The war for Fountain was fought over moons. From The Mittani's first declaration, it was clear that it was a war over the passive income of R64s. In a sea of rumours and spin, I set out to catalog the ownership of Fountain's moons and track each side's shifting fortunes over the course of the war. This is what happened.
A NAGGING QUESTION
On July 1, I wrote about system and station progress in the Fountain war.
With the top-down, behind-closed-doors income setup that most null alliances use for moon tracking, who controls what can be difficult to determine for those not involved in high-level diplomacy and operations. The general public is reduced to relying upon DOTLAN, forum postings, searching kill boards and even probing the moons themselves — all just to see who controls what. The contrast with the transparency of the in-game sov system is striking.
Moons were the focus of the fight in Fountain, but information about progress on that front was limited to propaganda and rumour. Even now, with the war over, there is little reliable public information available. Such hearsay was simply unacceptable to me. I wanted more. I needed more. Most of all, you, the readers, deserved solid information. No spin, no slant, no article with other motives. You deserved the unaltered truth.
AN EVER-GROWING PROBLEM
Now that I knew the goal, how would I get there? The Fountain region has 4849 moons. Before Clusterfuck Coalition (CFC), led by Goonswarm Federation, started the war, I was told by multiple sources that they'd sent in teams of pilots with thousands of moon survey probes to gather information about every single moon. It was a daunting task and I'm told some of them still have nightmares. Considering that I was going into this solo, spending the next 50 years probing each individual moon was out of the question. I needed to speed the process up – a lot.
DOTLAN EveMaps is, by far, the 3rd party website most commonly used by serious EVE players. DOTLAN offers a wide variety of tools to help players stay in tune with their surroundings. One notable tool is the database of moon mineral locations. While the site is amazing, one of the flaws of the moon mineral information is that it's completely based off players input. It's basically a trust system and you and I both know the words 'trust' and 'EVE' simply do not mix.
For as long as the site has been up, EVE players have been doing what they can in the name of the meta game to feed it false information on moons. While a vast majority of the information may be correct, gaming the moon information has been a time-honored tradition since the early days of Band of Brothers. Years ago, before the Dominion expansion, there were accusations that Pandemic Legion was paying DOTLAN to not publish certain moons to help them stay under the radar and possibly avoid anyone ever assaulting one of PL's precious ISK printing machines.
With so much in question, I came to the conclusion DOTLAN maps did not hold the information I desired, at least not in a form I would trust enough to present to the reader as fact. I needed another plan.
An easy but extremely expensive solution is to seek out groups that specialize in these highly-guarded secrets. While some websites offer an idea of moon mineral details, you get what you pay for. If you're paying zero ISK, you can expect cheap results. Groups want a massive amount of money for some regions and, in the end, I would be taking their word that the information was accurate. Beyond the stack of ISK they wanted, I simply could not get behind using secondhand intel.
FINDING AN ACCEPTABLE SOLUTION
Once again, I was back to square one. I needed concrete information on Fountain money moons. Then, I realized two things. First, I didn't need to probe the almost 5000 moons in Fountain; I only needed the valuable ones. Second, all those poor souls who spent an ungodly amount of money and/or time finding out the information had done all the work for me. The only thing I needed to do was dig up clues as to what they knew.
The answer was simple, follow the fights. CFC and TEST were fighting over moons and the moons that they'd focus on were the moons worth taking. Which moons were those? The answer to that was revealed by API-verified tower kill mails.
By far, the most commonly used killboards are eve-kill.net and zkillboard.com. They're run, incidentally, by the same group of people. On eve-kill.net, once a Player Owned Starbase (POS) is killed and API-verified it will give the precise location right down the moon it was anchored on. On zkillboard it is possible to narrow a search down by a specific region and type of kill mails.
With the help of a fellow TMC writer, we created a search string that displayed all tower kill mails in Fountain. After more research and talking with the zkillboard support staff, I was able to narrow it down even further to specific months and years. Presto, I now could see every API-verified POS killed in Fountain during the entire war. Unfortunately, zkillboard currently does not display the exact moon location, though the people behind the website have it on their to do list. Using eve-kill.net I could cross-reference the results for every tower killed and find out the exact location of every contested moon.
I had my list of targets. The next step was visiting those moons.
There are many other players who take a great interest in precise moon mineral information. Some make a sizable income off selling such knowledge. Others have vested interests in valuable moons. Over time, either because I'd contacted them or because they'd heard about the probject, people became aware of what I was planing in regards to releasing the information. They were most displeased.
Never in all of my career flying internet spaceships have I been so violently threatened so often in such a short period of time. Some encounters involved encouraging me to give up and warning me that the quest was pointless. Some evolved to a degree of attempted bribery to not release this information. One gentleman offered me this bit of disturbing advice:
“Unless you like the idea of someone crawling through your window in the middle of the night cutting your neck from ear to ear; I suggest you stop right now and go back to making cute ALOD articles.”
It seemed that anyone who held these secrets tightly were displeased with my intent with releasing it for public consumption. After all these threats, I sat down, thought it out and decided I should be responsible about all of this. This is just pixels. I had 1000 Gaze Survey Probes shipped down to Fountain and fit several Cheetahs specifically for the job. Threats be damned, you can't stop the signal.
I began a journey across all of Fountain. Pushing the limits of the way-points, detouring around dozens and dozens of gate camps, enduring endless smack talk from enemies, passing through hundreds of gates, and firing off over a hundred and fifty Gaze survey probes; I conducted my investigation. Several times, I was contacted and reminded that what I planned on doing was not wise if I valued my health. I pressed on.
I am not naive enough to believe my method is foolproof. There are thousands of other moons in Fountain that may never have a tower fall and so may never send up a red flag for someone to investigate. As much as I wish I could claim all information I gathered includes absolutely everything involving a money moon, there are some slim chance scenarios that would fall in the cracks.
One is that with the Odyssey expansion came a minor moon change for 227 low end moons that were changed to high end. If any of these moons were passed over by the legions of moon surveyors, there is a good chance CFC or anyone else has not yet attacked and killed the tower that is on the moon, assuming there was a tower to begin with. With no kill mail to send up a red flag for me to investigate, someone could very well be sucking up high end goo and no one would be the wiser.
Another, although more rare, situation is if a high end moon owner took down their tower and someone else put one up in its place. As the invasion progresses some high end moon owners will simply pack up the tower and vacate, leaving it available for anyone to come along and plant a new POS in its place. There are also rumors of under the table deals to bribe owners of towers to pack them up so an enemy force can take the moon, thus keeping watchful eyes from glancing their way.
Unless you can be in five thousand places at once all day and all night, anything can happen to slip by you. In the end, I am only one person. However, my method should shed some light on these operations for you all.
CATCHING A GLIMPSE
By taking each and every moon in question, recording who the tower owner was and any new towers that come along later, we are able to see the shift of possible income changing hands.
To understand the implications of every loss and gain, I needed to figure out the value of the moons. In order to present the most accurate moon values and tag them to different alliances, I needed to get raw data on each mineral's daily average price. At first, I sought out an array of industrialist websites who specialized in such things. I checked each mineral for each day of the war.
As I plugged in the average price, my graphs and tables started to take shape. In one section, the entries looked a bit odd. After some research I discovered that the sites, like so many other 3rd party tools, had bad data. It was being gamed or there was some terrible entry mistake. So just like firing off a probe into a moon myself, I needed the real daily averages. Off to The Forge region I went and discovered features in the market I never knew existed. I had indeed found the real numbers.
QUESTION EVERYTHING. TRUST NO ONE – EVER.
Despite not having any programming experience to create API programs to do a call for all the information I wanted, I actually had a method that would work for me. Now it was just a matter of putting every tower in chronological order and going to every moon they died on and probing the moon myself. As an added bonus I recorded, if any, the current tower owner. The official invasion started on June 6th. The graph I will show only goes to July 27th, but in that time 189 towers were destroyed in Fountain, spanning 150 different moons. If one of the primary goals is to take all the money moons from a defender, there is a good bet any moons of value will have been contested.
With the search field narrowed down to a small percentage of the total moons and given the disclaimers I listed above, I will focus on the moons that have fallen to illustrate where the money has been and where it is going. While most view the conflict in Fountain as simply TEST versus Goons or even N3ST versus CFC, it can be easy to overlook the impact of neutral parties. One such party is GaNg BaNg TeAm alliance who live out of the NPC stations. While they are small in numbers, within their power projection, they control a respectable number of high end moons. So much so as they have to be included in the chart when comparing who owns what.
Completing this investigation required many hours over the course of two weeks between normal operations in Fountain. I will do my best to maintain the information so anyone with the Google Docs link can view it. Keep in mind some of the scripts do time out and I have to manually go into each one and refresh certain cells.
By nature I am a combat pilot and gathering this information and presenting it is not exactly my forte. If you have any suggestions or corrections never hesitate to contact me. Here is a picture of the final graph from the start of the war to July 27th:
While I can't definitively present to you all the moons in Fountain including the current owners, I can at least give you a glimpse of the ones that have been involved in some conflict.
The next time you are exploring the far reaches of space and stumble upon a moon mining operation, if it feels a bit odd that someone would invest so heavily into a moon that's believed to be worthless, finding out first hand may yield some fascinating results.