13 1/2 years of EVE Online – Part III

After leaving the ISS towards the end of 2006 I took a break from EVE for about two years. I mostly kept my main account running to continue learning skills and run a mission or two every now and then, but my main game was Everquest II, which I played very extensively.

After many great folks had left my long-time EQII guild my motivation to play the game took a serious hit though, and I started thinking about internet spaceships again.

It was then that a friend of mine told me about a huge war that was going on, and that his corp, Lyonesse, part of KIA Alliance, was right in the middle of. So I sent an application to the corp’s leadership and prepared to move my stuff out to nullsec again.

A common sight in null by then, a Titan sitting inside a POS’s shields

That war, today known as The Second Great War, was fought between Band of Brothers, the self-proclaimed “elite” of EVE, and Goonswarm, whose battlecry at the time was “We’re terrible at this game” and who aimed to shake up the established order. They were basically space anarchists.

BoB considered themselves unbeatable. For a couple of years they pretty much were. As if dominating New Eden’s landscape and scoring the first ever Titan kill wasn’t enough they’d also won the first three Alliance Tournaments in a row – which is why there was much rejoycing when they got their butts handed to them by a bunch of Tech I cruisers in AT IV.

In any given conflict I usually root for the underdog, so I was more than happy to join Lyonesse and KIA Alliance, who were allied with Goonswarm, to prove that BoB weren’t unbeatable in the regular game either. Unfortunately it turned out that I was late to the party.

Since its launch in 2003 EVE has always made headlines not only due to huge battles happening, but also with tales about deceit, theft and treachery. The arguably biggest such event happened just a few weeks before I joined the corp and moved to Peroid Basis. The BoB alliance was stripped of most valuable assets and then disbanded by a high ranking officer defecting to Goonswarm. The alliance being disbanded made them lose control of all their systems and outposts, which finally enabled Goons and allies to attack “Fortress Delve”, as BoB had previously dubbed their practically impenetrable home region, in force.

By the time I was combat-ready BoB were pretty much defeated and the first fleets I joined revolved around ‘mopping up’, as it were. We tried to catch as many BoB pilots, most of whom had reformed under the name KenZoku by then, while trying to evacuate their remaining assets from the area. There weren’t many left, but that doesn’t mean we had nothing to shoot.

Dreadnoughts full guns blazing with battleships providing cover

Goons weren’t the only ones set on taking the now vacant space in Delve and Querious, and KIA’s systems in Period Basis were being harassed by a couple alliances living in nearby Stain whenever we were on the road.

For me this was the first time I operated under the Not Blue, Shoot It ruleset, and it was pretty fun. Overall I didn’t get all that much action due to working in shifts and hence missing many a fleet op, but I nevertheless had many ‘firsts’ during that time.

Firsts like catching a faction fitted Navy Raven ratting in an asteroid belt. We were doing a late night roam through Stain with just a couple Interceptors, an Interdictor, a Harpy and a Vagabond. Whenever we entered a system and saw someone in local we all warped to different belts in hopes of one of us picking the right one and catching the pilot unawares. When I landed in that belt my heart skipped a couple of beats because a Navy Raven was sitting right there. I immediately tackled it, started to orbit it with my maximum non-boosted speed to present as small and fast a target for its missiles as possible and told my mates to warp to me stat.

While they were still in warp I suddenly lost my target lock. The pilot had put his ECM-drones on me, and they’d successfully landed a jam cycle. You can’t tackle what you can’t lock, so I had to do something lest he get away. I hit the ‘approach’ button and fired up my microwarpdrive. Me sitting in an Interceptor meant that I picked up speed quickly, and I bumped into him with like 3 km/s. I don’t know if that really prevented him from warping off in time, but he was still there when my buddies arrived either way. While my Malediction eventually succumbed to the damage dealt by his missiles we got that kill and over 300 mil worth of loot for our efforts. I was as pleased as a punch to have managed the initial tackle and to hold him long enough for the gang to arrive.

I also got to fulfill one dream of mine: to fly a blaster-fitted Megathron battleship, Blasterthron for short, into battle. Blasters are kind of an all-or-nothing weapon system. They deal the highest damage of all turret types in the game. To offset that they have an effective range of pretty much the length of my pinky toe, so if you decide to get into that range you either win the engagement or you die. Those Thoraxes in the AT video I linked above were blaster fitted, which is why their stunt was so risky yet probably wouldn’t have worked any other way. I don’t remember why we even used close-range battleships that day, but the fight we got was just exhilarating.

Battleships aligning away from a gate to their next destination

I even got one of my very rare solo kills. This Huginn tried to slow me to a halt with its Stasis Webifiers but came too close in the process. It literally melted within seconds. Unfortunately the successful op came to an inglorious end for me when I took a wrong turn on the way home and found myself all alone in the middle of a hostile gatecamp. Oh well, another first.

The successful rescue of a friendly carrier I’ve talked about a while ago also happened during that time.

Last but not least I experienced my first big capital ship brawl and also scored my first cap killmails. If I remember correctly there was a fight over a valuable moon going to happen between Goons and allies on our side and Against ALL Authorities and friends on the other. We were still staging from TN25-J in Period Basis and all available pilots were told by one of our directors to board a long-range battleship and make our way to Irmalin, a cool 28 jumps away without shortcuts. Fortunately all of Period Basis, Delve and Querious was covered by an extensive allied jump bridge network by then, so it didn’t take quite as many jumps to get there. I was extremely nervous, but it was a tremendously fun experience.

I’d never seen something as epic as this in any game before

Although I definitely don’t remember it that way the battle report clearly shows that we had vastly superior numbers, but, yeah, sometimes that’s the way it goes in EVE.

Not long after that fight Lyonesse decided to leave KIA Alliance. I did understand the decision because the alliance wasn’t in a good shape by then. Leadership was mostly absent and there were less and less enemies to fight. It made me a bit sad though because I’d come to quite like a good many people of the other corporations. The overall atmosphere in our new alliance, RAZOR, was much more serious and at times even hostile towards one another. I didn’t feel welcome, let alone at home at all. So after almost a year in Lyonesse I decided that it was time to take a break from EVE once more.

The Cookies join Northern Coalition.

Yes, the big news I was talking about last week is that our EVE Online corporation Holy Cookie has joined Northern Coalition., or NC. (pronounced “N C Dot”) for short.

The dot is even in the logo, so it’s important

It turned out that our directors had been in talks with Killah Bee, a prolific, long-time fleet commander of NC., for quite some time. To my surprise he’s also German and joined our corp meeting to discuss things with us and answer our questions. All attendees were pretty enthusiastic about the move, rejecting the invite was never even a considereration.

Personally, I was extremely excited about it and still am.

The main reason is that I haven’t been in a proper nullsec alliance for quite a while, and I kinda missed it. Sure, there are boring aspects to living out there, but anyplace else in New Eden can be equally boring while not providing the freedom and great opportunities for epic fights that basically only nullsec provides.

Another reason I’m happy to have joined NC. is that they and their allies are kind of the arch enemies of Goonswarm. While I have fought alongside Goons a very long time ago – more about that in part three of my EVE history series – since Mittani is in charge they have pretty much become the very thing they were once opposed to, at least to my mind. Getting another chance to kick their butts after Lakisa and I fought them during World War Bee back when we were in Mercenary Coalition is awesome.

The timing couldn’t have been better either, because Mittens has just decided to attack NC.-space in force. Not to take it for the Goons, but only to see it burn. They started moving their war machinery on Saturday. Let them come, I say.

But first things first. Before heading out to nullsec we had a lot of preparation to do since we had amassed quite a lot of stuff in and around our lowsec-home Kehjari by now. Ships, clones and other assets had to either be brought to highsec, be it for safekeeping or for sale, or hauled quite a distance out to our new home.

We also had to consider what to do about our security status, which was at or close to -10 due to our pirating ways. While that isn’t a problem in nullsec per se I know from experience that nullsec fleets, since they often need to cover large distances, use any shortcut they can get, so trips through highsec are always a possibility.

Lakisa and I decided ‘repairing’ our sec status before the move to be the prudent thing to do. We bought the needed tags from the market and took them to the nearest CONCORD office.

Tags aren’t enough, you charge an additional fee? What is this, the German government?

Getting our status to above -2.0 set us back about 280 million each. Yikes. At least we can now move around freely anywhere in New Eden again.

Hauling everything we needed to get rid of to highsec took a while, but we did so without losing anything and have already liquidated most of it. Alliance doctrine ships can be bought locally, so we didn’t really have to bring a lot of stuff with us. One trip in my carrier was all it took, and we were ready to go.

Which was fortunate, because a fleet op was about to start the moment we arrived. We quickly bought a pair of Eagles off contracts, set up voice comms and joined the fleet.

Eagles and support landing on a stargate

Unfortunately we didn’t get a fight that day. We reinforced a hostile Fortizar, but no one came to defend it.

The day after things looked more promising. A Goon Ferox fleet was reported to roam around M-OEE8, the entry system into Tribute (nullsec currently owned by NC. and allies) from Lonetrek (high- and lowsec). We formed Eagles again and made our way there.

We arrived at the perfect moment. Their fleet had become entangled in an array of warp disruption bubbles around the E-O gate. Killah warped us into position and the slugfest began.

A red overview is a good overview – at the start of a battle anyway

To be honest, it wasn’t a fair fight since we outnumbered them quite a bit, but of course that’s what you’re always looking for in EVE – or in any PvP game, really. Who wants a fair fight when you can just obliterate the enemy without casualties of your own, right? So we seized the opportunity and made short work of them.

Lots of wrecks on the field, none of them ours

Now this was the kind of action I’d hoped for.

A day or two later I was treated to a sight that’s old news for many nullsec veterans, but made my jaw drop a bit despite having seen it on screenshots numerous times. Turns out being there and seeing it for yourself is much more awe-inspiring.

A whole bunch of Titans sitting between a Keepstar’s uprights

My highlight by far was yesterday though, when Killah took a Muninn fleet deep into Delve, Goonswarm’s home region. With the bulk of their forces deployed in the north but seemingly not quite ready to attack us in earnest yet we now have a window of opportunity to hit them where it hurts without getting caps and supers dropped onto us.

A stealth bomber fleet of Pandemic Horde was to attack and reinforce some Goon Ansiblex jump gates, thereby disrupting their means of travelling to and fro quickly, and we provided cover for the bombers.

That cover was much needed, too. When fighting an alliance almost 35k characters strong their deployment elsewhere doesn’t mean that nobody’s home. As far as I could tell they had three sizeable fleets to oppose us; Jackdaws, Harpies and bombers. Local count climbed as high as 800 at times, with just around 300 of those fighting on our side.

Once Horde’s bombers attacked the first jump gate the hostile fleets started to zip around the grid, looking for an angle to shoot them from without being in our Muninn’s range, while we tried to counter just that.

Come and get some

Our Interdictors dropped bubbles constantly to deny their fleets the best warp-in angles. Every now and then a lone Interceptor looking to provide a good warp-in came too close and immediately felt the firepower of a couple dozen artillery platforms shooting in unison.

Then, we couldn’t quite believe our eyes, an enemy Phoenix class Dreadnought suddenly appeared on grid, right beside the jump gate. Obviously the pilot hadn’t gotten the memo of that gate being under attack and had blindly jumped through from the other side. I’ve never seen a Dread go down this quickly with only subcaps shooting it, but it wasn’t even fitted for fleet combat, so…yeah.

We all kept dancing around the gate without the enemy fully committing their fleets to defend. Eventually it was reinforced und thus rendered non-functional for at least the next ~23 hours while giving us a chance to come back and finish it for good after that time period.

We then moved on to the next such gate two systems away and repeated the process. I don’t know if this one was more important to them or if they’d just had enough of us at that point, but they now engaged us head on. Well, they tried.

The game is on

It was a slaughter. I could hardly lock the targets fast enough before they exploded. They admittedly killed a bunch of ships in return, mainly bombers, but the battle report still shows a pretty one-sided affair.

Mopping up while the remaining enemies retreat

The second jump gate had also been reinforced by then, so the op was a resounding success. For me and my corpmates it also was a massive adrenaline rush the likes of which we hadn’t experienced very often before, at least not on this scale. Extremely satisfied we made our way home.

Hopefully this was just the beginning.

13 1/2 years of EVE Online – Part II

The Interstellar Starbase Syndicate was an alliance that pursued a quite unique and in my opinion really cool goal in ’05 and ’06: to make nullsec accessible for anyone.

Nullsec space is an incredibly valuable commodity and always has been. Back then the most valuable moons, asteroids and hostile NPCs were exclusively found out there, so it’s no surprise that many corps and alliances tried to claim as much space for themselves as possible. I assume the term NBSI, “not blue, shoot it”, was penned around that time, because folks were fiercely protective of their territories (‘blue’ in EVE means flagged as a friend or ally).

The ISS wanted to tread a different path. They set out to create truly neutral areas of nullsec where anyone could come and go as they pleased to mine, rat, manufacture or just explore with impunity. To provide some infrastructure for players without the means to deploy their own POSes the ISS even strived to build public outposts. At the time building those was a pretty huge undertaking, hence there weren’t many of them around yet, and those that were usually didn’t allow anyone but their owners to dock.

An IPO was launched in September 2005 to acquire a cool 36 billion ISK for the construction of EVE’s first public player built outpost. It was the first IPO in an MMO ever. It succeeded, and one month later ISS Marginis opened its doors in KDF-GY in the Catch region.

My first visit of what would become my home for a while

To defend construction endeavours and uphold law and order in ISS space a military arm, the ISS Navy, was formed. I figured this would be a perfect fit for me since I’d already dreamed of being a protector of innocent and law-abiding citizens back in Ultima Online – only it never came to pass because the Felucca/Trammel split had already happened and there wasn’t anyone left on Felucca to protect.

So I packed my stuff again (this will be a recurring theme and is pretty much the only thing in EVE I could really do without), moved into Marginis and joined the Navy.

During the weeks and months that followed I learned how to move and fight in a PvP fleet, what all the commands and abbreviations fleet commanders use mean, how different ships fill different roles, how to setup my overview properly and so forth. I especially learned a lot from an FC named Butter Dog (the name still cracks me up), an outspoken and upfront, but mostly friendly Brit who already had quite a lot of experience.

I also learned how to make and use warp-to-zero bookmarks. Whenever you warped anywhere back then your ship came out of warp 15 km shy, so you had to ‘slowboat’ to the gate, station or wherever you were actually trying to go. This made travelling exponentially more dangerous than it is today, so what you wanted to have was a bookmark created 15 km behind your destination, exactly in line with your respective point of origin. Folders of those bookmarks – once created by some poor sod with too much time on their hands – were sorted by region, copied and handed around. Depending on the amount of systems and stargates we’re talking about somewhere between 500 and 1000 bookmarks for a single region. All that saving and copying of bookmarks put so much strain on the servers that CCP finally gave us warp-to-zero a while later.

Doing our daily duty mainly meant roaming the space around KDF, blowing up or at least scaring away any would-be pirates. While we didn’t call it that our directive was pretty much today’s NRDS: not red, don’t shoot.

It’s been a long time and I’m fuzzy on the details, but I must have performed fairly well because I got promoted to Captain quickly.

I even got a badge of sorts

Being Captain made me eligible to lead my own fleets – which I didn’t aspire to do to be honest – and take the role of Co-FC on bigger ops.

One such series of ops revolved around the next public outpost’s construction. When the IPO for this came around I invested 200 mil since Marginis seemed to generate nice profits, and I deemed it a project worthy of support in any case. If I remember correctly the shares were all sold within 24 hours, so production was soon to begin.

Huge quantities of resources had to be hauled to the target system, ZXIC-7. Freighters were the tool for that job, by far the slowest and least agile ships in EVE. Today everybody in low- and nullsec uses their jump-capable counterparts, but those weren’t in the game yet. Convoys were formed to carry all resources and parts from wherever they were mined or built to ZX, with all available Navy pilots escorting them.

Freighters and smaller haulers on the move

The riskiest part was the final construction. Even back then I didn’t know the exact mechanics, all I know is that the outpost could have been attacked and destroyed during its final assembly. Our job was to basically lock the whole system down and make sure that no stranger got in from about 8 AM to 1 PM my local time. Which wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t worked the night shift and only gotten to bed around 6. No matter, I wanted to be there!

Cargo and Navy ships circling the construction platform aka ‘the egg’

I was given command over one of the squads assigned to camp the system’s stargates. For that duty I boarded my Megathron class battleship, which I had acquired not too long beforehand, and took position at my guns’ optimal range from our assigned gate. During those hours only few ships came through. We tackled and politely asked them to leave the system the way they’d come, else we’d have no choice but to remove them by force. I remember that one pilot started a lenghty discussion about how we had no right to prevent them from passing through. Since they were surely aware that we actually were very forthcoming – anybody else would have blown them to pieces right away – my guess is they assumed we were roleplaying and decided to play along.

No one came to shoot the egg. When the server went down I finally got some much needed sleep, so I wasn’t there when it went up again, but later that day I logged back in and marveled at the work we’d done. Mission accomplished!

A thing of beauty…well, I guess you had to be there

A couple weeks later I joined another construction defense fleet – we were churning them outposts out now – which was also successful. Shortly afterwards the ISS agreed to take over and manage an outpost someone else had built in EC-P8R, pretty much on the other side of the universe. It’s one of the relatively rare cases where nullsec and highsec are directly adjacent, and such systems are anything but safe to travel through. So most Navy pilots packed their stuff (sigh) and moved to Pure Blind for a while, where we unsurpsisingly had quite a bit more action compared to Catch.

My Megathron in a mixed battleship fleet of ours

Unfortunately some territorial alliances grew more and more wary of the ISS at that time, and before long reasons were looked for and found to attack us in force.

We had some allies and even hired the Mercenary Coalition to help us defend the outposts, but it ultimately was a fight we could not win, what with being attacked by numerous strong alliances both in the north and in the south at the same time.

All outposts were lost – they couldn’t be destroyed back then, but they were taken over and barred from public use like all the others – and while the ISS didn’t shut down immediately the dream of a public nullsec was effectively over.

It was then that I took my first break from EVE, but the story is far from over yet.

13 1/2 years of EVE Online – Part I

I didn’t play EVE much during the past six months or so. My relationship with the game has always been kinda on and off since I created my first character in December of 2005 – heck, is it really that long ago?

Anyway, after actively playing the game for a period of time my excitement always wanes and I start looking for greener pastures. But just as inevitably there’s always something that pulls me back in after a while. Sometimes it’s stories about galaxy-wide wars and huge battles, sometimes the announcement of an expansion or a much anticipated overhaul of existing features.

This time around it’s something else. Despite my inactivity I’m still a member of our long-time corp Holy Cookie, and last week our leadership informed us that sweeping changes are afoot. Unfortunately I can’t talk about those yet, but we’re very excited and I’ve been logged into the game every day since then.

As I can’t share that news today I’d like to look back upon my personal EVE history instead. The experiences I had, the people I’ve flown with, the changes the game went through. For EVE veterans there will undoubtedly be some ah, those were the times moments while newer players might find some insights as to what kinds of gameplay this vast sandbox has on offer. Since this will be a rather long tale I’ll split it into multiple parts.

Here goes.

The second ever screenshot of my first ever frigate

Towards the end of 2005 a friend of mine had already played EVE for a while and tried to convince me and another pal to join him. He showed us a trailer – which looks terribly dated today, but amazed us back then – and some live gameplay. We were hooked.

Following his advice we both created Amarr characters. Lorewise I would have chosen Gallente or Minmatar for sure, but for some reason he believed that only Amarr characters would be able to join the corporation he was in. To my knowledge there never was such a restriction in the game, but by the time we realized that it was too late. Oh well, it’s not like I’ve ever roleplayed in EVE, nor have I ever been asked by anyone why I’ve chosen Amarr.

Since 2011 I at least don’t have to look like a grumpy old man anymore. Still grumpy though.

That little corp went by the name Tetragrammaton and already owned a little network of player owned stations (POSes) for moon mining, production and ratting. Their main system was N-8BZ6 in the Catch region. So I took what little stuff I had and moved out to nullsec, mere weeks after my first steps into the game.

Two ships of mine, calmly floating in space with POS modules in the background

Once there I earned a ridiculously low amount of ISK by ratting in a Brutix class battlecruiser, the larger ship seen above. It’s not bad, but with Tech I fittings, Tech I ammo and skill levels at 2 or 3 I was in way over my head. Luckily my corpmates took me along when they manned their battleships and went to clear a nearby level 6/10 NPC complex, which were static at the time and respawned only after the daily server restart. Now that was much more lucrative.

Only a year or so later it would’ve been unthinkable for a meager six-man corp to ‘own’ such a complex. As the playerbase grew competition became increasingly fierce, and eventually the only thing CCP could do to prevent the large alliances from taking all good plexes for themselves was to remove the static ones and replace them with random spawns all over New Eden. In early 2006 though we had that one plex mostly for ourselves.

At first I even ‘escorted’ their huge battleships in my tiny frigate

Much more interesting and even more lucrative were the industrial activities. The guys had decided to build and sell Hypersynaptic Fibers, an intermediate resource needed for all kinds of Tech II production. We had a couple moon mining POSes running, did some active mining – I just hauled the mined ore to the station in a Bestower because I hadn’t any mining skills – and had to keep the POSes fueled and the reactors running.

During that time I also learned the hard lessons that most EVE players have to learn sooner or later. Lessons like: you will lose a fully loaded hauler at the hands of pirates at some point, even if you’re cautious and warp core stabbed. While something like that isn’t fun for the player on the receiving end I managed to accept that it’s just part of the game, and from then on it felt all the more satisfying whenever I managed to slip through their grasp.

Unfortunately we couldn’t mine one of the required resources ourselves: Dysprosium. Those moons were among the rarest and most lucrative, and there was no way in hell for us to get our hands on one. So we had to buy the stuff on the market. It went pretty well for a while, but after a couple of months the ever rising Dysprosium price cut too deep into our margins, so we stopped production, sold the remaining ores as well as the towers and started to look for new enterprises. It was a great run though, and all told I earned somewhere between 600 and 800 million ISK, which was a fortune at the time, at least for me.

My trusty Mammoth hauler safely docked up

It actually wasn’t a bad point in time for me to cease the industrial efforts, quite the contrary. I now had considerable seed capital at my disposal, and my character’s skills started to shape up as well. I felt ready and eager to finally engage in PvP!

Next time I’ll talk about how this led to me becoming a member of the Interstellar Starbase Syndicate and earning my first stripes as a space policeman.

It even kinda looks like a police station, doesn’t it?