Masters Of Their Domain
Hard Knocks have been top dogs in wormhole space in Eve for many years, but they have also not been content to keep themselves within the spooky domain of wormholes. They have frequently stepped out into nullsec and exerted their influence—They have even gone so far as to create a second rental empire in nullsec itself. Indeed, according to most rumours, Hard Knocks had already locked up the rental of high-end wormhole space, much to the ire of some.
Hard Knocks has a history of upsetting entities within the wormhole community. Some have even made extravagant offers for those willing and able to evict Hard Knocks from wormhole space, even to the extent that a $75,000 US bounty was offered for the task a couple of years ago. But in the search of content, Hard Knocks has frequently visited nullsec space and interfered not only in battle, but also in the meta. The numerous evictions they performed were often against smaller groups that they comfortably outnumbered. Their task was made all the easier with highly skilled pilots and expensive doctrines. Hard Knocks was rarely gracious in victory in such evictions.
As much as the actions of Hard Knocks has upset some, they are not without friends, and powerful friends at that. There should be little doubt that the relationship between Hard Knocks and PanFam is cordial, to say the least. Some say that this is just because they are good friends. Others hint that Hard Knocks is simply the wormhole wing of PanFam and is run by the likes of PL. No matter the reality of the relationship, Hard Knocks’ nullsec rental empire was one created by the destruction of the DRF. Hard Knocks Associates reside in the region of Cobalt Edge, which is about as far out as you can get while maintaining a reliable logistics route back into hisec. With this, it would be necessary to at least be on good terms with your neighbours, which is again indicative of relationships. Working relationships with other wormhole dwelling entities are also well-established. Finally, for some wormholers, an attack by a nullsec group is supposed to be the call for them to all band together to rid themselves of external threats.
With such control and power comes wealth. This is something that Hard Knocks have not been shy in showing to the residents of New Eden. They were the first group with the game to deploy a Keepstar, a feat all the more impressive as it involved the additional logistical complexities of wormholes and a heavy initial investment. Fort Knocks was the name given for the very first Keepstar: a name that only goes to support the impression of wealth and security.
The Initial Assault
On December 8, 2018, around 18:30, this symbol of power found itself under assault for the very first time. Pilots from the Initiative Alliance, a member of the Imperium, made their initial attack on the Hard Knocks Keepstar in their home system of J115405. Almost all wormhole systems have unimaginative names, so the residents gave the home system of their empire their own name: Rage.
Hole control is a concept that relates to an entity being able to control the entrances to a wormhole system. In simple terms, if you are able to control these entrances, then you have a significant advantage over those trying to attack you. The Initiative pilots were able to establish such control, which left Hard Knocks in a quandary. Unlike other types of space in New Eden, it is not possible to Jump Clone your character to a wormhole system. With this act, the Initiative were able to deny Hard Knocks the home-field advantage, as many pilots were staged outside of Rage for one reason or another. This meant that Hard Knocks would have to get outside pilots into the system by other means.
The Initiative were able to call on other members of the Imperium, a call that was answered in droves. Other offers of assistance were being made to the Initiative. Those who had felt wronged by Hard Knocks in the past were keen to get in on the action. Some seemed less honest though, as was the case of the offer from Doomchinchilla, an FC for Pandemic Legion. Understandably, Initiative FCs were cautious about such offers.
The logistical effort from the Initiative has also been immense. It has been reported that this incursion into the heart of Hard Knocks has been in the planning for many months. There were even suggestions that the first freighter moved into Rage by Initiative was done around a year ago.
The reason for this attack from Initiative can be summed up as “we like a challenge.” The specific details in the motivation, planning and execution is something that we are likely going to have to wait for, given the sensitivity of the operation, which is still ongoing.
Under normal circumstances, the armour timer is considered to be the most important in the defence of a Keepstar. This is the one where you will often see the defenders commit fully to ensuring that the attackers are repelled. But again, Hard Knocks were unable to offer sufficient resistance to prevent the Keepstar from moving into its last timer. Not only were the numbers from Hard Knocks lacking, but all those who were expected to turn up in their support were not to be seen either.
Relatively minor losses were inflicted on the ships from Initiative and friends by the Keepstar defences. Hard Knocks also made attempts to regain some sort of control over access to Rage as well. Each time, the Initiative were able to fend them off.
The Final Countdown
The final timer was set to come out on 2018-12-12 01:47. Pilots from both sides of the conflict were still busy within Rage. The Initiative were still shooting structures and those foolish enough to come within their range, whereas Hard Knocks seemed to be very busy self-destructing ships. With Upwell structures in wormholes, the mechanics of what happens to the player-owned items and ships is somewhat different to the rest of New Eden. Asset safety allows for items to be saved from structures destroyed, but this is not the same in wormhole space; anything still stored in the Keepstar would be dropped as loot.
Another quirk of wormholes is that there is no list of pilots in the local chat channel. This means that unlike in regular space, you cannot tell who is present in a system with you. With this being the case it is impossible to actually know how many players attended this event. Over 1400 ships were seen on the grid of the Keepstar at the highest point in the assault, but there were many other pilots not on grid, hiding or even just docked up in one of the many citadels still present.
A Hull Assault Timeline
01:47 only 7 HK docked in Fort Knocks
01:55 the first DD was fired picking up just a few kills from Initiative.
Capri, from Hard Knocks, advised on the INN live stream on twitch that there were only 35 people on HK’s out-of-game comms system.
02:35 the life of Fort Knocks came to an end.
28:06 was the lowest the repair timer got to with only being un-paused a few times.
All in all, it would be hard not to say that the defense of the oldest Keepstar placed in Eve was a lacklustre affair at best.
Due to the effort put in by Initiative, a message was put out by the Imperium as follows:
“Loot Instructions for keepstar: FOR THE FIRST 30 MINUTES: All loot will go to the the wormhole seeding and logistics team (dont worry there will be plenty left). This is for the guys and girls who invested all their isk and year long efforts to make this happen and we hope that everyone will respect this! After 30minutes we will call it free for all and everyone can grab whatever he or she wants. Please be aware that the looting is likely to take hours and can be a mess and we might have to kill bad guys too!”
With the death of the Keepstar, any items being stored would be jettisoned into space. Amusingly, the initial containers dropped that were inspected held single cap booster charges. Possibly the funnier aspect of this is that it was possible to drop items into the personal hangar of any player that had rights to dock at the Keepstar. This meant that HK pilots could in essence transfer their ships to players who worry more about their killboards. As you would expect, elite groups suffered this quite a bit.
At 03:00 the attacking forces were advised that the loot was now free-for-all, and loot they did. The grid was a hive of activity of players looting and grabbing ships.
If you wish you can see the whole event unfold in real time with commentary. The story of the invasion into Rage will also likely feature on this weeks Meta Show hosted on INN Twitch. The guest lineup for this coming show will have some big names that are able to offer details that have not been made public as yet.
The value of the Keepstar loss is currently showing as just over 300 billion ISK on ZKill. In reality, the loss was far greater for the defenders, although the precise figure will likely never be known.
Is this the end of the story of Rage? After all, there is another Keepstar in system called “Unassailable Wealth.” At the time of writing it is at full health but vulnerable. We will have to wait and see if Initiative continue to farm Hard Knocks’ assets in the coming days.