Samahiel Sotken knows how important morale can be in EVE Online. He has seen it erode alliances, bolster initiative, and, more importantly, he's seen first hand how it can even swing the tide in a war. Two years ago, Samahiel was on the frontlines of a massive conflict between his coalition, the CFC, and the TEST alliance in a region called Fountain. It was a war that the CFC needed to win to secure the resources to feed their massive empire, but it was one that TEST was determined not to lose.
"The war initially went really badly," he told me. With the opening weeks of the war taking place during a time while some of the CFC's leaders were away from the game, Samahiel went on to say that Goonswarm, his alliance within the CFC, was far from in fighting shape. Things were stagnant within military command as well as in the strategies they were employing. The alliance had shifted their fleet compositions from Drake cruisers and what were called "Alpha Maelstroms", to the infinitely more expensive Tengu strategic cruiser and the Tempest Fleet Issue (a more specialized, and more expensive, version of a Tempest battleship). "It was showing that we were throwing money around—that we could afford to field these things," Samahiel said.
But unlike most MMORPGs, he who flies the most expensive ship doesn't exactly equate to he who is victorious. Where the CFC could afford to field shiny ships, TEST brought overwhelming numbers to bear. They were, at the time, one of the the biggest alliances in the game, and also one of the most well connected. Their list of allies was imposing, to say the least. The first few engagements of the campaign were utter defeats.
When an one side loses repeatedly, you cannot underestimate the toll that can inflict upon the morale of its soldiers. If every fight is a losing one, players won't want to show up for fights because, simply, getting destroyed just isn't that fun in EVE Online (not for most people, anyway). But just as much as several fights can begin to erode a player's confidence in the banner he flies, one single victory can inspire him to die on that flag. And it just so happened that the CFC had a secret weapon from a fairly unlikely place that would do just that: The Baltec Megathron.
"The Baltec Megathron was named after a character named 'Baltec 1'," Samahiel said. "He's kind of an interesting fellow." Samahiel told me that no matter what doctrine was being flown, Baltec 1 would always show up in his Megathron battleship. Under normal circumstances, failing to comply by flying the proper ships is usually met with ridicule, shaking of heads, and most likely not being allowed to join in on the fleet. But Baltec quickly earned a legendary reputation using his Megathron to its utmost potential no matter who he was flying beside. "He knew it in and out, and he had some amazing fitting ideas," Samahiel said while laughing. "Whatever you called for, he'd show up in a Megathron and hold his own."
"So we named this fleet composition after him."
Drawing inspiration for Baltec and his reckless love for the Megathron, the CFC tested a new fleet doctrine with the Megathron as the front line. "We had some small successes," Samahiel said. But those small wins, and the propaganda being spread about the ship itself, started getting players excited about flying again, and battle by battle, the CFC began find its rhythm. A few weeks later, the Megathron ended up being the lynchpin in one of the most epic battles Samahiel can remember being a part of.
True to EVE nature, the battle of the Lazamo escalated into a bloodbath over nothing. Samahiel tells me that one evening, TEST allies were harassing CFC structures with smaller, faster fleets. The CFC, not willing to get bloodied without opposition, sent slightly larger fleets to scare off the enemy. The enemy, not wanting to be scared off by CFC, sent slightly larger fleets to return the favor, and within hours a full on mobilization was happening as thousands of players from both sides logged in to fight.
Among those forces were four Baltec Megathron fleets. The one Samahiel was in was led by Lazarus Telraven, who jumped the fleet on top of an enemy formation thinking he could bring the hammer down on them in a moment of weakness but instead overextended. As the fleet of Megathrons landed on the battlefield, the enemy fleet comprised of Northern Coalition were immediately reinforced by fleets from Nulli Secunda, Pandemic Legion, and TEST. What was meant to be a fair fight quickly escalated into a three on one beat down. "We were a 250 man fleet, and local [chat] was around 1200 [people]," Samahiel says. Even against these overwhelming odds, the Baltec Megathon was holding its own.
"We were there for about 45 minutes," Samahiel said "Which was extremely nerve wracking." Samahiel and his fleet mates braced for the worse, but as the minutes ticked down and they were still fighting, they began to realize that they might just survive. As the fight continued minute after minute, the CFC morale began to skyrocket, pilots began to refer to the last-ditch effort to survive as "The Lazamo" in honor of their commander, Lazarus Telraven. They knew they didn't need to survive, just live long enough to hold the line and bloody the enemy.
Forty-five minutes later, the other Baltec Megathron fleets arrived, and Remember the Lazamo became a bloodbath—for the other side. In only a fraction of the time, the combined might of the Megathrons devastated the enemy fleets, wiping them from the field while slowly bringing down their capital ships one by one. In the end, Lazarus's fleet had only suffered minimal losses, and had inflicted billions of ISK in damages. It was a turning point in a war that the CFC would eventually go on to win, taking Fountain in its entirety from TEST and then breaking for two weeks before pushing into new frontiers.
For Samahiel Sotken, The Lazamo was a memorable fight, not only because of the thrill of being on the front line during the most climactic moments of it, but because of the larger context surrounding the engagement. It beautifully highlights how delicate EVE can be, and how even the smallest of decisions can snowball into experiences that truly set EVE apart from every other MMORPG.
"That a Caracal fleet chasing off some fleet of random nobodies shooting at one of our structures would end up in this massive battle a few hours later involving over a thousand people, no one really expects that," Samahiel said. "We were just happy to be getting a fight."