In EVE, as with most games, people want to feel as though they are winning. This is more difficult in sandbox games like EVE that don’t have a built-in ending or a clear indicator of ‘you win’. People have to decide what they consider ‘winning’ to be for themselves, and it is open to a lot of interpretation. Some people just want to amass as much ISK as they can. Other people consider ‘winning’ to be owning sovereign space, a topic that Robby Kasparic touched upon in What Does Holding Sov Really Mean. And yet even more people calculate whether or not they are winning based on their PvP victories.
But what does it mean to be victorious in PvP? Like ‘winning’ in the larger scope of the game, ‘victory’ can mean different things to different people. Some of those meanings most commonly fall into groups that depend on the size of the fights a player is looking for.
Solo PvP is one of the simplest situations when it comes to figuring out who is victorious in a fight. With a one-on-one duel, the ship that is forced off grid or ultimately blows up is the loser. People can argue about the fairness of a fight, like a tech 1 frigate against a faction cruiser, but even then you know who lost. Before the Ascension update when there were off-grid boosts the definition of ‘solo PvP’ was a little hazy. With off-grid boosts a thing of the past, solo PvP is much clearer.
Next would be a single ship against a group of enemy ships. This could be a gate camp, or a gang tackling a ratter, but it generally means someone messed up. At this engagement size, things still largely follow the same principal as before: The loser(s) are the ship(s) that blow up. At this point though, you may want to look at the amount of ISK that was lost by each side. If the solo ship survives, it wins because it didn’t die, but it will also have an ISK efficiency of 100%. If the solo ship dies, then the gang typically is considered the winner. However, there are times when the single ship destroys enough of the enemy gang’s ships that the value of the ships destroyed are in a positive ratio for the solo ship. This is called being ISK positive and is one of the main ways that people judge the result of larger battles.
Skirmishes and Small Battles
The first level of groups of players battling would be those by happenstance. By this I am referring to the fights that break out more or less spontaneously when one gang roams into another, or provokes a fight for fun. This can be in micro gangs of two-on-two or up to much larger groups with 100+ pilots in each fleet. The point is there is no strategic objective or greater plan involved, just a simple rough and tumble.
In these cases, there are two easy ways to determine victory. The first, and simplest, way to tell who won is one familiar to schoolyards and strategic planning alike: which side’s running away? If one side is running, they’ve probably lost, which means the other guys won. Or, we can do some simple math of tallying up each side’s losses in terms of ISK. Either method allows us to determine a winner fairly quickly and move on.
The Weighing of Wars
Wars are fought with specific goals in mind that each side are trying to accomplish. Most of the time, these objectives are mutually exclusive, meaning only one side can be victorious. That doesn’t mean there is one single checkbox of ‘Win War’, however. It is usually broken down into more manageable steps. Ultimate objectives might be evicting a group from a region, disbanding an alliance, or taking a number of money moons. Possible steps to reaching those goals would be taking an important system, blowing up a staging citadel, trapping or destroying a significant number of supers/titans, interrupting an alliance’s mining/ratting, etc.
The achieving of these strategic objectives is the highest priority in EVE warfare. Battles over these points are decided by which side reaches these goals. In the big picture, nothing else matters. Each side can potentially both check off objectives in a single fight, but then the important factor is tallying them up and ranking them.
This is where things become a very large grey zone. Every side will hold up one thing or another to try and claim victory as they wage a battle of morale. In theory, this means that both sides can win if their line members believe they achieved their main goal. Often times, this is seen when one side wins all or most of the strategic objectives while the other side is ISK positive. Winning the ISK war can be an important step, but does it mean you win the overall war?
If Wallets Could Talk
In EVE, as in real life, wars can only be fought as long as they are funded. If one side loses too much wealth, they become unable to effectively fleet up and fight. This means that in a war, if one side continually ends up being ISK positive, they will generally end up being able to fight longer and therefore outlast their opponent(s). However, this assumes that each side is starting with an equal amount of ISK. This is rarely the case as some alliances measure their wealth in number of supers and titans they can field, while others must count by capitals, and some only have sub-caps. These are general ways of gauging how much an alliance is willing to risk in a battle, and thus how large their wallet is if called upon replacing these ships.
As an example, lets say that a battle occurs and ‘Side A’ losses 5 bil worth of ships and ‘Side B’ loses 3 bil worth. In this scenario, ‘Side B’ has won the ISK battle. However, if ‘Side A’ has 100 bil to spend on the war while ‘Side B’ only has 50 bil, then ‘Side B’ has really lost the relative ISK battle. The difficulty is that most people don’t know how much ISK their side has to spend on a war, let alone their enemies. It is for this reason that I do not consider being ISK positive a good indicator as to which side is winning a war.
Summing Things Up
So those are the basic breakdown of what determines a ‘win’ in most PVP scenarios. Different scales of engagement have different metrics for determining victory, but on a lot of levels, they’re all the same.
When it comes to a solo fight, it’s all about who blows up, regardless of what people consider fair or polite. In small gangs and skirmishes, if you can’t tell who won by who lived, let the ISK do the talking. No-one should be broke at the end of it and the goal is to maximize fun. For large scale wars, forget about the ISK unless you have spies that can give you real information. Focus on who is winning the strategic objectives, no matter what the cost—but if one side or the other gets completely wiped out, you can more or less pick out the loser, right there.
Keep these simple rules in mind, and you’ll be able to wade through the conflicting claims, whether they’re in local, on the EVE-O forums, reddit, or anywhere else. Next time you read about someone’s duel at the sun, or a small skirmish between groups, or the massive brawls that go on for hours, I hope you are able to decide who came out on top for yourself.