Eve Online could soon be embroiled in a major war, as some of the largest groups of players in the sci-fi role-playing game’s universe have waded into battle over a relatively small corner of space.
The run-up to war began in February, when Fraternity – a large group of Eve Online players who are part of the even bigger Winter Coalition – attempted to conquer the territory of B2 Coalition, which CCP community developer Peter Farrell told NME is a “medium-sized alliance of a few thousand people”.
While B2 is neighboured by Fraternity, it also shares its southern borders with Imperium — which is currently the largest alliance of players in Eve Online. In February, Imperium came to B2’s defence and deployed their fleet to halt Fraternity’s invasion, kicking off what Farrell described as a “domino effect” of Fraternity and Imperium’s allies joining the war.
Farrell suggested the Imperium’s reason for defending B2 is twofold. “When the Imperium made their march – or I guess, warp – North, they did so on the premise of saving the game from renting,” said Farrell, referencing Fraternity’s practice of “renting” out space systems to groups in return for cash, which Imperium believes is “unethical”.
However, Fraternity has claimed Imperium wanted “any excuse under the sun” to wade in and put a stop to the fast-growing group. For both Winter Alliance and Imperium, Farrell shared that both groups are looking to test out “new strategies and tactics” after Eve Online‘s recent Uprising update shifted the focus from smaller, more nimble vessels to larger battleships.
Farrell says that Imperium and the Winter Coalition both have differing opinions on “what the future of war could look like,” and see the war over B2 as a sandbox for testing this out. Both sides view the invasion as a win-win opportunity for trialing their strategies and helping their allies, with the benefit of not actually risking their own territory.
“When you have all these pieces lined up, everyone has a reason to fight — everyone has a thing they want to test secretly,” said Farrell.
The war has already seen multiple large-scale battles. In March, Imperium identified four structures they wanted to get rid of in B2 space, with the least-defended structure seeing “10 hours of constant fighting” and 6000 characters until Imperium claimed victory. Farrell revealed 1100 ships and 1trillion of the game’s isk currency were destroyed, which he puts into perspective by pointing out that a “modest cruiser” in Eve Online would set pilots back 6million isk.
This led to both sides fighting for the “crown jewel” X47 system, the staging base of Winter Coalition’s invasion. Heavily defended, Farrell says it took five weeks of foiled sieges from Imperium before a real-world factor tipped the scales in their favour.
Knowing Fraternity’s largely Chinese playerbase would not be given a day off work for Easter, Imperium attacked. Even with the advantage, Imperium’s surprise attack lasted 13 hours and saw 6100 combatants involved — and although another trillion isk was destroyed, both sides lost “considerably” more ships than in the last battle.
“If you went into this fight on either side, there was a 50 per cent chance you were coming back without a ship,” said Farrell.
In the weeks following, both sides of the war have been left surprised by the “ravenous” nature of the fighting, and claimed their own versions of victory. Imperium retroactively claimed the X47 system was their primary objective all along, while Winter Coalition argued the ships and money Imperium has lost is a win for them.
Right now, Farrell says both sides are feeling the sting of losing so many ships, with the war’s effects extending to the game’s wider industrial and logistics divisions. While it’s currently a tense “waiting game” to see what happens next, Farrell says all-out war could be moments away.
“We have this powder keg sitting there, and anything can set it off,” warned Farrell. “These guys are pretty good at backing down and being reserved, but all it takes is…one guy to step out of line, or go a little bit too far in his trash talk. Then, really anything can happen.”
It’s been a busy few months for Eve Online. Last week, it was reported that thieves stole in-game currency worth £17,900 thanks to a weeks-long heist.