UALX Keepstar Fight: A Footsoldier’s View

Savvy Kneel 2018-07-21

I’ve made a bit of a cottage industry here at INN writing about my experiences as a wide-eyed Eve newbee (see here, here, and here). Wednesday night was another “first” for me – a whole series of them, in fact.

Most significantly, it was my first experience in one of Eve’s legendary, massive, set-piece PvP battles.

You can check out INN’s breaking news write-up or Twitch Stream for a much more in-depth strategic analysis of the battle than I am in a position to give. I’m sure that in the days to come there will be more coverage – both here at INN and elsewhere – of what will likely join Eve’s collection of famously historic engagements. What I want to share is what it felt like as a new pilot, warping in on-grid with literally thousands of other EVE players, all in the same place at the same time, for the first time in my career as a capsuleer.

It started when the advance warning went out a half hour or so before form-up. Naturally, the fact that this fight was brewing was no surprise to anybody who has been paying attention to events in New Eden over the past couple of weeks. I hadn’t been able to make any of the other big fights leading up to this one, so I was determined not to miss it. I logged on, navigated my capsule from my ratting “home” a few systems over to 1DQ, and waited for the ping to come in, calling us to form up.

When it came, the call went out for a pair of Baltec fleets. As a new player, my battleship skills are . . . lacking . . . so I hopped in an electronic warfare Vigil and joined fleet.

As it turned out, so did about two dozen other Vigil pilots. The FC for my fleet (INN’s own Dirk Stetille) asked anybody who could to switch to other ships, and expressed a preference for a more varied eWar profile, so I switched to a Maulus I had stashed away in 1DQ (courtesy of Gooniversity’s “Free Frigates” program).

It was another first: I’d never flown eWar in a fleet before. I’ve read up on the “right way” to fly T1 eWar, but up to this point I’d only ever joined fleets in T1 fast tackle or anti-support. But I wanted in, and this was the best I could offer out of what the FC was looking for in fleet comp.

We undocked, and I experienced another first: I’ve been in fights that were large enough to dip into a bit of time dilation (TiDi), but never like this – never with multiple, entirely full fleets gating through the same systems at roughly the same time. I’ve heard these big battles referred to as “TiDi f***fests,” and now I had the . . . privilege? . . . of enduring such an experience myself for the first time. I dialed my settings down to what the FC called “potato mode” (a “new-to-me” term), minimized local to conserve bandwidth . . . and promptly disconnected while warping to the first gate right out of 1DQ.

After that inauspicious start, I reloaded my client and caught up with the fleet in the next system. We headed to the jump bridge, waited for a few stragglers to catch up, jumped through, and headed for the fight.

We arrived without too much further ado, aside from some minor adjustments in our travel plans to minimize the effects of TiDi on the way.

When we landed in UALX, looking at the sheer number of ships on grid, I experienced one of those “moments.” You know, the ones where something in-game just sort of makes you go, “whoa.”

It was a not-entirely-unfamiliar feeling, a bit like standing at the “top of the world” in Morrowind staring down into the cauldron of Red Mountain, or entering Lord of the Rings Online’s Rivendell for the first time, or winning that first “chicken dinner” in PUBG.

Here, though, there was one significant difference: this time, that “wow” feeling was generated not by stunning graphics, creative game mechanics, or hard-fought individual accomplishment. This time it was prompted by the awareness of thousands of real people, showing up to participate in the same event, in the same game, in real time.

Well . . . “real time” being a relative thing, when TiDi is in effect.

The FC warped us to a perch, where we got pulled into a friendly bubble. We waited for the bubble to go down, anchored up, and got ready for the fight as best we could in full TiDi.

Then we got bombed.

It came soon after the friendly bubble came down. We were surprised to see another bubble go up – this time right from the center of our own fleet. We were bubbled by a friendly Heavy Interdictor, followed shortly by a Sabre. The fact that a fleet of Pandemic Horde bombers chose that moment to take a run at us led the fleet leadership suspect we’d been infiltrated. FC ordered defender missiles up, ordered the hictor bubble down, and tried to warp us off. But nothing happened.

Well . . . except the decimation of our frigates by the inbound bombers. That definitely happened.

I managed to get my damps up on a few of the incoming ships, and managed to get in on one killmail just as the first bomb hit. Surprisingly, my Maulus somehow failed to explode in the initial impact. I survived with zero shield, zero armor, and about 2% hull.

A second bomb landed moments later, and I found myself in my pod – along with most, if not all, of our other frigate pilots and quite a few other fleetmates for company.

FC immediately ordered the offending hictor commissared by the survivors, and with the bubbles out of the way, warped the remains of the fleet off-grid.

I was out of the fight, but not out of the woods. I attempted to deathclone back to 1DQ, only to discover that two minutes in TiDi is a LOT longer than two minutes in “real life.” I disconnected, reconnected, tried to warp to a gate and get out of the system, and made repeated attempts to destroy my own pod. Eventually, a passing enemy assault frigate finally accomplished the job for me. Meanwhile, I followed the conversation in fleet comms and on the INN twitch stream to stay abreast of the battle, as things were still in the process of getting exciting. Back in 1DQ, I continued to listen in until long after it was time for me to be asleep, and finally shut everything down for the night and headed to bed.

All in all, my part in the battle was almost totally insignificant from a grand strategy perspective. Indeed, my entire fleet’s contribution has been summed up in coverage thus far as, “a baltec fleet got bombed.”

But as I’ve written before about my experiences in Eve, it really is unique to the gaming world to be a part – even a very, very tiny part – of something this large. In the stories that will inevitably be written about this battle, I will now be able to look back and say – even if just for a few moments – “I was there.”

I didn’t accomplish anything of note. I didn’t do much of anything at all. I came, I saw, I died.

But I was there.

And in trading my 1.5 million ISK Maulus for (a piece of) a 47 million ISK Hound, I’m firmly ISK-positive for the night, right? At least that’s how I like to think of it.

And as much as TiDi sucks, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat – given that war rages on in the North and in the East, I’m sure that before too much longer, I will.

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  • Garreth Vlox

    train for a dictor, 10 times the fun and you are always in demand.

    July 22, 2018 at 4:15 AM
  • Eli

    I’ll be happy to teach you the Art of E-war if you’d like? What people don’t realise is just how powerful E-war is, even from a tech1 frigate. Will look for you in game. They give these to newbees, in the hope that they’ll at least fire them off (even if used badly, they work well). However, in the hands of a trained Advanced Ewar pilot, it’s a deadly thing for the enemy to experience. I’ve had multiple fun experiences, watching that ‘doh’ moment as the enemy pilot wondered what just happened before their ship explodes without them being able to respond effectively in return fire. Sadly, bombs don’t care about damps. They only care about defender missiles.

    July 23, 2018 at 4:02 AM