In this, the third part of my retrospective on five years of an Eve Online corporation, I discuss our guerrilla war, a heroic evacuation mission, and the few weeks of play that will, I fear, diminish all game experiences to follow. For the story so far: Part 1, Part 2.
Having fled the collapse of Veritas Immortalis and the unstoppable march of the RedSwarm Federation in the East of the galaxy, we looked around for a new home. What might be interesting, we thought, was to contribute to one of the free-trade zones, those areas of idealism which pop up occasionally across Eve's map. The notion, in these areas, is that you don't shoot anything that moves, and help to defend against pirates and raiders. Such agreements seldom work out, but something along these lines was being attempted by a potent player corporation called Celestial Apocalypse. Only in this particular case it was like a kind of casual guerrilla club.
Celestial Apocalypse, a large, PvP-skilled corporation, had moved into a region called Fountain. The Fountain region is unusual in that it has a mix of uncapturable NPC stations in its "core", and a number of outposts and stations around its edge. These outposts at the time were run by Band Of Brothers (BoB), who were arguably the most fearsome military alliance in the game at that time. As such, the region was relatively quiet, free of territory war and was being exploited by BoB allies, such as Xelas Alliance and The Horde. Celestial Apocalypse had moved into the uncapturable NPC stations and declared that they would provide "blue" or non-aggression status with anyone who wanted to move up there and fight BoB's local minions with them. A few small alliances and corporations had taken up that offer, and were making the most of Fountain's core as a base, while Celestial Apocalypse rampaged around the region.
The situation was close to unique, and I would spend a large stretch of the following years attempting to recapture it. BoB's military was engaged elsewhere at the time, or was alternately secured in Delve and Querious, their other two regions. The BoB community in Fountain, therefore, was largely left to fend for itself. While no one was particularly interested in messing with BoB territorially the stations remained unscathed, so Xelas and The Horde got on with making money, and that left them open to attack by Celestial Apocalypse's rag-tag free-trade posse.
When we arrived Celestial Apocalypse had begun to get bored and while they were would be around for many weeks following, it seemed that they had begun to lose interest in the project. Now though, there were a whole bunch of neutrals, all allied to each other, living in Fountain core. After savaging Xelas and The Horde time after time, and having several huge fights with roving BoB fleets, Celestial Apocalypse were beginning to look for other targets. But where they left off, The State - our newly formed alliance - began to gain momentum.
The first on the scene was Thesper, one of our solo aces. Flying a physics-tricked absurdo-ship, the nanophoon (now impossible in the game), he introduced himself to the locals with a week of non-stop slaughter. He'd earned perhaps a hundred solo kills by the time the rest of StateCorp jumped its carriers in to our base, the dead-end system of WY-9LL.
WY-9LL instantly captured my imagination: a remote bastion of space-faring civilisation. Only one jumpgate in and out, which meant we could always see trouble coming. The locals at the time were Celestial Apocalypse blues, which meant they were blue to us, too. We arrived to mild, friendly chatter, and I noticed one of the stations sat atop an asteroid, an unusual design, and just the kind of thing I loved seeing in eve.
There were around twenty people in The State at this time, and we were soon to be seeing peak attendance, with everyone showing up to our scheduled ops, and perhaps half a dozen people available at almost any time of day for impromptu skirmishes around the Fountain core. Having introduced ourselves to Celestial Apocalypse and their local friendlies, we began to attack nearby outpost systems. We weren't interested in any kind of territorial gain, we were just there to keep the BoB allies out of the core, and to earn as many kills as possible. I chalked up around 500 kills on my own, raiding against Xelas and The Horde the nearest outpost. I took great joy in loading up a disposable battlecruiser, scouting with my second account (a cloaked ship) and then ploughing into their wobbly defences. It became a daily routine in which we'd regular catch our enemy unawares. My cloaker silently watched them for weeks on end, and they'd never quite know when I was active, and when I was off at the pub, or asleep. It provided constant amusement.
In the core itself there were numerous factions using the neutral NPC stations. Greatest of all of these was Norman Protector, a kind of one man army who would fight us almost no matter the odds. He'd often win improbably fights with his crazily equipped cruisers and battleships. He'd see you and demand PvP in broken English. He usually got it. He was the greatest.
Slightly later came the mysterious and erratic "Cors", at least some of whom seemed to be multiple alts of the same person, usually all in battleships. We'd regularly engage them throughout Fountain, once taking them on in a running battle lasting nearly an hour, in which I lost my ship, and was able to do a thirty jump round trip to get another and return for the end of the fight. They always seemed keen for a brawl, and would often sit on jumpgates or stations just waiting for us to wake up and engage.
So despite the lack of huge fleets and territorial war which had characterised our last couple of years of play, Fountain was never quiet. If it wasn't the BoB community providing us with targets, then there were raiders from other regions or, occasionally, huge gangs of Chinese currency farmers. For reasons unknown these guys would occasionally band up in large groups of battleships and provide us with a fight. Most of the time, however, the sat quietly in side-systems, harvesting the game for money. We stalked them mercilessly, and they complained bitterly about the "boat violence".
Possibly the most interesting event in this early Fountain period, at least from our perspective, was when a rift occurred between BoB's vassal group, The Horde, and the rest of the BoB community. Xelas turned up to attack The Horde pilots as they attempted to evacuate from the outpost in which - until that afternoon - I had been routinely battering them. Now the Horde pilots turned to me for help, asking whether The State and the other denizens of the core would help them get out alive. We agreed, and rallied the locals to trounce Xelas and get our former enemies to safety. Arriving in small, well-armed gangs, we surrounded the station and nearby gates, forcing the BoB minions to dock or flee, before escorting the exiled Horde fleet to their new Empire home. It was a glorious day.
Almost as glorious as the time the ultimate BoB leader, SirMolle, narrowly missed doomsdaying us with his titan (smartbomb effect of the most powerful ship in the game) and then somehow flew an alt carrying a billion-isk in recyclables into our gatecamp. That kept us going for weeks.
But it probably wouldn't have kept us going if it hadn't been for the tireless work of occasional RPS contributor RoBurky, who spent the many months in Fountain constructing a corporate hangar that had come to be know as the Hop. The Hangar Of Plenty.
Using corporate assets, and plenty of his own elbow grease, Rob gathered blueprints to manufacture almost the entire range of tech 1 equipment, and many ships besides. He kept the hangar well stocked so that we could equip and launch a ship for almost any eventuality at a moment's notice. I know that we didn't thank Rob adequately for his work, but I suspect The Shop Of Death was thanks enough.
The Shop Of Death, aka RoBurky's Emporium of Certain Doom, was something of a fluke. The station we had moved into had some peculiar physics bug which meant it was enormously difficult to align and leave once you had undocked. This meant that enemy pilots, arriving to buy the reasonably priced goods that Rob had placed on the market, seldom got out alive. For our allies it was a cheap, consistent source of equipment. For our enemies it was a deathtrap. We could even see what it was that they had bought, and would often loot it from their wreckage and then put it back in the market after the gank.
What if it was a ship that we couldn't kill before it redocked into the station? No matter, we'd simply wait in the direction he'd have to take when we left, and kill him then. We always got our mark.
So, back on the timeline: Fountain was far from over when The Horde moved. We had two more waves of BoB-friendly enemies to contend with. The first was Aftermath Alliance, a small splinter group of Xelas' competent PvP players, and the second was Coreli Corporation, a small alliance around the same size and skill level as The State. When they first burst through our jumpgate and into WY-9LL we knew the fight was on. It was beautiful.
The best thing about fighting people who are roughly as competent as you are: your own skill level increases. On the one hand you're not being slapped about by a greater force, and losing the will to continue, but nor are your enemies simply victims to be slaughtered. Coreli were perfect sparring partners, always ready to innovate their own tactics, and often keen to spring one of our elaborate traps. I began to spend less time raiding outposts as Coreli and Aftermath brought combat within just a couple of jumps of WY-9LL. We engaged all day, every day. The killboards - websites maintained to keep track of ship-destructions - sprawled with the statistical evidence of hundreds of small battles.
One memorable night we rolled out of our base with a full gang and wracked up twenty battleship kills, along with multiple smaller craft, without suffering a single loss. Nor was it the usual trickle of random kills: we had three gang vs gang brawls, including one stand-up fight on a hostile station. It was a credit to how efficient Statecorp had become that everyone knew how to stay alive, even without the kind of "nano" setups that people would use to make speed their protector.
I like to think it was a measure of Coreli's leader's respect for The State that he added us to his territorial map - a hand-drawn record (as opposed to automated efforts) of region influence and conflicts, that he updated for several years. We were probably the smallest entity ever to make it onto that map, thanks to our continual efforts in the Fountain core. I think back on the fights with Coreli and Aftermath with great affection: it was one of the best gaming experiences I have ever known. The few months in which we fought, toe to toe, is something I'd love to be able to recreate or recapture, but I know it's lost. A singularity in the history of gaming. It was so valuable: a time when the kind of game I'd always dreamed of had come to pass: carving out our niche in a living universe, protecting the weak, working as a team to make money and bring down enemies.
Yet it had to come to an end. Eve is change. Eventually, after months of scintillating small-scale combat, things began to falter. Once again the larger alliance politics would push The State to the sidelines. D2 and their immense northern coalition had decided to use the Fountain core as a base for an assault on BoB's empire. Our quietly embattled region was suddenly heaving with 500-man fleets. While we were allied to D2, as anti-BoB locals, we had little reason to want to support them. BoB actually being removed from the region was not in our favour. After twiddling our thumbs for a couple of weeks, we decided to take a roadtrip to Syndicate. It was a rough, messy time for the corporation, in which we battled with Syndicate locals and saw attendance drop off. Eventually we arranged a return to Fountain, but things weren't quite the same. WY-9LL had new friendlies move in - BULG - who would later become Sons Of Tangra, a major power that would hold territory in Fountain.
The balance of power in Fountain was changing, and the fight dynamics were no longer ripe for raiders like The State. In retrospect we should probably have adjusted and come to work with our new allies, but I'd had enough. Bored, I looked elsewhere for conflict. We would hit the road once again, heading for the last great war that StateCorp would play a role in, and, ultimately, the end of our journey.
Next: Bullies in Geminate, Insurgency, old friends. Next: the end.