Monday, July 29, 2013

CFC Victorious in the Largest Online Battle in MMO History

As stated in an earlier post I am a big fan of the player driven conflict and emergent story unfolding on EVE Online between the forces of CFC and TEST. Surfing through the forums and various blogs I got wind of a massive conflict building in 6VDT-H and tuned in to Mad Ani's Live Twitch stream. I went to bed as CFC forces began to muster in the system, and woke up to see the battle in full swing on the stream. For the next 4-5 hours I watched as CFC overwhelmed the TEST forces, who in the eyes of this neophyte appeared outnumbered and outgunned, but seemed determined to fight to the last ship. CFC has prevailed in the largest online battle in the history of EVE, and perhaps in the history of gaming. At its peak there were over 4000 players in the system, and this number stayed consistently in the high 3000s for most of the battle. This figure only reflects the number of players within the system during the battle - it did not count reinforcements or players waiting outside the system waiting to get into the fight. According to the EVE Battle Summary Doctor (dog-net.org), 5754 players took part in the battle, with CFC losing 283 ships and TEST 1349.

As a spectacle it left much to be desired - to the uninitiated it comprised of a bunch of orange dots surrounded by a swarm of angry red dots moving in super slow motion thanks to time dilation. I didn't watch the stream as much as I just left it to play out in the background, occasionally checking in to see if there were any changes to the distribution of the dots. Slowly but surely all the red dots began to disappear, and it became clear that this was an overwhelming CFC victory. The historical analogy that came to my mind was the US fleet steaming to Okinawa and the Japanese throwing their ragtag and makeshift kokusai squadrons (kamikazes) at them in a desperate but ultimately futile gesture. Gevlon from TEST stated that there were 1400 Test pilots in the system with more on the sidelines waiting to bridge in (but unable to due to the system cap), which presumably meant 2600 pilots for the CFC. He made the comment that CFC bridging in first was decisive, as it prevented TEST from ever engaging the CFC fleet on a one on one basis. This was borne out by my observation of the events - last night I watched the CFC fleet massing around the station, then woke up this morning to see TEST warp in fleet after fleet and get ground to dust. The CFC forces were prepared and organised and already in formation by the time TEST began their attack, and they repelled TEST's attacks fairly comfortably. When the battle was clearly lost TEST regrouped for one more final suicide charge, much to the surprise of CFC (an account written by Vily, a Megathron CFC FC can be found here) but not to those gallant folk at TEST, who had come here to make a statement - the battle for Fountain was lost, but they were going to make a stand anyway.

Mad Ani's live stream on Twitch.
TEST are pulling out of their staging area in Karan and relocating back to NOL in Delve. CFC has won the battle for Fountain. I feel sympathy for TEST - the last month has seen them deserted by their allies and ripped off from within by one of their own. Nonetheless that's the nature of the game, and they have to be given kudos for showing up in such numbers and going out the way they did. Whether or not EVE is your cup of tea this battle is a milestone in the history of MMOs. As for CFC, they appear well led, super organised and on top of the meta game. No one will probably know the full details of the behind the scene machinations, but the way the campaign was conducted seemed like a classic case of divide and conquer. They were surprised by the massive dogpile which greeted them when they first rolled into Fountain, but recovered well and were able to isolate TEST from their allies who stood with them in the opening battle of the Fountain War. At the beginning of the war TEST stood with Black Legion, Pandemic Legion and NC3 coalition, and it seemed like this would become the mother of all EVE wars. However since then so many things have occurred which favour the CFC that you start to wonder whether they are the luckiest coalition in this war, or perhaps the most adept at back room dealing. They secured their northern border by paying off the Black Legion. Black Legion then turned on Pandemic Legion by ambushing a fleet of super carriers with the help of an insider. The N3 coalition, by far the biggest equaliser in TEST's corner due to their powerful capital fleet, was distracted by another act of corporate espionage which led to S2N and Nulli Legio (members of N3) being disbanded and the theft of 250-400 billion ISK. N3 made an amazing recovery in recovering the vast majority of the lost systems within 24 hours, but was then forced to choose between two fronts this month as Solar Fleet (a.k.a. the Russians - I love how this game creates blocs along national lines) rumbled in from the east. In the end N3 withdrew their capital ships, and this proved decisive as system after system tumbled to the CFC advance. Finally there was also the theft of 130 billion ISK worth of logistics by a disgruntled TEST director only a few days ago, and all in all, all these things taken together represent a litany of woes for TEST. Whether or not CFC have had a hand in all these developments will remain a mystery I suppose, but it's important to note that while TEST and its allies have had their hands full during this whole war, CFC has remained solid, free from drama and quite formidable.

The war in Fountain has been an amazing spectacle, and for me it illustrates MMO world PvP at its best. Not the battles themselves as such, which quite frankly appeared slow and unresponsive and about as exciting as watching paint dry, but the meta-game elements which do much to influence the outcome of these battles before the factions come to grips with one another. I enjoy reading the blogs, keeping up to date with major developments, watching/listening to Mad Ani's stream, and looking at the changing map of New Eden. It's a great story too, and I applaud all the members of TEST for showing up and breaking records and showing everyone that MMORPGs are not always about winning. I was rooting for TEST chiefly because they were the underdogs, and because they were so badly outmanoeuvred in the meta-game, losing all their allies like dominoes to one crisis after another. Alas it was not to be, but the good thing is that it's not over - TEST will retreat and reorganise and hopefully come back stronger than ever. As a consolation to TEST some hours after the battle they were able to chance on a lax CFC Titan in 6VDT-H (calculated to command a price tag in excess of 120 billion ISK or $7600 US in real money terms in 2010) and destroy it, much to the astonishment of the folks watching the live stream at the time. While it probably won't equal the amount of ISK destroyed by CFC in today's battle, it will go a long way towards balancing the ledger, and also provide some cold comfort in the hearts of some embittered TEST pilots. I'm also looking forward to seeing the developments in null sec politics given that N3 in their State of the Coalition dated July 11 stated quite explicitly that the purpose of their coalition was to fight the CFC. The CFC remains the leading hegemony in null sec, and based on how clinically they won the battle for Fountain looks poised to maintain their dominance for a long time to come.



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