When enemies are assaulting one of your systems, most pilots would exercise caution and attempt to gather intel before engaging. But when the call went out about a raid from Gallente militia forces in the system of Esesier, Mr Duffo took the more direct approach. For the average faction warfare pilot, warping to the large Caldari outpost and seeing the eight enemy pilots capturing it would have caused most to flee, but, then again, Mr Duffo isn't like most.
Like far too many poor souls, Mr Duffo got his start in EVE Online partaking in its most boring aspects: missions and mining. For his first year, he played the game in the way that seemed the most obvious and remained somewhat hidden from the more combative nature of New Eden.
"I mined the minerals for my first Maelstrom in a Badger," Mr Duffo said during our interview on Skype. Being from Finland, he was thinking about bed just as I was thinking about lunch. "It took me two weeks, I think. I wouldn't recommend it."
But being a risk-averse pilot wasn't in Mr Duffo's nature, and before long he gave up his mission running ways when he discovered the joys of faction warfare.
The four empires of New Eden are somewhat separated by small channels of hotly contested systems that are free from the dangers of Concord retaliation (New Eden's god-like police force). These systems, traditionally home to pirates, vagrants, and those looking to dip their toes into the dangerous waters of space without diving in headlong, became the crucible of war between the juggernaut alliances of Caldari and Amarr, and Gallente and Minmatar. Many of these low-security systems change hands often, as pilots from each alliance work to capture space held by their rivals through a practice often known as 'plexing'.
Mr Duffo was drawn to the idea initially as a way of making ISK, but has since built a reputation as one of the more formidable members of the Caldari Militia; referring to himself as the Last Calamarian Viking, King Duffo. Whenever I sent him a request to join a private conversation, he always introduced himself merely as "It is I."
Don't be fooled by his role-play, this viking represents one serious threat.
When he exited warp and arrived 100 kilometers from the Caldari outpost, Mr Duffo wasn't concerned about being outnumbered. The eight flashing targets orbited the station, but the arrival of Mr Duffo in his Raven battleship was a fight the other side was eager to take.
"I was thinking, can I tank it?"
A Raven battleship isn't exactly a wet napkin when it comes to defense. One on one, any of the frigates or destroyers the Gallente pilots were flying would have melted underneath the superior firepower of the ship, likely only making a slight dent in its shields. But together, these small ships would have a great chance of clipping the Raven's wings.
As Mr Duffo turned his ship to gain more distance than the 100 kilometers separating him and the bulk of the Gallente forces, a single Tristan burned out to close the distance and attempt to tackle the battleship. Within seconds, the ship was destroyed as a hail of missiles impacted the frigate, eviscerating the hull and spilling the pilot's capsule into space.
Swinging right, Mr Duffo brought his Raven around to the Gallente flank, cycling his microwarpdrive to close the distance with alarming speed for such a bulky ship. As he neared 60 kilometers from the nearest ship, he locked up his targets—seven in all—and began his approach. Within seconds, the Gallente ships swarmed Mr Duffo in his Raven and began chewing through his shields. In response, he flicked on his Raven's most valuable asset, a Pith X-type X-Large Shield Booster, which replenishes depleted shields with each cycle. This officer mod, while far from the most expensive, alone accounts for half of the cost of the Gallente ships combined.
A one on one engagement is, for many pilots, too much to handle. Combat in EVE Online might look somewhat detached and dull to an outsider, but any pilot who has had the sudden threat of violence thrust upon them knows how viciously it affects your composure.
"Oh yeah, I still get the shakes," Mr Duffo confided while laughing. "But when you know what to do in a fight you can still fight well and deal with it."
The shakes he is referring to is the sudden blast of adrenaline that comes from laying a 200 million ISK ship on the table and going all in. It manifests in a physical trembling that many pilots experience each time they enter combat, as the task of managing each of your ship's modules, armor, shields, and, of course, your enemies, their distance, watching for backup, and deciding which ships to engage in what order all begins to pile up as your brain scrambles to compensate.
Mr Duffo isn't a novice, however, and even when his body betrays him, he is focused. One by one the Gallente ships melt in the fire of his Mjolnir Heavy Missiles. But as another ship evaporates into dust, several more arrive to reinforce the Caldari outpost. The fight now stands at one against 11. The damage from the Gallente militia was beginning to take its toll, and Mr Duffo was forced to ingest a Blue Pill, a valuable drug that enhances a pilot's shield management ability, in order to compensate.
Within minutes, another four ships have been laid to waste, but Mr Duffo is out of time. His modules are overheating and close to failing, his X-type shield booster barely managing to replenish the shields with each incoming volley. The armor plating is gone, and only a third of the hull remains. As he begins to pull away, focusing his final efforts on a Dramriel that had him pinned with a warp scrambler, a long column of fire begins to trail from the Raven.
The Dramriel collapses in a burst of fire, and, in an instant, Mr Duffo is free. Another six ships remain, desperately moving to grab him before he flees—but it is too late. With a push of a button he is in warp, and the flashing targets of the remaining Gallente fighters vanish into deep space, along with the nine wrecked hulls of their comrades.
Few pilots can say that they took on over a dozen enemy ships at once and lived to tell the tale. Fewer still could brag that when they finally retreated, it was only after destroying nine ships.
While fleets of thousands clashing is what makes headlines, any pilot worth his salt can appreciate the artistry of solo PVP, especially when outnumbered. It requires not only a mastery of EVE and its various mechanics, but of your own body and mind. Mr Duffo might just be one of hundreds of notable pilots tearing it up in space, and this fight might just be another blip lacking in any significance in the grand schemes of New Eden. But it also highlights the passion and mastery guiding its most dangerous pilots to push their furthest boundaries.
For more of Mr Duffo, be sure to check out his YouTube channel. You can watch his video of the fight described above below.