Friday, June 11, 2010

The Battle of Vaajiata

There are two ways to talk about a battle in EVE Online. They're both hard, for different reasons. The first way, the easier way you would think, would be to weave a story around the events, set up the players and their motivations, give a little backstory and then blow-by-blow describe the eventual coming together of the two parties. It's hard because you first of all have to be good at telling a story, and you also have to be aware enough of all the events to make that story coherent.

The second way involves being dispassionate, analytical. This method is less attractive to the average reader, but for the hardcore EVE player, one more au fait with the technicalities of a PvP encounter, it can be a real learning experience.

So how to tell the tale of the Battle of Vaajiata? Well, bearing in mind that the raison d'etre of RPSH, one of the two protagonists, is to introduce new people to EVE as fast and as hard as we can, let's try a little of both.

Firstly, the roll call. On one side we have RPS Holdings (RPSH), a corp of over 100 players, dedicated to introducing new people to the world of EVE. At the core of the corp is a kernel of jaded EVE vets, some with over five years of playtime, and surrounded on all sides by a warm, fuzzy meatshield of players with only weeks or months under their belt. In the other corner is Allied Tactical Squadron and their friends (ATSQ), a conglomerate of experienced players with their fair share of newbies - although it has to be said that the ratio of vets to new players was higher with ATSQ, and that their new players were older than ours.

As we found out, it was common practise for ATSQ to declare war on other Empire only corporations as they revelled in cheap kills and easy ganks. No different to any other PvP corp, it must be said, but there are crucial differences in tactics between high-sec and null-sec combat - the obvious one being the ability to dock in far more stations, in busier systems with more stargates to run away through. You also don't have to worry about interdictors and anyone, absolutely anyone could be an alt.

Looking at the cold hard (alltime) stats of RPSH vs ATSQ, it's easy to wonder how we managed to win the war. 111 losses overall to them, compared with only 58 kills. Strip the stats down, ignore the 21 shuttle, noob ship and pod kills, and you find that 56 of the remaining losses are all tech 1 frigates, the cheapest ship type in the game. That's because we demanded that all our new players learn to fly disposable tackling frigates as early as possible and then throw them into the fray. Ridding yourself of The Fear as quickly as possible is essential for PvP in EVE where everything you own is earned through blood, sweat and tears and once it's gone, it's gone.

The War began, as they often do, with one innocuous action. RPSH's home system of Vaajiata, was sandwiched between ATSQ's home of Akonoinen and a low security system called Aurohunen. In Aurohunen it was possible to attack other players without repercussions from CONCORD, the ingame NPC police force, although anyone doing so would then be globally flagged as a criminal. I'd been a good boy for a long time, never really pirated in low sec systems, but living in high-sec space with RPSH was leaving me aching for the kind of PvP I was used to. When I spotted a lone Drake ratting in an asteroid belt in Aurohunen, I decided to go in for the kill... and what a kill it was, as thirteen of his friends piled in and took out my ship from under me.

The following demands then appeared in local chat:

[ 2009.10.16 01:30:17 ] Dozofprom > rps WILL DIE
[ 2009.10.16 01:30:34 ] Dozofprom > check your mail, u choose poorly
[ 2009.10.16 01:31:02 ] Dozofprom > pay us 2 bil in 24hrs or you all die
[ 2009.10.16 01:33:47 ] Dozofprom > including any poses anywhere

To which I answered:

[ 2009.10.16 01:35:41 ] M PIquet > I am authorised to say: "ROFL"

That didn't go down well. A few minutes later the declaration of war arrived, which was all very exciting.

The same can't be said of the war itself, however. ATSQ excelled in hugging stations and only ever engaged with greater numbers. Apart from the Battle of Vaajiata itself there were no gang engagements during the war, only a collection of ganks and solo wins. ATSQ also had a nice line in smack, telling us that we blobbed and had too many ships to contemplate fighting, neatly forgetting that they did, of course, war dec a corp three times their size. But such is the mindset of average EVE player: the game had to be set in space to contain all the incredibly large egos.

Tit for tat kills, although more tit than that, followed. They lost some ships, we lost some more ships. We tended to hide when their mainly US timezone gangs got together and similiarly they hid from us during European prime time. It all came to a head one Sunday night in October.

Our gang was bulked up and as heavy as it could get. Even though the majority of our corp members were merely months old we still numbered a several battleships and battlecruisers in amongsth our numbers, but our intelligence was that ATSQ were massing a sniper battleship gang on the Vaajiata gate in Akonoinen - our scout had seen them warping to the gate at range and then warping back out to a safe spot, clearly making tactical sniper spots around the gate. My inital thought, as fleet commander, was to get our gang out of Vaajiata and away from prying eyes and try to circle round behind the ATSQ home system and come at them from another angle, hopefully catching them either at their safe spot or at their sniper positions. We jumped into a neighbouring system to consider options, and waited, leaving one BS behind as bait. ATSQ took that bait, and the fight was on.

The decision of where to fight was basically taken out of our hands when two ATSQ battleships, including their own fleet commander Dozofprom, jumped through the Vaajiata stargate. Dozofprom had not endeared himself to RPSH with his incessant smacktalk in local chat but his apparent niavete in combat did ensure that I enjoyed going up against him. ATSQ were obviously used to empire combat and their first response in any engagement where they were overwhelmed was usually to deaggress and dock or jump out and run.

The ATSQ ships engaged in Vaajiata and we jumped back in, quickly warping in. ATSQ's numbers also rose in local and the fight was joined. We outnumbered them, although they had Falcons, jamming ships that were force multipliers and could potentially take at least four of our five battleships out of the battle, but our frigate pilots responded well and took the first one out as it uncloaked. Our BS and BCs quickly took out the first ATSQ BS - a Raven - and switched targets to the next. Two enemy Dominix went down as we lost a Typhoon, while an ATSQ Hyperion and Abaddon pair followed type and jumped back out. That left only two hostile battleships - Dozofprom himself, still futilely shooting away until his hull imploded, and a last Dominix which went down in no time. We'd lost one battleship, they'd lost five and two more had run away. We'd won.

My first instincts proved false as the ATSQ gang turned out not to be sniper fit, but were instead a remote-repair gang. That meant that they sacrificed overall firepower by fitting remote armour repair mods in their high slots. Used well this type of battleship gang is utterly devestating and can sometimes need capital support to kill. ATSQ forgot the first rule of combat in an RR gang, however - stick together. Fitted onto non-logistics craft, ships without bonuses to module range, the repair modules were only of use within ten kilometres, meaning all the BS would have to stay in a battle ball. Jumping into combat instantly means that ships within the gang can be up to thirty kilometres apart. In a triple-plated trimarked BS that could take anything up to a minute to travel. It was a bad decision, and the killmails only highlighted the terrible fits to go with them - a good RR gang has RR on every ship, not on half of them. If this sounds like arrogance, that's because it is, but it's the arrogance gained from total victory. Not all my fights have went this well, before or after, but this is one win I'll always remember, as much for the fight as for the immediate result...

Mere minutes later the entire corp received a notificaton by EVE-mail: ATSQ were retracting the war. We'd not only won, we'd defeated them so completely they withdrew all hostilities. The field was ours, the victory was ours, the enemy so defeated they knelt in supplication. This, surely, is what EVE is all about.

1 comment:

Cullnean (LD) said...

Great write up Jamie.

Shame a few more of the older guys like myself joined after this, other wise it could have been a whole lot worse for atsq,

there lucky they didnt fight us as we are now those new guys are now a bit harder and a hell of a lot more experinced.