World War Bee: a Retrospective on M2-XFE

2021-07-09

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.

Stormy Weather

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.

Lessons Learned

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.

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Comments

  • Moomin Amatin

    After the “Enho” move in YZ9 PAPI leadership were keen to explain to the World that they know all about “server weather”. PAPI leadership have also stated their FC team as the best in the game. So imagine my delight when I see the very worst cyno being lit that I have ever seen by PAPI military director Vily. I could have told a brand new player to inject the required skills and to then just randomly light a cyno in M2-X and they would have put it in a better place than Vily did.

    But in all honesty M2-X was lost by not logging back in after the first battle. To then hear PAPI leadership go with the line “pre-staged” was amazing. Even better was that somehow PAPI line members seemed to think this was all ok.

    The two combined has given us the most massive gaming error the World has ever seen in my opinion. PAPI had every possible advantage and yet managed to mess this up in the worst possible way.

    July 9, 2021 at 9:02 AM
    • Gray Doc Moomin Amatin

      And at least until something dramatic happens, which I just don’t see taking place any time soon, that will be THE history lesson from this war. M2- changed everything and is still changing it.

      July 9, 2021 at 10:57 AM
      • Moomin Amatin Gray Doc

        Very true. M2-X as things currently stand is the defining moment of the war. Not sure I would want that on my resume, well not as a PAPI line member. As a goon it is fab.

        July 9, 2021 at 11:24 AM
        • Xelistren Moomin Amatin

          Could have been worse for them in EE we had several fights where blues showed as red, i still think that wore hard on pantheon leadership having to deal with 10+ blue on blue deaths because of server error.

          July 9, 2021 at 4:30 PM
        • Letting them waltz their trapped supers right off your front porch wasn’t a good look.

          FYI

          July 10, 2021 at 1:17 PM
          • Novartis Noob

            The damage has been done. PAPI now too scared to use caps

            FYI

            July 10, 2021 at 1:54 PM
          • Gray Doc Noob

            Probably true; but a better “look” than letting all those supers get trapped in the first place. 🙂 And sometimes we enjoy watching others waltz.

            July 10, 2021 at 3:56 PM
          • Guilford Australis Noob

            Noob: We’d already killed 130 PAPI titans. And unlike PAPI, we know when it’s appropriate to claim a victory and stop crapping on our enemies so they can live to fight us another day instead of sitting on top of them for the rest of eternity for the sake of Vily’s ego.

            July 11, 2021 at 9:18 PM
          • Garreth Vlox Noob

            were we suppose to let them walk their untrapped supers into out capital instead oh great master of the meta game?

            July 12, 2021 at 4:51 AM
    • Jeet_Kundo Moomin Amatin

      Yep, PAPI was robbed a victory because the defenders showed up. It takes a lot of mental gymnastics to get pissy over that.

      July 9, 2021 at 7:30 PM
      • Vertigoe Jeet_Kundo

        They were not robbed of a victory, they never had the capability that they told everyone they had to actually win one of those fights in the first place. The jammer strategy before and after M2- proves this and the unwillingness to assault 1DQ with caps/supers/titans further reinforces the fact they dont have the resources or will to win this war.

        July 9, 2021 at 9:52 PM
        • Jeet_Kundo Vertigoe

          Oh but that’s what they believed! Defenders are to blame for defending their assets, PAPI was somehow owed a victory in M2- for reasons I cannot understand

          July 10, 2021 at 8:38 AM
      • Garreth Vlox Jeet_Kundo

        They were “robbed” by their idiot leader who jumped them into preloaded anti-cap fighters AT POINT BLANK RANGE because he “had to do something”

        July 10, 2021 at 3:11 AM
        • Jeet_Kundo Garreth Vlox

          Oh I know, he thought he had a snapshot window of opportunity and fucked it all up. They felt entitled to a win because they had a lot of people is all I have ever grasped from their bitching about the servers taking a predictable dive, and the big bad defenders are to blame for purposely showing up to defend their keepstar; as if we were priming the server to hit critical mass the moment one of them loaded on grid. How they rationalize, nonetheless get mad about it, I’m unable to match in their thinking

          July 10, 2021 at 8:37 AM
    • Canti Ludan Moomin Amatin

      “But in all honesty M2-X was lost by not logging back in after the first battle.”

      It amazes me how many people gloss over this part, or ignore it completely. Not logging back in after DT sealed the fate of PAPI in M2-. While Imperium pilots where braking the mouse spam clicking the connect button, PAPI said stand down. This gave Imperium firm control of the system, allowing them to bubble the offline caps, blow up jammers, etc. The battle to come was in Imperium hands from that point on.

      Bad cyno, command to jump, tout what you like for what went wrong in the 2nd fight. I wanna know who’s idea it was to not log in after DT in the 1st fight. Cause that is the proverbial snowball that caused the avalanche.

      July 10, 2021 at 12:54 AM
      • Garreth Vlox Canti Ludan

        I remember all the laughter on coms when we realized they actually were going to stay logged off and let us camp them it. The following weeks of camping m2- and headshotting caps as they logged in was second only to camping h-w and headshotting caps in my favorite times in eve

        July 10, 2021 at 3:13 AM
  • Guilford Australis

    The contrast between The Imperium’s response to Operation Valhalla / Enho and PAPI’s response to M2- is simply remarkable.

    The Imperium laughed after Valhalla / Enho and said “It didn’t work, but it was fun. We’ll bring out the big toys again soon for more dumb shenanigans.” PAPI cowered like a beaten puppy after M2- and now refuses to use supercapitals ever again and looks over it’s shoulder in paranoid terror every time something larger than a HAC fleet shows up on grid.

    July 9, 2021 at 11:22 AM
    • Moomin Amatin Guilford Australis

      The best bit about the difference is that for “Enho” CCP did a code change to “better apply damage”. The Imperium have a better claim to being annoyed at it all but yet are not.

      July 9, 2021 at 11:38 AM
  • Havish Montak

    I think M2-XFE was a deciding battle, but not due to the server weather. It was the first time hostiles had to fight the full power of the Imperium and they realised that they didn’t have enough supers and titans to win. They are the poker player player who has the big stack made of 10s and 20s but both players are sat with an equal stack of 500s and 1000s. The blinds have grown to 10,000 a hand but the Imperium has 2-3 rebuys in the all in scenario.

    July 9, 2021 at 12:33 PM
    • Moomin Amatin Havish Montak

      It seems that someone needs to learn what “ALL IN” means.

      July 9, 2021 at 12:53 PM
    • Gray Doc Havish Montak

      I like the poker analogy a lot, but only up to a point. At the end of a hand of poker, one side takes all the chips and the other side gets squat. After the first battle of M2, both sides lost about the same amount of titans. Then, PAPI leadership decided NOT to log in after downtime. Strange, considering they did pretty well in destroying Imperium titans, which has been a war goal (deplete Imperium so they are no longer too big, too strong). At that moment, they chose NOT to have a second full day of M2 that would be a repeat of day one, both sides losing massive amounts of titans. So, instead of the poker analogy, a boxing analogy seems more apt. Both sides went into round 1 (M2 the first day) swinging every punch they could, and the round was considered a draw. If you have any confidence in your fighter, you tell him, “Go do the same thing! You’re wearing him down; you’ll get him, Tiger!” M2 could have “solved” the problem of the overabundance of titans in three or four days of constant fighting. But what you don’t do, as the boxer’s manager is to throw in the towel and quit by not logging in after downtime. We have to search for the reasons for the decision to not log back in. I believe this was PGL’s call and I’ve written about this elsewhere. But that one decision has changed everything. I can’t help but also wonder if this decision didn’t also come from the notion that PAPI didn’t (doesn’t?) have near the numbers of titans they claimed to have had. Otherwise, why not go toe-to-toe, round after round, trading virtually evenly? You must think you’re gonna run out sooner than the other guy, right? And if that is true, I’ll circle around to the original poker analogy. We called PAPI’s bluff. We said, “Show me all those shiny titans you claimed to have moved” and instead they didn’t log back in.

      July 9, 2021 at 3:18 PM
      • Garreth Vlox Gray Doc

        I still think they actually had those titans initially. I think we called a bluff we didn’t realize we were calling at the time, the ability to REPLACE all those shiny titans they claimed to have moved. Vily in all his self-obsessed arrogance boldly declared in the early days of the war, “We can afford to replace 100 titans”, months later they lost those 100 titans and the replacements never fully materialized. Vily made a crucial mistake is his claim, they had the MONEY to replace 100 hulls, but not the actual hulls themselves, and with the poverty nerf the isk to buy 100 titan hulls suddenly bought a lot less than it did before. I think this is why they have blamed everything on CCP from that day on, because CCP nerfed their money pile right into the floor with the poverty patch.

        July 10, 2021 at 6:54 AM
  • shanemacgowansteeth

    M2 will forever stand as the monument to SAPI’s failure to secure their objectives, and no matter how many articles Seir Luciel writes to tell us that SAPI are doing just fine, or to tell us how bad Goons really are despite not actually being a Goon, M2 is right there. The proof is for all to see. When it came down to it, SAPI got scared after downtime on the armor timer, and proved to have absolutely no tactical acumen for the hull timer. No keepstar bash or reframing of our identity is going to ever wash the stain of these twin embarrassments away, or ever let us stop us from ramming them down SAPI throats until this game is taken offline

    July 9, 2021 at 11:27 PM
    • kwnyupstate . shanemacgowansteeth

      And CCP is putting a permanent monument there to commemorate it.

      July 10, 2021 at 1:15 AM
  • Noob

    Great. Now a fantasy version of M2 will join the dead horse of BoB as something every Eve player will be forced to hear about constantly due to the goons endlessly bleating about it.

    And neither had fvckall to do with Goons ability to win a battle of pixelated spaceships.

    July 10, 2021 at 1:15 PM
    • Novartis Noob

      but does PAPI have the ability to win the war? with their current strategy I don’t think so

      July 10, 2021 at 1:53 PM
    • J Moravia Noob

      Sometimes you win a war through skill, and sometimes you win through your opponents being bozos.

      They’re both wins.

      July 10, 2021 at 11:13 PM
  • Peter Gregoire

    INN writers are more bias than CNN and Fox News combined. This isn’t analysis. This is propaganda.

    Sticking 4k accounts (not people, there were multiboxers galore) in a system so that nothing can be done in that system isn’t some kind of genius. It’s akin to a child flopping themselves on the ground and faking a seizure because mommy and daddy said no.

    July 11, 2021 at 12:01 PM
    • Novartis Peter Gregoire

      Hmm, but in several previous battle the fight could get to 6k+ accounts in the same system and the server doesn’t break at all. Why this one break huh? And only happen to one side after they decide to badly cyno in to a preloaded grid?

      July 11, 2021 at 12:30 PM
    • ShutUp ShutUp Peter Gregoire

      Yeah you should probably just stick to reddit, where the piggles and elfboy mod brigade keep you from reading stuff that hurts your widdle feewings.

      July 11, 2021 at 5:03 PM
      • Peter Gregoire ShutUp ShutUp

        Feelings… lol. I’m 3rd party here. Your assumptions are as bias as the writers’ opinions.

        July 11, 2021 at 7:44 PM
        • Garreth Vlox Peter Gregoire

          Biased*, if you’re going to make fun of people at least look competent while doing it.

          July 14, 2021 at 3:18 AM
    • Moomin Amatin Peter Gregoire

      I DEMAND YOU TAKE THAT BACK. YOU SHOULD NOT TALK ABOUT SEIR IN THAT WAY.

      As for this article, it is on point. Blaming the servers for something that was very well known is akin to a child flopping themselves on the ground and faking a seizure as mummy and daddy said “no”. To then even have to try and revise history while censoring anyone with a different opinion, well that is even worse no? Meanwhile on INN we encourage views from all sides. So thank you for your valid input.

      July 11, 2021 at 6:25 PM
    • J Moravia Peter Gregoire

      Hahahaha “defending with large numbers of pilots is like a child throwing a tantrum.”

      Where does PAPI find these people? Honestly.

      July 12, 2021 at 7:46 PM
    • Malcanis Peter Gregoire

      So provide some counterpoints then.

      July 12, 2021 at 9:55 PM