If you’re a gamer, then Eve Online probably holds a special place in your heart, regardless of whether you’ve actually played it or not. When the persistent-world space simulator played host to the largest virtual space battle of all time last weekend, the geekier parts of the internet demonstrated the sort of sincere awe and praise usually reserved for Olympic victories.
There’s something about the massive scale of Eve and the sense of something other than virtual death being at stake that makes it seem larger than its own considerably-sizeable game world.
For those not familiar with the game Eve Online is a massively multiplayer online roleplaying space simulator, where characters build their own spaceships and explore a galaxy of more than 7,500 star systems. There are hundreds of alliances and coalitions; some are years old, upholding charters of honour and loyalty -others are founded only on mutual-interest, with undercurrents of distrust and potential betrayal.
These sorts of stories are enough to spark any gamer’s imagination and the recent battle (known as the Battle for 6VDT-H) was no exception. Taking place between two of the largest groups in the game (the coalition CFC and the Test Alliance Please Ignore - otherwise known as TEST) the battle was a last-stand everything-in attempt to maintain control of the Fountain region of the galaxy.
By the end of the five-hour battle 2,591 ships had been destroyed with losses (which can only be roughly converted into real currencies) somewhere in excess of £15,000. Battles such as this are so intense that Eve’s servers have slow game time to just 10 per cent of normal speed just to cope.
Eve’s own dev blogs are offering a full explanation of the day’s events for those who are savvy with talk of shield reinforcement timers, Megathron fleets and gatecamps, but on behalf of the impressed-but-uninformed masses I spoke to Ned Coker (CCP Manifest), a spokesperson for EVE Online and a long-time Pilgrim cruiser pilot.
Hey Ned, can you explain the significance of the battle for us?
Recent changes we made to the distribution of resources around the EVE universe meaning that one of the largest alliances in game (thousands of players) decided to declare war against one of their previous allies in order to take their space which had become the new area of abundant resources—ostensibly in order to maintain the aggressor coalition’s ‘quality of life.’
The war has been raging all summer and the aggressor [CFC] gained enough ground to push back to the ‘ancestral home’ of the defending alliance—both sides went all in on this symbolic battle. It’s eerily similar to the Battle of the Alamo in some respects.
And how often do these sort of all-out, everything-in fights occur?
It’s totally up to the players. Year round there are many many smaller conflicts, anywhere from a few players up to several thousand participating. 6VDT-H was the biggest we’ve ever had because of the size of the Alliances involved and the politics behind it.
Like almost any conflict it’ll have a ripple effect for other players—whether direct in terms of ship loss or Alliance gain, through supporting a huge chain of industrial production or through political and social pressures as corporations expand and contract.
What’s it like to take part in such a battle?
One this large, it totally depends on your role, although because of Time Dilation (in order to handle the size), everyone is slowed down considerably and so it’s a bit more like a chess match once it starts going than typical EVE gameplay—so preparation is key.
For instance, there are some who are along as sort of “archers”. For them it is just enough to follow orders, aim and fire at the right time. For others, they are involved in scouting and much quicker maneuvering. Others, the fleet commanders, are busy calling targets and handling the tactical parts of the battle.
It’s pretty neat to see how many different types of players can all contribute during something like this. And of course, once it’s over, the “propagandists” go to work. As a matter of fact, their job I guess just continues from the months leading up to it.
The battle got a hell of a lot of coverage from various news outlets; what do you think it is that attracts players to Eve?
Whatever our players decide to do ends up creating the gameplay itself. It’s often said that in EVE you get to determine your own game: anything you can imagine doing as a sci-fi spaceship pilot. But then it’s also equally said that you get to determine the other guy’s game, should you choose.
Content in all video games gets old after a while I think, but when your game AI is essentially replaced by real human AI (another player) with their own aspirations and background, well then it can be a really compelling experience.
[With battles like 6VDT-H] and when you go to war in general - the bond with your corpmates becomes stronger, the encounters more memorable, and the mistakes you make unforgettable. Therefore, EVE has a true history about it, a shared one of a half a million people.