast that friendly logistics couldn’t anchor their own structures fast enough. Throughout the bloodbath, a single 400 man alliance managed to maintain their sovereignty longer than anyone else, defending their besieged home while other alliances cowered or fled. WALLTREIPERS ALLIANCE (you aren’t allowed to not capitalize it), put up the kind of unrelenting resistance that puts stories like the Battle of Thermopylae to shame. They ninja-repaired their station and Territorial Control Unit, stole enemy Sovereignty Blockade Units and sold them to buy more ships to fight with, camped the gates into their system 23/7, and hunted down any ship stupid enough to light a cyno in their system. Their defense was so full-proof and went on for so much longer than anybody expected that they started to gain admirers. This tiny alliance had the heart of a lion, and pilots in the CFC wanted them to keep fighting. When word got around that WALLTREIPERS was running out of ammo to kill them with, people from the CFC petitioned to give them the ammo they needed to keep going.
Sadly, their defense eventually came to an end, but only after repelling no less than 5 full-scale attempts to take their home system of T-IPZB. WALLTREIPERS proved themselves as one of the most tenacious and capable alliances in the game had ever seen, and they did so under the most hellish circumstances imaginable.
The Brave 300 Every now and again, an alliance comes along that decides fleeing isn’t on their to-do list, excuses aren’t an option, and vow to stand their ground and go down swinging. The results can be extraordinary, and are what Eve legends are made of.
In the wake of the almost-war that didn't happen between the Clusterfuck Coalition and Honeybadger coalition (post about it is here), there was an unbelievable level of complaining from the community, especially by neutral 3rd parties hoping to either watch the mayhem or see a long-time enemy go down in flames. People mourned the death of PvP and the fact that the two organizations wanted to safeguard their assets rather than generate content. Less than a week later Eve Online experienced a supercapital conflict so large that it would deadlock the node the fight took place on and crash the servers for Eve's sister game, Dust514.
During a Goonswarm capital ship operation to drop on an ongoing lowsec fight, the bridging Titan accidentally jumped instead of bridging to a cyno beacon, and was promptly hot dropped by a Pandemic Legion supercap fleet. In an attempt to overwhelm the enemy fleet and save the Titan, the rest of Goonswarm's supercap fleet jumped in and started fighting. News of the fight spread like wildfire, and alliances from all over New Eden scrambled to get in on the action, especially enemies of the CFC. At the battle's peak, the system of Asakai had over 2900 pilots in local.
A snapshot of the fighting at it's peak
Forming up multiple subcapital fleets to evac the capitals which were now in over their heads, Goonswarm lit evacuation cynos all across Tribute, and the supercapitals, which can't be tackled by standard warp disrupters, jumped to safety, but not before losing two Titans and a handful of Supercarriers in the fray. With only standard capital ships still on field, the fleets fought a losing battle as they tried to clear tackling ships from the field, allowing the Carriers and Dreadnaughts to jump out.
Time Dialation (a system implemented by CCP that "stretches" time in nodes with heavy activity so that the server can process all of the information it's being fed) maxed out at 10%, meaning that for every second that passed in Asakai, 10 seconds passed in the rest of New Eden. Despite slowing the game to such a crawling pace, the action was so intense that game clients began crashing and the server started dropping commands, leaving players stranded in space, unable to move their ship or see what was happening around them. About halfway through the fight, reports began coming in that Dust514's servers had crashed, rendering the game unplayable, in sequence with the fight unfolding in Eve. Many players thought it to be a fitting welcome for Dust plyers to the world of New Eden, where the unexpected can and will happen.
Eventually only a few Goonswarm capital ships remained, permenantly tackled by the opposing fleets, and were left to go out in a blaze of spartan glory. With the system's time still dialated, it was a slow death, and all the pilots could do was try to make the enemy work for their kills.
In the end, over 300 billion ISK in ships were destroyed, and at roughly $18/550m ISK, the butcher's bill for this fight comes to nearly $10,000 USD. Just because there isn't a war, doesn't mean that there isn't any fighting. Even in peacetime the battles rage on.
Edit: As killmails continue to stream in and the dust from this fight settles, the confirmed overall ISK loss from this fight is now over 830 billion ISK, nearly three times my initial estimate.
Ketsui is a vertical arcade shoot em' up developed by Cave with an interesting story behind it. Released in early 2003, it's one of three games (three and a half if you hate whole numbers) released in 2002 and 2003 for Cave's custom IGS PGM hardware. All three games, Dodonpachi: Dai Ou Jou, Espgaluda, and Ketsui, are considered to be of excellent quality and are extremely popular even today. A japanese developer named Arika made plans to port all three games to the Playstation 2. Dodonpachi:DOJ and Espgaluda were released and praised by the community for being extremely accurate and faithful ports for their time, but the Ketsui port was scrapped. According to Arika, there were problems emulating a certain part of the game. A section in Stage 5 involves flying down a mine shaft. The illusion of the player descending was achieved by swapping the image in the background plane and scrolling the new image in reverse, and then swapping to yet another background plane at the bottom of the shaft and reversing the scroll direction a second time.
The aforementioned problematic segment is at 3:20
Apparently the PS2's hardware was incapable of managing this at an arcade perfect framerate and the section suffered from terrible slowdown. Unsatisfied with the port's single imperfection, Arika opted to cancel the title entirely rather than release what they viewed as a flawed product. Apparently the port was otherwise perfect, and Cave gave them the go-ahead to ship the title with the slowdown intact, but Arika refused, and so Ketsui went without a port, and remained out of the reach of western fans unwilling or able to spend thousands purchasing the game's arcade PCB for the better part of a decade.
In 2008 japanese developer 5pb announced plans to port Ketsui to Xbox Live Arcade, but Microsoft rejected the title, claiming to want to cut down on the number of arcade ports on XBLA. Ketsui was finally announced to have a full on-disc release in 2009 but was pushed back another year, being released in 2010 instead.
After seven years of elusive existence, the game was finally available to anyone with a 360 capable of playing NTSC-J games. During those seven years, Ketsui garnered status as one of the best games of it's type, strongly praised by the few who had played it, and remaining one of Cave's most highly rated titles after it's console release. It's also properly emulated in MAME now, further increasing it's availability to western audiences.
There are a few lessons to be learned from this story. One is that Microsoft sucks because they hate arcade games despite having a service called "Xbox Live Arcade". Another is that apparently the PS2 is kind of a shitty console, because it was incapable of emulating a game that was developed for and ran perfectly well on a printed circuit board with only 20Mhz of processing power. The third and final lesson is that they don't make game developers the way they used to. It's hard to imagine any studio these days working as hard as Arika did back then to perfectly emulate Ketsui on new hardware, and even harder to imagine that studio having the balls to dump the entire project because they were unable to accurately recreate a single tiny section of the game. That is a testament to perfection, my friends, and one that you are unlikely to see in an age with humongous zero-day patches and Silent Hill ports without any fog.
Eve is famous for it's stories of large sweeping nullsec conflicts and constant backstabbing and subterfuge, but outside of those headline grabbing activities are entire playstyles that are often left ignored. Many people read about the goings on in Eve and tell themselves that there is no way they are able to dedicate that much of their life to playing the game when right behind that curtain of news headlines are any number of engaging activities that take infinitely less commitment to enjoy to the fullest.
Red vs Blue
If you want to experience the excitement of player versus player combat in Eve without dedicating your life to a nullsec alliance, Red vs Blue is where you want to be. Two player owned corporations, the Red Federation and the Blue Republic, locked in a mutual war with each other in highsec. The focus is on affordable PvP in small, cheap ships with little necessary commitment. Just pick a side and join a fleet. There are self-imposed rules in order to keep the fights simple, fast and fun. Occasionally the two sides will have themed fights using specific ships or modules, or team up in a "purple fleet" and go roaming around lowsec looking for fights. This is the ground-level when it comes to PvP and the organization is fun and successful enough that it runs off of donations from players.
Often considered and intended to be a lite edition of nullsec sov wars, faction warfare takes place in nullsec between the game's four races: the Minmatar, Gallente, Amarr, and Caldari. Players run complexes in deep space and fight with another faction to increase their control in various solar systems in order to capture them from the other faction for theirs. Faction Warfare recently got a huge revamp, with two expansions dedicated to developing and balancing it. The barrier for entry is extremely low and is a good way to familiarize yourself with the game's mechanics and get used to flying in more dangerous solar systems.
The barrier of entry for incursions is higher than either Red vs Blue or faction warfare, but it's a strong comunity of players and a great way to enjoy the game as a team activity. Constellations across the galaxy are occasionally invaded by an NPC force known as Sansha's Nation. These NPCs are tough and smart, using what CCP referrs to as "sleeper AI" to mimic the behavior a real human might have in a fight. They switch targets, use warp scramblers and ECM and generaly are much tougher to kill than regular NPC pirates. Fleets of players come in and clear systems out until a control meter hits 0%, and then a final boss spawns for the players to kill. When this is complete then the incursions ends and participating players are rewarded. There are two groups that run incursions in empire space, and they differ in how they tank their ships. High SP characters are generally needed to do incursions, but the requirements other than that are fairly low.
Another activity that isn't for brand new players is wormholes. If nullsec politics or highsec PvE is too dull for you than wormholes are a great way to inject excitement into your game while also making fistfulls of money. Wormholes spawn all over New Eden which lead to systems far outside the known galaxy (k-space) known as wormhole space (w-space). There are no stations or NPC factions in these systems, and gameplay is very different here. All NPC pirates have sleeper AI similar to Incursion NPCs, the local chat window is delayed, so it's harder to know if there is anyone else nearby, and you need to probe out the wormholes to exit and enter the area. There are a lot of corporations and alliances dedicated to exploring these wormholes and exploiting them for money. Occasionally these groups run into each other in w-space and duke it out. Because of w-space's massive profitability, battles in w-space between wormhole corps can involve only a couple dozen players, but result in as much ISK lost as a huge 400 player fight in nullsec. It's a different life, and one that very few players ever experience.
Nullsec politics and fights grab all of the gaming headlines because they are bold in-your-face events frequently involving thousands of players, large personalities, and thousands of dollars worth of in-game assets, but Eve Online is more than just the big battles and masterminded plots. If the game fascinates you and you want to try it but are worried about minimum level of dedication it requires, then know that you don't have to go all-in if you don't want to. Eve is the most complex game on the market today. There are hundreds of game systems available and an uncountable number of playstyles to try out. There's definitely one for you to enjoy.
Spoiling for a fight after an unexciting recent campaign and hoping to settle some bad blood with Against All Authorities, the CFC was all too happy to help fight a war in Delve for their best friends. They had been there four times previously, so they had particular knowledge about the region and how to attack and defend it. In a single weekend the entire coalition migrated it's war machine south and in an overwhelming show of power even dropped 60 billion ISK to construct their own outpost station in F2OY-X to base out of, rather than using the station in a next door system.
The arrival of the CFC shattered the Southern Coalition's morale, and the next few weeks were an orgy of destruction as supercapital fleets rampaged across the region unabated while SoCo fleets sat camped in a station, unable to do anything. Delve and Querious fell with next to zero resistance. The CFC decided that their obligation was complete and began to withdraw and let Test and PL finish mopping up what was left and sort the spoils amongst themselves.
Part of the agreement for CFC assistance was that Goonswarm would maintain a handful of embassy systems in the area. The reason for this was to show the CFC's determination to keep SoCo out of Delve and act as a deterrant. If SoCo got rebellious and tried pushing any boundaries, the CFC would bring down the hammer. Unfortunately there was miscommunication about this to the line members in Test, and fueled by enemy propoganda, the average member took this as Goonswarm trying to keep Test on a short leash.
Eventually Goonswarm gave in to Test requests for independence and left the region completely to stand or fall on it's own. Both leadership and line members were left feeling unappreciated after being asked to leave mere weeks after help was requested of them.
In the following months, Test and PL began forming their own coalition, called the Honey Badger Coalition, with their own allies and with their own goals. They continued the fight against SoCo, pushing through Querious to Catch, Against All Authorities' long-time home region. Goonswarm and the CFC had their own business of clearing out the north and making room for allies who had spent years living in some of the poorest regions in the game. With the new separation of interests, and wanting to respect Test's request for independance, many alliances in the CFC mutually reset their standings with Test, however Goonswarm and Test remained blue to each other.
Throughout January 2013, tensions started simmering between Test and an alliance in the CFC called Fatal Ascension. They accused each other of breaking Non-Infrastructure-Pacts by attacking jump bridges and camping station undocks. The two organizations had previous spats at various intervals and it had become a running joke within the CFC. Hardly anyone remembers or cares how the bad blood started, at this point it's simply a matter of he said/she said over which alliance is more terrible, but this time was different.
Test's CFC diplomat mentioned in a CFC diplomat chat channel that Test's CEO, Montolio, was planning to trick FA into attacking Test sovereignty so that Test could go to war with FA while still remaining blue to Goonswarm. Naturally this didn't sit well with Goonswarm, so they quietly removed Test's access privileges to the diplo channel in order to cut off any further discussion of the subject and hopefully diffuse the situation. Over the next few days Montolio removed all CFC access to Test's chat network and made several public announcements and broadcasts related to the incident, even going as far as to imply that he was opening lines of communication with alliances opposed to Goonswarm in preperation for a potential conflict.
As of January 22nd Goonswarm hasn't taken any further action, but The Mittani, Goonswarm's CEO, released an alliance update candidly informing everyone of the situation. Goonswarm leadership's official stance on the situation is that the entire problem stems from Montolio being an impetulent child and whether or not the situation escelates is up to his ego. He stated that Goonswarm has no problem with Test's line members or a majority of Test leadership.
A notional war between the CFC and the HBC could potentially be the single largest conflict in the history of Eve Online. Goonswarm and Test alone have over 20,000 characters between them, and estimations for the size of either coalition range anywhere from 15,000-30,000 apiece. Both coalitions command massive supercapital fleets and scores of titans, along with trillions of ISK worth of ships and war material. If both sides fully commited to a war, then the levels of destruction would be unheard of. Unrelated parties would likely try to get in on the action since both coalitions have plenty of enemies that would leap at the opportunity to get revenge.
So where does that leave the two alliances? Both are staring each other down with a hand resting on their gun while the two respective coalition's stand by, watch, and wait. How will the story end? Will the whole situation blow over as egos cool and reason prevails, or will it be galaxy-altering conclusion to a three-year friendship?