The Skeins of Time

2021-06-18

Header art by Major Sniper

Greetings and salutations.

First, I wanted to give this article some context. Depending on the reader, it may be viewed as propaganda to a varying degree. I want to state that is not my intention, at least not until the very end. This is a story of how I came to play EVE, twice, and the struggles along the way that were my own personal decisions. I also will admit that it has a slanted viewpoint, but I will still try to regale you with a story that doesn’t feel heavy with puffed up opinions.

Pour your favorite beverage and hear my tale

What I want to share is how the game, when taken over the expanse of its long life, or the portion of it in which you have participated, can take so very many different twists and turns. I also want to say that I feel very fortunate as an EVE player, regardless of the time available to play, in that I am exceedingly rich in friends and memories.

I have only ever been in one corporation. A real-life friend dragged me into the game and by virtue of that, I ended up in STK. I had a cold start, not really getting into the game. I didn’t know much about it and somewhere circa 2006 or 2007 there wasn’t as much open source information. I did get to die in high sec to Suitonia in an unfit ship, because of the war declaration game mechanic that I was unaware of at the time. We were mining in an industrial ship with a single laser with one person on guard duty. Occasionally we were killing pirates in sporty new frigates. It was all we had to work with and quite frankly, we were bad at the game. Honestly, it was not that exciting. So, I stopped playing, mostly because my friend had a new wife and that took priority over EVE. This was one of the periods where STK went into hibernation, and I had only been around a short while.

Early Days in STK

Jumping forward a few years, he has had a kid and I got married.  The year is now 2016 and this is our second time trying to play EVE. This time around it would be four of us. It was easy enough coming back. Across New Eden our things sat collecting dust in random stations, just a little bit of travel time to consolidate. Looking back, it was more work trying to move the bulk of our assets into to one system than just starting over, particularly because one guy was like a “Jay Leno” in space, wanting one of every ship.

We spent a few months in high security space, slowly building better and better battleships for level 4 missions. It was mostly a competition of who could get an MTU down first and who had the highest volley shot on a Machariel.  I am chuckling as that competition led to some of the most expensively fit battleships ever used for level 4 mission running. We were lucky that none of us were blown up for spare parts by a random gank squad. Let the record stand that I believe the highest single volley against a Gurista battleship was north of around 19,000 damage and we were very proud of that.

We had very little direction or investment in the game, just wallet warriors. There was still nothing tying us to EVE. Aside from the big scary trips to Jita in loot-laden ships, there was little left in the game for us. We had limited knowledge of the game at the time and had I had stayed on that course, I probably would have checked out of EVE in 2016 and been done with it.

Then came a big decision. An old director in STK, Ripzeus, was getting the band back together. He was messaging everyone though various means to awaken STK. I had not been particularly active, but my friend had fond memories. There was a lot to consider, particularly that I had never been out of high sec, except perhaps for one trip to lowsec and right back, and the space that STK was setting up in, with a few other groups, was in null. After some thought, we decided to go for it. We bought interceptors and loaded them up with our worldly possessions, mostly BPOs and a clone full of learning implants and away we went. It was 40 jumps of butt-clenched horror, but we all made it safely to Tenal.

Becoming a better pilot

I managed to lose my first ship within a day of being there. It was a mining ship and I hadn’t been watching local or paying attention to the local grid. I didn’t even know that was a thing: first time in null security space and all. That was all it took to get me wanting some more action. Within a few days I got to witness a carrier being tackled by 50 or so frigates and destroyers from Legion of Death. Then, two more warped on grid to perform a rescue, one being Ripzeus. This was when they were spider tanking with waves and waves of drones out. There wasn’t really a lot of comms or coordination, at least on my part, but I listened as the assault frigates and destroyers actively bumped the carriers away from each other. It became apparent that we might lose a carrier. So, I did what I thought best.

I refit my PvE Machariel to autocannons and went out to help.  They were being bumped further and further apart and I landed near Ripzeus; he told me to stick close to receive repairs. It was in the next minute I got my first kill. It was a Svipul and I was elated. After that, I saw the killmail for a Taranis! Then my ship was surrounded in a bright halo and a crazy disco ball shimmer.  A moment later Ripzeus told me to get back in range for remote repairs.  The term used these days is “boosh” and I didn’t know what it was then, but one of the enemy command destroyers had micro jumped my ship 100 kilometers off the carriers. Soon after that I exploded. Did not care one bit!

The very same day I refit a new Machariel. I loved that ship. The next few days we chased down some bad guys and I snagged another kill, this one a Hurricane. This one was the kill, and voice chat was rewarded with the crazy “YEAAAAH” that doomed one US politician in a presidential campaign. The excitement was real. I also happened to pursue out of range of the friendly fleet . . . and died again. But it was great fun, meeting new people and shooting them. Making friends along the way and growing with this small group called Phoenix Company Alliance.

We even showed up on the sovereignty map! A few months passed, I got into industry when I wanted to make my own tech 2 ships. The very first ship I made, a Cerberus, is alive to this day and still in Sendaya. The first ship I sold was a Crow, purchased by Vico Ormand. He eventually joined STK as well. He also bought many, many more Crows. They seemed to explode all the time.

My time in Tenal went from days to weeks to months. I got to know many names and faces. People that I still play EVE and other games with to this day. Then came the next major decision in my EVE career. This one was not made entirely by myself, but rather as a corporation within the alliance. There was a serious encroachment coming from the north. Da Imbalance and Break a Wish Foundation started making a very pointed advance into our space to farm content and make way for other Pandemic Legion (PL) and Northern Coalition dot (NC.) affiliated groups. The time for more rental space for the northern empires had come. This was my first taste of it, but many in STK had experienced this before.

We decided to work with the other local alliance, BOSS, and scraped together fleets ranging from 20 to 40 people at the best of times. We had many good fights.  Morale was high and participation growing. At one point, pulling in every available pilot in the region, we even managed to win a major battleship fight with the other side having three new fangled ships on grid. The fight ended in victory for our fleet of Typhoons and I still have the corpse of one of the FAX pilots.

As the month passed, the two groups we were fighting lost more and more ground and were pushed out and the tactics changed. They would use the batphone, a term calling for aid, and bring in direct support from PL fleets, with the occasional NC group sprinkled in. At some point a spy was inserted into our group, working for either PL or NC. I recall the character name. This character would join a fleet and roam around in a cloaked bomber. This hunting led to many close calls for carriers, as squadrons of twenty or thirty strategic cruisers would enter system and warp instantly and directly to one of our ships.

Yes, I can finally carrier

Along came another major turning point in my EVE career: I was learning how to use a carrier. I wanted to learn as much as I could and given the current situation with potential death coming daily, as we still didn’t know there were enemy eyes in fleet, I ended up in comms with one of the three supercarrier pilots in the alliance more often than not. I asked a lot of questions. I wanted to know how to improve both the PvE and PvP applications. Due to the inherent trust issues in EVE, this led to something of an inquisition. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and it almost cost me my new group of friends and everything I owned. You see, that spy almost caught the supercarrier that day. But the pilot in the Hel was quick and got off grid before the swarm PL strategic cruisers raged down onto him. The give away? There were only three people in system and I knew I wasn’t the spy.

So then came all of the questions and hot fiery coals and all of that. I could have just quit EVE or gone back to high sec, but that wasn’t the way out for me. I wanted to clear my name because it mattered to me. There was a lot of heated discussion and accusations. Ripzeus was a very vocal supporter and a case was made for my innocence. Many people in STK were able to corroborate a few things and I was able to provide exact times and the name of who I suspected. The funny thing was that this guy claimed he was a master spy hunter when he joined the alliance. Yeah, he was pretty brazen.

A few days of watching this pilot enter system in fleet, and then leave the moment the wall of enemy ships hit system, allowed us to prove it. The game was up and I had survived something of a loyalty litmus test. It was very humbling and rewarding to be able to come out of the other side of that firestorm with so many supporters. This was one of those moments where staying the course felt so right. That was when I knew I was staying in STK.

It was open season for a little while, things cooling down and our conflicts with neighbors mostly being positive. Those carrier changes were great fun and brutally overpowered. There came a day when a massive gang of command and tactical destroyers were playing gate games, when one of the three super carrier pilots decided he was done with it and, having cleared tackle, warped off. In comes CrankyApe, a man whose moniker is one of the most fitting ever – with balls of iron – warping a standard carrier into a fleet of fifty strong. He was holding! A few more of us jumped in, now four carriers on grid but they were scattering. I managed to grab one; it blew up instantly. I was astounded! I was so proud that I even snapped a shot. Two days later Ripzeus and I would drop carriers on a small fleet of Caracals and Scythes. Ten ships down in two minutes and thus was born the joke of “F3 delete” where the F3 button is the missile volley for fighter squadrons.

The incursions by NC and PL continued to intensify; they had a strong desire to grow their empire now that the whole fighting nonsense on the other side of the universe was concluding. Everyone was returning to sand castle building after the Goon menace was dealt with. So, they began bringing capital and supercapital assets into the combat theatre. We were a small group! We couldn’t hold against the giant supercapital blob and overwhelming subcapital presence. Finally, the weight of the numbers and overwhelming odds in resources available to fight and reship began to take a toll. Our alliance began to crumble, as the people more content with making money rather than using it decided to make themselves scarce.

Some experiences with TEST

More decisions lay ahead. The next important one led to us looking towards a TEST offensive in and around Sendaya. The alliance we worked with previously, BOSS, was trying to make inroads with TEST and our alliance decided to migrate with them. This led to a colossal undertaking – moving 13 or so jumps across the entire universe when jump fatigue was at one of its most punishing levels. Halfway through this move op, I had to log off. I was working an 80 hour per week job and could not do spaceships. I had to trust someone to move my two carriers and a rorqual. I left myself with the interceptors and handed everything over to someone in corp. When I got home from work the next day, all of my stuff was contracted over to me in Sendaya. Yet another reason I was in the right place. I could trust the people I flew with.

Many friends were gained over the war months, people that wanted to fight and migrated from groups not willing or able to participate. OzzyFlo comes to mind, always with good humor and quick to laugh, even when many years later he accidentally jumped his bridging titan during the move to assault the X47 Keepstar.  At that time the illustrious Brisc Rubal, future CSM member and slayer of the red dot, joined STK. All of these names came and stayed, people that would be friends and confidantes through the ages of EVE.

After the move, we fought along with TEST to secure a few area. We had been an initial arrangement with them for a few systems in which to settle. The space wasn’t too bad. Not as good as the area around A1RR in Tenal, but still good. When the dust settled and victory was declared, TEST leadership decided the deal they offered was too good. Instead, they were going to let us hovel up in some extremely bad systems in Feythabolis that also happened to be space highway. It was a very bad deal. Our alliance leader, Triget, who had also joined STK, was very much the sort that wanted to be in charge and wanted to make the decisions. He wanted to get along with TEST, despite the raw deal. He tried to force our hand by self-destructing all of the infrastructure hubs so that we had to move immediately.

STK had a decision to make, which way to go. At the time, the discussion included Triumvirate, Darkness, FCON (I think) and The Initiative. We had also, as a corp, been in INIT twice before. One of my real life friends was extremely and vocally opposed to INIT, due to their relations with Goonswarm. He hated Goons with a passion. You see, someone in CODE had killed him once and all of CODE were just Goon highsec ganker alts, or so he thought. Nevertheless, in the end, we went with The Initiative.

Then came the Syndicate War. Everybody and their brother wanted to box INIT into one station. Everyone wanted to talk smack. The most vocal being Mercenary Coalition, a group previously known for taking contracts for hire, but now relegated to being a buffer zone for the rental empires in the north. INIT at that time was fielding 200-220 people with max form and a handful of capitals. Mercenary Coalition ended up taking a beating in Syndicate, despite a lot of hand-holding from their northern partners, and ultimately it was one of our “three” dreads that jumped in and destroyed the jump freighter that had just picked up their unanchoring Keepstar citadel. The dreadnaught was caught in the process, electing to shoot the wreck of the freighter rather than let it be recovered. The price of a dreadnaught for an entire Keepstar was well worth it. Some time later, that high price became apparent as Mercenary Coalition never recovered from the loss in Syndicate and eventually collapsed.

Learning Fleet compositions and techniques

During this time, I got to partake in some of the beginnings of new strategies and fleet compositions designed to survive against overwhelming odds. Pandorlica, one of the veteran Fleet Commanders of INIT, was testing out combinations of Purifier bombers, Retribution assault frigates, and Magus command destroyers. The fleet was coined the “snatch Fleet” and the concept was to pick off segments of enemy fleets.  Microjumping our fleet into the enemy, we would then jump out of the enemy formation, pulling many of their ships along. This technique allowed us to pick apart massively larger navies.

This composition would evolve many times over the years, one day becoming the vaunted Stuka fleet which was responsible for the destruction of a great many supercapitals under Pandoralica. These fleets were so effective that it became very common for the entire north to dock up when a fleet under Pandoralica went out to hunt whales. Perhaps of particular note for this fleet type was the annihilation of the fleet attempting to defend against the invasion of the wormhole known as Rage, home of Hard Knocks and the first Keepstar citadel deployed in EVE.  The defensive Hard Knocks fleet warped onto grid and our fleet, under command of Sister Bliss, who later remarked that he had pulled the j-break and went all in.  The maneuver perfectly positioned the enemy fleet for a bomb run that destroyed every single ship and clone pod, ending any substantial resistance to the invasion.

Time passed a bit more quickly as INIT had to make the shift away from being nomadic to something able to compete. The game was changing, or rather powers were coalescing. INIT needed to be able to produce capitals to survive. We went to Querious and after a little friction, made a home. Growing roots, so to speak, was good for making new friends. Saelyth came to STK at this time, a good guy with wormhole experience who would become a very good friend. This was also the first time that the feeling of “being more” sunk in. INIT became a home in the sense that there were good friendships made beyond the boundaries of the corporation. I imagine this comes for most people, when they feel comfortable somewhere. I have to mention Kenny Drein, the diplomat and commissar of INIT, who tries very hard to be the tough guy, but only in jest, and is one of the nicest guys you would ever meet. He was kind enough to overlook an incident where myself and a very tipsy Maximilian were enforcing the “ochre first” mining rule by lining up two titans on opposite sides of the Rorqual in violation and firing our doomsday weapon at each other, crossing right in front of him. Needless to say; that pilot never violated the mining rules again and I only received a very stern eyebrow!

Despite the universe wanting to exterminate INIT, they have consistently changed vectors of attack and drawn up effective battle plans. When you read people chest-beating about punching up, I got to see this behavior consistently. The Snatch and then Stuka fleets gave way to the hyper-mobile Raven fleets, able to dance around a grid and avoid conflict with multiple enemy fleets. A single battleship fleet could eventually destroy a Keepstar, if utilized in this fashion. Along the way, we have seen some of the effects of the nerf to command destroyer “boosh” mechanics. Seeing first-hand the traps laid, one particularly nasty trap resulting in one of the most viewed INIT videos on Youtube. It is called the “Fountain of Life” where Dark Shines, strategic and capital fleet commander, used his Molok titan to bait out an attack from Pandemic Legion forces. I had moved my own supercapital assets that day and was not able to participate with my titan in the fight, but my supercarrier was to participate in sending 79 PL dreadnaughts to their fiery demise.

The reason I am in a good place is because of the people. Not just the ones I mentioned by name, but the whole crew. I can count on one hand the time an FC seriously lost his cool on comms, which are typically jovial, but calm. Most people have heard or seen videos of our fleets and you hear the FCs giving calm, level-headed directions in a mild tone. This is how fleets go.  Even when we have someone not following a basic command.  One thing about INIT, the vast player base has a lot of experience in the game, which leads to the expectations being higher.  They are also, by and large, very mature players. Maybe it is the age segment of the group or just the culture itself. There is no toxicity, racism or any other -ism for that matter.  When someone comes along that happens to display these traits, they are rather quickly shown the door.

“It’s the people . . .”

Occasionally, not during the war, we get a new influx of people by means of a corporation joining. Again, the bar is set high, and sometimes there is a stern word, but again, that’s always done in that “father knows best” manner. More likely it is someone has had too much to drink in the fleet (definitely not me). I don’t have a high tolerance for conflated egos and all of that bullshit, so being in fleet with an FC that loses their cool and yells? Yeah, I would have been gone.  You know when you messed up? Bliss tells you to “sort your life out” in his mildly annoyed tone. The worst it gets? It is late EUTZ, they have all been on fleet for hours and it’s 2 a.m. their time. People are falling asleep and Dark Shines has been awake for 18 hours and you hear a quiet, mildly gruff “get the fuck on anchor” and then the 5-8 people not on anchor wake up. He’s Irish, so the use of the word “fuck” is an artform for him. Similar to the extremely intimidating “guysss” from Pando when people lose focus and are chatting too much on coms while waiting to bomb an enemy fleet to oblivion. Definitely rough!

I have enjoyed the luxury of years of good leadership, both at a corporate and alliance level.  The communication is not only efficiently and calmly provided, but they are also prone to let those discussions be open-ended to feel out the thoughts of the fleet on taking fights that are extremely uphill and then committing. We are fortunate to have an FC team that makes decisions based on conditions rather than ego and hubris. I have had the pleasure to meet many of these players in Vegas and other EVE events. Other people are on the “to meet” list after years and God help me if Kalkin, Will Motsu and myself are ever in the same bar, the tab will be more than I can show my wife.

INIT has faced the meat grinder repeatedly, many times before and after STK rejoined, and each time the culture and atmosphere remain upbeat and optimistic. There will always be a new deployment and a target as INIT is that group that never sets their weapons down.

There is always direction and there is always purpose. There is always trust.

Full circle on Goons

Oh . . . and those Goons? Basically, the best allies I have known outside of INIT. It is so ingrained for me after this long that saying “The Imperium” is literally the same as saying Goons/INIT/TNT/Bastion. In a universe where giving your word doesn’t mean a lot to many, many big bloc leaders, it still means everything in The Imperium.

So, let me ask you? Do you want better for yourself?

Are tired of your leadership that thinks so little of you that your only value is being a tax generator and quiet prey animal too afraid to save itself?

Hit that like and subscribe . . . wait, no, not that.

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Comments

  • Moomin Amatin

    My spirits are always lifted when I know that INIT are on field. I am glad to have them as an ally and thank you for sharing your story.

    June 18, 2021 at 9:42 AM
  • … to win it.

    June 18, 2021 at 12:54 PM
  • BriscRubal

    I <3 Sharny

    June 18, 2021 at 7:36 PM
  • Guilford Australis

    INIT is recruiting, but they generally prefer pilots of quality, so I’m confident that invitation would not extend to me.

    June 18, 2021 at 8:24 PM
  • erroch

    <3 Sharn. There's a reason every time I rejoin the game after a break, the people in STK-S and INIT. make it feel like coming home.

    June 18, 2021 at 11:01 PM