EVE Online, CCP Games’ flagship title, is a big game. In an industry where multiplayer matches are considered big at 64 players, EVE sees thousands of pilots all pile into a system to duke it in battles that can last days. In July of last year, the Battle for 6VDT-H saw 4,070 pilots in one system at once, with the total number of combatants over 5,000. For comparison, that is about the size of a US Marine infantry regiment.
The Battle of B-R5RB is not the biggest in terms of players in the same system at once, though the total players involved in the sprawling fight well surpasses 6VDT-H. According to CCP, 7,548 unique pilots engaged in the battle.
The Battle of B-R5RB will be remembered, though, for the staggering amount of ISK lost. ISK, the abbreviation for Interstellar Kredits, EVE Online’s currency is the metric for almost anything that happens in the game. It is used to buy ships, ammo, materials, everything. Each ship hull has an associated cost of ISK. The average earning ability of a player can vary widely, but 100 million ISK can easily be made in an hour of active gameplay, more if the player is willing to risk more. The Battle of B-R5RB smashed the previous record of losses in a single battle, the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre where losses were valued at 1 trillion ISK, by at least 11 times.
Null Security Space and Sovereign Actors
There are three parts to EVE Online gameplay, each distinct and different. All the big battles come from Null Security game play. Null Security is at its basic form anarchic-anyone can engage anyone else at any time, for any reason, and not be punished by game mechanics. Players naturally form groups to survive in such an environment. These groups are corporations. As corporations banded together, CCP introduced alliances. As alliances banded together, coalitions of thousands of players form.
Within Null Security, alliances are the sovereign actors in the anarchic state. They can take and claim space. They can colonize space they own with space stations. They declare and fight wars, sometimes officially, sometimes not, against other alliances. These sovereign acts cannot be performed by corporations, no matter how large, and coalitions do not actually exist in the game mechanics. However, the sovereign decision to go to war has mostly been surrendered by the alliance leaders to the coalition leaders.
There are only so many systems in Null Security for alliances to claim: 2,719. Each one is assigned a random alphanumeric designation, e.g., 6VDT-H or B-R5RB. Additionally, some regions and systems have better money-making potential than others. For years, the income of alliances was dependent on minerals harvested from moons that were needed for construction materials for advanced starships. Recently, CCP changed the game mechanics to make moons' materials much less profitable.
This gave rise to rental income. Each system can be rented out to a third party. They can then exploit the system’s resources for a set price to the owner of the system. This is not an actual game mechanic, rather something enforced by the military might of the alliance renting the system. With feudalism now an established institution in EVE Online, every system became valuable.
The Casus Belli
The current war, known as the Halloween War, was started when the ethnic Russian alliances banded together to attack a coalition known as N3PL. N3PL had previously fought a war against one of the alliances in the new RUS coalition, SOLAR, and evicted them from their space. One of the alliances in N3PL, Nulli Secunda, had fought alongside a RUS alliance, Against All Authorities, almost two years ago and had been left out to dry. Needless to say, there was bad blood all around.
Following the initial attack, the other major coalition in the game, The Clusterfuck Coalition, i.e., the CFC, announced they would be deploying to the galactic east to assist the RUS (shortened Russian) bloc as ‘neutral third parties.’ N3PL had done the same when they fought with TEST Alliance Please Ignore against the CFC earlier last summer. One of the leaders of the N3PL coaliton, Progodlegend, announced at the time the whole purpose of N3 was the defeat of the CFC. Additionally, N3PL had welcomed in bitterly hated rivals of Goonswarm Federation, an alliance in the CFC. Needless to say, there was bad blood all around.
In the middle of December, The Mittani, the leader of the CFC, announced that the CFC would fully deploy to war, which included its full capital and super capital fleet. At that point, the bulk of Null Security sovereign entities were fully committed to the war. A third group, the Providence Bloc, would become co-belligerents of N3PL, although would not explicitly ally with them. At that point, trench warfare began.
The Conduct of War in Virtual Space
The game mechanics of breaking sovereignty of a system are slow. They involve blockading the system and attacking the sovereignty structions in the system. Infrastructure Hubs, commonly shortened to I-hubs, have tens of millions of hit points. Stations, one of the most potent claims to sovereignty over a system, have hundreds of millions of hitpoints. Each will enter a reinforcement phase after a successful attack; I-Hubs reinforce for one day, stations two days. Once they come out of reinforcement, they must be successfully attacked again and enter the armor reinforcement phase. The third successful attack destroys them. The I-Hub must be destroyed to attack the Territorial Control Unit, essentially the alliance’s flag planted in the system. Once the Territorial Control Unit is destroyed the system is vulnerable and another alliance can plant their own flag. It takes 8 hours for the Territorial Control Unit to come online, which can lead to running battles in which each side attempts to destroy the Territorial Control Unit before it comes online while guarding their own.
The deployment of capital and supercapital class ships is important, as only these behemoths are able to put out the amount of damage needed to quickly and easily attack sovereignty structures. Two hundred capital ships can put out the same amount of damage in five minutes that four hundred line battleships put out in thirty minutes. It was the capital and supercapital class ships that dominated the field at B-R5RB.
To understand the distinction between capital and supercapitals and subcapitals, one must first understand the differences in production and use. The standard line battleship of the CFC for the Halloween war is the Dominix.
The production time is a set and forget value. If a player wishes to produce 10 of these ships, they simply put 10 times as many minerals as they would for one and set the blueprint to run for ten cycles. After a day and a half they come back to find 10 ships waiting to be delivered. One player can theoretically run ten production slots at one time, so if they had ten Dominix blueprints, it would take 35 hours to produce 100 of these ships
The preferred dreadnought of the CFC is the Naglfar.
The production of a capital ship, supercapitals as well, requires the production of a large number of subcomponents. To produce a dreadnought requires over 230 subcomponents of eleven different types. Again, as each player can run 10 production slots, the actual construction time for one player to produce a dreadnought comes to just over 14 days.
The difference in the hit points is a whole order of magnitude higher than the Dominix. The damage output is over eight times better at twice the range. Additionally, capital ships have jump drives that let them travel several light years directly to the target system. A capital fleet can cover a distance in just a few minutes that would take a subcapital a quarter hour or more.