EVE Online is a game I don’t play but for which I have an endless fascination. It combines many of my favourite subjects – in-game economies, emergent gameplay, science fiction, persistent worlds – in a glorious narrative of corporate espionage and human tenacity with all the hallmarks of grand space opera.
That humans drive so much of EVE‘s direction is apparent in the latest – and largest – battle in EVE‘s history, where a minor misstep (or possible ingenious sabotage, it’s hard to tell in EVE) catapulted one of its systems into full-scale conflict between some of EVE‘s largest alliances over the last two days. At its peak, nearly 5,000 players were participating in the 20-hour battle that is estimated to have cost participants some 500 billion ISK (the in-game currency), or roughly $220,000 to $300,000 real-world dollars.
There’s a lot of technical reasons why things turned out like they did, but the crux of the story is as follows: the Pandemic Legion failed to pay rent on a space station in the B-R5RB star system, which they had been using as a staging area in a larger ongoing conflict since October last year, the Halloween War.
Seeing an opportunity their enemies – the ClusterF**k Coalition (CFC) and the Russian Federation (RF) – jumped in to set up Territorial Claim Units, which are required to claim sovereignty over a system. It takes about eight hours to set up a TCU, so the continued conflict into the 20-hour mark has been attributed to a longer-term strategic goal: both sides had been building reserves of ships and this was seen as a means to deplete those reserves fully. Once the battle hit a certain peak, it became almost impossible to retreat; it was an all-in manoeuvre, with the victor ultimately expected to gain the edge in the greater war.
Ultimately, CFC/RF won out, with tallies still being determined across different asset types but CCP Games confirming a total of 75 Titans destroyed via the official Twitter feed.
— EVE Online (@EveOnline) January 28, 2014
To understand the scale of this, you need to understand EVE Online‘s most incredible behemoth – and here I must point to the excellent breakdown by Mat Westhorpe of GameSkinny.com, who explains the magic behind them. The Titan requires massive in-game investment in both money and time – Titan’s are valued at roughly $5,000 US or more depending on their fittings, and players wishing to be Titan pilots are ultra-specialised in their character’s skill build.
This battle is likely to reverberate out into the greater social and economic fabric of EVE… or perhaps not. Westhorpe feels that an event of this magnitude should have a significant impact on EVE Online‘s universe, but is skeptical given the entrenched nature of these super alliances – a situation he believes represents stagnation in the supposedly fluid world of EVE Online.
Otherwise, it makes for some spectacular fireworks. You can view a video of the battle, taken by a non-aligned observer, below: