A New Paradigm Shift?


At times in EVE Online’s history, game changes or new pilot strategies have made such a breakthrough that they were the equivalent of a paradigm shift in physics or medicine. Everything in the game changed during these moments and the game’s meta changed as well. Have we recently seen another such moment, but we just haven’t recognized it yet? Before I answer that, let’s look at some past paradigm shifts from EVE’s history.

The Dreadnought

In the early days of EVE, CCP had not unveiled titans or even supercapitals, but in July of 2005, CCP introduced the dreadnought and that ship rocked the EVE world. In those years, these ships were seen as game-changers (literally!), because they could enter into siege mode and attack structures, meaning that capsuleers could have their home blown to bits with them inside it and vice versa, blow up enemies’ base structures. Strategists went to work to take advantage of the new firepower, but they also worked to learn how to destroy such a powerful weapon and defend against it. The changed meta took some time to develop, but eventually the game restablized, having incorporated these new wonder weapons into the gameplay.

The Titan

Similarly, in 2006, CCP introduced the titan into the game, and several alliances went hell-bent-for-leather into an arms race to produce what they thought would be the ultimate weapon. Some alliances had dreams of controlling all nullsec (sounds like a blue donut to me) if only they were the first to build this super weapon. CYVOK, the CEO of Ascendent Frontier, had his alliance working to create the game’s first titan, while simultaneously working almost as vigorously to keep its creation a secret from others. Eventually, the titan “Steve” was born and Ascendent Frontier had their super weapon, complete with the capability of destroying dozens of opposing ships with a single mammoth blast. According to Andrew Groen’s book, “Ascendant Frontier’s shockingly quick construction of Steve the Titan threatened to bring a new paradigm. What if the alliance could just keep building Titans? . . . Everyone was afraid of what Ascendant Frontier’s now over 3,000 players were capable of if they committed to building an entire fleet of Titans” (Groen, Andrew. Empires of EVE: A History of the Great Wars of EVE Online . Kindle Edition.)

Other alliances had to discover the way to destroy the titan, while scrambling to also build their own. But only a very few alliances had the industrial might to attempt such a feat, and smaller alliances lived in fear that soon there would be only one great power in all of nullsec, Ascendent Frontier, the creators of “Steve.”

Upwell Keepstars

Another paradigm shift came with the introduction of Upwell Keepstars – seemingly such powerful citadels that they might shift the power structure in nullsec. Players got a huge defensive bonus while tethered to the KS. The meta had to adjust.  Eventually, a combination of Pandemic Legion, NC dot, and Pandemic Horde destroyed the first Keepstar, one anchored by Project Mayhem. By 2018, killing Keepstars was not exactly routine, but was common enough that the Imperium succeeded in destroying multiple Keepstars in a single day.

And that’s how New Eden has been: the paradigm shifts, pilots adapt, and a new phase of equilibrium is eventually reached, though along the way, alliances rise and fall – the latter if they fail to adapt to the paradigm shift.

Dreadnought, titan, Keepstar. With the introduction of each change, the paradigm shifted, but each of these previous changes took place when CCP introduced something new into the game. Now, with the recent battle in M2, we may have seen a player-driven paradigm shift – a technique  or strategy created that may result in a paradigm shift of equal magnitude to these other three.

Pre-loading the Server

Before the second battle of M2, Goons flooded M2 with pilots, some 4,500 Imperium capsuleers who arrived at the impending battle scene four hours before the armor timer would start counting down. Most streamers commented that such a load of pilots, already in the server, would cause problems for PAPI, should they decide to enter the fray. Some believed PAPI would gladly pass up the fight, but as we know, PAPI tried to enter the battle, right on top of the Keepstar, literally in the midst of Goons, and the server buckled and misbehaved, with the PAPI titans (left logged off from the first battle) still on the field, trapped.

We don’t know what might have happened had PAPI gone about the battle differently. What if PAPI had jumped to their Fortizar and then warped to positions on the battle grid? Had that move taken place successfully, the second battle of M2 would have eclipsed the record for simultaneous people in a battle. Over 12,000 people would have been on grid. We know that 35% of all people playing EVE at that time were located in three adjacent systems, and we have reports that even in the PAPI-controlled staging system, the server was behaving strangely, as some pilots undocked into ghost ships, not quite materially there – and that was happening in a system containing no enemies. In brief, we don’t know what would have happened had the Fortizar strategy been put into effect. Speculation is little better than guesswork.

Accounting for the Weather

We do know that server malfunctions are nothing new and that alliances have learned to adapt to space “weather.” As Groen notes, “In a game where the results of a battle are irreversible, lag is roughly analogous to weather in the real world. Everybody knows there’s a chance there could be a rain storm, and if your army isn’t prepared for that then you’re a fool. Every decent fleet commander in EVE knows lag may be a problem, and a good battle plan will take that into account” (Groen, Andrew. Empires of EVE: A History of the Great Wars of EVE Online, Kindle Edition). Earlier in WWB Goons tried a somewhat similar technique, the now infamous Operation ENHO. It ended in an epic fail and the loss of some 16 Goon titans. It was a brilliant strategy that failed to take “weather” into account. 

Therefore, we may have seen a paradigm shift in EVE large-scale warfare. If, by pre-loading so many pilots into the system early, Goons prevented PAPI from properly loading the system, perhaps the same technique is repeatable. Since PAPI wants to destroy all structures in 1DQ, what happens if Goons get wind of the attempt and pre-load 4,500, or perhaps 9,000 pilots? If you are a PAPI member, are you going to even attempt to load the grid under those conditions? To re-quote Groen, “Every decent fleet commander in EVE knows lag may be a problem, and a good battle plan will take that into account.” So, what will PAPI do? Forge ahead and hope for the best? Is PAPI busily testing similar conditions on the test server, like Asher did before ENHO? Has PAPI tried it 50 times, which in Asher’s case obviously wasn’t enough to get an accurate reading of what would happen during the live event?

The paradigm may have shifted. Now, in very large-scale battles, especially involving defense, perhaps all it takes to win is to flood the grid with enough pilots that the other side won’t even consider going in, and hence there will no longer be mammoth record-breaking battles. And since Goons loaded M2 four hours before the battle, will the next phase of escalation involve how long pilots are willing to sit doing nothing on grid? Five hours before a battle? Six? Nine? From downtime to downtime? Will the next paradigm actually involve pilots’ willingness to not do a damn thing except load grid?

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  • OK but reality check: this is not a new paradigm. Being first to the fight grid has been a thing at least since I started fighting in nullsec in 2007. How many times in the past have we had fights where one side went to jump a gate into an enemy fleet, only to find their fleet stuck at a black screen or jump-tunnel while the bad guys turkey-shoot their un-manned ships on the other side of the gate?

    Even back in the first BoB campaign, it paid dividends to form before your enemy and arrive in system first. Don’t give Vily and Piggles an excuse to claim ignorance here: literally anybody who’s ever participated in a big fight in the last fifteen years should’ve known better.

    February 1, 2021 at 8:41 PM
    • Nate Hunter Ganthrithor

      I feel the largest difference now is someone finally tested the limit, and Keepstars, the defensive advantage of keepstars and sitting in tether downtime to downtime. The Imperium showing up early was a non issue, all they had to do was keep the cynos active and once your ship was tethered or docked you could go get lunch if you needed to with no risk to you.

      February 1, 2021 at 9:59 PM
      • Garreth Vlox Nate Hunter

        “The Imperium showing up early was a non issue”

        This was almost the entirety of the issue… every goon on grid had spent hours on that grid before a single shot was fired. As pointed out by Ganth pre-loading a grid prior to the start of shooting has been an acknowledged and often used tactic since pre-2010. The issue in M2 wasn’t the keepstar, or tether, it was that vily and company dragged their asses ALL DAY getting assets and fleets in position and then tried to make up for it by jamming 2 coalitions worth of pilots into a system that already had north of 4500 pilots in it 10 minutes before the timer was due to end, IN RANGE of multiple enemy fleets. We have no idea how many people the server may have been able to handle if papi like goons had drip fed their fleets into system be safely cynoing on top of their fort and then warped them in after loading the grid and allowing the system specific node to process all the jumps they wanted to do. The only thing we know for sure is that trying to jump almost 5k pilots into 4500+ pilots in range of those 4500+ pilots who immediately start shooting is too much for a node to handle.

        February 2, 2021 at 12:50 AM
        • Nate Hunter Garreth Vlox

          I meant that the Imperium showing up super early and chilling on tether was extremely easy, PAPI made the mistake of trying to engage no doubt about that. Its significantly harder to show up super early with several hundred titans when the majority of the
          caps have nowhere to tether.

          February 2, 2021 at 7:52 PM
          • Garreth Vlox Nate Hunter

            “Its significantly harder to show up super early with several hundred titans when the majority of the
            caps have nowhere to tether.”

            Both fights had a papi fort on grid, the hull timer for the fort didn’t come out until several days after the keepstar hull timer. They had every opportunity to jump their supers and titans onto a fort where they could tether, they just chose not too.

            February 2, 2021 at 9:23 PM
          • ^ This. And the trapped supercaps could’ve just logged in once preparations had been made– that was only a few hundred players total.

            February 3, 2021 at 5:59 AM
      • Um, wrong? If we hadn’t shown up early, our dudes would’ve been stuck at a black login screen while PAPI dudes were already on grid killing our dudes or escaping or whatever.

        Literally the exact problem PAPI were having, we had back in 2007 but with server populations in the hundreds of people. If your opponent got into system early and then went and camped the in-gate in their sniping battleships, and your side decided they’d sack up and jump the gate, the result was exactly the same: your team’s battleships would slowly appear in the contested system in onesies and twosies and would be shot down by the hostile snipers, and your client would sit there black-screened for hours until you decided to “try relogging” and would load up in a pod back in your home station. This problem is not new.

        Getting into system in a timely manner was everything. PAPI could’ve done the same by cynoing onto one of their Fortizars and waiting to load grid– only they couldn’t do it because they were engaged in a mad scramble to replenish their forces after their heavy losses the previous day and weren’t ready to jump until the last possible moment. If they’d jumped to the Forts, by the time they’d loaded grid and skynetted fighters and moved titans around (all in TiDi), the Keep would’ve been repaired. Their disorganization made them late, and instead of admitting they’d missed their window they decided to just yolo through a cyno directly onto a hot grid and hope for the best.

        February 3, 2021 at 5:55 AM
        • Moomin Amatin Ganthrithor

          PAPI seem to have forgotten YZ9 pretty quickly in all of this as well. PAPI were in system and on grid first. The Imperium reported issues with loading on the grid and were slaughtered. PAPI went “stupid goons” while writing an essay on what The Imperium should have done. I love this war as it has the best stories.

          February 3, 2021 at 11:27 AM
    • Moomin Amatin Ganthrithor

      At the time of B-R it was noted that the sub cap fleets were kept out of the system for this very reason. This was done by reacting early and taking control of surrounding systems. UALX was similar in nature. For X47 you can even hear recordings of people being asked to get into system and place additional load on the server in order to crash it. Not that this worked on that occassion but the knowledge is and has always been here. This has only become an issue after the greatest loss in Eve’s history. A battle I should note that was lost by not logging back in after downtime.

      February 1, 2021 at 11:10 PM
      • Doesn’t stop PC Gamer or whatever from running with the byline that “a server crash” caused hundreds of titans to get stuck.

        Yeah. A crash. That must have been what happened 😛

        February 3, 2021 at 5:44 AM