Art by Cryo Huren
October 10, 2020. My Naglfar is off tether and aligned to the enemy keepstar in FWST, as it had been for five hours. I cycle my smartbomb and kill another bubble as I wait for my name to be called to Valhalla. We cheer as the next Dreadnaught enters warp and the pilot screams, “Witness me!”
My memories of life as a goon nearly a decade ago have grown dim. I don’t remember a lot of big fights, mostly destroying POS towers and sovereignty structures with capitals. I will admit that I had some reservations about returning to EVE and my old alliance. A lot happens in the span of a decade. Friends come and go, even those you see face to face in real life, but certainly those companions you made in a video game when so long ago. I didn’t remember many folks from Amok, even if they were recruiting. EVE is a game about risk and therefore, it is also a game about trust. We must trust the pilots we fly with in fleet, the pilots in our corporation, and all of those capsuleers in our alliance. Earning that trust is not always easy under normal conditions.
So when my pilots crawled out of their cryovats after nearly a decade, to the sound of the Horn of Goondor, I asked how I could help. “Ok, so you need to get 10 paps a month.” What is a pap I wondered? I took a look at the fleet doctrines and my heart dropped. It was all a mishmash of races, and I couldn’t fly most of the mainline ships. This was a challenge that would require a space spreadsheet! But with a bit of time, and a few skill injectors, I quickly got into the fights!
During those first few weeks back in the game I saw a lot of battle reports linked and discussion about winning or losing the “ISK War.” Were these new Goons still the Goons I remembered? Did they actually care about ISK When I first started the game in 2008 my first corporation was a BoB pet. BoB cared about killboard stats and the ISK war, but the “swarm” only cared about objectives. We would just throw ourselves at the objective, not caring about things like “efficiency.” The outside world saw us as mindless savants who flew so many ships terribly that they simply overwhelmed their opponents. They didn’t see the meticulous planning behind the scenes. They didn’t see the brave pilots willing to destroy their killboards, and their wallets, to win a strategic victory. I wondered, had the cultural revolutions during the intervening years purged the good things about us along with the bad?
It also wasn’t long before I got my first introduction to tidi. I had read about tidi in articles about that old spaceship game I used to play, but never experienced it. My fantasy of this cool scifi thing called tidi was soon shattered. Everywhere else in the gaming community this phenomenon doesn’t require a fancy name – it is just called lag. I asked myself: How is it that players can play a game where the end-game content is not just difficult, but so terrible from a gameplay perspective? Why do they take everything – from dreadnaughts to supercarriers and titans, which they have worked so hard to get – and hurl it at the enemy under these conditions?
My questions about present-day goons were answered when PAPI dropped Keepstars in Delve and Asher called forth the Goon in every one of us. This battle was a tidi slog that lasted more than a dozen hours , one in which we threw everything we had the enemy. Our wives and bosses, families and friends in the real world, were all put on hold. For me, this crucible sloughed off everything that wasn’t “Goon” about my new friends. There was no more talk of killboard stats and ISK wars. We cared only about the objective and the timer that could slip through our fingers in the time it would take to execute a warp command.
I looked around at the names in our fleet – a conglomeration of both returned veterans and modern goons. Suddenly, these people were no longer strangers to me. We were all brothers and I loved each of them, for each and every one was willing to fly their capitals for 15 hours of tidi and reach for the sun in this terrible wonderful game.
I heard “Shiny and chrome!” as another pilot hurled his dreadnought at the enemy in agonizingly slow motion.
The blob of dreads on the Fortizar had grown smaller. The enemy Keepstar was finally dying. I cursed as it died because my name had not yet been called. It had been nearly a decade since my Naglfar’s guns had fired and back then nobody dared to oppose us. Now, I would gladly have fired them one last time in anger and then gone up in a blaze glory.
The battle of FWST is old news now. It resulted in only a momentary pause in the enemy’s advance on the Imperium in Delve. But what remains news is something intangible that those Keepstar kills cemented in our hearts and minds: what it means to be a Goon, who we trust, and what is really important. There will be another objective tomorrow or the day after. I don’t know what it will be, but I will know my brother Goons who fly beside me. Witness me!