For the past week we’ve been closely following the events of a monumental war that has kicked off in sci-fi MMO EVE Online. The conflict that has come to be known as “World War Bee” has recently exploded into the largest PvP war in gaming history, with thousands of players taking sides and forming massive fleets. The war began with the game’s largest military power (known as CFC or The Imperium) invading low-security space to capture moons from the fractured alliances that lived there. In an unexpected move, those alliances put their differences aside and joined forces to repel the Imperium forces, then took the fight to the coalition’s home.
The war took a quick and interesting turn following this when Imperium alliance Circle of Two severed all ties with its masters and joined the attacking Moneybadger Coalition, bringing with it military secrets such as the locations of supercapital shipyards. The politics and fleet movements in World War Bee have proceeded at a rapid pace ever since, with both sides attempting to spin the narrative of the war in their favour and adapting their strategies to counter the other. Yet the most impressive news to come out of the war is undoubtedly the spike in player activity and new player signups over the past few days, as each day breaks new PvP records and thousands of players return to kick some serious space ass.
Read on for an update on the EVE Online war, from the shifting strategies of the attacking coalitions to the effect on player activity and the distinct narrative of good versus evil that’s playing out in-game.
In my latest EVE Evolved article, I delved into the history of World War Bee and gave an update on The Imperium’s position based on a stream from its leader, The Mittani. This stream laid out The Imperium’s plan to fight back against the Moneybadger Coalition — or rather, its plan not to fight back. The decision was made to allow much of the coalition’s space to be captured and then return later to recapture it, a plan based on the assumption that the member alliances of MBC have no interest in actually living in and defending the space they’re capturing. The Imperium has walled itself up inside the low security system of Saranen for now, a strategic location that can’t be captured and is close enough to its nullsec home in Deklein to stage from.
In an effort to slow down the attacking forces, The Imperium recently moved all of its system vulnerability window timers from its own prime time to an Australian peak time. This strategy may have backfired as Australian corporations that are often starved for PvP content are now gladly capturing Imperium systems with little opposition. The old sovereignty system made capturing undefended star systems a boring and time-consuming slog that required hundreds of pilots, but the new system (detailed in the video below) allows roaming gangs of just a few pilots to capture systems quickly and easily if they’re unopposed.
This strategy may still have slowed the attacker’s capture progress simply due to fewer pilots being available at those times, while freeing up the EU and US timezone players for other PvP operations. Some players have speculated that The Imperium will eventually switch its vulnerability timers back to a US prime time slot, and that the switch may have been done to buy some time for members to get their war assets ready. In the mean time, MBC has used the opportunity to strike against several other targets such as starbases containing supercapital shipyards that are currently building titans. The locations of these key strategic assets were provided by former Imperium member Circle of Two when they switched sides in the war, so MBC can be reasonably certain that the targets are very high value.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Goonswarm (and so by extension The Imperium) members are widely seen as the “bad guys” in EVE. It’s the image that they themselves have always chosen to portray and is evident in everything from their military strategies to naming schemes. They were suicide ganking miners and industrialists under the banner of “Jihadswarm” as early as 2008, and the Goonswarm membership scam is so old and iconic that you could sell it to hipsters in a vintage boutique. They’ve even adopted the language of George Orwell’s dystopian Nineteen Eighty-Four with a group called the Ministry of Love that is tasked with things like ganking highsec freighters and harassing a special list of people delightfully referred to as “unpersons.”
There are plenty of other examples out there of similar villainous behaviour and dark rhetoric, but suffice it to say that the Goons are unabashedly the self-declared bad guys of EVE Online. It’s no surprise then that so many players have jumped on the bandwagon when the monolithic Imperium finally began to bleed, and thousands of current and returning players have joined the war, perhaps to get revenge for a past mistreatment or defeat. There are also of course people signing up and returning to join The Imperium and play the role of the bad guys under siege from the rest of the galaxy that is preparing for a vicious revenge strike. Both sides of this colossal interstellar war have spun compelling narratives and motivations that have combined to hook in thousands of new and returning players.
If you ever need proof that this war was bringing people back, check out the graphs over at EVE Offline. The concurrent player numbers hit an 11-month high of just over 40,000 this Sunday, and the number of new characters created each day has practically doubled since news of the war began hitting the media. The corporation membership graphs at Dotlan show a similar trend, with active war participants such as Goonswarm Federation, Brave Newbies and Pandemic Horde growing in size.
Ripard Teg over at Crossing Zebras has put together an interesting piece on the effect of Goonswarm’s past wars on the overall player activity levels. He notes that every time the group has won a major war and dealt a crippling blow to an alliance, EVE‘s numbers have dropped by as much as 10-25%. Conversely, every time the alliance has been dealt a significant loss in a war, EVE‘s activity levels have spiked. It’s not clear whether this is a causative effect or if there are other factors at play, but Ripard’s two part analysis of the strategies employed in the war and what it might mean for EVE‘s future makes for some very interesting reading.