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b-r_Image_3

No blogger with even a passing interest in EVE Online can avoid writing a post about the battle that happened in B-R5RB  on Monday January 27.  EVE Online is capable of producing far larger player-driven game events than any other game I’m aware of, but the fighting in B-R5 tops everything the game has seen in it’s 10+ years history in sheer scale.

A lot of articles have already been written about the details of the fighting and how it occurred (links at the bottom) so I won’t go into great detail here, but I do want to point out a couple things.  As a lot of articles are emphasizing, it’s true that the opportunity for the battle happened due to a simple missed sovereignty  payment which seems trivial.  However it’s important to understand that (more…)

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EVE Rubicon

I haven’t blogged about EVE for a while… the end of the great Fountain war was a pretty big disappointment, and the following unopposed CFC conquest of Delve just confirmed that the CFC has retained it’s dominance of the game and further expanded it’s territory.  I have been reading EVE news websites less often than normal, only vaguely following the events since then.  But now CCP has announced EVE:Rubicon, the game’s next expansion, and I’m excited about one particular feature:  Player Owned Customs Offices (POCOS) in Hi-Security space!

Planetary Interaction as a feature in EVE has come a long ways; from a horrible click-fest interface to a more streamlined one, and from a detached “Farmville” mini-game to a fully incorporated conflict driver in null-sec and low-sec space.  But the real PI money was always in High Security space, as that is where much of the higher level components are assembled and then shipped to market hubs.  There is some serious money in holding POCOs near market hubs and opening this up for player conflict is a fantastic idea.  It finally makes PI into the spread out conflict driver it always had the potential to be; after all, even a small corporation could control a single POCO, giving you a small passive income stream and the chance to make improved profit on your own PI industry from that planet.

The addition in the expansion of a new set of small player-deployable structures (PDS) will probably also influence PI since these high-demand structures will almost certainly be built partially or completely from PI materials, which may further increase the demand and value of planetary resources.  One concern I initially had was the removal of Hi-Sec PI as an ISK-sink, but it looks like CCP is retaining the NPC tax (albeit at a lower rate) in Hi-Sec and simply tacking the player tax on top of it.  This should minimize the impact to the ISK economy of the game.  There is no doubt the economic impact of PI warfare will be fascinating to observe and will open up a huge new arena of player interactions through the recently refined war declaration system.

Probably the most significant and legitimate complaint I have seen is the ability of very large alliances (i.e. Goonswarm) to orchestrate the take-over of all the POCOs from very large areas (i.e. around Jita) and then rely on the high cost of war-deccing them to deter anyone from harassing them.  Goonswarm will certainly try to do this just to test the concept and out of boredom, and it is true that once someone like Goonswarm has anchored a POCO few groups will have the funds and size to make a war declaration against them even remotely cost effective.  But this is an emergent problem and no doubt players will come up with emergent solutions for it, so I would definitely chalk this up as a “wait and see” type problem for now.

The expansion has some other nice elements too; more ship balancing, a few new ships, a new certificate system that actually seems more helpful and easy to use for new players.  The small Personal Deployable Structures as a foreshadowing to the phase-out of POS is a fantastic feature and probably the most critical to the expansion’s success.  There hasn’t been a dev blog yet about the PDS but I look forward to seeing more details on those.

Sadly the new expansion doesn’t magically make it any easier for me to actually play EVE, but it does pique my excitement in following the game and especially in how the Hi-Sec POCOS foster conflict and player interaction in high security space.

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6dv

This weekend saw the largest EVE Online battle ever, fought as part of the Fountain war over the station in Fountain system 6VDT-H.  The result was a crushing CFC victory and effectively the end of the war.

The battle saw over 5,000 players engaged and has been covered by mainstream media including the BBC.  CFC and allies had approximately 2600 engaged pilots and arrived first, deploying no less than 6 full fleets of doctrine railgun Megathrons around the station with numerous support formations and a huge capital ship fleet on standby.  N3 and TEST brought several mixed fleets with an emphasis on Prophesy battlecruisers, Zealots, Blackbirds, and Tech 3 cruisers with a huge amount of support as well.  Both sides also brought large contingents of stealth bombers which have featured prominently throughout the war.

The battle narrative has been described in several other websites which I will link shortly.  From what I can tell, in the lead-up to the fighting the N3/TEST forces were kept off balance by the CFC stealth bombers and ended up engaging earlier than they would have liked and in a somewhat uncoordinated fashion.  From looking at the balance of the forces it appears to me that the N3/TEST forces were both outnumbered and outgunned so I’m not sure the outcome was ever really in doubt, but the results were even more lop-sided than the balance of forces would indicate.  N3/TEST lost over 1200 ships and took down fewer than 300 CFC in return; in terms of ISK lost it looks like the ratio was similar with a CFC efficiency above 80%.  Towards the end of the battle the CFC brought in their huge capital fleet and the remaining N3/TEST ships briefly disengaged, then, realizing the war was over, went ahead and threw their remaining ships into the teeth of the CFC fleet in one last suicidal charge.

EVE News 24 Article

Mittan.com Article

Dog-net.org battle report 

(keep in mind that for a battle this size its always difficult for the automated kill tracking software and generated battle reports to be fully accurate)

While the battle was record-breaking in terms of pilots involved, it certainly wasn’t in terms of ISK lost.  Total ISK lost will probably weigh in at under 200 billion which, while a huge number, is dwarfed by plenty of battles involving supercapital losses.  What really happened was that TEST/N3 morale finally broke.  Ironically shortly after the battle a CFC Titan was destroyed in a small separate engagement and that one Titan swung the loss ratio back to around even.  But this wasn’t about ISK being lost, this was about the CFC demonstrating the futility of TEST continuing to defend the Fountain region.  The 6VDT-H station was TEST’s most important station in the entire Fountain region and the inability to protect it means the inability to protect Fountain on the whole.  The CFC has proven once again to be an unstoppable war machine with their organization, superb logistics, centralized leadership, sound doctrines, and most importantly their reliably large fleet numbers winning the war.

I don’t think anyone is shocked to see TEST lose Fountain.  There was a glimmer of hope early on when N3 and PL both rallied to support TEST while Black Legion opened up a destructive campaign on the CFC’s northern holdings.  However, Black Legion was paid off by the CFC to effectively switch sides while PL gradually lost interest.  N3 proved to be a faithful ally for TEST despite distractions in dealing with Solar Fleet back home, but the N3/TEST forces just couldn’t win the major battles that they needed to maintain morale.  I looked at a LOT of EVE-Kill battle reports, I mean dozens and dozens of fleet engagement reports.  Using DOTLAN and EVE Kill it was possible to track numerous engagements that were occurring without being reported and it was very clear to me that the CFC were simply outfighting their opponents on a regular basis.  CFC tactical defeats were few and far between, and the war of attrition was clearly favoring the CFC as TEST and N3 suffered continual losses of capitals and sub-capital fleets with signs of low morale and financial problems becoming more and more glaring.

I won’t lie, I’m disappointed at the result.  There is no doubt this was the best chance yet of any coalition standing up to the CFC directly, and with the war winding down the odds of anyone being able to oppose a CFC drive into Delve is pretty much nil.  The CFC will continue to be the dominant coalition in the game and, with Fountain and soon possibly Delve and Querious moons in hand, will continue to enjoy complete financial security.  There are no signs of any wear and tear on the coalition itself due to the war and the CFC appears to be perfectly capable of launching another invasion once this one is wrapped up, with fatigue being the only limiting factor.

Despite having rooted for the “other team”, I applaud the CFC for launching the invasion right when they did, giving TEST no time to recover from the political instability in the south following the dissolution of the HBC and no time to reap the profits of the R64s they controlled when the moon minerals change went live.  CFC had the brilliance to launch a well-timed invasion against an off-balance foe and then the discipline and patience to carry it out with very few mistakes and losses, breaking the defenses even more quickly than most expected.  The 6VDT-H battle may have been the final nail in the coffin but I think this is the trajectory the war has been on all along.

What’s next?  TEST has retreated to Delve, notorious as a very defensible region, and appears to be preparing to resist another invasion.  The CFC will take time cleaning up the rest of Fountain, probably a couple weeks at least; conquering a large region even unopposed is not an easy task.  Whether they continue into Delve or eye Querious, time will tell.

UPDATE:  Seraph IX Basarab, another unsubscribed blogger who nonetheless can’t stay away from EVE, has posted his own thoughts on the conclusion of the Fountain war and they are well worth reading.

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pku-fleet-warping-past-planet

The Fountain war continues and the balance of power continues to shift with new developments almost daily.

The CFC’s advance into Fountain continues to be somewhat stalled on the sovereignty front; Goonswarm currently holds 13 systems but systems are changing hands back and forth each day.  While the overall losses on both sides have been high with at least a couple thousand ships destroyed in Fountain and surrounding regions each day, there has been something of a lack of large public fleet engagements.

On the diplomacy front, Fweddit, the faction warfare focused equivalent of TEST Alliance which shares roots in the same Reddit internet community, surprisingly announced that due to slow times on the Amarr/Minmatar faction warfare front they would deploy to 0.0 and fight for the CFC.  This is odd since a lot of the pilots in Fweddit have alts in TEST and vice versa, but Fweddit seems very intent on throwing their 1,000 pilots into the fray with the hopes of better content for their member and better long term gains in terms of war spoils.

The largest announcement however has been the N3 bloc allying itself with TEST.  Norther Coalition, a key member of N3, had already begun fighting with TEST previously but formal support at the N3 coalition brings in numerous other alliances.  N3 currently sports nearly 19,000 pilots so this is an enormous shift in the balance of power in the favor of TEST.  However, this is a long range for N3 and the enthusiasm of various individual alliances for the war will probably vary.  As far as I know this is also the first real war the N3 bloc has engaged in since the rather one-sided defeat of Solar Alliance quite some months ago.

In all, TEST now has the support of some of the richest and most elite alliances.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t ensure any degree of coordination or cooperation between these various disparate groups while the CFC remains united, well organized, well supported by centralized logistics, and certainly well led.  EVE wars have often seen strong-looking defensive coalitions relying on support from fragmented, unenthusiastic alliances quickly disintegrate in the face of a determined and well organized offensive.

More importantly, tracking sovereignty and losses on DOTLAN doesn’t tell the whole story of the war.  Sovereignty does convey some serious long-term benefits due to the ability to set up cyno jammers, jump bridges, build outposts, and save POS fuel.  However the real income in 0.0 at the alliance and coalition level is moon mining.  Moon warfare and moons changing hands is something that often goes unnoticed since it is almost impossible to track without in-game intel.  The Mittani’s recent coalition update focuses on making clear that moon warfare is the CFC’s priority and that it is being won handily.  While coalition updates from the Mittani are definitely intended as biased propaganda, his report is very possibly true and if so TEST is losing huge amounts of moon income.  TEST’s financial stability is a serious question in it’s ability to continue the war and maintain it’s allies faith.

Mittani also dropped another important announcement:  Black Legion, who has destroyed hundreds of billions of CFC ships and infrastructure in attacks on the north including a Titan and Supercarrier still under construction, would be pacified with an enormous ISK payment and would cease attacking infrastructure in the north.  This confirms that the Black Legion attacks constituted a serious threat to the CFC war effort; paying off Black Legion with ISK means that the CFC is paying a former and future enemy to leave them alone for a short time (1 month duration according to reports), indicating perhaps not all is not entirely well with the CFC behind the scenes.  Black Legion remains free to attack CFC ships and other alliances in the north such as 401K will continue raids but the CFC is apparently gambling that the one month of time to focus on Fountain without having to look back will be a deciding factor in the war.

It’s a little tough to gauge the overall status of the conflict right now.  The CFC has a finely tuned propaganda machine and the Mittani is an excellent writer who owns his own news outlet and can carefully control the content of articles posted there.  A neutral observer would be forgiven for believing that the CFC was an unstoppable war machine and that the cobbled together TEST coalition is doomed to financial distress and abandonment by it’s allies.  In reality I’m sure the situation for TEST is not nearly so bad and the CFC paying off Black Legion is a significant event that shows both how deep the CFC pockets are and also how stretched the CFC was as a coalition in trying to defend it’s own space while also assaulting Fountain.

I get the feeling the next week or so will be key; if the CFC is truly stripping TEST’s moon income, morale in TEST corporations will drop and it’s allies may become less likely to support them.  On the other hand, it’s important to never underestimate how many people in EVE enjoying shooting Goons for almost no reason and I think a lot of people understand that if the CFC is not stopped here it will secure enough income to continue it’s hegemony of EVE for the foreseeable future.

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ships

The CFC vs. TEST war has seen trillions of ISK worth of destruction in numerous engagements, including dozens of capitals and multiple supercapitals, and has certainly not disappointed those who have been waiting years for a conflict on this scale.  The vast wealth of some of the great 0.0 alliances is finally being poured into a conflict to determine who will truly be “top dog” of EVE in the coming year; whether CFC will retain the dominance they have enjoyed over the last several years or whether TEST and the N3 coalition will unseat the CFC and usher in a new era.

The biggest news by far as been the wildcard alliances choosing sides.  Northern Coalition has clearly sided with TEST along with token support from others in the N3 coalition.  This was not a large surprise given the NC. and Goonswarm were only last year engaged in a bitter war and Northern Coalition can expect almost certain threats to it’s new Querious holdings if CFC triumphs over TEST.  More surprising, however, is that Pandemic Legion has also returned to assist TEST in it’s war.  PL’s support provides for an enormous shift in the supercapital balance of power in TEST’s favor, though PL will remain a fickle ally who is primarily involved for the kills and will not stick around a minute longer than they feel like it.

Looking at the map of the Fountain region, the war front, it’s clear that despite the much larger opposition than anticipated the CFC is still grinding forward.  An early coup for Goonswarm came about when Mistakes Were Made, a small administrative alliance which held sovereignty in 5 station systems in Fountain as part of the old HBC structure, handed their systems over to Goonswarm providing safe bases of operation for Goonswarm well behind enemy lines.  TEST was only able to contest the transition of one system and this failed despite some heavy fighting.  While TEST is not staging out of any stations in the Fountain region this is nonetheless a depressing event for the defenders.  In addition to those 5 systems TEST has also lost sov in 8 further non-station systems, 4 of which have been successfully claimed by Goonswarm.  Clearly the CFC numbers are showing as they are simply able to contest more timers than TEST can adequately defend but the CFC has not yet taken a defended station system.

On the sub-capital loss front, also, the CFC appears to be coming out ahead.  The CFC fleets have been using front line doctrines based around Navy Tempests and Tengus with huge Celestis fleets disrupting enemy logistics and targeting and Caracal fleets providing cheap but cost effective fleets.  The opposition has been a mix of Foxcat, battlecruiser and AHAC doctrines with a lot more variability, including Megathrons from Tribal Band and Pandemic Legion’s famous Dominix potato cats.  In general looking across a lot of battles the sub-capital attrition war seems to be in CFC’s favor though it’s almost impossible to track given the massive amount of engagements and losses on both sides; even the CFC staging sytem in D-BDYQ is seeing constant skirmishing.

The only area where numbers-wise TEST is doing well is in (more…)

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influence

Only days after the release of Odyssey and my previous post about the certainty of coming conflict the CFC has formally announced their intention to strike south and invade Fountain.  In a rather interesting speech (profanity warning), The Mittani has laid out the reasons for the invasion.  This is a land grab, pure and simple, with Mittani claiming:

For the past few years our coalition has become accustomed to a lifestyle that is the envy of EVE. Due to technetium and sound fiscal management, we have been able to fund a peacetime reimbursement system, carrier giveaways, and galaxy-changing events like Burn Jita and the Ice Interdictions. But now that has all changed.

Odyssey has stripped the value of our regions. To compensate, other alliances have set up rental programs, something that we despise. Our finance team – the best in the game – tells me that in order for us to uphold our social programs, we must acquire more than fifty new R64s for the coalition.

.,.

Who is right and who is wrong doesn’t really matter: if we do not invade Fountain, someone else will – and they will enjoy the kind of wealth that we once had, while we wallow in wrenching poverty.

I don’t think anyone is fooled by the “wrenching poverty” comment but Fountain is an immensely rich region with at least 50 charted R64 moons and some fantastic tru-sec space, so this is truly a prize region worth fighting over.

CFC is staging out of the B-DBYQ station which has seen over 14,000 gate jumps in the last 24 hours, not even counting capital ships jumping into the system.  This will be an invasion on a massive scale with the entire might of the CFC coalition’s dozen alliances and 30,000+ pilots put into motion.  CFC is also counting on NC. taking Querious from a crumbling RAIDEN and the possibility of Dinner Coalition attacking Period Basis.

On the defending side, TEST Alliance is the largest single alliance in the game with over 12,000 pilots and is supported by Tribal Band in Period Basis with another 3500 pilots.  TEST also has a surge of income due to the Odyssey moon mineral changes but it will take some time to capitalize on this.  Ultimately, TEST will still be outnumbered roughly 2:1 but will have all the advantages of the defender.

The CFC will almost certainly enjoy supercapital superiority which is a major factor in all-out sov warfare, but TEST has enough supercapitals as well as an enormous capital fleet that they may very well contest the capital realm.  Pandemic Legion is a huge wildcard; they won’t be able to stay away if both sides are bringing out supercapitals, but whether they intervene as an independent party or aligned with one side or the other remains to be seen.  The supercapital question is probably the single largest factor that will determine the success of the most critical timers; both sides can afford massive sub-capital losses, but capital and super-capital losses are more difficult to replace.  TEST already has some extensive experience defending their own space by cycling cyno-jammers to mass a capital and supercapital defense fleet while denying one to the attacking side, but cyno-jammers can be destroyed with messy outcomes.

TEST has two possible allies in their struggle; the Darkness of Despair led Russian coalition has just taken their first few sov systems against the Dinner Coalition, and by keeping up this pressure they can possibly prevent Dinner Coalition from seriously attacking Tribal Band.  So it makes sense for TEST and the Darkness of Despair to cooperate to some extent, though its unlikely this will actually happen.  More likely, Black Legion will provide some sort of tangible support for TEST, either by stepping up their campaign of moon harassment in the north or by actually deploying down south to farm kills off of the CFC.  ELO Knight has already made an appearance in support of TEST during the NOL battles so this would not be surprising.

Pandemic Legion, as mentioned, is a wildcard and their level of involvement will heavily determine the supercap usage by both sides.  However an even more important wildcard is NC.; they have begun conquering systems in Querious and could represent a threat to either side.  NC. and CFC fought an extensive war last year and there is no love lost between the two factions, however NC. is also perfectly capable of siding with what they perceive to be the winning side.  Or NC. might simply settle Querious and remain neutral to both entities, while the rest of the N3 coalition may or may not get involved.  Some big question marks here.

Most successful region invasions in EVE are decided fairly quickly after the first few major battles break the will of the defenders.  However, TEST has declared that they will fight to the last ship, and their morale is initially very high so it’s possible we may see one of the largest and most sustained costly wars ever fought in EVE.  Possibly even one that is actually fought to resource exhaustion rather than morale.  Fountain is a huge region with 115 systems and 35 stations so it will take months to conquer it if TEST is actively defending it.

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influence

The relative stagnation of EVE 0.0 space that has existed for quite some time is about to utterly explode into a series of intense regional wars.  Coalitions are dissolving and forming, resource wealth is shifting geographically and becoming more diverse, and the amount of raw destruction going on in 0.0 via organized conflicts is on the rise.  In short, EVE Online 0.0 gameplay is moving back toward where the players have always wanted it to be.  And for someone like me who is not actually subscribed to the game and is simply enjoying it vicariously via various news outlets that is a really, really good thing as one of the most serious massive-scale wargames on the internet is about to get really interesting to watch.

When I last blogged about the situation in 0.0 at the end of the Solar war, I was complaining that essentially three coalition blocs controlled nearly all of the valuable space and that major conflict had all but disappeared due to various economic ties that discouraged conflict.  So what happened to finally break the monotony?  Two major factors.  First, through a strange set of circumstances that I won’t even try to explain Pandemic Legion and TEST Alliance broke off their long but strange relationship which eliminated a major stabilizing element of relations between the HBC and CFC.  This in turn led to the fracturing of the HBC into separate Western and Eastern blocs, not all that different from the Roman Empire.  Similar to the Roman Empire analogy, the two new coalitions are not exactly enemies or allies, but the major point is that they will not assist each other actively in wars; they will need to stand alone now.

I will run through the new current coalition situation and give my opinions as to what happens next.

CFC:  ~33,000 pilots.  Goonswarm and it’s coalition remain the most powerful power bloc in the game.  They still control the largest single manpower pool as well as vast amounts of space and wealth.  They also seem to be maintaining fairly good relations with Pandemic Legion, an important element in being able to deploy supercapital ships; and if things went south with Pandemic Legion they could always seize all the Pandemic Legion moons in the north.  The problem for the CFC is that they have enjoyed massive income inflow from Technetium moons and that is about to disappear.  The Odyssey expansion will overnight destroy the bulk of the CFC’s moon mineral income, thus forcing them to radically restructure their finances and deal with a much tighter budget.  Goonswarm also thrives off of chaos and action and so the upcoming time period will likely see a very active CFC seeking to lock down as many R64 moons as possible across the north.  While CFC has been skirmishing intensely in Delve with TEST for a while with mostly cheap ships, the real question is whether CFC will finally begin it’s long-awaited southern territorial expansion into the Fountain/Delve/Querious area.

TEST Coalition:  ~17,000 pilots.  AKA the former Western portion of the HBC, called by some “The Rebels”.  The TEST Alliance coalition isn’t much of a coalition anymore… TEST now mostly stands alone with only Tribal Band and RAIDEN as allies.  And RAIDEN is about to dissolve, with some elements scattering and some merging into TEST; this will give TEST some much needed elite pilots and supercaps but will leave Querious very vulnerable for a period of time.  TEST has been able to put up some enormous fleet numbers on defense and they seem to be well motivated after such a long period of stagnation.  They are going to be a major benefactor of the moon minerals change and will see a vastly increased income in the near future, however this has to be balanced with the fact that an enormous target has just been painted on their space and the CFC is not far away.  Querious will be the region to watch here as RAIDEN’s dissolution leaves this region entirely up for grabs.

The Dinner Squadron:  ~14,500 pilots.  AKA the former Eastern portion of the HBC.  This is a jumbled mess of alliances occupying the more recently conquered HBC space; so recently conquered, in fact, that their old enemies are still around in the form of what I will call the Russian Coalition.  Everyone knows that nothing unites a coalition like a good name, so why (more…)

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