Art by Major Sniper
On Sunday the Imperium’s hellcamp of M2-XFE entered its eighth week. An entire fleet has stood watch on the M2 Keepstar for an unprecedented amount of time in the history of EVE.
As many EVE players know, this story begins seven weeks ago when the second battle of M2-XFE ended January 3 at the normal daily server downtime. At the moment the servers went down – as two massive fleets stood frozen in combat (Imperium defenders; PAPI attackers) – every pilot on the grid was automatically logged out and their ships disappeared from space, each one waiting to reappear when its pilot logged back in after the server restart.
But the attacking pilots never logged back in.
PAPI high command ordered their pilots to stay logged out after the downtime ended. Imperium forces, by contrast, quickly logged back in and secured the unexpectedly empty battlefield, which then turned it into an enormous trap loaded with warp disruptors and anti-capital weaponry – waiting for the (presumably inevitable) moment when the PAPI fleet would also have to log back in and either resume their attack or withdraw from the field. The PAPI order to stay logged out left their enormous supercapital fleet (including more than 300 titans) essentially trapped and unusable (both ships and pilots).
This state of affairs has continued now for almost two months: a major PAPI supercapital fleet logged out in M2-XFE, and Imperium hellcampers waiting to destroy them the moment they log in.
After the first three and a half weeks, on January 27, PAPI staged a massive breakout, bringing thousands of pilots and ships into the system in an attempt to break the trap and free their fleet. The bulk of the trapped titans (170) were safely extracted, but not without cost. PAPI sacrificed 400 Dreadnoughts (worth 2 trillion ISK, the equivalent of approximately 20 titans) to draw enemy fire while the titans escaped.
Since the breakout, M2 has seen some sovereignty battles and the occasional skirmish, but the vast majority of the time, Imperium pilots have simply waited in fleet, hour after hour, day after day, keeping watch – and waiting. Their efforts have not been entirely fruitless. Thirty-one PAPI pilots have logged in during that time and collectively fed just under 200 billion ISK worth of capitals and supercapitals to the Imperium’s ready guns.
Most of the losses have been FAXes, ships cheap enough that it’s conceivable that some players decided it better to take the loss and get their pilot back rather than be unable to login. Two of the losses, however, a Hel lost on Feb 17 (29.3 billion) and an Erebus lost on Jan 28 (89.3 billion), were significantly more expensive. GoonWaffe member Hugh Breese, who has spent many hours manning the guns in Big Disco’s keepstar since the hellcamp began, said the Hel simply logged into the bubble field below the keepstar and got melted. “I typically gun, but it was dying fast enough [so] I didn’t bother,” he said.
The Erebus’s destruction was more dramatic. “It was a casualty of a failed extraction,” Breese said. “There was a PAPI fleet on grid at the time trying to clear bubbles. We had enough dictors on grid to keep it pinned down.” The titan was killed by the anti-cap Fortizar placed by the Imperium as part of the hellcamp – all except for the final blow which was accidentally provided by a Purifier from Pandemic Horde that was trying to free the titan by destroying warp disruption bubbles.
The Waiting Game
As the hellcamp continues, the Imperium has made adjustments to improve efficiency. “Early on, we maintained two full fleets,” said Dictateur Imperator, a regular hellcamp FC. “Now we know how many we need.” In addition, adjustments have been made to how ships are staged to improve responsiveness and flexibility, particularly slower ships that would be more difficult to move if kept on grid in M2.
“We have asked a lot of slow ships to stay in 1DQ,” said Imperator. “It’s easier to bridge them into a good position than have them pre-deploy.” Despite the hellcamp’s length, Imperator has no doubts about the Imperium’s ability to maintain it indefinitely. “We have a lot of regulars,” he said. “A lot of old Rorqual or PvE players. Remember all those Rorqual pilots? They have a lot of patience. A lot of patience.”
It’s not entirely clear what effect being forced to remain logged out for so long is having on PAPI pilots who are trapped. At least one decided he’d had enough last week and sold his trapped titan to the Imperium. But some PAPI pilots are unphased by the Imperium’s persistence. “I am quite happy to go another 8 weeks or even more,” said Kaylah Aideron, a TEST Ragnarok pilot who is one of those trapped on grid with her titan. “All titan pilots have alts, so we are all still going on fleets. If anything I would say it has upped my activity.”
It is undeniable that PAPI fleets have been active in the Imperium’s home region of Delve since the battle of M2. As the Imperium has intentionally shifted its focus from defending Delve to hellcamping M2, PAPI has had a free hand in the Imperium home region, and the easy killmails have made the waiting game in M2 easier for PAPI pilots to take. “The camp seems to be making the Imperium fleets a little smaller thus giving us the edge on a lot of timers,” Aideron explained. “It gives our newer FCs a 24/7 target to provoke. I think it’s definitely a net positive for PAPI.”
Despite its extraordinary longevity, direct comparisons between the M2 hellcamp and previous hellcamps may be misleading – at least according to PAPI FC ProGodLegend whose pilots remain trapped on grid. “Honestly, it’s not really comparable to other hellcamps in history that actually took effort,” he said. “Having a Keepstar that you just sit tethered on doesn’t really make it a hellcamp like any of the others. The Imperium doesn’t even need the camp, just the bubbles and an FC on watch.”
When asked if that means citadel tether mechanics have broken the hellcamp meta, ProGodLegend was succinct. “Citadel tether mechanics have broken a lot of things,” he said.
The current status quo in M2 will not last forever. Having taken the M2 iHub in the beginning of February, in just a couple more weeks PAPI will be able to put down a cyno jammer in M2, which may affect the Imperium’s ability to respond to another breakout attempt – or a renewed attack on the Keepstar. PAPI has noticed the Imperium’s reliance on cynoing ships in from 1DQ as part of their hellcamp tactics, and aren’t afraid to poke the beehive. “Ringing the dinner bell in M2 by shooting the bubbles to see the scramble from 1DQ is always fun,” said Aideron. A cyno jammer in M2 would block such responses by the Imperium, forcing them to stage all hellcamp forces directly in M2.
But PAPI is quick to point out that they don’t need a cyno jammer to break the hellcamp. “As evidenced by the first breakout, obviously not,” said ProGodLegend.
But for now, the waiting continues.