Book: Empires of Eve
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1: The Siege of C-J6MT
Chapter 2: Introduction to EVE Online
Chapter 3: Seeds of the Empires
Chapter 4: A Civil War in the North
Chapter 5: Prelude to War
Chapter 6: The Great Northern War
Chapter 7: The Capital Age
Chapter 8: Rise of Ascendant Frontier
Chapter 9: The Ascendant Frontier War
Chapter 10: Fallen Frontier
Chapter 11: Enter Goons
Chapter 12: Unholy Goonion
Chapter 13: The Great EVE War Begins
Chapter 14: The Great EVE War Part 2
Chapter 15: Maximum Damage
Chapter 16: The Russian Schism
Chapter 17: The Great EVE War Part 3
Chapter 18: After the War
Note for ebook readers: This story benefits greatly from the inclusion of maps displaying the geography of the EVE Online universe which cannot properly be displayed in some ebook formats. They're not required to understand the story, but may help to enhance the experience. You can view these maps at: EveHistory.imgur.com.
"Eve is real.”
That single statement has embroiled the EVE Online community in disagreement for years. That sentence sums up everything that makes EVE special, and every player has an opinion on it.
For some people the notion that EVE is real is absurd, a way of placing false importance on a silly spaceship game, and a byproduct of people taking the game too seriously.
For others the idea is more meaningful. For them—for us—it’s very much a philosophical statement. For us, it’s about expanding the definition of what constitutes a real space.
The building blocks of EVE Online’s universe—called New Eden—are ones and zeroes rather than ordinary Earth elements, but what Earth and New Eden have in common is humanity. Jealousy, ambition, revenge, greed, hatred, and friendship are at the core of EVE Online. Human emotions and work make up the soul of New Eden, and you’ll find every emotion there that you would in the traditional world.
In that sense, New Eden is very much a new province of humanity, and its history is worth preserving. It’s a place where a single leader can inspire dozens of Russian pilots to defend their last starbase for two and a half days straight without sleep. It’s a place where ideological differences can spark years-long conflicts involving tens of thousands of real humans. The full range of human potential is on display in EVE. It’s a virtual space, but it’s a virtual space where causation and human ambition matter, and that makes it a space that matters to history.
As a journalist, chronicling the history of EVE Online is an incredibly exciting opportunity. Scholars have been studying the actions of players in virtual worlds for decades, but never before—to the best of my knowledge—has anyone worked to document the stories and the struggles of the people who inhabit one of these virtual places.
There are certainly many people who think spending your time in a virtual world is a waste of energy, but I hope to convince you in these pages that it’s not. The stories from EVE are no different from those that occur in the real world. They inspire and bring meaning to people’s lives, and they show us the very best and worst in ourselves.
EVE is real.
— Andrew Groen
The following is based on true events...
THE WAR FOR INSMOTHER
AND THE SIEGE OF C-J6MT
On May 25, 2006, 70 Russian pilots sat tired and bleary-eyed in their battleships near the first moon of the fourth planet in a star system so remote it was known only by the obscure designation “C-J6MT.” They had dug in their heels, huddled around their last stronghold—a defensive starbase—and were preparing for the fight of their lives. Their fleet commander, a Russian-born New Yorker known to his compatriots as “Death,” spoke to his friends and fellow pilots, rallying the troops for one last stand.
“You have to be able to show people that there is a hope,” he later said. “Even a fucking tiny one. Just show the people that there is a little tiny hope that exists.”
A fleet of over 400 “Coalition of the South” ships—the enemies of the Russians—warped in on the position of the 70 defenders. Among the massive fleet were 15 state-of-the-art, siege-capable dreadnoughts designed to rip the entrenched Russian position to shreds. As the Coalition dreadnoughts aimed their huge guns at the starbase and fired the opening volley, the Russian fleet commander gave the order to retaliate. They were outnumbered almost six to one, but they were prepared.
“When you’re going up against those kind of odds you’d better have some great fucking idea about how you’re going to beat their asses,” Death told me in a thick Russian accent.
The siege of C-J6MT had begun.
The Russian pilots were all that remained of the former powerhouse Red Alliance, a group whose holdings had once spanned across 450 star systems, making it the dominant power in the southeast of New Eden.
The Coalition of the South was comprised of several smaller alliances which each had an “ancestral claim” to the territory Red Alliance conquered (some very old groups in EVE occasionally claim ancestral rights to certain territories if they were among the first to settle there when the game launched in 2003).
Before they joined forces and became the Coalition of the South, the smaller groups each individually asked Red Alliance for their territory back, but each request was denied by Red Alliance at the height of its power and its hubris. Real world relationships can heavily influence politics in EVE, and in this case the path to a peaceful resolution was being obstructed because some Coalition of the South pilots thought it was funny to mock the Russians for their nationality.
“They really bore grudges, the Russians,” said Lallante, a former fleet commander in the Coalition of the South. “We tried diplomacy initially to say ‘we’re happy leaving you in the East, you can keep your old regions. Let’s just be friends.’ And they said, ‘No. We remember all those vodka jokes. This is gonna go down.’”
Not content to take no for an answer, those alliances came together to remove Red Alliance from its enormous empire in the southeast. Individually, the alliances that made up the Coalition of the South were no match for the Russians, but as a combined unit it was the dominant force in the southeast of New Eden. And so the fingers (Lotka Volterra, Knights of the Southern Cross, Chimaera Pact, and Veritas Immortalis) formed a fist: the Coalition of the South. Its ranks numbered in the thousands. It was wealthy. And it was capable of fielding fleets bigger and better equipped than any in the region. The ranks of Red Alliance had swelled too. The Russian alliance now recruited American and French wings among other nationalities.
As Red Alliance accepted more and more partner groups into its alliance, the Coalition of the South prepared for a massive invasion of Red Alliance territory.
ENCROACHING DARK IN A GOLDEN AGE
The stage was set for an epic war between the two giants of the southeast, but it didn’t pan out that way. The initial invasion of Red Alliance territory went unopposed. Two whole regions, 180 star systems, were lost for the most mundane of reasons: Red Alliance’s leadership couldn’t convince its pilots to make the long trip out for the battle from their headquarters. The regions of Detorid and Immensea were lost and Red Alliance defense fleets were nowhere to be found.
The newfound girth of Red Alliance was working against it. In the words of a former leader, “Mactep,” (a Russian word both pronounced and meaning “Master”) it had too many language barriers and was weakly organized.
These are two terrible qualities for an organization trying to field an army in EVE Online. Loyalty takes time to develop, and Red Alliance’s constituent corporations were like newly absorbed independent states, still more loyal to themselves than to the alliance as a whole. Beyond that, it’s difficult to form camaraderie between soldiers who speak different languages, and it’s also difficult to ask new alliance members to spend their time and risk their ships to defend territory they played no role in conquering. Not to mention the difficulty of leading a fleet under the guiding voice of a single commander when many of your pilots don’t speak that commander’s language.
In the region of Wicked Creek, Red Alliance finally stood its ground and mounted a defense on March 8, 2006. It fielded its largest capital ships, dreadnoughts, and made a stand.
Dreadnoughts are extremely powerful—yet vulnerable—warships. They had the ability to go into “siege mode,” which gave them huge bonuses to firepower and survivability, but this also rendered them immobile for 10 long minutes (this was later reduced by the game’s developer to five minutes). They could output enormous amounts of damage in siege mode, but if the battle went south then these expensive ships had no way to extract or receive help from repair ships.
The battle for Wicked Creek began, and Red Alliance’s losses were catastrophic.
Nine of Red Alliance’s prized dreadnoughts—the most expensive ships in existence at the time—were destroyed, and its morale was broken. After this crushing defeat, the alliance fell to pieces. Because Red Alliance was composed of loosely-joined corporations, its pilots and fleet commanders were only experienced in small fleet combat. No one was yet capable of leading the hundreds of ships necessary to mount an effective defense with expensive capital ships, and so the Red pilots were defeated again and again.
The writing was on the wall: the Coalition of the South’s time was rising and the sun had set on Red Alliance. One by one the corporations which once happily joined Red Alliance began making excuses and leaving the front. The alliance’s last few dozen members were left to fend for themselves. Every non-Russian corporation in Red Alliance gave up the fight, leaving only a small squad of pilots to carry on the Red name.
What was left was a ragged group of just under 100 players, many of whom weren’t actually even fighters. Some of them were what Red Alliance called its “citizens,” non-combatant civilians who depend on the military for protection. But the miners of Red Alliance weren’t merely vulnerable civilians. They had been under constant attack for months, fending off Coalition of the South raids into their territory. As a result, they had no choice but to figure out how to protect themselves. This meant becoming schooled in the dark art of player-versus-player combat. They became a mobilized civilian militia.
The rest of Red Alliance’s pilots were among the best fighters in the game at that point. Pushed out of their territory, they opted to stay behind enemy lines rather than flee. Many of them stayed inside enemy systems for weeks, hiding in safe spots where the enemy had trouble finding them. They’d become the meanest, most ruthless pilots in New Eden. They stayed hidden until the enemy dropped its guard, then swooped down like hawks to pick off vulnerable lone enemies.
But all of this leaves the question: Why were these Russian pilots sticking it out to the bitter end against terrible odds? What could they possibly hope to accomplish?
The answer has much to do with the international, multilingual structure of EVE Online. There are groups in EVE from dozens of countries, and people generally prefer to play with others who understand their culture and their language. In 2006, there was only one major Russian player group—Red Alliance. So for Red Alliance pilots to abandon their comrades would be tantamount to abandoning any sort of social structure in EVE, and likely abandoning EVE itself (games like EVE aren’t much fun when you’re flying solo).
Another factor: they wanted revenge. They were utterly fixated on sticking it to the Coalition of the South, which had conquered their hard-won territory.
“When you’re at the point where you’re losing your real-life job because you’re trying to achieve something… you have to keep going,” said Mikhail Romanchenko, better known today as Death. “Because otherwise all of those losses were for nothing. When you set a goal for yourself… you have to achieve it. No matter what.”
But it was also about more than just stubbornness. Many members of the Coalition of the South were not exactly gracious in victory. Some members of their coalition could be found spouting nationalist, even racial epithets and hate speech about the Russians.
“They’re selling ISK to feed their families.”
“Their ships were bought with Russian brides.”
The intent was to disparage the Russian players and make them lose all joy for the game and quit. It had the opposite effect. It gave the Russian players a rallying cry and a reason to fight. Victory in EVE is very often accomplished when one side simply gives up and moves on or falls apart from internal strife. In this case, the opposite was happening, and the Russian players weren’t going to be booted out of nullsec until they lost every ship they had.
Red Alliance waged a guerilla war against the new lords of the land. Under the leadership of fleet commanders Studik, Death, and Mactep, small groups of 20-30 Red Alliance pilots would venture out into enemy territory to hunt.
Bizarrely, they were ignored for days, even weeks, as they stalked and destroyed their enemies. The Coalition of the South had been broadcasting propaganda about the demise of Red Alliance, and this led most people to believe that any Red Alliance members they saw were stragglers and nothing to be feared. They were wrong.
These Red Alliance raiding gangs quickly racked up a kill tally of over 500 ships on their hunts, and lost only a tenth as many in return. But Red Alliance wasn’t going to defeat a coalition of thousands with hit-and-run tactics. It needed to win battles. The raiding gangs had been a nuisance, but now it was time for a real offensive.
Red Alliance selected one system as the key to its traditional home region of Insmother: C-J6MT. It was centrally located in Insmother, contained valuable space stations, and was the gateway to eight other star systems. On May 24, 2006, Red Alliance attacked and took C-J6MT away from the Coalition. It quickly built defenses, preparing to defend the system at any cost. The Coalition could never have stopped the surprise attack, but it certainly planned to take the system back.
THE WAR FOR INSMOTHER
On May 25, those 70 exhausted Russian pilots were grouped up around their defensive starbase, waiting for the battle they knew was coming.
A fleet of over 400 Coalition of the South ships warped into the system and began organizing for battle. For the Coalition of the South this was a chance to stomp out the flame of Red Alliance. It had defeated the Reds weeks ago and believed exterminating it here was key to stopping future attacks.
When the Coalition pilots arrived they were full of bluster. Many of them were still spouting the same old Russian epithets in the local chat channel. Every major battle had gone their way; they believed victory was a foregone conclusion.
The Coalition of the South fleet was massive but weakly organized. It showed up with hundreds of ships of all makes and models with very little in the way of true strategy. The Russians, on the other hand, were extremely well organized and knew exactly what they planned to do. After months of guerrilla warfare they were a finely tuned fighting force. Every pilot in Red Alliance was outfitted with the exact same ship—a mid-sized Tempest-class battleship—with the exact same components, the intent being that every pilot would be on the same page as every other pilot at all times. They flew in packs of ten.
The Coalition of the South dreadnoughts unpacked their heavy artillery and unloaded on the defensive starbase while Red Alliance pilots charged the enemy lines. In their small packs they swarmed the Coalition dreadnoughts like wasps: difficult to hit and packing a punch. The damage they were doing to the dreadnoughts forced the rest of the Coalition to try to defend them. Rather than destroying Red Alliance’s defensive starbase, the Coalition was now on its back foot just trying to keep its own valuable ships from being destroyed.
While the Red Alliance Tempest formations swarmed the enemy dreadnoughts, the defensive starbase’s automated guns were annihilating the Coalition’s smaller battleships. One by one they were popping like fireworks as the starbase’s kill tally steadily rose.
The packs of Red Alliance Tempests wove through the enemy fleet with near impunity, with each group of 10 ships coordinating attacks on one specific enemy. The damage that the seven groups of battleships were inflicting began to rise, higher and higher. The Coalition fleet was simply outmatched. Not in numbers or in firepower, but in strategy.
When the smoke cleared, the Coalition found itself down hundreds of ships, while the Red Alliance defensive base was still standing and fully repaired. Red Alliance gave the starbase a name in honor of its stunning performance in the battle: “The Meatgrinder.”
One day later, the Coalition returned, but was again turned back in a near repeat of the previous day’s siege. Red Alliance took bigger losses this time, but again made the Coalition hurt much more badly. Crucially, Red Alliance managed to take down the flagship dreadnought of the Coalition of the South fleet commander, who was named “Chowdown”—a symbolic blow that took the wind out of the Coalition’s sails and embarrassed its leader.
The next day—the third of the siege—the Coalition pilots arrived in low spirits. At this point, what hope could they have had in removing the Russian fleet if they’d already failed with two previous waves of attacks? But Coalition commanders hoped they could win by grinding down the Russians. Even if it lost these battles, the Coalition had four regions full of hundreds of miners and workers to replace its ships. Red Alliance didn’t have that luxury. Every ship was priceless.
“And so again we fought,” said one of the Coalition’s fleet commanders, Lallante. “We brought the full weight of [four] alliances to bear on this one system where they were holed up. But they kept staying up all night to defend, and coming up with brilliant strategies to kill our dreadnoughts.”
Predictably, the third day was a disaster for the Coalition of the South. Red Alliance destroyed four more Coalition dreadnoughts, and once again pushed back its enemies.
Morale had hit rock bottom in the Coalition of the South, but Red Alliance hadn’t beaten the Coalition yet; it had merely stood its ground. The Reds were sturdy enough to hold against a foe trying to push them out, but they were a long way from taking back the hundreds of systems lost in the initial assault.
In the following days there were no big engagements, but the Coalition still maintained a presence inside C-J6MT. At all times it outnumbered Red Alliance two to one inside Red Alliance’s own system. The Russians were patient. The Coalition was blockading Red Alliance in the system, but it was getting tired. Day after day, Coalition forces inside C-J6MT weakened until finally its numbers were equal to Red Alliance.
The Russians saw their advantage. They attacked and wiped out the Coalition blockade, removing any dispute as to the true owners of C-J6MT. After months of fighting and a weeks-long siege, Red Alliance had forced a stalemate and stopped the retreat.
C-J6MT had been conquered by an alliance with more grit and determination than has been seen before or after. But to take the rest of Insmother—and regain the southeast—Red Alliance would need allies.
Fortunately for the Russians, within days they would find the most powerful ally they could possibly imagine.
The Siege of C-J6MT is just one story in the vast interstellar drama that is EVE Online. It’s merely an excerpt plucked out of context from the much grander story of the game that this book explores. In order to understand these recurring characters and these warring nations we have to go back to their origin at the dawn of the game in 2003.
But before we can explore the events and sweeping narrative of the outer rim of EVE Online—including the ramifications of this legendary Russian stand at C-J6MT—there are some things you’ll need to know about the game.
An Introduction to Eve Online
It’s Wednesday night in Belgrade, and a young man has logged in to EVE Online—an online science fiction video game—along with 49,387 players from around the world who are exploring the quiet dark of the roughly 7,500 star systems that make up the New Eden star cluster. In one of those systems, the young man from Belgrade, new to the game, is orbiting a small asteroid. He is flying a Venture-class beginner mining ship to prospect for ore in low-security space. In the Tamo star system in the region of Lonetrek, he burns through an asteroid with lasers like blow torches and collects the ‘scordite’ ore into the ship’s cargo hold while nervously watching for any signs of inbound pirates. As soon as his cargo hold is full he warps his ship to the system’s stargate and sets an autopilot course for the Jita system—the nearest major trade hub, where players meet to buy and sell goods. He’ll be able to unload the scordite ore quickly there. He won’t make a fortune, but it’ll be enough to start saving for a larger mining ship.
When the miner arrives at the main station in Jita, he puts the scordite ore up for sale on the marketplace and heads back out to do some more mining. Before long, that ore is snapped up by another player who works as a production specialist. She makes a living by buying cheap ores on the market and processing them in a refinery into their more valuable constituent parts—crystal-like minerals called pyerite and tritanium. In turn, she sells them at a profit to a wealthy player who is buying up these minerals en masse as an investment. He has his finger on the pulse of New Eden’s politics and has learned that two enormous player groups—each with more than 10,000 players from the “nullsec” region of space—are about to go to war against one another. When they do, thousands of ships will be destroyed in the calamity, and their miners will no longer be safe enough to collect ores for building replacements. The investor is gambling that those player groups will come to Jita to replenish their supplies, causing a surge in demand that will send the price of these minerals through the roof.
When these player alliances scoop up the refined pyerite and tritanium minerals, they pour them into construction of a brand new Titan-class ship. This enormous vessel requires the coordination of hundreds of players to haul millions of tons of minerals to massive capital shipyards. It can only be built by extremely well-organized groups of players and still takes between two and three months to construct, but when it’s done, it will be a force unlike anything else in EVE Online. Titans are so rare that most average players can spend years playing EVE and never see one.
The warring alliances are constructing entire fleets of these behemoths. The ores that the lonely miner harvested will now become part of the Doomsday cannon of an Avatar-class Titan, which will someday soon obliterate an entire dreadnought-class siege ship with a single volley. That small haul of ore harvested by a single miner is about to become part of an interstellar conflict for power and glory between tens of thousands of real people.
Twenty-six hours later, it’s nearly midnight on Thursday night in Belgrade, and that lonely miner is back out in an asteroid belt in the Tamo system in Lonetrek, stuffing the cargo hold with scordite again. He stayed up later than usual to make some extra money, and he’s crossing paths with other players he doesn’t normally encounter. Tonight his worst fear comes true when he notices a new ship on his overview coming directly at him: a pirate. Moments later he’s struck by a laser blast and warp scrambled so he can’t get away.
The pirate opens a chat line to the miner, and offers him a chance to escape with his cargo intact—if he pays a ransom. But the miner is new to the game, and doesn’t have enough money on-hand to pay for the extortion. So the pirate blasts his ship into oblivion. As the ship bursts into flames, it automatically launches an escape pod with the miner from Belgrade inside. Normally, this would allow the miner to get away, but the pirate is angry that her ransom was refused: she destroys the escape pod out of spite. The miner’s body is destroyed, and his consciousness instantly awakens inside a clone in another star system—as all pilots do when they’re killed in EVE Online.
Furious that this pirate destroyed an entire evening’s worth of mining yield, the miner contacts a rich friend who has been playing EVE a much longer time to ask her for a loan, and she agrees. The miner gets a new ship, flies back to Jita, and opens the community chat channel. Over a thousand players are in Jita right now, and the system-wide chat channel is buzzing with hucksters, alliance recruiters, scam artists, and a few legitimate business people advertising their wares. The miner asks for help contacting reputable bounty hunters. He’s put in touch with a mercenary player group called Double Tap which agrees on a fair price to hunt down and kill the pirate who destroyed his ship. The miner agrees to pay half in advance and half when he receives the pirate’s corpse. Before the night is over, the mercenaries return with the pirate’s body—frozen from being jettisoned into the vacuum of space when her escape pod was destroyed—and close out the contract.
The next evening, 2000 kilometers away in Moscow, the leader of a group of mostly Russian pilots is preparing his people for an incoming invasion. A neighboring American alliance has been growing in popularity, and it needs more turf to house its ever-expanding player base. The American leader has convinced the members of his alliance that this war is necessary, and that the people they’re invading are an evil enemy worth going to war to destroy.
The leader of the defending Russian alliance gives the order for three dozen pilots to load up massive freighters with hundreds of ships, and begin moving them to the starbase that will serve as the defense headquarters, near the front line. The Russian leader meets with his top fleet commanders and plots out the battle plan. Those fleet commanders, in turn, meet with hundreds of pilots to tell them what type of ship they should be flying and what the strategy will be.
It’s Saturday night in Chicago, and the invasion has begun. The leader of the American alliance waited until a weekend night in the US time zones to ensure his pilots would have abundant real-life free time to participate. The Russians are proving just as dedicated, and have set their alarm clocks—it’s 4:00 AM on their side of the globe—to wake up early and meet the Americans head-on.
Hundreds of pilots battle in the first starbase attack of the campaign. Massive laser blasts erupt from the Doomsday cannons of Titan-class warships, and communications are buzzing with activity as each side’s leaders bark orders and try to adapt their battle strategy on the fly. The control of hundreds of star systems is at stake, and the entire balance of power in the star cluster hangs in the balance.
But on the other side of the star cluster, most players of EVE Online are oblivious to the violence of the invasion. A group of friends is wandering low-security regions in the southeast of New Eden looking for pirates to rough up. A group of roleplayers is hunting down members of the computer-controlled “Angel Cartel” faction, for the glory of the fictional Gallente empire. An explorer is scanning and documenting the 5,368th star system he has visited in his quest to document all 7,500+ systems of New Eden. A thief is worming his way into an enemy alliance, gaining the trust of his unsuspecting enemies so he can one day rob them for all they’re worth. A pilot maneuvers her siege ship into position alongside 200 allies, and fires the opening volley of a battle that will last six hours. And every one of these players is a real person with their own personality, culture, and history. From around the world, they log in to this complex and elaborate virtual space to try to make their way in this harsh vision of the future.
WELCOME TO NEW EDEN
This is EVE Online, a virtual universe set in the far future, in a cluster of stars called New Eden. It’s a world of lasers and spaceships and human beings making real sacrifices for the advancement of their organizations. It was released to the public in 2003, and survives to this day as the only video game ever made where ambition, subterfuge, betrayal, and the unity of thousands of individuals are integral gameplay mechanics.
It’s a “massively multiplayer online game,” which is to say it’s an online space where large numbers of players come together to play and explore the same game world. It’s similar to other MMOGs like World of Warcraft or Everquest, but it’s unique in very important ways.
EVE has only two servers—one for the international community, and one for Chinese players due to strict Chinese internet regulations. A server is a carbon copy of the game world. By contrast, most MMOGs or virtual universes have dozens or hundreds. In a typical online game a player is assigned a server when they first start playing, and they can’t interact with players from other servers. These servers are used so that there are never too many players online at once, which would make the world of a game like World of Warcraft too crowded. EVE Online can use a single-server system to house hundreds of thousands of players from most of the world’s nations because the game world is far larger than the average MMOG. In most MMOs you’re unlikely to see more than a hundred or so people in any given place. In EVE, the most populous star systems are routinely filled with over a thousand players, and the great battles that have made EVE famous have been waged by as many as 3,000 players at once.
EVE is also unlike most games because it largely allows each player to decide what they’d like to do in the game. When a new player logs-in to EVE Online for the first time they’re given a ship, a small amount of money, a tutorial they can follow if they want to, and some missions which give them a tour of some of the professions they can use to make money. But at any time, the player can fly off to any corner of the galaxy and do as they please. Many an adventurous player has set off on their first day for the more dangerous areas of the game to make their fortune.
The majority of the players play on a server called Tranquility. Over twenty-three hours a day (the server shuts down for daily maintenance from 11 to 11:30am GMT) players log in from around the world and play together in the same space. The Chinese server is called Serenity, and has a much smaller community.
The events described in this book chronicle the history of the Tranquility server from 2003 to 2009. The seeds that were laid in the earliest days of the game sparked a power struggle that has evolved throughout the years, culminating in the Great EVE War of 2007-2009.
My name is Andrew Groen, and I’ve spent the last eighteen months conducting dozens of interviews and poring over source documents to write the first book collecting EVE Online’s history. Much of this work involved finding and speaking to the original players to reconstruct stories that were never written down. In other cases, fragmentary accounts have survived and been combined with interviews and recovered documents to resurrect stories that would have been lost to time.
Like any sci-fi or fantasy game, there is a complex backstory behind the world of New Eden. According to the mythology written by EVE Online’s developer, CCP Games, New Eden was discovered after a wormhole to a distant part of the galaxy opened near Old Earth, transporting settlers to a wondrous new place where they built colonies and new homes.
But the prosperity didn’t last. The wormhole suddenly closed, leaving millions of people stranded without adequate infrastructure to survive. One by one these new colonies fell into a dark age, but a few of them survived and rebuilt their colonies. Over thousands of years they rose again, developing distinct cultures and mostly forgetting the homeworld.
This, roughly, is where the game begins. EVE takes place in the New Eden star cluster—comprised of somewhere between 7,000 and 8,000 star systems—after those original colonies have rebuilt and fashioned themselves into star-spanning empires.
These computer-controlled empires are known as Minmatar, Gallente, Amarr, and Caldari, and they form what is called “empire space.” New players often choose to stay here because these systems are guarded by a computer-controlled police force, which discourages players from fighting one another. The police force—called CONCORD—warps in almost instantly to punish any wrongdoers. CONCORD guards important locations with nigh-invulnerable ships. However, CONCORD can only punish someone who commits a crime. It can’t prevent the crime itself.
The biggest threat to a player in EVE Online is always another player. While many pilots choose to make their living by mining or doing missions, others choose a life of piracy. They search New Eden for unwary travelers, easy prey. Even in the most highly secure areas of EVE, other players are still a potential threat. You can never truly be safe.
The majority of EVE players spend their time in high-security space, mining asteroids for money, investing in the commodities market, and running missions. Most of the activity centers around trade hubs like Jita, where players congregate to buy and sell goods and get missions from non-player characters. Missions in EVE function much as they do in most other games: a player is given a task—usually to defeat some notorious fictional pirate—and if they’re successful they gain some loot and a cash reward.
To help players get around from place to place, every star system in EVE is linked via a complex system of stargates. The only way to travel from one system to another is through these stargates, and each system may have one or several routes to other nearby systems.
CONCORD’s presence in any given system is rated on a scale from 1.0 to 0.0, with 1.0 being the most well-protected. This security system serves as a sort of difficulty meter for players. In 1.0 or 0.9 space you’re very well protected, and the chance of being attacked by other players is very low—but so are the rewards for playing there.
The further a player gets from empire space, the more unforgiving EVE becomes. When you get far enough from empire space to reach “nullsec,” or 0.0 space, there are no restrictions of any kind on player behavior. In nullsec, players can and do seal off entire areas of space for their own private use, killing anybody who tries to enter. Whoever owns a star system makes the rules for that star system.
“EVE isn’t designed to just look like a cold, dark and harsh world; it’s designed to be a cold, dark and harsh world,” wrote a community manager for EVE Online in one of the most enduring summaries of what defines the game.
Players always need to be careful, because most of the gains you work for in EVE can be destroyed forever. The world of EVE has a complete economy of production and destruction. Almost everything in the game is built by the players, using materials they mined or otherwise produced. Some players are miners, and others build ships and advanced ship components (weapons arrays, shield boosters etc) from the raw materials they produce. Everybody has their own way of making ISK—Interstellar Kredits—the main currency of New Eden, which is traded and spent just like any real currency.
The ships that players produce fall into a few basic categories: frigates, cruisers, and battleships. There are many roles within those categories, but the hierarchy of cost and value progresses roughly from frigate to cruiser to battleship—frigates being the least costly and battleships valued highest. Beyond those basic categories are the capital class ships. These didn’t exist at the beginning of EVE Online, and are so expensive and complex to build that their construction generally requires the effort of hundreds of players. Capital ships and their bigger supercapital siblings, Titans, will be explained in more detail later in the book. The important thing to remember is that every ship has its use. Even the smallest frigate is useful in the right situation.
Every ship is highly customizable and can be fitted with an assortment of smaller components, from weapon emplacements to shield hardeners to speed boosters. Players don’t have direct control over their ship, but they can give it commands (go here, orbit this object at a distance of 1000 meters, stop moving, fire these weapons). So when fighting in EVE, a player isn’t dogfighting and aiming with a joystick. They are manipulating the control panel and giving orders to their ship: cycling weapons systems, routing power, activating repairs, controlling drones. Winning a fight in EVE is more about knowing your ship’s capabilities than simply having quick reflexes.
When you die in most other games you are resurrected; usually with all of your items and gear. In EVE, a player who loses a fight faces the permanent loss of their spaceship and its cargo. Even if the player ejects in an escape pod and tries to get away, their pod can also be destroyed, which results in the permanent loss of the implants and cybernetic augmentations the player was using. Every player resurrects as a clone of their former selves when they die, but any possessions they were carrying aboard their ship—which they may have worked weeks or months to earn—are lost.
EVE Online is known as a “sandbox” game because the goal of the game is the player’s to define. For some, the goal is to make as much money as possible and become a powerful trade baron. For others EVE is a game about spaceship combat, and these players spend their time improving their ships and looking for fights. Players looking for battle will head out from empire space into the low-security areas looking for other willing combatants.
As they get farther and farther from empire, the security rating decreases, until eventually they arrive in 0.0. This is where EVE really comes alive. Out in 0.0 space, also called “nullsec,” there is no law. The major nations of the game’s lore have no footprint out here, and players are free to do as they please. Generally, that means two things: industry and conquest.
In nullsec, there are no penalties for destroying other players and no oversight of any kind. This means that players can form groups and wholly conquer these star systems. In the early days of the game this was somewhat informal. A group would set up shop in a system and declare that it was under their control. However, in 2004, the creators of EVE introduced a concept called “sovereignty,” which allowed player groups to be officially recognized as the rulers of a star system or region.
In an effort to control these regions of New Eden, players form “corporations” of hundreds of players who commit to working together. Some of those players are simple miners or logistics experts who serve their corporation by lining its wallet with ISK. Others serve as soldiers in the defense of territory and the invasion of enemy turf. Still others serve as governmental leaders devoted to keeping order and providing direction for the nation of players. Most players of EVE Online belong to a corporation of some sort. The majority of corporations are just small groups of friends working together, roaming New Eden looking for a fight, or watching each other’s backs as they mine in dangerous areas. What you can accomplish as an individual in EVE is nothing compared to what you can achieve with a group of reliable friends working together.
Each corporation is unique in its mission, structure, and culture. When two corporations find that they have goals in common they can form an “alliance,” a feature of EVE that basically allows two or more corporations to share resources. They can share the same diplomatic standings list (to make sure they don’t accidentally shoot each other’s allies). They can dock in each other’s stations. Being in an alliance formalizes friendly relationships, making cooperation easier. In the outer reaches of New Eden, the player-led governments and armies of these alliances reign. Conquering territory requires the efforts of many corporations working together. However, wherever there is power, there is also conflict. Many an organization has been torn apart by infighting and civil war.
Many remarkable things happen in all areas of EVE Online, but this book will mainly focus on the clashes and the struggle for power between the diverse, dedicated clans of 0.0 space.
These conflicts between player groups are unique events. While they take place as simulated video game battles, they are also a very real struggle for dominance and resources. Over time, warfare in EVE Online has grown more and more ruthless.
When the game first launched, warfare was purely an in-game affair. Two small armies clashed on the battlefield and sometimes there was a clear winner. Over time, players turned to more elaborate tactics, including psychological warfare. In an EVE war there’s more to a battle than spaceships and lasers. There’s a real person piloting every ship, and their willingness to fight is perhaps the most important part of the war. Sometimes an alliance’s war strategy involves destroying enemy infrastructure or cutting off their ability to earn money to build ships, but sometimes the strategy is to simply make the game so miserable for the enemy that their pilots stop showing up.
To that end, propaganda has been a major factor in many EVE Online wars. Smart leaders know that they can shape the narrative of a war to make themselves look like underdogs, aggrieved parties, or even martyrs. In the era covered by this book, there was one online forum in particular where the majority of discussion about the game took place—a section of the EVE Online official forums called the “Corporation, Alliance, and Organization Discussion” forum: CAOD. This is where alliances came to make a case for war. Some leaders paid little attention to the discussions on CAOD, but others used it to disseminate their version of events to the rest of EVE. By crafting a compelling narrative, a leader could secure high-impact partners or convince other alliances to join the war on their side. Many an impassioned speech has been made on CAOD in an attempt to shame an enemy and rally support from the rest of the community.
CAOD was the central place where the average EVE player could learn about the high drama taking place between warring alliances in nullsec. However, the full story is never told on CAOD. The true story of nullsec unfolds behind the scenes as players work out deals and agreements via the in-game chat program and out-of-game TeamSpeak-style voice chat.
Only a few hundred EVE players have ever reached the level of influence necessary to participate in the high-stakes gameplay of inter-alliance diplomacy. Every leader wants what is best for their alliance, but forming the wrong partnership or attacking the wrong enemy can lead to catastrophic failure. The stress of losing can fracture huge social groups, and deliberate psychological warfare can tear apart friendships and destroy trust.
Over time, war in EVE has become more ferocious. In the older days of EVE there was a concept called “e-bushido” or “e-honor,” which argued that you should play EVE a certain way: fighting should only take place between prepared parties within the game, and anything outside of the game was off-limits. Like renaissance-era infantry, you were supposed to line up on a pre-determined battlefield and exchange musket volleys like gentlefolk. As in real-world combat, this fell out of favor.
A huge part of winning a war in modern EVE is about controlling information, because behind every epic space battle there’s a shadow war of informants, turncoats, and spies. The more information you have, the more likely you are to win the spaceship fight. That means knowing in advance what the enemy force will be flying, and how best to combat their ships. It means placing scouts in outlying systems so you know when and where the enemy is coming, and whether they may have reinforcements waiting nearby. It also means figuring out who the enemy’s leaders are and making sure their ships are destroyed first, to disrupt their lines of communication.
It’s also important to remember that while there are lasers and explosions in every battle, that isn’t what the average pilot sees. For them, the battle is about following orders and falling in line. There are no lone wolf heroes in EVE. A fleet is a collaboration, and the side with more selfless pilots is usually victorious. The average player sees nothing more than a bunch of dots on the screen, their own ship’s interface, and a chart listing nearby enemies and allies. It’s almost impossible to understand what’s happening in the battle when you’re in the middle of it. That’s the job of the fleet commander.
The fleet commander is the guiding voice of the entire fleet, giving direction to everyone and coordinating hundreds of people to form a coherent battle plan. To do that, the fleet commanders play an entirely different game than everyone else. They don’t even look at the battle. Instead, they talk with as many people as possible: the lieutenants on the front lines, the scouts in neighboring systems, their advisers, and so on. They try to piece everything together into an accurate picture of what’s happening across multiple systems and possibly several large battles. There are hundreds of people waiting for them to give an order, and they’ve all been trained to do exactly as the fleet commander says.
These battles are generally fought over territory, and, in particular, key systems that contain space stations where players can find missions and dock their ships. More territory can mean unique types of gameplay to experience. It can also mean more opportunities for the alliance to make money, and more space where a growing alliance can spread out.
But even in a well-run alliance, every combatant is human and has their own reasons for piloting their ship onto the battlefield. New Eden is a virtual universe ruled by real people.
SEEDS OF THE EMPIRES
Long before EVE Online hit store shelves, it had a community. From all over the world, gaming fans were lured in by the concept of a space-based, sci-fi massively multiplayer game—an exception in a genre that had been dominated by the fantasy theme for a very long time. EVE Online seemed built for fans of older complex sci-fi games like Elite, Earth and Beyond, and Homeworld, and many of the first EVE players were plucked directly from those three communities. When these disparate groups arrived in New Eden during the private alpha and beta tests, they clashed immediately. The fight for dominance began before EVE Online had even been released to the public.
Many of the most influential groups named themselves after the region in which they were headquartered. Stain Alliance, Curse Alliance, Fountain Alliance, and Venal Alliance were all named after important regions in nullsec. But in EVE’s alpha and beta tests, the group that would go on to have the biggest impact on early EVE was a Homeworld clan that went by TAOSP—later renowned as the conquerors “Evolution.”
This group of space tacticians would one day conquer nearly half of New Eden. But when they first arrived, they were a bunch of space strategy geeks playing an entirely different game.
Lured in by the lofty promises of the sandbox EVE Online universe, the leaders of Evolution sent a letter to CCP Games telling the game makers about the types of things they wanted to do in this unique and open universe. They were invited to join EVE during its Alpha stage, alongside just a few hundred other players.
At this point in EVE’s development there were only seven star systems, as compared to the over seven thousand systems that comprise the modern EVE universe. This was EVE at its most basic. But even in this shrunken state, Evolution’s leaders had a vision of things to come.
The members of the community got to know each other very well. There weren’t a lot of places to hide in just seven systems, after all. The biggest player corporations were no bigger than a couple dozen members. In this fetal stage of the game’s development, a leader rose to the head of Evolution who defined its mission and public face for years to come. Everyone in the New Eden star cluster would one day know the name of SirMolle (pronounced “Sir Moh-leh”). Even to his enemies—who often later became his strongest allies—SirMolle was one of the greatest leaders in the history of EVE Online. He was arrogant, inspiring, and prideful to a fault.
SirMolle was a forceful statesman and was one of the best EVE players ever when it came to bending other players to his will. SirMolle cast himself as a ruthless space tyrant: not exactly the bad guy, but a leader with just the right balance of control and crazy. Like other powerful leaders throughout EVE’s history, he’d even butt heads with the game’s developers. He projected an image of the strong dictator his enemies wished they could be. In him they saw someone whose rule was absolute, in stark contrast to the messiness of their own political affairs.
This was fiction, of course. SirMolle was backed up by a team of talented logisticians and strategists. But they all understood the need for someone like SirMolle. They knew there was a strategic advantage in appearing to be in lock-step behind a singular face: the chiseled sneer of SirMolle’s avatar.
After having spent countless hours talking with the man during the reporting of this book, I think he began to buy into his own persona at times, despite the modesty with which he lived his offline life. In real life, SirMolle was a repairman who immigrated to Denmark from Sweden. He fixed air conditioners by day, and by night he commanded the most feared fleets in New Eden.
SirMolle’s corporation, Evolution, had been with EVE since the beginning, save for one brief incident where SirMolle was expelled from the alpha stage testing for calling for the resignation of one of EVE’s lead designers. He called the designer out for “gross incompetence,” and was met with a ban. The ban didn’t stick, and SirMolle was back in action when the beta launched. But it wouldn’t be the only time he was banned from the game.
As alpha ended and beta launched, the game’s developers mingled freely with the players, and they were considered extremely high value targets. Every player wanted to stick a missile in the hull of a developer. “And they were good about it,” SirMolle told me. “They wanted us to shoot them and have fun.”
SirMolle and a friend once came across a developer ship undocking from a station. SirMolle and his compatriot instantly turned their guns on the ship and unloaded every bit of ammunition they had at their disposal, laughing all the while.
“So we’re unloading on this battleship. Reloading, unloading, reloading, unloading. And he’s not firing back, he’s behaving oddly. All of the sudden the server goes down.”
Their screen went black and the tiny one-sided battle ended. This alone didn’t raise their suspicions. Server shutdowns were very common during beta, and CCP were constantly wiping and resetting the servers. But when the game came online again, they received a message: “You are banned.”
They immediately logged into the IRC channel—an online chat program—where the game’s developers could often be found, and asked them what the deal was. The reply came back: “Yeah, sorry about that. We’re doing a press showing and you just shot down a journalist.”
One of the first reporters ever to play EVE undocked from the station and before they could even figure out how to pilot the ship, the denizens of EVE had ambushed them.
SirMolle told me this with a giggle in his voice, still clearly proud 12 years later to have caused such mischief. Throughout his EVE career mischief has followed him wherever he goes. Though his space tyrant persona carried an air of righteous justice, SirMolle really loved starting trouble.
EVE’s beta was the womb for more than just the game’s development. It was a time when the power structure of the community was beginning to form. Every major power in New Eden for the first few years of the game’s retail release had a past in the beta.
There’s an obvious advantage to starting the game long before everyone else, but there are some not so obvious ones too. Certainly these players were more experienced in the ways of production and combat, but the more critical aspects were networking and training. Players who had been around longer simply had more friends, and you can’t overstate the importance of allies when it comes to succeeding in cutthroat New Eden.
Evolution—and every corporation with the privilege of beginning in beta—had one more advantage. Throughout the beta, CCP wiped the servers dozens of times, and everyone had to start back at square one every time it happened. Ostensibly this would reset Evolution’s advantages, but it actually helped the fledgling organization.
By the time the game launched, Evolution’s leaders had rebuilt the corporation from the ground up dozens of times. They knew exactly how to structure themselves. They knew how to get rich quickly. They knew how to build a fleet and fight battles.
“If you took the general population and compared them to us, we were miles ahead,” SirMolle told me, perhaps arrogantly. “We used alpha and beta to plan. To build networks. To get to know people. And on the last day of beta we killed [the corporation.] Completely started from scratch and said, ‘We’ll keep these people, these other people we do not want.’”
It was true to its namesake, “Evolution.” The Darwinian theme would permeate their language and messaging for years. But even as it reformed, other groups were forming at the same time who had the same grand ambitions as SirMolle and his people.
Most of the powerful corporations of early EVE Online came from other video games, but Venal Alliance was different. Its core constituents weren’t video gamers: they were LARPers (live-action role-players).
All over the world, LARP groups do real-world mock-battle with swords and wizardry, but this English LARP group was special. With thousands of players, it was so large that politics became a very important part of the game. When EVE Online launched, a small group of 30 or so players from this LARP club decided to try it out, and they brought their predilection for politics and role-playing with them.
They called themselves Jericho Fraction. Their leader was a male player who played the female character Jade Constantine, and he was heavily influenced by his experience in a medieval alliance of LARPers. He was also a student of middle English literature, and in our interview he often made references to Arthurian legend.
The players in Jericho Fraction were originally looking for a sci-fi alternative to their usual medieval gaming, and they were struck by the lore of EVE Online. They found inspiration in the fact that EVE’s players are able to resurrect whenever they die in combat. They formed roleplay personas around the idea that the cloning technology that made this possible is a truly transformational technology. They believed that this technology made the individual human so powerful that there was no need for a governmental structure, and that we could effectively take care of ourselves.
This ethos was crystallized on the second day of EVE’s retail release. The first member of Jericho Fraction to join EVE happened upon a small “slave” operation. A half dozen players were forcing another group of players to do their mining for them, under the threat of destroying their ships. All the while, the slavers spouted off about how the miners were lazy or not paying enough of a kickback. Many players of EVE Online enjoy pretending to be actual denizens of New Eden, and they are adamant about playing in character. It’s not too surprising that some players would be willing to pretend they were enslaved just to further their roleplay persona.
It’s likely they were just putting on a roleplay show, but it sparked the individualist, freedom-loving ideals of Jade Constantine and Jericho Fraction.
THE MERCHANT RACES
The members of Jericho Fraction were traders and merchants. Back in the earliest days of EVE one of the best ways to make money was by buying and selling commodities in different markets across the game. Later, EVE would place all of its emphasis on a player-controlled market, but in the early days, players could buy items and wares from characters in stations all over the game and then sell them elsewhere. So a trader could, for instance, make a profit by buying a commodity in western Gallente space and then selling it in eastern Minmatar space where it was more scarce.
In addition to their LARPers, Jericho Fraction also had among them a set of dedicated and intelligent board game enthusiasts who were adept at picking apart an economic system and finding the best way to game it. They quickly puzzled out the optimum way to make money from this commodity trading system, and Jericho Fraction became extremely wealthy.
Their secrets didn’t last though. Other traders eventually discovered their methods, and would challenge them on their trade routes. The traders of the Jericho Fraction corporation knew that you could buy “Robotics” commodities in the North of New Eden, then sell them in the South for a profit of millions of ISK—an absurd amount of money at the time. The trick was that the commodity price was flexible. Once a player flooded the market by selling all their Robotics goods, the price would start to fall. The prices reset every day when the New Eden server went down for maintenance.
What resulted was a daily series of early morning races along the most profitable trade routes. Merchants would log in as quickly as possible after the server came back online from the daily maintenance shutdown, and fly down the trade routes to the most profitable destinations. But the merchants weren’t the only ones who figured out these routes. These well-traveled merchant race tracks drew a bevy of pirate traps looking for easy prey. Some of these pirates were mercenaries hired by the traders who used that path. They’d pay the pirates to shoot down their competition in order to give them an easier path to profit.
Before long, Jericho Fraction realized there was even more money to be found out in the uncharted territories of nullsec. The goods that could be purchased up in the Venal region could be sold for as much as 20-30 million ISK per run. This was in an era of New Eden where even 1 million ISK was a fortune to the average player.
Jericho Fraction identified the region of Venal as having particularly good profit margins and set a course for nullsec for the first time. The only trouble was that nullsec was exceedingly dangerous, and a group of pirate corporations already had control over Venal. It wouldn’t be right to call them sovereigns, exactly, but it was the most powerful group in the region. The corporations called themselves the Venal Alliance, and were most interested in acting as highwaymen. The alliance made a modest living by waiting outside stargates and attacking random passersby.
The Venal Alliance pirates were a problem for Jericho Fraction; it posed a serious risk to the transport ships that were moving commodities. And so the leader of Jericho Fraction, Jade Constantine, made contact with the leader of these pirate gangs and set up a meeting with the heads of their corporations. They got together to talk and Jade Constantine gave them her sales pitch—and a warning.
She began with a description of Jericho Fraction’s money-making endeavors. Jade showed these pirates how much a thoughtful organization was capable of earning in EVE, which also served the ulterior purpose of making the pirates feel small-time. But Jade also argued that their time was ending. Large alliances were on the rise in New Eden: wealthy Fountain Alliance in the west, Forsaken Empire in the east, Stain Alliance in the southwest, and the warlike Curse Alliance in the Southeast. It was only a matter of time until these entities sought to claim the uncharted North.
Jade convinced the pirates that they needed a financial backbone in order to survive against more experienced foes. The pirates agreed to form an alliance with Jericho Fraction. Instead of hunting the traders, the pirate factions were now their bodyguards, providing safe passage for merchant ships to make their profits.
Venal Alliance now had a military and a financial backbone, but it wasn’t until Taggart Transdimensional came to the North that it became a complete alliance. Taggart Transdimensional was an industrial powerhouse in the early days of EVE, making a small fortune as a union of expert miners and shipbuilders. Its success attracted new members, and it grew into one of the original superpowers of New Eden.
The only trouble was that materials were scarce in early New Eden. Taggart Transdimensional could sell the materials it mined for a large profit, but its mining operations couldn’t source all of the materials it needed to build its battleship fleets. So Taggart had a choice: waste all its profits buying materials from other corporations or find some place where it could mine everything itself.
The mineral it needed was called crokite, and the region of Venal happened to be an extremely rich source of it. Taggart Transdimensional approached the Venal Alliance to become a member, and discovered the alliance was a perfect fit. Taggart would do the mining work—which few people in Venal Alliance were interested in—and it also brought an impressive, dozens-strong battleship fleet that rivaled any other power in New Eden.
What began as a simple conglomeration of pirate factions had grown into an alliance with a well-stocked military, a merchant fleet, a mining division, and even EVE’s most renowned public relations specialist, Jade Constantine, who would use press releases and propaganda to turn Venal Alliance into the most visible group in the game.
A CIVIL WAR IN THE NORTH
On May 6, 2003 EVE Online officially launched to the public. Thousands of players from hundreds of corporations excitedly logged into the game for the first time and made their move. Everybody had their plan when the game first launched: how they’d become rich, how they’d become powerful. However, one of the greatest conquerors in New Eden’s history chose to remain still.
Evolution’s original plan was to quietly take over New Eden. It set out to become the Illuminati of EVE Online. The plan was to maintain a low profile, creep into the midst of larger entities, and then use espionage to simply take over without anyone having noticed. But Evolution found that espionage is long, dreary work. It takes months to earn the trust of your superiors, and the only way to do that is by acting normal. So infiltrating a corporation has more to do with being a diligent miner and soldier than being a super-spy-assassin.
Rather than trudge through that boring work just to maliciously deceive people, Evolution’s leaders opted to stay silent and observe. Evolution had enjoyed quite the reputation as an organization of elite players during the beta phase, and that extra attention made things more difficult for its leaders. So they chose to hit reset for a month and quietly build. The leadership was waiting to see what the optimal move would be. And so, for the first month EVE Online was live, Evolution stayed quiet, building ships and plotting its move.
When it did make a move it headed toward Fountain, a region of space in the West that wasn’t controlled by a major alliance. There were a few corporations operating out of that territory, but none that individually posed a large threat to an organized force like Evolution.
It’s important to remember that the gaming world was much different in 2003 than it is in 2015. Today, voice communication and a strict chain of command are the default in EVE, but back then everything was informal. Many corporations only used in-game text chat which is much slower than being able to talk to your allies. It took a lot more effort and gumption to become a tight-knit group that could coordinate times to play together and talk on TeamSpeak or Ventrilo (Internet chat programs). Evolution was highly organized. It had its own forums and TeamSpeak server. This fact alone made it a formidable foe.
“I believe the first official war we had was with some entity in towards [the region of] Fountain,” said SirMolle. “We had like a three week war where we destroyed them, and they posted on the forums ‘Okay, we’re defeated.’
“That was the kind of level you had in the wars back then. It was very isolated with two corporations. It was 30 people altogether. It was concentrated to two or three systems, and you actually had honorable wars as in ‘I declare war on you.’ That changed over the years.”
The little wars and petty fights of the early days eventually gave way to Evolution’s ambition, and it made its way toward Fountain. A brief war broke out once Evolution arrived in Fountain as the locals—as SirMolle diminutively called them—resisted Evolution’s attempts to take over. The local corporations were successful at preventing their own eviction, and eventually a ceasefire was brokered which allowed Evolution to join as a member of the new Fountain Alliance.
However, the newly unified Fountain Alliance wouldn’t last long. Several Fountain Alliance leaders I spoke to described Fountain Alliance as a group that eventually became bogged down with bureaucracy. Five hour weekly council meetings became the norm as they discussed logistics, territorial mining rights, and endless other laborious topics. Nobody was having much fun, and EVE became work. A lack of fun is the silent killer of alliances in EVE.
The boredom and bureaucracy of Fountain Alliance became too much for Evolution over time. In a matter of just a few months Evolution left Fountain Alliance on amicable terms, said their farewells, and headed North. It wanted to fight a war, and it was prepared to manufacture one if it had to.
Meanwhile, in the north, the Venal Alliance had formed and was in the process of coalescing as the dominant force in the northern regions. The corporations of Venal Alliance worked together for mutual benefit, and made a lot of money in the process. What the Venal Alliance didn’t know was that one of its main corporations—Taggart Transdimensional—had a bullseye on its back. Taggart and Evolution had fought months earlier in the EVE Online beta, and now that Evolution had left Fountain Alliance in the west to search for a war in the nearby north, there was no better target than its old enemy.
But Evolution couldn’t just march in and declare war against an innocent alliance. That would paint it as the villain, which would harm its recruitment, and potentially draw new allies to Taggart’s aid. Evolution needed a proper reason to fight, and it set itself to trying to find one, whether it was valid or not. A player by the name of Mr. Blonde turned out to be adept at this type of spywork.
The plan Mr. Blonde concocted was to send small raiding gangs into Venal Alliance territory and take cheap shots at Venal ships, the goal being to simply raise the blood pressure of the region. He wanted to make Venal afraid and get its leaders thinking about a fight. It didn’t take the bait though, and Evolution was forced to play along.
Text conversations still exist between the leaders of Evolution and Venal Alliance from this time as Venal Alliance sought answers for why its allies were being targeted. In the logs, Evolution leader SirMolle feigns ignorance and claims the shootings were surely caused by a spate of new recruits who didn’t understand Evolution’s sterling code of conduct. SirMolle assured Venal Alliance leaders that he’d look into the problem and get back to them. He gave Venal’s directors the runaround in every way short of asking them to submit a complaint to Evolution’s department of personnel. Then he posted these conversations in Evolution’s forums to have a laugh with his comrades in a forum thread titled, “Who? Me? What why? Naaaaaaaaaaaaaah.”
Venal Alliance wasn’t ready to go to war. It was wealthy enough that a few ship losses weren’t very meaningful. Especially when its leaders had been assured by their would-be enemies that these were isolated incidents that would be dealt with.
So Evolution kicked things up a notch. Mr. Blonde—also known by the nom de guerre “Femme Fatale”—set to work concocting a new plan to paint Taggart Transdimensional as the secret aggressor in a new war, planting evidence that TaggartTransdimensional was going behind Venal Alliance’s back to hire mercenary pirates to attack Evolution’s people.
“Independent sources are now stating that M0o, Sinister and Rus received payment from Taggart Transdimensional for [Evolution] ships proven destroyed,” SirMolle wrote in July 2003 on the public forums. M0o, Sinister, and Rus were well-known pirate factions of the day.
Again, there are surviving conversation logs from this time showing Evolution players attempting to convince pirates from the accused factions to play along. In them, SirMolle sends a message to Stavros—then a leader of M0o—and smugly tells him he’s going to give Stavros “an opportunity.” SirMolle requests that Stavros lie and say his alliance was paid to attack against Evolution. But Stavros informed him that he’s mistaken and no such thing happened.
Molle’s reply: “Meh.” He asked him to confirm it anyway. Ultimately, Evolution never found someone to lie on its behalf. SirMolle still spread the lie, but pretended he couldn’t say where he got this information from out of a need to keep his sources confidential.
Just days later, Evolution determined that public sentiment (which it judged by conversations with allies and responses on the Corporation, Alliance, and Organization Discussion forum) was favorable enough for it to start an all-out war. SirMolle’s pilots were behind him and the average player wasn’t willing to rush to the aid of Taggart. Evolution was being given the benefit of the doubt. And so, still feigning shock, Evolution formally declared war against a confused Taggart Transdimensional.
You have been tried and found guilty. The verdict is simple; Annihilation.
Among the various accusations are these;
Paying known pirates ISK for hits on Evolution.
Supplying same pirates with Ships/Equipment.
Withholding information and blatantly lying.
These accusations have been reviewed internally, and the answer is simple. Taggart Transdimensional will die.
SirMolle, CEO, Evolution
Some people demanded proof of Evolution’s allegations against Taggart Transdimensional, and SirMolle replied with such a transparent lie it’s a miracle it wasn’t figured out.
“Our statement is clear, we have no wish to try and convince anyone,” SirMolle wrote on the forums. “This statement is good enough for us, and our sources are valid. That is all that matters. You may make up your own minds. That is not our decision. Our decision is made.”
In other words, SirMolle said Evolution didn’t care if the public approved of his cause for war or not—an obvious lie given that that he was declaring the war and its causes on a public forum. He wanted the EVE-playing public to take Evolution at its word even though it would take mere seconds to copy the supposed evidence into a forum post.
Eleven years later, SirMolle tells stories like this with a laugh. He’s more than happy to admit his insatiable love of starting political fires, and he still clearly gets joy out of recounting the tales of his conquests over truth.
MURDER AND BUTCHERY
With impending aggression right on their doorstep and Evolution banging its war drums, the leaders of Venal Alliance convened to determine their official response. The decision was unanimously made to stand by Taggart Transdimensional and wage war against the invading forces of Evolution.
Evolution was not a large group by any standard. It had only a few dozen players, but it was spectacularly well-organized. As such, Evolution was ready to go to war. Its pilots had outfitted themselves in some of the best ships available. They were ready and willing to show up for battles, and most importantly they enjoyed warfare. Venal Alliance, by contrast, was a group that was largely set up for monetary gain. Even its best pilots tended to be former pirates who had more experience picking on defenseless miners than engaging in large fleet fights.
Evolution came north from Fountain through Pure Blind and Tribute, and began its attack on Venal Alliance’s trade routes and mining spots.
“The war began, and we got slaughtered,” said Venal Alliance’s Jade Constantine in 2014. “Just outright murder and butchery. We lost ship after ship after ship.”
Warfare in July 2003 was more informal, but also more hectic than in the modern game. There wasn’t yet a system in EVE Online for defining which player groups owned which territory. It was very much a cultural thing. The players knew who owned which territory, and didn’t need official records.
But this also meant that in warzones there were no battle lines, and nothing to specifically be gained by short-term victories. With no official sovereignty to take from an enemy the main goal of a battle was simply to kill as many foes as possible and disrupt their operations. Evolution knew this very well, and it became equal parts famous and reviled for its “hit and fade” attacks. An Evolution fleet would show up, inflict as much damage as it could, and then disappear before the enemy fleet had time to gather.
Evolution’s enemies mocked its perceived cowardice and unwillingness to commit to a full fight. Evolution mocked them right back for expecting warfare to be conducted like renaissance-era musketeers exchanging volleys in turn. A dance would occur between the two enemies that stretched around the clock. Depending on where in the real world each fleet primarily hailed from, they would be dominant at different hours. When Evolution’s commanders didn’t feel they could win a fight, they would leave. Occasionally, both would catch each other feeling confident and sparks would fly.
Few details remain of the battles from this time. What we do know is that the bulk of the fighting centered around the system BKG-Q2 in the heart of the Branch region, home to a valuable station that everyone wanted to control. The specifics of the individual battles were less important than the simple fact that Evolution was handing out a beating on the battlefield. Yet Venal Alliance was winning on another front.
Venal’s figurehead leader, Jade Constantine, was hard at work waging a war of propaganda. From the very beginning, Venal Alliance’s vision was that of a free north. Jade Constantine crusaded to keep the northern territories free from the type of corporate dictatorships that had sprung up all over the rest of New Eden. In those places the law was simple: anyone who isn’t a stated ally was kill-on-sight. Even if they were neutral to you, kill them. The thinking was that it wasn’t worth the risk to have random people in your territory in case they’re spies, saboteurs, or pirates.
The dream of Venal Alliance was to create a territory where average players could come, do business, build ships, conduct commerce, and leave freely. It was a vision of a civilization that co-existed with the rest of New Eden rather than trying to militarily protect itself from all potential threats.
“We were running a PR campaign at the time that was saying essentially that Venal is a free port,” said Jade Constantine in 2014. “This is a place of free trading. It’s somewhere anyone from Empire space can come out to. So why not come out and fight for the Venal Alliance against the Evolution oppressors?”
You might be thinking that this sounds a great deal more honorable than Evolution’s deceptive warmongering. The citizens of New Eden at the time largely agreed, and Venal Alliance was becoming the martyr in the north.
Jade Constantine is an extremely divisive force in the history of EVE Online, but an undeniably important one. At the time, many players hated seeing her face beside long propaganda screeds on the forums. Some saw her as pompous, self-righteous, and devious. They believed she twisted the facts to conform to her self-serving narrative. Jade carried herself with a pomposity that annoyed some, and she had a way of speaking down to dissenters, famously calling them “m’dear.”
The real life player behind Jade, was exceptionally talented at painting a picture of warfare for the people of New Eden. Every week, players could find a 2,000-word essay he’d written attempting to control the conversation.
When I interviewed Cruse he told me about an old English king whom he’d taken inspiration from. It’s the story of King Henry II of England in the 12th century who was traveling through Britain, putting down rebellions in his various territories. At one point he traveled to Ireland and put down a rebellion, only to be informed he’d have to go back to London to suppress an even larger one. The trouble was that his army had dwindled, and to make matters worse he was forced to travel through potentially hostile territory—Wales—to get there.
King Henry’s astonishing solution was to pretend he was the reincarnation of the legendary King Arthur. He hired seamstresses to create great white banners bearing Arthur’s sigil, a red dragon. He hired minstrels and storytellers to travel ahead of his army to tell stories of how Arthur had been seen again after hundreds of years. According to the tale, he arrived on the shores of Wales that winter with basically nothing except his knights dressed in exceptionally flashy garb. For whatever reason, the people of Wales bought it. Not only did Henry II gain safe passage through the territory, but the Welsh people joined his army by the thousands.
Cruse told me this story to illustrate a point about shaping a conflict through words, and how a story alone can change the course of history.
JADE CONSTANTINE THE VERBOSE
As a result of Jade Constantine’s propaganda/public relations campaign, Venal Alliance started attracting numerous new corporations from Empire space who wanted to try their hand at warfare in nullsec. Some people loathed Jade, but others believed in her vision of a free port in the north.
Venal Alliance had the financial backbone, and these new recruits provided the manpower the alliance needed to keep the defense strong at all hours of the day. So Venal began buying dozens of smaller ships for its newfound meatshield. The combination of an effective narrative, a bevy of new volunteers, and a strong financial backbone allowed it to stabilize as sufficient defenders of the north.
Unfortunately, defense was all its pilots could manage. It could stand its ground against Evolution, but Venal Alliance was far from winning the war. Its miners were safe enough to keep mining, and the merchant ships stayed safe, but the battles weren’t being won. They just weren’t catastrophic defeats anymore.
It wasn’t long before the members of Venal Alliance started to notice that the members of Taggart Transdimensional—the people Venal Alliance banded together to defend from Evolution—were barely ever seen anymore. Battles would break out and Taggart members weren’t fighting them. Taggart was an exceptionally wealthy corporation with a population of players that made up roughly 40 percent of the Venal Alliance. In battles, however, it represented far less than that.
Jade Constantine and others called for another gathering of Venal Alliance’s war council to discuss how to deal with this. Taggart heard their arguments and offered to help out its allies in the Venal Alliance by selling them battleships at “only” a 20 percent markup from the cost Taggart incurred in building them. Which, it tried to justify, was 15 percent less than it usually marked them up.
I like to compare this situation to a person asking their friends to help them move house. Except when the friends arrive to help, the homeowner doesn’t move any boxes. When the friends inevitably complain, the homeowner feigns sympathy and tries to make amends by offering to sell them a hand truck. It was a deal that was obviously rejected and was borderline insulting.
Around this time, SirMolle of Evolution reached out to contact Jade Constantine for a parlay. He spoke to Jade with his trademark patronizing tone, telling her that Evolution had been impressed by the “fighting spirit” of the Venal Alliance. However, what Evolution wanted was to hurt Taggart Transdimensional, and SirMolle was frustrated that Taggart was so often missing from the battlefield.
So SirMolle offered his deal: throw Taggart Transdimensional out of Venal Alliance, and Evolution would recognize Venal Alliance’s sovereignty in the north and call a ceasefire with everyone but Taggart.
THIS TREACHEROUS NIGHT
Jade took the deal back to Venal and called a meeting of what was known as “The Council of the Free Captains.” It was a dramatic midnight meeting where delegates from all factions within Venal Alliance got together to cast their votes.
Jade had gone to the leader of Taggart Transdimensional, a player named Ragnar, to discuss the meeting beforehand. She told him that she and her corporation—Jericho Fraction—were prepared to stick by Taggart if it started pulling its weight. Her proposal was to alter the Venal Alliance tax system which at the time mandated that each member corporation contribute 25 million ISK per week to the alliance to cover ship replacements and ammunition. Taggart was a very large corporation of over 200 people—several times larger than other Venal Alliance corporations—but it still only had to pay 25 million per week. Jade wanted to bring that up to an amount proportional to the massive size of the corporation.
This was a philosophical problem for Taggart Transdimensional. Its leaders were stalwart believers in Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy both in EVE and in their ordinary lives. The name Taggart Transdimensional itself comes from Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged, which stars protagonist Dagny Taggart as a vice president of a railroad company called Taggart Transcontinental. Ragnar himself is also named after a character from Atlas Shrugged. So this idea of having to pay a heavy tax to a government that would seek to control their actions was fairly horrifying for the members of Taggart Transdimensional. They refused Jade Constantine’s deal.
Sensing that there was a very real chance Taggart could be abandoned by its allies, Ragnar moved to consolidate power. He privately consulted with the member corporations of Venal Alliance, and lobbied them to side with him.
“There is a rift coming and there is one side that is safe and one that is not,” Ragnar told one such corporation.
The day of the vote arrived. The ballots were cast and counted: six votes in favor of preserving the union, five votes against. Taggart managed to survive, and the Venal Alliance was preserved.
Evolution heard every word of the meeting. It had a spy, again Mr. Blonde, in Venal Alliance’s midst and he was relaying the minutes. To put it mildly, Evolution was disappointed. Venal Alliance banding together could have spelled the death of its campaign. If Evolution couldn’t break Venal in the previous months there was no reason to believe it would happen now. Especially with all of Venal’s foreign volunteers still flooding in from empire space.
But just as the Venal Alliance council meeting moved on to other matters, a spokesman for Ragnar interrupted to deliver a prepared statement.
“Taggart Transdimensional does not recognize the authority of this council, nor the voting power of a corporation 1/100th of our size having the same power to limit our sovereignty. It is clear that the anti-Taggart effort has been led by Jade Constantine, who has been bought off by Evolution. We will start with a 100 million ISK bounty on Jade Constantine. Taggart and our friends will remain in Venal and we will openly attack all of the pro-Evolution people that have just voted against their one-time friends in Taggart. This is fair warning. Thank you.”
— Ragnar, CEO, Taggart Transdimensional
(Edited for clarity.)
The Venal Alliance council was stunned. In the view of these council members, this vote was just a natural process of inter-alliance diplomacy. At first, it wasn’t clear Ragnar actually understood what had happened. Maybe he misheard the vote count and thought Taggart was being evicted?
No such luck. The nightmare was real. Taggart Transdimensional had declared war on its former allies. Almost instantly, Venal shut down. This was no longer anybody’s home. This was unfriendly territory for any soul who went too far north.
Jade Constantine commemorated the occasion with yet another epic, overwrought forum post.
“I, Jade Constantine, take up the mantle of Ragnar’s 100 million ISK of blood money and wear it proudly as a shroud to brittle avarice and all the works of foolish craven traitorlord below. Death to Taggart, Death to Ragnar, Death to the memory of this treacherous night.” — Jade Constantine, CEO, Jericho Fraction, Venal Alliance
The Venal Alliance immediately demanded a re-vote in light of Taggart’s war declaration against its own allies. It should go without saying that this changed the minds of a number of swing votes. The original vote was 6-5 in favor of Taggart, but the new vote was 9-2 against Taggart (not counting Taggart’s vote.) It was partially meaningless given that Taggart had made no qualms about burning the alliance to the ground. But this was a moment for the other Venal Alliance corporations to reform and to clarify that their dedication was to Venal Alliance, not Taggart.
Venal Alliance as it once existed was now dead. The nine remaining members reformed and began calling themselves the New Venal Alliance, shifting their focus to destroying Taggart Transdimensional.
This was more difficult than it sounds, however. Taggart was still staggeringly wealthy and well-equipped. One of the first issues that divided the former Venal Alliance was that Taggart wasn’t showing up for battles. SirMolle himself was upset that Taggart wasn’t hurting enough. The members of the New Venal Alliance had just ended a large, highly destructive war against Evolution, and were now expected to fight a war against Taggart, which had barely taken any damage in that war. Taggart was fresh and flush with equipment for fighting a long war.
Taggart Transdimensional was not a fighting corporation, though. Its pilots liked to mine and make money, and they were exceptionally good at it. Taggart preferred to stick to its own niche while fighting its wars through proxies and mercenaries. It had all the resources needed to fight a war without the will necessary to see it through personally.
Taggart got together with the two other former Venal Alliance members who had voted to stand by it, and the new group began calling itself the Northern Alliance. It attracted one more new member: the well-known pirate group “M3G4.” Taggart was now at the head of an alliance that featured three of the most feared pirate factions in the north of New Eden. It claimed Venal for its own uses and warned all others to evacuate.
However, Taggart had drastically underestimated the disastrous results of spurning its former allies when those allies voted democratically to stand by Taggart. It left an alliance of borderline hippies trying to keep the north free and open in favor of an alliance filled with hated pirates.
The New Venal Alliance propaganda machine used this to its advantage and was effective at painting Taggart in a horrible light. Jade Constantine kept up her verbal attacks, rebranding Taggart Transdimensional as “Taggart Transpiratical.”
Over the next week the New Venal Alliance started receiving care packages from all over New Eden. People were sending ships and money and morale-boosting well wishes inspiring the New Venal Alliance to keep up the fight and wipe out the enemies Jade had painted as hypocritical capitalist snakes.
More foreign volunteers continued to come up North to fight with the New Venal Alliance. Venal Alliance had been through hell for the last two months, but its leaders understood better than anyone in New Eden how to make a war fun. It was managing to win wars while it was actually losing on the battlefield, because it understood that EVE players need to have a goal to stay entertained. Venal Alliance gave its members a goal using ideology, and attracted other players from around the New Eden star cluster because it offered these people something to believe in—a real reason to be playing this video game.
This alone would have been bad news for Taggart Transdimensional’s brand new Northern Alliance, but something else happened that Ragnar didn’t expect: Evolution was true to its word.
Evolution held up its end of the cease-fire bargain and stopped fighting the New Venal Alliance. Beyond that, Evolution went so far as to actually aid the New Venal Alliance in its oncoming civil war. Evolution supplied it with ships, minerals, and manpower, essentially making the New Venal Alliance into Evolution’s proxy for destroying its sworn enemies: Taggart Transdimensional and its gang of pirates.
The New Venal Alliance knew, however, that it wasn’t going to beat Taggart through force of arms. Taggart was simply too wealthy and could replace ships too easily. So Venal started training its new allies in unconventional tactics in order to disrupt Taggart’s income. One new corporation called Reikoku stood out from the crowd. Its pilots were new to EVE and Jade Constantine had recruited it as a mercenary unit and schooled its pilots in the dark art of suicide ganking.
The basic idea behind a suicide attack is to equip a cheap ship with 100% of the ship’s energy focused on burst firepower—with no concern for survivability—to almost instantly kill your enemy. This way you can attack them right in front of EVE Online’s NPC police force in high-security Empire space, and still be able to secure the kill. The attacking ship will also be destroyed, but it’s cheaper, easier to replace, and not filled with valuable mining cargo.
“We basically funded a suicide ganking campaign against Taggart miners in northern Lonetrek,” said Jade Constantine. “Which was the other front of the war. To be quite honest, Reikoku did more to crush Taggart than anybody else because they were absolutely lunatic about [suicide attacks.]”
This went on for two weeks. The New Venal Alliance fought a series of battles in Venal itself while Reikoku hammered the Taggart supply lines and trade routes through Lonetrek. Only fifteen days after this fighting officially began, a delegate from Taggart appeared in the EVE Online forums.
“Earlier today Ragnar Danneskjold officially stepped down as President and CEO of Taggart Transdimensional and declared his retirement from EVE. [...] We wish to put the controversy of recent times behind us, and as such are wiping the slate clean. Our kill-on-sight list is empty, and we are declaring a unilateral ceasefire effective immediately. All bounties have been revoked, and all existing alliances have been dissolved. In particular, while Taggart Trandimensional has never condoned piracy, we have in the past been members of alliances which have included pirate corporations. This is no longer the case, nor will it ever be in the future.
We look forward to reaffirming our diplomatic and trade relations with all other corporations and alliances, and working towards a secure and prosperous future for all.
— GunnyP, new CEO of Taggart Transdimensional
October 2, 2003
Though Taggart tried as hard as possible to hide it, this was a surrender. Taggart’s figurehead leader, Ragnar, had left the game suddenly and without explanation, and leadership fell to people who no longer believed in this war. They wanted to go back to being a simple ISK-making operation. Taggart Transdimensional left the north and tried to get back to the peace that used to be considered normal.
Almost every other corporation involved in the fighting agreed to the ceasefire eagerly. SirMolle was still skeptical, and didn’t seem happy to stop killing Taggart ships, but he went along with it.
Taggart had been wounded badly through all of this. Its membership had dropped catastrophically, and it had grown to depend more and more on mercenaries. Then a player named Anla Shok broke its back.
A former director in Taggart Transdimensional, Anla Shok recognized the corporation’s weakness for the opportunity it was and executed the largest corporate theft in the first year of EVE. The still vast coffers of Taggart Transdimensional (filled to the brim when the ultra-wealthy Ragnar left his fortune) were looted. In total, 1.2 billion ISK was stolen from the shared corporate account all of the directors used to pool their funds—an incredible amount of money for the era that would have paid for hundreds if not thousands of ships. Anla Shok then took the ill-gotten gains and joined Evolution.
Taggart Transdimensional would never again be a force in New Eden, but the story of the New Venal Alliance was only just getting started.
PRELUDE TO WAR
With Taggart Transdimensional kicked out of the north at the end of the Venal Civil War, control of the northern territories was taken by the New Venal Alliance. Evolution was satisfied with its victory over Taggart and the fighting was over. The New Venal Alliance had grown large in the meantime, with the addition of powerful new member corporations Oberon Incorporated, Cyberdyne Industries, and Terra Nova.
The New Venal Alliance was looking forward to using this peacetime to rebuild. But the drama wouldn’t end. Egos and ideologies clashed.
Throughout the war, Jade Constantine had been fighting to create a free space in the north, somewhere average pilots from all over New Eden could come to explore or conduct commerce. Even when most people found Jade Constantine overzealous and even obnoxious, she was still adept at shaping the message of any given situation. She relentlessly spread her propaganda on the political forums, and while many saw her as manipulative, others were beginning to see her as benevolent.
Several of the newer members of the New Venal Alliance didn’t agree with Jade’s philosophy—particularly her main political rival within the alliance, Halseth Durn, CEO of Oberon Incorporated. Durn couldn’t understand why they should cede control and share the spoils of war after they’d just fought to maintain control of this territory.
The crux of their differences came down to the fact that these new members of the New Venal Alliance were largely mining corporations, and mining corporations by nature tend to hate the idea of free space. They liked to trot out massive mining ships and essentially just set them to auto-mine while the players themselves chatted or watched television outside the game. Miners could make a great deal of ISK that way, but if there were strangers nearby, they would have to remain vigilant or risk being shot down.
The ideological clashes between Jade Constantine and the rest of the alliance carried on for weeks, and only their collective weariness with warfare kept the alliance together. But soon, war would come to the north whether the New Venal Alliance wanted it or not.
GHOSTS OF TREACHERY
The public dissension in the New Venal Alliance attracted an all-out pirate invasion, and the alliance was shocked when one of their corporations—Terra Nova—betrayed them and joined the pirates in the middle of a pitched battle. The rest of the squabbling New Venal Alliance was united by the betrayal. They managed to fight back the pirate threats, but the traitors made the leaders of the alliance highly sensitive to more internal threats.
The mining groups within the New Venal Alliance—such as Oberon and Cyberdyne—used the invasion to show that the borders should be closed to prevent any further attacks. Some of them still blamed Jade Constantine’s public bluster for attracting the pirates in the first place. Divisions were deepening.
The other main corporations within the New Venal Alliance were growing suspicious of the close bond between Reikoku and Jericho Fraction. Reikoku had proven itself to be a powerful military force in the war against Taggart Transdimensional, and it had even begun taking breaks from defending Venal to accept mercenary contracts.
The largest corporations in the New Venal Alliance—Oberon, Rona, Cyberdyne Industries—were well aware of Jade’s ambition to open the North as a free port, and their leaders grew concerned about the possibility of a Jade Constantine-led coup with Reikoku’s CEO Galavet at her side.
In Halseth Durn’s view, in order to prevent Jade Constantine from radicalizing other members, steps needed to be taken. Jade Constantine was issued a gag order by the alliance’s council. She was removed from her role as the spokesperson for the New Venal Alliance and forbidden from speaking publicly on behalf of the alliance. It was a devastating loss for her, but people from both sides of the New Venal Alliance say she graciously accepted this action as a way to heal the divides in the New Venal Alliance.
“Effective immediately, I wish to announce my formal resignation from the post of Public Relations Representative for the New Venal Alliance (NVA). Of the reasons for my resignation I will say only this; that it had become clear that my many enemies and stalkers in the sphere of public debate were making practical dissemination of useful information near impossible.
Such indeed is the hatred of my face and voice in some quarters that any words I spoke were immediately drowned out by raucous cries of brute antithesis.
I wish all the best of course to the New Venal Alliance and the corps so joined in glorious camaraderie against the encroaching darkness.
It is meet and fitting both that such a bold company of heroes should survive the birthing hands of its founders... how else that the dream of freedom wrought in blood and sacrifice be passed from past to future and the promise of brighter times to come? So I say, Long live the NVA! For now my work is done.”
— Jade Constantine, CEO Jericho Fraction, New Venal Alliance
November 29, 2003
Then something very strange happened. Halseth Durn put a deal on the table to form a non-aggression pact with the pirate factions that had just invaded. In EVE terminology, a non-aggression pact was considered very close to a true alliance. He was suggesting they work together with the very same group that had just invaded their territory, and whose members included the Terra Nova traitors.
Jericho Fraction and Reikoku went ballistic. They had fought the pirate threat on the front lines, and now they were being asked to take a step back while their leaders befriended those same invaders. A huge argument unfurled as Jade Constantine and Galavet accused Halseth Durn of ignoring their sacrifices in fighting the pirate threats. Meanwhile anger flowed the other way as the rest of the New Venal Alliance accused Jade Constantine of being the catalyst for that war in the first place.
“I have gotten to know her these last few months,” wrote Halseth Durn about Jade Constantine. “She’s a liar, a manipulator, and her only weapon is this [forum]. She lives for it. If you believe half of anything she ever says, you are a sucker. Being this way, she must always have a target for her only weapon (this board). She has now chosen me to be her new ‘Ragnar,’ [the former CEO of Taggart Transdimensional] and every one of you who read what she says, believes it, and then regurgitates it as ‘divine scripture’ is a gullible fool.”
The cracks in the New Venal Alliance had become a chasm. Jade Constantine and her corporation as a whole were removed from the New Venal Alliance. Reikoku quit as well in a show of solidarity. Jade Constantine and her followers retreated to Empire space to brood; Galavet led Reikoku to a profitable line of work as full-time mercenaries.
After nearly a year of conflict, civil war, and in-fighting, there was relative peace in the north. With Jade Constantine now out of the picture, the New Venal Alliance was ruled by three corporations: Oberon, Cyberdyne Industries, and Rona Corp. Along with their many subsidiaries, they formed the main power bloc in the northern regions.
THE PHOENIX ALLIANCE RISES
The new lords in the north wanted to symbolically move away from the warfare and drama that had plagued their first year of existence. They wanted to make their own society in space and get away from the reputation—good or bad—that Jade Constantine had given the north.
They decided to re-form the alliance and abandon the New Venal Alliance name. The change meant nothing structurally, but everything symbolically. What’s more, CCP Games was about to introduce a new system into EVE Online that would officially recognize alliances. Previously alliances were spoken agreements or treaties between corporations. Now they would be hardwired into the game mechanics, allowing alliances to structure themselves more efficiently.
The remaining leaders of the former New Venal Alliance gathered together to cement an official alliance. They declared that they would be the “Phoenix Alliance,” rising from the ashes of their scarred past toward a more glorious future, and they declared their reformation on the CAOD forums.
“This communiqué is also a declaration of our organization birth and intentions,” wrote the Phoenix Alliance’s public relations writer, Hirakii Phoenix. “Formed from what once were the core corporations of the New Venal Alliance, let it be known that [we] freely left that organization to be born again under the common interests of prosperity and mutual protection. From this point on, the past remains in the past. References to civil wars, victories/defeats, betrayals, heroics, and feuds associated with past alliances of the northern territories are now abolished to material we consider irrelevant. The Phoenix Alliance will now start with a clean slate and a determined focus on what is best for the corps of the Phoenix Alliance.”
Halseth Durn was voted the leader of the Phoenix Alliance. Despite my best efforts, I was never able to contact Halseth Durn during my research for this book. By all indications from both his allies and his enemies, Halseth Durn was a strong and formidable leader who had the charisma to command the respect of thousands of people. He was unquestioned in his leadership, even by CEOs within the alliance who themselves led hundreds of people.
But there was one group within Phoenix Alliance that Halseth Durn could not control, despite his best efforts. Cyberdyne Industries was a borderline renegade faction within Phoenix Alliance. Cyberdyne members were jokers and pranksters who had no respect for authority. It’s pilots did what they wanted, and sometimes that meant angering their own allies. But no matter how badly Cyberdyne angered its Phoenix Alliance leaders, it was always able to patch things over quickly, because its membership was renowned as a bunch of lovable, fun-loving jokers who were difficult to stay mad at. The other alliances in the north didn’t always feel the same way.
There was a growing power in the north however, and it needed to be reckoned with. A group called Forsaken Empire had rallied the many pirate factions of the northeast into a powerful pirate alliance. Together, under the banner of Forsaken Empire, they were intent on spreading their influence throughout the northern regions.
At the height of its power, Forsaken Empire controlled one of the largest stretches of star systems in the game. While the many wars of the Venal Alliance, New Venal Alliance, and now Phoenix Alliance were being fought further north, Forsaken Empire gathered power in the northeast. By late 2003, it was undisputed in its control of Geminate and Vale of the Silent, and was the main power in the disputed territories of Tribute, Deklein, and Fade.
REIKOKU COMES HOME
Reikoku eventually returned from its mercenary endeavors back to the north, where it still had friends from its days fighting Taggart Transdimensional. Reikoku returned because on December 18, 2003 CCP Games had just released EVE Online’s first free expansion pack, which included a major new feature that was highly attractive to nullsec space holders. Now, in nullsec, player groups would be able to officially take ownership of a station. In the past, the only way to control a station was by maintaining military control over the space around it, at all times of day. This new update meant that players could lock out enemies and control a territory even in timezones when they weren’t militarily dominant. They could make a home. It was still possible to conquer stations, but it took a much more concerted effort.
Galavet sold the rest of Reikoku on the idea of moving back north to settle down, and Reikoku set a course for the Deklein region. Far in the northwest, this was still wild west territory. It was far enough away from the major commerce systems that nobody had bothered to conquer it. It was one of the few places left where a relatively small group of players could own space that wasn’t controlled by the larger alliances, and the only people out there were small corporations of a few dozen people.
Reikoku wasn’t the only group drawn to Deklein. Deklein was at the outer reaches of the territory controlled by Forsaken Empire, and the Empire was keen to expand its turf. It had recently moved into Deklein and taken stations away from a group in the region, and it was clear that none of the small corporations in Deklein were safe. Seeing no other option, the settlers of the desolate Deklein region—including Reikoku—banded together to preemptively strike Forsaken Empire. They called themselves the Coalition of Deklein.
Forsaken Empire controlled its vast territory through vassals which kept control on the Empire’s behalf and paid taxes to the larger organization. The Coalition of Deklein knew that Forsaken Empire was too small to control its many territories directly, so instead of attacking the Empire head-on, it decided to strike the vassals and weaken Forsaken Empire’s grip on the region, starting with Fade.
Fade is not particularly valuable territory, and this might explain why it was often filled with weak, vulnerable alliances. The relative weakness of its early inhabitants—and its crucial position in the center of the northwest—turned the Fade region into a frequent battleground in this era.
Reikoku struck first in Fade at a group called the Rising Storm Alliance, making daily incursions into its territory designed not just to blow up its pilots’ ships, but to disrupt their way of life. In striking the Rising Storm Alliance, the Coalition of Deklein hoped to damage Forsaken Empire’s finances as well. Using guerrilla-style hit-and-run tactics it quickly racked up an impressive list of kills. Finally, its fleets caused enough damage to get the attention of the main forces of Forsaken Empire, which set a course for Fade. To prepare for a head-to-head fleet battle with Forsaken Empire, Reikoku and the Coalition of Deklein called up their allies—the owners of other nearby regions who were worried about Forsaken Empire’s expansionist tendencies.
THE FADE UNION TURNS
The day of the battle came, and when Forsaken Empire arrived in Fade it was met head-on by the Coalition of Deklein’s fleet. By its own admission, the Coalition of Deklein was overwhelmed by superior tactics and numbers. After a brief skirmish, the Coalition fleet retreated. But next weekend it was back, and so was the Forsaken Empire fleet.
The Coalition moved into the capital system of Fade, C4C-Z4, but was outmaneuvered by the Forsaken Empire, which trapped and blockaded it into the system. Forsaken Empire locked down both of the stargates that led into the system, and refused to let the Coalition of Deklein fleet escape. The Coalition put out a call for help, and was answered by nearby allies NORAD and Black Nova Corporation, who sent a fleet to their aid.
The ships from these allies engaged the Forsaken Empire blockade in a coordinated attack with the Coalition of Deklein ships. The blockade collapsed, and a large fleet battle ensued deep in the heart of Fade. Hundreds of ships clashed in one of the biggest battles in the early history of EVE Online.
From a distance, the battle would have looked like a giant ball of ships with laser fire criss-crossing the diameter. A hundred beams of laser light would erupt from each fleet’s ships and converge on whichever enemy the fleet commander had chosen to be destroyed first. From inside the fight, the tangle of laser beams, missiles, and ship explosions would have been completely indecipherable. The sky in front of each player’s ship was a torrent of destruction.
Of course, the average player didn’t see that. To the actual pilots the battle was a laggy mess. They would zoom their view out as far as possible until all they saw were little blips on their screen: blue for allied ships, red for enemies. Each side’s fleet commander would do their best to make good strategic decisions despite the fact it could take entire minutes for the lag to clear up and show a current view of the battlefield.
As a combat-oriented alliance, Forsaken Empire was used to these kinds of conditions—much more so than the average Coalition of Deklein members. Even with its new allies, the Coalition of Deklein couldn’t stand its ground against Forsaken Empire, and was forced to retreat again. But it kept coming back. Weekend after weekend, Coalition of Deklein pilots would return to Fade and fight Forsaken Empire—and weekend after weekend, the Coalition of Deklein was pushed back.
On the fifth weekend of continuous attacks the two sides clashed again. Forsaken Empire’s fleet commanders grew confident when they saw that Reikoku was absent from the fight, and assumed they’d finally scared them off. Unbeknownst to those commanders, Reikoku wasn’t in the main battle because it was busy intercepting Forsaken Empire’s reinforcements two systems away. The main battle erupted in C4C-Z4, and Forsaken Empire’s fleet commanders kept calling for reinforcements, but they never made it to the front line. Reikoku’s raiding squads were destroying them before they got into the battle. After dispatching a number of small reinforcement fleets, Reikoku set course to rendezvous with the main fleet in C4C-Z4.
With the fresh forces of Reikoku now joining the fray, the morale of the Coalition turned. It had managed to hold its own for an hour in this battle against Forsaken Empire, and now one of its main military allies was joining the fight virtually unharmed. Dozens of Reikoku ships entered the simmering ball of laser fire and explosions, and Forsaken Empire ships began popping one by one as streams of lasers converged on their most valuable ships. With no reinforcements, Forsaken Empire was forced from the field of battle for the first time.
This changed the tone of the war considerably. A meeting was set between the allied Coalition and Forsaken Empire’s vassal in Fade, the Rising Storm Alliance, as the RSA asked for clemency. The RSA couldn’t keep up this level of warfare. The Coalition of Deklein agreed to stop attacking them, but under strict terms: change your name forever and assist the Coalition with evicting Forsaken Empire from the surrounding territories. In other words, Rising Storm couldn’t just surrender; it had to renounce everything and turn on its former masters. In a testament to how rough the conflict had been on Rising Storm, its leaders agreed unanimously to these audacious terms. Rising Storm Alliance changed its name to Fade Union, and set its sights on aiding in the eviction of Forsaken Empire from neighboring Tribute.
THE MIGHTY KILLER OF THE FORSAKEN EMPIRE
A grand coalition of allies was now arrayed against Forsaken Empire. The hurt-but-not-broken Fade Union joined the Coalition of Deklein and its allies on a quest to run Forsaken Empire out of Tribute, out of Vale of the Silent, out of Geminate, and out of nullsec entirely. These alliances spent weeks on logistics: moving their backup ships into position, stocking up on ammunition, and creating a battle plan.
The time came. The allies gathered and flew into Tribute ready for battle. But there was nobody there.
Well, not nobody. There were miners working in the region and a few stray Forsaken Empire pilots, but nothing remotely ready to challenge the Coalition fleet. As it turns out, Forsaken Empire had been struggling with a problem that was dwindling its forces and diminishing its ability to defend its outlying territories. The problem was Lineage 2.
With so many enemies (including its former allies, the Fade Union) knocking on Tribute’s door, a great many Forsaken Empire pilots had decided their defense of Tribute was hopeless, and they decided instead to spend more time with the cutting-edge new fantasy MMORPG Lineage 2.
Knowing that its grip on Tribute was fading, Forsaken Empire called in its allies to help. Its friends in the south, Curse Alliance, sent along a large fleet of about 50 ships to aid in the defense of Forsaken Empire’s territory. Combined with its own weakened fleet, Forsaken Empire had approximately 75 ships ready to retake Tribute.
At the time, a measly eight Reikoku pilots were stationed in the main hub of Tribute. When Forsaken Empire began their attack, the eight Reikoku pilots called for backup, and with incredible speed were able to raise 20 battleships from the Coalition of Deklein, 20 battleships from Fade Union, and an additional eight Reikoku ships for the defense. Outnumbered 75 to 56, Reikoku and its allies still handily won the ensuing battle. Reikoku and its allies were all equipped in high-end battleships, while their Curse Alliance/Forsaken Empire enemies flew a mixture of frigates, cruisers, and battleships. As the battle was nearly over, even more reinforcements showed up and broke the back of Forsaken Empire’s forces, decisively ending their attempt to retake Tribute.
THE DREAM OF HALSETH DURN
Forsaken Empire was gone from Tribute, and the allies soon pushed it out of Vale of the Silent as well. However, none of the alliances involved in ousting them were interested in controlling that extra territory. They were mostly striking against Forsaken Empire as a preemptive measure to protect themselves from its expansionist ambitions in Fade and Deklein.
A power vacuum developed in Tribute, and this invited pirates to take free reign over a northern territory. Recognizing this threat, the disparate powers of the north (Phoenix Alliance, Fade Union, Coalition of Deklein, NORAD) decided it was in their mutual interest to lock down Tribute to prevent it from turning into a pirate state that would serve as a staging ground for incursions into their territories.
They formed a treaty called NAST—Northern Alliances Security Treaty—which turned Tribute into a protectorate between the four of them. There was no central government over Tribute, and any miner or trader could come and go freely. The alliances would sponsor military patrols which would shut down any and all pirate activity. Ironically, it was an arrangement that Jade Constantine might have supported a few months earlier.
Everyone was happy with this—except Reikoku. From its point of view, Phoenix Alliance had waltzed in, patted everyone on the back for their bravery in ousting Forsaken Empire, and then decided everyone in the north should share the territory equally regardless of how large a role they played in the battle. Reikoku’s pilots balked at sharing their victory with a group that had done none of the work to achieve it.
Then Halseth Durn went one step further. He wanted to unite the alliances of the north in a grand, peaceful coalition, and to that end he made a non-aggression pact with Forsaken Empire. Durn had failed to recognize that the diplomatic “victory” of signing a non-aggression pact with Forsaken Empire would weaken Phoenix Alliance’s relations with all of its neighbors, who still loathed Forsaken Empire. Phoenix Alliance had just made peace with the blood rivals of Reikoku and Coalition of Deklein. Suddenly the whole of the north was casting a skeptical eye at one another.
At this point in the history things get momentarily fuzzy. Every group involved at the time has its own story for what happened next.
The one thing that I’m certain of is that the northern powers of New Eden—Phoenix Alliance, Fade Union, Coalition of Deklein, NORAD, and little Reikoku—suffered a communication breakdown. In this era of EVE, communication was not as simple as it is now. Enemies in EVE rarely talked outside of hurling accusations at one another on the forums. Things started to get very tangled and confusing in the north, and people were not communicating well enough to sort them out.
The main problem centered around Phoenix Alliance’s rogue faction, Cyberdyne Industries. Practically every day Reikoku complained that Cyberdyne Industries had blown up one of its mining ships or harassed its players. It was hard to prove their accusations: in this era of EVE there was no official documentation to confirm the details of an attack. In modern EVE, a “killmail”—a log of the details of a battle—is sent to involved players after every ship’s destruction, but in this era of EVE that system hadn’t been implemented yet.
The two main leaders of the Phoenix Alliance—Halseth Durn and Robeyone—were stuck in the middle trying to keep the two from killing one another. Cyberdyne and its leader, Krullz, insisted Reikoku’s accusations were unfounded, but Reikoku wouldn’t relent. In an attempt to keep the peace, Phoenix Alliance finally agreed to sanction Cyberdyne industries.
Phoenix Alliance’s promise to deal with Cyberdyne wasn’t good enough for Reikoku though, and it drew a line in the sand. Reikoku shut down the mutually-controlled protectorate of Tribute, and took command of the region. As its first move as the stated owners of Tribute, Reikoku offered free access to the territory to every northern power—except Phoenix Alliance.
“Many people have voiced an opinion on what should become of the Tribute and Vale of the Silent regions of EVE. For over a month Reikoku has been working against the forces of the south (Forsaken Empire) and its over-expanding grasp to reclaim these lost areas. Help has come from a few close friends, but others valued a non-aggression pact with an enemy more than a call for help from an old friend. I personally let this travesty pass for too long and now it has reached a critical point within the ranks of my corporation.
So, as of now, until somebody can take it from us, Tribute is closed space. [...] Far too long has Reikoku bled for the security of others with nothing in return. No longer will this be the case.”
— Galavet, CEO Reikoku
April 23, 2004
On May 27, 2004, Reikoku alleged that Cyberdyne Industries pilots had once again entered Reikoku territory and shot down a mining ship. Cyberdyne vehemently denied the accusations. This time, however, Cyberdyne knew the allegations were true, and so did Halseth Durn who, according to senior Phoenix Alliance members, worked with them to cover it up and keep the peace. Seemingly the only person who didn’t know the truth was Phoenix Alliance’s other main leader, Robeyone of RONA Corp.
Furious that Phoenix Alliance had once again refused to punish Cyberdyne, Reikoku gave up all hope of a peaceful solution. It prepared its military assets for war, and began to approach potential allies for support in the oncoming fight: Fade Union, Coalition of Deklein, Evolution, Jericho Fraction, NORAD, and even Evolution.
On May 28, 2004, while Phoenix Alliance was still trying to cover up this latest Cyberdyne infraction, a small fleet of Reikoku ships entered Phoenix Alliance space in Venal and began an all-out attack.
Reikoku found and destroyed a Phoenix Alliance battleship, catching it completely off-guard. Robeyone recalled having 34 conversation windows open on his screen within five minutes of the attack. Phoenix Alliance pilots were desperately looking for an official order from senior leadership about how to deal with Reikoku’s surprise attack. They finally found their footing, organized a fleet, and pushed Reikoku out.
In the face of a larger Phoenix alliance defense fleet, Reikoku retreated, and only after the retreat did it take the time to officially declare war on the Phoenix Alliance.
“For reasons that will be stated later in the evening by our PR director, Reikoku sadly must choose to declare war on the Phoenix Alliance. Please take this as a fair warning.”
— Galavet, CEO Reikoku
May 28, 2004.
The Phoenix Alliance hadn’t yet committed itself to open warfare, but this sucker punch changed that. In the forums, people began overblowing the significance of the attack by calling it “Pearl Harbor-esque.” There was no stopping this war.
Reikoku leaders Galavet and DB Preacher immediately approached Jade Constantine and Jericho Fraction to enlist their aid in the fight.
“Galavet and DB Preacher came to me and said, ‘Do you fancy a proper war?’” said Jade Constantine in 2014. “So I said, ‘Let’s see, it’s against Phoenix Alliance. Revenge against the people who kicked us out and destroyed our ideals and closed the borders? You fucking bet.’”
Together the two corporations formed what they called the Northern Coalition of Allies, and the list of alliances fighting over the northern territories grew by one.
By the next day Reikoku had formed a new, even larger fleet with Jericho Fraction pilots and headed back into Venal. This time Phoenix Alliance was waiting for them with a veritable armada. Tiny interceptor fighter ships whizzed between hulking battleships to form the enormous Phoenix Alliance flotilla. The interceptors screamed through fights at incredible speed despite the fact they were often equipped with four huge cruise missiles, each of which was as large as the entire rest of the ship (an oversight that CCP Games eventually corrected).
The mammoth Phoenix Alliance fleet reportedly outnumbered the Northern Coalition of Allies ships ten to one. The Phoenix Alliance fleet unloaded huge numbers of missiles and laser munitions on the attacking fleet, destroying it with ease. All the while, rank and file Phoenix Alliance members laughed and jeered at the enemy pilots, mocking them for thinking they ever had a chance against the dominant power in the north.
Reikoku and Jericho Fraction were fine with the losses. They were here to make a statement. Jericho Fraction wasn’t the only group that Reikoku had enlisted; four more were ready to pledge their support. Phoenix Alliance had absolutely no idea how big this war was about to become.
THE GREAT NORTHERN WAR
The alliances of the north were sliding into an inescapable war. Over the next few weeks, every major faction in the north would be dragged into an all-out regional war for the first time in the history of EVE Online.
Reikoku and Jericho Fraction alone would have been dead in the water with no hope of defeating the Phoenix Alliance’s massive military industrial complex. However, they managed to score a fantastic diplomatic victory and convinced Evolution—their old allies from the 2003 war in Venal—to come back to the north and resume their crusade to topple the northern powers.
Evolution brought considerable organization and combat skills to this nascent alliance of northern rebels, and its arrival marked a turning point. The Northern Coalition of Allies (NCA) was now a credible threat to Phoenix Alliance.
The remaining powers in the north (NORAD, Fade Union, and Coalition of Deklein) couldn’t be contacted for this book, so it’s difficult to know what their leaders’ mindsets were like during this time. Reports seem to indicate that they saw the fight against Phoenix Alliance as just, but were inclined to honor the Northern Alliances Security Treaty and protect their ally. From the sidelines they put pressure on Phoenix Alliance to expel Cyberdyne in an effort to restore peace.
It’s important to remember that Coalition of Deklein and Fade Union were close allies with Reikoku by this time. The trio of alliances fought together successfully for more than a month to remove Forsaken Empire from Tribute, and their pilots fondly remembered their time at war together. It was going to take quite a bit for Phoenix Alliance to convince Fade Union and Coalition of Deklein to go to war against Reikoku to uphold the Northern Alliances Security Treaty.
But Cyberdyne couldn’t be reined in. After all the other incidents, a small skirmish occurred between Cyberdyne ships and a Fade Union/Coalition of Deklein fleet. It was a silly little fight that broke out after some Cyberdyne pilots fired off a few insults in the local chat channel directed at a Fade Union patrol fleet. It would have been almost meaningless at any other time, but with the drums of war banging, it was fatal to the treaty. Fade Union and Coalition of Deklein considered all that had happened over the last two months and removed Phoenix Alliance from the Northern Alliances Security Treaty. Fade Union and Coalition of Deklein joined the war, putting their sizeable force behind Reikoku and the NCA.
On this matter, I speak for the Coalition of Deklein and Fade Union.
The Northern Alliances Security Treaty was designed to ensure the security of three of the powers in the North, and to ensure the regions of Pure Blind, Tribute, and Vale of the Silent remained open and free to the public of EVE.
Cyberdyne Industries [CDI], a Phoenix Alliance Corporation, violated this treaty. Cyberdyne’s wrongdoings have been admitted by both Cyberdyne and by Phoenix Alliance as a whole.
Phoenix Alliance was given 12 hours to remove Cyberdyne from NAST space. Deklein and Fade cannot be allies with a rogue and immoral force such as Cyberdyne.
As of this morning;
Cyberdyne remains in the Phoenix Alliance.
Coalition of Deklein and Fade Union have voted to remove the Phoenix Alliance from the Northern Alliances Security Treaty.”
—Notferr, spokesperson, Coalition of Deklein/Fade Union
(Edited and abbreviated for clarity).
May 31, 2004
For their part, the leaders of the Phoenix Alliance were honorable about losing these allies. When Coalition of Deklein laid out their reasons for war against Phoenix Alliance, CEO Robeyone replied, “There were some good things that came out of our small time in NAST together. I met some good Coalition of Deklein people, and if anything it was a pleasure to meet some of you. Good Luck.”
The sides were chosen, and the forces arrayed against the mighty Phoenix Alliance were many. Reikoku, Jericho Fraction, Evolution, Fade Union, UNICOR, NORAD, and Coalition of Deklein were now committed to removing Phoenix Alliance from its seat of power in the north.
For simplicity’s sake, the enemies of the Phoenix Alliance opted to collectively call themselves the Northern Coalition of Allies. They never formed an official alliance, but they were united by their common cause. The entire region had turned against Phoenix Alliance, but its power matched every other major force in the north combined.
THE BATTLE AT P-FSQE
The Northern Coalition of Allies pilots viewed themselves as liberators who were coming to the aid of the people of Phoenix Alliance. It’s leaders saw the Phoenix Alliance council as an irredeemably corrupt government that would rather put its civilians through a war rather than simply evict Cyberdyne.
As the conflict heated up, Phoenix Alliance rallied its people and prepared for war. Phoenix Alliance coordinated its war assets and put ships into the hands of every capable pilot it had. In sheer numbers, it still had the advantage, and its leaders wanted to use those numbers to smother the opposition.
Reikoku had already started the violence with its surprise attack a few days earlier on May 28, 2004, but the true beginning of the Great Northern War was fought at P-FSQE, the gateway into Venal.
Northern Coalition of Allies ships came up through Tribute while Phoenix Alliance ships came down through Venal, and the two fleets gathered near a key mineral refinery in H-PA29. Both fleets were using scouts to report on enemy fleet movements. As the Northern Coalition of Allies forces moved toward H-PA29, Phoenix Alliance cut them off and drew a line in the sand at P-FSQE.
As the ships continued to rendezvous in the system the Phoenix Alliance fleet reached 150 ships. The Northern Coalition of Allies fleet reached 100. Both were impressive numbers for the time, but the Phoenix Alliance’s numerical advantage was on full display.
These were not yet battle-hardened pilots. As both alliances arrived in the system, the fleets got into position, and then stayed still—waiting for the other to make the first move.
Nobody in command of either of these enormous fleets would have understood how to win a fight like this. In this era of EVE, a large fleet fight usually meant 20 ships per side. This was many times larger than even the most seasoned fleet commander had likely ever seen.
The Northern Coalition of Allies had deluded itself into thinking it could win a large engagement—despite the three-to-two disadvantage—because its small skirmishes had gone quite well prior to this. SirMolle, Jade Constantine, and Galavet—the main leaders of the Northern Coalition of Allies—doubted Phoenix Alliance’s ability to coordinate a large group of pilots.
The two fleets continued to stare at one another, each too afraid to begin the calamity. Finally, the Northern Coalition of Allies fleet brought its ships into engagement range of Phoenix Alliance.
Both sides loosed cannons and unleashed a stream of missiles, rail guns, and laser munitions the sheer number of which had never been seen before in New Eden. With nearly 300 people in the battle, the EVE servers strained under the weight of this enormous cataclysm, and strange things began to happen. Missiles disappeared out of thin air. Ships exploded seemingly without having been touched. Pilots were kicked offline without warning, then reappeared in a completely different part of the solar system and in a completely different ship.
Lag became the primary enemy of both fleets. The Northern Coalition of Allies had discovered that lag problems were reduced if their pilots turned their cameras away from the fight, which meant the server had fewer things (particle effects, animations, etc.) to send to their computers. Using their instruments to engage the fight without looking, many Coalition pilots conducted the entire battle with their backs turned.
The initial part of the engagement was more or less evenly matched, and both sides took considerable losses, but things got much more complicated as the battle progressed. Fleet commanders’ ships were steadily destroyed, which meant they could no longer conduct the battle. Each fleet had to adapt their lines of communication on the fly, and Phoenix Alliance was better at it. Its leaders kept their pilots focused on the highest-value ship targets, and kept a steady stream of reinforcements coming into the system.
The battle at P-FSQE was getting worse and worse for the Northern Coalition of Allies. Phoenix Alliance had managed to maneuver its fleet to sit between the Allies’ fleet and the stargate that led out of the star system. This trapped its pilots in the system, preventing any Northern Coalition of Allies reinforcements from entering. Northern Coalition of Allies commanders took drastic action by making the decision to rally all ships at the stargate entry point of the system to shore up reinforcement lines. It turned out to be a catastrophically terrible decision. Lag in the system was bad enough that when the fleet moved positions many of them were unable to get a clear picture of the battle for minutes. In that time, the Phoenix Alliance fleet racked up countless kills against the suddenly defenseless Northern Coalition of Allies who were struck blind by the effects of lag.
In EVE, it’s not uncommon for lag to create unfavorable conditions for one or both sides of a battle, but that doesn’t invalidate the results. In a game where the results of a battle are irreversible, lag is roughly analogous to weather in the real world. Everybody knows there’s a chance there could be a rain storm, and if your army isn’t prepared for that then you’re a fool. Every decent fleet commander in EVE knows lag may be a problem, and a good battle plan will take that into account.
Northern Coalition of Allies ships retreated and scattered in all directions, falling back to deep space hiding spots within the system.
Phoenix Alliance propaganda and public relations officials had a field day with “The Slaughter at P-FSQE,” and confidently declared that the war would be over in days rather than weeks or months. It was hyperbole, and they knew it. Phoenix Alliance wanted to seize on this victory and embarrass the Northern Coalition of Allies into submission.
But while the propaganda officials picked on the losers, the leadership of one of Phoenix Alliance’s biggest constituent corporations, RONA, kept his decorum.
“On behalf of RONA, I as well salute the players who participated in this weekend’s fight,” said the Phoenix Alliance’s Robeyone on the forums. “Though we have a long way to go with this war, I was impressed at the sheer scope of support that Jericho Fraction, Reikoku, and their allies have. Good friends are good to have. I look forward to engaging your corporations in the future.”
Phoenix Alliance wasn’t resting on its laurels, though. Its leaders seized on their advantage and set up an offensive posture in the southern regions of the north, where their enemies were located. The Phoenix Alliance pilots split up into wolf packs and prowled through Tribute, Fade, and Deklein, hunting for easy prey like miners or hauling vessels.
When Phoenix Alliance’s squadrons ran into too much opposition, they’d fall back and form up in full fleet posture. With its full force it was untouchable, and the Northern Coalition of Allies knew it.
The Northern Coalition of Allies understood very quickly that this was a losing fight unless something changed. It couldn’t win in a major fleet engagement, but it couldn’t just play defense. This was supposed to be an invasion, after all. To complicate matters, Phoenix Alliance had solidified its earlier partnership with Forsaken Empire, which was now sending ships to aid in Phoenix Alliance’s defense. Forsaken Empire didn’t have the spare forces to send fleets to help, but it hated the Northern Coalition of Allies enough to offer Phoenix Alliance whatever supplies it could spare.
The Northern Coalition of Allies’ solution was as elaborate as it was effective. The disparate parts of the coalition broke apart into different tasks.
Reikoku and Jericho Fraction were tasked with holding Pure Blind while conducting guerrilla-style raids into the heart of Phoenix Alliance’s territory in Venal. Coalition of Deklein and Fade Union were to conduct strikes in Tenal.
Black Nova Corporation—a lesser known Northern Coalition of Allies member—was tasked with hunting down Phoenix Alliance traders and merchant ships in Empire space to cut off its financial arm.
Meanwhile, Evolution managed to secure the space station in BKG-Q2 and based its operations there, attacking south from Branch into the heart of Venal.
Because the Northern Coalition of Allies was made of so many tight-knit groups, it was easy for it to split apart into small but effective gangs. By engaging in small-scale battles in five to six different regions, the Northern Coalition of Allies had found a war it had a chance of winning.
For a week, both alliances found comfort in their tactics. The Northern Coalition of Allies was able to strike and kill a few ships, but was eventually chased away by the mammoth Phoenix Alliance fleets. These cat and mouse tactics resulted in no decisive victories.
During this stalemate, the politicians on both sides were working overtime as everyone attempted to rally the other major powers in New Eden to take their side in the war. The Northern Coalition of Allies scored a diplomatic victory Phoenix Alliance didn’t see coming. SirMolle of Evolution reached out to a former friend who was a leader in a feared pirate corporation called M0o. M0o rarely got involved in interalliance affairs. Its pilots just liked to fight. But SirMolle convinced M0o to head north and direct its mischief toward the Phoenix Alliance.
This was a problem for Reikoku’s pilots, who had long considered themselves the enemies of pirates. Their anti-pirate reputation contributed in large part to the honorable image they enjoyed in the greater EVE community. This war was too important to lose, however, and Reikoku needed help if it was going to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion. Its members sucked up their pride and publicly renounced their anti-pirate stance. If they were going to sacrifice their honor, then they at least wanted to be honest about it.
Reikoku was now in bed with two of the most hated entities in all of EVE: the pirate masters M0o, and the alliance-killers Evolution. It hurt Reikoku’s public image, but it was a fearsome combination.
The effects of M0o joining the fight were immediate. Phoenix Alliance suddenly had to contend with the best pilots and fleet tacticians the game had ever seen. Previously, Phoenix Alliance’s massive numerical advantage trumped the slightly more experienced fleet commanders of Evolution. But now, Phoenix Alliance could no longer depend on their numbers to keep them safe. M0o was too good at breaking their fleets.
Details of most battles are scarce, but we do know that almost immediately after M0o joined the fray, the Northern Coalition of Allies took the fight to the Phoenix Alliance in full. Even though M0o was only a few dozen members strong, its strategic brilliance had a huge impact on the outcome. Still fresh and confident from the massacre at P-FSQE, Phoenix Alliance wanted to engage in another large fleet fight. The details are lost, but we do know the Northern Coalition of Allies—alongside M0o—mopped the floor with its enemies.
Starting in June 2004, the two sides in this war became averse to engaging in more large fleet battles, except when it was absolutely necessary. Most major fights from this time included only around 20-40 ships per side, a far cry from the estimated 150 ships per side seen at P-FSQE.
Both sides attacked each other with little more than raids, as both understood that the key to winning this war was to put the other on the defensive: to get inside their home turf, cut off their supply chains, and only then engage in a large fight. Otherwise, the ships would just be rebuilt.
Phoenix Alliance began to fight smarter. It had no interest in meeting its opponents on the battlefield in fair combat. Phoenix Alliance saw its enemies as invaders, and its pilots weren’t going to give them the fights they craved. Phoenix Alliance knew that boredom and frustration were its strongest weapons. When the Northern Coalition of Allies showed up to fight, Phoenix Alliance would disperse and hide. Its enemies would sneer at them on communications channels, but that only reinforced that Phoenix Alliance’s strategy was working.
Meanwhile, Phoenix Alliance sent some of its best small-fleet pilots into Deklein to cut off the industrial arm of Coalition of Deklein by raiding them constantly. Without the ability to mine in its own territory or move materials around in haulers, the Coalition of Deklein’s production was greatly hindered. The Phoenix Alliance corporations RONA and Romanian Renegades (a fully Romanian group) left their home systems and started fighting behind enemy lines in the region of Deklein full-time.
Meanwhile, Phoenix Alliance’s finest large-fleet fighters were based in the north in Branch. These players called themselves “The Night Crew” under the leadership of fleet commander Presidio. They’d swoop in while the Europeans in the Northern Coalition of Allies were asleep to re-establish Phoenix Alliance dominance in Branch. They piloted lightning-quick interceptor ships and forever crusaded to retake the station in BKG-Q2, affectionately known as “the Burger King.”
BKG-Q2 was the best staging location in Branch because it was situated exactly in the middle of the region. All stargate routes went through this system. There was almost no way to fly through the region without going through or very near it so whoever controlled the station inside that system effectively controlled the entire region. A fleet in BKG-Q2 could hit any system in the region within 15-20 minutes. Just as important, the system was only four jumps away from Venal and five jumps from Tenal. If an attacking force controlled the station in BKG-Q2 they could stockpile warships, organize a fleet, and be in Phoenix Alliance’s territory just 20 minutes later.
Once European primetime came around, Evolution was unstoppable and would easily take control of BKG-Q2. On the weekends, Presidio would often try to organize Phoenix Alliance fleets to move in and overtake Evolution when it was at its peak strength. By Presidio’s own admission, he was never able to gain the respect of his pilots enough to organize a disciplined, large-scale fleet. It’s a rare skill to be able to corral a dozen different groups of people who all have different ideas on how to fight, and Presidio never managed to gain enough clout to herd the cats into a coherent strategy.
The northern Phoenix Alliance fighters in Branch were mostly holding their ground, even if they couldn’t necessarily defeat Evolution. Elsewhere, Phoenix Alliance was having more success. It had previously sent RONA Corp and Romanian Renegades off to raid in the home systems of Fade Union and Coalition of Deklein, and word began trickling back that the operation was a huge success. Fade Union and Coalition of Deklein were having a tough time defending themselves, and their industrial backbone was being torn apart.
The raids against Coalition of Deklein and Fade Union were so devastatingly successful for so long that eventually the two alliances started preparing to leave the war. Finally, Phoenix Alliance brought a full fleet to bear against the denizens of Fade and attacked at its home station of C4C-Z4. With its main fleet away, Fade’s entire capital system was shut down for a full day. No pilot could fly, and it was unsafe to be undocked in any system in the region. The Phoenix Alliance fleet eventually left Fade, but the damage to Fade Union’s psyche had been done. After the fight, Fade Union approached the rest of the Northern Coalition of Allies and asked for permission to leave the alliance. Coalition of Deklein followed suit shortly after. The organization was so badly beaten up that permission was granted for them to leave the war amicably.
THE BIRTH OF BOB
The coalition of alliances that made up the Northern Coalition of Allies was now a much different group than it was at the beginning of the war. The Coalition of Deklein and Fade Union had mostly left the war except for a few stray corporations that refused to leave the front. Reikoku was among those who refused to stop fighting. Its attack against Phoenix Alliance had sparked this war, and it was determined to see it through.
After months of fighting, the only corporations left who were dedicated to ousting Phoenix Alliance were those who were primarily interested in combat. The only non-combat-focused corporation left in the Northern Coalition of Allies was Jade Constantine’s roleplay and trade corporation, Jericho Fraction. The combat corporations of the NCA found a bond in their common interest, and began to talk about forming an official alliance specifically designed to bring together their best combat pilots under one roof.
With Evolution and Reikoku at their head, these corporations formed the alliance “Cookies, Cake, Cream, and Pie” or “CCCP,” a play on the name of EVE’s developer CCP Games. The joke was that the alliance would take your cookies, your cake, your cream, and your pie and leave you with nothing enjoyable in EVE.
The name didn’t last long, however, as CCP Games asked the group’s leaders to rename it out of a fear that players might mistake a member of the CCCP alliance for an official employee of CCP Games. The main leaders of the new alliance—SirMolle and DB Preacher—switched the name to “Band of Brothers” and continued the fight against Phoenix Alliance. Having fought in this war for months already, the members of Band of Brothers were now some of the most experienced combat pilots anywhere in the game, and the alliance was instantly one of the most fearsome groups anywhere in New Eden. SirMolle believed that the key to creating the most effective military force in the game was exclusion. Band of Brothers corporations didn’t accept random pilots into their midst. Players who wanted to join their alliance needed to be vouched for by respected peers and have a track record of excellence in combat. SirMolle wanted to create an untouchable armada of elite pilots with no weak links in the chain.
Some groups in EVE at the time were experimenting with the idea of safety in numbers, believing that if their fleet was large enough then it wouldn’t matter if their pilots were inexperienced. SirMolle’s Band of Brothers was designed more as a highly coordinated strike force capable of fighting outnumbered.
The alliance was governed by a council filled with well-known and capable leaders, but just as Evolution had, they united behind SirMolle as the face of Band of Brothers.
Phoenix Alliance had torn through two of the Allies challenging them, but the bulk of its enemies were still fighting. The members of the new alliance Band of Brothers continued the struggle to control the regions of Venal, Branch, and Tenal. Farther south, Jericho Fraction kept up the fight against Phoenix Alliance in Empire space, destroying their trade ships, and ensuring Phoenix Alliance had no safe havens.
While Phoenix Alliance was seemingly winning the war, it was slowly bleeding members. More and more, Phoenix was outfitting its miners and merchants for war. This was a problem because these sorts of players don’t generally like to fight, preferring instead to mine and conduct trade. So when there was no safe place in the north for them to do that, they’d often fly back to Empire space to do their business in peace—and Jericho Fraction would show up to ruin their day. For these types of players, the only gameplay they enjoyed in EVE Online was being stripped from them in favor of a war they didn’t ask for. Many found it easier to simply leave Phoenix Alliance.
Halseth Durn made up for the bleeding membership by securing yet another high profile partnership. Far to the south, Durn had managed to convince Curse Alliance—which had some of the most skilled fighters in all of New Eden at this point—to head north and help Phoenix Alliance in the fight against Band of Brothers and Jericho Fraction.
~~~OFFICIAL JOINT PRESS RELEASE~~~
Phoenix Alliance and Curse Alliance
Let it be known throughout the vastness of EVE. The Curse Alliance and the Phoenix Alliance will now support each other militarily against all common enemies.
—Foyle, Co-leader of Curse Alliance
July 7, 2004
It was a long way to travel for a fight, but the Curse Alliance made the hours-long trip north, arriving in Pure Blind. When scouts relayed word of the Curse Alliance fleet heading north, the main forces of Band of Brothers and Jericho Fraction got together to meet them. A combined fleet of Phoenix Alliance and Curse Alliance ships assaulted the region of Pure Blind—the staging ground for the Allied coalition—and clashed against a joint Jericho Fraction and Band of Brothers fleet.
The Curse Alliance ships brought with them a strategy that the northerners had never seen before. Its fleet commanders used a ship strategy that they called the Cavalry Raven, and equipped them with large cruise missiles, dedicating most of the ship’s power to speed. These Cavalry Ravens would launch a first salvo of missiles from a long distance away, then put on a burst of speed, catch up to the in-flight missile salvo, and then launch yet another batch of missiles that would fly right alongside the first batch. They’d do this over and over until they were flying alongside four or five batches of cruise missiles that would all hit at the exact same time.
The targeted enemy ship would instantly burst, with no opportunity to repair itself. Curse Alliance’s enemies usually had no idea what had just happened to them. By the time they knew they were being attacked, they were already floating in their escape pod.
By July 7, 2004—one and a half months since the beginning of hostilities—the world of EVE was beginning to wake up to the fact that this regional war had the potential to engulf the entire game. After Curse Alliance in the south joined the fight, the Coalition of Free Stars in the far southwest hedged its bets and said that any attack on it in its territory would cause it to join the cause of Band of Brothers. Fountain Alliance in the west said much the same thing: If the territory of its allies, NORAD, came under attack in the region Outer Ring, then Fountain Alliance would join the war in full on the side of Band of Brothers. Rumors were circulating that Fountain Alliance was already secretly sending spare ships and supplies north to help its allies.
It is with growing concern we have seen the Northern War escalate as of late, both in terms of warring parties currently involved, and the ever increasing geographical spread of the hostilities.
As I’m sure the good citizens of EVE are aware, the Fountain Alliance has a long history of fighting the savage barbarians of the Curse Alliance, and it is with their introduction into the war that we have now found it necessary to adjust our policy from our former “strictly neutral” stance to the conflict in north.
The Fountain Alliance consider NORAD close allies and valued friends, and will use any means necessary to help keep The Outer Ring under the influence of a friendly government.
—Alkad Mzu, Head of Public Relations, Fountain Alliance
July 7, 2004
The alliances of EVE were giving themselves an excuse to enter the war if they ever felt it was warranted. One false move could trigger a cascade of mutual-defense agreements that would bring all of New Eden into a ruinous universal conflict. Curse Alliance had a great deal of enemies, and its continued involvement threatened to escalate the Great Northern War into what people were prophesying at the time: EVE War 1. This would not have been a war Phoenix Alliance and Curse Alliance could win.
For two weeks, Curse Alliance aided tremendously in helping Phoenix Alliance get off the defense and take the fight to Band of Brothers and Jericho Fraction. Curse’s presence in the north began to trail off, though, as a simple consequence of the distance between its home base in the south and the main front of the war in the north. It was a pain for Curse to travel all the way to the north just for a fight. That’s one possible explanation for it backing off. The other is that its leaders were worried about the fact that Band of Brothers had scored two new potential allies—Fountain Alliance, Coalition of Free Stars—both with honorable reputations. If they continued to escalate this war, multiple new alliances could join the fight, and put Phoenix Alliance and Curse Alliance at a severe disadvantage.
After those first two weeks, Phoenix Alliance was on its own again. Curse Alliance went back to its home in the south. The leaders of New Eden breathed a collective sigh of relief. Even those already in the war didn’t want it to spiral further out of fear it could drag on the conflict for an unknowable amount of time. Without Curse Alliance, Phoenix Alliance was left to fill its fleet with its own members, which got them back in the same problem it had been in earlier. Inexperienced combat pilots were never going to be able to take the field from the likes of Evolution and M0o, which had been at war since EVE Online was in beta.
Reports from this time indicate that Phoenix Alliance lost several fleets due to inexperience. In one instance, Phoenix Alliance attempted to jump its fleet into battle, but the order to warp wasn’t unanimously followed, and the fleet arrived in staggered numbers. Five here. Fifteen there. Seven there. Another 10 showed up a half minute later. Rather than striking with a clenched fist, the fleet arrived one finger at a time, and Band of Brothers was more than happy to break them one by one.
As the war began to turn against Phoenix Alliance on the battlefield, Halseth Durn also had to deal with problems on the home front. The entire war had been sparked after Reikoku accused Phoenix Alliance’s renegade corporation Cyberdyne Industries of unprovoked aggression. Halseth Durn knew these accusations were true, but covered them up to keep the alliance together. The other leaders of the alliance believed Cyberdyne was innocent, and were fighting to protect their ally. But months into the war, the secret had leaked out. People began to whisper about the rumors that Cyberdyne really was the guilty party, and that Phoenix Alliance might be in the wrong in this war. Halseth Durn struggled to keep control, keeping the secret under wraps.
Moreover, Jade Constantine was spouting propaganda and misinformation constantly and had actually succeeded in distracting Phoenix Alliance. For months, Phoenix Alliance’s focus had been on capturing and holding the all-important station in BKG-Q2, but Jade had managed to goad its leaders into turning their eye south to destroy Jericho Fraction in the region of Pure Blind. In an address on the forums, Halseth Durn announced that his people were so fed up with Jade Constantine’s verbal attacks that, as a leader, Durn was forced to capitulate to the desire of his people and head south to focus on destroying her corporation.
In the following quote Durn uses “the Northern Coalition of Allies” to refer to their southern enemies (Jericho Fraction, in particular) as opposed to Band of Brothers in the north.
We would like to take this opportunity to hail the brave fighters of this conflict on both sides of the battlefield. The sheer volume of carnage unleashed has been staggering and left no star system north of Lonetrek unchallenged. For the Phoenix Alliance, it has been a war fought on many fronts with an estimated 71 hostile corporations against our 23.
For nearly three months now Phoenix Alliance’s main fleet focus has been on the never ending exchange of station control in the Branch region. It has been an epic conflict of numerous fleet battles, awesome firepower, and the destruction of billions in assets on both sides. Pushing EVE to its limits on a daily basis is enjoyable and for this chance we are grateful. However, external conditions are now pulling our focus away from the north, and demanding that we respond to the situation south of our home in Venal.
A recent wave of forum attacks on Phoenix Alliance policy, its history, and its integrity have all originated from the formidable PR offices of the leaders of the Northern Coalition of Allies. They have even had the gall to begin dictating the terms of our surrender. We find this kind of behavior inflammatory coming from those who we have yet to wage war on. The growing voice for a military response to this audacity within the Phoenix Alliance is now loud enough to force us to focus our attention south onto the forces of the Northern Coalition of Allies.
—Halseth Durn, CEO Oberon Incorporated, Phoenix Alliance
August 19, 2004
When Durn made this decision, Phoenix Alliance finally lost its hold on the space station in Branch in BKG-Q2. The Burger King was under new management. After a months-long siege where Evolution—which was part of Band of Brothers now—and Phoenix Alliance continually attacked, conquered, defended, and lost that station, Evolution had finally secured a hold that Phoenix Alliance couldn’t break. From its new stronghold at BKG-Q2, Evolution also captured the station at V7-MID. It now controlled both of the main staging systems in Branch and Tenal. From those staging stations, Evolution could strike into the Venal region and carried out near-constant raids into Phoenix Alliance’s last stronghold.
While conducting those raids, Evolution was doing more than just searching for ships to blow up. It was also carrying freighters full of ammunition and ships. Evolution’s combat ships would enter Venal, scare away Phoenix Alliance’s pilots, then once no enemies were around to see them, Evolution’s supply freighters would dock with the station in 6NJ8-V in Venal and offload their supplies inside without Phoenix Alliance ever knowing.
Evolution was able to do this because there were two types of stations in this era of EVE: conquerable stations and stations owned by fictional factions. The station in 6NJ8-V was the latter, and thus Band of Brothers could dock there freely and use it to store equipment. If it had been a conquerable station owned by Phoenix Alliance, Band of Brothers wouldn’t have been able to dock.
After a few days of stockpiling munitions and spare ships in 6NJ8-V, Band of Brothers sent out the call for the fleet to gather in the north and prepare to strike into Venal at a time of day when Phoenix Alliance had a large number of players online (allowing it to amass heavy resistance.) Ships from every corporation still left fighting against the Phoenix Alliance gathered in Branch before moving down as a united fleet into Venal.
Phoenix Alliance scouts picked up on the enemy fleet movements and formed a defense fleet of their own. This force arrived at 6NJ8-V with a formidable armada. Exact numbers from this battle could not be found, but estimates put the Phoenix Alliance fleet at around 100 ships against the 65 or so assembled by Band of Brothers and its allies.
At this point in the war, fleet commanders knew what to expect in a large-scale fight between hundreds of pilots, and there were few surprises. The fleets engaged, and each tried their best to target high-value enemies and control the effects of lag. As time went on, however, the Phoenix Alliance fleet commanders started to notice the Band of Brothers fleet wasn’t losing numbers. Phoenix Alliance ships were dwindling, but Band of Brothers’ were not.
The simple fact is that Band of Brothers was much more prepared for this fight than Phoenix Alliance, and it had chosen the battleground perfectly. The station in 6NJ8-V—deep in Phoenix Alliance sovereign territory—was chock full of Band of Brothers’ replacement ships. Every time a Band of Brothers pilot lost a ship in the battle, the player would simply move their pod to the station, get into a new ship, and fly back to the battle within a few minutes. Phoenix Alliance’s own stockpile was several systems away. It could take them 20 minutes or more to get a pilot back into the fight.
Band of Brothers had baited Phoenix Alliance into the battle by making its leaders believe they had a huge numerical advantage, but with Band of Brothers’ practically endless ability to reinforce its lines, it quickly gained a grip on the battlefield. Band of Brothers had finally gotten the large-scale fleet fight it wanted, and it made it count. Its pilots broke the Phoenix Alliance fleet and took the field convincingly. They were able to push Phoenix Alliance back out of a system that was only a few jumps away from its capital system.
THE FATE OF ALL TYRANTS
With the war turning in their favor, Band of Brothers and Jericho Fraction made damn sure the entire EVE universe knew about it. Jade Constantine went into overdrive. Nearly every day there was a 500-word post on the forums from Jade taunting and demonizing Phoenix Alliance.
In this era of EVE the CAOD forum (Corporation, Alliance, and Organization Discussion) was the only major forum where all the alliance leaders got together to make announcements and talk. Jade Constantine flooded CAOD with propaganda, and every political leader in EVE could hear her, including the Phoenix Alliance. Phoenix Alliance came to call it “The Daily Jade.”
“Imagine having only one TV channel,” said Cochise, a Phoenix Alliance council member, in 2014. “You come home from work, and you sit down in front of the TV after a hard day. You turn on the TV, and there’s a five minute commercial by Al Qaeda telling you how much you suck. That’s what it was like.”
Band of Brothers saw there was a benefit to this type of psychological warfare and got in on the action. It sent spies into Phoenix Alliance to start petty fights between corporations and clog communication lines. These spies would acquire log-in information for the forums of Phoenix Alliance’s corporations. But rather than secretly hoard all of the information the spies collected from those forums, SirMolle of Evolution and DB Preacher of Reikoku instead opted to share it with their enemies.
SirMolle and DB Preacher saw Phoenix Alliance as a weak amalgam of corporations that could be split apart, so they endeavored to create distrust between them. They’d share what the allies of Phoenix Alliance said about one another behind each other’s backs, and every time they did, they’d remind their enemies of ways they could end the war and move on peacefully. SirMolle and DB Preacher had enacted a scorched earth policy, and if that meant destroying friendships in the Phoenix Alliance then that was simply a casualty of war.
Their most effective psychological tactic was in implementing EVE’s first “kill board.” The idea behind the kill board was to provide an objective, factual resource for showing the grunts in Phoenix Alliance that their team was losing. In any war—real or virtual—it’s difficult for the front-line soldiers to understand how the overall war is going. Even struggling armies tell their soldiers that the war is going well simply as a tactic for keeping up morale. Wars in EVE Online are no different. Except now Band of Brothers had a factual way to publicly prove Phoenix Alliance’s defeats.
CCP Games had just implemented “kill mails” into the game. Players would now get a piece of in-game mail whenever they shot down a ship (or were shot down themselves), that detailed the specifics of the encounter: what types of weapons did the most damage, which pilot got the final hit, and so on. Programmers within Band of Brothers created their own application that would take that information and automatically plug it into its website. Anyone who was curious could come and look at the latest casualties in the war. It allowed Evolution to keep the conversation focused on its specialty (combat) and forced Phoenix Alliance members to accept that they were losing the fight. Eventually it did start to have an effect on morale in Phoenix Alliance, and participation in its fleet operations began to drop as players simply didn’t show up, afraid of losing their ships.
And then Phoenix Alliance fell apart overnight.
Almost without warning RONA Corp—one of the largest members of Phoenix—left the alliance. The secret—that Cyberdyne Industries was actually the true first aggressor in this war—had been discovered by Robeyone, the leader of RONA. Unbeknownst to Band of Brothers, their enemy was crumbling from within.
Robeyone’s sense of honor was so deeply offended when he found out he and his corporation had spent all of their spare time for months fighting based on a lie that he quit the war and left the alliance as quickly as possible.
“There was some dissension that sprung up, and several of the major corporations in the Phoenix Alliance left within a month’s time,” said Cochise. “Which then left the leadership void. The co-CEO of RONA Corp, Acidcharm, she was angry because the war was still raging with Band of Brothers. Yet Robeyone wanted to leave, and she felt like it was betrayal. You don’t leave someone when they’re down, you stay and fight, and when things are good we can leave. Robeyone didn’t want to, and he left.”
Mere days after RONA Corp packed its bags, Halseth Durn’s Oberon Incorporated followed suit. But before it did, it had one last matter to attend to: evicting Cyberdyne Industries. The departure of Oberon was a huge shock to rank-and-file Phoenix Alliance members who had been hearing nothing but confidence from Halseth Durn prior to this.
“Halseth Durn basically said, ‘We’re winning. We’re winning. We’re winning. We’re leaving,’ said Cochise. “He would say we were unstoppable; we were winning every fight. I remember every Jade [propaganda] post, there was another wall of text from Halseth [contradicting] it.”
The lie that Halseth Durn had endeavored to cover up to preserve the Phoenix Alliance was out, and it was quietly tearing Phoenix Alliance to pieces from the inside. The three main member corporations of the alliance—RONA, Oberon, Cyberdyne—were now gone, and with them went a huge portion of Phoenix Alliance’s fighting strength.
“It came as a big surprise to all of us to that RONA left, because RONA was the largest corporation,” said Cochise. “One of the top two corporations I believe at the time in EVE. They had a lot of ISK, and they had a lot of big ships. So it hurt us when they left.”
The Phoenix Alliance as an entity soldiered on, but it had just lost its strongest limbs.
Not long after, Jericho Fraction and Band of Brothers actually arranged a security detail to escort Oberon and RONA out of the north, allowing their former enemies to safely and honorably evacuate their ships and other assets. The war carried on without them.
Jericho Fraction was content to call this an end to the war. It had achieved its goal of getting revenge against those who evicted Jericho Fraction pilots from the New Venal Alliance so many months ago—RONA, Cyberdyne, and Oberon. In an interview in 2014, Jade Constantine remarked to me that she felt Jericho Fraction had exhibited for the players of EVE “the fate of all tyrants.”
THE REIGN OF COCHISE
It was Fall in 2004 now, and there was a tremendous power vacuum to fill in the Phoenix Alliance. The three most powerful corporations in the alliance were now gone, but the remaining 20 or so corporations were determined to keep the war going. The spark that ignited the Great Northern War had now burned out, but the hate that had kept the fire burning for five months was still there.
For Phoenix Alliance’s pilots, this wasn’t something that could be solved with a peace treaty. Band of Brothers was an invader—an interloper that didn’t belong in the north and had come to kick Phoenix Alliance out and break their bond of friendship.
The remaining corporations in Phoenix Alliance got together and held a meeting to figure out how to proceed. They had to decide how to fill the power vacuum in the alliance left by the departure of their strongest corporations, and just as important, they needed to elect a new leader now that Halseth Durn was gone.
For an alliance against the ropes, spirits were remarkably high. Cochise—a low-level council member, and leader of the combat-focused Phoenix Alliance corporation, 20th Legion—was supposed to be at this meeting, but he was running late that Sunday afternoon. He rushed home from a family function, logged into the TeamSpeak server, and heard nothing but raucous laughter.
“What’s so funny?” he asked.
“I’ve got some good news for you, Cochise,” a voice responded. “You’ve just been elected our new leader.”
Ten years later, Cochise told me what was going through his mind when he found out he now had to lead thousands of people in a losing war. “I was scared to death,” he told me. “I didn’t know what to do. I remember shrugging my shoulders, and looking out the window, and saying ‘Okay. Whatever. I’m going to do my best.’ That was the end of the meeting, and there I was trying to figure out what do I do now.”
Cochise was taken off guard by the nomination to lead Phoenix Alliance, in part because he was so focused on the people in his own corporation. He cared about making 20th Legion as great as possible, and he didn’t get involved in the larger alliance politics. Despite his disinterest in politics he had slowly risen in prominence. He was seen as one of Phoenix Alliance’s best fleet commanders, a kind and well-liked voice in the alliance council, and a man who was diligent and willing to do the hard work.
The Great Northern War had become something entirely different than it was when it began. Almost all of the main forces that started the war had moved on. Fade Union, Coalition of Deklein, Oberon, Cyberdyne, RONA, and Jericho Fraction had all either formally moved on from the fight or were rarely seen. Even M0o had decided to call it quits. Its leaders said they’d become annoyed by their fame in the EVE community, and were tired of the effect it had on their gameplay—specifically, there was more talking than fighting.
The Great Northern War took a wholly different shape than before, on a much smaller scale. The war went on with Band of Brothers—Evolution, Reikoku, Black Nova Corporation et al—battling 20th Legion, GODS, Bladerunners and North Star Networks, which made up the bedrock of the new Phoenix Alliance.
The new Phoenix Alliance leaders felt very strongly that the loss of their major corporations was due largely to the non-stop propaganda attacks of Jade Constantine. Without Jade’s propaganda, they reasoned, Phoenix Alliance would have been able to weather the Cyberdyne controversy. The Phoenix Alliance council didn’t know at the time that it had elected the perfect person to lead them against this kind of verbal assault.
“I grew up in a family where my dad was a student of the very first positive mental thinkers in the ‘60s,” Cochise said. “He made a lifetime of being positive. A flow of positive energy. He was a minister, but he also did positive public speaking all over the country and was pretty good at it. He bombarded me all my life growing up with all the great sayings. You know, ‘turn lemons into lemonade.’ All those things. Zig Ziggler. Tony Robbins. So I knew in my mind that I’ve got the tools that, if nothing else, I can turn [their propaganda] against them.”
Cochise set to work changing the attitude of his allies, using everything he’d learned from his father to change the way they saw Jade Constantine’s propaganda. The negative propaganda had been tearing apart the Phoenix Alliance before this point, but now it became exactly the force that was holding it together.
“I was saying ‘Guys, if there’s not a reason to fight then we pack up, we go back to Empire,’” said Cochise. “These guys were insulting us. They were calling us every name in the book. They said we were dead. The brunt of my leadership meetings on Sundays were about that. Encouraging our guys, building them up. It got to a point where that became my biggest asset.
“This wasn’t a game for us,” he continued. “This was our home. They were our enemy. All appropriate emotions were applied. We hated them. Not in a virtual way. We hated them. It drove us. Man, I can remember blowing off work rather than leave my guys in a fight.”
Cochise was able to right the sinking ship of the Phoenix Alliance, and keep everyone’s spirits up. The war began anew, and the battles for the major holding points in the north, BKG-Q2 and V7-MID, were rekindled. The fighting was as impassioned as ever, but at smaller scales.
In real life, Cochise lived deep in the Georgian tract of the Appalachian mountains. He speaks with a thick, friendly southern American accent, and has a playful way with words. If there’s an old American idiom that can sum up what he wants to say then you can bet he’ll use it.
Cochise’s southern American charm is certainly part of why everyone in his alliance loved him and voted him to take command. But it’s also why he managed to maintain friendships with people at the other end of his gun barrel. Even as he hated the alliances that invaded his people’s territory, he still had love for some of the people he fought. Cochise reached out to those people as the war dragged on.
A large part of the reason for the constant propaganda attacks on the Phoenix Alliance was that Band of Brothers knew that it’s exceedingly difficult to push someone out of their space in EVE by force of arms. You need to completely dominate them for that to work. The more effective path is to break their spirit. The Phoenix Alliance had been broken once before, but now it was psychically stabilized with their own Tony Robbins at the helm of the war effort.
Cochise approached some of his friends across the battlefield in Band of Brothers and asked if a ceasefire could be negotiated. Band of Brothers asked if he was surrendering, and Cochise shot back, “Hell, no. We’re not surrendering, but I want to see if we can talk.” A meeting was called, and the leadership of every major power remaining in the north got together to talk peace.
It was the right time for a peace conference. Others from the Phoenix Alliance recall being exhausted with the fighting by this point. Presidio, leader of GODS—one of the mainstay military corporations in the new Phoenix Alliance—recalled privately telling Cochise they were thinking of calling it quits. Evolution and Band of Brothers were growing weary of the fighting too. They talked, and Cochise was able to broker a ceasefire without giving up any territory to the invaders.
“The war ended by mutual consent,” said Cochise. “I went to that meeting, and the only criteria I had from my fellow leadership in Phoenix Alliance was ‘we will not surrender. We will not give up one piece of space.’ When the war ended we were still the proper owners of the three regions: Venal, Tenal, and Branch.”
All parties agreed to the peace treaty, and the Great Northern War came to a close. Ask a dozen people who won the war and you’ll get a dozen different answers. Most people consider Band of Brothers the victor, because the war left them in a strong position while Phoenix Alliance was greatly weakened. However, which alliance was considered “victorious” by their peers is less important than the war’s ramifications on the rest of EVE’s history.
FALL OF KINGS
The Great Northern War is one of the defining moments in the history of EVE because it shaped the structure of power in New Eden for years to come. Several of the strongest powers in the game were either destroyed or developed in the war.
By the end, Phoenix Alliance was not the regional power it once was. The once promising Forsaken Empire had been beaten back into the East. Fade Union and Coalition of Deklein were badly wounded and barely surviving. M0o had disbanded. Refugees from the similarly embattled southeast were coming in to settle in the weakened regions of Deklein and Fade.
But most importantly, Band of Brothers was forged and had proven itself capable of striking down one of the most powerful alliances in existence. Beyond that, it now had more experience with invasion tactics than any other entity in the game, and its experience in large scale fleet fights was similarly unmatched. It had fashioned itself into a mobile military force that was capable of striking over vast distances, effectively dismantling the great powers of nullsec. The Great Northern War taught Band of Brothers’ pilots to wage war on a scale nobody had yet seen, and they would soon use that capability to reshape all of New Eden.
The first year of EVE Online (2003) saw the rise of several formidable powers in the EVE universe. The next year saw the complete reshuffling of those established powers in the Great Northern War. The third year of EVE Online deals with the chaotic power vacuum that results from the removal of every established, territory-holding power in the game.
When viewing maps from this time, a lot of new alliance names come from seemingly nowhere. Gone are the days when virtually the entirety of nullsec was controlled by six entities (Phoenix Alliance, Fountain Alliance, Stain Alliance, Curse Alliance, Forsaken Empire, and the Coalition of Free Stars). Nowhere was this more evident than in the southern territories.
So far, this book has not discussed the southern territories very often except in sidebars. The reason is because the south—while having a number of influential powers—more or less fell apart at this time. There’s a clear dividing line in southern history, and what happened before this time isn’t strictly relevant to the years that followed. The three main powers of the south all independently split apart for different reasons.
In the southeast, Curse Alliance splintered into several factions, and wars erupted nearly everywhere in its former territory. The second major power, Stain Alliance, entered its own civil war not long afterward. Finally, in the southwest, the reigning power known as the Coalition of Free Stars was deposed quickly and easily by Fountain Alliance, a far more powerful neighbor on its northern border.
The northern regions didn’t fare much better. The scattered remains of the north slowly collapsed. Refugees from the fall of the Curse Alliance arrived in the north to find a new home, and they evicted the existing northern powers to make room. In place of Fade Union rose G Alliance. In place of Coalition of Deklein rose IRON. Phoenix Alliance collapsed not long after.
However, the talent and manpower of these organizations lived on through other organizations. In a testament to his friendliness and diplomatic prowess, Cochise found himself and his corporation 20th Legion as a member of Band of Brothers not long after the war ended. Though he would never again wield power on the scale that he did at the head of Phoenix Alliance in the Great Northern War, his ability to maintain friendships even with his enemies makes Cochise one of the most talented leaders in the history of the game.
STATE OF THE STAR CLUSTER
Who controls which region at this time is less important than the overall effect: the unions between the first great nullsec empires of New Eden had dissolved. The dynamic of power was shifting every day as more than a dozen would-be empires warred for dominance. Virtually every region in nullsec was being fought over at all times, and if a region wasn’t already being invaded then an invasion was surely right around the corner.
In the aftermath of the Great Northern War, Band of Brothers emerged as perhaps the single most powerful entity in New Eden, but it was an army without a mission. After the Great Northern War was settled, it went looking for a new goal for its hyper-mobile war-fighting alliance. Next up on the chopping block: Fountain Alliance in the west.
THE CAPITAL AGE
With the Great Northern War behind them, the pilots of Band of Brothers were left without a mission for the first time in more than a year. They’d been battling the forces of the north in war after war since 2003, but in 2005 they were in an unwanted peace.
Band of Brothers had never been interested in holding territory. It hadn’t held any since its founding corporation—Evolution—helped create Fountain Alliance in 2003, and its leaders shunned the bureaucracy and politics that governing star systems entailed. Evolution and its allies in Band of Brothers were fueled by warfare. They were invigorated by it, in contrast to most of the territory-owning powers of this era.
Arguably the most powerful entity in New Eden didn’t officially control a single star system. Access to resources and funding was what made most major alliances powerful, but Band of Brothers was powerful because it enjoyed war, which made it a terrifying force for any peaceable alliance to contend with.
At this time, Band of Brothers was adrift without an official home, but that was about to change. When it made its next move, it was to attack more territory—but also, to start conquering it. This was new for Band of Brothers’ pilots, but changes in the game pushed them to make the jump from simple warmongers to proper conquerors.
And it was all planned at the barbecue.
THE TAKING OF NEW EDEN
Every year, Band of Brothers held a real world barbecue celebrating good times and unity. For a week every August its figurehead leader, SirMolle, abandoned his avatar and socialized with his pilots as Par Molen, a 48-year-old Swede living in Copenhagen, Denmark.
For this first inaugural barbecue in 2005, SirMolle rented an entire campground outside Copenhagen, and hundreds of Band of Brothers starship pilots would come to drink beer, eat roasted meat, and gaze drunkenly at the bright rural stars. Amid the drunken revelry they also planned war strategy. They would convene in a large presentation room that looked like a classroom to plot out the organization’s future plans.
Standing at the head of the assembly, the Band of Brothers CEOs—the leaders of the alliance’s constituent corporations—revealed the alliance’s next targets and their latest fleet strategy theories. More than a hundred pilots crammed into the room to watch the leaders of the alliance scribble campaign plans on a large chalkboard. They were making a blueprint for how to conquer all of nullsec.
By the end of the weeklong celebration Band of Brothers’ constituent corporations believed that their destiny was to become the greatest conquerors this game had ever seen. They believed wholeheartedly that Band of Brothers had more skill and potential than any other alliance, and they weren’t shy about sharing that belief. They even joked about acquiring enough power to attack empire space and grind the fictional empires under the iron boot of Band of Brothers. It would begin in Fountain.
After years of controlling only its namesake region, Fountain Alliance had recently trounced an alliance called the “Coalition of Free Stars” which resided in Delve, Querious, and Period Basis.
The regions of Delve, Period Basis, and Querious form something like a peninsula jutting out from the rest of the star cluster. There were very few routes that led into that peninsula which allowed the Coalition of Free Stars to hold off groups much more powerful than itself by establishing a solid defensive chokepoint. However, in 2004, CCP Games added a new set of stargates into the game which created a brand new route into that peninsula directly from Fountain. With this new route at its disposal, Fountain Alliance flooded into the Delve, Period Basis, Querious peninsula, and crushed the Coalition of Free Stars, which had made its home there since 2003. Refugees from the Coalition of Free Stars managed to hold on to Querious, but Delve and Period Basis fell. Fountain Alliance was previously an alliance confined to just one region, but very suddenly became a three region empire.
After humbling the Coalition of Free Stars, Fountain Alliance became one of the most feared groups in New Eden, but this turned out to be a catch-22. It was so big and so strong that it had no credible enemies—at least not while Band of Brothers was tied up fighting the Great Northern War. So its members who were interested in combat were forced to move on if they ever wanted to fight again. A large portion of Fountain Alliance’s combat pilots abandoned the alliance, leaving it vulnerable.
It was dreadful timing for Fountain Alliance to lose much of its military wing—Band of Brothers was on its way to Fountain’s capital system. At the barbecue, the alliance had decided that its future was no longer in the north, but in the south. But before it could conquer the south, it needed to weaken the largest entity in the region that could pose a threat to Band of Brothers. So it set its sights on assaulting the capital system of Fountain Alliance as a show of force.
Band of Brothers split up, sending Reikoku south into Delve to harass Fountain Alliance’s miners and cargo ships while Evolution led a fleet directly into the heart of Fountain and shut down the entire region overnight.
It was a complete surprise attack, and the circumstances of the strike seemed quite underhanded to many in EVE at the time. Evolution attacked Fountain Alliance so abruptly that it never declared war, and were still declared as allies in the game. So regardless of the fact Evolution was besieging the system, Evolution ships appeared to Fountain Alliance pilots to be allies. They were displayed blue on the overview so there was no way to tell friend from foe.
With the advantage of complete surprise, the battle-hardened Evolution rocked Fountain Alliance in its home systems with this unscrupulous attack, and quickly took a dominant posture in the region. Fountain Alliance was a major force in the EVE universe at the time, but its pilots hadn’t been through a major war. Fountain’s 2,500 players vastly outnumbered Evolution’s few hundred, but they weren’t soldiers. Even at peak strength, Fountain Alliance would have struggled to hold off Band of Brothers, but after losing its military backbone and spreading itself thin across three regions it lost any hope of a victory.
Still worse, Fountain Alliance had few allies in the west. Its ally to the north, NORAD, had just been through the Great Northern War and wasn’t in condition to fight another war. To the southeast was Stain Alliance, an old enemy that was more than happy to watch Fountain pilots be slapped around by Band of Brothers. There were no allies nearby who could come to Fountain’s aid.
“The founding fathers came back to destroy what they had founded,” said TornSoul, one of the leaders of Fountain Alliance, in 2014. He’s referring to the fact that in 2003, Evolution helped create Fountain Alliance before leaving to fight the Venal Alliance.
With no opportunity to plan a defense, Fountain Alliance was brought to its knees. Evolution cut it to ribbons in the region of Fountain while Reikoku kept up the attacks in Delve. The remnants of the Coalition of Free Stars in Querious formed a group called Firmus Ixion, and joined up with Band of Brothers against Fountain Alliance.
When enough damage had been done, Evolution left Fountain and linked up with Reikoku in Delve to bring the region under its complete control. Delve became the first official home Band of Brothers had known in two years. There was just one system left to take, NOL-M9, and it was the key to capturing the neighboring region of Period Basis as well.
You can probably make a good guess as to how the battle for this final system went based on the grandeur with which Band of Brothers remembered themselves in their account of the battle.
An awe-inspiring fleet of gold, silver, green and red gleaming hulls gathered on the fringes of the NOL-M9 system.
Band of Brothers was expecting to engage a fleet of similar or greater size in the next few minutes. The regions south of Delve were at stake and the atmosphere was alive with feelings of excitement and fear.
Commanders were calmly discussing the way the battle would commence, reassuring the pilots within their ranks that they would be victorious, discussing how to force the enemy into submission, making them retreat and scatter their fleets.
For the Band of Brothers, this was to be a great day. For weeks the enemy had been advertising its intentions to crush the Band of Brothers forces, flooding communications networks with propaganda proclaiming their alliance were the owners and protectorate of the southern regions of Period Basis and Delve.
NOL-M9 was “the” contested system inside the Delve region, as it lay in-between Delve and Period Basis, making it the ideal tactical outpost allowing control over both regions. It was chosen by the mighty BoB military to reveal to the Fountain Alliance the undeniable might of its squadrons, a force so powerful that even another group double its size would think twice before engaging in combat.
BoB’s fleet was a diverse mixture of battleships, cruisers, and support frigates, each ship equipped with the best technology available. The ships were bulky and slow, but they made up for their lack of agility with the devastating power of their laser, railgun, howitzer and missile batteries. The fleet had organized itself in military fashion—a staggered line designed to maximize the deadly effect of tachyon, railgun and howitzer fire against the enemy’s front along with torpedo ships giving the extra heavy damage.
The frontmen—interceptor and assault frigate squadrons—were ready to disable the enemy’s means of escape by disrupting their warp drive systems and slowing them down further with electro-magnetic forcefields, effectively webbing the ship to stop it moving.
The entire BoB fleet moved into position, eager for battle. The battle lines had been drawn and the pieces were moving. The first volleys erupted from the Band of Brothers battleship fleet, its turrets taking aim and firing as one, with blood-red beams and hard hitting large hybrid and projectile munitions slicing through the side of a stationary Megathron battleship until the vessel’s hull ruptured, pieces of it scattering like dust among the rank and file of the Fountain Alliance force.
The Band of Brothers fleet made quick work of the remaining Fountain Alliance forces still vying for control of Delve. The capturing of NOL-M9 was swift, and it cut off the Fountain Alliance from the region of Period Basis far in the south. Its brief three-region empire was cut down to just one.
Had its leaders wanted to, it’s likely Band of Brothers could have easily conquered the region of Fountain as well, pushing Fountain Alliance out entirely. However, they had come to understand the volatile geopolitical era of EVE. With a dozen other ambitious alliances now hungry for power in New Eden, Band of Brothers sought to insulate itself from the fracas.
It pulled back from destroying Fountain Alliance, leaving it to continue holding its namesake region. Fountain was allowed to retain its name and its independence, but it was weakened and a great many of its members had left after the defeat. SirMolle’s logic was that it was better to have a weakened enemy nearby than to create a power vacuum next door that might allow a more powerful alliance to move in.
In particular, Band of Brothers used Fountain Alliance as a buffer against its old rivals from the north. If any alliance from the north wanted to attack Band of Brothers it would have to fight through Fountain Alliance to get there. Any force attempting to launch a sneak attack through Empire space would be kept an hour’s travel or longer from its nearest ship cache—reinforcement would be all but impossible. A sustained invasion of Delve from the north would be impossible without first removing Fountain Alliance.
Band of Brothers used the same strategy on its eastern flank. The remnants of the Coalition of Free Stars, Firmus Ixion, controlled Querious as allies of Band of Brothers. For rescuing it from Fountain Alliance rule, Band of Brothers earned Firmus Ixion’s great respect and loyalty. They became sparring partners—fighting in good sport in pre-arranged fleet fights—and Band of Brothers shared with Firmus its knowledge of fleet warfare.
With this accomplished, the only reasonable route into Band of Brothers’ space was now through Period Basis, but that wasn’t much of a worry because to the east, Paragon Soul was disputed territory. Stain Alliance was fighting to maintain control there, and there was no worry that it would break off and attack Delve.
In 2003, leaders like Jade Constantine began to understand the power of politically isolating your enemies through the use of propaganda and information control. Now, Band of Brothers was beginning to understand the power of geographically isolating your enemies. When Band of Brothers helped humble Phoenix Alliance it wasn’t because Phoenix Alliance had no allies. It was because Phoenix’s largest ally was Curse Alliance, which had to travel hours to get its fleets to a fight. This was of limited use when Phoenix Alliance was already under attack, and it inevitably meant Curse Alliance’s pilots eventually got sick of making the trip and stopped showing up.
Band of Brothers chose allies who were close by, deliberately targeting those who had no nearby friends. It had created itself a highly protected nest in Delve where it could incubate its master plan. Its leaders were creating a political empire—to be called the Greater Band of Brothers Community—alongside their military empire.
THE INDUSTRIAL ARMS RACE
Having created its nest, Band of Brothers stopped fighting for a time in mid-2005 and settled down in peace and quiet. It wasn’t because its pilots valued peace, but because a new era had dawned in EVE Online. The times were changing, and many believed industrial power could potentially become more important than fighting skill. EVE Online was entering the era of capital ships.
In July 2005, CCP Games introduced a new type of ship into EVE Online: dreadnoughts. These were huge siege ships designed not for maneuverability, but for pure firepower. When these titanic artillery ships—each several kilometers in length—lumbered into position they could enter “siege mode” and deal extreme amounts of damage. They were designed to rip into entrenched positions and destroy player-owned starbases, but they were vulnerable to fast battleship fleets because their enormous guns were too slow to target small, fast ships.
An arms race sprouted up across New Eden. In the new era of territorial warfare in nullsec, dreadnoughts were indispensable tools for invading enemy territory, and every alliance wanted its own fleet of these siege ships. They were capable of such fierce power that many considered them to be the be-all-end-all of fleet combat. But their cost was commensurate with their strength: it could take more than a week for even a major industrial power to build just one dreadnought.
To keep up with this arms race, Band of Brothers had to put down roots and establish profitable money-making enterprises and round-the-clock shipyards, all producing these new, expensive war assets. No longer could a purely nomadic combat force maintain the industrial operations required to stay atop the EVE food chain.
In its new home base, Band of Brothers controlled the 97 star systems of Delve, and each of those systems has moons around its planets. Across EVE, moons are one of the cornerstones of industry, and Delve’s systems were quite moon-plentiful. The most sparse system has six while the most moon-plentiful has 120—a total of 4,330 moons across the Delve region. Each of these moons can be harvested for materials by setting up a starbase and a silo near them. Moon mining was one of the biggest reasons for taking sovereignty in nullsec. Simply by setting up and defending this infrastructure, an alliance would make billions of ISK per month extracting “moon goo” (as the players sometimes call it) from moons.
Delve is a particularly rich region, which is one reason why Band of Brothers sought to take it. Once an alliance had set up a steady moon mining operation, it could start to ship the ore off to be refined at nearby factories. The refined minerals could either be sold on the markets in empire space or kept and used in the production of ships and ammunition.
Once effective mining operations were set up, an alliance could deploy “capital ship assembly arrays” which fit modularly onto existing starbases. Every alliance was working to build capital shipyards and keep them in full, smooth production. A dreadnought’s weapons arrays, armor plating, engines, shield generators etc—twelve separate components—all had to be built separately and delivered to the main shipyard as efficiently as possible.
In order to build capital ships, alliances needed blueprints to work from. There are two types of Blueprints in EVE: originals and copies. Blueprint copies are essentially consumable items that wear out after a limited number of uses. Blueprint Originals, however, can be used and copied any number of times. They can also be improved through “research” to produce ships more quickly and cheaply.
Blueprint Originals were highly controversial in this era of EVE. Common ship and component blueprint copies could be purchased from AI characters, but the more rare and specialized ship and module Blueprint Originals (called Tech 2) were controlled by the players. They were originally distributed by the game’s developer through a lottery system. Players could earn more chances to win Blueprint Original based on their participation in an event leading up to their release, and once the Originals were handed out, the players controlled how they were used. Band of Brothers and several other nullsec alliances had gathered large collections of Blueprint Originals, and they made great sums of money making and selling Blueprint Copies. The major nullsec alliances bought as many Originals as they could and carteled the sale of copies, constricting the supply and keeping the price artificially high.
This system was controversial, because it ensured that one of the best ways to make money in EVE was tightly controlled by the existing powers. Any new group that tried to make its mark on nullsec would be facing established nullsec powers with far stronger cash flow resulting from their iron grip on the blueprint business.
The new Delve homeland of Band of Brothers buzzed with commerce. Its enterprises collected ores, refined them, and built grand armadas from the produce. Dreadnoughts were just the beginning. An entire new class of warship was being prepared by CCP Games: Capital ships. Dreadnoughts were followed by carriers, logistical ships that carry “fighters” (extra large combat drones). Carriers can also be used to store additional ships for the fleet, allowing pilots who have lost their ship to fly an escape pod to a carrier and equip themselves for battle once again. Carriers are a force magnifier in any fleet.
CCP also designed a much larger variant of the carrier called the mothership. The mothership was a beast to behold, and could serve as a mobile invasion platform. As with all ships, there are four variants of mothership—one for each of the computer-controlled factions from empire space. The most common, the Gallente “Nyx,” was flat as a pancake and nearly as round. More than three kilometers long, small fighter drones launched directly from the belly of this mammoth ship through a runway opening in its center.
A carrier could be built within a week of concerted effort, but a mothership could take upwards of a month to be constructed. Of course, that’s only in one single shipyard, and the wealthiest alliances could have dozens of shipyards producing as many ships as they could afford.
But even the motherships paled in comparison to the mightiest ship class that New Eden had ever seen: Titan-class ships. They could take over three months to build, weighed five billion pounds (2.2 billion kilograms), and measured more than nine miles long (13.7 kilometers). Even in the realm of science fiction, the Avatar-type Titan is one of the largest ships ever imagined. Titans made the largest ships of the previous era, battleships, look almost comically tiny. The construction of a Titan cost an unheard of 70 billion ISK—which would have carried a price of about $6,000 in 2005 United States dollars if ISK could have been traded for real money.
Titans are hundreds of times larger than an average ship and capable of extreme firepower with their traditional rows of laser cannons, but they also have a powerful weapon called a “Doomsday.” This enormous cannon could strike an entire fleet of ships at once, wiping out every small ship within 500 kilometers. In EVE terms, this is a very large radius—basically anything the Titan could “see” in the star system. The Doomsday was the nuclear bomb of EVE Online, and everyone was racing to be the first to get their hands on it.
The arms race to produce capital ships shook up the political situation in New Eden as well. The most influential example of this became known as the “EC-P8R Incident.”
In the aftermath of the Great Northern War, a new alliance called “TRUST” had secured power in the north alongside its close allies, the entirely German “G Alliance.” Their combined strength and sophisticated approach to industry had put them on the fast track to creating one of the very first motherships in the game. It was being built in a shipyard in EC-P8R in the region of Pure Blind.
But the secret was poorly kept. In this era of EVE Online, spying was not yet widespread, and G Alliance/TRUST had not effectively safeguarded against information leaks. Spies from the southern power Ascendant Frontier—an alliance which will be introduced in greater detail in subsequent chapters—and Band of Brothers were able to ascertain not just what G Alliance was building, but exactly where it was being constructed and when it would be complete. Much of the strategy in this era of nullsec warfare revolved around constructing your own capital ship fleet while working to deny your enemies their own. When Band of Brothers and Ascendant Frontier found out the details of G Alliance’s capital ship program, they moved to shut it down.
A joint strike force mobilized, bringing together forces from Band of Brothers, Ascendant Frontier, and Axiom Empire (a splinter group and close ally of Ascendant Frontier). They moved out of the southern territories and brought their combined might against TRUST and G Alliance in one of the largest military maneuvers in the history of the game; hundreds of ships from the two strongest alliances in EVE Online brought the hammer down on EC-P8R.
The battle was a disaster for the combined G Alliance/TRUST forces, and EC-P8R was placed under an unbreakable blockade. Every single piece of infrastructure in the system—about 40 starbases plus several shipyards—was obliterated, and the attacking forces were able to lock down the system for a full week. Twenty-four hours a day there were hundreds of Band of Brothers and Ascendant Frontier ships occupying the system.
The ramifications were much more significant than simply the loss of a single mothership. The confidence of all New Eden was shaken. G Alliance and TRUST were major alliances, and they had been brutally brushed aside by the mega coalition of Ascendant Frontier and Band of Brothers.
This sent a message to all New Eden: you can’t survive on your own anymore. If Band of Brothers and Ascendant Frontier can move all the way across the star cluster to bloody the nose of the well-respected Germans then they could hit anybody, anywhere. No longer could every alliance on the map aspire to single-handedly crush the universe. Everyone needed to be part of a mega-coalition in order to defend against the threat of other mega-coalitions. These types of giant coalitions were hinted at briefly during the Great Northern War, and now they were becoming a big part of EVE’s political game. The fear, however, was that these coalitions could end up triggering a war that would engulf all of New Eden.
The joint operation between Band of Brothers and Ascendant Frontier was a landmark moment in nullsec politics. Many in New Eden began to wonder if the two would come together permanently to form a coalition that threatened to be unstoppable. The military might of Band of Brothers backed up by the incredible industrial power of Ascendant Frontier would have been enough to conquer the whole of EVE.
The bond didn’t last, and this was proven to be an alliance of convenience for the sole purpose of crushing EC-P8R. With the operation in the north complete, the two alliances separated and returned home to build.
Band of Brothers was no slouch in its industrial department. In its Delve headquarters it managed to build a small fleet of dreadnoughts, and it was looking to test them out to see what these new ships were capable of.
On July 2, 2005, Band of Brothers gathered its dreadnoughts and advanced once again into Fountain. Fountain Alliance was a soft target Band of Brothers had already roughed up once, and thus it posed little threat to BoB’s new dreadnought fleet.
The Band of Brothers assault struck deep into the heart of Fountain, and it fought all the way to YZ-LQL, the capital system of Fountain Alliance. Band of Brothers deployed a starbase and put a chokehold on Fountain Alliance. Its pilots entrenched themselves right in the home system, and there was little Fountain Alliance could do to stop them. From its new base in the heart of Fountain, Band of Brothers began raiding the surrounding systems, firing upon any ship unlucky enough to cross the path of its marauding fleets.
Fountain Alliance fleet commanders formed a strategy it hoped would break the blockade and give them a chance to fight back. They outfitted ships to essentially become snipers, capable of warping into the system extremely far away from enemy forces and attempting to knock out smaller support ships with long range volleys before retreating.
The strategy didn’t do much to loosen the grip around the throat of Fountain Alliance. When the enemy’s in your base you need more than snipers to drive it back. Over two weeks, Band of Brothers suffered minimal ship losses. Fountain Alliance wouldn’t risk engaging in a large fight against the invaders. But Fountain Alliance morale was plummeting. Its membership began to fall swiftly as its pilots realized they had little hope of defending themselves against the far more experienced fleets of Band of Brothers. From a peak of over 2,500 members Fountain Alliance was now down to 800.
Then, the nail in the coffin: A member of Band of Brothers managed to infiltrate the ranks of a corporation in Fountain Alliance. This corporation was responsible for the maintenance of a large number of player-owned starbases which provided much of Fountain Alliance’s defense and gave it official sovereignty over the region.
The infiltrator worked his way up in this corporation until he had access to the controls of its starbases, then he removed the fuel from every one of those starbases. Player-owned starbases rely on a fuel called strontium for protection. When an alliance attacks and reduces a starbase’s shields to 25% strength, the starbase goes into “reinforced mode” which makes it invulnerable for a period of time depending on how much strontium is loaded into it. It’s a system intended to allow defenders time to plan a defense, otherwise an enemy could simply walk in during an alliance’s off timezone and destroy their bases. While in reinforced mode, the starbase can be neither repaired nor attacked until the strontium fuel runs out. Alliances will usually put 36 hours of strontium in a starbase so that they’ll have time to organize a defense—this also guarantees the starbase will come out of reinforced mode in the opposite time zone of when it was originally reinforced. Once the starbase is in reinforced mode, the attackers will leave, and then return to fight the main battle when the strontium timer elapses.
After the spy removed the strontium fuel, the starbases were rendered vulnerable and they were swiftly obliterated by the Band of Brothers capital fleet. Band of Brothers council member, Blacklight, was quick to declare this the end of the Fountain campaign.
Effective immediately the Fountain region and all systems therein are claimed by Band of Brothers. We consider our campaign to conquer the region and evict Fountain Alliance complete. Along with the regions of Delve and Period Basis, Fountain is now under Band of Brothers control and sovereignty.
— Blacklight, Council member, Band of Brothers
July 26, 2005
The exodus from Fountain Alliance continued as its membership fell below 600, and it lost any claim to the region of Fountain. It had lost control of Fountain for the first time since the inception of EVE Online more than two years earlier. In the words of TornSoul, Fountain Alliance’s CEO, in my interview with him in 2014: Fountain Alliance had been exposed as a “paper tiger.”
After the conclusion of the Fountain campaign, Band of Brothers kept pushing north into Outer Ring to fight NORAD. Band of Brothers swept through the region in November 2005, capturing most of the region, before abruptly pulling back. It was part of a scheme that has since been dubbed the Pendulum Wars.
Band of Brothers’ members loved combat, and the directors needed to give their pilots adversaries to fight in order to keep the group entertained and unified. It’s one of the most counterintuitive aspects of power in EVE Online. Being a leader also means being an event creator for your people. If a leader wants to retain their pilots’ loyalty then they need to offer them a steady stream of fun. Band of Brothers’ pilots enjoyed combat, so at times SirMolle and his co-leader Dianabolic had to take risks to sate that desire even when it seemed more strategically sound to just stay in Delve and build.
So Band of Brothers’ commanders worked out a plan to antagonize nearby neighbors into attacking them in Delve. The alliance’s military moved north, destroying ships from NORAD and the alliance Dusk and Dawn. Then it pulled back to Delve. There could be 60 or 70 stargates between Band of Brothers’ home star system and its adversaries in the far north. Put simply, its pilots were tired of making the hours-long trip up there to fight, so they conspired to bring their enemies to them. They would attack, antagonize for a week or two, then retreat.
Band of Brothers wasn’t satisfied with just one opponent attacking it in its territory. It wanted to piss off the only other alliance in the game that rivaled its power.
“We went into the north and made them hate us,” said Band of Brothers leader SirMolle in 2014. “We’d do everything we could to make them hate us. Then we’d leave them alone and go home. Then we would have infinite [combat opportunities] for two years and we’d never need to go anywhere. We were cocky as hell.”
With the northern alliances successfully antagonized, Band of Brothers returned south to Delve, and began looking for the next alliance it would antagonize. It soon realized that the mighty Ascendant Frontier to the east was the best target. So Band of Brothers set out to anger the fleets of its eastern neighbors.
At this point, Band of Brothers and Ascendant Frontier were something akin to allies, and had worked together to crush the north in the EC-P8R Incident. Ascendant Frontier had spurned their own allies in the past in order to keep good relations with Band of Brothers. But SirMolle was ambitious. He saw himself as a destroyer of empires, and there was no greater empire in New Eden than Ascendant Frontier in 2005. SirMolle wanted to bring glory to the Band of Brothers name and its pilots by invading the only other alliance who could possibly stand against them.
The invasion of Ascendant Frontier would prove to be one of the most significant turning points in the history of EVE Online.
RISE OF ASCENDANT FRONTIER
On March 17, 2004, the video game publishing giant Electronic Arts changed the EVE universe.
Electronic Arts was the publisher of EVE Online’s only real competition in sci-fi MMORPGs, Earth & Beyond. The two games shared a sci-fi and spaceships theme, but Earth & Beyond was a year older than EVE Online. So while EVE Online was just getting started, players were heavily invested in Earth & Beyond.
But on March 17, 2004, Electronic Arts announced that after two years, Earth & Beyond would be shut down within six months. With its servers gone, the game would no longer be playable, and everything that had happened in that virtual universe would essentially be erased.
Like refugees, entire groups of Earth & Beyond players began leaving the game for the stability of EVE Online. Many of those who started in Earth & Beyond already had strong social ties with each other, and they had a ready-made community when they arrived in New Eden. The mass departures from Earth & Beyond were the critical force that shaped the south of New Eden from 2004-2006.
Several player organizations were transplanted directly from Earth & Beyond into EVE Online. A large contingent of players left Earth & Beyond to join Stain Alliance. Another large block formed a corporation called Celestial Horizon.
This mass arrival of E&B players turned Celestial Horizon into one of EVE’s early “mega-corporations.” The pilots of Celestial Horizon generally weren’t hardcore players yet, but they had among them many leaders who understood how to run large gamer organizations and had mastered the art of keeping hundreds of players together as one entity.
Under the leadership of Celestial Horizon’s second CEO, CYVOK, Celestial Horizon became extremely wealthy and large in Empire space, and CYVOK decided to make a play for territory in nullsec.
CYVOK was nothing if not a hard worker. He usually played EVE from various United States Air Force bases throughout Europe where he was stationed as a satellite communications expert. Between his high-stress job with the US military and providing direction to hundreds of pilots and builders in Celestial Horizon, he was working about 100 hours a week. Nonetheless, in an interview he described his times with the alliance as some of the best of his life.
He identified the region Feythabolis as a potential starter home for Celestial Horizon. It was technically under the control of a German alliance called Xetic Federation, but Feythabolis was so remote that it was essentially uninhabited.
CYVOK rallied Celestial Horizon’s military wing and set out on an exploratory expedition to Feythabolis. He was venturing out into unfriendly territory, so he couldn’t risk bringing everybody along, but he did need to show Xetic that Celestial Horizon was serious about controlling Feythabolis.
The arrival of a squatter corporation in Feythabolis angered Xetic, but Celestial Horizon gave Xetic a choice: either go to war with our thousands of members, or let us give you money. Xetic chose the latter. Celestial Horizon was so wealthy that it was able to buy Xetic’s leaders off, and it began renting Feythabolis for itself and established a de-facto alliance with Xetic.
The two became business partners, or allies of convenience—whichever term you prefer. Unknown to Xetic Federation, Celestial Horizon had no intention of honoring this arrangement for long.
With their new and uneasy alliance, Xetic and Celestial Horizon formed one of the dominant powers in New Eden. They continued absorbing other groups and charging them for access to Xetic space, until the now massive alliance tallied more members than any other group within EVE: roughly 2,000. The total dwarfed the numbers of any other group in the game, but there was a crisis of governance.
“Xetic was convinced Celestial Horizon was evil, and we were just trying to take over the alliance,” CYVOK said.
Although Xetic had allowed CYVOK to purchase the rights to live in Feythabolis and become an ally, Xetic never fully trusted him. Many within Xetic believed it was only a matter of time until Celestial Horizon became even more wealthy and tried to capture the rest of Xetic’s territory.
“They were correct from the standpoint of we were trying to take over the alliance,” said CYVOK. “They were wrong from the standpoint that we were evil. We had no say in leadership. We had no say in how things ran, how things were organized. Xetic basically would rent out their territory and get fat and happy on the slaves.”
CYVOK oversells his point a bit when he describes Celestial Horizon as Xetic’s “slaves.” What he means is Xetic didn’t have to do any work to continue collecting taxes from Celestial Horizon in Feythabolis. The renting of Feythabolis was a good deal for Celestial Horizon at first, but after a while Celestial Horizon pilots began to wonder why they were still paying rent to an absentee landlord.
The uneasy alliance became heated when two attacks struck Xetic and Celestial Horizon’s territory simultaneously. An enemy alliance called The Five—flush with power after the collapse of Curse Alliance—attacked Celestial Horizon territory in Feythabolis. Meanwhile, G Alliance had come down from the north to invade Immensea, which was Xetic territory.
This placed Xetic and Celestial Horizon at odds. Because Xetic was leasing Feythabolis to Celestial Horizon, it had less of an emotional stake in its well-being. So Xetic’s leaders commanded CYVOK to abandon Feythabolis and move his fleets north to protect Xetic’s assets in the region of Immensea.
Celestial Horizon opted instead to split its forces in half and attempted to defend both regions at once. Those left behind in Feythabolis fought tooth and nail to keep The Five at bay. This was a tall order because The Five included some very good combat pilots, while Celestial Horizon was far better known for its accomplishments in industry than in warfare. For weeks it held off raiding attacks from The Five in Feythabolis while half its forces were off fighting in Immensea against the G Alliance invasion.
All the while, CYVOK’s resentment grew. After weeks of endless raids by The Five, CYVOK had an epiphany and found a way to end the war. Those who have come to conquer your territory, he reasoned, are never going to be sated by a ceasefire. No invading army cheers, “We fought them to a draw! Huzzah!” So CYVOK appealed to The Five’s conqueror’s instinct and gave them a better target: Xetic Federation.
CYVOK offered The Five a deal: leave us alone, and we’ll stay out of it if you head north and attack Xetic Federation.
CYVOK told The Five’s leadership that Xetic had grown weak and complacent living off the taxes from Celestial Horizon, and that it wasn’t capable of defending itself from an organized attack without the aid of Celestial Horizon.
It turned out he was right. The Five invaded Xetic territory, and without Celestial Horizon’s forces to back them up, Xetic crumbled from the pressure, allowing The Five to annex both Immensea and Tenerifis. The crushing of Xetic Federation briefly turned The Five into the largest territory-owning alliance in EVE Online’s history, as it now controlled five regions and would soon capture four more from Red Alliance.
With Xetic in complete disarray, a number of corporations defected and joined Celestial Horizon, while others joined Stain Alliance or left the south entirely.
The former vassals of Xetic Federation had overthrown the lords of the land. Celestial Horizon now found itself the sole owner of Impass and Feythabolis. With two regions all its own and a cadre of member corporations following its lead, Celestial Horizon formed a brand new alliance: Ascendant Frontier.
Ascendant Frontier prospered in Impass and Feythabolis, and it set to work building an empire. With the civil war currently raging in the nearby region of Stain, it opened the door for Ascendant Frontier to fill the power vacuum left by the conflict. In February 2006, Ascendant Frontier was able to annex most of Esoteria and Omist.
A month later, however, Ascendant Frontier judged it had become too big for its own good. It controlled four regions and boasted upwards of 3,000 players by some estimates. Some within the alliance started to worry that its smaller social groups were starting to lose their identity. Ordinarily this is the start of problems for an alliance, as the struggle for representation leads to coups and civil wars.
Ascendant Frontier decided to handle its internal strife with diplomacy rather than force. One of the most widely recognized Ascendant Frontier leaders alongside CYVOK, named Steel Rat, was given the go-ahead to splinter off and form an entirely new alliance called Axiom Empire. Axiom Empire was given complete, no-strings-attached dominion over Impass, and any Ascendant Frontier member was allowed to join Axiom’s ranks if they pleased. Reports indicate that about 1,300 went to Axiom. Generally, Axiom’s members were those who preferred to fight more than build.
Giving away a quarter of your territory and personnel is a risky gambit, but it paid off handsomely for Ascendant Frontier. The two alliances became inseparable allies, and they operated almost as one entity. Drawing a rift between the two actually brought them closer together.
WEALTH AND POWER
Along its path to power in the south, Ascendant Frontier’s leaders recognized that their might depended entirely on their alliance’s massive size and wealth. It wasn’t their pilots’ skill in battle, but the alliance’s strength of arms that kept its enemies at bay. This reliance on numbers rather than prowess fostered an affinity for others who wielded power the same way. In particular, it led Ascendant Frontier and Axiom Empire to look fondly upon the Goonswarm Alliance that was coming of age in Syndicate.
But CYVOK was no fool, and he understood that diplomatic ties needed to be maintained with traditional powers as well. Band of Brothers was the name on everybody’s lips at the time in 2006, and it was Ascendant Frontier’s neighbor to the west. CYVOK worked hard to stay on the good side of the alliance that everyone in EVE considered invincible. This wasn’t an easy task. BoB leadership had developed a very high opinion of itself, and its pilots believed they were the game’s elite combat force. Logically that meant everyone else was mediocre at best. Band of Brothers worked together with CYVOK on occasion, but its members held little respect for Ascendant Frontier.
That was due in part to the fact that Ascendant Frontier was not focused on expansion or military endeavors as Band of Brothers was. Ascendant Frontier had come to own a huge swath of territory in the south, but its members’ true passion was in industry and commerce. Ascendant Frontier wanted to create a prosperous hub of trade and commerce in nullsec. It was working, too. It was pumping out space stations, outposts, and capital ships at a rate many times faster than the next closest industrial powers of the era.
Yet despite their differences, Band of Brothers and Ascendant Frontier did work together from time to time when it was mutually beneficial.
One day, in April 2006, Band of Brothers approached Ascendant Frontier to inform its leaders that the northern alliances were building a mothership. Those alliances comprised many of Ascendant Frontier’s enemies, and they continued to be a thorn in its side. CYVOK saw two opportunities. First, he could weaken enemies in the north who sought to disrupt his industrial empire in the south. Second, he could shore up ties with Band of Brothers and bond with its leadership over a week of cooperative destruction. This was the “EC-P8R Incident” detailed in the previous chapter in which Ascendant Frontier and Band of Brothers worked together to blockade and ravage the northern system of EC-P8R.
THE BIRTH OF A TITAN
After returning from the destruction of EC-P8R, Ascendant Frontier put the focus back on its own endeavors. CYVOK and alliance leadership were steadfastly focused on quietly building New Eden’s first Titan-class ship. They’d been building it for months, and it was finally nearing completion.
The secret Titan project was a marvel of engineering regardless of the fact it took place in a video game. The plan for the project was laid out by CYVOK and a very small group of others, but the construction necessitated the labor of thousands of other individuals. An equipped Titan consists of about 19 separate parts which each need to be individually crafted using huge quantities of smaller parts and rare minerals. Only a behemoth alliance the size of Ascendant Frontier had a hope of building one of these monstrosities in a reasonable time frame.
The only thing harder than assembling thousands of people to contribute to the task was keeping the whole thing a secret. Nobody yet knew how powerful Titans were in combat, but it was understood that a single Titan could change the balance of power in the entire star cluster. Ascendant Frontier’s enemies would never have allowed it to be completed. They would have rallied together in common cause and crushed the shipyard where it was being constructed—just as Ascendant Frontier did to the mothership in EC-P8R.
This information had to be kept out of the hands of every potential spy, and that meant keeping it a secret even from devoted Ascendant Frontier directors. Loose lips, after all, sink ships. And so, like a digital Manhattan Project, the architects toiled and plotted in secret while the actual laborers who mined the materials and built the components had no idea what they were actually working on.
From the start, CYVOK and his lieutenants knew the deck would be stacked against them as they worked to complete the Titan. By this point, all the other organizations in EVE had become aware of the massive industrial power of Ascendant Frontier and its passion for being the first in New Eden to achieve great feats of construction. CYVOK knew he needed not one, but several backup plans as well as covert misinformation campaigns to pull off a project of such scale.
The massive cost of the Titan was no issue for the ultra-wealthy Ascendant Frontier, so it took an extraordinarily devious step: contracting out the construction of a second Titan at the same time as a distraction.
Initially, Ascendant Frontier had contracted out the project to an industrial corporation called NAGA, which was extremely well-known as a major industrial contractor. Its efficiency at coordinating thousands of players around hundreds of simultaneous construction projects allowed it to flood the marketplaces of EVE Online with products set at dirt cheap prices.
NAGA was the obvious choice for a construction project of this size, but it wasn’t a tightly-sealed nullsec power. Word of the Titan contract leaked through NAGA, and its capital shipyards were destroyed by a well-known gun-for-hire organization called Mercenary Coalition—working for an unknown client—just days before construction was to begin on Ascendant Frontier’s Titan. If Ascendant Frontier’s leaders weren’t scared before, they were now. CYVOK and his lieutenants were dismayed that the ruse had failed so quickly. It negated months of cover and distraction that NAGA could have provided.
The new plan was to build the Titan in the last place any spy would expect: in the dead center of Ascendant Frontier’s nullsec territory, the most obvious place imaginable. It was one of the most heavily traveled systems for both alliance members and enemy raiding parties. CYVOK knew hiding the Titan wasn’t feasible, so he built the thing right under everyone’s noses. All the while, Ascendant Frontier agents spread false information to throw people off the trail of the Titan.
The first step in getting construction back on track with the plan was to build another decoy—a brand new capital shipyard in the heart of Feythabolis. Both the region and the system where it was built, JO-32L, were guarded like a fortress. The outpost was useful for many things, but its main purpose was to draw the gaze of Ascendant Frontier’s enemies and get spies whispering about the secret new facility.
“It worked,” said CYVOK in a 2006 progress report about the Titan project. “Goonfleet was 100% convinced this is where Ascendant Frontier was building its Titan and intel suggests that this information was also passed onto Band of Brothers as well.”
MANY BOTHANS DIED
Ascendant Frontier had five capital shipyards in its main block of territory. The Titan project was the main focus, but it also had the time and the resources to build a mothership as well—another decoy.
CYVOK tasked the construction of the mothership to one of his member alliances he knew to be rife with enemy spies. They were former members of Xetic Federation who had joined Ascendant Frontier after their former alliance was destroyed. CYVOK wanted word to leak about the mothership, because nobody would believe Ascendant Frontier was wealthy enough to build both a mothership and a Titan simultaneously. He knew it was only a matter of time until a disgruntled Xetic member leaked the information.
It was September 2006, and the Titan was well underway. Massive mining operations involving hundreds of people had stripped the asteroid belts of nearby regions clean daily. Hauling efforts took more than a week simply to load up the raw materials from the warehouses where they were being stored and ship them off to the secret factories where the components were being built.
A portion of those materials were diverted to the mothership project. Privately, CYVOK confessed to personally causing delays in the mothership’s construction. The sheer amount of material Ascendant Frontier was shipping to its factories and shipyards was bound to tip off enemy covert scouts and spies. If it finished the mothership before it was done moving so much material, it would quickly become obvious that another major ship was being built as well. CYVOK wanted any spies confused, and he wanted to give them as little time as possible to solve the riddle.
The Titan was nearing completion toward the end of September 2006, and the stress was beginning to wear down the few in Ascendant Frontier who knew the details.
“The stress and paranoia of the security situation was nearly breaking me,” said CYVOK. “The nine days (between eight and fourteen hours a day) of component hauling was the most boring thing I have ever done in EVE. The two months of mineral compression killed my drive to ever build again. I had help of course, but only one other person, and he was losing his mind also.”
After three long months of planning, deception, and labor, Ascendant Frontier was finally ready to complete the Titan. The countdown began, and the few elite leaders of Ascendant Frontier who knew about the Titan gathered to watch the countdown. All eyes were on the capital ship assembly array as they waited for the Titan to appear in space. Three minutes to go. Two minutes. One minute.
In what would have been the final moment, the gears of the shipyard came to a halt, and nothing happened. Rather than a finished Titan slipping into space, everything stopped. There was a bug.
Ascendant Frontier had actually been so efficient that it had finished building the Titan before CCP Games had finished all of the code to implement Titans into the game. These ships were such colossal undertakings that CCP assumed they had time to complete the code before anybody could actually build one. The bit of code that allowed Titans to be launched from a capital shipyard hadn’t been written yet.
Within two minutes CCP developers were on the scene and privately met with CYVOK. They audited the build operation, verified that everything needed for the construction was present, and manually materialized an Avatar Titan next to the shipyard.
Still paranoid, it took CYVOK six hours to announce the completion of the landmark warship, fearing somehow he could still jinx the months-long project.
The completion of the Avatar represents another true first for EVE brought forward by the hard work and dedication of all the members of the Ascendant Frontier and Axiom Empire community. Together there is no challenge we cannot accomplish. The face of warfare in EVE has just changed forever.
Now, let’s name the bugger!
—CYVOK, CEO Celestial Horizon, Ascendant Frontier
September 25, 2006
And they named it Steve. Steve the Titan.
A wave of panic hit EVE Online. Wannabe economists, theoreticians, and Ascendant Frontier rivals breathlessly prophesied that the power balance of the game would be broken. In the past, alliances focused on industry, production, and building were formidable entities, but were generally bested by military-focused powers. Small groups of talented combat pilots could take down industrial alliances many times their size.
This was good for the in-game economy because it meant that everything exploded eventually. Industrialists would build immense defensive structures and enormous stockpiles of ships in their home regions, but it was only a matter of time before a force of enemies would assemble to break down at least some of what they’d built.
Ascendant Frontier’s shockingly quick construction of Steve the Titan threatened to bring a new paradigm. What if the alliance could just keep building Titans? A Titan was meant to be an extremely rare type of ship, and the community had assumed that only a few would be created within the first year or two. Ascendant Frontier had shown that it could potentially build a half-dozen Titans within a year. Everyone was afraid of what Ascendant Frontier’s now over 3,000 players were capable of if they committed to building an entire fleet of Titans.
Many EVE Online players were convinced that just one Titan’s Doomsday weapon was enough to win any battle single-handed. Doomsday weapons didn’t even need to be aimed. They inflicted an enormous amount of damage everywhere within about 500 kilometers of the Titan, a huge distance even on the scale of fleet fights between hundreds of pilots. It essentially made smaller ships useless, as they’d disintegrate after a single Doomsday blast. Now New Eden faced the prospect of a fleet which could strike with multiple Doomsday weapons every single engagement.
The militaries of nullsec shuddered at the thought of their territory being invaded by miners and factory workers who knew little about combat, but who bulldozed all in their path with superior weaponry. War profiteers of New Eden likewise dreaded an end to war—or at least a drastic slowdown—caused by the proliferation of Doomsday deterrents.
The potential threat of Ascendant Frontier’s Titan made it the most high-profile target in all New Eden. Band of Brothers began immediately making plans to invade Ascendant Frontier and kill Steve the Titan.
In 2014, CYVOK described to me three-way informal meetings between himself, SirMolle of Band of Brothers, and Seleene—the leader of an up-and-coming group of professional soldiers called Mercenary Coalition. Seleene’s Mercenary Coalition had gained a reputation as one of the best fleets in the game, and Band of Brothers was one of its steadiest employers. Together the three of them controlled almost the entire south of New Eden.
“Myself and Seleene used [the EC-P8R Incident] example as an argument of why it would be so good if Band of Brothers and Ascendant Frontier worked together,” continued CYVOK. “We didn’t need to be allies. We didn’t need to follow the same code of ethics. We didn’t need to play the game the same way. But we could interact strategically so it could benefit both of us.”
SirMolle was unswayed. Ascendant Frontier now had a bullseye on its back. It was symbolic of a frightening new dawn in EVE Online where the chaos of nullsec was ruled by engineers rather than militaries.
Ascendant Frontier was aware of this, and its spies relayed information about the impending Band of Brothers invasion plot. CYVOK began making plans to defend his alliance from an imminent attack by Band of Brothers. War was coming to the south.
I have said many times that Ascendant Frontier is not perfect. Despite that fact we have achieved an amazing amount in a very short time. All the credit for everything we have achieved goes directly to our citizens.
We have chosen to meet this latest challenge head on, as always, and we will not back down.
Once again we call upon our leaders and most of all our Citizens to build our front lines and take those lines to our enemy. Ascendant Frontier was built on the backs of our citizens, now its fate is in your hands.
Ascendant Frontier will once again earn its freedom and its right to exist in this universe. Ascendant Frontier is Strength. We are Unity!
Strength through Unity!
Honor & Serve.
—CYVOK, Director, Ascendant Frontier
THE ASCENDANT FRONTIER WAR
Band of Brothers had just returned from the first part of its “Pendulum” plan in Cloud Ring, and was now planning an invasion of Ascendant Frontier territory.
Ascendant Frontier had recently unveiled its mightiest creation and was well aware of the impending invasion. It didn’t have a strong spy network, but it had sufficient informants to recognize preparations for a massive offensive. But with EVE’s first Titan on its side, Ascendant Frontier pilots felt confident going up against the most feared military power in nullsec.
“I have been debating for several days now how much of this to share with the entire population of Ascendant Frontier. It’s a hard decision, but one I have made. The day we have been expecting is close at hand. We will not launch a preemptive strike. We will allow our ‘honorable’ friends in Band of Brothers to make the first move, if indeed that is what they have decided on.”
—CYVOK, CEO Ascendant Frontier
September 26, 2006
“The time frame that was quoted was within 30 days,” said CYVOK, relaying the words of his informants to the rest of the alliance in a blog post just days after the Titan was announced. “However, if any of you have been paying attention you will have noticed that Band of Brothers and the Mercenary Coalition have already moved at least 50 capital ships into northern Stain. They started to do this in a big way about two days ago. [They] have also been running freighters all over the southern regions loaded with [...] gear and what appear to be entire hangars [filled with ships]. Axiom Empire has been kind enough to be tracking and scanning several of them over the last few days. My personal judgment: they will hit us starting this Friday.”
CYVOK knew that his alliance had the firepower and the personnel to leave Band of Brothers’ entire fleet a smoldering rubble. It didn’t matter that Ascendant Frontier had less skillful pilots. It had built such a large armada that it could lose ten times more ships than Band of Brothers in every battle and still prevail.
The challenge lay in convincing miners and builders to show up to defend the alliance. It was all too easy for a player to simply not log in during a battle, or to ignore the fighting and continue mining, or to leave Ascendant Frontier entirely to go play EVE in a more peaceful location. CYVOK knew that the challenge wasn’t besting Band of Brothers in battle or firepower, but in convincing his civilians to fight, and to fight for Ascendant Frontier.
“There has never been a force in EVE that has successfully built an alliance to the strength and accomplishment of Ascendant Frontier,” he wrote in an alliance-wide blog post. “Never has an alliance of alliances been established in such a way that they act as one like that of Ascendant Frontier and Axiom Empire. Never has one organization been able to establish a feeling of belonging to something bigger than their own corporation like this group. Never has any organization ever done the above and remained honorable, honest, fair and respectful to the rest of the EVE player base.”
But there was an ominous tone to the letter. It ends with, “Corporations that decide to leave during this conflict will be immediately blacklisted.” He fed them the carrot, and threatened the stick.
CYVOK’s prediction that Band of Brothers would attack on Friday, September 29, 2006 turned out to be exactly correct.
On Thursday the 28th, SirMolle posted the following cryptic message to the EVE forums:
“As of today, the whole of BoB goes into full war mode.
The pendulum, with brazen din,
Proclaims the midnight; we begin
To call to mind, ironically,
What uses we have made of this
Dead day that drops to the abyss:
Today, O date prophetical,
Friday, twenty-nine, in somber folly
Maugre the truth our heart maintains,
We, seeing still the light that sains,
Have walked in ways heretical.
The Pendulum is about to swing. It begins.”
— SirMolle, Director, Band of Brothers
September 26th, 2006
The poem is an excerpt from Clark Ashton Smith’s “Examination At Midnight,” except with the date in the seventh line changed to Band of Brothers’ date of invasion. Notably, SirMolle posted this just two days after CYVOK announced the birth of Ascendant Frontier’s Titan and alerted his alliance to the threat of invasion.
At this time, nobody else in EVE knew exactly what SirMolle meant. But CYVOK did, and he fired back within minutes: “If you surrender now we will consider letting you guys keep Fountain.”
Friday the 29th came, and hundreds of Band of Brothers pilots massed in Period Basis. They began their assault on Paragon Soul, targeting the Ascendant Frontier station near the border in GQ2S-8. If Band of Brothers had been attacking from Mexico into the United States, GQ2S-8 was like El Paso.
The traders and miners that inhabited GQ2S-8 saw their entire in-game lives brought to a halt. Everyone who flew out of a station was shot down by the Band of Brothers’ fleet. An hour later, Ascendant Frontier fleets showed up and set up defensively until their enemies left. This was just the opening shot, not a credible attempt at conquest. It was a test, like two boxers throwing light, safe jabs in Round One. Nobody wants to get greedy and end up knocked out in the first round.
The next day, as Band of Brothers fleets arrived for Round Two, SirMolle posted a message to the citizenry of Paragon Soul in the local chat communications channel:
“We know that you do not really want this,” he wrote. “We know that you are suffering from the siege of your system. We know that it’s hurting you. We will offer you a way out, the non-hostile way, before we lay total siege to the system. Lay down your arms, and drop the sovereignty claims on the system, and you will be allowed to stay. This offer will go off the table in one week.”
In spite of the intimidation, the rank and file of Ascendant Frontier held their ground.
The full weight of these two massive alliances came down on GQ2S-8, but the early battles seem to have been relative stalemates. The major factor was that Ascendant Frontier wasn’t willing to put its Titan at risk. CYVOK wouldn’t put it into the middle of a fight, but preferred to pop off a Doomsday on the outskirts of the battle and retreat before the enemies knew what hit them. It resulted in only a handful of Band of Brothers ships destroyed.
The timidity with which CYVOK was piloting Steve the Titan became a problem when Band of Brothers unveiled its own Titan, which it dubbed “Darwin’s Contraption” (following in the theme of its main corporation, Evolution). These mammoth warships were still very new, however, and nobody knew enough about piloting them to be cavalier. Even Steve was only two weeks old.
Rather than gambling on head-on attacks, Ascendant Frontier began sending fleets into Period Basis to attack while the bulk of Band of Brothers’ players were asleep. The problem was that this wasn’t even Band of Brothers’ space. It belonged to Mercenary Coalition, which played no part in this war. Most people listed Mercenary Coalition as an ally of Band of Brothers at this time, but it worked hard to maintain its impartial mercenary roots. That said, you can make an argument that by allowing it to live in Period Basis—the backyard of Band of Brothers’ empire—Band of Brothers had included Mercenary Coalition in a more or less permanent alliance. Not everyone in Ascendant Frontier saw the mercenaries as independent, and some occasionally ran raids into Mercenary Coalition territory. Seleene—the leader of Mercenary Coalition—had to work to stay neutral in this conflict, and sometimes that meant threatening military force.
“Over the last several weeks, the leadership of the Mercenary Coalition and elements of the Ascendant Frontier High Command have worked very hard to maintain our mutual positive standings despite the current political and military situation between [Ascendant Frontier] and Band of Brothers,” wrote Seleene in a message to Ascendant Frontier’s pilots. “The Mercenary Coalition has no stake or interest in the war currently being waged and has gone to great diplomatic lengths in order to maintain our neutrality. Yet, despite these efforts, some of your fellow alliance mates see fit to continue to push the boundaries of our patience and understanding. We are not looking for a fight. Quite honestly, as [Ascendant Frontier High Command] well knows, we have plenty to do without this nonsense but enough is enough. So, to the rank and file of Ascendant Frontier: stay out of our home, unless you want us to come visit yours.”
After the threat from Seleene, Ascendant Frontier curbed its attacks. The very last thing Ascendant Frontier’s leaders wanted was to find themselves at war with Mercenary Coalition alongside Band of Brothers. Instead, Ascendant Frontier turned to a new attack strategy and began splitting its efforts. The order was to hold the line in Paragon Soul while a secondary fleet made its way through Stain and attacked Band of Brothers’ home systems in Querious and Delve.
These attacks led to no major victories, but it was enough that Band of Brothers had to bring its fleet home to push back the assaults. This served two goals for Ascendant Frontier: first, it could annoy and tire the Band of Brothers pilots, and second, its leaders could claim they had Band of Brothers on its back foot. From a propaganda standpoint, Ascendant Frontier spun these attacks to say that this was now an Ascendant Frontier invasion of Band of Brothers’ space, rather than the other way around.
Propaganda is exceedingly useful at shaping the conditions before and after a battle, but it does little to alter the course of the battle itself once the missiles start firing and the lasers begin to rip through ship hulls.
For a month, this was the war everyone assumed it would be: a stalemate. The two behemoths couldn’t budge each other from their respective regions. Band of Brothers couldn’t be bested on the battlefield, but Ascendant Frontier barely cared. Its ships were replaced so fast they might as well have been recyclable. Band of Brothers could hit with extreme force in one spot, but Ascendant Frontier had the ships and the manpower to strike back in three places. Band of Brothers attacked Paragon Soul. Ascendant Frontier attacked Delve, Querious, and Fountain simultaneously.
But eventually, the unstoppable force began to push back the immovable object. On October 29, Axiom Empire’s home region of Impass came under attack, and it was forced to stop assisting its staunch ally Ascendant Frontier in the defence of Period Basis. Without their strong military ally—when Axiom and Ascendant Frontier split, many of the combat-focused corporations went with Axiom Empire—the volunteers and civilians of Ascendant Frontier lost their grip on both of the major space stations in the region of Paragon Soul. Not even CYVOK’s Titan had been able to turn the tide of the war thus far. A month into its life, the beast that everyone feared was being used too timidly to make much of a difference.
SirMolle’s rhetoric was excessively self-congratulatory that day as he browbeat Ascendant Frontier for not providing the challenge he’d hoped for. In the following quote, Ascendant Frontier is referred to as “ASCN,” a common abbreviation for the alliance.
“In attacking ASCN, we fully expected to pay a dear price. An irresistible force versus an immovable object, perhaps. It is with great distaste that we found the first reaction of Ascendant Frontier to our assault was immediate and unseemly panic.
If there is anything apparent in this war so far, it is that Ascendant Frontier is feeling the cold, chilling tendrils of fear creep into the hearts of their alliance. Upon the reptilian wings of this fear fly the spectres that are so vivid, that there often is no recourse but to deny reality and cling to illusions.
It is the slow march of madness that follows next.
A madness that strikes out at phantoms in all directions, mistaking them for manifestations of the fear in their minds. Yet the very source of the darkness lies clearly in front of them. They are just unwilling to face it.
Fear is the mind killer.
GQ2 and H8-ZTO are ours now. They are the price you pay for believing that dividing a disorganized force and carrying out attacks with no purpose is a superior strategy to dealing with the inadequacies of your fleet. The division of your forces has only served to our benefit, as your various groups will then enjoy a mix of inconsequential victories and horrendous losses. Being goverened [sic] by the fear of taking responsibility for a focused effort, your High Command has chosen instead to cleave deep gashes in your ranks. Who is to blame now for the loss of GQ2 and H8-ZTO? Who shall take responsibility?
You have lost Paragon Soul. The name itself symbolic in that BoB is now as a paragon of the soul of war, fighting a leviathan that has no spirit. BoB does not trifle with unfocused attacks, we go straight for the throat. On the other hand ASCN has only made enemies of alliances that were not even part of this conflict.
The great sorrow in this war is that there are numerous members in ASCN that have shown the spirit to fight, yet are left hanging without support. The losses are not out of a lack of valor on the part of those in the front lines, but the lack of sensibility in those that give directions. Yet those alone are not harmful. What is harmful is that those deficiencies are coupled with a fear of accepting the need for improvement, fear for accepting the bewilderment of strategy, fear for being found wanting. Your warriors are ill served, and they fall vainly on the field of battle.”
—SirMolle, Band of Brothers
October 29, 2006
This was how SirMolle conducted wartime diplomacy. He cast shame on the leadership of his enemies while stroking the ego of his enemy’s average members. This was his strategy for sowing dissention. He told the average pilots that they were brave, skilled, and strong warriors that were simply being led by fools. He tried to chip away at the fragile authority of Ascendant Frontier’s leadership.
KEEP THE FEYTH
Ascendant Frontier had failed slowly over the past month to turn back Band of Brothers, but it’s important to note that Paragon Soul was backwater turf. It was a region where Ascendant Frontier more or less stuck its weaker allies. For the proper alliance, Feythabolis was home. It was where its journey in nullsec had begun more than two years earlier, and it was the only region that truly mattered to its pilots. Its own alliance motto was, “Keep the Feyth.”
Ascendant Frontier intended to live up to that motto too. During the month-long war for Paragon Soul, it had built Feythabolis into the most heavily defended region in the New Eden star cluster. Practically every moon in every system was outfitted with top-of-the-line defensive starbases.
The system for determining sovereignty was much different in this era of EVE than the modern day. At that time, sovereignty of any system was determined by which alliance had the most starbases around that system’s moons. The system became an alliance’s property when the EVE Online server reset at “downtime,” the one hour per day that EVE Online is shut down. When the server came back up, it counted the active starbases and awarded sovereignty to the alliance with the most.
Because Ascendant Frontier had starbases around every moon, there was no single system that was vulnerable. Band of Brothers would have to fight several major battles to capture a majority of the moons, which meant it could take days or weeks to capture just a single system. Given that there are 89 systems in the region of Feythabolis, a traditional invasion could theoretically take years.
On the homefront, CYVOK’s biggest challenge was keeping morale high. He posted long missives sent to the entire alliance to keep Ascendant Frontier’s fleets strong and its pilots loyal to CYVOK’s vision.
“Since its inception the Ascendancy has faced many challenges and created many firsts in the history of New Eden. We were the first to build a market in deep 0.0 space that rivals those in the heart of Empire. The first to build a new station in 0.0, the first to build a Titan-class vessel. Now, we are the first to draw a line in front of evil and say NO MORE.
We have built 14 New Stations in deep 0.0 space, built a robust and thriving market so our citizens do not need to return to empire for their goods, we have built hundreds of Capital Ships, a Titan, and tens of thousands of space vessels. Yet our dream is in danger.
The Great Evil pushes against our borders with all of its might. It calls in help from the forces of darkness that reside in every corner of space. For nearly three months The Ascendancy has held the line against the darkness, another first. No other organization has ever stood in the path and not crumbled in a matter of days. The Ascendancy is looking for fighters, builders, miners, haulers and free citizens to hold the line against the Evil that consumes New Eden.
Join us. Fight at our side and win your place in history. Be a part of another first in New Eden, the first to defeat the Evil and build the new frontier.”
—CYVOK, CEO Celestial Horizons, Ascendant Frontier
December 9, 2006
The major theme of CYVOK’s propaganda was to paint Band of Brothers as the great evil of New Eden. He mythologized his adversaries as borderline demonic. Reading his posts to his alliance it’s clear he knew his people’s weakness was confidence. In the previous post, he reminds his pilots of what they’ve accomplished. His challenge was to make them feel like they were part of a greater whole, because when it came to the skill of their individual pilots Ascendant Frontier was sorely outmatched, and everybody knew it. Instead of telling his pilots that they’d crush their adversary easily, he tried instead to make this seem like a war worth fighting. He wanted his inexperienced pilots to feel like Luke Skywalker signing up to fight the Empire.
Band of Brothers faced different problems. Band of Brothers had crushed empire after empire, but it had no chance of breaking into the home region of Ascendant Frontier, Feythabolis.
“There was no way to get in,” SirMolle said in 2014. “Feythabolis was a fortress. There was absolutely nothing you could do to break that. So we had to just add pressure and keep hoping that they would break internally from the pressure.”
With Feythabolis out of the picture for now, Band of Brothers slammed into Esoteria, the weakest of Ascendant Frontier’s territories since it was still somewhat contested with another group. It hoped to be able to batter its enemy’s morale, and maybe even crack its pilots’ allegiance by continuing to conquer territory.
The Band of Brothers fleet made steady progress through Esoteria, and had the region essentially within its grip in a few weeks. It was now December 2006, and the war had begun to drag. For a sovereignty war, Band of Brothers had been making good progress by conquering most of two regions (Paragon Soul and Esoteria) in three months, especially given that the territory was being taken from arguably the most powerful alliance in the game. But it also meant that the current pace Band of Brothers was on was unsustainable. If it took 90 days to conquer Paragon Soul and Esoteria, then how long would it take to beat down the vault door in Feythabolis? Six months? A year? And that’s if it was possible at all. Band of Brothers needed a foothold in the region, but its leaders saw no way of getting one.
Ascendant Frontier wouldn’t go down easily, and Band of Brothers could still lose this war. The key to victory was Feythabolis, and Band of Brothers’ pilots still needed to find a way through its iron wall. Luckily for them, they wouldn’t have to wait long. They caught a break sometime in the second week of December. Knowing that it couldn’t break Feythabolis through military might, Band of Brothers endeavored to “put pressure” on Ascendant Frontier and hope it made a mistake. This meant destroying everything in sight in Esoteria, but it also meant using spies to their greatest potential: sowing dissention, clogging communications, and messing with Ascendant Frontier’s ability to coordinate.
CYVOK claimed his alliance refused to use these types of “meta-game” tactics. Ascendant Frontier preferred to prove itself through engineering and combat inside the game. Band of Brothers didn’t see it that way.
One night in early December, a Band of Brothers spy managed to get control of the Ascendant Frontier starbases in 0OYZ-G, an important system in Feythabolis near the border with Esoteria. The spy shut down the defensive starbases in that system, which allowed Band of Brothers fleets to swoop in and destroy them all with a surprise attack. As happens so often in EVE, a single spy achieved what hundreds of warships could not.
With one swift motion Band of Brothers had acquired the foothold it so desperately needed in Feythabolis, but the tangential benefits turned out to be much more valuable than the capture of a single system.
THE BATTLE OF C9N-CC
Ascendant Frontier needed Band of Brothers out of Feythabolis, but its leaders weren’t keen on a direct assault to reclaim that territory. Ascendant Frontier instead launched a retributory attack and retook a different system—C9N-CC in nearby Esoteria—a crucial Band of Brothers staging base. Without C9N-CC, Band of Brothers’ ability to hit Ascendant Frontier was greatly reduced.
Band of Brothers moved to take back C9N-CC. Its fleet was small—only about 40 ships—but there were more coming up through Esoteria to sandwich the 70 Ascendant Frontier ships guarding the entrances to C9N-CC.
SirMolle’s Titan, “Darwin’s Contraption,” was the first Band of Brothers ship to enter the system and he immediately attacked. The massive guns on the Titan incinerated a handful of Ascendant Frontier battleships and managed to destroy a half dozen more as Ascendant Frontier support ships gave chase, trying to jam the Titan so it couldn’t get away. They were unsuccessful, and SirMolle managed to escape as the rest of the Band of Brothers ships made their way into the system in the chaos of the Titan chase.
The two fleets clashed, and SirMolle turned his Titan around to re-enter the battle. Band of Brothers took the skirmish victory, and Ascendant Frontier retreated and regrouped a few planets away to gather its reinforcements.
At the time, Titans had the controversial ability to remotely launch their titanic Doomsday weapons from anywhere inside the star system. A friendly support ship could drop a “cynosural field” (effectively a wormhole which allows friendly capital ships to warp to that point) and the Titan pilot could choose to fire the Doomsday weapon through the cynosural field. So if a pilot could get their ship near the enemy fleet and ignite a cynosural field, the Titan could theoretically destroy that fleet without ever coming into attack range.
The Ascendant Frontier fleet was extremely far away, but a cynosural field opened up directly on top of the Band of Brothers fleet. CYVOK’s Titan Doomsday weapon erupted from within it as Steve the Titan’s presence on the battlefield was now revealed. The blast missed. Band of Brothers ships scattered in the blink of an eye once the cynosural field appeared, and only about three ships were destroyed by the Doomsday. CYVOK pulled back immediately, warping his Titan to a location in deep space inside C9N-CC. The rest of the Ascendant Frontier fleet scattered to their own deep space locations. (A deep space safe spot is a location far away from any landmarks or planets within the star system. They warp so far out that it becomes essentially impossible to be found.)
What happened next was a turning point in the history of New Eden. No one battle has had such profound effects on the EVE universe at large as the events in C9N-CC on December 11, 2006. In this case, a mere sixty seconds were responsible for changing the entire shape of the game for years to come.
Band of Brothers had control of the system now. SirMolle had retreated in his Titan to regroup with reinforcements. Support ships were salvaging scrap materials from ships destroyed in the battle. And one Band of Brothers pilot—named Valora—was patrolling and scanning the outer edges of the star system to make sure there were no Ascendant Frontier fleets waiting to ambush them.
THE MINUTE THAT CHANGED NEW EDEN
At 4:14pm GMT, CYVOK of Ascendant Frontier fired his Titan’s Doomsday weapon and retreated to a deep space safe spot. At 4:28, Valora conducted a third scan of the deep space area surrounding C9N-CC and found Steve the Titan. CYVOK was offline.
Why is the timing important? Because EVE Online has a system called a “combat timer.” Whenever you attack or are attacked by another player, a timer marks 15 minutes. Your ship remains in EVE space for those 15 minutes regardless of whether you log out of the game or are disconnected. It’s mostly devised to prevent players from logging out as a tactic to save their ship if it’s on the brink of destruction.
There was a quirk to the timer though. If a player attempted to log out before the 15 minute timer elapsed, the timer would reset.
What happens next was the subject of controversy. The most commonly believed story is that CYVOK was having some computer trouble and tried to switch to another PC. Either by mistake or by ignorance of the combat-timer reset mechanic, CYVOK logged out of the game with between one and two minutes left to go on his combat timer (initiated when he fired the Doomsday) which caused it to reset for another fifteen minutes.
The entire Band of Brothers fleet was warped in, and Steve the Titan was all alone without its pilot or support fleet. The Band of Brothers dreadnought fleet went into siege mode and began pounding on the lifeless hull of Steve.
CYVOK logged back in, found the entire capital fleet of Band of Brothers pounding on his Titan hull, and logged back out. It was over.
Five minutes later, the most expensive ship ever built in EVE Online, the first Titan ever constructed, and the flagship of the game’s mightiest alliance was in ruins just 77 days after it was completed. Its hull still floats in the space of C9N-CC to this day, and can be visited by players looking to pay homage to one of the great wars of yesteryear.
Video of the destruction of Steve the Titan still survives and shows the Band of Brothers fleet laughing and celebrating the kill while trying to maintain order so SirMolle could acquire evidence of the kill to show the rest of the EVE community.
“Let Molle get excited guys, the rest of you can shut the fuck up, please. Thanks,” said Dianabolic in the video.
Two minutes later, SirMolle posted on the EVE forums.
“TITAN DOWN. ‘nuff said.”
CYVOK recalls things a little differently, and eight years later he still says the conventional wisdom (which describes the above circumstances) is false. He says he was cheated out of his Titan.
He alleges that CCP developers who were members of Band of Brothers used their administrative privileges to find the Titan when they shouldn’t have been able to. He says he was kicked offline by those developers and prevented from logging back in while his Titan was destroyed.
It’s an intriguing story, but it’s not a version of events that I can find evidence to support. The simplest and most likely version of events is that CYVOK simply made a mistake and logged off too early. He had handled Steve with the utmost care until that moment when one tiny slip-up changed everything. Had he waited one more minute to log off, the Titan would have been saved.
The details of these types of controversies and debates are not important. It’s probable that the men and women involved in these stories will be fighting over details and minutiae on the forums from their retirement homes. However, the ramifications of this event are clear and indisputable: two days later, CYVOK announced his retirement from EVE. A subordinate named Gungankllr made the declaration on the EVE forums.
“By leaps and bounds this is the hardest release I have had to write. Today the Ascendant Frontier lost not only a leader, but a good friend.
Outsiders can say whatever they want about CYVOK, but I know him to be one of the most honorable, caring people I’ve had the distinct pleasure of calling my friend in over ten years in online gaming.
CYVOK made the Ascendant Frontier what it is today. Without his leadership, Feythabolis would be an undeveloped wasteland.”
—Gungankllr, Ascendant Frontier
December 13, 2006
In an interview eight years later, CYVOK recalled the decision to leave the alliance in the middle of a war.
“At the time it was a big part of my life, but I also was advancing in my career, and I had less and less time to put into the game,” he said to me in 2014. “I know it showed to my members. It was a good, opportune time to call it quits, at least officially. I didn’t want to, but that’s the way it occurred. Everything after that is history.”
CYVOK walked away from the virtual world he’d spent thousands of hours in over the past three years. He handed the reins to a subordinate named Virtuozzo.
He left with complete confidence that the alliance was in good hands and that the members of Ascendant Frontier would keep up the tough fight against Band of Brothers. He knew that Ascendant Frontier was the wealthiest of all the alliances, and that Feythabolis was a long way from being conquered. The alliance would be fine with one less politician, he figured. He was wrong.
In EVE Online there’s an influential theory known as a “failure cascade”—initially developed by Goonswarm’s The Mittani—which describes how large-scale social groups disintegrate. The idea behind a failure cascade is that a social group is like a stack of bricks. Remove a brick, and some others that relied on it for support might come tumbling down. On their way down, they might dislodge other blocks, and so on. The chief tenant of the failure cascade is that no individual in the alliance knows they’re in the midst of one until it’s too late to stop.
After years of watching other alliances tumble, the focus in EVE Online shifted from militarily destroying your adversaries to crushing their social bonds from within. Band of Brothers never had any illusions about truly assaulting the battlements of Ascendant Frontier headquarters in Feythabolis. Band of Brothers instead opted to merely put pressure on Ascendant Frontier, testing the strength of its social bonds. If Ascendant Frontier was like a stack of bricks, then Band of Brothers didn’t try to knock the stack down with one blow; it nudged it persistently and waited for the bricks to start tumbling.
Everyone involved underestimated the importance of CYVOK as a leader. While he was in command, everyone fell in line. When he left, it was like yanking the load-bearing foundation out from Ascendant Frontier’s stack of blocks. The ramifications were felt in every corner of the largest empire in the south.
Ascendant Frontier had put up a strong front against Band of Brothers for months, but now it had to go through its toughest trial yet: a leadership change in the middle of a war. It was failing. Almost instantly, the social fabric that bound Ascendant Frontier’s pilots together began to unravel.
CYVOK personally hosted the web discussion forums of all the corporations in Ascendant Frontier, but he generally had a policy of staying out of other corporations’ forums and letting them conduct their affairs in private. A few days after he left the game, though, he peeked in on several corporations to see how the alliance was weathering the transfer of power.
In short, it was a disaster. The leadership was weak, and morale was at rock bottom. CYVOK found many Ascendant Frontier member corporations scheming to steal assets and money as the alliance went down in flames. It was like civilization itself was falling apart and the citizens were planning which stores to loot in the impending chaos.
To the outside observer, Ascendant Frontier was in a troubled state, but was still a mighty force. But on the inside it was obvious that the failure cascade was now in full effect and could not be stopped. Everyone was maneuvering their own corporation to be in the best possible position when the fall came. No longer was there any thought given to Ascendant Frontier. CYVOK and Ascendant Frontier, it seems, were one and the same. When he left the alliance died.
“I honestly thought that I wasn’t the glue holding Ascendant Frontier together,” CYVOK said in 2014. In our interview his tone of voice alternated between prideful and irritated, depending on whether he was talking about Ascendant Frontier or Band of Brothers, respectively. But now his voice took on a note of somber reflection.
“I really thought there were enough good leaders in the game, in the alliance, that it would go on without me. The alliance pretty much immediately fell apart.”
The spy-wrought foothold that Band of Brothers had previously gained in southern Feythabolis extended now to a string of four systems, all with important space stations. This chain of systems was only a small corner of Feythabolis, but it was essentially a bridge that connected Esoteria with its southern neighbor region, Omist. As Christmas neared, and with Ascendant Frontier in complete disarray following the departure of CYVOK, Omist fell almost instantly.
The empire of Ascendant Frontier was reduced to just one last region, the citadel of Feythabolis. The structure of the alliance had crumbled, but even with huge losses and departures it still had thousands of loyal pilots. Massively weakened and with its home region under assault, Ascendant Frontier prepared for the final defense.
The hope was that Ascendant Frontier could make Band of Brothers pay dearly enough for assaulting Feythabolis that it would go home, content with the three regions it had already conquered.
But letting the prey slip the noose wasn’t SirMolle’s modus operandi. In his mind, he was SirMolle: Slayer of Empires. Feythabolis would fall no matter the cost.
FEYTH MUST FALL
With four systems in the south of Feythabolis under its control, Band of Brothers went straight for the jugular. Its pilots didn’t want to slowly grind down the remaining 85 systems in Feythabolis. They wanted to take Ascendant Frontier’s home system in AZN-D2 and end the war. Band of Brothers mobilized its fleets for constant strikes against the Ascendant Frontier capital system.
One night, at an off-hour when most Band of Brothers pilots were asleep, a fleet was mobilized by the few pilots who were actually online under the command of a player named Blacklight, CEO of one of Band of Brothers’ mainstay members, Black Nova Corporation.
It was not an active hour for Band of Brothers—who were mostly European—but it was a strong hour for Ascendant Frontier, which was more global.
A 40-ship Band of Brothers gang set out from the south of Feythabolis to raid the Ascendant Frontier home system in AZN-D2. The fleet arrived in the system, deployed a starbase, and started to harass the locals, setting up a makeshift blockade around the main station in the system.
It took Ascendant Frontier some time to organize enough pilots to shoo the modest Band of Brothers task force away. The reason was that Ascendant Frontier didn’t just want to shoo the gang away, but to crush it and send a message that these little raids wouldn’t be shrugged off. The Ascendant Frontier fleet was organizing in a deep space spot far from the station, and outside of scanning range for Band of Brothers’ scouts. Roughly 110 ships had gathered, including 25 battleships and ten powerful dreadnoughts.
The Ascendant Frontier fleet warped in on the Band of Brothers raiders and forced them to retreat to the starbase they had deployed.
Ascendant Frontier, its fleet now revealed, moved into position on the starbase and began to unload the power of its dreadnoughts’ siege weapons. As the big guns pounded the starbase’s shield, Band of Brothers stayed out-of-range and sent the word out to gather every available pilot into the system and prepare for a fight. Its leaders doubled their numbers—to 80 against the 110 Ascendant Frontier ships.
The numbers were now somewhat more even. Band of Brothers had better pilots, but with its dreadnoughts Ascendant Frontier had better guns.
Blacklight sent in a cloaked scout ship right into the middle of the Ascendant Frontier fleet. The entire Band of Brothers fleet then locked onto that scout and warped directly on top of Ascendant Frontier, unloading everything it had.
Ascendant Frontier had a big advantage in support ships and electronic warfare, and within moments the Band of Brothers battleships—its main firepower—were scrambled and disrupted. They could barely move, but the order came from the fleet commander, Blacklight: do not warp out. Stay in the fight.
The fleets mashed together; slowly the Band of Brothers battleships were able to recover from the electronic warfare that had disabled them. They turned their guns on Ascendant Frontier’s battleships and began whittling down their numbers, one at a time. All the while, the ten mammoth Ascendant Frontier dreadnoughts pounded away at the starbase.
Blacklight did not want to be responsible for losing that starbase, and so with the battle still raging he committed a chunk of his electronic warfare fleet to attack and scramble the dreadnoughts. Rather than cutting his losses and retreating he took the big risk of doubling down on this battle.
The superior Band of Brothers discipline was winning out. Ascendant Frontier’s battleships were now gone, and its support ships were now sitting ducks without the battleships to back them up. These were wiped out in short order, and Blacklight turned his eye toward the dreadnoughts.
Ascendant Frontier had lost the main battle, but it started to regroup. It was, after all, on its home turf. A fresh Ascendant Frontier fleet arrived, and it posed a significant threat to the Band of Brothers gang, which was now weakened from the previous battle. The now smaller Band of Brothers force was trying to take out ten dreadnoughts stuck in siege mode, but its numbers were so few that it couldn’t keep them all scrambled. Five of the dreadnoughts managed to escape just before destruction; so far, only one had been destroyed.
The Ascendant Frontier fleet prepared to move in to defend the remaining dreadnoughts. As their numbers massed to crush the remaining Band of Brothers forces and save the siege ships, a beacon of hope arrived for the Band of Brothers fleet: SirMolle had just warped in with his Titan, which they now named “Evil Steve” to taunt Ascendant Frontier.
Lag was running rampant. All the fighting and ship wreckage was slamming the systems’ servers, and when SirMolle arrived his screen was blank. Nothing could be seen on screen, but a message from Blacklight came swiftly over voice communication.
“FIRE, FIRE, FIRE. FIRE THE DOOMSDAY,” Blacklight screamed.
SirMolle didn’t even know what he was shooting at, but he obeyed and blindly loosed the Doomsday weapon. Fifteen Ascendant Frontier ships were instantly destroyed, and the rest of the fleet retreated. They abandoned any hope of saving the embattled dreadnoughts, which were swiftly destroyed by the remaining Band of Brothers ships.
This wasn’t the battle that broke Ascendant Frontier’s back, but experiences like this broke its pilots’ morale. Even considering Ascendant Frontier’s amazing achievements in production and engineering, it could not afford to lose multiple dreadnoughts to a small fleet it should have been able to best. Pilots simply stopped showing up for fights because there was too high a probability they’d end up destroyed.
“Paragon Soul has fallen, C9N-CC is about to fall, AZN [AZN-D2, Feythabolis] looks nice for Christmas.
The clock is about to chime for the last time. Ascendant Frontier corporations, for those of you who wish to leave in peace, and move your assets out, you have 72 hours from this post to arrange it, and you will never be offered this again.
With the death of Steve, and the evacuation of your leader, there’s nothing more to hope for.
Leave in peace, with your head held high, and with something left, or, don’t leave at all, with nothing left. Some may be refused this offer. Most will not.
Your call. 72 hours are starting. Tick Tock.”
—SirMolle, CEO Evolution, Band of Brothers Alliance
(Altered for clarity)
December 17, 2006
Band of Brothers took AZN-D2, and Feythabolis fell with it. The region’s massive defenses meant little when there weren’t enough capable pilots willing to defend it anymore. The taking of Feythabolis turned into a clean-up operation. The hundreds of starbases in Feythabolis were now simply a chore, a mess left behind by the previous tenant.
The alliance once known as Ascendant Frontier was now dead. Its destruction marked the swiftest downfall of a major power in the history of EVE Online. Only two months earlier it had been the predominant power in the south, controlling Paragon Soul, Esoteria, Omist, and Feythabolis.
In its place rose Band of Brothers, which now controlled the largest swath of territory ever conquered in EVE Online.
Feythabolis. Esoteria. Paragon Soul. Period Basis. Querious. Delve. Fountain. The entirety of the west and south now belonged to Band of Brothers. It was twice as much territory as any organization in EVE had ever conquered. The Brothers and their close allies now ruled 561 star systems.
Band of Brothers was able to keep control of this massive amount of territory—despite having only between two and three thousand members—by instituting one of EVE’s first rental systems. It installed vassal alliances in its territory which then paid taxes back to Band of Brothers in exchange for the protection of BoB’s skilled fleets. Band of Brothers stayed in its home region of Delve. But the “Greater Band of Brothers Community” consisted of a half-dozen other alliances which were in lockstep with the mother alliance.
When Band of Brothers took over Ascendant Frontier’s territory, it essentially left things to run as it always had. There was a regime change, but for most players, it was business as usual. Many of the old corporations that populated Ascendant Frontier territory were allowed to stay and join the alliance as taxpayers with protection from Band of Brothers. Others were banished, usually because they had personally offended Band of Brothers’ leadership.
Even some of Ascendant Frontier’s military had been given an offer to join the elite combat brigade of Band of Brothers. The spoils of war for Band of Brothers in its conquest of the south was a larger tax base and a swath of highly-trained personnel.
IN THE NORTH
During the war against Ascendant Frontier a coalition had risen to power in the northern territories that was now at odds with Band of Brothers.
For the last two years following the Great Northern War, the north had been splintered and divided between half a dozen minor powers, but that was beginning to change. When Band of Brothers and Ascendant Frontier assaulted the north in mid-2006 with the great blockade of EC-P8R (detailed in “The Capital Age”), the leaders of the northern powers began to take notice.
Each individual northern state was completely powerless against the might of superpowers like Band of Brothers or Ascendant Frontier, and fighting a coalition of the two was laughable. But if the northern states came together as one coalition, they would be a credible threat to even the mightiest alliances and coalitions. And so they joined together to form Dusk and Dawn, a new state that sought to fill the gaping power vacuum in the north and unite the tribes.
Dusk and Dawn served as the military backbone on which the other powers of the region could rely for support. The industrial groups from other alliances now had allies that could defend the entire north.
The northerners had huge numbers, but numbers are useless unless they have proper direction. Four alliances of thousands of unskilled pilots might as well be made of paper if they can’t cooperate in the face of a proper military force.
But that changed when they became one coalition of 6,000 players acting in the common good under competent military leadership. It wasn’t the finest fighting force EVE had ever seen, but it was able to amass huge fleets that packed so much firepower that skill and tactics barely mattered. It was good enough to ensure their common defense. The alliances involved in this mutual defense agreement became known as the Northern Coalition. Mutual protection was only the first goal of the new Northern Coalition though. Its leaders were building this group with the goal of eventually destroying Band of Brothers. They prophesied that it was only a matter of time until the political situation in New Eden wrapped up every alliance, and a war dragged in every coalition in the game. With their new coalition working together as one, they’d be ready for this hypothetical war.
By the beginning of 2007, the Northern Coalition was firmly in control of the north. Its forces had cleansed the region of pirates, and its civilians were moving toward a more prosperous future. Like true New Eden northerners, the Northern Coalition pilots weren’t interested in conquest. They just wanted to safeguard their own territory, and had achieved the means to do just that.
The Northern Coalition was now one of three major power blocs in New Eden alongside Band of Brothers and the rulers of the southeast, Lotka Volterra.
Mid-to-late 2006 was perhaps the most critical and complicated time in the history of EVE Online. This is when Band of Brothers began its assault on Ascendant Frontier, but it’s also the time when the many forces that arose as a result of the breakup of the Curse Alliance went to war.
Within the span of only a few months, the mostly-Russian group Red Alliance arose as the dominant force in the southeast, and then was crushed and removed from its territory. This is covered in-depth in the opening chapter of this book, “The Siege of C-J6MT and the War for Insmother.”
Just a couple months before Band of Brothers would invade Ascendant Frontier, Red Alliance had lost a war against a swath of powerful enemies known as the Coalition of the South.
The Coalition wanted only to remove Red Alliance from what it viewed as its rightful territory, and once that was achieved it divvied up the turf and went along on its way. Of its members (Chimaera Pact, Knights of the Southern Cross, Lotka Volterra, and Veritas Immortalis) Lotka Volterra got the best picks: it staked its claims way down south in Tenerifis, Omist, and part of Detorid. This was rich territory, and it was far from the front lines in the north. Wicked Creek and Insmother were still battlegrounds, but Lotka Volterra’s territory bordered only Ascendant Frontier which, as previously mentioned, was largely isolationist and posed no threat of invasion.
In its southern cocoon, Lotka Volterra grew wealthy and powerful. Its ranks included a corporation called Shinra that was known as one of the best fighting forces in New Eden, and now its new territory gave it a chance to build as well. While Red Alliance was making its stand at C-J6MT, several of the top corporations in Chimaera Pact voted to transfer and become part of Lotka Volterra. In the terms of the deal, Lotka Volterra was also gifted the regions of Detorid and most of Insmother.
As the owner of three and a half regions, Lotka Volterra was now second only to Band of Brothers in the breadth of its empire.
But before we can move on to what happened in the wake of the fall of Ascendant Frontier, we have to briefly go back to 2004. Because in 2004, far away from the Great Northern War, something happened that would change EVE Online forever: the Goons arrived in force in New Eden.
Up to this point in the history of EVE Online there is a relatively clear progression of power. For the most part, those who began playing the game in 2003 had clear advantages over those who started in 2004. Their knowledge of the game was far greater, their pockets were far deeper, and their hangars were filled with more advanced ships.
However, that began to change in 2004 with a unique event: a migration. Many new players from all corners of the Internet began to experiment with EVE. All of the original powers of EVE Online migrated from different games that preceded EVE (Earth & Beyond, Homeworld, Jumpgate, Elite, etc.) but this was one of the first major arrivals of new players since then.
These types of player influxes had been rare in the past because for about the first 18 months of its lifespan, EVE Online was sold in a box in stores. The game was originally published by Simon and Schuster Interactive, a branch of the well-known book publisher that dabbled in games distribution. But the “interactive” branch of the company was shut down. That meant EVE Online’s distribution rights now belonged to a company that no longer distributed games.
It took CCP Games some time to negotiate and buy back the rights to distribute the game. EVE Online was not yet a hit, and CCP Games could have simply let EVE perish and moved on to creating a new title. But the company stuck by it and opted to negotiate for the right to continue working on their own game.
CCP Games got the rights back in its possession, but it was hardly capable of distributing a boxed video game internationally from its Icelandic headquarters. And so the company decided to take a big risk—it began selling EVE exclusively through the Internet. This gave EVE the ability to become a viral hit. On several different corners of the internet, established EVE players began recruiting others to join since they could now easily download it over the Internet.
This allowed for a new influx of players from many different backgrounds. No longer was every major player group a descendent of a different space-based online strategy game. One small group of players hailed from the forums at the site SomethingAwful.com, whose members call themselves “Goons.” The Goons that joined EVE Online would one day be legendary, but they began humbly.
EIGHT FAILED DREAMS
The first Goon corporation was torn apart by internal squabbling, but the Goons reformed elsewhere as Red Hammer Industries, which was similarly shattered. This time it wasn’t drama that hobbled the nascent Goon presence—but theft. A Goon with access to the main corporate hangar absconded with billions of ISK worth of materials, mostly minerals and mining yield. The thief was never caught and the resulting fracas tore the young corporation apart.
The next Goon alliance, called Free State Project, fell apart after a Goon stole ore from a larger enemy corporation that then used the theft as cause to begin killing any Goon they saw. The members scattered shortly after. On and on it went. Eight times the Goons organized themselves and eight times they were scattered for different reasons.
“Goon corporations in EVE have been a history of failed dreams,” wrote Remedial, the Goons’ first major leader, in retrospect.
Eventually a few Goons came together to form yet another corporation called Goonfleet. At its core, Goonfleet had several veterans of EVE Online, but the bulk of its membership were new players in the game who had been encouraged to join EVE by their friends at SomethingAwful.com. In a series of recruitment drives, Goonfleet pilots invited other Goons to join the game. The organization didn’t have grand ambitions of space conquest. The Goons just liked to get as many people online as possible, in the crappiest ships possible, to see what they could pull off.
The key difference between Goonfleet and the failed corporations that came before it was an emphasis on teaching beginners. Goonfleet lavished attention on players who were just joining the game, and took time to teach them the basics. While others in EVE would scoff at new players and refused to recruit anyone who wasn’t a trusted friend or a renowned veteran, the Goons welcomed new players, provided they were true blood “Goons” with a history on the SomethingAwful.com forums. The new approach to dealing with new players drove hundreds of new pilots to join Goonfleet.
With the direction of their leader, Remedial, more and more players joined the game under the Goonfleet banner. The corporation grew to over a thousand members—too large to simply fall apart from internal drama—and it became the sideshow of EVE Online. The veterans of EVE Online laughed at the naivety of this swarming pack of new players in terrible ships. Goonfleet embraced this idea, and co-opted the idea of the “swarm” for its own self-image. Its pilots adopted the mascot of a chubby, cigar-smoking bumblebee wearing a World War 1-era German helmet, which they appropriately named “Fat Bee.” Their battlecry: “We’re terrible at this game!”
Many in the EVE universe at the time wrote off Goonfleet as a swarm of internet trolls who just wanted to ruin everyone’s day. There was some truth to that. The Goons would openly use coarse language that made many people uncomfortable. To be clear, the use of slurs and other harsh language is common in many online communities and EVE Online is no exception. What made the Goons unique in the EVE community wasn’t their use of this kind of language, but their use of it in alliance-level communications and in leadership speeches. The Goons refused to change the way they talked or acted regardless of whether their audience was a few friends, a few thousand alliance mates, or tens of thousands in the wider EVE community. They mocked the pomp and pageantry with which other leaders at the time carried themselves. There was an authenticity to the blue collar attitude of the Goons, and it proved to be a great social strength of the organization.
But behind the irreverent attitude, there was a social genius to the way the Goons approached the game. In essence, their morale was unassailable because they deliberately under-inflated their self-image. According to some sources, the name “Goon” was intended as a way of turning the stereotype of basement-dwelling internet cretins against itself by publicly owning it. The Goons of EVE Online demeaned themselves publicly and claimed to not care what happened to their ships or their territory.
This was in stark contrast to how things had been run before the Goons’ arrival in New Eden. For some of the best player groups in the game, pride was a resource. Skilled pilots could build up their egos after winning a string of battles, but it was only a matter of time until they were humbled. And when they were, the illusion of mastery could unfold and unravel the social fabric of the group. If your corporation is based on being the best, what happens when you lose?
The Goons prided themselves on being the worst. So when they lost, they laughed. When they won, they laughed harder. The Goons represented a new crop of EVE Online players, and some of the old guard didn’t like them at all. Groups like Band of Brothers tended to view them as disrespectful of the history and power structure of the game.
“They had this attitude of, ‘We can do whatever we want; we can say whatever we want; nobody is going to hold us accountable for our actions,’” said Band of Brothers’ SirMolle in 2014, who was essentially the most powerful person in New Eden at the time Goonfleet was founded.
But Goonfleet was fueled by this dislike, and began to see itself as fighting against the established order. Its leadership decided to actually buy advertisements on the Something Awful forums to attract new recruits. Goonfleet’s ranks soared and eventually reached 1,300 players, the population cap for a corporation in EVE Online in 2005. By contrast, Band of Brothers was the most powerful organization in the game at that time and had about 1,000 players.
This isn’t to say Goonfleet could have put up a fight against Band of Brothers. The Goons were still largely teaching their brand-new pilots how to fly their ships, and trying to figure out exactly what to do with this absurdly large mob of people.
Despite Band of Brothers’ disdain for the Goons, when the massive Goonfleet began to take shape, many leaders of EVE Online’s biggest empires took a liking to them. Goonfleet was a fun-loving and interesting group compared to the very serious alliances that populated nullsec. But Goonfleet’s reputation among the other major groups of the era began to erode. The most notable moment came when Goonfleet’s leader, Remedial, had been seen explicitly mocking the real world death of a Band of Brothers member—this attracted the ire of Band of Brothers’ leadership. This event would come back to haunt Goonfleet later as it continued to be a source of anger between the two.
By now, Goonfleet had taken up residence in the region of Syndicate. Syndicate is ruled by a fictional in-game pirate faction. The region can’t be conquered by player groups, but the Goons based their operations here. Syndicate was the crib of Goon-kind. The Goons would say that this was where the little bees learned to fly.
With constant training, Goonfleet soon became a proper corporation, and its leaders wanted to take territory of their own in nullsec. Goonfleet’s numbers had grown past the maximum limit for a single corporation, so the Goons started multiple new corporations under the alliance banner “Goonswarm.” Whereas most alliances were conglomerates of corporations from many different groups of players, the Goonswarm was an alliance all to itself.
With starry eyes, Goonswarm invaded the nullsec region nearest to Syndicate and found itself fighting NORAD, veterans of the Great Northern War, in Cloud Ring.
The invasion went quite well for Goonswarm. This was a minor event in the grand scheme of nullsec drama, so details are scarce, but the first battles were reportedly won by Goonswarm. The Goons taunted NORAD and called them a waning power that could no longer hold its own territory.
The leader of Goonswarm, Remedial, made a private offer to the CEO of NORAD: surrender this space, and we’ll give you 72 hours to evacuate your assets. However, Goon spies under the direction of their intelligence officer, The Mittani, discovered that the NORAD CEO never delivered the terms of surrender to the rest of the alliance.
Goon-leader Remedial deemed that this was a failure of leadership, and decided to publicly announce the terms of surrender on the EVE forums for all NORAD members to see. It didn’t go over the way he hoped. Other leaders in the world of EVE saw the surrender conditions as premature and arrogant. The surrender conditions were still rejected, the war continued, and it hurt the reputation of the Goonswarm in the eyes of other leaders.
It was at this same time that a member of Goonswarm posted a crude stick-figure comic online depicting the death of the Band of Brothers player that Remedial was caught mocking, and poking fun at Band of Brothers’ outrage. The player—named Vincent van Weert, or Smoske in-game—played EVE Online with his father, who was still a member of Band of Brothers. The drawing was posted on SomethingAwful.com, but eventually leaked to the rest of the EVE community.
Band of Brothers was furious at the continued lack of respect shown for one of their own. Still today, Band of Brothers leaders recall this as a time they let their emotions get the better of them. They declared their intent to move north to Cloud Ring, aid the embattled NORAD, and put an end to Goonswarm’s nascent nullsec ambitions. NORAD itself also banded together with northern allies as part of the new northern military coalition, Dusk and Dawn. The other major power nearby, Ascendant Frontier (located in the South) wasn’t willing to risk angering Band of Brothers and aligned itself against the Goons as well.
After a month of battling, Goonswarm was putting up a good fight in its attempt to take Cloud Ring from the newly-formed Dusk and Dawn alliance (which would eventually form the military backbone of the Northern Coalition), but its opposition was too strong. The Goons had even managed to become the temporary owners of the capital system in the region (XZH-4X), but Dusk and Dawn regrouped, took it back, and began sweeping Goonswarm from the region. There were huge losses on both sides. Over 2,000 ships were reportedly destroyed in the war for Cloud Ring, but Dusk and Dawn alliance had held fast. Goonswarm sounded the retreat and evacuated its assets back into Syndicate.
However, the furious Band of Brothers fleet was now on its way to Syndicate, and it was about to drop the full might of its established war machine on the embattled Goonswarm. The Goons had just lost a month-long campaign for Cloud Ring, and now would have to fight a war in their own territory against an even more powerful adversary.
As he so often did, SirMolle took to the EVE Online forums to announce his campaign against Goonswarm in one of the most famous posts ever.
“There are no goons,” he wrote. “This is as personal as it will ever get. Goodbye.”
What happened next could barely be called a battle. Band of Brothers arrived at the Goons’ home in Syndicate in vastly better ships and with a veteran’s command of the game. It steamrolled Goonswarm and set up blockades around all of its stations in the region. Band of Brothers wasn’t preventing the Goons from entering the stations; it was preventing them from leaving. For an entire week, Band of Brothers organized round-the-clock blockades to ensure no Goon could fly. The Goons, for their part, mostly wanted to wait out Band of Brothers, to see if its pilots would get bored enough to leave. They made a hobby out of flying the cheapest ships in the game right into the waiting arms of Band of Brothers’ blockade. Band of Brothers left the Goons’ home after flexing for a week. SirMolle couldn’t eradicate Goonswarm entirely, but he’d made his point.
Not everyone believes that Band of Brothers came to Syndicate just to get revenge for a despicable joke made by a Goon.
“As soon as we demonstrated that we were a threat to the established order, [Band of Brothers] dropped what they were doing, concocted an excuse, and said that we were terrible people and a cancer on EVE, and that we needed to be removed from the game for the good of the community,” said Goonswarm spymaster The Mittani in 2014. He believes firmly that Band of Brothers’ leadership was feigning offense as an excuse to attack the Goons.
“There was a lot of clutching of pearls and cases of the vapors,” he said.
Regardless of the true casus belli, Goonswarm had been stopped cold in Cloud Ring, and now was being hit hard in its home region.
Dusk and Dawn would say it won the battle that counted the most by breaking the Goons in Cloud Ring. Band of Brothers would say it delivered the final blow in a vicious one-two combo. But Goonswarm would also claim victory in this conflict, because for the Goons this was a proof-of-concept. The Goons were beaten and bloodied, but they showed they could go toe-to-toe with a major nullsec power, and even take their territory for a short time. They had proved that experience, skill, and technology could be trumped by sheer numbers and willpower.
This was the first time Goonswarm and Band of Brothers had come to blows, but it wouldn’t be the last. This small skirmish in Syndicate was the opening shot in what would become EVE Online’s most historic rivalry, and which would one day come to shape the face of the game.
But before the Goons could hope to challenge the strongest powers of nullsec, they needed to form alliances. They examined their options for political partnerships, and reached out to the one group in the game who seemed to have everything the Goons could want in an ally: the Russians.
In June of 2006, three men sat at the bar in a dimly lit Irish Pub called Fado’s. The pub was on a busy street in Washington D.C, but it had an old soul. There were black stone walls and a fireplace with a black cauldron. Not that you’d light a fireplace in a humid D.C. summer.
One of the men was a young D.C. corporate defense lawyer. The second was a computer specialist who worked in information security for a company that prints Bibles. The third was an IT expert for the US State Department who was between missions to far-flung US embassies.
You wouldn’t know it judging from the volume of alcohol they were consuming, but this was a diplomatic meeting. They were waiting for a Russian-born construction worker from Brooklyn who represented the struggling-yet-powerful Russian spaceship union Red Alliance. His name was Mikhail Romanchenko, but everyone in EVE knew him by his character’s name: UAxDeath. “Death” for short.
The three men at the bar were the leaders of the Goonswarm Intelligence Agency: Alexander Gianturco, Sean Conover, and Sean Smith. They’re better known by their names in EVE Online: The Mittani, Darius JOHNSON, and Vile Rat.
They met up in this Washington D.C bar because they’d been asked by Remedial, the leader of Goonswarm, to size up a potential ally. They’d negotiated with Death many times in EVE, but the trio had been spying and hunting spies for so long they no longer trusted anyone through a computer screen. This was a deal that needed to be sealed with a handshake.
Death walked into the pub. He shook hands with the three men, and the deal was done. They ordered another round. There wasn’t any negotiation. The terms of the deal had already been laid out and were well understood by this point. Vile Rat in particular had been in touch with the Russians for weeks to structure the agreement, and the Goons’ leader, Remedial, had already signed off on the proposal. Vile Rat had brokered a deal that had enormous potential for both the Goons and the Russians, and the terms were simple: The Goons and the Russians would fight as one. The handshake was the final part of the deal. Both parties needed to prove to each other that they had the conviction to give their word in person, face to face.
After being crushed by the Coalition of the South in early April 2006, Red Alliance leaders understood that they couldn’t go it alone anymore and still hope to be a power in nullsec. Their tenacity would only take them so far.
The Russian community was largely reviled by much of the player base of EVE. In retrospect, much of it seems to have been basic xenophobia. Certainly the Russians had been demonized by the Americans and Europeans in the Coalition of the South. As Russians, their diplomatic options were limited simply because of the stigma that was attached to the Russian identity in this era of the game. Russian players were frequently stereotyped, accused of cheating, or of having mafia connections. It’s likely impossible to prove if Russian players cheated at a higher frequency than people of other nationalities, but personally I find it difficult to believe.
So when Red Alliance leaders Mactep and Death went searching for allies, they looked for someone who was just as hated as the Russians. They wanted to form a coalition of pariahs. They found Goonswarm. The Goons had just been crushed in their home region of Syndicate by Band of Brothers, and they were looking for a new strategy.
“They were hated by fucking everybody,” Death said to me in 2014. “Goons were so hated. We talked, and figured we had a lot of mutual goals. Goons had nothing to lose because Band of Brothers kicked them up so bad.”
Goonswarm couldn’t have asked for someone better to take control of these negotiations. Sean Smith, aka Vile Rat, had spent much of his career in close proximity to some of the best diplomats in the world, working in places like Baghdad and Pretoria.
In a matter of weeks, Death and Vile Rat had brokered a deal. The more they talked, the more they began to understand how perfect the union actually was.
The Russians of Red Alliance were few in number, but they were passionate and highly skilled. They were grizzled old veterans who knew the game inside and out. Goonswarm was the opposite. It had an incredible number of pilots, but they flew in cheap ships and had little in the way of game knowledge. Goonswarm would have been the underdog that everyone rooted for if it wasn’t intentionally uncouth.
Beyond being complementary assets in battle, they were also from opposite sides of the globe. The primarily American Goons matched well with the entirely Russian Red Alliance because they could cover each other’s back during their respective off-hours. While the Goons slept, the Russians were wide awake, and vice versa. Both organizations would still be independent, but they agreed to work together toward the same long-term goals.
In the following note, Goonswarm’s The Mittani laid out his own reasons for agreeing to the union with Red Alliance in a message to the Goons. Chronologically, this took place before the events of the previous chapter “The Ascendant Frontier War.”
“The way I see it, there are five superpowers in EVE. If we’re to withstand the fact that most of the galaxy hates us, we need to buddy up with one of them. Not necessarily be slaves or whatnot, but work closely with one of them as long term partners versus the rest of the galaxy.
1: Band of Brothers: lawl.
2: Dusk and Dawn: Lose too many [dreadnoughts], not really so tough after all.
Ascendant Frontier: Only wants to make money, no strategic initiative, sold us out to BoB
4: Southern Coalition/LV: Sold us out, can’t beat the Russians with a 6,000 to 800 ratio
5: Red Alliance: Have fought for three years against approx ten thousand hostiles and survived/prospered, have no allies at all, and are accused of everything we Goons are accused of.
What really scares me about the Reds is that they don’t follow the normal rules of alliances. Usually if you defeat an alliance they shatter. The Reds have lost all their territory and still come back with disciplined, vicious, and effective assaults against innumerable foes, and they’ve been in non-stop combat for almost three full years now. It’s just insane.
Endgame, I see Goons as a superpower. We’ll be one of that group. And when we’re throwing down in the final battle to divvy up the spoils of the universe, we’ll either be allied with the Reds and wreaking havoc, or we’ll have allied with one of the other superpowers and we’ll have to be fighting against the Reds. And while I see us beating all the other superpowers, I do not see us beating the Reds. So we’ll have to ally with them. ^_^”
— The Mittani, Goonswarm Spymaster
September 8, 2006
This was a prophetic, groundbreaking moment in the history of New Eden. Since the fall of the Curse Alliance, the Russians hadn’t been too keen on using diplomacy to achieve their goals. The in-fighting and civil wars of the fall of Curse had seemingly left them unwilling to trust outsiders. But now they were using the olive branch as well as the laser cannon. After the invasion by the Coalition of the South (detailed in the opening chapter of this book) Red Alliance was left with no choice but to seek out allies.
The Goons had a lot of trust issues to get over as well. For the past year, the Coalition of the South had been spouting anti-Russian propaganda to hurt the reputation of their enemies and feed negative stereotypes around the Russian nationality. It had worked, and some people within the ranks of the Goonswarm were hesitant to ally with people they’d come to see as untrustworthy cheaters. That the two sides didn’t share a language didn’t help matters.
“It was like speaking to angry aliens from the planet of Murder or something,” The Mittani told a journalist from the website Shacknews in 2007 about two of the Russian leaders, Mactep and Nync. “Russian is an extremely unusual language to listen to if you’re not used to it. Mactep has a very deep voice and sounds like a gangster... He would speak in a bunch of Russian and [his lieutenant and translator] Nync would ‘speak for’ him.”
It took a master diplomat to cross these divides, and luckily, the Goons had one. Vile Rat, one of the Goons sitting at the bar in the Irish pub, was a busy man in those days. Most people who play EVE engage in a variety of activities like mining, fighting, exploring, and tooling around in spaceships with friends. For Vile Rat, EVE was only ever about espionage and diplomacy.
He wasn’t just investigating Red Alliance as possible allies. He was investigating just about everyone who might sign a treaty with the Goons. That included Red Alliance’s blood enemies Lotka Volterra. Vile Rat owned many characters in EVE Online. Like a man with many passports, he used these alternate characters to infiltrate and hide himself within the ranks of Lotka Volterra, assessing its wealth, its territory, and its military preparedness. When Lotka Volterra spearheaded the Coalition of the South’s attack on Red Alliance at the Siege of C-J6MT, Vile Rat was there.
He would later recall that day as one that helped convince him that the Russians were the future of Goonswarm. He watched Lotka Volterra fail to crush a pest that was one-tenth its size.
“On one hand you had a group that had all the power in the world, but just not enough willpower to enforce their will upon their enemies,” Vile Rat told Shacknews in 2007. “On the other side you had a group that had little power left at all, but enough drive to take on the universe alone.”
It was to be a union of thousands upon thousands of players, including some of the most devious spymasters and ruthless tacticians the game had ever seen, but they still maintained a self-image of the bullied nerds.
Eight years later, the Goons still echo these sentiments, and they remember Band of Brothers as the bullies. Darius JOHNSON described Band of Brothers to me as jocks who bragged about their fighting skills and their beautiful girlfriends. It was a stereotype that was just as unfair as any stereotype, but it came to represent Band of Brothers in the eyes of many Goons after one Band of Brothers member alluded to being a kickboxer with an attractive sexual partner.
It’s very hard to imagine the kickboxing-jocks label being an entirely accurate assessment, but as with so many things in EVE Online its veracity isn’t as important as its impact.
Just three weeks after their epic stand at the Siege of C-J6MT, the Russians of Red Alliance now had a new hope: RedSwarm.
The Russians only controlled between six and ten systems in the heart of Insmother. With the Goons now by its side, Red Alliance planned to re-conquer the whole of the southeast. Goonswarm wanted to move past its defeat in Syndicate and take its place as one of the major powers in nullsec. Though he wasn’t able to be there at the bar for the meeting, Remedial announced the plan in one of the first “State of the Goonion” addresses.
“I ask now that we accept Syndicate not as our true home in the universe, but as our shared memory: a flicker of light in EVE’s darkness and isolation. I ask not that we throw it aside, or toss it into the trash like so much crumpled paper, but that we lay it to rest with honor like a retired flag. Syndicate will always be ours in spirit, for it once stood for our dreams of unity and hope for the future.
But all good things must come to an end. As we once lived amongst the stars of JQV5-9 and called it our home, that chapter of our history has come to an end. The first volume has been written, and I lay it on the altar of the brotherhood of Goons for all to judge. I ask for a moment of silence now, for our sacrifices here, and for Syndicate, our first homeland.
It is time to begin a new chapter in our lives. This tale will be one of conquest. Of strife and exaltation, of seemingly insurmountable challenges and impossible victories, captured from the jaws of those who once hunted us for sport. It is our turn to write the future of the South, and we will go not to hunt our enemies for sport, but to extinguish them forever.
We will approach this new adventure as Goonswarm always has: by biting off more than anybody else could chew, and surpassing all expectations. We will invade the South, take their outposts, build our own, and lay waste to all who oppose us.”
—Remedial, CEO, Goonswarm
September 28, 2006
The Coalition was still trying to figure out how to deal with Red Alliance following its resurgence in the southeast after the Siege of C-J6MT, and now it would have to contend with the formidable manpower of Goonswarm. The Coalition believed that the best way to prevent this situation from getting out of control was to prevent Goonswarm and Red Alliance from uniting their fleets. The Coalition moved its pilots to the key systems that connected the eastern nullsec territories to empire space, hoping to blockade the area and prevent the Goons from reaching the Russians with their reinforcements and supplies. The move ultimately failed, and the Goons were able to run the blockade and unite with Red Alliance.
The arrival of the Goons marked a new stage of the war against the Coalition of the South. It was like a slow motion domino effect.
The Coalition of the South began in early 2006 as a unification of Lotka Volterra, Knights of the Southern Cross, Chimaera Pact, and Veritas Immortalis. While Lotka Volterra and Veritas Immortalis were focused on cutting off the Goons’ route into the southeast, Chimaera Pact guarded the rear in Immensea and Detorid. Knights of the Southern Cross focused its defense on a single system in Insmother: N7-BIY. There are three systems that truly matter in Insmother: C-J6MT, F2A-GX, and N7-BIY. After the Coalition lost in the Siege of C-J6MT, it also evacuated F2A-GX, which is just four jumps away. But in N7-BIY, the Coalition of the South battened down the hatches and got ready to defend against the RedSwarm advance.
With 20 starbases anchored in the system, the battle planners in Knights of the Southern Cross thought they could defend N7-BIY easily. They were wrong. The Red Alliance/Goonswarm fleet that assaulted the system outnumbered the defenders six to one and overran the stronghold. Knights of the Southern Cross begged the Coalition of the South High Command to commit its most valuable capital ships—dreadnoughts—to the defense of the system, but the request was denied. The Coalition of the South leaders declared N7-BIY and the entire region of Insmother a lost cause.
Knights of the Southern Cross hastily began evacuating everything it could from N7-BIY, sneaking by in the hours when RedSwarm forces weren’t as active. It managed to get about 70 percent of its assets out, but was forced to leave behind all of its starbases, an important loss for the Coalition.
Knights of the Southern Cross regrouped in the nearest major system and prepared its new line of defense. Its members were outraged that their allies in the Coalition of the South did not come to their aid; about half of its personnel decided they’d had enough of this toxic situation and left the alliance. Naturally, this created distance in the relationship between Knights of the Southern Cross and the larger coalition.
Abandoned by its allies, Knights of the Southern Cross became increasingly bitter. Constant argument erupted between the alliance’s leaders and the other leaders in the Coalition of the South. Eventually, fighting broke out and Knights of the Southern Cross ships were engaged in combat with other ships from the Coalition of the South. In the aftermath, Knights of the Southern Cross not only renounced its alliance with the Coalition of the South, but formally allied itself with RedSwarm Federation.
To make matters worse, Veritas Immortalis was now dealing with its own local war to the north in the Great Wildlands. By November 2006, The Coalition of the South was falling apart. The showdown in the southeast was now coming to a head between the last major power—Lotka Volterra—and RedSwarm Federation.
RedSwarm Federation worked hard to consolidate power in the south and east. It found many new allies as it convinced smaller alliances that the old guard of the south was dead. The new face of EVE Online, it boasted, was RedSwarm Federation. These smaller alliances signed up in droves to get in on the ground floor of a brand new power in EVE Online. Joining Red Alliance, Goonswarm, and Tau Ceti Federation were Interstellar Alcohol Conglomerate, United Legion, SMASH Alliance, Roadkill, and Ka-Tet. None was particularly powerful on its own, but together they became an imposing force.
The 70 Russians that held off the Siege of C-J6MT were now among the leaders of a coalition that represented as many as 15,000 players.
But Lotka Volterra was still very wealthy, and it had focused all of its attention on defending against the armada at its doorstep. Lotka Volterra was an alliance that defied easy description. It didn’t have the elite combat pilots of Band of Brothers or the master builders of Ascendant Frontier, but was someplace in between. Lotka Volterra was considered an industrial power, but it was also at the head of a coalition that had swept Red Alliance off the map two months earlier. It seems from a historical vantage point that Lotka Volterra’s talent was for diplomacy. It had managed to secure itself a fortress in the deep south completely surrounded by allies. Lotka Volterra built the Coalition of the South, and it was also previously allied with Ascendant Frontier and well-liked by Band of Brothers.
THE BATTLE FOR SCALDING PASS
By late November 2006, the war against Knights of the Southern Cross had ended. RedSwarm Federation had effectively driven a wedge straight through the middle of the Coalition of the South and could now aid insurgents in nearby Scalding Pass in taking down Veritas Immortalis, a staunch ally of Lotka Volterra and one of the few remaining members of the Coalition of the South.
RedSwarm managed to gain its first foothold in the Scalding Pass region thanks to a negligent mistake by Veritas Immortalis. With the war raging, Veritas had agreed to allow an ally named OPUS to take over management and maintenance of the valuable system JLO-Z3. The system contained a refinery and was one of the gateway systems into Scalding Pass from RedSwarm-held territory.
In order to give OPUS control, Veritas needed to move its starbases out of the system and OPUS needed to move in its own. Veritas Immortalis began shutting down its starbases and moving out of the system, but it never bothered to check to see if OPUS’s directors were online and ready to move in their own starbases. Without any active starbases anchored, the system had no owner, and RedSwarm caught wind of the mistake. Within hours it gathered a fleet of hundreds of pilots, shut down the system, set up blockades around every stargate and starbase, and started anchoring its own starbases. Within a very short time, RedSwarm had seized control of a foothold in Scalding Pass.
But it was only a foothold. The real target was 1V-LI2, the heart of the region and the headquarters of Veritas Immortalis. On December 8, 2006, RedSwarm Federation rallied its fleets and made a move to hit 1V-LI2. If successful, the offensive would close out the northern front of the war and deal a devastating blow to the Coalition of the South. Veritas Immortalis and Lotka Volterra knew it was a crucial system, and they were committed to defending it.
From the newly acquired stronghold in JLO-Z3, just a few systems to the north, RedSwarm Federation moved in with a fleet of 200 battleships and dozens of capital ships and besieged the defenses of Veritas Immortalis. The armada moved as one unit from starbase to starbase, enforcing its will upon the home system of its archrivals. The RedSwarm ships blasted the infrastructure of the system unopposed until a small enemy probe frigate appeared in the middle of their fleet. It was shot down almost immediately, but not before it could deploy a cynosural field. A cynosural field looks like an electric ball coursing with pink light, and it is used as a navigation point for capital ships and subcapitals teleported from a Titan many systems away. The RedSwarm fleet commander assumed Veritas was getting ready to warp in its forces for a major engagement. It gathered up and prepared for a huge fight.
Suddenly white light engulfed the monitors of three hundred RedSwarm pilots, then darkness, then a log-on screen. The EVE Online server crashed.
In a frenzy, all 300 rushed to log back into the game as quickly as possible, and one by one they discovered why the server had crashed. The wreckage of 217 RedSwarm Federation ships littered the system. The cynosural field had been used to remotely detonate the Doomsday weapon of a Titan.
RedSwarm Federation had not prepared for this possibility, because its leaders had no idea Lotka Volterra possessed a Titan in the first place. The valuable warship had been built in secrecy in the heart of Lotka Volterra space. Nearly every RedSwarm battleship that had been brought to 1V-LI2 was now a wreck, and worse, the more durable capital ships were now completely exposed with no support fleet. But the fight wasn’t over.
RedSwarm’s carrier fleet rushed into the system carrying an armada of reinforcements. Goonswarm’s own leader, Remedial, flew one of them and doled out new ships to the eager RedSwarm pilots. Within minutes, the entire RedSwarm fleet was replaced, and the fight was back on.
RedSwarm was unstoppable. The most devastating blast in the history of EVE Online by a multiple of ten had only served to momentarily stop the advance of the RedSwarm Federation. With its fleet ready for battle once again, RedSwarm continued its siege of Veritas’ defenses and overwhelmed the system. Lotka Volterra’s Titan was able to retreat, but the capital system of Veritas Immortalis fell into the hands of RedSwarm.
Goonswarm wasn’t just showing off the power of its swarm-tactics. It was showing off the discipline of its pilots and the strategic mastery of its fleet commanders. It was the fleet commanders who had the foresight to stockpile an entire second fleet’s worth of ships, and the dutiful coordination of the grunt pilots to get re-shipped and back in the fight in a matter of minutes.
Veritas Immortalis fell into a failure cascade after the loss of its headquarters at 1V-LI2. Even after causing the most destructive single moment in the history of EVE Online, it had lost the battle, and its morale was broken. It continued to defend Scalding Pass and the Great Wildlands into the new year, but by mid-January Veritas Immortalis was erased from the map.
THE GREAT WAR LOOMS
This war against Veritas Immortalis gave Lotka Volterra about two months to reinforce its home territories, and it used that time well.
It was January 2007 now, and Lotka Volterra had built up its capital fleet. The Titan it had unveiled at the battle for 1V-LI2 was its great hope. It was the flagship around which the alliance would rally in the defense of Lotka Volterra’s sovereign territory.
Armed with a Titan, Lotka Volterra was a formidable fighting force, but diplomacy was its strength and its leaders were lobbying for support from a powerful new ally: Band of Brothers. Lotka Volterra and BoB’s leaders were on friendly terms, and the fact that Band of Brothers hated both Goonswarm and Red Alliance made it highly interested in supporting Lotka Volterra. Lotka Volterra was going to need SirMolle’s help to win the coming war.
THE GREAT EVE WAR BEGINS
The New Eden star cluster was now more or less evenly divided into three main power blocs: Band of Brothers and Lotka Volterra in the south and West, RedSwarm Federation in the southeast, and the Northern Coalition in the north.
This triumvirate might have brought some stability to the game, but the politics were too messy. There was bad blood to spare, and many scores left to settle. New Eden was once again a powder keg, and the fuse was about to be lit.
THE INTELLIGENCE WAR
As Lotka Volterra and RedSwarm prepared for an epic confrontation, one rogue agent contacted The Mittani of Goonswarm to offer his services as an intelligence agent. He was no ordinary agent. He was a hacker, and he was selling his unique services to the highest bidder.
The hacker went by the name Kugutsumen, and he offered to break into Lotka Volterra’s out-of-game forums and emails to expose its plans and weaknesses. The Mittani declined the offer. He already had access to a sleeper agent—a high-ranking official who had secretly defected to Goonswarm—who provided all the intel he needed on Lotka Volterra.
A few days later, The Mittani’s sleeper agent sent an urgent message: private Goonswarm communications were being discussed by other Lotka Volterra leaders. There was a leak at the highest level of Goonswarm.
“It began with emergency private director meetings, because at first we had no idea if the leak was evidence of a traitor or something worse,” wrote The Mittani. “After a frantic phone call to our server admin, we determined the truth: we had been hacked.”
After being turned down by Goonswarm, Kugutsumen had approached Lallante, a high-ranking fleet commander in Lotka Volterra, and made him the same offer he made The Mittani. Lallante accepted and agreed to pay him a huge sum of 500 million ISK per week for access to the Goonswarm director forums. Kugutsumen even got him into the account of Remedial, Goonswarm’s leader.
Kugutsumen wasn’t finished though. The Mittani’s spies in a Band of Brothers ally called Xelas Alliance told him that The Mittani’s emails were showing up in Xelas Alliance’s forums. It turned out that Kugutsumen had also approached Xelas, and as a demonstration of his abilities, he had given them screenshots of The Mittani’s email discussion with his spy inside Xelas Alliance.
“We discovered in a fury of research in the aftermath of the hacking [that] Kugutsumen was the ‘real thing,’” wrote The Mittani in retrospect. “While a teenager in France, he had been convicted of defrauding the FBI of $250,000, and had since fled to Jakarta, Indonesia—a place where the anti-hacking laws are so hilariously lax that it has become an international center for the ‘computer security’ industry. The man was a security professional (with a penchant for setting up swanky nightclubs in his spare time, it turned out), and we had no legal recourse whatsoever.”
What happened next surprised even The Mittani. Kugutsumen contacted The Mittani again and told him everything he’d done. He told The Mittani that when his hack into the Goonswarm forums was discovered and shut down, Lallante refused to pay him for the service. Now all he wanted was revenge against his deadbeat client, so he was willing to dig into Goonswarm’s enemies for free.
“That act of hubris may come to be known as one of the most foolish and self-destructive decisions made in the game, because Kugutsumen promptly outed Lallante to me and began actively working against Lotka Volterra and its allies,” The Mittani wrote.
Now seeking revenge against Lotka Volterra, Kugutsumen turned his eye toward its allies as well. Namely, Band of Brothers. As he hacked into Band of Brothers’ private accounts, he scanned through its members’ communications until he found something that would change the face of EVE Online forever.
THE T20 SCANDAL
February of 2007 is one of those rare moments in the history of EVE where the true version of events is likely lost to history. The drama was so chaotic and politically charged that even seven years later it’s hard to know whom to trust to tell the definitive version of the tale—if anyone can.
On January 30, 2007, Kugutsumen published the first part of a series called “Reikoku makes its own luck.” Reikoku was a key member of Band of Brothers. Throughout six installments, Kugutsumen showed off alleged private messages and communications from high-ranking Band of Brothers directors engaging in illegal actions like account sharing—several players sharing the use of high-value in-game characters, which violated CCP Games’ Terms of Service. Most of them were relatively mundane accusations (most high-level player groups shared characters,) but a couple stuck out as highly scandalous.
The most shocking accusation was that Band of Brothers had in its ranks an employee of the game’s developer, CCP Games. It was common for developers to join high-level corporations, but their true identity was supposed to remain a closely guarded secret. Both players and CCP Games saw value in developers playing secretly alongside everyday players because that would ensure the developers understood what the game was like for the average EVE pilot. The developers would share all the average players’ complaints, and ideally would be more effective in improving the game. As long as nobody knew the developer’s true identity then the practice was considered mostly harmless. If their identity was known, however, alliance leaders might be tempted to ask for favors or come up with schemes to use the developer’s power to secure their alliance an advantage. The developer would have the power to spawn new items into the game that shouldn’t exist or to give information on enemy alliances that players shouldn’t have access to. Even little things like being able to use the developer to fix in-game bugs and glitches faster than other alliances was considered to be an unfair advantage. This situation was significant because the evidence suggested Band of Brothers’ directors knew who this developer really was.
Band of Brothers denied everything. “We play the game on a high level, we have a high profile, this isn’t the first accusations of [cheating], [hacking], and god knows what else that has been flung at us,” said SirMolle, leader of Band of Brothers, in a forum post at the time. “The tinfoil hattery is amazing, I know that you would love for us all to be framed for some conspiracy. Since we are all still here, all the accusations are totally baseless. There will be developers in every alliance in the game, and I for one do not want to know who is a developer or not. I want them to be in the middle of everything, from low level gaming, to high level gaming, so that they see the issues we all face, from day to day. Face it, you love the drama and the conspiracy theories, and that’s all there is, drama and conspiracy theories.”
One of the posts by the hacker Kugutsumen identified a CCP developer by the name of “CCP T20” as a high-level member within Band of Brothers. Worse, the post alleged that he had illegitimately used his developer powers to spawn items in the game which could create wealth for his alliance.
After an internal investigation, CCP Games determined that this particular accusation was true, and the company decided that the best way to deal with the situation was to come clean and resolve the situation publicly. T20 himself—whose real name was never revealed to the public—was made to write a post on CCP’s website apologizing for the impropriety.
“Regrettably, my actions inevitably led to a shadow of suspicion being cast on a number of my co-workers, as well as Reikoku and Band of Brothers,” read the confession, in part. “I wish to make it clear that I acted alone and my co-workers and corp/alliance mates have been cleared of any alleged wrongdoing. As much as this is a confession it is also a request for your forgiveness for events of which I’m truly sorry.”
The T20 scandal sparked the most intense controversy and outrage that either EVE or CCP had experienced. Players across the game were incensed, and the conventional wisdom spread that Band of Brothers was the pet alliance of CCP Games. This, many players thought, was the perfect explanation for BoB’s success over the past four years. Almost all of EVE Online now believed Band of Brothers to be cheaters, and this triggered a grassroots movement to drive it out of nullsec altogether.
The anger against Band of Brothers was real, and the fire was stoked by its enemies in nullsec. BoB the Conquerors became BoB the Cheaters. To stand against Band of Brothers became a social proxy for opposing developer overreach in favor of fairness. The community was enraged, and the anger united players who ordinarily would have been enemies. In true EVE fashion, the anti-Band of Brothers message became co-opted by rival leaders to serve their own ends as well.
“The Mittani, as much as hubris just drips from his every pore… he knew politics,” Dianabolic, one of the highest ranking leaders of Band of Brothers, recalled in an interview. “He knew propaganda. [He was] excellent at it. Without guys like him, [the controversy] would have petered out.”
Band of Brothers’ own coalition held fast though. Not everyone believed that the revelations of developer impropriety were worth a holy war, and so the Greater Band of Brothers Community maintained a healthy roster of allies.
This event also brought RedSwarm and the Northern Coalition into an alliance of convenience. They were so far apart geographically that they didn’t have to like each other; they just had to mutually agree that “Band of Developers” was too much of a threat to be allowed to survive. The T20 incident was the spark that set off this explosion, but Band of Brothers itself had created the conditions that allowed this type of mega-coalition of enemies to come together against it.
Band of Brothers was constantly antagonistic. It fought against everybody and schemed to conquer every star system possible. SirMolle had created a political climate in nullsec where Band of Brothers was feared and hated across New Eden. This was manageable when his enemies acted alone, because Band of Brothers could mop the floor with any single adversary. But the T20 malfeasance was a crystallizing moment that brought all of Band of Brothers’ enemies together. The adversaries of Band of Brothers knew that at this moment they had the political momentum needed to unite in a grand coalition to destroy Band of Brothers forever. Nothing else mattered more than destroying SirMolle’s empire. The stage was set for what we now know as the Great War.
THE GREAT WAR
This is where most people will tell you that EVE’s Great War began, but the true beginning of the war could be charted back to the dissolution of the Curse Alliance in 2004, or to the formation of the Coalition of the South to drive Red Alliance out of nullsec in 2005. This was a war that had been smouldering for years, and now had become a raging inferno that had the potential to bring every region of the game into a single massive war.
Band of Brothers was the largest empire the game had ever known. RedSwarm Federation was on the rise but lacked the firepower of the larger alliances. Lotka Volterra had demonstrated enormously effective use of its Titan’s Doomsday weapon, and the Northern Coalition was an untested force when it came to warfare on this scale. Nobody knew what would happen when these titanic forces collided, but everyone knew that the resulting conflict would shape the face of the game for years to come. The war was inevitable, and every alliance was trying to put itself in the best position possible once the situation spiraled out of control. RedSwarm decided that a quick attack was the best way to throw off the nascent Band of Brothers/Lotka Volterra coalition.
Goonswarm’s The Mittani described his alliance’s decision to invade Lotka Volterra despite the risk of it spiralling into a massive conflict in the following blog post.
I tend to think in terms of worst case scenarios. When we discussed the war, Remedial sold me on it with this simple logic: What is the worst current possible scenario we as an alliance could face? The answer is a combined Band of Brothers and Lotka Volterra strike. If Band of Brothers attacks us, it is absolutely 100% certain that LV will bandwagon with them to wreck us and our allies.
By contrast, if we attack Lotka Volterra, it is not 100% certain that Band of Brothers will suddenly come to save their bacon. Is it a possibility? Yes. But [it] is far from certain that Band of Brothers will intervene, while by contrast it is absolutely certain that Lotka Volterra would bandwagon against us should Band of Brothers hit us first.
This war is not about territory, it is about annihilating a threat to us, breaking their will and their morale and their conceptions of themselves to the point that they cease to be a strategic threat to us.
I’m aware of the [risk] that Band of Brothers will attack us in the middle of the Lotka Volterra campaign. But already Lotka Volterra pilots are showing strain from all the other anti-coalition campaigns, and I stand by the argument that it is better for us to go on the offensive and cut down the risk Lotka Volterra presents to us as much as possible before Band of Brothers intervenes, or could intervene.
— The Mittani, Goonswarm spymaster, RedSwarm Federation
THE INVASION OF LOTKA VOLTERRA
On January 22, 2007, RedSwarm Federation began its assault on Lotka Volterra’s sovereign territory. RedSwarm had already rolled over every other faction of the Coalition of the South, and was extremely confident going into what it viewed as the final stage of the war. RedSwarm assembled an impressive 300-strong fleet and made its way toward Detorid, the northernmost tip of Lotka Volterra’s empire.
This didn’t come as a surprise to the leaders of Lotka Volterra, who knew very well that the enemy fleet was on the way. Lotka Volterra formed a strong defense in the chokepoint system 4NDT-W, the logical RedSwarm attack point. All entry points into the system were sealed off, and Lotka Volterra even took the risk of fielding its Titan, piloted by an alliance leader named Chowdown. RedSwarm had no hope of succeeding with a frontal assault.
In response, RedSwarm split its forces and sent a flanking fleet 25 jumps out of its way—a detour of more than an hour—in order to attack the system from multiple entry points. When the forces finally arrived, they coordinated their attack on the system like a SWAT team busting down both the front and back door simultaneously.
Once inside the system, the RedSwarm flanking fleet ran headlong into the bulk of Lotka Volterra’s defense force. Just as quickly as the flanking fleet had arrived, it turned around and scampered off far into deep space to regroup and plan the fight. Meanwhile, Sesfan Qulah—Goonswarm’s top fleet commander—took the bulk of RedSwarm’s fleet and mounted an attack on the main Lotka Volterra fleet. Qulah’s pilots warped in as close as possible to Chowdown’s Titan flagship and fired their cannons.
Though initially RedSwarm took a beating from the Titan’s Doomsday cannon, it slowly began to gain an edge, and Lotka Volterra’s fleet numbers were dwindling. Without an adequate support fleet, Chowdown’s Titan was forced to withdraw as well. With a growing battlefield advantage, RedSwarm felt comfortable bringing in its dreadnought fleet to start beating down Lotka Volterra’s starbase infrastructure in the system. RedSwarm’s dreadnoughts managed to take down several Lotka Volterra starbases that night—and replaced them with their own—before they were forced to retreat for the evening.
The next night, Lotka Volterra’s pilots showed up with its own capital ship fleet and besieged the RedSwarm starbases that had been erected the night before. Lotka Volterra did enough damage to put the RedSwarm starbases into reinforced mode, and it retreated with plans to return later to finish the job.
By mistake, one of the RedSwarm starbases had been loaded with the wrong amount of strontium, and was now set to come out of reinforced mode during Lotka Volterra’s prime time the next day.
The information leaked to Lotka Volterra that RedSwarm was weak during this time, and a major attack was planned to take advantage of the opening. The information happened to be wrong. Through a mixture of coincidence and sheer dedication, a critical mass of RedSwarm pilots were able to wake up early and join the fleets before working hours in North America. Both Lotka Volterra and RedSwarm gathered their fleets and made their way to the vulnerable starbase. RedSwarm got there first, and its fleet commander, Sesfan Qulah, ordered two-thirds of the fleet to log out of the game. These forces were essentially hidden in the system. Those pilots could still receive orders from the fleet commander through external chat programs and voice communications, and were waiting for the signal to log in and enter the fight.
Lotka Volterra arrived in the system a short time before the starbase was scheduled to run out of strontium. When the Lotka Volterra fleet commanders scouted the RedSwarm fleet they saw exactly what they expected to see during a weak RedSwarm timezone: a relatively small defense force. The Lotka Volterra pilots had no idea they were charging headlong into a trap.
As the starbase came out of reinforced mode, Sesfan Qulah gave the order for his fleet’s logistics ships to warp in and begin recharging the shields on the starbase. At the same moment, Lotka Volterra’s 23 dreadnoughts began unloading munitions into the starbase’s armor even as it was being repaired. Then RedSwarm sprang the trap. A single Goonswarm pilot logged in next to Lotka Volterra’s capital fleet and deployed a warp disruption bubble—it looks like a giant blue bubble coursing with electricity, and it prevents any warping within it—so Lotka Volterra couldn’t retreat. At that instant, a force of 150 RedSwarm ships—a Goonswarm support and battleship fleet and nearly two dozen Red Alliance dreadnoughts—logged into the game and unloaded their weapons into the stunned Lotka Volterra fleet.
It was a classic log-on trap, and RedSwarm was quick and disciplined despite its pilots’ lack of sleep. Its electronic warfare ships jammed exactly the right targets at exactly the right times, and its support ships kept nearly every enemy locked down and immobilized. RedSwarm had become a well-oiled machine. When the smoke cleared the RedSwarm starbase was still standing and 16 lifeless Lotka Volterra dreadnought hulls floated through the grim darkness of 4NDT-W—the most dreadnoughts ever lost in a single battle. By comparison, RedSwarm lost just two dreadnoughts of its own in the fighting.
“They had staged a particularly well-done log-on trap and destroyed almost twenty of our dreadnoughts, which just destroyed morale,” said Lallante, a high-ranking Lotka Volterra fleet commander. “After that, they just steamrolled system after system after system.”
With this, RedSwarm had both the foothold it needed in Detorid and the decisive victory it needed to justify a continued war against Lotka Volterra. Every alliance needs wins to build morale, and RedSwarm had proven to its pilots beyond any doubt that the war could be won.
Lotka Volterra’s only advantage against RedSwarm was its Titan. Whatever its faults, Lotka Volterra knew how to use Titans better than anyone. Immediately after finishing its first Titan, Lotka Volterra began constructing another. Only three Titans existed in the game at this point, but Lotka Volterra was on its way to building its second. Even with a massive victory at its backs, RedSwarm shuddered at the prospect of having to survive two Doomsday blasts in every battle. It could not afford to let that happen, and it set its sights on Lotka Volterra’s capital shipyard in JV1V-O—where the second Titan was under construction with mere weeks to go until its launch.
There was no mad search for the Titan’s location as had been the case when Ascendant Frontier was building Steve. RedSwarm intelligence agents had discovered exactly where it was being constructed.
Having already chewed through much of Detorid, RedSwarm attacked JV1V-O, hitting its infrastructure and putting all four starbases into reinforced mode on February 8. If RedSwarm ever had any doubts that this was where the Titan was being constructed, they were put to rest when just one day later Band of Brothers declared its intention to formally enter the war and commit fleets to defending Lotka Volterra’s territory. It was obvious that this was not a battle Lotka Volterra could afford to lose, and it had enlisted the help of Band of Brothers to make sure JV1V-O did not fall.
Band of Brothers brought SirMolle’s own Titan to the war effort, and RedSwarm now had to fear that the birth of the baby Titan would mean facing three doomsday blasts in every battle. RedSwarm redoubled its efforts to take down the shipyard in JV1V-O. In a surprise late night attack the RedSwarm pilots gathered a hold on the system, put Lotka Volterra’s starbases (and the attached shipyard) into reinforced mode, and logged off nearby. Logging off inside the system meant they wouldn’t have to barge through the front door: their ships would already be in the system, right near their target.
Then they noticed something very strange. The starbase and the capital shipyard were set to come out of reinforced mode at 5 a.m. in Europe, a terrible time for Lotka Volterra. RedSwarm was confused. Was this a trap? RedSwarm still hadn’t seen the full force of a Band of Brothers/Lotka Volterra joint mission. Were they being lured into a false sense of calm?
Judging by the state of affairs on the Goonfleet forums, the directorate was expecting a massive Lotka Volterra/Band of Developers offensive. It was quite obvious that we expected an assault on [RedSwarm territory in] Scalding Pass. The obvious counter to this was a spoiling attack. If your enemy is winding up for a roundhouse knockout punch, give him a quick jab to the throat and ruin his day. When the reinforcement timer was announced over TeamSpeak, speculation ran rampant. Was this a massive fuck up on the part of Lotka Volterra, or an incredibly daring trap?
Either way, [TeamSpeak] and the forums explode with speculation. Sesfan Qulah gives the order for the gang to safespot and log off in JV1V-O. If the Titan is a trap, we’re going to charge into it at full speed. We were expecting a massive assault on Redswarm positions at about 21:00 [GMT] on 15 February. The fact that this [starbase] with an embryonic titan in it comes out of reinforced a mere seven hours after this supposed offensive kickoff time causes many to speculate that this is a capital trap on a massive scale from [Lotka Volterra/Band of Brothers]. However, nobody in RedSwarm can resist such tempting bait.
—Goonswarm public history
To wit, the Goonswarm history files quote a Red Alliance pilot’s rallying cry—written in the best English he could muster—to take the risk and attack in full.
“We have great forces in our Red Coalition. We know that strontium timer is not wonder, it’s a fucking trap, and we take hard losses,” he said. “And now we have 22 hours to think how [will we] survive three Doomsdays and fuck joint [capital] fleet of Lotka Volterra/Band of Brothers and baby Titan. Let’s see who have better tactics and more surprises.”
THE BELATED VALENTINE’S DAY MASSACRE
It became obvious that the war between Lotka Volterra and the RedSwarm federation was going to be decided here, in JV1V-O, out in the dead-end rear of Tenerifis. Everyone in Red Alliance—which had nearly been destroyed by Lotka Volterra just six months earlier—was going to be there. Even interlopers who were merely friends with RedSwarm pilots (or simply hated Lotka Volterra) showed up just to be part of the destruction of the Titan. Lotka Volterra’s leaders knew this too, and were at a heightened state of alert.
In the night, RedSwarm moved about a third of its forces to JV1V-O and logged off inside the system. RedSwarm now had more than 300 ships waiting to log on in the system, and as many as 600 more would be ready to charge through the stargate when the battle began. Meanwhile, Band of Brothers had been forced to retreat to deal with multiple unrelated attacks on its territory, a critical setback for Lotka Volterra.
Every Lotka Volterra player available was logged in for the battle at JV1V-O, and the alliance managed to gather a fleet of 500 pilots. This was almost more than the game’s server could handle, and the lag was already spiking with just Lotka Volterra’s defense fleet online. Nevertheless, the defense fleet stood guard over the only entry point to the system. Five-hundred warships ready to incinerate the first scrap of metal unlucky enough to jump through that gate.
When a force as large as RedSwarm’s fleet was trying to use a single stargate to enter the system, the stargate functioned a little bit like how a toll booth in the real world can clog up a highway. As RedSwarm trickled through the stargate, their fleet would be momentarily divided as some ships made it through the stargate but others waited in line.
Lallante, the Lotka Volterra fleet commander, was piloting the alliance’s flagship Titan and had hidden the ship in M-RPN3. Lallante knew that the majority of the RedSwarm fleet would get clogged up in M-RPN3 while waiting to jump into JV1V-O. At that point, he’d detonate his Doomsday blast and annihilate the mass of RedSwarm pilots that were still waiting for their turn.
“The idea was that we’d achieve a sort of sandwich affect, and those who were able to jump through the gate would die to the fleet, and those that couldn’t would die to my Doomsday,” said Lallante.
On February 16, RedSwarm Federation arrived in force to assault JV1V-O with 600 ships. As the fleet began jumping through the stargate, Lallante moved in and fired the Titan’s Doomsday. Lallante waited to see the massive explosion, but the screen went blank. Everything stopped. The server snapped like a twig, and the whole region went offline.
CCP developers were roused from bed and tried to get things working again by dedicating extra server processing power to JV1V-O. EVE Online is a very unique single-server virtual world, so there aren’t standard industry procedures for how to deal with the unique problems it faces. When EVE’s players push the game to its limits, CCP Games’ engineers have to figure out brand new ways to accommodate them on the fly.
Within minutes the server was repaired and came back online, and as it did, a massive log-in queue began. What was sure to be a climactic battle between the two mightiest armies ever assembled was now a complete mess. The over 1,200 pilots at the Battle of JV1V-O were now standing in line waiting for permission to enter the battlefield. Their ships, meanwhile, floated lifelessly in the system as their pilots struggled to get online to pilot them.
The problem was that the RedSwarm ships were higher on that login queue, because they had already been trying to log in. Consequently, RedSwarm got a fleet of hundreds of ships online inside JV1V-O while Lotka Volterra’s pilots were getting in a few at a time.
“What ensued was a complete slaughter,” said Lotka Volterra’s Lallante. One by one, the defenseless Lotka Volterra ships were destroyed as RedSwarm gleefully took the opportunity that was presented to them. When the Lotka Volterra defense fleet had been destroyed, RedSwarm moved into position in orbit around the shipyard with the incomplete Titan and let loose a torrent of ammunition. Within minutes the capital shipyard that was building Lotka Volterra’s second Titan—its best hope at turning back the RedSwarm advance—was gone.
“The Goons had a fully loaded 400- to 500-man battleship fleet, and our 500-man battleship fleet, our incredible camp, this huge incredibly powerful fleet was logging-in in ones and twos because there was a server queue to log-in. Eventually, after hundreds of losses and very little coordination—because none of our fleet commanders could log-in—we stood down. And that was the end of Lotka Volterra.”
Seven years after the assault, one grunt pilot wrote down his recollections of the whole affair.
“I’ve never seen anything like [the battle of JV1V-O],” the pilot, named Sentille, wrote. “I couldn’t believe how many capital ships there were. The stargate was littered with bubbles, comms were literally buzzing. But when the smoke/lag cleared, the system was lost. Some rear guard action took place but the fall of JV1V-O broke Lotka Volterra.”
This battle directly led to the downfall of a thousands-strong alliance of players. Morale for Lotka Volterra was already on the ropes, and it had lost a number of key battles. Band of Brothers hadn’t been there to back Lotka Volterra up at JV1V-O, which may have led to the loss of its in-construction second Titan. Worst of all, the RedSwarm Federation had paraded an unthinkable amount of support for its campaign. The number of pilots it had rallied to its side at JV1V-O was far beyond anything seen before. Militarily, Lotka Volterra had already been bested several times, and this was the moment that its morale broke.
It’s always difficult to get people to commit long portions of their day to fleet operations, doubly so if you’re losing the war. Imagine how hard it would be to convince people to spend their Saturday following your orders if it was likely the enemy would show up with so many ships that they’d crash the server and destroy your assets while you were stuck staring at the log-in screen.
The war went on for a couple more weeks, but it was clear that Lotka Volterra was broken and in the process of a failure cascade.
On February 20, the Lotka Volterra starbases in an important system (77S8-E in Detorid) suddenly went offline without fuel, allowing RedSwarm to swoop in, destroy them unopposed, and capture the system. Once RedSwarm pilots had the station under control, they renamed it the “77S8 Failure Cascade” as a taunt at their enemies. Lotka Volterra leadership was losing control, and important things—like making sure you fuel your starbases—were falling through the cracks.
“Lotka Volterra morale has shattered, it’ll be all downhill from here...
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a failure cascade. I repeat, we have a failure cascade.”
—The Mittani, spymaster, Goonswarm Intelligence Agency, RedSwarm Federation
February 20, 2007
Over the ensuing weeks, Lotka Volterra spent most of its time retreating while making half-hearted attempts to strike back at RedSwarm with smaller 75-100 ship fleets. But the lackluster effort wasn’t nearly enough to stop the bulldozer that had pushed Lotka Volterra out of Detorid and was now taking Tenerifis, system by system. It took time, though, as there was plenty of Lotka Volterra infrastructure that needed to be destroyed before the region officially came under RedSwarm Federation control.
Reports began to emerge that Lotka Volterra was evacuating its assets from hot zones under the belief it could no longer protect them. But RedSwarm wasn’t about to accept surrender. Lotka Volterra was part of the same coalition that had tried to eradicate Red Alliance eight months earlier. They would receive no quarter.
“The Lotka Volterra leadership is basically MIA. Their ability to field fleets has been greatly reduced, and their [capital ships] are spread out, badly supplied, and lacking in coordination. Lotka Volterra CEOs have ordered the evacuation of tenants from Omist, even though we haven’t yet arrived there in force. Lotka Volterra corporations are beginning to tear down starbases in several Tenerifis systems in order to save member assets, and Red Alliance reports a huge increase in Lotka Volterra carrier activities around stations in Curse. Currently it appears that they are in full retreat and although they may make some stands if we attack their remaining starbases, they have decided to give up most or all of their conquerable space in the short run.
Our goals in the immediate future will be to maximize losses to Lotka Volterra corps and members as they retreat. Fleet Commanders should focus heavily on preventing Lotka Volterra from unanchoring starbases in safety, as they will almost certainly run out of fuel soon without a top-down logistics infrastructure in place. Station [blockades] should be par for the course, and we must take every action to inflict pain on fleeing carebears and PvPers alike. We will not be [offering a ceasefire,] and we will take every system which they do not empty of starbases, by force.
Your duty is to prevent Lotka Volterra from carrying their assets out of these stations before they are captured by GoonSwarm and its allies. I estimate that we will control 16 or more stations within the next three weeks.”
—Remedial, Goonswarm director, RedSwarm Federation
Over the next three weeks, RedSwarm fleets besieged every Lotka Volterra system of consequence and flew in its space with impunity. RedSwarm pushed the remnants of Lotka Volterra back through Tenerifis and out of Omist before coming back to seal the deal. The final system still flying the Lotka Volterra flaming skull insignia—DG-8VJ in Detorid—was conquered by RedSwarm on March 18, 2007. It was symbolically handed over to Red Alliance as a token of its year-long struggle against the forces of the Coalition of the South. Nine months earlier, no one in their right mind would have anticipated this outcome. In May 2006, Red Alliance held just one space station with 70 pilots. Now it was at the vanguard of a coalition that numbered in the tens of thousands, and once again ranked as one of the strongest forces in all of EVE.
“As of today, every system [in] former LV space has been taken,” wrote The Mittani. “That includes 9-980U, JV1V-O, XGH-SH, G-D0N3 in Tenerifis, 77S8-E and 0-G8NO in Detorid, and all five stations in Omist. We would like to publically recognize the invaluable assistance of our allies in this short yet brutal campaign, and thank them for their continued and unflinching support. So long Lotka Volterra, and thanks for all the outposts.”
There were plenty among Lotka Volterra who wanted to continue fighting, but they were too few to buoy the alliance. Lotka Volterra shattered, and many of its most powerful corporations immediately joined up with Band of Brothers, seeing it as the best opportunity to get their revenge on RedSwarm. Critically, that included the corporation Shinra, which owned Lotka Volterra’s surviving Titan. RedSwarm had conquered a huge swath of territory—three whole regions—but Band of Brothers was also a winner in the short-term: it gained hundreds of passionate, skilled recruits who hated RedSwarm, as well as a fleet of capital ships and a Titan.
In retrospect we can see that the prophecy of Remedial and The Mittani ultimately came true. They correctly foresaw that there was a brief window of opportunity to attack Lotka Volterra without Band of Brothers’ intervention.
EAST, WEST, AND NORTH
With Lotka Volterra in ruins, the Great War—as it was becoming known—became much more focused. It was now a fight between the Greater Band of Brothers Community and the rest of New Eden.
Lotka Volterra fell in mid-March 2007, but Band of Brothers had been defending against attacks by the Northern Coalition since January when the T20 scandal hit. Trapped between RedSwarm in the east and the Northern Coalition in the north, Band of Brothers had to come up with a plan for fighting a two-front war now that the fall of Lotka Volterra had allowed RedSwarm to encroach on its eastern border. Band of Brothers opted to stop the advance of RedSwarm—and aid the fleeing Lotka Volterra—while hiring Mercenary Coalition to head north to engage with the Northern Coalition. Mercenary Coalition’s leader, Seleene, announced MC’s invasion of the north on the forums.
“For the last few weeks, my alliance has been taking care of some internal matters. With that now resolved, we turn our attention back to an area of space the Mercenary Coalition has not seen in quite some time.
Mercenary Coalition has declared war on [the Northern Coalition].
Good luck to all. This should be a lot of fun. Be seeing you boys and girls soon.”
—Seleene, Executor, Mercenary Coalition
January 25, 2007
For its size—just a few hundred members—nobody in New Eden was more feared than Mercenary Coalition. It didn’t have anywhere near the thousands of members Band of Brothers had, but it was able to strike with the same intensity. It made sense then that the two would fight back-to-back, and that Band of Brothers would trust the mercenaries to single-handedly get the northern front of the war under control.
Mercenary Coalition was renowned for its ability to disrupt its enemies’ operations, and for fighting outnumbered, so it was the perfect choice to head north to take on the large, inexperienced fleets of the Northern Coalition’s home front defense.
While Mercenary Coalition’s members viewed themselves as guns-for-hire, the rest of the EVE universe viewed them as Band of Brothers’ lapdogs. In exchange for a chunk of Period Basis, it agreed to pay Band of Brothers with one month of free mercenary time per year. Band of Brothers could call in a slice of that debt whenever it was needed.
“When SirMolle really called the chips in was when he wanted us to go put a dent in the NC in the north,” said Mercenary Coalition’s leader, Seleene. “This was when things were really kicking into high gear.”
Mercenary Coalition was outnumbered by the massive Northern Coalition, but was able to fight above its weight and hold its own. For its part, the massive Northern Coalition wasn’t concerned about this small-scale attack from Mercenary Coalition. It designated one of its constituent alliances to deal with the mercenaries, and business went along as usual in the north—except for Mercenary Coalition’s notable success in shutting down trade routes to empire space.
But while this was happening, the Northern Coalition as a whole was preparing itself for what it knew would be a war of epic proportions. One of its main leaders addressed the pilots of his corporation, and asked them to prepare for an unprecedented war.
Pilots of Morsus Mihi. Within the next 24 hours we will begin moving forces against our most hated enemy. This will be the hardest fight you have ever had in your history in EVE. It will be bloody and a long campaign. But we will not fail.
Band of Brothers as an alliance is the target. The total destruction of them is the only objective. We will not stop until victory is achieved.
—KOTH Fluf, leader of Morsus Mihi, Northern Coalition
While Mercenary Coalition was still in the throes of combat against the Northern Coalition, all the way up in Pure Blind, it was attacked in force in its home region of Period Basis by the fleets of the notorious Russian player, Evil Thug, and his alliance Against ALL Authorities. Evil Thug targeted Mercenary Coalition for being a Band of Brothers ally. Usually Mercenary Coalition was safeguarded in the cocoon of Band of Brothers territory, but in late February 2007 Band of Brothers was busy in the east trying to help Lotka Volterra—what remained of it—turn the tide against RedSwarm Federation.
Evil Thug led his fleets into Mercenary Coalition space and made his declaration of war using what little English he knew. In a forum thread titled “MC” (Mercenary Coalition) he wrote just one word: “die.”
Mercenary Coalition’s pilots abandoned the attack on the Northern Coalition and rushed back home to Period Basis and staged a defense with, again, a massively outnumbered fleet, and held their own beside a defensive starbase loaded with artillery guns. It would take more than just Against ALL Authorities to break the home base of Mercenary Coalition.
Stopped cold, Evil Thug sought aid to break the entrenched positions of Mercenary Coalition. He found an ally in the northerners who took this moment to launch the beginning of fleet hostilities against Band of Brothers and its allies. The very pilots whom Mercenary Coalition had just spent a month attacking were now free to fly a fleet directly into Mercenary Coalition’s home systems in Period Basis and assault its capital shipyards. With the Northern Coalition now in the fray, Mercenary Coalition could no longer hold the defense, and on March 14 it lost a shipyard where it had been building a valuable mothership.
“At that point, we went fucking bananas,” said Seleene. “We went to SirMolle and we said ‘we’re all in.’”
The combined forces of Against ALL Authorities and the Northern Coalition had bloodied the nose of Mercenary Coalition, but it also strengthened ties between the mercenaries and Band of Brothers. What was once an employer-employee/renter-landlord relationship was now a true alliance between two of the scariest fighting forces in the game.
“We knew that the possibility of Mercenary Coalition’s home space being attacked existed, but the reality of it actually happening awoke something inside my alliance that is hard to describe,” wrote Seleene in a retrospective blog post. “It awoke a sense of purpose and a terrible anger. The Northern Coalition’s actions against us only lit the fires of vengeance in the eyes of Mercenary Coalition pilots.”
“Mercenary Coalition’s capital shipyards in Period Basis were hit. Inside was an incomplete Hel [a class of mothership], confirmed by Seleene a few days later. However, the NC would regret fucking with Mercenary Coalition in the very near future, as MC would descend upon them like the wrath of God.”
—Goonswarm history logs
The bulk of the fighting forces of the Northern Coalition stayed in the south to hammer Band of Brothers territories, but Mercenary Coalition had other plans. The stated aim of Mercenary Coalition was now to burn the north and to make sure this type of attack on its home region could never happen again. This was a happy coincidence for Band of Brothers, which had been having a devil of a time itself dealing with Northern Coalition incursions into its territory.
Several Northern Coalition member alliances were attacking Band of Brothers on multiple fronts, with small fleets hitting Querious and Cloud Ring and the brunt of their forces attacking Fountain. Band of Brothers pilots expressed a sense of hopelessness, wondering how they could possibly manage to defend their territory with the whole of New Eden attacking them. The first step was to take the fight to the northerners’ home territory.
Today the Mercenary Coalition accepts the largest contract in our history. As of downtime today, the Mercenary Coalition is officially in the employ of the Band of Brothers alliance with the purpose of assisting them and their allies against the Northern Coalition. Said contract will last until the terms of completion are met. This decision is made with the full knowledge of the current EVE political landscape. We understand and accept this reality as the greatest challenge ever presented to us by a client.
On a personal note, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling pushed into this a little. The incessant attacks against Mercenary Coalition assets served no purpose other than to provoke exactly this response.
—Seleene, Executor, Mercenary Coalition
February 27, 2007
The Northern Coalition was perfectly justified in launching a retributory attack on Mercenary Coalition space, but Mercenary Coalition didn’t see it that way. They saw themselves as blameless hired guns.
In the middle of all of this, Northern Coalition was shaken by a defector. A German alliance called YouWhat that had broken off from the Northern Coalition months earlier had now declared its intent to side with Band of Brothers in the coming hostilities. I wasn’t able to reach YouWhat for an interview, but the speculation among players of that era is that YouWhat saw that the Northern Coalition could hardly defend itself against the lone Mercenary Coalition—let alone the full brunt of Band of Brothers—and felt compelled to diplomatically align itself with the stronger side.
In the region of Cloud Ring, YouWhat’s space now constituted the front line. Cloud Ring was the dividing region in the west that separated Band of Brothers and Mercenary Coalition from the whole of the north.
With the situation in the north ready to explode, RedSwarm Federation decided it was time to come to the aid of the Northern Coalition, honoring its mutual defense pact against Band of Brothers. RedSwarm gathered its fleets, loaded up freighters with ships and war equipment and set a course for the northwest. It was going home again, back to Cloud Ring, the first place Goonswarm ever captured territory.
“People of XZH, I have returned.”
—Goonswarm fleet commander Sesfan Qulah upon arriving in XZH-4X, the capital system in Cloud Ring
March 6, 2007
Just three hours after YouWhat declared its intention to side with Band of Brothers, 130 Goonswarm pilots were dispatched from the main RedSwarm force, and arrived in YouWhat’s home system, quickly locking it down.
YouWhat pilot Vasili Z, a veteran of several major alliances, noted sadly, “I go to Veritas Immortalis, Goon takes my space. I go to Lotka Volterra, Goon takes my space. I go to YouWhat, Goon takes my space.”
RedSwarm got the main system of Cloud Ring under its control, but its American members never managed to coordinate their attacks with the Northern Coalition, which was largely a European group. And now a very angry Mercenary Coalition was on its way back north, seeking revenge for the Northern Coalition’s attacks on its home systems.
Within days, RedSwarm was forced to retreat, unable to sustain a war so far from home without the concerted help of its Northern Coalition allies. Mercenary Coalition had set up shop in YouWhat’s Cloud Ring and was ready to invade the north.
INVADING THE NORTH
The Mercenary Coalition fleet arrived in Tribute in late March and tore the landscape apart. It ripped through every pilot it could find, from humble Northern Coalition miners to the official defense fleets. Within two weeks over a thousand Northern Coalition ships were destroyed, while Mercenary Coalition’s own losses were negligible.
While the main combat fleets of the Northern Coalition were busy attacking Band of Brothers and their allies in the south, Northern Coalition space was left with very little defense, and Mercenary Coalition took advantage of the situation.
It wasn’t enough to blow up some miners and blundering militia gangs. Mercenary Coalition wanted to change the face of the north forever. “We went up there to skirmish and fight, but eventually we realized we needed to do something different and start taking stations,” said Mercenary Coalition’s Seleene in 2014.
In mid-April 2007, the Mercenary Coalition-led forces moved out of Tribute where they had been hunting convoys and stray ships, and moved into Fade to begin an official assault.
“The first station we tried to take turned into this insane three-hour-long battle one Saturday night,” Seleene recalled. “By a miracle of a million different factors we didn’t just come out on top, but we absolutely crushed them. It was like 70 of us versus 250 of them. They jumped in 70 battleships against four motherships and a dozen carriers and got shredded. Absolutely shredded.”
Video still survives from this battle, and it shows the Mercenary Coalition’s predilection for carrier and mothership strategies. Its drones blanket the screen, with each carrier unleashing as many as 15 drones, and each mothership with as many as 25. Mercenary Coalition didn’t have the numbers for a head-on battleship attack so it had to supplement with unmanned craft. Though drones do little damage individually, Mercenary Coalition deployed hundreds at a time, and the swarms ripped through the Northern Coalition’s battleship fleet in minutes. This was becoming the norm on the northern front.
Mercenary Coalition was achieving great things in the northern regions, but it’s important to take many of their claims of success with a grain of salt. Many of Band of Brothers/Mercenary Coalition’s adversaries from this time disagree with Seleene’s account of Mercenary Coalition’s storming of the north.
“I think it’s important to understand that Mercenary Coalition’s existence as mercenaries relied heavily on propaganda,” said Blazde, a leader within the Northern Coalition. “They had to be known by prospective customers throughout EVE and be known for being capable. They surely were capable but still everything they said was carefully massaged and inflated as much as possible. It used to drive our members mad.”
Some specific details are agreed upon by both sides, however. One night in C4C-Z4 in the Fade region, Mercenary Coalition and a few minor Band of Brothers allies began a siege of a Northern Coalition starbase when reports came in that the Northern Coalition was amassing a fleet to deal with the attack. Obviously outnumbered, the Band of Brothers allies decided to continue the siege anyway and see if the Northern Coalition would have the courage to warp into their position. As the Mercenary Coalition dreadnoughts went into siege mode and fired on the starbase, the Northern Coalition jumped its own fleet right on top of their position. The Northern Coalition’s hundreds-strong fleet included dozens of capital ships and a brand new Titan. Its dreadnoughts entered siege mode as well, and the two sides began trading volleys.
The Northern Coalition was able to destroy the first two Mercenary Coalition dreadnoughts quickly, but as it began to chew into the third, the infamous drone cloud appeared as the motherships and carriers launched their fighters. The Northern Coalition’s Titan loosed its Doomsday weapon and wiped the field clear of both enemy and allied drones and fighters, but it was used too soon: there were still plenty of drones and fighters left in the bays of the Mercenary Coalition carriers and motherships. More and more of them swarmed out like angry bees and covered the battlefield once again. With the battle for C4C-Z4 beginning to turn in Mercenary Coalition’s favor, the Northern Coalition fleet commander, Darth Sith, faced a choice: put his dreadnoughts back into siege mode and keep fighting, or escape before finding out how this battle might end.
“I smacked the siege button again, and rode that flaming horse right down to the river Styx,” Darth Sith wrote the next day.
When the smoke cleared, Mercenary Coalition had taken control of the system. The wrecks of eleven Northern Coalition dreadnoughts floated through space alongside four of their carriers. By comparison, Mercenary Coalition lost only four dreadnoughts. By 2007, capital ships like dreadnoughts and carriers had become much more common thanks to increased production from the industrial arms of the three big coalitions. Still, 15 capital ships were too many to lose in a single engagement—especially when only four enemy ships were destroyed in return.
Battles like this got the attention of everyone in Band of Brothers, and as will happen, other players started jumping on the bandwagon. They volunteered in droves to fly in these fleet operations. Now Mercenary Coalition was no longer the little fleet that used strategy to make up for its size. Now it was in command of 200-ship fleets and was dominating in the north.
The mercenaries’ new allies weren’t the only ones who got the message. The Northern Coalition players who had been tasked with attacking Band of Brothers territory in Querious and Fountain were suddenly worried about losing their home regions. Northern Coalition leaders commanded them to stay in enemy territory and to accept that losing some home turf was necessary for the larger war effort, but not everyone listened. Some pilots went home to defend or evacuate their personal assets. The desertions weakened the Northern Coalition’s offense and defense simultaneously. With pilots abandoning their mission, the attacking fleets no longer carried their earlier heft, and as a result Band of Brothers could afford to send pilots to fight in the north.
With fleet discipline in disarray, the northern regions began to fall like dominoes, and within weeks the entire balance of power on the northern half of the map was upset.
“We had to actually start giving stations away [to allies] because we didn’t have the capability to hold them,” Seleene told me. “That made SirMolle really happy. For a while we were probably his favorite people in the game.”
Mercenary Coalition began ripping through the inexperienced Northern Coalition defense fleets without mercy. The statistics for this two month war are incredible: it destroyed 1,719 battleships while losing only 160. Carriers were destroyed and lost at a 3.6-to-1 ratio, dreadnoughts at 5-to-1.
THE RESTRUCTURING OF THE NORTH
Fade and Venal were invaded in early April, followed by Deklein ten days later. Within a month, the three southernmost regions of the north were under the control of Mercenary Coalition and the allied forces of Band of Brothers.
The Northern Coalition’s fleet commanders could do nothing to stop the overwhelming assault, and by June their main forces were locked in the back of Branch and Tenal with their days seemingly numbered. The Mercenary Coalition-led fleets pressed the fight, even though they were beginning to suffer from battle fatigue as the invasion dragged on.
For a brief few days, the entire north (Fade, Deklein, Branch, Tenal, Venal, and Cloud Ring) was under the control of Band of Brothers and its allied forces, led by Mercenary Coalition. However, territory isn’t the only way to judge the health of an organization. The Northern Coalition was forever changed by this war, but its union was still strong. The core constituent alliances were still dedicated despite having been temporarily removed from ownership of their territory in the course of a long, messy war.
The Northern Coalition fought back, and several of its constituent alliances carved out spaces for themselves in the coming days, reconquering the territory taken by Mercenary Coalition. It would be a long time before the Northern Coalition reclaimed its former stature, but throughout it all, its pilots kept up the assault on Band of Brothers’ home turf in the south even as the north burned. The Northern Coalition did suffer some major casualties though. Dusk and Dawn, one of its main military alliances, was destroyed. In the following forum post, Dusk and Dawn’s leader announced the dismantling of his alliance while paying respect to his Northern Coalition ally alliances, Morsus Mihi and Razor Alliance.
“From today, Dusk and Dawn [D2] is no longer an operative entity. In the last 14 months of our history, our pilots had times of fun, times of desperation, and times of tiredness. At the end, we saw the Universe changed, and it’s no longer a place for Dusk and Dawn. Many thanks to our close friends who stood on our side the last year. Especially to all honorable pilots of Razor and Morsus Mihi who we had the pleasure to fly with.
—Ovaron, Director, Dusk and Dawn, Northern Coalition
June 4, 2007
The Northern Coalition as a political entity was wounded, but its manpower remained. Their home territories were in bad shape, but they still had fleets and pilots that would prove invaluable in the next stage of the war.
In the south, RedSwarm had dealt a heavy blow by destroying the once mighty Lotka Volterra, but in the north the allied Band of Brothers forces had also dealt serious damage to the Northern Coalition. The Greater Band of Brothers Community briefly controlled a swath of territory nearly as large as all the other forces of New Eden combined, and most of the rest belonged to RedSwarm and its allies.
This Great War was nearing the end of its first year of hostilities. This was only the beginning, but it was already becoming known as the most fascinating conflict ever waged over the internet.
THE GREAT EVE WAR: PART 2
Generally, the EVE community refers to the Greater Band of Brothers Community as simply Band of Brothers, but it’s worth taking a moment to point out just how many alliances (themselves composed of several corporations) made up the behemoth organization.
The Greater Band of Brothers Community was: Axiom Empire, Aftermath Alliance, Cult of War, Corelum Syndicate, Digital Renegades, Executive Outcomes, Exuro Mortis, Fallen Souls, Fatal Alliance, Firmus Ixion, Mercenary Coalition, M.Pire, Red Moon Federation, RISE, Southern Connection, Sparta Alliance, Terror in the System, Vigilance Infinitas, Xelas Alliance, YouWhat, and Band of Brothers.
It’s likely that at its height, the Greater Band of Brothers Community consisted of well over 100 constituent corporations and over 10,000 players (out of about 225,000 total EVE Online players at the time). The glue that held this loose conglomeration together was mutual benefit. And while SirMolle was its leader, the true genius behind Band of Brothers’ success was a player named Dianabolic. SirMolle was the public face: the stone-chinned leader who projected confidence, strength, and just enough insanity to be feared. Dianabolic, on the other hand, was the engineer who justified all of SirMolle’s bluster. If SirMolle was the War Marshall, Dianabolic was the Prime Minister.
Dianabolic made the empire tick. He kept the factories running, the miners mining, the shipyards churning, and the alliance profitable. Most of the alliances that pledged their allegiance to Band of Brothers were under a rental agreement masterminded by Dianabolic. They agreed to pay Band of Brothers a steady rate for the territory they used, while Band of Brothers agreed to protect them from external threats. Most players, remember, didn’t care much for the grand political dealings of the larger alliances. They joined with Band of Brothers because it was the smart, business-minded thing to do. If you wanted to make ISK in safety then paying to do so within Band of Brothers’ borders was a good investment.
RedSwarm Federation was exactly the opposite. It was an alliance held together by culture and ideology. The allies of the RedSwarm Federation all seem to have identified as pariahs. All three of its main alliances—Goonswarm, Red Alliance, and Tau Ceti Federation—had been evicted or beaten up by stronger coalitions in nullsec years earlier. Tau Ceti Federation tried to negotiate to hold territory in the north, but was evicted by the Northern Coalition. Red Alliance was famously pushed out of the south a year earlier by Lotka Volterra and the Coalition of the South. Goonswarm was attacked by Band of Brothers in the west.
RedSwarm Federation now had more than 15,000 members and controlled a third of nullsec, but its leaders held fast to the idea that the universe hated them and wanted their federation eradicated. If RedSwarm didn’t destroy Band of Brothers, then Band of Brothers would destroy RedSwarm. There were no attempts to negotiate peace.
There’s a sense of righteousness that runs through RedSwarm’s written history and the words of its leaders at the time. In its own private records, Goonswarm refers to this as “The War on Omnipotence.”
THE SOUTHERN FRONT
In March 2007, Mercenary Coalition invaded the north while the war on the southern front raged on. In the south, RedSwarm Federation and its allies at last faced off against the Greater Band of Brothers Community.
Still at the peak of their confidence following the destruction of Lotka Volterra, RedSwarm forces continued their push into the southern territories. They aimed to bring the entirety of the south under their command. Band of Brothers and its allies, however, would not be pushed aside as easily as Lotka Volterra. They now had access to three Titans—one each from Lotka Volterra, Band of Brothers, and Mercenary Coalition—which meant that RedSwarm could face three Doomsday weapons in every fleet engagement. RedSwarm and its allies had access to just one Titan.
With this enormous advantage, Band of Brothers knew it could dictate when fights would happen. If it didn’t have its Titans in position, it would simply back out and wait. Contending with so many Doomsday weapons was essentially impossible for RedSwarm. It couldn’t force a fight out in the open, and if it tried to besiege a starbase then its fleets would be served up on a silver platter for Band of Brothers’ Titans. In no time, the RedSwarm Federation’s advance into the south had stopped.
RedSwarm developed a new strategy when its intelligence agents learned that Band of Brothers was building yet another Titan in a shipyard in F-TE1T, in its home region of Delve. On March 27, a fleet spearheaded by RedSwarm attacked the shipyard and put it into its reinforced mode. In 36 hours the shipyard would be destroyable, potentially a decisive moment in the war for morale. If a shipyard could be destroyed in Delve—the most heavily fortified position in all of New Eden—it would be a crushing blow. All of EVE Online would recognize that victory against Band of Brothers was achievable, maybe even guaranteed. Just as hundreds of interlopers jumped on the RedSwarm Federation bandwagon when they went to deal the killing blow to Lotka Volterra, a host of new allies would undoubtedly join the cause against Band of Brothers. The impending battle was billed as the fight of the year.
In a forum post, SirMolle gave an estimate of the forces that Northern Coalition, RedSwarm Federation, and Against ALL Authorities (AAA was the one major Russian alliance apart from Red Alliance, but in this case they were allied toward the same cause) would bring to bear against his defense in Delve. “We are expecting: 200-300 capital ships total, anywhere from 2-7 Titans, 5-25 Motherships, and 5-10 support fleets in the numbers of at least 100 each,” he wrote. “Whatever goes down, it will be written into history.”
“Wow, not far off,” replied a RedSwarm fleet commander named Tolon. “And what are you guys bringing?”
SirMolle’s reply: “Our balls.”
THE APRIL FOOL’S DAY MASSACRE
The battle was fought on March 29, 2007, deep in the heart of Band of Brothers’ territory. Rather than committing to a slow march through Band of Brothers’ regions, the invading RedSwarm forces set out to cut the head off the snake. They wanted to break Band of Brothers in a single glorious victory.
RedSwarm showed up with an enormous fleet of 190 dreadnoughts, 250 carriers, one Titan, and hundreds of battleships and support ships equipped for everything from electronic warfare (scrambling enemy systems) to ship replacement and repairs. It fought its way into the system with suicide squads of ships that were sent to sacrifice themselves to the defenders while the rest of the fleet got into position. The first suicide ship to arrive in-system was a Revelation-class dreadnought flown by Tyraxx Thork, the leader of Interstellar Alcohol Conglomerate. For five minutes he and other suicide ships absorbed a torrent of enemy fire as they distracted Band of Brothers and got the rest of the fleet got into position.
Band of Brothers had committed everything to the defense of the shipyard orbiting Moon 1, Planet 6, star system F-TE1T, where RedSwarm believed the next Titan was being constructed, and it all came down to this moment. The RedSwarm and allied fleets were in position and began their siege on the shipyard.
RedSwarm’s dreadnought pilots got into position and put their ships into the immobilized siege-mode state. Huge laser cannons larger than some entire ships slowly slid out from the hull of the RedSwarm siege engines, and in the silence of space let loose enormous, rippling laser charges onto the shields of the shipyard. Dreadnoughts of all makes and models were now pounding the facility. Volleys of missiles battered the shield, and before long had penetrated the shields and began ripping into its hull.
No one had ever seen what nearly 200 dreadnoughts could do to a single structure before. Despite Band of Brothers committing a large portion of its fleet just to repairing the shipyard’s shields and armor, it became obvious that there was no hope of keeping up with such a vicious assault.
Band of Brothers’ strategy switched from defending the shipyard to making RedSwarm pay for its incursion. RedSwarm’s dreadnoughts were warp-disrupted, and the Band of Brothers fleet picked them off one-by-one. Forty-two of the 190 dreadnoughts RedSwarm brought to the battle were destroyed. It was a huge toll, but its leaders thought it was worth it.
On April 1, 2007, SirMolle confirmed the Titan was dead in a forum thread titled only, “Congratulations.” Many in EVE were so jubilant at the thought of Band of Brothers’ cocksure leader being humbled that they didn’t notice the date: April 1. April Fool’s Day.
One day later, SirMolle posted to the forums again to explain he’d been having some fun with them. Here’s what really happened:
When Band of Brothers received word that its capital shipyards had been found and a massive fleet was on the way, it prepared its defense. But rather than heavily fortifying the shipyard that was actually building the Titan, it committed everything to the defense of another shipyard in the same system. This shipyard was empty, effectively a dummy. The RedSwarm informant—Evil Thug—didn’t know exactly which shipyard the Titan was being built in, only the system. So when the fleet arrived it logically attacked directly into the Band of Brothers defense.
The shipyard that RedSwarm wanted to destroy was quietly building a Titan four planets away while an immense battle raged above the empty shipyard. The empty shipyard was destroyed quickly, but in the aftermath the RedSwarm dreadnought fleet was still locked into position and unable to retreat, and it took enormous losses. It would have been worth it to destroy an in-build Titan, but for an empty shipyard it was an absolute disaster.
Just as importantly, RedSwarm had been humiliated by Band of Brothers. This was a battle for the hearts and minds of the EVE community, a proof-of-concept for the destruction of Band of Brothers, and it had turned into one of the most profound embarrassments in the five-year history of the game. The incident became known as “The F-TE1T Honeypot.”
BACK ON THE OFFENSIVE
The terrifying RedSwarm bulldozer that had pushed through the regions of Great Wildlands, Insmother, Cache, Scalding Pass, Detorid, Wicked Creek, Immensea, and Omist was now stopped in its tracks. Where bluster and exultation were once the predominant sounds in its fleet communications, frustration and discouragement marked the new attitude.
You can imagine the fear that must have set in at this time. Band of Brothers was said to be invincible, so much so that its enemies accused it of colluding in shady backrooms with CCP Games to maintain its grip on power. Now it was stampeding in the north and proving invulnerable to invasion in the south. RedSwarm Federation began to wonder if it had picked an unwinnable fight. The forces arrayed against the Band of Brothers coalition were immense. All the great powers of New Eden had set their sights on the destruction of “BoB,” and Band of Brothers was proving up to the task.
As Mercenary Coalition burned the north, Band of Brothers pushed back in the south and began making ground in RedSwarm territory. It had held off an invasion of Feythabolis and was now pushing its advantage with confidence. First stop: Omist. This proved to be a cakewalk. RedSwarm reasoned that the geography of the region made it too difficult to defend, so its forces fell back to Tenerifis, with Band of Brothers’ fleets close behind.
“Band of Brothers and the RedSwarm Federation clashed,” wrote Goonswarm history writer James 315 in a memoir. “The RSF fell back. Band of Brothers stepped forward and claimed sovereignty over another region of nullsec. The RedSwarm Federation, the final obstacle in Band of Brothers’ path toward total control of EVE, was fading. RedSwarm still had control of a few regions, but they were losing hope: If they couldn’t stop Band of Brothers from taking one of their regions, how could they stop Band of Brothers from taking the rest?”
The region Tenerifis became the frontline as the two largest coalitions ever assembled in EVE slugged it out. Band of Brothers moved its fleets into Tenerifis from the eastern entrances in Omist and quickly snared control of two key stations in the system to serve as a staging platform for its attacks. The history of EVE shows that once an attacker has a foothold in the region it’s assaulting, its odds of success go up dramatically. The taking of the first two stations in Tenerifis was a great victory for Band of Brothers, and it was hungry for more.
Band of Brothers’ forces moved to conquer more of the region, but RedSwarm defenses stopped them in their tracks. The RedSwarm defense proved incredibly tenacious, and for three weeks it battled to hold back the invasion. While Tenerifis was locked in stalemate, allies of RedSwarm were leading harassment attacks behind enemy lines to disrupt Band of Brothers’ production operations. Its industry and mining efforts in Feythabolis were under constant attack by Against ALL Authorities. RedSwarm’s leaders knew that all they needed to do was stand their ground long enough for Against ALL Authorities to burn Feythabolis.
A RedSwarm ally—Interstellar Alcohol Conglomerate—took the fight to the Band of Brothers coalition in Querious, attacking Firmus Ixion and other Band of Brothers allies. The plan was to hurt the industrial war machine that powered Band of Brothers’ success by disrupting its logistics and preventing players from making money. The Northern Coalition was still here too. While recovering from the wound they were dealt in the north, their attack fleets were still able to hurt Band of Brothers deep in its territory.
The stalemate persisted in Tenerifis outside the factory in the system 9-980U. The good news for Band of Brothers was that the war in the north was over and Mercenary Coalition was now free to aid the southern front. It would stay behind enemy lines to fight off the harassment incursions by Interstellar Alcohol Conglomerate and the Northern Coalition while the hammer of Band of Brothers’ main fleet continued to strike Tenerifis.
Things got worse for RedSwarm Federation. Goonswarm leader Remedial had deemed it was time to step down. He had led Goonswarm since its founding, but now he was leaving the game due to unspecified real-life commitments. He appointed Goonswarm’s spymaster, The Mittani, to take his place. This was a bizarre move—The Mittani had privately declared he didn’t want that role, as he didn’t feel he was ready to take the top job. Some people in Goonswarm believed Remedial was handing off the reins of leadership right before the alliance’s collapse so he wouldn’t be held responsible; The Mittani agreed.
“Remedial, the Goons’ founder and long-time leader, decided to quit the game. He was convinced that BoB could not be stopped, and that EVE was essentially over. Remedial transferred leadership of the Goons to The Mittani. But before Remedial left, he gave The Mittani his plan for how the Goons who didn’t quit the game might still find some fun: Unanchor all remaining sovereignty-claiming structures, pack their bags, cede the Goon regions to BoB, and move across the galaxy to NPC space to mess around. [...]
Had the surrender of the Goon regions taken place, the RSF would have [been] crippled. Combined, the three powers [of the RedSwarm Federation] had not been able to stop BoB. Without the Swarm, their chances of continued survival would have gone from bad to zero. And with that, all EVE would belong to BoB.
For those who did not play EVE at the time, it is difficult to fully comprehend just how powerful BoB had become. No other alliance has come close to its dominance of the game. BoB and its pets controlled a majority of the galaxy. Its leadership came from players who had been in EVE from the beginning—some from the Beta. Its core was comprised of the oldest and most successful PvP alliances. It had never lost a war. Ever.”
—James 315, Goonswarm historian
July 1, 2012
As The Mittani took office, he recited his first “State of the Goonion” address. No transcript of the speech survives. There’s only one audio log, and it’s heavily edited. The first sentence of the speech is clear though:
“My fellow Goons. Goonswarm is in a crisis.”
Shortly after The Mittani began his reign, things went sour. Another scandal struck EVE Online alleging that developers within CCP Games were again aiding Band of Brothers. People alleged that CCP developers within Band of Brothers were abusing their developer abilities to see what other alliances were building inside their private shipyards. These accusations proved to be hyperbolic. The worst that was ever proven was that Band of Brothers members may have been able to get glitches and bugs fixed faster than other alliances because of their connections at CCP.
Not everyone believed the worst allegations were false, though. The Mittani spread the word about the alleged impropriety all over the internet on early social networking sites like Digg and Slashdot. The result was havoc as the CCP forums were flooded with outsiders and angry rioters, ultimately crashing the EVE Online forums for a brief time.
A reporter from the video game website TenTonHammer asked CCP’s Chief Marketing Officer, Magnus Bergsson, about the unrest and why Goonswarm members would attack the developers of their favorite game.
“They refuse to admit that they’re losing to another alliance, and the only explanation that they can figure out is that those guys are cheating,” Bergsson wrote. “Not just that they’re cheating, but that they’re cheating in cooperation with employees at CCP. That seems to be the only logical explanation that they’re coming up with.”
When CCP posted its official reply to the madness, it hinted that the massive unrest caused by Goonswarm could be defined as an attack on CCP Games which could potentially carry legal consequences for the organizers of the posting campaign.
Since last Friday, an unnamed corporation posted over 4000 times on EVE’s message boards concerning these allegations. In addition, 1046 posts were made on Digg.com; 235 comments were added on Slashdot; and made multiple EVE-related edits on Wikipedia. Each of these sites was hit within a few hours of each other, at the start of the three-day Memorial Day weekend in the US and a three-day weekend in Iceland, all referencing unfounded allegations—now proven to be false—that occurred three weeks ago or longer.
The volume and timing of these near-simultaneous references is no coincidence: we were the target of a carefully constructed and well-timed social engineering effort by one of the largest player groups in our community. The intention? To undermine EVE Online and the credibility of CCP Games.
More specifically, the objective of this scheme was to permanently paint CCP as a biased and corrupt company that favors a select group of players over the rest of our community. In this particular case, instead of receiving notification of a possible problem and sufficient time to examine and address it, we faced a coordinated and hostile attack executed on our forums, Digg, Wikipedia, Slashdot, and other outlets at the beginning of a three-day weekend. We believe this speaks volumes of the intention of the person(s) responsible for orchestrating this scheme. Verification of this can be readily found on the forums of the people responsible—or at least could, the last time we looked.
Claims that the goal of this effort was to expose corruption within the company cannot be taken seriously. They are simply a smokescreen intended to mobilize and use the EVE community against CCP. There is no evidence to support the claim of information sent to CCP concerning internal corruption and wrongdoings on the part of our employees is being systematically suppressed. The fact that this attack took place over a holiday weekend was especially revealing of motive, which we believe was specifically by design to ensure that CCP would not be able to react as fast and efficiently as we would under normal circumstances. The allegations investigated above by this internal affairs department will also be examined by our legal resources, as we do not intend to sit idly by while our servers, community and reputation are under attack.
— Written by CCP Arkanon in an official company post on the EVE Online development blog. (Edited for clarity.)
May 29, 2007
This reportedly spooked The Mittani. Some say he feared for his career as a Washington D.C. lawyer. He says he simply lost the will to fight this battle just to hold on to a leadership position he never asked for. He stepped down as CEO of Goonswarm and went back to leading its spy network.
An ordinary alliance would have collapsed under the stress of this unbroken string of bad news. It’s interesting to consider why RedSwarm Federation was able to survive the embarrassment of the F-TE1T Honeypot as well as a massive invasion into their territory followed immediately by the resignation of two leaders. Ordinarily, the morale effects of these events occurring so close together would be enough to cause an alliance to collapse from within. Certainly that was the case with Ascendant Frontier in the year prior.
However, RedSwarm Federation was no ordinary alliance. It had already been proven that the Russian alliances refuse to quit or bow to an adversary, and the Goons brought another layer of resilience to the coalition. To become a member of Goonswarm in these days, you had to be a known member of the SomethingAwful.com community. The players of Goonswarm had a social tie that predated their alliance in EVE. To them, they were Goons first and EVE players second. Whatever happened to the Goonswarm alliance was a secondary concern to simply being Goons and playing together. It’s a social bond that is unique in EVE’s history, and is undoubtedly responsible for keeping the membership focused during a very difficult time.
Power vacuums like the one in RedSwarm Federation had destroyed alliances in the past, and it was very bad news that this was happening just as Band of Brothers started pounding on Tenerifis—RedSwarm’s front door. Leadership passed to a player named Sesfan Qulah, a widely respected fleet commander. Qulah’s appointment to the position of CEO had a calming effect. For all of the Goons’ claims that they didn’t take the game seriously, by now it was clear the alliance had a deep bench when it came to leadership potential.
This is common when examining the structure of Goonswarm and its players. One of the most common traits in the Goons I spoke to for this book was that they seem to almost hide their intelligence. When speaking of their time in EVE, they’ll spend more time talking about their best pranks and jokes than talking about their brilliant tactical maneuvers or social engineering prowess. Though they often publicly play the part of the fool, it has historically been fatal for any enemy to consider them foolish. Certainly their conquering of the southeast up to this point was evidence they were doing something right.
According to Goonswarm’s history of events, Sesfan Qulah was a “work-in-the-trenches, no-nonsense” fleet commander. He was seen as a sensible wartime leader to help put RedSwarm back on track. I tried to contact the player behind Qulah for an interview for this book, but he wasn’t able to be contacted.
Stability in leadership aside, many doubted that RedSwarm had the funding to continue a war on this scale. Unlike Band of Brothers, RedSwarm didn’t have a massive military industrial complex propping up its war efforts. Many Goon members began to sense that the alliance would soon crumble under the weight of internal drama and external invasion.
Constant fighting plagued the region of Tenerifis, and it became one of the bloodiest territories in the game’s history. Until one day in early June, when everything changed.
CCP Games introduced a new feature designed to reduce the indomitable power of Titan ships by making them susceptible to warp scramblers and electronic jamming. Ships that were specially outfitted to disrupt adversaries would now be able to lock down and disable Titans.
On June 22, 2007, thirty-six hours after this change was introduced, a battle was taking place in nearby system 46DP-O when SirMolle—flying as his alternate character used for combat named Shrike—appeared and dropped a Doomsday blast on a RedSwarm support fleet. The blast was modestly effective, but costly. SirMolle hadn’t taken into account the new rules for Titans, and a RedSwarm Interdictor-class ship—designed for electronic warfare and warp scrambling—was able to quickly warp scramble the Titan and call in reinforcements. Within moments, RedSwarm was on top of the Titan, with Band of Brothers’ reinforcements close behind.
Every available pilot was called to hurry to the battle. The two forces blasted each other for an hour as the RedSwarm fleet, under the command of Sesfan Qulah, ignored Band of Brothers’ smaller ships and focused all of its firepower on the Titan.
“Stay on Shrike. Stay. On. Shrike,” commanded Sesfan Qulah in a surviving audio log of the battle. “Come on guys, his tank is breaking and he is fucked. Go go go.”
Sesfan Qulah frantically organized hundreds of pilots to defend a single ship—the Interdictor that was keeping the Titan warp scrambled. If it lost its grip for even a moment, the Titan would warp away to safety; if the Interdictor was destroyed, the battle would be over.
At last, a blinding light ripped through 46DP-O in an explosion that was larger than the entire fleet battle, brighter than the light of the nearby star. SirMolle’s Titan was rubble floating through space. The RedSwarm pilots howled with cheers and laughter. They’d just destroyed the first Titan ever to be lost in a combat engagement. Others had been lost to trickery or unfortunate mishaps, but this was the first to be destroyed in a battle. The unmistakable voice of Star Trek’s Jean-Luc Picard rang out over the communications lines as someone turned on the 2007 internet meme, The Picard Song, over their speakers. “Here’s to the finest crew in Starfleet!” For 45 seconds the RedSwarm pilots cheered and screamed like they’d just taken down the Death Star. Then the comms went suddenly silent as Sesfan Qulah shut off everyone’s voice chat and injected his voice over the loud cheering.
“Check. Check. Check. We have work to do.”
The battle raged on with hundreds of ships in the fight, but nothing that could happen afterward mattered. Band of Brothers had never been humbled like this before. The news of SirMolle losing his Titan in combat rippled through EVE, finally giving RedSwarm the morale victory it so desperately needed. Its new leader, Sesfan Qulah, was a hero. Just a few days later, Band of Brothers lost control of its foothold systems in Tenerifis, and the mighty hammer that had swung south and east from Delve had been stopped.
The Goonswarm historian James 315 quoted an unnamed source to describe what the destruction of SirMolle’s Titan meant to Band of Brothers’ war effort. This is a biased account, but there are some quality insights as well.
“The destruction of the BoB Titan was the battle of F-TE1T unfolding in reverse. Just as F-TE1T became a turning point in the war, the loss of Shrike’s Titan may serve as a counterpoint. It is notable that the destruction did not require engaging BoB in a full-scale fleet battle, and it is also notable that the Goons contributed the majority of the fleet operations—including half of the capital firepower.
As you say, the howls. But they were not howls of anger, hunger, or even of satisfaction. They were howls without emotion or human consciousness, like the howls of a wolf who performs his task in the wilderness because it is his nature. The Goon, Romulus and Remus ad infinitum, suckled on the teat of the she-wolf Remedial; these Goons when still babes, almost strangled by BoB in their cradles; these goons when children, making a snack of [SirMolle’s] titan; these goons when full-grown, devour the world.
James, I wish to remind you that all successful entities are bonded by a unique glue. For Red Alliance, Russian; for [Tau Ceti Federation,] French; for Goonswarm, being Goons. But pilots come to the Band of Brothers from all over for one reason: to win, every time. The purpose of BoB is to win an unbroken string of victories. To never persevere through loss or hardship, to never risk a real defeat. To play a game that, due to the advantages fair or no, they cannot lose. To ask the Band of Brothers pilot to place his assets at a real risk of destruction again and again is anathema. To ask a pilot of Evolution who has given all of his assets to SirMolle in exchange for the promise of victory to then part with guaranteed success would be like asking the Goon to be civilized, or to ask the Russian pilot to speak Swahili.
Thus, for BoB, a loss is more than a mere deprivation of his lost assets for a time. When BoB loses a battle, it is nothing less than an identity crisis, for in that loss of a battle he loses his purpose and the reason for BoB’s very existence. Were a power to rise such that BoB could not be guaranteed victory, BoB would slowly disappear. Those who placed all of their belongings in SirMolle’s hands and who did not receive their certain victories would consider themselves cheated, the victims of Evolution.”
—Uncredited source of Goonswarm historian James 315.
July 1, 2007
RedSwarm’s leaders didn’t want to try a brute force campaign. Their strategy wasn’t to push the main Band of Brothers fleets backward and capture all of its territory one system at a time. Instead, they spread out across Band of Brothers-held space and attacked everywhere. With the advance turned back in Tenerifis, all of RedSwarm was free to attack in force anywhere it chose, and it seized the advantage from the battle-hardened Band of Brothers fleets. Even with its host of vassal alliances, Band of Brothers’ territory was too vast to effectively defend, and the mighty empire was showing signs of weakness for the first time in its history. The alliances that Mercenary Coalition left in charge to hold the north were deposed, and the south was being flooded by an onslaught of RedSwarm ships.
“Every single station we had in every single territory we had was under attack by someone,” said SirMolle in 2014. Twenty-four hours a day, members of the Band of Brothers coalition were putting out fires in multiple locations throughout their territory.
PEOPLE OF RISE
As it began to make headway in this war, RedSwarm Federation planned large-scale propaganda campaigns designed to rip apart the Greater Band of Brothers Community. The vassal alliances of Band of Brothers were promised military support from Band of Brothers’ main fleets if they ever came under attack, but they had no guarantees. They had to trust that Band of Brothers would live up to the agreement and show up in their hour of need. Goonswarm seeded doubt, trying to convince these vassals that Band of Brothers was only interested in their taxes and never intended to safeguard their territory.
The most famous of these propaganda campaigns was Goonswarm’s “People of RISE” campaign. One Goonswarm pilot who went by RoyofCA (his name was Roy and he was from California) would endlessly fly through Band of Brothers-held Feythabolis and spout propaganda at the citizens of that region who belonged to RISE, a Band of Brothers ally.
“PEOPLE OF RISE! YOU ARE BEING MISLED AND I CAN PROVE IT!
The war is going badly for the Band of Brothers, RISE. ED-L9T has fallen and remains in the control of your enemy to the west. Thousands of active members from the RedSwarm Federation have overrun entire regions to the north and east, and continue to gain ground unchecked. Band of Brothers’ capital fleet is now outmatched and outnumbered by the combined might of the alliances rallied against it.
RISE members jump ship! Where is the alliance Lotka Volterra, RISE members? I will tell you the TRUTH! It fell to the swarm of enemies at its doorstep because Band of Brothers did not care for them. Band of Brothers charged them money for space they were unwilling to help defend! Lotka Volterra collapsed without Band of Brothers’ support, RISE members, and they were stronger, wealthier, and controlled more space than you. The enemies of Band of Brothers were but a fraction of what they are now at the time, so what will become of you, RISE members? I do not wish to see you collapse as so many alliances before you have, RISE. If you were to lose everything and leave EVE, as Lotka Volterra has, then everyone in the game suffers, regardless of alliance or play style.
We know you want to leave, RISE members. We know it is no fun to waste what little game time you have on things you do not want to do, only to have to pay an absentee slumlord.
We know of your pain, RISE members! I am here to help.”
—RoyofCA, Goonswarm, RedSwarm Federation (Truncated for brevity)
The “People of RISE” speeches were a mixture of hard truths and half-truths designed to weaken the resolve of Band of Brothers’ tenants. RedSwarm knew Feythabolis was the next stop after pushing Band of Brothers out of Tenerifis and Omist because it represented the straightest possible path directly into the heart of the Band of Brothers’ empire. RedSwarm wanted to soften RISE’s membership however possible. While RoyofCA jabbed at its morale, Sesfan Qulah prepared a knockout blow for Feythabolis: The Eye of Terror.
In Tenerifis, RedSwarm was building a series of warpgate jump bridges that would allow it to bypass the long route from its main stations to Feythabolis. Rather than having to traverse two dozen warp gates to get to the heart of RISE’s territory, the Eye of Terror would allow a stream of ships to make the trip in just five jumps, a journey taking a mere five minutes (as opposed to 30 minutes.)
The whole operation is one of the most staggeringly successful works of psychological warfare in EVE’s history. Even the name “Eye of Terror” is a vivid vision of impending doom writ large for the people of RISE as they pictured the Eye of Terror opening to release the swarm.
With the Eye of Terror now serving as a bridge for RedSwarm directly into Feythabolis, Band of Brothers determined that this was not a fight it could win. In a one-on-one fleet fight it could stop practically anything RedSwarm could throw at it, but with the constant attacks throughout its territory, Band of Brothers’ leaders knew they couldn’t dedicate the time or the resources necessary to keep Feythabolis under control. With the warp gate bridge of the Eye of Terror, RedSwarm would actually be closer to Feythabolis than Band of Brothers, which would make defending the territory a logistical nightmare.
With fires popping up in every region of its territory, Band of Brothers couldn’t use the bulk of its fleet to put them all out. The immense girth of the Band of Brothers empire was becoming an enormous liability. For Band of Brothers, the fight had been lost in Tenerifis and in Omist, and now serious attacks were threatening the deep southern territories of Esoteria and Paragon Soul. Meanwhile, the full brunt of the RedSwarm warmachine was about to strike Feythabolis.
The Eye of Terror was finally complete on October 10, 2007, but when RedSwarm arrived in Feythabolis it found RISE to be a functionally beaten alliance. Its pilots could not contend with the might of the RedSwarm Federation, and no reinforcements were coming to help. The prophecy of RoyofCA had come true. RedSwarm had arrived, and Band of Brothers’ defense fleets were nowhere to be found.
SirMolle and Dianabolic had made the call: all Band of Brothers allies still loyal to the empire should abandon their space and consolidate their forces in what SirMolle had begun calling “Fortress Delve.”
The myriad allies of Band of Brothers began packing up their ship caches, breaking down their starbases, and loading up haulers for the expedition to Delve and Querious, where they had a chance at a real defense. The Goonswarm Intelligence Agency had gotten wind of the retreat, however, and used this as a chance to take advantage of the disarrayed Band of Brothers. Its spies relayed information about the flight plans of the massive freighters which would be carrying billions of ISK in supplies, starbases, and ships. Several of these freighters were picked off by RedSwarm black ops teams operating behind enemy lines. Band of Brothers was large enough that it wasn’t ruined by the losses, but they certainly didn’t help it turn around the war.
The very next day, RedSwarm released a propaganda video, and tried to control the way the EVE universe saw the BoB retreat. They wanted people to see this as a popular uprising.
“From the moment we entered existence and set our controls for a greater future, our very presence has been villainized. We have been called a virus and a disease. A cancer on the EVE universe. We began as no such thing, but after a legacy of harassment from those calling themselves ‘The Alliance,’ that is what we have become. We now exist to spread the infection. Those who surrender and run will be forgotten. Those who take to our side will be rewarded. Those who stand and fight will be invaded. Know that as your empire burns to the ground, we are the fire that you sparked. We are the plague that you engineered. We are the monster that you created.”
—Goonswarm propaganda video
October 25, 2007
Band of Brothers wasn’t down and out yet though. Its leaders had decided to consolidate in Delve because there were new gameplay mechanics governing sovereignty that would give them a big advantage if they were to take up a strong defensive posture. In Summer 2007, CCP Games had introduced a system that gave a defender’s advantage to alliances that held their territory for long periods of time.
Seven days after an alliance was awarded sovereignty—by anchoring more starbases than any other alliance in that system—the system gained “Sovereignty 1” which gave basic capabilities like allowing that alliance to deploy its capital shipyards and outposts. After 14 days of uninterrupted sovereignty, a system would reach Sovereignty 2, and after another 14 days it reached Sovereignty 3, which gave the sovereign alliance a much stronger defensive position. Sovereignty 3 gave the defenders a system-wide “cyno jammer” which prevented any adversaries from using jump bridges to bring in their biggest ships—dreadnoughts, carriers, and Titans are too big to use traditional stargates and have to jump themselves into a system using a cynosural field. Without capital ships, an attacking alliance would be forced to use only smaller battleship fleets—which can use traditional stargates—to destroy the cyno jammer so they could bridge in their heavy artillery. This meant that any attacker would be significantly outgunned and would need superior numbers and tactics to break a defender’s hold.
Sovereignty 3 was critical, but Sovereignty 4 was nearly unbreakable. At this level, an alliance would have certain systems—its capital systems—in which all of the structures would be rendered completely invulnerable. Logically, Band of Brothers started anchoring as many capital ship assembly arrays as it could within these invulnerable systems because it was impossible to destroy them. This meant that even if RedSwarm arrived with a fleet of thousands it still wouldn’t be able to destroy Band of Brothers’ in-build ships. RedSwarm would need to slowly chip away at Band of Brothers’ territory one system at a time, without the benefit of capital ships.
This concentrated, extremely strong defensive position gave Band of Brothers a much better shot at survival than the unwieldy stretch of space it once controlled.
The indefensible expanse of Band of Brothers’ territory wasn’t the only problem with its colossal empire. In the north, some of its vassal alliances—which had been placed in territory taken from the Northern Coalition—found themselves at war with one another. In the south Band of Brothers’ empire was crumbling from invasion, and in the north its allies were crumbling from internal strife.
For the grizzled war veterans in Mercenary Coalition, the writing was on the wall. Eight months earlier, the mercenaries had forged an alliance with Band of Brothers for the chance to get revenge on the Northern Coalition. Now the northern front of the war was closed, and their alliance with Band of Brothers had compelled them to fight on the southern front, which they had no interest in. They returned to their business-minded origins and looked at the situation like business-people. There was no profit to be had in going down with the ship alongside Band of Brothers.
Mercenary Coalition also knew there was no easy way out of its alliance. It had made a lot of enemies, and its home was right next door to Band of Brothers’ home region of Delve.
Beyond that, Goonswarm’s lead diplomat Vile Rat had made contact with Mercenary Coalition’s leader Seleene over the preceding months. According to Seleene, meeting Vile Rat helped put a friendly face on RedSwarm Federation. And Seleene believed that if Mercenary Coalition was to break off its alliance with Band of Brothers now then it might not be bothered if RedSwarm destroyed Band of Brothers.
Mercenary Coalition approached other groups in secret—including Evoke alliance, Outbreak, and KIA Alliance—and formed a new power bloc called Tortuga in the deep southern dead-end region of Period Basis.
“As of Saturday the 15th of December: Mercenary Coalition, KIA, Ev0ke and 0utbreak claim the region of Period Basis as our home. We urge all current Period Basis residents to make other living arrangements. Those who do not will be put to the sword. We ask for no quarter and shall give none.
We do this for ourselves, our fellow brethren of space. Once our new home is secure, MC and KIA will be available for regular contract work, unfettered by the agendas of foreign powers.
Welcome to 2008. That is all.”
—Seleene, Director, Mercenary Coalition
December 15, 2007
Arguably Band of Brothers’ most powerful ally had deserted it. Whether this was a conniving backstab or a logical move by a business-focused mercenary company depended a lot on whose side you were on. Band of Brothers saw it as the former.
Seleene, director of Mercenary Coalition, recalled that years after this event he spoke to SirMolle to offer his condolences for how their working relationship ended. He told me that SirMolle was still angry about the betrayal even years later. Seleene remembered only one phrase from that conversation: “You’re the one who has to live with what you did.”
The Mercenary Coalition-led power bloc, Tortuga, may have betrayed Band of Brothers, but it claimed it wasn’t taking sides. As its name suggests, it put up a defensive wall to safeguard its new home and turtle in the bottom of the map. Regardless of whether it viewed itself as neutral, SirMolle now saw the group as an enemy.
THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES
More bad news was in store for Band of Brothers. The increasingly-renowned Goonswarm Intelligence Agency had intercepted some private communications from the website of the Band of Brothers ally Firmus Ixion. These communications revealed that Firmus Ixion was considering following Mercenary Coalition’s lead and turning on Band of Brothers. To put it mildly, this wasn’t good for the morale of an alliance that had just lost 80 percent of its empire. Ramming the point home, RedSwarm’s famous propaganda artists put out another video mocking SirMolle’s penchant for using the metaphor of a pendulum to describe the way he wanted Band of Brothers to crush nullsec.
On more than one occasion RedSwarm leadership invoked the myth of the Sword of Damocles—the ancient Greek parable about the ever-present danger of being in a position of power—to describe what it saw as the imminent collapse of Band of Brothers.
“It is true. There is a pendulum. It is the Sword of Damocles. And every day, hour, minute it comes closer to impaling you on your self-appointed throne. Remember those who called upon you for help. You had allies. You could have stopped us. You could have saved them. You failed. Your pilots grow weary. They feel as though they are against unthinkable odds. That there can be no victory. That they are the only target for the growing tide of locusts. Band of Brothers, you are not the only target. You are simply the only target remaining.”
—Goonswarm propaganda video titled “Damocles”
January 4, 2008
With the wind at its back, the RedSwarm Federation charged into Delve, the home of Band of Brothers and the place it had chosen to make its stand. This wasn’t meant to be an Alamo-style dead-to-the-last-man hopeless defense. Band of Brothers still had the hardware and the know-how to defend its territory when it was localized to one or two regions. It dug in its heels and awaited the RedSwarm fleets.
RedSwarm Federation was delayed slightly in its arrival to Delve as it stopped to conquer abandoned territory. Band of Brothers had pulled out of the regions of the south, but in its retreat plenty of starbases got left behind. RedSwarm spent weeks mopping up the dozens of vacant starbases left behind by the fleeing empire. Its leaders wanted to make sure Band of Brothers had no safe haven to run to once they conquered Delve.
The southern front had already collapsed, and the news from the northern front was no better. A group calling itself Pandemic Legion had formed an alliance with the Northern Coalition and was now pushing south, fighting the Band of Brothers allies left in Fountain. These fights were disastrous for Band of Brothers as the revitalized northerners shot down ten ships for every one they lost.
As Fountain crumbled so did Querious, and Firmus Ixion evacuated nullsec entirely and left the region to the northerners, who conquered it unopposed.
This was also a time—the beginning of 2008—that supercapital ships became a common sight. Most major alliances owned a Titan, and the biggest coalitions of alliances had four or five of them. They were still incredibly valuable tools, but they were now commonly seen on the battlefield rather than a rare aberration used in only the most important fights. Goonswarm itself—famed for its massive fleets of junk ships—unveiled its own Titan, an Erebus-class ship it dubbed “The Gooncannon.” This gave RedSwarm Federation two Titans to use in battle.
With the rest of Band of Brothers’ empire crushed, only Delve remained, and RedSwarm wanted to finish it all in one climactic battle. After a year and a half of war, RedSwarm Federation had gone from controlling just one system in the west (Red Alliance’s C-J6MT, Insmother) to extending its arm all the way across the south, and was about to step on Band of Brothers’ front porch. It set its sights on NOL-M9, the spiritual home system of Band of Brothers for the last three years.
This battle was going to be absolutely critical for the Russians in particular. Internal squabbling had begun to form rifts in Red Alliance, but a decisive victory could potentially bring them back together.
A torrent of ships plowed their way into NOL-M9 and began the largest, longest, and most frantic fight ever seen in EVE. For more than a week, the battle raged in this system at all hours. At its lowest points there were still 400 combatants in NOL-M9 fighting for one side or the other, and at peak hours there were up to three times that number.
Against all odds, Band of Brothers was holding the line, and RedSwarm may have begun to regret its decision to commit to one all-out assault. Tricks and unique tactics became all-important as each side desperately clawed to gain an advantage over the other. One of the only documented moments from this battle took place on February 16, after a week of fighting. RedSwarm had set up a trap near a stargate. It placed one lone carrier out of position, hoping Band of Brothers would warp in a fleet to destroy it—at which point a RedSwarm Titan would warp in to unleash a Doomsday blast and wipe out the fleet.
A Band of Brothers fleet commander named TWD smelled the trap. He sent in just half of the fleet accompanied by a group of extremely well-armored support ships designed specifically to survive Doomsday blasts. As expected, when the fleet arrived, a Titan appeared and wrecked it with a Doomsday. What TWD didn’t expect was the second Titan that arrived with yet another Doomsday.
One Band of Brothers ship was left standing. The ship got its warp scramblers locked on one of the RedSwarm Titans as the second warped away. TWD ordered the entire fleet to jump in on the scrambled Titan. Without sufficient backup the RedSwarm Titan was destroyed.
That Titan had belonged to Red Alliance, and its loss drove the Russians off the battlefield. They had been struggling internally with messy politics and low morale, and the loss of one of their only Titans was the last push many leaders within Red Alliance needed to call off the fight and leave the main front in Delve. They packed up their ships and headed back to the east, leaving Goonswarm to fight alone.
This situation repeated itself a few days later as the northerners lost an expensive Nyx-class mothership. All the while, Band of Brothers’ morale was lifting after months of being pushed to the brink. The northerners abandoned the front in Delve as well, and suddenly Goonswarm was facing Band of Brothers alone, trying to dislodge it from nullsec for good.
The fighting in Delve was so fierce that it’s an impossible tale to retell with full accuracy. There were very few standout moments to give shape to the round-the-clock conflict. For weeks on end, the pilots of each side would log in, report to a fleet commander and fight wherever they were needed. There was no downtime. In Delve and Querious there was nothing but war between thousands of players.
It’s impossible to give adequate description to this formless, endless battle except to say that it will likely never be duplicated ever again in EVE’s history. The raw emotion to equal this battle’s ferocity would be difficult to duplicate, but the game’s mechanics also likely wouldn’t allow for it. In modern EVE, major battles are comparatively flash-in-the-pan. The modern game skews toward long individual fights in which everything is decided in one epic eight hour confrontation fought with such ferocity that it can’t be sustained for very long.
By now, Band of Brothers had accumulated eight Titans, and in this final defense of Delve it used every one of them. There was nothing Goonswarm could do by itself against the absurdity of eight Doomsday blasts in every battle—more if the battle lasted over an hour, which is roughly how long it took for the Doomsday to reload.
Band of Brothers had full sovereignty over the region, which meant Goonswarm couldn’t even use its largest ships. It needed to warp in large fleets of comparatively small battleships to try to wrest control of a system away from Band of Brothers. But with the massive number of Titans at BoB’s disposal, there was little that battleships could do to conquer Delve, and it was rare that Goonswarm was able to use its best ships.
Goonswarm now also faced a problem similar to what Band of Brothers had confronted: it controlled too much territory. While it fought the ultimate war in Delve, the rest of its territory was open to attack. Smaller alliances which should have had no business attacking Goonswarm were able to move in and make themselves comfortable.
Goonswarm stood alone against Band of Brothers in Delve. The loss of its allies clearly hurt morale, but its massive numbers ensured it was still up for the fight. On April 15 the two sides clashed once again with heavy hardware at stake in the system 319-3D. Band of Brothers didn’t put its Titans in the fight, but it still outnumbered the Goonswarm capital fleet two-to-one with triple the number of dreadnoughts on the field. The Goons decided to engage the fight anyway, and were cut to ribbons, losing 18 capital ships in the fray.
This battle of 319-3D in Delve on April 15, 2008 turned out to be the finale. Sesfan Qulah stepped down from his position as CEO of Goonswarm and appointed as his successor a well-known Goon who went by the name Darius JOHNSON.
In his very first decree as the leader of Goonswarm, Darius JOHNSON announced the end of hostilities in Delve, and Goonswarm returned to its massive new empire in the south and east.
The guns were silenced in the Delve-Querious-Period Basis peninsula for the first time in a year, and Band of Brothers had a moment to breathe. It was ready for some peace, but there was one more matter that needed to be attended to: Mercenary Coalition. SirMolle and Band of Brothers still held a grudge against Seleene and Mercenary Coalition for defecting in the middle of the largest war EVE had ever known, and now that they had successfully defended Delve they were free to let loose their anger.
The full force of Band of Brothers came down upon the Mercenary Coalition-led Tortuga power bloc, sweeping it aside with a fury. Band of Brothers crushed the much smaller alliance, evicting it from Period Basis and reclaiming the region.
All of New Eden was a different place after the conclusion of the Delve invasion. The Northern Coalition had been battered throughout the war, but the core of the coalition survived to continue their rule of the northern territories. The enormous Band of Brothers empire had been reduced to just three regions, down from 14 at its peak. The RedSwarm Federation was now the dominant new power in EVE Online with control over 16 of its own regions and counting.
With the war against Band of Brothers behind it, Goonswarm turned its eye east toward aiding Red Alliance in its march into the Drone Regions of Perrigen Falls, Outer Passage, and Oasa. The RedSwarm empire was large and its growth could not be stopped by any power left standing after the Great EVE War.
While the war had been raging in Delve the world evolved, but the Great War wasn’t over yet. Band of Brothers was still standing, and SirMolle wanted revenge.
The attempted invasion of Delve was over. Band of Brothers had held the line, survived the tide of Goons, and exacted revenge on Mercenary Coalition. Its pilots could have enjoyed a peaceful time to rebuild or take vacations from playing EVE, but they were not the sort to sit quietly and humbly in Delve. At the same time, the alliance had learned from its mistakes and would no longer aspire to conquer sovereign territory. SirMolle and Dianabolic had boasted in the past that Band of Brothers would conquer every region of nullsec territory, but having been thwarted in that pursuit SirMolle announced a new campaign: Maximum Damage.
The Maximum Damage campaign wasn’t about conquering territory and installing vassals; it was about ravaging the northern alliances. The goal was to ensure they would never again have the capability to wage war on Band of Brothers. If the Northern Coalition’s shipyards were destroyed it could take months to get back on track with the production of the massive ships necessary for large scale warfare, and the strategic ripple effects could weaken the Northern Coalition for years.
The Maximum Damage campaign began on July 10, 2008, when Band of Brothers and what was left of the Greater Band of Brothers Community assembled an imposing fleet of 600 ships and sailed confidently out of Fortress Delve. The target was the Imperial Republic of the North (IRON), the southernmost member of the Northern Coalition with residency in Deklein.
Band of Brothers and its allies arrived in Deklein and took IRON completely off-guard. The defenders said they had only ten minutes notice that the fleet was on its way. Despite the enormous handicap, the IRON defenders managed to beat back Band of Brothers, inflicting huge losses on the much larger attacking fleet. Their defensive position in Deklein was simply too well entrenched to be broken with the first wave of an assault. IRON was committing everything to this defense. Every pilot and every spare ship was committed to holding the line.
Hours later, Band of Brothers returned and failed once again, suffering the same large losses as before. The skirmishes continued for days, but after losing hundreds of ships, Band of Brothers finally began to make headway. Band of Brothers slowly took the field, spread to neighboring systems, and established dominance over the space station in a nearby system.
That victory hurt IRON enough to make up for Band of Brothers’ losses. Delve was still among the wealthiest territories in the game, and it buoyed the immense production efforts that kept Band of Brothers’ well-furnished with high-cost hardware.
Once Band of Brothers controlled the station, it brought in hundreds of dreadnoughts, defending it with enough firepower to deter IRON from retaking it. IRON quickly realized that it was involved in a war of attrition it couldn’t hope to win against an industrial power like Band of Brothers. IRON began meeting with its allies in the resurgent Northern Coalition—Morsus Mihi and Razor Alliance—to figure out how the northern alliances would face this threat together.
The one factor IRON had on its side was morale. According to Vuk Lau, now the leader of the Northern Coalition, the IRON pilots were furious that their old enemy was once again invading their home region. IRON was willing to do whatever it took to stop them.
The Northern Coalition members agreed that they would have to work together to stifle this threat, but Vuk Lau knew his people were not yet prepared to go to war against Band of Brothers. He decided that IRON would have to go it alone, but with a caveat. While IRON did its best to slow the Band of Brothers invasion, the rest of the Northern Coalition would work day and night readying itself for war. Once IRON could no longer hold back Band of Brothers, it would retreat, and Vuk Lau’s alliance—Morsus Mihi, one of the leads of the Northern Coalition—would offer IRON’s pilots refuge within Morsus Mihi’s borders in Tribute. Then the rest of the Northern Coalition would take over the fight.
The IRON pilots returned to the field of battle with a single mission: slow down the invasion. For six weeks, IRON fought a battle it was destined to lose, at great cost to Band of Brothers. The clock was ticking, and Band of Brothers wasn’t carving through IRON’s territory quickly enough. Meanwhile, behind the front line of Deklein, the Northern Coalition was building its war machine ship by ship.
As the Northern Coalition feverishly prepared to uphold its end of the bargain, IRON was taking a beating. Not only was it fighting hard against Band of Brothers in the north, but by coincidence, IRON’s other holdings far away in the Drone Regions were under attack by invading Russian alliances. As enemies struck on both sides, IRON eventually folded to the pressure and lost its sovereign territory, becoming a wandering alliance.
IRON’s heroic defense came with a cost: In the final battle for Deklein at VFK-IV, it lost its flagship, an Avatar-class Titan. It also ultimately lost most of its former power as many of its best pilots, not content to be homeless, deserted the alliance.
On August 21, Band of Brothers finally captured IRON’s capital system of VFK-IV. The Northern Coalition had spent the previous month stockpiling enormous reserves of warships, weapons, and ammunition while erecting as many defensive starbases as it could afford. Its pilots remembered what Band of Brothers and Mercenary Coalition had done to them just a year earlier when the Northern Coalition was still largely a mining and profit-focused group. This time they would be ready. Under Vuk Lau’s command, the Northern Coalition was tenacious and utterly unwilling to cede control to Band of Brothers. In a cheeky echo of SirMolle’s own language, Vuk Lau started referring to his home as “Fortress Tribute.”
With Deklein under its control, Band of Brothers moved quickly to advance on Tribute. It struck hard, dealing incredible damage to the Northern Coalition as both alliances poured everything into the early battles to prevent or ensure a Band of Brothers foothold in Tribute. The first series of battles in Tribute included two of the most destructive battles in Band of Brothers’ history as hundreds of Northern Coalition ships were left in rubble. When Band of Brothers members wrote about these days as they happened, they boasted about the enormity of their success so far in the Maximum Damage campaign.
“What will mark this day in history is the lack of losses the Greater Band of Brothers Community suffered whilst inflicting maximum damage,” wrote one Band of Brothers member in the aftermath.
In the first years of the game, two decisive victories would often have been all an invader needed to break the back of an enemy alliance. Once the men and women in the defense fleets see evidence that their side is losing, they tend to stop showing up for the fights. People become selfish in the face of what they view as an inevitable defeat, and they see no reason to risk their own ships—or waste their own spare time—for a futile fight.
But after five years of conflict, EVE was changing. Many of the feckless pilots who would run away at the second sign of adversity were leaving nullsec for good. The idea of the “pure industrial” coalition in nullsec was becoming an anachronism. Only alliances with the resilience to fight to survive were able to survive the crucible of nullsec warfare. Vuk Lau kept the Northern Coalition’s morale high in the face of two staggering defeats. The Coalition drew on its huge backlog of ships to absorb the losses, and its deep-seated hatred of Band of Brothers kept its pilots battling, much to the surprise of Band of Brothers’ leaders who expected the Northern Coalition to fold quickly.
Band of Brothers’ initial momentum pushed it deep into Tribute, allowing it to capture two systems with valuable stations. With growing confidence it continued onward, its sights set on nearby 15W-GC. But this was where the Northern Coalition drew a line in the sand. It committed its vast reserves of ships to the defense of this one system. The war would be won or lost right here.
The Northern Coalition had also recruited a new ally to aid in the front: Pandemic Legion, an outfit of highly skilled mercenary pilots which was becoming a major player in nullsec. As with Mercenary Coalition before it, if you were going to win a war in nullsec, you wanted to hire Pandemic Legion lest your enemy hire it first.
Alongside Pandemic Legion, the Northern Coalition threw everything into 15W-GC and fought tooth and nail for every moon. Band of Brothers could do nothing to gain a foothold. When Band of Brothers moved onward to try its luck in other systems, the Northern Coalition shut it down there as well.
Shortly into this stage of the invasion, on October 26, a large Band of Brothers fleet—including a Titan, two motherships, about 75 dreadnoughts, and several hundred support ships—was massing near a stargate when a Northern Coalition scout found the fleet’s location. The scout called in a Titan to unload a Doomsday on it. The massive Doomsday explosion killed much of Band of Brothers’ support ships and smaller vessels. The Northern Coalition’s own support fleet warped in with electronic warfare ships to scramble and drain power from its enemies, and moments later, dozens of Northern Coalition dreadnoughts arrived. The dreadnoughts warped in directly on top of the disoriented Band of Brothers fleet and loosed their powerful weapons batteries, concentrating all of their firepower on SirMolle’s Titan. Within minutes it burst into a nova-sized explosion.
SirMolle’s Titan was the first to fall, but soon both motherships were shot down as well. Without a support fleet to help repair its ships, recharge its shields, and scramble its enemies, the Band of Brothers fleet was a sitting duck. Its dreadnought pilots quickly logged out of the game in an effort to save their ships, but the Northern Coalition would not be fooled. It set up a blockade around the position where the Band of Brothers pilots had logged off, and when the dreadnought pilots logged back in over the coming hours and days to try to sneak away, every one of them was destroyed. Sixty Band of Brothers dreadnoughts were destroyed (along with the Titan and two motherships) with virtually no casualties for the Northern Coalition.
The motherships and dreadnoughts were a large chunk of the Band of Brothers capital fleet, but the Titan was the biggest loss. SirMolle was now the only person in EVE Online history to lose two Titans, and the alliance was beginning to lose faith in this mission.
Though they were shocked by the stone wall defense the Northern Coalition and Pandemic Legion had erected in Tribute, Band of Brothers pilots redoubled their efforts and pushed harder, re-equipping SirMolle with his third Titan. Four days later, Band of Brothers was plotting a new attack into Nothern Coalition territory by using SirMolle’s new Titan to warp-bridge their capital fleet to the front line. He was safe inside a starbase’s shields while he was coordinating the fleets, but he didn’t notice the single small enemy Machariel battleship slip through the forcefield. It ordinarily wouldn’t have been able to do that, but Pandemic Legion had acquired the password to enter the shield and gotten through. The Machariel rammed into SirMolle’s Titan, giving it enough inertia to drift out beyond the bounds of the starbase’s shield. The second it drifted past the shield, Pandemic Legion’s capital fleet showed up to destroy the Titan before quickly escaping.
Besides the two smoldering Titans—a toll that would have crippled most other alliances at the time—Band of Brothers had also lost more than 200 dreadnoughts and carriers in the fighting, an embarrassing sum for an alliance reputed for its elite combat skills. Band of Brothers crashed upon the rocks of Vuk Lau’s Fortress Tribute. There was no justifying a continued campaign in the north, and the Maximum Damage campaign was brought to an abrupt close.
Previously, people bent to SirMolle’s will because he was a feared conqueror. But now his people had just lost a war under his command. His glory days were 3-4 years in the past by this point, and newer EVE players knew little about his previous conquests.
Just as the Maximum Damage campaign kicked off, an article about EVE Online was published in the New York Times that covered the first ever Council of Stellar Management (a group of EVE Online players who act as elected officials to voice the desires of the players to CCP Games). Of particular interest to EVE players was a sidebar to the article profiling SirMolle that showed his true face and revealed his true name.
The picture that accompanied the article showed Par Molen—SirMolle’s real name—with a closely shorn Swedish-blonde beard, thin-rimmed glasses, a white polo shirt, and a gag gift from an alliance mate: a giant fluffy pink cowboy hat. In the picture, he’s flipping burgers and chicken breasts on the grill at the annual Band of Brothers barbecue in Denmark. It was an image of him that only his closest allies had ever seen before. That pink, fluffy hat became the new defining symbol of SirMolle. Internet proto-memes sprouted up with players mocking him by photoshopping the hat onto his EVE avatar.
The image of SirMolle as a fearsome, slightly insane EVE dictator was crumbling. No longer was he SirMolle the powerful warlord or Shrike the feared Titan pilot. He was Par Molen, a manager at a heating and air conditioning installation and repair company in Sweden.
The original purpose of the Maximum Damage campaign was to restore morale to the Band of Brothers pilots. The leadership had asked their members to commit months of their lives to holding Delve in the Great EVE War, and this campaign was supposed to replicate Mercenary Coalition’s success against the north in 2007, and make its pilots feel powerful again. Instead, it had become a quagmire of historic proportions. Band of Brothers was forced to retreat back to its home in Delve, humbled, and figure out a new plan for the future. That future, it decided, was in the south.
Band of Brothers decided to get back to basics. What would energize its members and get them back in the fleets? The answer: killing Goons. When news broke that Evil Thug was leading Against ALL Authorities in a campaign in the south to burn Goon territory, Band of Brothers moved in to support the attack.
THE RUSSIAN SCHISM AND
THE DRONE OFFENSIVE
RedSwarm Federation was now the largest landowner in the history of EVE Online. Between RedSwarm and its close allies, the Federation’s territory spanned half of New Eden. However, the empire RedSwarm had built so quickly had an unstable foundation.
Few people at the time knew that the diplomatic union known as RedSwarm Federation had essentially fallen apart with the failure of the campaign to capture Delve from Band of Brothers. Red Alliance—still an independent entity despite being part of RedSwarm—left the invasion due to its own internal strife, and Red Alliance’s dissension was causing problems for its former allies as well.
It started innocuously enough. Members of Red Alliance were caught using a valuable complex—a territory where players can hunt AI enemies to collect items and technology for profit—in Goonswarm territory in the early morning hours. Goonswarm asked them to stop using the complex, but the Red Alliance pilots refused. Despite repeated attempts to resolve the situation, Goonswarm and a small fraction of Red Alliance found themselves at odds. These Russian players were, after all, essentially stealing from Goonswarm by using its territory.
This relatively small-scale problem with the complex ended up becoming the infraction that broke the alliance. Goonswarm called off its formal ties with Red Alliance, but it was something of a technicality. Goonswarm immediately established alliances with several corporations within Red Alliance, but declared those who were involved in the complex scandal to be enemies.
Those who were declared to be enemies of Goonswarm were furious, and a great debate erupted within Red Alliance with the “enemies” loudly proclaiming that the entire Red Alliance should declare war on Goonswarm. The relations between Goonswarm and the Russians were frayed, but not warlike. The prospect of a war declaration
The Red Alliance corporations that Goonswarm declared to be enemies were now furious, and to make matters worse their own people refused to back them up. These corporations declared that their time in Red Alliance was over and moved to form their own new alliance, “Red.Overlord.”
Red.Overlord’s first order of business was to reach out to every other Russian faction in EVE Online, looking for help in attacking Goonswarm holdings. These efforts were fruitless until it approached Against ALL Authorities. Just a couple of months ago, its leader Evil Thug was an ally of Goonswarm, but now he was prepared to go to war against the Goons. There are some interesting theories that explain his change of heart. Unfortunately, Evil Thug himself couldn’t be contacted for this book.
THE RUSSIAN TYCOON
When Red Alliance left the main front of the Great EVE War during the assault on Delve, it was reportedly out of exhaustion and a growing sense of futility, but there’s another reason why it suddenly stopped pushing in a three-year-long war. Dissension had sprung up within the ranks, and its pilots could no longer reach a clear consensus through their leadership.
The leaders of Red Alliance—Mactep and Death—had been heroes ever since the Red victory in the Siege of C-J6MT. Death, in particular, had become a very popular person within the alliance who ruled through infamy. He began running his own fleet operations without approval from the alliance council, and people were following him. Resentment grew among the other corporation leaders within Red Alliance.
This peaked during the great invasion of Band of Brothers’ space in Delve when all of those Red Alliance leaders began leaving the front. Given little choice, Death had to withdraw as well. All of the Russian forces arrayed against Band of Brothers—both Red Alliance and Against ALL Authorities—were pulling back. There’s a rumor about why this was happening, which I have to stress is completely unverified. The rumor goes that a very wealthy Russian oil-tanker tycoon began to get active in the EVE community and wanted to throw his weight around. Allegedly, this person wanted to shake up the political field. He is said to have paid real-world currency to high-ranking Russian players to abandon the front in Delve, and ultimately turn their backs on Goonswarm. It’s a compelling story, but I’m not sure how much I believe it.
This story is well-known by the leaders of nullsec, but there are always differences in how it is told depending on the storyteller. Sometimes he’s a wealthy oil baron. Sometimes he’s a shipping tycoon (whose company primarily operates oil barges). Sometimes he’s an aluminum magnate, or a rich friend of one of EVE’s Russian leaders, or even the secret leader of Red.Overlord. The stories even vary wildly in the amounts he is supposed to have paid players, from $10,000 to $300,000, and everywhere in between. At this point it seems certain that everyone I’ve heard this story from is at least somewhat wrong.
There have always been larger-than-life rumors regarding the Russian sect of EVE players. People speak in hushed tones about Russian tycoons, mobsters, Russian players selling ISK on eBay and earning millions of rubles (tens of thousands in USD) per month. I tend to distrust most of them since they’re usually couched in stereotypical notions of Russian life. The rumors almost always uphold the vision of Russian players as corrupt, cheating, poverty-stricken thugs with ties to the mafia and/or billionaire tycoons who are themselves tied to the mafia.
These are particularly difficult rumors to prove/disprove because of the language barrier and sheer distance of the Russian community, which can often act as an entirely separate entity complete with its own forums and social platforms. This, non-coincidentally, is why a lot of these rumors take hold in the first place.
To its credit, the rumor of the Russian oil tycoon shaking up the nullsec political field goes beyond the usual baseline xenophobia levied at the Russian EVE-playing community by other players. This is a rumor that also persists with Russian players as well.
I find myself grappling with this particular rumor because, if true, it explains a lot about EVE’s history. Not just in the Delve invasion, but with further-reaching consequences as well. It would also explain the rift that was about to tear apart the entire Russian community.
The exact reasons for this split are difficult to pin down. Russian community leaders are very difficult for an American, English-speaking researcher to contact or interview. I don’t speak the language which means my options for sources are very few. This means that a number of safeguards are missing in the reporting process. I was able to find only a few good sources despite attempts to contact many others. Rather than leave you with no understanding of the Russian community—which would be a crime given that it’s now the second largest nationality in EVE—I’ll simply say that what follows is a one-sided view, and you should mistrust it appropriately.
According to Death, the rest of the Red Alliance council was becoming jealous of his popularity and infamy in the Russian community. The war hero—as he described himself in our interview—had to be pushed out if they were going to get control back. Obviously that’s a one-sided story. I’ve heard similarly one-sided rumors that Death was no longer going along with the council, and it had no choice but to remove him. The real story is likely—as usual—that a communication breakdown struck Red Alliance’s pilots. Their relationships were stressed, and they weren’t communicating well enough to work out their differences.
Regardless of the cause, Death left Red Alliance and formed his own alliance, Legion of xXDeathXx. He left the traditional Russian regions in the southeast and headed north into the Drone Regions with several hundred ex-Red Alliance members who opted to follow him.
The Russians began to drift apart. Though they were few in number during the legendary stand at the Siege of C-J6MT in 2006, their legend spread through Russia and attracted thousands of new Russian-speaking players. Strong leaders within Red Alliance began to take control of their own powerful factions. In a very short period of time, relations within Red Alliance splintered and it became four separate groups.
Legion of xXDeathXx and Mactep’s Solar Fleet were the largest of the splinter organizations (approximately 700 members each) while Red Alliance soldiered on with far fewer members than it had before (roughly 1600 remaining) and Red.Overlord attracted about 400 members to follow it on its crusade against the Goons.
THE DRONE EXODUS
Up until this point in EVE’s history we haven’t paid much attention to the Drone Regions. Released as part of a content expansion by CCP Games, the eight zones which comprised the Drone Regions were mostly ignored by the larger nullsec powers for the first couple years of their existence.
In the game’s lore, the Drone Regions were a large frontier of unexplored star systems which the fictional in-game factions attempted to gain access to using large fleets of highly sophisticated autonomous drones. The drones, having a base form of sentience, took it upon themselves to populate the Drone Regions and form large drone hives that work like space outposts.
While they were pretty cool from a sci-fi point of view, the Drone Regions weren’t particularly valuable territories. It’s easy to imagine the predicament CCP Games would have found itself in when looking to introduce new nullsec territories. If it was to introduce highly rich and valuable new turf, it would be giving a huge advantage to whomever had easy access to those territories.
The major powers didn’t really care to control the Drone Regions, and as a result they became something of a haven for smaller alliances. The eight new territories were a home to a dozen small groups with most of them carving out a small piece of turf no larger than a dozen or so star systems.
That was all set to change now that the Great War was ostensibly over. Death took his fragment of the old alliance and departed from the traditionally Russian regions of Cache and Insmother, setting out into The Spire and Outer Passage (territories within the Drone Regions) to make a home of his own.
The splintering in Red Alliance had continued. To hear Death tell the tale, Mactep’s renown grew too great, and he too was forced out by the other leaders of Red Alliance. Mactep’s Solar Fleet headed out into the Drone Regions to help out its old friends.
By November 2008, Legion of xXDeathXx and Solar Fleet had conquered all of the Drone Regions, and the Northern Coalition was none too pleased as the Russians had been conquering Northern Coalition allies.
“Legion of xXDeathXx and Solar Fleet took advantage of us being busy with [Band of Brothers] during the Maximum Damage war and took Cobalt Edge without any real resistance,” said Vuk Lau, the leader of the Northern Coalition. “We were a bit pissed because Legion of xXDeathXx was meant to be one of the old anti-Band of Brothers allies. They should have been helping us, not backstabbing us. I think some of the Northern Coalition still had them [marked as allies] even as they were invading.”
HUMBLE BEGINNINGS TO BIG WARS
Meanwhile, in the south, Red.Overlord was hell-bent on revenge against Goonswarm, and it recruited Against ALL Authorities to start making raids on Goon-held territory. Against ALL Authorities had recently been given extra incentive to enter the war—it was reported that Goonswarm leader Darius JOHNSON had made an ill-considered remark that Against ALL Authorities could never defeat Goonswarm in a head-to-head war.
By now, Goonswarm was exceedingly large, with many thousands of players. By contrast, these two Russian alliances—Against ALL Authorities was predominantly Russian, but never really played along with the other Russian groups—were a fraction of the size. They only had one advantage: Evil Thug. After five years in EVE Online, Evil Thug was a terrifying figure. He commanded fierce loyalty from his pilots, and he was notoriously cavalier with his Titan. He was famous for committing his flagship to any fight he could find, even if it was just a couple of pirates whose ships were literally worth less than the ammunition he shot them with. Nobody wanted to get in his way when he was on the war path.
But even with a new ally—Stain Empire, a very old alliance that had resided in the south since nearly the dawn of EVE Online—the small coalition made next to no gains when it attacked Goonswarm-held Feythabolis. Worse, mere days after the invasion began, the attacking coalition was already being pushed back into its home regions. Seeing an opportunity to bring this small war to an early end, the Goons staged an “alarm clock operation.”
The idea behind this is that the mostly-American Goons were rarely playing EVE at the same time as the mostly-Russian and European Red.Overlord/Against ALL Authorities/Stain Empire coalition. So the Goons ordered a large number of their pilots (numbering in the hundreds) to set their alarm clocks for the very early morning American hours so they could wake up and get online to fight the Russians in their own time zone.
The alarm clock operation was a huge success, and the Goons were able to push Red.Overlord back into its own staging system where it housed its stores of ships. Goonswarm established a blockade around Red.Overlord’s main station and began smothering it. Even during their off-hours the Goons were still dominant. Red.Overlord was going to be trapped inside its station for a very long time unless it could find a way to break the siege.
But just as all hope faded for the humbled coalition, Band of Brothers announced its intent to cease the Maximum Damage campaign in the north and join the fight against Goonswarm in the south. What nobody knew at the time was that this was the beginning of the next stage of the Great War.
The arrival of Band of Brothers in the south marked a turning point in the young war, and the anti-Goon coalition of alliances (Red.Overlord, Against ALL Authorities, Stain Empire and Band of Brothers) suddenly had the manpower to fight a much different kind of war than was previously possible. This coalition split apart, and each alliance attacked a different part of Goonswarm’s massive territory. It was the same strategy RedSwarm Federation had used against Band of Brothers during its hugely successful invasion of the south a year earlier, and now it was being used against Goonswarm.
Against ALL Authorities and a smattering of smaller alliances hit the Goons in Esoteria, while Red.Overlord focused on Feythabolis, and Band of Brothers (and its stalwart ally Executive Outcomes) attacked Wicked Creek.
The attack on Wicked Creek was particularly problematic for Goonswarm. It was the former territory of Tau Ceti Federation, which had only weeks before packed its bags and moved to Deklein in the north to settle in a new home. Band of Brothers was invading effectively vacant turf and, worse, nobody in Goonswarm really cared about it. There was no inspiration to fly out and defend a region the Goons had never owned. But to the outside world it looked terrible, as though Band of Brothers was making a steady march through ex-RedSwarm territory.
Much of the information that survives about this time period was recorded in retrospect in a series of columns for the EVE fan site Crossing Zebras, written by a Goonswarm pilot who called himself “HVAC Repairman,” no doubt a playful jab about the Goons’ hated enemy, SirMolle, and the discovery of his past as a manager at a heating and cooling installation/repair company. I’ve had HVAC Repairman’s account of events fact checked by leaders on the opposite side of the conflict, and his original essays serve an an invaluable starting point for learning how this era of history progressed.
Enemies flooded into every corner of Goonswarm space, and the Goons faced the same problems Band of Brothers had in defending itself a year prior. The problem wasn’t that Goonswarm couldn’t win battles, but that the logistics were a nightmare. Goonswarm logisticians had trouble ensuring that Goonswarm’s fleets were equipped and ready to defend in any of the half dozen locations they might be attacked. In the confusion, Goonswarm began to lose ground in Esoteria. The Against ALL Authorities-led forces had conquered the capital system of Esoteria, C9N-CC.
With Esoteria under the control of Against ALL Authorities, it continued pushing into Omist with the goal of snapping a chain of jump bridges which were allowing Goonswarm extremely rapid access to Omist, Tenerifis, and Feythabolis. Without this jump bridge Goonswarm’s ability to rapidly reinforce its fleets and respond to threats would be even further diminished.
Goonswarm fought hard to defend R2TJ-1, where the jump bridge was kept, and through three days of battles it managed to keep the attacking forces at bay. However, unknown to the Goons, a spy hidden within Goonswarm had managed to worm their way into the role of managing the starbases inside that system. Late one night, just before the server reset (and thus when it was about to calculate sovereignty) the spy simply unchecked a single box on each of the starbases—the box that dictates whether the starbase will be used to make a sovereignty claim. When the EVE Online server came back up an hour later, Goonswarm no longer had sovereignty, and thus its jump bridge was offline. It would be another four weeks before it’d have jump bridge access back online.
These were key victories for the coalition of alliances fighting against the Goons, but they amounted to a slow and steady march. They were winning the fight, but Goonswarm was also doing an impressive job of holding on despite the massive amount of star systems it was being asked to defend. After mopping up the last remnants of Band of Brothers’ Maximum Damage campaign in the north, Pandemic Legion was now also free to head south and aid Goonswarm in the fight against Band of Brothers.
Little has been said so far about Pandemic Legion because until this time it was largely a bit player in a larger galactic drama, but it was at this time that it came into its own as a mercenary force. Pandemic Legion’s pilots believed themselves to be part of the very best combat outfit in New Eden, and their compatriots included a great many leaders and fleet commanders from former powers. Among these was Shadoo, who formerly led the effort to crush the former Red Alliance empire prior to the Siege of C-J6MT.
The experienced commanders of Pandemic Legion were famous for inventing new types of fleet strategies that evolved the game and took their enemies entirely off-guard. As they grew in strength, they began to think of themselves more as king-makers than mercenaries. They knew that their formidable presence was enough to tip the scales in most wars. So rather than trying to conquer the star cluster themselves, they stood on the sidelines and acted as a sort of illuminati to decide who would conquer and who would fall.
Alliances were piling into the conflict one by one, and the slow and steady creep of the war was about to change. The actions of one disgruntled pilot were about to change the course of this war and the entire history of EVE Online.
THE GREAT EVE WAR: PART 3
On the morning of February 3, 2009, the leader of Goonswarm’s spy agency, The Mittani, was eating a croissant in his office in Washington D.C. As he nibbled the pastry, he had an epiphany. He’d just thought of a way to defeat an alliance of thousands of his sworn enemies without firing a shot.
Three days earlier, a Goonswarm member named Tamir Lenk had been monitoring local chat channels, working as a Goonswarm recruitment agent. Sometimes he invited players into the alliance, but sometimes he scammed them. This time he was scamming. Known as a “recruitment scam,” the idea is to invite someone to join your corporation, and then charge them a recruitment fee (before kicking them out) or offer to help them transport their belongings to their new corporate headquarters (before kicking them out, stealing their stuff, and destroying their ship).
Tamir Lenk came across a typical mining character named Harkani, and decided he’d found his next mark. But once they started talking, something about Harkani struck his sympathy, and he decided to allow the new recruit to stay in Goonswarm.
Harkani became a low-level Goonswarm member. She was gifted a new mining ship and given a tour of the asteroid belts she’d have access to. Other Goons seemed to like her, and she seemed to like being a member. There was no sign of a problem, until a standard background check turned up red flags.
Most alliances have strict safeguards to protect themselves against spies. Their intelligence specialists conduct background checks on the new recruits to see who they’ve allied with in the past. In some cases, they even check new recruits’ IP addresses to see if they match with any of their known enemies.
In the case of Harkani, Goonswarm counter-intelligence discovered that she had past affiliations with enemies of the Goonswarm. They had no idea who the player behind Harkani really was, but they knew that something wasn’t right, and the on-duty intelligence workers were concerned that they’d catch hell from their bosses if they let her stay.
Harkani was asked to leave the alliance, but she was enjoying herself and didn’t want to go. As Goonswarm officials moved to forcibly remove her from the alliance, Harkani played her last card.
“How happy would you be if I could provide intel about BoB?” she asked Tamir Lenk. “I am going to be completely honest with you. My main character is in Band of Brothers, director, full access to forums and IRC and I am sick of the **** there. So I’m willing to be a spy for you guys.”
(The redacted word was either removed by a profanity filter, or manually scrubbed to keep this information from being deleted when Tamir Lenk ultimately posted it on the forums.)
Harkani was telling the truth. Her main character was the male character Haargoth Agamar, a director in Band of Brothers. Specifically, Haargoth was one of the directors who helped run the alliance’s industry. He had been using the character of Harkani as a sort of vacation to play EVE away from the stress of the main alliance.
He explained that he was fed up with the politics and internal problems in Band of Brothers. He wanted out, and he was willing to do whatever it took to stay in Goonswarm.
“I’m pretty much sick of everyone thinking BoB is awesome when really the average member is retarded now, and the leadership is all emo and can’t even stick to a fucking plan,” he told Tamir Lenk.
This confession shook the recruitment specialists. They were afraid that this was actually some kind of brilliant meta-scam they didn’t yet understand. Lenk remarked that his “paranoia meter was off the charts.” They called for The Mittani, leader of the Goonswarm Intelligence Agency, to weigh in.
THE MITTANI SENDS HIS REGARDS
The Mittani heard Harkani out, but he was skeptical. He asked Harkani to prove his identity by providing login information for his corporation’s forums—Black Nova Corporation—which would allow Goonswarm intelligence agents to keep up on BNC’s tactical maneuverings. Harkani obliged, and he went one step further and gave up the login information for the main Band of Brothers alliance forums as well. Those forums included the secret meeting place for the alliance’s bigwigs, known as La Barra de la Jefes (“The Bar of the Bosses”). In addition, he offered his continued services to Goonswarm as a spy.
The leaders of Goonswarm weren’t sure exactly what to do with this new turncoat. They had two choices. They could leave Harkani as an agent at the top of Band of Brothers and patiently wait to see what intelligence he could deliver; or they could mount what they called a “smash and grab,” using the character of Haargoth Agamar to steal as many ships as possible until he was caught.
Leaving him as an intelligence agent was the riskier path, because they had no idea how long he’d be able to serve. He might be caught right away, or demoted, or he could have a change of heart and start feeding Goonswarm bad information. They decided that a smash and grab heist was the best choice.
Haargoth Agamar had one more surprise in store. He revealed that not only was he a director in Band of Brothers, he was also a director in Tin Foil—the shell corporation which served as the executor of the Band of Brothers alliance. It served no purpose other than to be the corporation which registered the alliance, and the only members of Tin Foil were the highest ranking Band of Brothers leaders from each corporation, who used this shell corporation to take alliance-level votes. This arrangement wasn’t unusual; many alliances used a vacant corporation to register their alliance so that no individual corporation in the alliance had too much power. But it created a unique vulnerability. Tin Foil was like the spine of this book. Without it, the pages would flutter everywhere.
“I realized that if he was a full director in Tin Foil then he could disband the alliance,” The Mittani explained in a speech delivered on February 5, 2009. “That he could go through and kick everyone out of BoB. That we could then seize the BoB name.”
Working through the night, The Mittani and five other GIA leaders worked together on a plan to end the alliance known as Band of Brothers.
On the night of February 4, Harkani, playing as the Band of Brothers director character Haargoth Agamar, logged into EVE Online and docked his ship at the headquarters of Black Nova Corporation, one of the main member corporations of Band of Brothers.
From Band of Brothers, Harkani stole 15 dreadnoughts and an entire ship hangar containing hundreds of smaller ships. He also stole a huge amount of strontium—starbase and dreadnought fuel.
He made his way through the inventories containing the holdings of his own corporation, coldly moving every last ship, mineral, barrel of fuel, and round of ammunition into his private hangers. With a few clicks he stole everything his corporation owned. In the empty hanger folders he left just a single item, a note with one sentence written on it: “The Mittani sends his regards.”
When he was done with his theft, he went to work ending the entire alliance. He removed the other directors from their positions and closed the alliance. “Band of Brothers” ceased to exist. With no alliance on record named “Band of Brothers,” every one of its sovereignty claims was instantly dropped. Goonswarm then swiftly created their own empty alliance called “Band of Brothers” so the name could never be used again.
Band of Brothers had claimed Sovereignty 4 in every system in Delve, but after Haargoth Agamar struck there was no longer an alliance called “Band of Brothers.” As a result, all of the starbases owned by BoB went offline without an alliance to control them. When the EVE Online server came back online it found no active starbases in Delve, and concluded that nobody owned the region. The equipment, starbases, outposts, shipyards, and jump bridges were still theirs, but Band of Brothers member alliances had lost sovereignty. Their capital systems were no longer invulnerable, and they had no way to stop enemy alliances from bringing heavy artillery right into the heart of Band of Brothers’ empire.
“It was one of the very, very rare moments when the people in BoB who had my phone number actually called me, and said, ‘We have a problem,’” said Dianabolic.
The sovereignty clock started over at zero once the BoB leaders got everything in order in their new alliance, which they named KenZoku—a Japanese word meaning “family.” It was an incredible insult to force Band of Brothers to take a new name, but leaders within Band of Brothers tried to play it off like they didn’t care. This prompted The Mittani to gleefully mock them: “I didn’t want that alliance anyway,” he teased.
I asked SirMolle what was going through his mind during this historic event.
“Utter disbelief, and being more than angry as well as disappointed,” he said, describing his in-the-moment reactions. “Trust was always a big thing with us, and it’s clear that there is no such thing. To say that I’m pissed off is a mild understatement, but I’m not really sure who to be pissed off at. I’m pretty sure that somehow we messed this up ourselves, not knowing what mechanics would allow something like this to happen. What’s important for us now, is to DO something, and bloody fast, and to shrug it off, and try and play it so we can come out of the mess we got ourselves into. In a heartbeat, we lost our fortress we spent years building up, and we must move to try and save it.”
In 28 days, Band of Brothers would get back to Sovereignty 3, and it could once again prevent Goonswarm from bridging in its dreadnoughts, carriers, and Titans. Until then, Band of Brothers was vulnerable. Goonswarm had 28 days to conquer Delve, or else much of this great feat of spywork would be lost.
The day after the entire structure of Band of Brothers’ alliance was torn to pieces, Goonswarm took a victory lap. The Mittani, aka “Mittens,” took to the EVE forums to parade this historic victory in front of the entire EVE community in the most obnoxious tone he could manage.
hello! i am a mitten, a mighty SPACE TYRANT~, i focus my space tyranny on the v. important job of being 1. warm 2. fuzzy
today we destroyed bob
the new bob alliance is run by goonwaffe! you can remake another alliance i guess but we took your name and ticker~
oh and all your sov everywhere will drop: hope this helps! also we took everything BNC had:
thanks for the free [capital fleet, starbases, and isk]
ooh ooh i forgot also we archived your entire director forum and will be publishing it
barros de la jefes more like barros de la 0wned. bai~”
— The Mittani, Spymaster, Goonswarm
February 5, 2009
In some ways this message from The Mittani was a typical Goonswarm response. Goonswarm pilots liked to hide their skill and act as if they were barely paying attention. It seems to have been their way of rubbing salt in their enemies’ wounds, a way of making their enemies feel like they were losing to an alliance that wasn’t even taking this seriously.
Behind the gloating, Goonswarm was all business. Its leaders wanted the rest of the EVE community to believe they had scored a one-shot kill on Band of Brothers, but the truth was that Delve still had to be conquered.
The EVE Online community was sent reeling by the news, which was so earthshaking that it made its way into international mainstream news sources. The denizens of EVE were aghast that espionage could be used with such staggering potency, and many felt that the community had entered a new age. However, not everyone was thrilled with Goonswarm. Some within the community—particularly veteran players—believed that conflicts in EVE should be solved through straightforward in-game warfare. Many of Band of Brothers’ allies were disgusted by what they viewed as a craven act of subterfuge.
The empire now known as KenZoku was still trying to figure out exactly what had happened. At the time, nobody but Goonswarm really knew how Band of Brothers had been betrayed. Suffice to say the former Band of Brothers leaders were a little upset when they found out the real story. They were also left wondering why the game mechanics allowed someone to disband the alliance without calling a vote, even though many other alliance-level actions trigger a vote in EVE.
In the wake of one of the most significant events in EVE history, KenZoku leader Dianabolic appeared as a guest in a segment on the internet radio station EVE Radio to explain what had happened and to show that KenZoku’s resolve to fight had not waned.
“We’re pretty defenseless, certainly for a week until sovereignty kicks in, and to our enemy—regardless of how this came about, whether it was legitimate or not—we look forward to the fight,” said Band of Brothers co-leader Dianabolic in an appearance with host DJ Funky Bacon. “Because at the moment we’re pretty much stood here naked, and if you [Goonswarm] can’t capitalize on this, guys and girls, if you can’t finally do what you’ve committed your game to doing for the last… I don’t know how many years... then you really are as terrible at this game as you say you are.”
In that radio appearance, Dianabolic confirmed that there were already raiding gangs of 100 or so Goon ships inside KenZoku’s territory, attacking its installations. Goonswarm and its ally Pandemic Legion were already on the move, but their small numbers showed how hasty the Harkani heist really was; there was no time to coordinate a large-scale assault to capitalize on it. (By this point in history, 100 ships had become a “small” force.)
While the invasion of the former Band of Brothers territory was just heating up, the war of words was in full swing. Not long after the heist, The Mittani and Dianabolic appeared in a radio interview together. The two sparred verbally, trading insults and testy sarcasm. The Mittani did his best to sound disengaged and aloof—in keeping with his public persona—while Dianabolic tried to seem in high-spirits while doing his best to insult The Mittani at every turn.
At one point in the testy, hour-long live interview The Mittani began reading an excerpt from the Band of Brothers forums—stolen in the heist—written by a Band of Brothers pilot.
“The title of the post is: ‘We’re Crap,’” read The Mittani, attempting to embarrass Dianabolic. “Security: crap. BoB pilot participation: crap. Counter-intelligence: crapper de crap. Pilot skill levels: crap. [Fleet commanders]: non-BoB are all crap. Face it guys, in my opinion we’ve become something we should have never become, and it makes me cry looking at our fleets/[TeamSpeak] now. We really should think about the options we have from this point on. In my opinion, a completely new vision is needed. In short: restructure and reset.”
The writer clearly believed that Band of Brothers had recruited too many unskilled players and diluted the alliance’s culture, and the only solution was to rebuild from scratch. The Mittani smugly noted that he was more than happy to provide the reset that this Band of Brothers pilot was looking for. He also added that he would be releasing more from the forum archives as time went on.
KenZoku’s leaders decided to get out in front of this and release the forum archives themselves to safeguard against being taken out of context. No sooner had they done this than The Mittani announced it was all a trick. He claimed he only ever acquired a section of their forums before the archiving software malfunctioned; he released what he had as a deception to goad KenZoku into giving up the rest of the information.
It’s unknown whether The Mittani was telling the truth, or if he just wanted everyone to think he had fooled KenZoku again. Either way, it was a public relations victory. Goonswarm once again looked like the intelligence masterminds, while KenZoku came off as a waning organization that was easily duped.
Now that Band of Brothers’ formerly-private forums were out in the open, every internal discussion its members had ever had about an ally was now public information, and Goonswarm agents combed the documents for any stray comment that might drive a wedge between KenZoku and its allies.
This gambit had minimal effects. KenZoku’s allies may not have been happy about what KenZoku’s leaders had been saying about them behind their backs, but most of KenZoku’s allies were disgusted that Goonswarm had pulled the stunt in the first place. After what Goonswarm did to Band of Brothers, these allies had no doubt who their real enemy was.
CARTHAGO DELENDA EST
While the Goonswarm Intelligence Agency kept up its psychological attacks, the massive Goonswarm warmachine was gearing up for the invasion of Delve. The clock was ticking and Goonswarm chose to put itself in a position where it wouldn’t be able to retreat even if it wanted to. It was Delve or bust.
After years of warring with Band of Brothers, Goonswarm leader Darius JOHNSON saw a chance to put an end to everything. He knew Goonswarm had accomplished something big, and he wasn’t about to give Band of Brothers a chance to recover. Two years of hate and war had turned this into EVE’s greatest blood feud, and the Goons wouldn’t rest until it was over.
When they met to discuss their next move, Darius JOHNSON made the most brazen decision in EVE Online history: The Goons would abandon all of their territory. They would pack up every single ship and starbase, and move the entire alliance straight into Delve. Goonswarm would house the alliance in the NPC stations in Delve that the newly named KenZoku couldn’t control, and from there it would strike non-stop for as long as it took to destroy KenZoku forever.
All of Goonswarm’s former territory was packed up and abandoned. Everything that couldn’t be brought to Delve was destroyed, and the vast Goon empire was left vacant. Darius JOHNSON even invoked the legacy of the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés, who famously scuttled his army’s ships on the shores of Mexico so there could be no retreat or deserters.
When the Goons arrived in Delve, they rendezvoused with the other organizations that would aid them in their conquest: Pandemic Legion and the Northern Coalition. As the target of Band of Brothers’ Maximum Damage campaign, Northern Coalition was thrilled to join the fight to take down its old enemies.
“Delve is a unique region of conquerable space, not only because it has higher income potential than any other region in New Eden, but also because it contains a sub-region of NPC [owned by non-player characters] stations where anyone can dock without restriction,” The Mittani wrote in a war retrospective. “The coalition invasion of Delve was staged from 319-3D (Goonswarm), UHKL-N (Northern Coalition) and G-TT5V (Pandemic Legion), systems in ‘NPC Delve’. Each coalition alliance parked a Titan in one of these staging systems and used their jump-bridges to quickly move fleets and reinforce battles in progress.”
The allies organized themselves and spread out across Delve. Each of them targeted one of the constituent corporations of KenZoku, attacking the constellations of star systems that were their fiefdoms. The hope was that by attacking each corporation’s home they might encourage one or more of them to leave the war front entirely.
In the early days, one of the most vital locations in KenZoku territory was J-LPX7, the headquarters of the Reikoku corporation. J-LPX7 was the location of several capital shipyards that were busy building motherships and Titans. Goonswarm put the system in a state of round-the-clock siege, with some major engagements taking upward of six hours. Neither was willing to cede the field of battle, and both had stockpiles of replacement ships just a few jumps away—and so they clashed again and again.
In the chaos of this week-long battle, Goonswarm was able to destroy several KenZoku shipyards that were confirmed to be building Titans. These types of blows undermined KenZoku’s ability to reinforce its fleets. “These failures resulted in a significant swing in morale from the RKZ [KenZoku] side toward the coalition,” wrote The Mittani in retrospect.
One week into the 28-day invasion timeline, KenZoku allies Against ALL Authorities, Stain Empire, Atlas, and Red.Overlord were moving into the vacated Goonswarm territory, freely conquering Feythabolis, Impass, Omist, Esoteria, and Paragon Soul. This huge territory was vacant and defenseless, but it still took a great deal of time to tear down the remainder of the Goonswarm starbases left behind. These alliances repeatedly asked KenZoku if they should break off their annexation of former Goon lands to aid in the defense of Delve. KenZoku refused their offer. “No, finish the job first,” SirMolle told them. He knew that if KenZoku could hold the line in Delve while its allies took all of the Goons’ old space in the south, then Goonswarm would be left homeless and broken. There was no peace treaty or stalemate coming—both of these coalitions were fighting for the other’s complete destruction.
THE 9-CG SLUGFEST
KenZoku knew it needed to get back on the offensive and draw the fight away from Delve. It chose the system 9CG6-H—the capital system in the nearby region Querious—for the site of its counterattack. KenZoku took a risk and decided to bring a large contingent of its dreadnought fleet into territory previously conquered by the Northern Coalition. If this maneuver failed it would severely hamper KenZoku’s ability to defend Delve, but if it succeeded it could create the breathing room KenZoku needed to force its enemies back, secure Delve, and run out the ever-ticking sovereignty clock.
KenZoku arrived in 9CG6-H with a 220-ship fleet, including 70 dreadnoughts—an imposing force, but also one it couldn’t afford to lose. The fleet glided into position in front of the first target, a Goonswarm starbase, and began setting up the dreadnoughts for the siege. And that’s when Goonswarm sprung its trap.
The Goons arrived at the head of a 350-ship fleet comprised of pilots from Northern Coalition, Pandemic Legion and other allies. The fleet’s 140 carriers and dreadnoughts “hot dropped” directly onto the KenZoku fleet and opened fire with a force that would soon double that of KenZoku.
KenZoku was outnumbered, but it had committed everything to this attack, and it wasn’t about to run away and let half of its dreadnought fleet—stuck in siege mode—be shot down in the retreat. At the head of the KenZoku fleet, SirMolle gave the order for his ships to stand their ground and fight for 9CG6-H.
The nearly 600 ships of both fleets formed an enormous blob in the skies of 9CG6-H. Laser fire criss-crossed the circular mass of ships. Both fleets targeted each other’s dreadnoughts at close range, and the blob of ships was occasionally disrupted by a flash of light as the hulking, kilometer-long ships fell one by one.
By the numbers, KenZoku lost the battle. About 70 out of 220 of its ships went down during the fighting, including two-thirds of the dreadnought fleet it had brought to the battle. But KenZoku managed to exact a heavy toll upon its enemies as well—its pilots destroyed around 50 enemy ships, including 15 dreadnoughts.
The next day, the fighting began more fiercely than ever. Back in Delve at KenZoku headquarters in J-LPX7, the two sides waged a long, slow battle over eight hours that reportedly destroyed more than a thousand ships in constant battle. Just as the fight was beginning to cool down, the Goonswarm capital fleet spotted a KenZoku mothership out of position near a stargate. Goons warped by the dozens to the mothership as quickly as possible and tore into its hull as KenZoku hastily rushed in reinforcements. By the end, the Goons had destroyed the mothership and all of the reinforcements.
Mere hours later, SirMolle himself was flying in the KenZoku defense fleet when he made a mistake and warped his Titan to the wrong starbase, accidentally flying himself directly into the staging ground for a Goonswarm fleet. The Titan was quickly warp-scrambled and destroyed. Goonswarm propagandists worked overtime broadcasting that the figurehead of KenZoku had lost his fourth Titan.
THE TURNING POINT
The massive losses on this day may be to blame for the egregious mistake that was to come. KenZoku ordered every one of its capital ship pilots to log off at an open NPC-controlled station in PR-8CA in Delve. This would afford them the ability to stay highly organized in a central defensive position. However, Goonswarm spies found out about the massive stockpile of warships and called in their allies to organize a massive blockade of the station. They were able to surround the indestructible NPC station, trapping every last one of KenZoku’s dreadnoughts and carriers inside.
The blockade of PR-8CA—dubbed a “hellcamp”—was kept up around the clock, and this gave Goonswarm the chance to do as it pleased inside Delve. No doubt the Goon leaders enjoyed the fact that this blockade so closely mirrored the first shot Band of Brothers fired in this conflict years ago, when it blockaded the Goons inside their stations
Before this mistake, the Goons were two weeks into their invasion and halfway to their deadline, and they had only made moderate gains. Now, with KenZoku’s entire capital fleet taken prisoner, Goonswarm could act with impunity. A coordinated effort was undertaken to destroy every piece of KenZoku hardware they could find.
What was once an epic battle became an operation for logisticians and engineers. Rather than massing for confrontations to destroy starbases, the coalition of invading forces was acting like a wrecking crew. The pilots worked in shifts throughout all hours of the day to fly out to areas of Delve and take down specific starbases.
After the capture of KenZoku’s capital fleet, Delve was taken. KenZoku couldn’t regain sovereignty, and Goonswarm now held sway over the entire region. The blockade around KenZoku’s fleet held for 30 days straight, even after the fall of Delve. But help was on the way.
EVIL THUG RETURNS
Having completed the conquest of Goonswarm’s former territory, Against ALL Authorities, Atlas, Red.Overlord, and Stain Empire were finally making their way into Delve to aid the embattled KenZoku. The whole of the EVE universe was wondering why it had taken them a month to come to the aid of their allies.
From a historical perspective it seems clear that KenZoku’s southern allies had been left with an embarrassment of riches when Goonswarm vacated the southern regions. Against ALL Authorities and the other KenZoku allies needed to safeguard their own future in case they weren’t able to save KenZoku from the enemy forces of Goonswarm, Pandemic Legion, and the Northern Coalition. Once Against ALL Authorities (et al) had captured those profitable regions only then did they make their way to PR-8CA to save KenZoku.
Regardless of their allies’ tardiness, KenZoku now had the help it needed and its first priority was clear: it needed to rescue the capital fleet at PR-8CA.
With the aid of their allies, KenZoku finally removed the blockade. The Goons had staffed it with hundreds of people around the clock, but they didn’t defend it with heavy hardware. The blockade’s frigates, battleships, and cruisers were dwarfed by the carriers, dreadnoughts, and Titans that Against ALL Authorities (and its allies Stain Empire and Red.Overlord) brought to the attack.
KenZoku’s capital fleet was now free, but its home was gone. In a bid to take back its territory, KenZoku linked up with allied bases in Catch and Stain and began to fight westward. It couldn’t evict the Goon-led coalition with a single big hit, so it adopted the posture of a bulldozer and began pushing from Catch into Querious, one station at a time.
“Invigorated by the influx of allies, KenZoku began plotting to take its space back,” wrote Goonswarm’s The Mittani in his retrospective. “On the border between Catch and Querious, 49-U6U became the fulcrum of the next phase of the war, a system a mere three jumps from Against ALL Authorities’ regional capital in FAT-6P [in Catch]. A classic timezone war broke out: in the hours after downtime and through European primetime, 49-U6U would be packed with hundreds of KenZoku and Against ALL Authorities pilots, sieging coalition towers. In the later hours of US and ANZAC timezones, the coalition would return the favor. Given the overwhelming superiority in each [alliance’s] primetime, very little direct conflict occurred.”
In the strain of a months-long war, Goonswarm eventually made some crucial mistakes. “Exhausted by a month and a half of desperate conquest, Goonswarm logistics began to crack under the strain,” wrote The Mittani. “Errors in timing towers resulted in 49-U6U falling to KenZoku on April 4th. 3BK-O7, another station in Querious, fell to a combined surprise attack by KenZoku, Against ALL Authorities and Red.Overlord; 3BK-O7 hadn’t been fully purged of hostile towers and was [taken] without a fight, written off as a loss by the coalition.”
SirMolle seized the moment to trumpet his return and the impending doom of Goonswarm.
“We are after your blood,” he wrote. “We *will* kill you.”
KenZoku had good reason to be confident. After years of being one step behind the work of the Goonswarm Intelligence Agency, it had scored an espionage victory of its own. Iromei, a high-ranking Goonswarm official, was now serving as a KenZoku spy.
Iromei was careful never to be too bold in his spywork. He made sure his actions could pass as bad luck or negligence. He would secretly de-fuel starbases in Goon systems. He would make sure Goon assets went missing from time to time, and covertly let his Band of Brothers handler know whenever a Goon Titan was separated from the fleet and vulnerable to a hit-and-run attack.
But Iromei was ready for his first real act of sabotage: he was planning to steal a Titan. He had convinced Goonswarm that the next Titan they built should belong to him, and as soon as it was launched, he planned to abscond with it to Band of Brothers space once and for all. But his handler in Band of Brothers had one last job for him. There was a station inside Goonswarm space that had been conquered before Band of Brothers could evacuate all of its ships and assets. Iromei’s handler wanted him to shut down the starbases in that system so that their defenses would drop and the assets could be liberated.
After all of Iromei’s mischief to this point, the Goons had become suspicious. The Goons kept an eye on him, and when he attempted to shut down the starbases, they caught him red-handed. He was instantly removed from the alliance, and the Titan he would have commanded was allocated to another leader.
KenZoku leaders were furious that the spy’s cover was blown in a risky operation to recover lost assets when he was just weeks away from being able to steal a Titan, a far more valuable prize. KenZoku needed that Titan, too. When KenZoku lost Delve it also lost its entire moon mining network, all of its shipyards, and any significant source of income.
Income was especially important now because the ferocity of the fighting was driving up the price of materials throughout New Eden. Resource scarcity became a challenge for everyone as the war consumed ships as fast as the rest of New Eden could build them. At a time when the player base numbered about 300,000, over 30,000 players are reported to have participated directly in the fight, and tens of thousands of ships were destroyed in the war for Delve.
Normally, an alliance’s morale breaks long before its wallet runs dry, but these alliances had been fighting for so long that they were beginning to worry about running out of money. This was particularly problematic for KenZoku, which no longer had any territory or means of production. A great deal of its remaining income was coming from an ally called Executive Outcomes, which held most of Period Basis to the south. There, it controlled a set of valuable moons which were still producing money for the alliance.
The Goonswarm-led coalition saw this vulnerability and focused its attention on Period Basis. KenZoku was focused on Querious, and didn’t defend the region. Goonswarm attacked, and the region—KenZoku’s last source of money—fell on May 3rd. The Goons and their allies then turned their attention to Querious.
Four months into the war for the southwest, both coalitions found themselves fighting new enemies: exhaustion and apathy. Pilots on both sides were tired, and their leaders did whatever they could to lift their spirits and keep them motivated.
Goon leaders told their pilots that they risked losing everything they’d fought for if they didn’t wipe out KenZoku once and for all. The motivational propaganda worked, and Goonswarm fleet numbers began to rise as they swept KenZoku back out of Querious. Station after station fell back into the hands of Goonswarm/Pandemic Legion/Northern Coalition forces. KenZoku and its allies couldn’t muster the opposition to stem the tide. The two adversaries were exhausted, but in this final month of combat, Goonswarm proved the more resilient of the two. Its pilots kept pushing until they evicted KenZoku from its last strongholds in Querious.
On June 16, 2009, it was over. Dianabolic, co-leader of KenZoku, broadcast a message to the alliance’s pilots to get their gear out of the last station they still held in Querious. Hours later, SirMolle confirmed the retreat while throwing a bit of shade at his allies for not helping enough.
“Vacate your stuff. As it is, we are playing the sacrificial lamb the whole time, we’re not doing that anymore. Pull your stuff out from 49-U6U and Delve. That’s the standing orders. Place it safely somewhere, and we’ll work from there. Expect no ops for a week.”
The Great EVE War was finally over. KenZoku was out of resources, out of manpower, out of cash, and out of options for retaking the southwest. KenZoku was defeated.
After years of warring to evict Band of Brothers from the southwest, the allied coalition was victorious. Pandemic Legion, Northern Coalition, and Goonswarm gathered in 49-U6U to celebrate. They brought every Titan their alliances owned—20 in total—and blasted off Doomsdays like fireworks. A new era had dawned in EVE Online, and this celebration was its ominous harbinger, as the allies who destroyed Band of Brothers showed off their mutual might.
All of the old powers were now dead, and the victors of the Great War were now destined to become the undisputed lords of nullsec. Until they once again found themselves at odds.
AFTER THE WAR
In the wake of KenZoku’s retreat from the south, the New Eden star cluster became a much different place. For most of nullsec history prior to the Great War, politics tended to revolve around Band of Brothers. It was the principal aggressor in many of the most important wars of the first half of the game’s history, and now that it was gone a whole new paradigm dawned.
Goonswarm emerged as easily the most powerful single alliance, however it was instantly struck by a difficult problem: figuring out what to do now that Band of Brothers/KenZoku was effectively gone. Goonswarm’s ranks had swelled during the years-long holy war against Band of Brothers as people arrived to fight in what Goonswarm sometimes jokingly referred to as “The Glorious War of Patriotic Righteousness Against the Evil Tyranny of BoB.” The war had gone on so long that many Goons had never experienced EVE Online before the Great War.
Within a year of the end of the Great War, Goonswarm fell on hard times, and the power balance in nullsec once again shifted. The Northern Coalition and the Russian alliances—now lords of the Drone Regions—inherited massive power after the two principal forces in the Great War began to wane from the stress of that truly global conflict. The history of the ensuing two years is the story of the rise of the Russian coalition—informally known as the Drone Russian Federation—and the dawn of hostilities between it and the Northern Coalition as the game’s two preeminent power blocs once again came into conflict.
SirMolle and Dianabolic weren’t down for long. Even with KenZoku defeated they still considered it their mission to return to Delve and retake their home from Goonswarm. To do so, they formed “IT Alliance” and they emulated the Goonswarm style of battle—smothering opponents with mass numbers of pilots. They recruited thousands of players, and would eventually reclaim Delve after the near-internal collapse of Goonswarm left Delve vacant. However, IT Alliance would never even approach the level of infamy and dominance that Band of Brothers once did.
Many of the stories explored in this book are still evolving to this day. SirMolle still plays EVE Online—although his notoriety is no longer what it once was—and his alliance is still at odds with Goonswarm, which is now lead by The Mittani. The Mittani is still famous for his role in orchestrating the great Band of Brothers disbandment. Goonswarm—after finding its way back from near destruction—has been at the vanguard of the most powerful coalition in nullsec for three years as of this printing.
There is no shortage of amazing stories to be told from nullsec history, but our story ends here, in the middle of 2009, because the defeat of Band of Brothers/KenZoku was an event of such gravity in EVE Online that what happens after this is essentially a new story.
This story began back in 2003 with the formation of the early power blocs: Evolution, Venal Alliance, Curse Alliance, Stain Alliance, Forsaken Empire, and Fountain Alliance. We then explored how those groups came into conflict over the ensuing two years leading to the creation of Band of Brothers, the predominant military force that shaped the game from 2004-2007.
The victory of Band of Brothers in these early conflicts had a powerful effect on the political state of the game. Their military-focused vision of nullsec won out, but if others had been victorious then the history of the game may have unfolded very differently. It is not a given that nullsec would one day inevitably descend into total war. For instance, had someone like Jade Constantine stayed in power then the policy of nullsec may have gravitated toward peace and openness.
In the wake of those early regional wars that shaped the political policy of the game for years to come, 2004-2005 brought new recruits into New Eden with the arrival of Ascendant Frontier and the first major influx of Goons. The resulting population boom forced every group in nullsec to expand their membership in order to maintain a grip on power. The best leaders steadily learned how to command and organize coalitions of thousands of players. The following two years dealt with how the entrenched powers in nullsec—specifically Band of Brothers, Lotka Volterra, Red Alliance and the nascent Northern Coalition—dealt with this population surge and the new empires it created: Goonswarm and Ascendant Frontier. Each of them made their choices, and those choices echoed through the rest of the game’s history.
Even in modern times, the distribution of power in nullsec can arguably be charted back to political decisions made ten years earlier. For instance, if Band of Brothers had worked together with Ascendant Frontier and Lotka Volterra in 2006 to crush RedSwarm Federation before RedSwarm gained a foothold in the southeast, then there may never have been a Great War at all. Had Goonswarm not had the foresight to ally itself with the then-struggling Red Alliance, then certainly much would have been different. Both Goon and Russian cultures may never have been able to thrive in nullsec the way they have. Had the Northern Coalition not committed itself to working together with RedSwarm Federation to destroy Band of Brothers then the Great War may have had an entirely different outcome. Had Goonswarm not perfectly navigated the difficult 2007 political landscape then it may never have acquired the power it currently enjoys in modern nullsec.
The Great War of EVE Online was the most expansive and intense war ever fought over the internet at the time. The leaders of this conflict created political coalitions that rallied more than 30,000 people around the common cause of destroying their enemies. Regardless of the fact this event took place in a digital environment, these leaders and ideologies matter to history. Whether in a digital or physical realm, the feat of bringing together tens of thousands of people toward a common pursuit is something that deserves to be recognized and documented as unique in human history.
In what I have covered, I’ve taken great pains to ensure that the events portrayed in this story are as accurate as possible, and have enlisted the help of more than a dozen fact checkers from the EVE community. This is the first time all of these events have been brought together in a single narrative.
This book is not meant to be a comprehensive history of the EVE community, but rather a first step toward documenting one part of it: nullsec. These stories follow the actions of hundreds of thousands of people, but the majority of the EVE Online community is not represented.
In order to explain the fascinating story of nullsec I’ve had to sadly ignore most of what has happened in high-sec, low-sec, and wormhole space.
Even many events in nullsec were—by necessity—not included in this book. Future historians of EVE Online will find there is still a wealth of amazing stories about the people of New Eden still waiting to be told.
This is the first history book about EVE Online, but it is my greatest hope that it will not be the last.