EVE Online’s in-game conflicts aren’t just contained to an NPC story or the backdrop of the universe. Players themselves have shaped the course of the fictional universe through its many wars over the course of its almost two-decade history. However, none were as destructive as the recent World War Bee 2 war which raged for just over a year.
The war itself might be over, but the aftermath and lessons to be learned is still ongoing. Players on the Imperium side, most notably the massive Goonswarm Federation, began planning a Reconquista of their home systems of Delve while PAPI, the massive alliance that was bent on forcing Goonswarm from the sci-fi MMO, were in the throes of undocking their Keepstars and trying to evacuate the systems.
It’s an interesting turn of events too if you haven’t been following super closely as well. For many, their experience with EVE Online starts and stops with the article and videos many sites and creators make talking about the epic exploits of individual characters or even a massive battle. However, on the granular level, wars in EVE function much like they do in real life – just without the same level of stakes, obviously.
There are logistics chains, supply routes to maintain, asset creation and deployment, and much more. Fleet Commanders are coordinating efforts with thousands of real-life players to all attack a single objective, or organize a defense, or even figure out how to finance the next phase of combat. Both sides influence the public opinion within the EVE playerbase with well-crafted and deployed propaganda. EVE Online players take alliance warfare seriously, and the struggle between The Imperium, PAPI and their alliance corporations for the last 13 months is a clear sign to the gaming world of that.
Some of the blame has been sent CCP Games’ way since the war “ended” in an apparent Imperium victory, with many on PAPI’s side blaming economic changes, specifically new taxation changes, as to why financing the war was no longer possible. Goonswarm players on Reddit maintain that those same changes were also affecting their side of the alliance with no ill effect, meanwhile CCP Games is simply used to being the source of contention when things like this happen in game.
“We’re very used to being blamed for all sorts of things,” EVE’s creative director Bergur Finnbogasson told MMORPG in an interview last week. “You know, I lost my Titan because they changed the font color. I’m not comparing the two to this, but you know the war just ended. And of course, people want the reason right off the bat, and I think like [with] many, many things we won’t properly see – you know it’s going to take weeks, and months and possibly years to really see what really unfolded in the last days of the war, and like, in the last month of the war. […] But you know, I don’t think it’s as simple as a taxation change. I sure hope it’s not as simple as a taxation change. I truly believe it’s a combination of a lot of things.”
“CSM was involved in the tax change,” brand manager Sæmundur Hermannsson stated as well. “But EVE is a single shard universe. I don’t think it’s humanly possible to be able to decipher these second, third and fourth waves of impact of [the] changes, which always happens. Hindsight is always 20/20
While the war known as World War Bee 2 might have been seen as “ended” with the withdrawal of PAPI forces out of Delve, the conflict itself isn’t over. Goonswarm is on a war path, reclaiming its lost territory (which CCP states it has done most of within just two weeks – territory it took PAPI months to claim). The war itself impacted all of EVE, however, not just those actively fighting on the front lines or working for the large corporations behind the scenes either in a logistics role of elsewhere.
The war impacted the market greatly as the in-game alliances had to start buying up myriad resources simply to keep their warfleets going on the battlefields. As ships were destroyed (and there were a lot of them), fleets needed to replenish them as quickly as they could. Stores of assets are depleted, prompting markets to feel the strain as more and more resources were being snapped up and costs for the supply on hand skyrocketed over the last year.
Highsec, or high security space, was directly and irrevocably changed as well by the war as the Triglavian invasion last year saw the two sides of WWB2 participate in a Vietnam-esque proxy battle in the system of Niarja. As the two sides struggled to either swing this system over to the Triglavians or keep it firmly as part of Empire space, the literal map of New Eden was being redrawn by the players themselves. When Niarja fell to the Triglavians, and eventually was removed from known space into the region of Pochven in the aftermath of the invasion, the impact of the war was never felt more keenly in my opinion. This turned one of the most traveled trade routes from Amarr to Jita from a nine-jump route (about ten minutes of real live travel) to a route with more than 40 jumps (literally go make a pizza or something at that point).
The developers too had to weigh the impact of updates and changes they have planned and the current war as well. As much as the community blames some of the changes being made to EVE Online over the last few years, especially the drive by CCP Games to reintroduce risk and the feeling that loss has meaning in the MMO, the team apparently had to pick and choose the updates that they felt wouldn’t completely affect the health of the current conflict.
“We have learned a lot as a development organization, like, at the start of the war, there was a lot of debate on should we actually be shipping expansions or you know, what do we do with our rapid releases?” Bergur explained. “Should we hold them because of the war? Should we prioritize things that could change the meta of the war? We did some tests, we rolled out things that had deeper impact on the meta, [in] October, November last year.”
Bergur also states that the Council of Stellar Management, the community-elected player council that acts as a liaison between players and CCP Games, helped the team to better navigate this as well. Bergur also says there were updates they simply held off releasing because of the potential impact it might have on the current ongoing player war, which was something the team really didn’t want to impact in a way that could change the outcome one way or another.
World War Bee 2 was a massive conflict, one that saw over 115K individual characters take part in directly. The war itself broke records, especially thanks to the massive Titan battle at M2-XFE, which saw so many player attempt to rush the system that the servers could not handle it, stranding these powerful and expensive ships in the system for months.
As the war itself winds down and the conflict enters a new stage – a stage where the Imperium seem to be plotting its revenge against PAPI and its alliance corporations, EVE Online’s developer are taking the lessons they have learned thus far to heart.
“We have learned so much from this war,” Bergur said with a huge smile on his face over our Microsoft Teams call. “It’s been a while since we’ve had a war at this scale in EVE and we have introduced a lot of game systems into the world in this period between these last two wars. And oftentimes we can theorize endlessly on how will the system behave when you have 5000 people in the system. How will the system behave in the stress of war. So this is kind of the maiden ride for many of these systems [under this] tension. And now, basically, we need to gather the data and we need to look at it holistically and really start to understand what was good, what was bad, what can improve and take it from there. We’ve already done some improvements.”
Taking those lessons can only go so far, though, as it’s a near constant dance between EVE’s servers and systems versus the scale of the battles players want to fight.
“During the war we were looking at server performance, we’ve been looking at modernization of our tech stack. And we have upcoming projects, looking at modernization of our tech stack that will hopefully improve our server capabilities. And that is a different conversation we’ve had in the past, that is an interesting race. We open up for 10,000 people, people show up with 13,000. We expand to 15,000, they bring 20,000.”
Now New Eden awaits to see how the dust settles after the war. Even the developers are eager to see what the players do next in this massive sandbox they’ve designed. It’s going to be an interesting time in EVE, especially as the aftermath of the war continues to rage on in Nullsec, though its effects still being felt clearly in all other regions of space. And as player gatherings start back up again as the pandemic restrictions ease in many places around the globe, players will be able to talk in person over a beer or dinner about the battles they took part in, the struggles they faced, and how next time it will be different.
But however New Eden shakes out now, one thing is certain – this war will be one players talk about and feel in game for years to come. Maybe we’ll read about it in Andrew Groen’s next book?