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Spaceships worth more than $200,000 destroyed in biggest virtual space battle ever

Spaceships worth more than $200,000 destroyed in biggest virtual space battle ever

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EVE Online has its own economics, politics, and trade systems, built almost entirely by players in the 10 years the game has been running. It also has its own wars, as huge alliances vie for control of tracts of space in the massively multiplayer online game. One such conflict came to a head yesterday in the biggest battle in the game's decade-long history. More than 2,200 of the game's players, members of EVE's largest alliances, came together to shoot each other out of the sky. The resultant damage was valued at more than $200,000 of real-world money.

Most of that cost came from the destruction of more than 70 Titans. Titans are EVE's largest ships: they take weeks to construct, and are worth hundreds of billions of ISK (EVE's internal currency). Players are able to ascribe a dollar value to such ships because of the game's payment model. EVE players pay for a monthly subscription (a "Pilot's License Extension," or PLEX) either with real-world money or with in-game currency. The transfer rate between the two currencies determines the conceptual value of these pretend spaceships. One of the most advanced Titans destroyed in yesterday's conflict had a price tag of 222 billion ISK — around $5,500.

One of the most advanced ships destroyed in the battle was worth around $5,500

The short-term reason for this loss: a missed bill payment. EVE historians will be able to track a bubbling conflict back to late October, as major alliances traded potshots with each other over small systems, but when alliance Nulli Secunda forgot to pay their rent for a space station in a key area of space — the unassuming B-R5RB system — opposition forces were able to move in and attempt to snatch it out from under their noses.

75 Titans were destroyed; the previous record was 12

The resultant escalation in forces — with Nulli Secunda and its friends in alliance Pandemic Legion on one side, and the pairing of alliances CFC and RUS on the other — continued as neither side was willing to back down. Eventually both groups had deployed their largest fleets, and their most expensive Titans, in a bid to bludgeon their enemies out of the important territory. Both sides held even for a time, trading Titans as smaller ships were swept away by blankets of missile and laser fire. The tide turned as the United States came online. Bolstered by its American members, CFC was able to secure systems for reinforcements, and begin the careful process of picking apart enemy Titans left in the strife-ridden B-R5RB system.

EVE developer CCP says it's "still digesting numbers" from the battle, but the player count could rival a fight in system 6VDT-H in July, 2013 that boasted 4,070 players. Regardless of player numbers, yesterday's conflict was already the bloodiest in the game's history. According to The Mittani, the previous record for most Titans destroyed in a conflict was 12, with a cost of around 1 trillion ISK. By the time the smoke had cleared on yesterday's battle, 75 Titans had reportedly been turned into virtual scrap, most worth upwards of $3,000. CCP spokesman Ned Coker told Eurogamer the battle "dwarfs any other online player-versus-player fight in terms of scale and sheer destruction." Already, the battle has had an impact on the economics and politics of EVE's universe: as both sides scramble to rearm and rebuild, the price of in-game resource tritanium is starting to rise. "This sort of conflict," Coker said, quoting Kill Screen, "is what science fiction warned us about."