Header art by Major Sniper
The turning point in WWB was the Debacle of M2-XFE. When histories are written of this war, even those currently being written, the two-battle sequence that took place in M2- will be seen as the time the scales of war tipped in favor of the Imperium, which had, up to that point, been clearly losing sov and the ISK war.
Much has already been written about M2-, especially as both sides try to “frame” the event to suit their respective narratives. Goons want to portray M2- as a colossal failure of PAPI leadership, the greatest blunder perhaps in the history of all gaming. PAPI leaders have wanted to blame the server issues, stating that had the server worked as it theoretically should have, the PAPI strategy would have worked.
It’s worth studying EVE history, then, to see what precedents we can find for massive battles that went awry. Should PAPI leadership have known the server would fail to respond? Was it, as some PAPI leaders have claimed, impossible to predict that in this roll of the dice – that could have come up lucky seven – they just freakishly came up snake eyes? Let’s look at a past EVE battle in which the server misbehaved.
The Battle of Y-2ANO
Where have all the titans gone,
They’ve gone to M2 every one
When will they ever learn
When will they ever learn
(Gallente folk song written by Petrus Segerus)
In early 2010 the IT alliance, composed of old BoB remnants plus thousands of newbies recruited to make IT more like Goons (emphasizing quantity over quality, with blobbing being the prime directive), gathered two other main groups to attack the three other serious contenders in nullsec space. As Groen notes (Empires of EVE, volume 2), nullsec at the time could be described as a donut divided up into six parts, with alternating allegiances, red, blue, red, blue, red, blue. IT launched its Dominion offensive and attacked Pandemic Legion in Fountain, while its allies simultaneously attacked Pandemic Legion’s allies (Goons and Northern Coalition), to prevent a bat-phone call for help, as every alliance would have to watch out for itself. Nevertheless, Goons and Northern Coalition sent hundreds of pilots to aid Pandemic Legion. IT had gotten a foothold in Y-2ANO, and had amassed a huge armada there – not many supers, but a truly impressive number of subcaps. PL, Goons, and Northern Coalition had a large supercap fleet, especially PL, and so they planned to jump, via cyno, into the midst of the enemy forces.
Groen (Empires of EVE, volume 2) tells what happened next: “Pandemic Legion’s Titans arrived in the system, emerging from within the silently rippling electrical spirals of a cynosural field. But as the fleet arrived in-system, its pilots never did. Most of them never even loaded the system, because the lag was too great. So while the hulking ships materialized, their pilots couldn’t fly them. Because they had gotten into position first, IT Alliance wasn’t nearly as badly affected, but they didn’t know that yet.”
So, let’s review: IT alliance was on grid first with massive numbers. The opposition brought in supers, including titans, thinking their supers would make up in power what they lacked in number. The attackers jumped directly onto a grid already loaded with defenders. However, the server buckled and IT slaughtered PL, Goons, and Northern Coalition forces, as ships trickled in, often without pilots. For IT, this “battle” was shooting slowly-arriving fish in a barrel. It was a massacre.
History Repeats Itself, Not Unexpectedly
I first read this account of Y-2ANO in Groen months after I had written the live blog about the 2nd fight in M2-XFE. Next, I quote my own article covering the 2nd battle of M2-: “After the record-breaking battle of three days before in the same system, in which at least 153 titans were destroyed, Goons gathered in the system well in advance of the armor timer clock. Before PAPI forces even showed up, Goons logged in some 4,500 pilots into the system, ready to do battle again.”
“PAPI forces gathered . . . sent scout ships in, followed shortly by some subcaps ships. Early chatter on the Brisc Rubal INN stream focused on what might happen when PAPI jumps in. Will the server buckle? Will the pilots come in piecemeal (a recipe for a PAPI disaster)?”
Note that Rubal’s questions were good ones, even prescient. We can assume that Rubal either should shift from being a lawyer to being a psychic, or that he knows EVE’s past history, like veteran players should. He asked exactly the right questions before the battle ever began.
Again I quote from the M2 story: “ UPDATE, 12:55 UTC: An unfitted titan gets destroyed by Imperium. Clearly, we are seeing an issue with [PAPI] loading grid.”
“UPDATE, 1:00 UTC: RonUSMC, streamer: ‘The only thing that’s loading is the hull, so [Imperium] is just killing things that can’t defend themselves. Jumping in with an unfit titan, you know what I mean? It’s, uh, it’s people that can’t load the grid. . . . We didn’t know this bad would happen.’”
We should note that while RonUSMC was flabbergasted at the server failure, Rubal all but predicted it a few moments before.
M2-, then, was a fight that was almost an exact repeat of the disaster of Y-2ANO. The server failed in very similar ways to that failure ten years before, in 2010. The parallels are freakishly uncanny.
I walk around, heavy hearted and sad
Night comes around and I’m still feelin’ bad
Rain pourin’ down, blindin’ every hope I had
This pitterin’, patterin’, beatin’ and spatterin’ drives me mad
(Top 40 Hit on Amari streaming radio, by Lena von Hornblower)
After the massacre of Y-2ANO, pilots began making adjustments for server “weather.” While CCP continued to improve server performance – indeed, the Dominion expansion was meant to do just that – alliances have always responded to improved performance by jamming more and more people into battles, meaning the overall battle experience (despite server improvements) has been pretty consistently iffy and laggy. Crowd the server and you can expect problems. A recent (October of 2020) example that the server would still not behave, especially when a group of titans warps to a grid already occupied with dozens or hundreds of ships, was the Operation Enho failure, which occurred months before M2. So, the narrative frame that the disastrous result was unexpected belies credulity. Brisc Rubal isn’t Nostrodamus; he just sounds like him on stream. Rather, he’s just an experienced player familiar with server issues.
But as Groen notes regarding the post Y-2ANO days, “Good nullsec fleet commanders became intimately familiar with server mechanics, and knew exactly how far they could push the limits.” Of course that was 11 years ago now, and some memories grow dim.
Oh lessons learned, man they sure run deep
They don’t go away and they don’t come cheap
Oh there’s no way around it
Cause this world turns on lessons learned
(Caldarian singer, Tracinus Larentius)
As we look back on this war, one year after it began, we must place M2 in context. Up until M2-XFE, PAPI had made steady, if agonizingly slow, progress. In the days following the first battle of M2-, both sides must have been rejoicing that we were finally seeing the kind of battle people expected to come out of this conflict – something epic and world-record breaking. During that first battle the servers responded well, albeit under max tidi; but the first fight showed that when alliances gradually escalate, the servers can handle the strain. During the second battle, just like with Y-2ANO, jumping massive amounts of ships onto an already strained server will produce disaster.
Let it be said that it seems PAPI leaders seem to have learned the costly lesson of M2- and they do not want to repeat it – again. Almost everyone, before the M2- battle, expected the 1DQ battle set records. It was the “talk” of EVE. But after M2-, PAPI leaders declared that 1DQ would be assaulted with subcaps, a technique which has yet to make any headway, despite almost three months of trying. Recently, the PAPI rhetoric has shifted to “containment” and “equilibrium,” implying that even PAPI may be growing fatigued of trying to come up with a subcap technique that allows them to achieve objectives in 1DQ. Despite Gobbins declaration that he doesn’t like the rhetoric of “containment,” the rhetoric of “equilibrium” leads to the same destination. Get used to the status quo, folks. I don’t see things changing any time soon.
If things continue with the status quo in 1DQ, and if PAPI forces are unable to successfully assault 1DQ, it will be because they finally learned the lesson on Y-2ANO. And if they cannot successfully assault 1DQ, they will not have achieved Gobbins’ stated goal of razing 1DQ and destroying the 40 faction fortizars that he claimed was the goal.
We Know What This Means
That, in turn, will make M2 one of the most significant battles ever to be waged in EVE Online. Let history show: we knew it when it happened. On the night of the second fight I reported the following:
“UPDATE, 1:26 UTC: Tiberius, on TiS: Imperium has shown that if you get enough people on grid early, you can make other systems like 1DQ unassailable.”
“UPDATE, 1:34 UTC: EliseRandolph on TiS, ‘Make no mistake about it, this is very damaging for PAPI. The morale loss from wanting to fight and being denied it, that’s a different kind of sting.’”
“FINAL UPDATE, 2:11 UTC: The expected battle did not go as planned. PAPI got slaughtered. Imperium lost no titans and the KS repaired. Questions remain that will take days to answer: Was this a massive tactical error by PAPI? Or was this a server glitch gone so wrong the PAPI titans loaded, almost one by one, into a kill zone of epic proportions? Was a tactic developed by Imperium (loading many pilots onto a grid very early) that could theoretically blunt all future attempts to kill Imperium Keepstars?”
While this war isn’t over, we can look back on it and already see the epic significance of both M2-XFE battles, especially the 2nd. The battle’s server issues demonstrated – and not for the first time, Barbara Jean – that a grid, pre-loaded with thousands of defenders, just could not be assaulted by a quick warp in.
Other techniques might work, but as we’ve seen in 1DQ, PAPI appears to have developed cold feet, at least where supers and titans are concerned. The future of EVE may well have hinged on M2-. Until a server breakthrough occurs, M2-XFE might just go down in history as the war that ended all wars, at least those including massive titan battles.