Tales from the War

As I’ve mentioned a couple of days ago, Red vs. Blue declared war on EVE University, effective last Friday.

War, at least in the Uni, is weird. It’s a bit like EVE turned up to eleven: you sit around even more before anything happens, but then it all happens on much larger scales. For example, in the Uni, you are not allowed to undock during wartime if you’re on your own, you’re not allowed to fly certain expensive ships, you’re not allowed to engage in activities such as mining (although, with Hulkageddon going on, that’s hardly a limitation). So you sit in station waiting for things to happen. And wait. And wait.

And then, a fleet is formed, and you wait even more. And when you’re at the point where you think you won’t be able to take it any more soon, suddenly, you get moving. Finding a fleet, running away from a fleet, or sometimes, even engaging a fleet. Battles can be small or large, they can be even or lopsided. We’ve had it all in the last couple of days.

The war has been a mixed bag so far for both parties. We, the university, started it on a high note, scoring the first kill of the war, and winning the first few engagements. For those that do not know, winning or losing is typically measured by two things: a fleet can have a specific goal, such as driving enemies out of a system. More often though, like everything in EVE, it all comes down to cold hard numbers, in this case the “ISK efficiency”. Whoever loses more ISK worth of ships is considered the loser of an engagement.

As I said, the war started reasonably well, with the Uni being ahead with an efficiency of about 60%; meaning, 60% of all wartime losses in ISK were the enemy’s, and only 40% were ours – or, us being 50% more efficient (because 60% is 50% more than 40%. Wheeee, Math 101!). We typically lost more ships, but RvB lost the larger and more expensive ones. That shows the difference between the two corps well, too: my impression is that on average, Red vs. Blue has older and more experienced players, not to mention that they’re specifically a PvP corp, as opposed to the Uni. The Uni’s ways of engaging enemies is typically outnumbering them in huge blobs of cheap ships.

The problem with that difference is that those older players also were more eager and better able to reship – it seems their coffers are just better filled, or they’re more willing to throw money at the war. They also have more players, which makes the whole “outnumbering your enemy in huge blobs of cheap ships” point a bit moot. We definitely felt that over the weekend. We had several ugly losses, with whole fleets getting wiped out by battleship- and logistics-heavy RvB fleets. We seemed to have a ridiculous amount of spies in our ranks, with one fleet being destroyed after a five-person deep command chain was immediately killed at the beginning of the fight, and people panicking and losing coordination. By Sunday, our efficiency had come down to barely 40%. RvB also went into our home system and hit our player-owned starbase (POS) hard, driving the control tower into reinforce mode. That meant that our starbase was vulnerable, and another attack would probably mean the loss of our precious base.

Now, this is not a real problem from a financial point of view. A player-owned starbase isn’t cheap, but it’s also not hideously expensive. In fact, the initial cost of the modules isn’t even that large compared to the upkeep that you have to pay to keep them afloat. Hitting our PoS has several other effects:

  1. A POS is an absolutely safe area in space for the owner. Until the tower is destroyed, it projects a force field that makes everything inside it (except for the tower itself) untargetable and invincible. While it also isn’t possible for the owners to shoot the attackers from inside, a safe spot in space shouldn’t be underestimated in a game that otherwise is notoriously unsafe outside of NPC stations. In corporations that have fleets of capital ships (which the Uni doesn’t), POSs are also the only points where capital pilots can relax, because capital ships are too large to dock in NPC stations.
  2. A POS can make a great psychological focus. The enemy might want to take it down, you might want to defend it, with a fervor on both sides that far outweighs the economical and strategical importance.
  3. When a POS tower is forced into reinforcement, it creates a default point in time for two fleets to clash. Let me explain in a nutshell: a tower has an immense amount of shields and armor. If an enemy fleet drives the shields down to 25%, the tower enters reinforce mode for a certain amount of time, defined by its current fuel reserves. During reinforce mode, the tower is both invulnerable and unrepairable. The reinforce timer is publicly visible. The enemy fleet will want to hit the tower as soon as it comes out of reinforce. The defender fleet will want to repair the tower as soon as it comes out of reinforce. There is no better way to agree on a time to field large fleets to clash.

Calls went out. Everybody was urged to be there when the tower came out of reinforcement.

And come we did. We fielded half a dozen fleets with more than 400 pilots altogether. RvB brought a similar number. The battle was on.

And we won. We won in a battle that was immense both in numbers and in length. The whole encounter took more than 2 hours, with pilots who lost their ships trying to reship and rejoin the battle. I lost two EWAR blackbirds early on, then came back in a Drake and miraculously survived until the end of the battle. Because we’re still at war, I will only show a couple of screenshots that don’t show names. This is from the second half of the battle when many people already had lost their ships. (I’m really bad at hitting the Print Screen button when the really interesting stuff happens.) It should give you an idea of the chaos and sheer amount of shooting and killing going on:

Each icon is either a current or a deceased pilot.

The battle was large enough that time dilation kicked in at several points, I think I saw the 50% mark at least once. Everybody playing EVE at that time should have had the chance to notice something big was going on:

If you set your universe map to show ship kills in the last hour, the hotspot was impossible to miss.

I made this screenshot about 20 minutes after the large battle, so the peak was already over, and it still showed more than 1000 ships destroyed in the last hour:

That sure left a mark on the map.

Even the older players commented that it was one of the largest, if not the largest, non-capital-ship battles they’ve ever witnessed. The total tally of destroyed assets was a mind-blowing (to me) 57 billion ISK. It’s not completely fair to do the conversion (because it doesn’t factor in things such as the pains of liquidating all the involved assets, and the fact that implants, which contributed a sizable amount to those numbers, cannot be resold at all), but at the current PLEX price of 490 million ISK, that’s almost 10 years of subscription time. Or more than €1500. That’s more than $2000, for you people with the green money. In less than 3 hours. That’s… a bit scary. On the other hand, with the numbers involved, that’s probably only about €2-3 per player on average. It still gave me a bit of perspective.

After the battle was over, we finally could tend to our control tower, and repaired the shields in about an hour.

After about an hour, the shields were restored to full. My lowly POSprey probably didn't contribute to any noticeable effect, but it's the thought that counts.

Of course, the war isn’t over. It will go for at least another 3 days, and potentially longer, if RvB renews the declaration (at a steadily increasing price, I was told). Now is probably the most dangerous time for us. I’ve seen it before in raiding guilds: your finally, after much work, kill a hard boss, you are feel like nothing can stop you… and next week you will have the worst performance in history. Overconfidence is most dangerous.

We’ll see how it goes. I haven’t had the chance yet to shoot at Cyndre, I think. Then again, how would I know? I don’t even know what name he goes by in EVE. I wonder whether he was there last night.

2 thoughts on “Tales from the War

  1. Were you following orders from a fleet commander, or was it more of a big free for all? Most of the null sec battles like this are tightly defined and controlled, just curious how this one played out!

  2. The EVE Uni fleets typically have a lot of newer pilots with limited choices when it comes to ships, so most fleets do not follow a strict doctrine that you must not stray from. In addition to that, the sheer number of people made the organization in the heat of the battle difficult at times.

    That said, having fleet commanders and designated target callers, and following the calling, is still vital for the damage boats. Otherwise, the fire is not focused enough, and a more organized fleet will have you for breakfast. (Conversely, it also means that if you get primaried, there is little realistic chance to survive when you face fleets of that size.) Big props to our target callers, who were fast without being hectic; without them, we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. I’d say for me, in a battlecruiser, it was not a free-for-all at any point. I think the smaller ships, especially fast-locking frigates, went mostly freely and tried to kill as many pods as possible, which are useless to call out as targets to the larger ships.

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