1: How Not To Kill A Titan

TMC Archives 2009-02-26

In the immediate aftermath of our disbanding the Band of Brothers (BoB) alliance and the subsequent hellpurge of their former territory, two things occurred. First: my alliance (Goonswarm), my dear friend Haargoth Agamar (also of Goonswarm, nee BoB), and I (a humble fuzzy mitten) were labeled the worst sort of sociopaths found on the internet. Secondly, I was offered a column at Tentonhammer. Apparently, reading of the lurid misdeeds of madmen and sinners is almost more fun than the sanctimonious condemnation of said ne’er do-wells. So this is the goal: to convey to the reader an overview of amusing idiocies, hijinks, sting operations, scams, heists, and hilarity that is often only hinted at in the mainstream of EVE gameplay, and to tell the tales only known to a hidden few – for posterity’s sake, or for propaganda, take your pick.

Let us begin with Titans, the ridiculously expensive and massive ships which once could only be fielded by the largest alliances. So many EVE tales begin with Titans, not merely because of their strategic and military value, but because of flat out cost; a well-fit Titan runs around 80-90 billion isk, which amounts to approximately six thousand US dollars. This fact tends to make people who have not played EVE pay attention; when you’re fighting an internet spaceship war, it’s one thing; when fighting an internet spaceship war with ships worth as much as a high-end computer, a used automobile, or 25% of Iceland’s current GDP, suddenly the discussion becomes serious and one’s perspective shifts. Massive wars have been fought over the fate of a single titan. I’m proud to say that Goonswarm has killed a number of them, and annihilated even more in the ‘womb’ of their Assembly Arrays before they finished construction (constructing one is a process which takes months, during which they are vulnerable); this pride stems not from some sort of martial honor (of which I have none), but because I hate Titans. They are, in my estimation, extremely silly ships. As Oveur, the lead designer of EVE, once said: “Titans were never meant to be cost effective… it’s a huge dick.” The only valuable byproduct of Titans in EVE is it makes people howl and tear out their hair when you destroy one. That’s the fun bit.

Innumerable columns have been written already about Titan kills. Since their introduction, Titans have gone from being objects of awe to being commonplace, if still fiendishly expensive. Periodically, some Titan pilot will screw up, send his Titan into an area of space that is vulnerable, and some jerk drops a capital fleet on top of said Titan and blows it up. Whoosh, six thousand bucks down the drain, with all the attendant humiliation, rationalization, and forum chest-beating that follows. In the majority of cases, the Titan being blown up is piloted by dear old Sir Molle, the former alliance leader of Band of Brothers. In addition to having his alliance disbanded, he has a habit of losing Avatar-class Titans; if they’re foolish enough to give that man a fifth Avatar, I expect it to last approximately a week. For those keeping track, that’s $24,000 wasted by one man to date and rising. To be contrarian, this column is about how not to kill a Titan, a tale of snatching defeat from the jaws of certain, absolute victory.

To briefly recap the events of the last month for context’s sake: On February 4th, 2009, the Band of Brothers alliance, long-time enemies of Goonswarm, was disbanded, leaving all their space vulnerable and open to invasion. The next day, in a move publicly heralded as ‘complete madness’ and a ‘horrible mistake’ by the EVE commentariat, Goonswarm announced that it was immediately abandoning all of its space, comprising a sprawling empire of five regions in the southeastern arm of the galaxy, in order to invade and occupy the former home territory of BoB, Delve. This all-or-nothing gambit created an unprecedented power vacuum in former Goonswarm space, as suddenly five regions were up for grabs, with no goons around to even attempt a defense.

Some months prior to the abrupt resumption of the ‘Great War’ between BoB and Goonswarm, Against All Authorites (-A-) alliance switched sides from being a staunch Goonswarm ally to working actively on BoB’s behalf. Territorially, -A- bordered the Goonswarm regions, and with the sudden evacuation of Goonswarm from its old space, the leader of -A-, ‘Evil Thug’, moved rapidly to break down the sovereignty defenses and seize whatever he could. Due to an agent, -A- knew that more was up for grabs than merely valuable space; in the process of rushing to Delve, Goonswarm had abandoned a Leviathan-class Titan in an Assembly Array deep within its former capital system of XGH, a Titan which had 21 days left before it would be completed and evacuated. If -A- could break the sovereignty defenses of the XGH constellation before February 25th, could easily destroy the Titan – and it wasn’t just any Leviathan-class, but one intended for the CEO and leader of the Swarm, Darius JOHNSON. The military and propaganda coup would be palpable, according to -A-‘s directorate, despite Goonswarm having laughed off a previous Titan loss almost a year ago.

In order to render XGH vulnerable to attack, -A- had to break ‘constellation sovereignty’; the shortest path to doing this was to seize one of the two other stations (T-AK or G-D0N) in the constellation in which XGH resides. If even one station was lost, after seven days, XGH would be vulnerable and the Leviathan would be quickly dispatched by an -A- fleet. Evil Thug chose T-AK for the assault; overnight, many -A- towers were erected in the system, and unless somehow stopped, constellation sovereignty would be broken on February 21st – a full four days before the Leviathan was due.

The Goonswarm directorate met and considered how to counter -A-‘s move. Traditionally, one responds to an invasion by having a fleet of capital ships destroy the hostile towers, but the Goonswarm fleet was by now in the western half of the galaxy, consumed with the seizure of Delve; the Swarm would have to choose between success in Delve and defending the Leviathan. Unconventional methods of defense were also considered – a secret capital fleet piloted only by Swarm directors, attacking the -A- towers in T-AK in the darkest hours of night – this idea was tried, but Swarm directors valued bedrest more than Darius’s Leviathan, and none bothered to show up at the scheduled time. In a more comic vein, an ‘outpost egg’ was purchased for 20 billion isk from an ally; the plan was to create an entirely new station in the XGH constellation on the night of the 20th, a station which would be almost immediately taken by -A-, but which would preserve the capital of XGH for long enough to evacuate the vastly more expensive Leviathan safely.

A public relations offensive was mounted as Goonswarm’s enemies began publicly mocking alliance members about ‘2/21’, suggesting that on this date the war, which was not going well for the former BoB forces in Delve, would experience a sudden shift in fortune; Goonswarm would ‘get its due’ on this date, a Sword of Damocles which would somehow seal their fate. The Goonswarm directorate prepared their mad outpost prank and waited for the inevitable. On Sunday, 2/15, T-AK sovereignty went neutral, meaning that the station could be captured. The Swarm directorate began waiting for the T-AK station to be captured, which would set the stage for XGH to fall. Taking a station once a system falls requires a fleet to shoot the station to ‘flip’ it, a boring if necessary duty. Hours went by. The system was not being defended, so -A- was in no rush; the station would be taken by downtime, no doubt, when -A- got around to it. Yet the -A- fleet never came on 2/15.  On 2/16, -A- claimed sovereign control over the T-AK system. The station remained uncaptured.

It is often said that what separates players on the highest level of alliance warfare is the understanding of fundamental gameplay mechanics. EVE is a notoriously complex game, but the documentation is available in voluminous form; keen understanding of sovereignty mechanics is practically assumed at the level of an alliance leader. After all, sovereignty is the core mechanic in alliance warfare; the game is all about taking, breaking, and holding sovereignty. -A- was considered at the time to be an alliance of ‘elite pvp’ players, yet at dawn on 2/17 we realized that the ‘big surprise’ on 2/21 was not going to surprise Goonswarm, but -A- and KenZoku (the former BoB forces). Out of an alliance of approximately two thousand players, apparently no one had understood that to break constellation sovereignty, one needs to not only control a system, but capture the station itself.

On 2/25, Darius JOHNSON launched his new Titan from a still-intact XGH and entered hyperspace, leaving the former Goonswarm holdings behind forever, piloting a Leviathan which by all rights should never have been born. No secret director-only capital operations or midnight deployment of outposts were required, only a tremendous, alliance-wide failure of understanding about how EVE works. As of the moment I write this, on 2/27, the T-AK station still has not been captured by Against All Authorities, weeks after it should have fallen to them.

Commentary

Babby’s first column is almost painful to read, three years later; it’s too long – almost 1600 words – too earnest, and spends too much time spoonfeeding the basics of EVE to the reader where a simple Dotlan link would do the trick. At this point I didn’t even know much about writing on the internet, all of my prior experience being in print, so I had yet to discover the magic of urls.

I originally started this column because of the media focus surrounding the BoB disbanding; this piece could be summarized in the modern era as “lawl, -A- is bad”, but in early 2009 Titans still had AoE Doomsdays and were worth writing about, as opposed to our blighted modern ’30 Titans in a Fleet’ situation.

This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by The Mittani.

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