EVE Online is a massively-multiplayer online game whose game play is centered on control of regions and resources in the star systems of New Eden. Players create large corporations, alliances, and coalitions to control star systems, mine and sell resources, build fleets of ships, develop new technology and weapons, and dominate the political, economic, and martial spheres of influence on the game map. This drive to build and conquer has led to New Eden seeing a fair number of large-scale space warfare (after all, what’s the point of spaceships in video games if one doesn’t blow up now and again?) but the digital carnage reached a new high on January 27th, when the N3/Pandemic Legion alliance lost control of an in-game system called B-R5RB. The battle was one of the largest and most costly skirmishes in the game’s 10 year history.
To understand the massive destruction and cost of “The Bloodbath of B-R5RB,” one first has to understand something of how spaceships are built in EVE Online. Like in real life, building a ship requires gathering the raw materials, researching blueprints, learning the skills required to build the technology, and having a place to build it. In the case of Titans, the largest and most powerful class of warship in the game, that means claiming and maintaining sovereignty over a star system in which you have already created three or more defensible outposts. One Titan can cost around 40-billion ISK (the in-game currency) in raw materials only, or around 70-billion ISK counting the man-hours needed to build it. Since, like in many other MMOs, in-game currency can be bought using real money as well as earned through in-game missions, that’s the equivalent of about $2,165 for one single Titan ship, not including upgrades or other improvements any pilot might employ to increase the power (and value) of their spacecraft.
The Bloodbath of B-R5RB destroyed seventy-five of them, as well as countless other dreadnoughts, carriers, supercarriers, and more. The final statistics on the battle put the total destruction cost at over 11-trillion ISK (approx. $340,000). The fight lasted twenty-one hours, destroyed over 600 ships, and involved around 2,670 unique players. While not the battle fought by the greatest number of individual players at one time (that title belongs to the Battle of 6VDT-H, which hosted closer to 4,070 individual players in-system), it is by far the game’s most expensive and destructive firefight to date; the alliance that won the battle, the CFC Alliance and Russian Bloc, lost sixteen Titans total. The previous record held for most Titans lost in a single battle was twelve. N3PL, the losing coalition, lost fifty-nine–an amount previously considered unimaginable.
And how did the battle start? How did the online skirmish EVE Online calls “gaming’s most destructive battle ever” begin?
The Pandemic Legion missed a bill payment.
To maintain sovereignty in a star system, the sovereign faction must pay an upkeep cost to the NPC police force CONCORD, the cost of which is dependent upon how much strategic infrastructure the faction has built up in the system. These payments are collected every two weeks, in advance, and secure that faction’s control over the system for the next fourteen day period. If a system’s sovereignty bill payment is missed, its TCUs (Territorial Claim Units: basically flags placed near the system’s sun to show ownership) go offline, leaving the system vulnerable to being claimed by another alliance.
H A V O C, a corporation belonging to the Pandemic Legion alliance, reportedly did not have their automatic payment option operative when CONCORD tried to collect their sovereignty cost payment, and the missed payment caused their TCUs to fail and the system to become available to contesting powers. The N3PL alliance quickly attempted to get their TCUs back online, but the CFC/Russians dropped their carriers into the system to destroy the TCU and quickly set up their own. Since a TCU takes several hours to anchor and then bring online, the fight quickly became a matter of who could defend their TCU until its process was completed first. Considering N3PL was using the system as a staging area for their war assets, control of the system meant that the winner would gain not only the system itself but also the ships, cargo, materials, outposts, and other resources stored there.
As a literal in-game monument to the size and scale of B-R5RB’s destruction, the EVE Online development team has created a floating Titan graveyard drifting in dead space around the star system’s sun. “Titanomachy,” a reference to the War of the Titans in Greek mythology, features several models of wrecked Titans (created for the recently released Rubicon 1.1 expansion) strewn in orbit, a truly impressive and haunting addition to EVE‘s already stellar (pun intended) graphics. EVE Travel, a blog devoted to “sightseeing in the cluster,” described the site.
To the left, ships blot out an appropriately blood-red star. To the right, now-nameless titan wrecks, worth billions of ISK and with thousands of lives lost on each of them, gently tumble through space against the green backdrop of the Immensea nebula. And all around, there is an eerie quiet. The stark stillness of the scene stands in sharp contrast to the ferocity of the battle that took place here just days before.
What happened in B-R5RB last month has clearly made an impression not only on the players of EVE, despite being part of a game used to huge amounts of digital carnage; the battle’s scale has captured the imagination of mainstream media as well, and brought hundreds of new players flocking to the game. Will B-R5RB’s record be broken any time soon? Was it a tipping point in the political history of EVE Online, or just another (surprisingly large) skirmish of little import? In the end, only time will tell.
Do you play EVE? Is there a battle or quest worth talking about in your favorite MMO? Let us know about it in the comments!