Starfield Schmarfield: True capsuleers know there's only one space game that scratches the parts others don't, and Eve Online never stops delivering the goods. One thing about its giant dust-ups, however, is that usually there's a good reason for them because real money's likely on the line. Two sides have been needling each other for months, the tension reaches a head, or a corporation ambushes a Titan and its allies scramble in to save it. Usually.
Around 3,500 people engaged in a massive dust-up this Tuesday evening, which rapidly escalated from a smaller fight, ending up in huge blobs of dreadnoughts barreling into one another with predictable results. Lots and lots (and lots) of space wreckage and killmails. The battle took place in sector 4-ABS8, and as any times are mentioned bear in mind EVE Online deals with these huge battles via time dilation (TiDi). There's a technical explanation but, essentially, it slows the game down and at its peak this battle had various sectors in the max TiDi speed of 10%, which means one in-game second is ten seconds in realtime.
What caused such a massive fight?
"There were some questions on what escalated to that battle in 4-ABS8," said participant AlphaEmpire in their After Action Report on the EVE subreddit. "I would argue most Fleet Commanders in all blocs agree, the answer is: boredom."
Average Tuesday evening
There were a few small fights happening, but nothing unusual for nullsec, until a ping went out from the Banderlogs corporation to its capsuleers and allies: one of its Infrastructure Hub (ihub), an essential structure for exerting control in nullsec, had come under attack in 4-ABS8.
AlphaEmpire lists the main bulk of the attackers Fraternity and Winter Coalition alongside Panfam (NC, PH, PL, SLYCE&co). The defenders included Banderlogs themselves, BRAVE, VOLTA, Bl0b, Goonswarm, and INIT. All of this alphabet soup adds up to one thing: roughly 3500 space nerds jonesing for a fight, and an unusually even split in numbers.
Make no mistake: EVE may get intensely complex in big battles, but the cardinal rule is that the side with the most stuff wins.
The ping for help went out around 19:30 European time, and the attackers responded by pinging their own allies. Within minutes the defenders' allied corporations had sent their own pings and began assembling to move into the battle sector. Capsuleers on both sides began jump cloning (transferring from one clone body to another in order) to instantly traverse New Eden and get closer to a staging point, a nearby system from which to launch into the battle sector.
Around 45 minutes after the pings, the defenders score an early win by interrupting the attackers' Entosis Link (a module that attacks the ihub). But the attackers are dropping more and more ships into the system, including Nightmare and Rokh battleships, and could soon hit a critical mass: 10 minutes later the first defending Goonswarm battleships arrive and come under immediate attack. The Goons strategically target the logistics ships on the other side, and manage to take out three Scimitars, but lose nine battleships in the process.
Shortly afterwards, the first dreadnoughts start arriving, and again it's the attackers with the advantage. They begin pressuring the defending battleships, and manage to blow away an early defensive dreadnought.
By this stage the calls keep going out, and more capsuleers and more serious hardware is on its way to this small corner of space. Each side has various skirmishes on the outskirts of the main battle, but now each side has a small army of dreadnoughts to throw at each other, split between long range and short range offensive capabilities, and the cat-and-mouse game of positioning becomes very deadly, very fast.
"I got to watch Our (Panfam) dreads drop in first," said Semajal, a participant on the attacking side. "Then not long after Imperium [defenders] dreadbomb on top of them, then we drop more dreads on top of them, then we frag hard, they then drop two large blobs of dreads near ours, we then drop even more dreads, then Init warps dreads in and drops dreads/carriers, we drop even more dreads. Near the end we had dreads that had jumped out from the initial spot to jump back in on the Init dreads. It was insane, never seen so much drop/counter drop action."
I appreciate that paragraph contained a lot of 'dreads' and 'drops', but it does capture being in the maelstrom of play and counter-play, when the pieces are absolutely gigantic and valuable spaceships. Ultimately the attackers started this fight on the front foot and, thanks to making the right calls when the dreadnought groups were engaging, managed to keep it that way.
"[The attackers] were more agile in deploying their dreads," said AlphaEmpire. "Soldiers win battles, logistics wins wars, and that old adage was true for this battle in terms of cyno placement [staging points that let ships move quickly around a sector]."
The full scores on the doors can be seen in the battle report, and overall 4.8 trillion ISK worth of space hardware was destroyed, but the attackers came out on top.
"This was not the first dread battle nor will it be the last," ends AlphaEmpire. "I think both sides won here as this battle demonstrates EVE continues to be a sandbox where players and crazy fleet commanders make the content. CCP just needs to ensure the servers are steady."