Art by Quendan Comari
It was reported that CCP confirmed that 8,825 real-life players representing 11,258 characters took part in the fight, with peak concurrent players at 6,557. All sources agreed that this was the biggest fight the game has ever seen, which almost certainly means that this was the biggest fight that video gaming has ever seen. Action raged for somewhere between 12 and 14 hours, depending on when and how you define the starting point.
As the smoke began to clear and the belligerents left the field, both sides were left to pick up the pieces. The Fraternity Keepstar had been destroyed and for the first time in years the Imperium had turned aside a major incursion into Delve by a group of hostiles. Capitals cyno-jumped out and fleets left grid by warp. The fourth full month of war had been kickstarted with the Imperium sacrificing 930 billion ISK to kill the Keepstar in its initial anchoring.
That was far from the last action, however. Once most Imperium forces left FWST-8, PAPI (PandaFam Alliance Please Ignore) anchored a second Keepstar, banking on the Imperium not being willing to hellform a second time. The Keepstar’s first 15-minute hurdle cleared – now both sides had to wait 24 hours to fight the second timer, and the battle lines were drawn.
At stake for PAPI? A critical foothold into Delve with capital jump ranges covering most of Delve, and a single jump from their newest Keepstar in 8QT-H4, potentially allowing them to restage massive amounts of materiel into the Imperium’s home region. For the Imperium, they had already shown that there was no cost too high to defend their space. Only time would tell how brutal the butcher’s bill would be, but both sides settled in and prepared for the fight.
CALM BEFORE THE STORM
Asher Elias, Sky Marshal of the Imperium, took some trusted FCs to FWST-8 ahead of the fight and surveyed the grid. After the 8QT-H4 Keepstar battle, a painful lesson was learned, but the tactics Imperium leadership wanted to deploy were not revealed.
The FCs warped around and around and around on the grid, filling multiple shared folders with warp-ins at all kinds of ranges and distances from the Keepstar itself. The warp-ins would give Imperium members the ability to load the grid at safe ranges, then move closer and apply damage to the Keepstar. The Imperium needed to consistently apply no less than 10% of the damage cap every second, in real time, to keep the timer paused and apply enough damage to destroy it.
The Imperium’s supply teams went into overdrive, building or buying thousands of ships across several doctrines with myriad fittings. If they couldn’t build it in 1DQ1-A, the Imperium’s home system, they bought it in bulk from Jita and secretly shipped it halfway across New Eden. Thousands of doctrine ships flooded the market on contract, some standard ships most line members had seen before, some with new fits, and some complete surprises.
As the clock ticked down, Imperium leadership met to discuss their plans, making sure everyone understood what was ahead of them and what each person’s part was to be. The fight was going to kick-off around AUTZ prime time, and most players expected it would continue well afterwards. Pilots went to get the rest that they could before 17:35 EVE time.
STORM CLOUDS GATHER
An hour and a half before the Keepstar was scheduled to come out, there were already more than 700 pilots in FWST-8, and thousands of players on either side were formed up in various staging systems. Half a dozen or more cynosural fields blinked on and off around the battle ground as fleets used titan bridges to make their way from disparate parts of Querious and Delve. INN’s coverage began on Twitch and ran for the duration of the fight, and then some.
With 45 minutes to go before the timer started, there were already 4,250 PAPI pilots dominating the grid, effectively blocking the Keepstar from view. With just moments to go before the fight, local was about 6,400 as nearly all warm bodies were thrown to the front. First among the attackers were Imperium Muninns, Rokhs, Ravens and dreadnoughts, attempting to get initial damage onto the Keepstar as the real-time countdown began.
THE BATTLE JOINED
INN’s live blog picked up roughly about the time that Imperium ships began to land on the grid. As the Imperium frantically tried to meet the DPS threshold on the Keepstar, the counter continued to tick down, finally pausing at 8:01, nearly halfway completed. The bigger ships began chunking the Keepstar as PAPI forces struggled to get ships into range to counter sniping battleships and long range dreadnoughts. Then the Imperium revealed one of its surprises: drone ships normally used for ratting were deployed to attack the Keepstar to apply automatic damage, avoiding problems with tidi limitations.
Twenty minutes or so after landing on grid, the Imperium forces had chopped through 9% or more of the structure, no mean feat in tidi. Another 20 minutes after that, the Keepstar was at 84% structure, and the Imperium had barely committed any heavy assets to the field. At that rate, the fight would be over in just a few hours. Imperium bombers warped themselves around the grid, from perch to perch, and threw chunky bombs at the massive citadel while PAPI Jackdaws deployed defender missiles to act as counter-measures.
Quickly, PAPI ships began making their way out to various warp-in positions that the Imperium craft were using to snipe the Keepstar. They threw up interdictor bubbles, preventing the battleships from warping away to safety, which allowed the PAPI dreadnoughts, supercarriers, and titans to chew through the Imperium’s damage-dealers. It would take another hour to get the Keepstar down to 70% as PAPI began to fight back in earnest.
The Imperium was fielding two fleets of bombers, a fleet of Rokhs, Jackdaws, ratting alts, Munnins, Baltecs (Megathrons and Bhaalgorns), and Ravens. Dozens of FCs filled Imperium command channels, with multiple coordinators helping Asher Elias and other senior leaders manage the battle on the Imperium’s side. Meanwhile, by 19:00, nearly a dozen systems in the entrance constellations to Esoteria, Test Alliance’s home region, had their iHubs hacked by forces of The Bastion.
Imperium ships continued to bridge into the system, hour after hour, as their ships continued to die, just trying as best as possible to get damage on the critical station. A couple of hours after hitting 70%, the Keepstar repair timer resumed. Imperium leadership scrambled to get more damage onto the Keepstar as their actions in tidi were massively slowed relative to the real-time countdown. Two agonizing minutes later, the timer paused again at 5:59. By 21:18, the Keepstar was at 59%, a long way to go before the citadel died.
THE LONG HAUL
Fleet after fleet made its way into FWST-8 from the Imperium. A dozen or more pings flew out each hour as Imperium leadership kept their line members apprised of the situation. By 22:20, the Keepstar dropped below 50% hull, and fleets had been formed up for four hours already. The Imperium created a standing bridging fleet to launch all manner of ships into the system. The losses began to pile up as pilots died, reshipped, flew back to the battlefield, to do it all again.
AUTZ gave way to EUTZ, which gave way to USTZ. PAPI and Imperium forces started seeing a reduction in ships on grid and players in staging. Both sides gritted their teeth and redoubled their efforts.
Hour after hour the Imperium threw bodies at the Keepstar, figuratively attempting to clog PAPI’s guns with corpses. Capsules warped themselves to the NPC station in system, lined up to be shot by friendly ships so they could be cloned home to reship. PAPI eventually recognized an opportunity to slow down the Imperium’s DPS and interdicted reinforcements as they came in system.
The Imperium Fortizar in system played host to a number of dreadnoughts and the cynosural field where the bridged ships were jumping. A pair of PAPI fleets arrived just off the Fortizar, dropped interdiction bubbles and tried to prevent additional Imperium ships from getting to the Keepstar. The Imperium, in turn, brought a fleet to the citadel, battling desperately with the PAPI forces.
Several jumps away, ships continued to come off of contract in 1DQ1-A, more ships were seeded, freighter loads from Jita arrived one after another. Hundreds of ships an hour were deployed.
By 02:30, the Keepstar was at 22% and both sides continued to man the trenches with whatever bodies they had at hand. Ferox fleets were added to the mix and sent to the front. As Imperium leadership kept arming and rearming pilots, the FCs on the Fortizar were finally able to force the PAPI fleet off grid, which allowed ships to regroup with their fleets, but the damage was done.
THE HOME STRETCH
By 3:10, Imperium Muninns, bombers, and battleships were doing their level best to keep whatever damage that they could on the Keepstar, but without reinforcements, it was increasingly difficult in the face of mounting PAPI pressure. Several fleets had to warp off to get their members safe and someone realized the problem: the dreadnoughts that had been the backbone of the Imperium assault had been largely killed.
Fleet command checked on the status of damage to the Keepstar; word came back that most fleets were off grid. With the Keepstar at less than 20% structure, the Imperium’s nightmare began to unfold: the timer unpaused and counted down. Three and a half tense, agonizing minutes passed on comms as the Imperium was powerless to stop the timer until the ships returned to the grid. Calls from FCs returning to the field gave hope, and eventually the timer was stopped again with 2:24 to go. Given how long it took the Imperium to re-pause the timer, there was now no room for error.
Pings continued to go out and pilots continued to reship and jump back into battle. Ten hours in and the Imperium had gotten the Keepstar to 10% hull. Thirty minutes later, at 05:01, it was at 6%. Communications were breathless and hearts were in throats. Would the Imperium’s desperate defense culminate in victory? They’d already thrown over 1 trillion ISK into the effort and continued to flood the field with ships.
At 05:08, the Keepstar hit 5%. Tension mounted as FCs exhorted their pilots to give their last reserves – 05:12, 4%. 05:17, 3%. 05:20, 2%. 05:27. Exultant cries lit up Imperium command comms. Eleven hours after first forming, it was done. The Keepstar was dead.
PAPI capitals jumped out, and their self-tackled subcapital fleets began to align towards outbound gates. The Imperium turned their guns from the now destroyed citadel to the hostile ships as they tried to leave system. Some pilots, unable to make it home, warped to deep space and safe logged, allowing them to come back later. Minutes ticked by as subcapitals skirmished, trying to control the former Keepstar grid and, eventually, Imperium fleets started warping themselves out as well.
FWST-8 was a strategic victory for the Imperium, but they paid the blood price: 1.5 trillion ISK in losses, more than three times their foes’. Imperium morale was high, though, as their exhausted line members made their way home to dock up.