The Five Year Spree, Part 2: Rise & Fall

By Jim Rossignol on September 1st, 2009 at 9:00 am.


In this, the second part of my series looking back on five years of Eve Online, I tell the tale of two lost Empires, and the solo-corporation that emerged far stronger from their ashes. Part one is here.

In truth, there was one thing that kept us hooked for five years: the thrill of combat.

While any number of games have exciting combat dynamics, only Eve’s seem to induce genuine highs, due to its risks. People regularly reported adrenaline shakes after the most intense fights, and I’m fairly sure that the inherent risks of the game were the only reason I kept on pushing.

Eve, of course, is a time-sink of an MMO, and that effect is exacerbated because assets you create can be destroyed. PvP generally means that someone’s ship is going to be exploded, possibly their pilot in his escape pod too. Replacing both of these can be costly. While you reappear in a clone vat and don’t “die”, the loss, thanks to the time it took to make the money, can be very real. Big losses hurt. The risks, therefore, are exciting in a way that a more traditional WoW clone can’t match.

In some ways, I think the excess of money in Eve is one of the reasons why we lost interest by the end of the five years. It became too easy to make the millions and billions required to buy our ships, and the sense of risk began to diminish. At the time we joined Huzzah, however, making money was becoming a new challenge, because we were moving out of the cheap tech 1 era ships and into tech 2: better, faster, tougher, and radically more expensive. This wasn’t just an issue for us, it also made our enemies more interesting: kill a pricey command ship or heavy assault cruiser and you knew you were hurting your enemy more than you were if he was in a cheap ship. Kill him with a cheap ship, when he was in an expensive one, well, that was just the sweetest thing.

Huzzah were living in Catch, a fairly wealthy region with a number of capturable stations. They were, along with their local allies, to go to war with FIX and capture the rest of Catch from them. Victory was to be short lived, as we’ll see, but during that time StateCorp’s attendance and commitment levels rocketed. We were really getting a kick out of this game: tearing around the local regions in small gangs, fighting in huge sovereignty contests, and intercepting raiders night after night.

The Catch stations sat at the end of a “pipe” of solar systems that led from the safety of Empire into various 0.0, player alliance regions. StateCorp had scouts stationed throughout the pipe whenever anyone was awake. When I was at my desk there was usually a cloaked scout ship sat watching an important junction system in the pipe. I left it on my laptop for hours on end, just watching, waiting for targets. If I wanted to play with my main account I could just potter about making money or doing logistical tasks, waiting for the fight. Others did the same, as well as keeping an eye on the intel channels into which Huzzah and their allies reported. When enemies were spotted nearby, we would move to engage them. Where the enemy gang was of a size that could be tackled by StateCorp alone, we mobilised quickly. We probably annoyed our allies. In the words of one of them: “Statecorp are like all Zoom Zoom Zoom and we’re all like :(”

In fact, I’d often already be floating quietly a couple of jumps up the pipe when an enemy gang was spotted. StateCorp would rally from the more distant station systems, or from our “POS” – a player owned structure, which is a rudimentary space station deployed by individual corporations.

The POS, as I shall discuss later, was something we had a difficult relationship with over the years, but as a home away from home, and a forward base in the obscurer corners of 0.0 space, it was perfect.

Blockading the pipe, quickly judging the situation and either barrelling headlong into a fight, or setting up a bait trap, we got a fight on a regular basis. We won a fair number of times, too. During the Huzzah period we earned respect from a number of enemies. The pirates of Mortis Angelus visited, and were obliterated, while numerous cruiser gangs from Lokta Volterra and the dubiously named Stain Empire (Stain is a region in Eve) made life interesting whenever things got too quiet. Our victories were almost always down to good intel and good equipment. We scouted the enemy and then quickly fitted to be optimal against them in a fight. Usually we’d appear at face value to be killable – a small gang, with small ships – but we’d often have tanked ourselves against their specific damage output, or fitted jamming ships with full racks of jammers designed to lock their damage dealers out of the fight.

We didn’t always win, of course, and found our entire gang murdered by the famed solo-pirate Heikki, who used a high-spec battleship and a long range jamming ship with deadly effect at range. He was to become legend: able to kill multiple foe that fell, willingly into his trap. We also find ourselves wrongfooted by clever raiders with unusual loadouts: Muninn snipers, or “blasterthron” battleship gangs were particular problems.

Perhaps our favourite small skirmish at the time was with a Sleipnir command ship, the pilot of which had been a little aggressive in his smacktalk. On entering the fight I somehow disconnected, and my client went blank. I assumed I’d died, of course, but the mechanics of Eve meant that because he had scrambled me I stayed in the fight. Because I’d set my orbit and weapons cycling, he died under my disconnected guns. Logged back in, floating next to wreckage, with my friends laughing on voice comms. The ship was fitted with rare faction items, and once again filled our coffers with hundreds of millions of ISK.

One of our members, D’Jannek, began to specialise in humiliating such solo players. Many would often fly the Vagabond heavy assault ship, which was especially tough to catch. While fast and durable, the ship had to come in close to its target to really deal a killing blow. D’Jannek exploited this by coming up with builds for much weaker ships – clear targets for a roving vagabond – which would destroy them at close range. It was classic StateCorp: exploiting the overconfidence of enemies to send them tumbling into a trap. We watched it happen again and again, time after time.

Huzzah Federation were a brilliant crowd of friendly, fun pilots. It was the best of times. However, as a fleet force it relied on its allies in nearby regions. When bigger boys came Huzzah wasn’t quite up to the job. First Band Of Brothers (at the time the most powerful entity in the game) came to capture our stations, just because they could, and then ferocious pirates Against All Authorities (AAA) made their move. Led by our local nemeses Rage & Terror, AAA had become a formidable force, and when the finally made a territorial assault on Catch, there was little we could do. The fight when on for several weeks, but when a dreadnought fleet intended to assault their starbases fell apart, leading to the handful that arrived being slaughtered by AAA, we were done for. We lobbied mercenaries to come and fight for us, but they would not. AAA was too tough a nut, even then. Huzzah splintered, and began to dissipate. StateCorp got in touch with friends in Great Wildlands, and began to talk to former enemies Veritas Immortalis. They had taken Scalding Pass, and were now pushing back the Russians of Red Alliance into a single system. It seemed like a golden opportunity.

Although we didn’t quite realise it at the time, we arrived on the weekend where the tide turned. We logged into a war-machine of several thousand pilots, who had battered the Russians back into a single system, C-J6MT. We joined a teamspeak server with hundreds of people on it. There were other voice servers, all full to capacity, hosting entire alliances. All of them were being co-ordinated in one gigantic military operation. We watched giant fleets of capital ships undocking from V stations and jumping to the assault. Thousands of ships streamed through the region, each one controlled by a real player. It was a wondrous taste of the epic possibility of this kind of game.

But it was in vain. The lag from the battle was too much, and the capital ship losses against the fiercely combatant Russians were huge. Finally the coalition elected to call off its attack. They would concentrate on infrastructure and money. Lokta Volterra, Veritas Immortalis, and the other super-powers of the East let Red Alliance hold on to their bastion. The coalition would, consequently, lose everything.

Our time in -V- was hugely entertaining, but it was the tale of a steady decline. Having pushed back Red Alliance and built several outposts (the huge, player constructed “proper” space stations) the alliance was rich and potent. But it was to face an unrelenting assault from Red Alliance and GoonSwarm, whose alliance and tactics is meticulously detailed here. These strange allies would not relent, and night after night of fleet warfare collapsed into non-stop struggles for sovereignty. Those POS towers that made such convenient bases, became sources of ire as they had to be repeatedly attacked and defended at awkward times of day. The POS were fundamental to control of a region, and their long battles to destroy them were achingly dull. Despite the colossal power fielded by LV and V itself – often amount to hundreds of sniper battleships in a single fleet – there was nothing we could do against the sheer commitment of the Russians, and the manpower of the Goons. Our crucial POS were being torn down.

Oddly, this was also the point at which logistics were still relatively exciting. Nowadays, with the advent of jumpfreighters and the massive proliferation of other capital ships, it’s remarkably safe and easy to move massive amounts of material around the galaxy. At the time when V was fighting we had to bring freighters in manually, making dozens of jumps to get to the places where fuel was needed. Using a 150-man battleship fleet to block enemy gangs trying to hit the freighters was a thrilling exercise that no longer really exists in Eve. Again, the risks were enormous, and the high was unforgettable.

The road with V was long, and we fought across a huge theatre – brawling with Imperium and Red Alliance in the Empire space lanes, and fighting epic running battles across Great Wildlands and Scalding Pass. I dread to think how many ships we lost, or how many we killed.

Ultimately, however, V was to be broken. StateCorp, frustrated and dismayed, wanted to leave Great Wildlands. We also wanted to make some of our own decisions. For now at least we’d be leaving the territory-claiming alliance game. We were going to strike our on our own and become an independent alliance. The time of The State was upon us.

Next: Fountain, Celestial Apocalypse, and the Golden Age of The State. Read part 3 here.

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59 Comments »

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  1. Aphotique says:

    Just saw this posted as I was about to close up and head to bed…and of course I had to read it.

    Absolutely wonderful Part 2. I can’t wait for Part 3.

    The excitement, the adrenaline, the impact, prime examples of why gaming is truly a unique and magnificent medium.

  2. TooNu says:

    Awesome :)
    shame your small ship tactics didn’t transcribe over to Faction Warfare…though had you been Gallente we would have to have fisticuffs!

  3. Aisi says:

    This is great! Reminds me of the days of beta testing Earth & Beyond. As has been previously stated, can’t play this, as it would be too addicting and nothing would ever get done!

  4. Steve says:

    Always entertaining. :-)
    Can’t wait for the rest.

    P.s. New expansion’s just been named Dominion.
    No Details yet, just the teaser page.

  5. Steve says:

    Always entertaining. :-)
    Can’t wait for the rest.

    P.s. New expansion’s just been named Dominion.
    No Details yet, just the teaser page.

    http://www.eveonline.com/news.asp?a=single&nid=3334&tid=1

  6. Heliosicle says:

    Brilliant read, I also read the Red Alliance and GoonSwarm thing as well.

  7. vasagi says:

    i have two favorite state fights, one FC’ed by jim i was in my ceptor half listening on vent on a roam when jim said jump through and tackle the onyx so i just jumped through and started tackling only to realise there was slightly more than a sosl onyx in there, but thanks to the experince of the other guys in state i was able to tackle and surive the fight was my first adrenaline rush in eve.

    other time was an aliance gang with Mpk FC’ing, a whole aalinace gang on a gate wieghing up going through a gate into a pretty dodgy looking fight, in the end the order was given to move to another gate and jump, 95% of the fleet jumped….through the gate, much to Mpk’s horror jumping thorugh in the confusion the super splodes chrsed my pc.

    actually make that 3

    my first solo kill was a ball tightner follwed by shame as i realised the poor chap was hours old and very badly lost in his destroyer.

  8. Lack_26 says:

    I do hope CCP are able to be true to their word and keep Eve up for 50 years, that way I’ll have time to try it.

  9. TinyPirate says:

    Has to be pointed out that multi-boxing with EVE was relatively easy and, in some ways, enhanced the game. I had a trader account who earned me billions (never even left the station I was in!) and a PVP character ready to undock and fight. Good fun.

  10. Ansob. says:

    This is why my complete inability to play EVE pisses me off so much. I’ve had four or five trial accounts over the last couple of years, each time with a bunch of friends who played as part of some established corps/alliances and who subbed me a little money so I wasn’t stuck in a frigate, but I just couldn’t get into it.

    I think the problem is part of what makes EVE so unique – the real time skill training, which means I’d essentially have to pay for a year’s worth of account only logging in every day to set skills to train before I could actually play.

    There are so many cool things that I wish I could do in a space opera game and that seem possible in EVE, but I just can’t play it. :(

  11. gulag says:

    Marvellous stuff. You never hear tales with these broader contexts in static MMO’s like WOW.

  12. vasagi says:

    @Ansob

    not true , i was involved and making a difference with a hand full of skillpoints, its not the skill points but what you are in and what your doing with it. i have beaten much older players and been beaten by younger ones.

  13. futage says:

    Man, I really wish I liked Eve. I love Eve stories.

  14. Guernican says:

    There’s surely room for an article on the difficulty of playing this type of game, and maintaining some sort of involved human contact at the same time. I’m thinking, y’know, significant other.

    Nope, not a snipe… I find it fascinating, but I’ve always avoided the lure of MMOs. The sentences that made me wonder were:

    “When I was at my desk there was usually a cloaked scout ship sat watching an important junction system in the pipe. I left it on my laptop for hours on end, just watching, waiting for targets.”

    Good Lord. I may never be able to call myself a gamer again.

  15. vasagi says:

    Jim was entusiatic about eve, and also a mentalist multitasker

  16. zombiehunter says:

    good story bro’ ! ;)

    a hell of a read… keep it comin!

  17. Jim Rossignol says:

    I’m sure my Mrs would have some choice words to say about Eve, but don’t forget I’ve been a freelancer all this time. I would often work and play Eve at the same time, which was a lot less lonely than working on my own for eight hours a day.

  18. teo says:

    Agreed with the jump freighters. Logistics are not a problem for anyone now, not even really in WH space

  19. Demon Beaver says:

    Wow, this series of articles makes me really want to play EVE. But it seems to be a total time-eater. I’ll have to wait til I join the army next year.
    Is this game accessible at all for new players, especially those who hardly have an MMO upbringing?

  20. Kid B says:

    I often feel i’ve missed the boat with Eve Online It just seems a bit late to join it now. I’d love to have the time to fully get into this game as I love reading about it. Maybe if its still going in 40 years time, i’ll spend my retirement playing it, on a laptop on a beach on a small caribbean Island while my four 18 year old wives wait on me.

  21. dalig varg says:

    jim whats your char name?

  22. We Fly Spitfires says:

    Brilliant article :) I loe reading about your adventures in EVE! This is definitely why the game is great and I hope it inspires new people to try it.

    I particularly loved your story about killing the enemy when disconnected :) Classic!

  23. arqueturus says:

    @Demon Beaver

    Eve really is a huge timesink if you get into the really deep PVP aspect. If you have a decent corp that can fund your ships then you can easily enter into casual PVP.

    PVE is as much as a timesink as any MMO – i.e depends how much you want play.

    So, don’t let the seeming time involved put you off, it’s not as bad as it seems, indeed your skills progress even when you aren’t playing. Do get involved in a decent corp though – it really is the best way to get ahead in the game.

    @Jim, excellent stuff, keep it up mate. I’m excited to read the next one and I know what happens :)

  24. Owen says:

    >> I would often work and play Eve at the same time
    This is a huge ‘advantage’ for any long term game, but especially with Eve. I absolutely love Eve but just don’t have the free time to put into it any more. If I was able to work whilst logged into it, I’d go back in a flash.

    These articles are brilliant Jim. I’m also really enjoying Jim’s book ‘This gaming life’ which everyone should check out.

    My girlfriend and mum are already lined up to read it after me. It’ll be nice for them to get a peak into our world and understand it a little better.

  25. Psychopomp says:

    Oh man, my first fleet op…

    My corp made a really bad decision about where to set up our base of operations. The only way in and out, was via a high sec-low sec bottleneck gate, the aforementioned Sagain. We, and the rest of the corps in Saminer, did/do our best to keep the pirates out, normally to little long term avail. Victory was often meaningless, as the next day a new batch of pirates would come in.
    Most of them were chicken shit cowards, only capable of destroying a defenseless opponent.

    One day, this small group rolled in that was still there when I quit. They were all 4+ year old toons, and all of them were good at what they did.

    After about a week of them, we got a small fleet together to at least give them a bit of hell.
    We caught one of them about to go through the gate himself, we targeted and he just stopped where he was, right at the edge of the jump. Everyone else was logged off.

    It was at this moment, we realized how in over our heads we were.

    All of us were afraid to shoot first. It was five of us, against him. We were afraid of him, and I’m pretty sure he was just amused by us. For thirty minutes, we floated in space, doing nothing, but waiting. Long, painful waiting.

    I couldn’t tell you how much I just wanted to run. All five of us were boned, and we knew it. I’d guess the only reason we stayed was out of some misplaced sense of honor. He was a pirate, and we were going to do everything in our limited power to send him packing.

    So, for thirty excruciating minutes, nothing happened. Then, his friends started to filter into Local. For twenty more minutes, nothing happened.

    Then, they warped in. At first, it was just a tiny interceptor, who started to tear my drones down. Then, less than thirty seconds later, the big ones flew in. Three battleships, far better equipped than we could dream of.

    We were completely, and utterly defeated that day, sent back to Saminer to lick our wounds.

    And it was *glorious.*

  26. Norskov says:

    Fantastic read, even though I’ve never played the game, this is quite exciting..

  27. Psychopomp says:

    Fuck it, I’m resubbing as soon as I have the money.

    If anyone from Forging is reading, i can has a status update?

  28. Jeremy says:

    These stories are awesome to listen to. I just know that I could never install it. My life would fall apart in a heartbeat.

  29. Crimsoneer says:

    God, I remember my first fleet op…Complete disaster. Me and 40 or so other ships flew straight into an enemy ambush, and my cruiser was promptly shredded by their carriers. Huge adrenaline rush, epic failure across the board :P

  30. DMJ says:

    @Demon Beaver: EvE has no sympathy and most people bounce off it a few times before they finally “get” it. Starting with experienced friends is the key to learning the game. Without guidance or direction, it’s like starting a new job without any clue as to what you’re supposed to be doing or how to do it.

    But once you do “get” it, it’s a completely new experience. You’re not so much playing a game as interacting in a world.

  31. The Pink Ninja says:

    As always you make it sound amazing.

    And as always, I just can’t get into. Must have made four accounts so far.

  32. char says:

    I recall my first capital ship fight.

    I was newb, and had joined a merry bunch of would be pirates. We had built up a nice pile of wealth running a nearby plex. I had just got the cash together for a Raven but not the SP, I was cruising around in a destroyer of all things.

    Someone in the corp ts said they had been attacked by a lone carrier a few jumps away. Within 5 minutes about 20 of us were assembled and jumping towards the carrier’s system.

    Once there, someone jumped through and aggroed the carrier then we all jumped through and listened to our boss carefully.
    ‘align to warp’….
    ‘wait’
    ‘wait’ (omg the excitment)
    ‘ok now!’ and he warped off! but for whatever strange reason nobody else did.
    ‘where tf are you all? ffs ! he’s attacking!!!! fscking warp! warp! warp!’

    In the end we did get there, and actually the carrier was pretty quickly rendered harmless, then shortless after destroyed. but those moments before the warp will stay in my memory forever.

    aaah eve. I wish I cbf playing it again, but its really a huge time investment.

  33. utharda says:

    Having recently enjoyed the wrath of the Red Alliance / Goons / PL / Shadows of xxxxxxxxxxx naptrain i feel for you.

    Eve is a hell of a game. The highs of taking down a fleet you shouldn’t have, to the lows of pos bashing, its still fun.

    Besides, whats better than finding Pandemic Lesion willing to do a Capital hot drop on a 10 man cruiser roaming gang.
    (they really did. )
    (best part, not one kill.)

  34. Zyrxil says:

    Big losses hurt. The risks, therefore, are exciting in a way that a more traditional WoW clone can’t match.

    It’s also why for every person that enjoys EVE, 10 people would rather simply read long EVE articles instead of play.

  35. A Delicate Balance says:

    Great write-up Jim: looking forward to reading the rest. It’s been an incredible journey.

    [statecorp member 5 years]

  36. Billzor says:

    I expect a full comic series and a made-for TV movie by the end of year.

  37. 1stGear says:

    If someone could blend the accessibility of WoW with the freedom of EvE, they will have created the greatest game ever and will rule the world.

  38. Funky Badger says:

    Marvellous stuff.

    Eve really is Culture: The Computer Game, innit?

  39. medwards says:

    So because of the first article here and a re-read of the Red Alliance shinding, I’m picking up a trial account and giving it a serious go. I have to say, it’s actually pretty easy to get started. DO THE TUTORIALS. ALL OF THEM. NO YOU CANNOT SKIP THEM.

    Also, I may be wrong, but I don’t think those Career Agents existed at all before but they sure help me figure out what I’m doing. I’m less than a day in and I sort of graps the basics of mining -> refining -> manufacturing. The nice thing is you don’t have to choose. Once I’m done these last two missions I’m going to learn how to fight some.

    If you’re interested in chilling out I’m currently operating out of Embod and am already getting a bit ‘o cabin fever. Once this fighting gig is done I’ll definitely be wanting to strike out on my own, but I have a wee bit of nervousness about doing it on my own. Look up WobblySpacePirate if you’re just starting out!

  40. Nak Manakhan says:

    Despite having happily read through both of these articles, it wasn’t until I got to the end and you mentioned The State that I realised I was flying with you around 5zxx-g last year. Two years reading this site and wondering what corp you were in and I was bloody well playing with you already!

  41. Nak Manakhan says:

    I also now understand why the hell you had NGJ as your ticker. I should really have clocked on sooner.

  42. arqueturus says:

    We’re with the PressCorp :)

  43. Shadow says:

    This is indeed a great read. I’m interested for the fountian part of the story as this is probably close to the timeline We were in fountian with BRUCE… XD

  44. mpk says:

    expect a full comic series and a made-for TV movie by the end of year

    I want to be played by John Walker.

  45. Janek says:

    Huzzah was the best. It really was. For me, since then, the game has never quite ever encapsulated such an exquisite blend of camaraderie, small gang fights, solo fights, and even enjoyable fleet action (there were some awesome fights against FIX in FAT). Massive thanks to all our old alliance mates, our allies, and the enemies who just loved to come pick fights with little old Huzzah. Good times.

    Shadow: I think we’d moved on by then. Did briefly bump into BRUCE in a Syndicate roadtrip, but for the most part had little contact.

  46. Kshade says:

    Gah, c-j6, how I hated that system.

    Well written pieces, looking forward to the next part.

  47. DD says:

    oooohh… these articles push the right buttons for what i would imagine to be the perfect game.

  48. Psychopomp says:

    Why are Russians in EVE so insane?

  49. roBurky says:

    BULG moved into Fountain as we left, so our Fountain stint is way pre-BRUCE.

  50. Spanjab says:

    Gotta agree Arq, it’s riveting reading and I was there! :-)

    Looking forward to the Fountain campaign section next, arguably my favourite time in Eve \o/