In less than an hour, a battle of interstellar proportions will break out in the MMORPG Eve Online, a spacefaring simulation with its own politics, economies, and wars — all controlled exclusively by players. Between three and four thousand pilots are set to do battle in one of the largest fights ever on Eve, which you can watch live below or on Twitch.tv.
The battle is expected to rival the legendary Battle of Asakai as one of the most epic battles in Eve history — which totalled equivalent to $20,000 in losses for the losing team. Today's battle doesn't yet have its own name, but is taking place in a system known as 6VDT between two of the largest player alliances in the game, TEST Alliance and the CFC. In order to keep lag to a minimum, since the battle takes place on just one server, Eve's developers will likely slow down time more than 90 percent so its server can process all player actions. This means today's battle could take several hours to reach its explosive conclusion.
Live updates by T.C. Sottek
Update, 3:20PM ET: The Verge's war correspondent in Eve Online is bringing us live updates of the action about to unfold in deep space. As you can see below, the CFC is preparing to meet the TEST Alliance in battle. Intelligence suggests that the TEST Alliance is now staging its fleet.
Today's battle could be the culmination of months of conflict, propaganda, and preparation. We'll continue to bring you live updates as the situation unfolds.
Update, 3:54PM ET: The CFC has begun attacking the TEST Alliance's space station, which sits at the main front of their war. Today's conflict is part of an effort by both alliances to establish sovereignty over planetary systems — granting them resources, travel routes, and other assets. Since everything in Eve Online is player-produced, control of these stations is of vital importance to an alliance's success.
Update, 3:59PM ET: Over 4,000 players are now in the local system, signaling that the battle is imminent. Eve Online's developers have slowed time to 10 percent of real-time to allow player actions to process accurately.
Reports indicate that the leaders of both the CFC and TEST Alliance have instructed their members to fight to the last ship. Grab some popcorn: it's going to be a long fight.
Update: 4:31PM ET: A view from inside the massive battle between the CFC and TEST Alliance. Here you can see warp bubbles, which prevent pilots from retreating.
Update, 4:49PM ET: Though the battle is raging on slowly, some of the tactics being employed have emerged. The TEST Alliance is attempting to jam CFC's targeting capabilities, in order to cripple the CFC's logistics (its ability to heal friendly units.) It will still be some time before the balance of power becomes clear.
Here's another view of the battle from afar, and a glimpse at the craziness of Eve Online's UI, courtesy of Twitch.tv streamer drew_qt . (Click on images to enlarge.)
Update, 5:16PM ET: Today's conflict may look like a "spreadsheet battle" to those seeing Eve Online for the first time, but it's serious business for those involved. Speeches sent over Jabber from leaders on both sides have been published by the CFC in a blog update.
TEST Alliance speech from "BoodaBooda," CEO of Dreddit, a TEST Alliance corporation.
I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of other alliances. A day will come again when the courage of Test fails, when we forsake our allies and break all nips and agreements. But it is not this day. An hour of prophecies and AHAC wrecks when the age of Test comes crashing down. But it is not this day. This day we fight. By all that you hold dear in Nullsec, I bid you, stand. Pilots of Test!
CFC speech from player "the_mittani," CEO of Goonwaffe and leader of the Goonswarm Federation.
The foe is doing morale pings with LOTR quotes. We're not going to bother with a morale ping because we're in the system first, we have seven Baltecfleets, one AHAC fleet, two Bomber wings, one FuckYouFleet, and yeah.
GSOL are heroes: after the work of our capfleet in destroying every single hostile tower in 6VDT, GSOL threw up 26 towers in 6VDT last night , blocking every single moon. The enemy has no safe towers: nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and must bridge into our force.
Update, 6:15PM ET: According to our space correspondent, there are now 3,600 players remaining in the battle, indicating that at least 400 ships have been destroyed.
What a view.
Update, 6:38PM ET: The CFC has sent a sizable fleet of capital ships into the fight. We're hearing that this kind of move indicates the alliance is optimistic about its chances for victory; capital ships are very expensive in both time and resources, and are often kept out of major battles.
Update, 6:59PM ET: More than 650 ships have been destroyed so far.
The CFC may be nearing victory. Messages intercepted from the TEST Alliance indicate that some of its fleets may be retreating — but a retreat may be difficult. CFC has occupied every nearby moon in advance, making an easy retreat to a protected area impossible. (Occupied moons offer players force fields and automated defenses.) As a result, the TEST Alliance has issued orders to "star burst," which is an instruction for pilots to break formation and scatter.
Update, 7:30PM ET: As the battle approaches its fourth hour, the TEST Alliance is in retreat. Reports from various pilots indicate that TEST leadership has backed down on plans to send in reinforcements, which should allow CFC to hunt down and kill the remainder of the TEST fleet.
CFC and TEST are the two largest alliances in Eve Online, and have been engaged in a full-blown war for several months. CFC is home to Goonwaffe — an infamous Eve corporation born from the Something Awful forums that's pulled plenty of crazy hijinks in space.
Update, 7:46PM ET: An Eve Online developer has confirmed that today's battle was the largest in the game's history.
The fleet fight in 6VDT-H tonight is the largest ever in EVE, topping at 4070 pilots (so far). Previous was P-2TTL at 3615. #tweetfleet— Erlendur (@erlendur) July 28, 2013
Update, 9:18PM ET: The battle is over. After more than five hours of combat, the CFC has defeated TEST Alliance. Over 2,900 ships were destroyed today in the largest fleet battle in Eve Online's history. TEST Alliance intended to make a definitive statement in 6VDT, but their defeat at the hands of the CFC was decisive and will likely result in TEST's withdrawal from the Fountain region.
Update, 12:32AM ET: Now that the dust has settled, The Mittani is offering a full account of the battle from the perspective of Goonswarm Federation fleet commander Vily. Writing on the CFC's decision to "drop the hammer," mobilizing its most powerful ships two hours into the fight, Vily says "immediately upon seeing our capitals come into play, N3ST forces begin to prepare their evac; single fleets begin to warp away, leaving others to their cold grim fate."