A YEAR OF SORROW: A REVIEW

2016-09-28

I had the worst nightmare. I dreamed that Drifters killed Empress Jamyl, and she was replaced by a Udorian. Someone wake me up?

Author’s note: I am involved in the events herein described up to my eyeballs. I am also an unabashed Jamylite.

A Tragic Loss

A year ago, on August 21st, a day which will live in infamy, Empress Jamyl’s titan, EF Seraph, was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the enigmatic forces of the faction known as the Drifters. To the absolute horror of all the Imperial pilots present, the Drifters coordinated their doomsday weapons and alpha striked a titan in high security space. Her pod hung in space for just a brief moment before it too was destroyed, this time by normal weapons fire from the Drifters. As the Amarr Faith, in the doctrine known as Godflesh, prevents the cloning of the emperor or the royal heirs, Empress Jamyl was martyred at the hands of the Drifters.

This was the culmination of a long story arc about the Empress, with her appearing in public in Safizon and Sarum Prime to capsuleers. Many of the events were related to a new ship: the Imperial Issue Abbadon. Like producers of a TV show, the lore team made sure to give the character plenty of airtime so that people would feel more shock when she died. Well, it worked.

The death of Empress Jamyl had obviously been planned for years, according to some of the best tinfoil hattery of EVE’s lorehound players. For sure her death had been in the works for over a year, as the CSM received a briefing on the Amarr Trials in regards to e-sports almost a year in advance. Since the departure of CCP Tony G from CCP Games, the lore team has spent most of their time trying to clean up the mess he left behind. Just as the spaghetti code of EVE left CCP with a large amount of technical debt, the lore of ex-CCP Tony G left the story with a significant amount of lore debt. The titan over Caldari Prime was the first target. Then Heth. One bad character and one huge plot error were corrected. Given the way Jamyl Sarum had been literarily raped by Tony G, the only real way to clean up that mess was to kill the character off. She was beyond the abilities of the lore team to salvage. When an author has written the story into a corner, something drastic happens, like the ghost army in “Return of the King.” New Eden got the Drifters.

The aftermath of her death was twofold. The first was the succession to the Sacred Throne. The second bit of fallout was the Drifter incursion storyline. Both of those happened in rapid succession. (That was not a pun, I swear.) The war against the Drifters started three days after Empress Jamyl’s death with the Defense Against the Throne World’s Campaign. CCP posted the rules and requirements for the Succession Trials not long after. Things moved rapidly in the fall.

The Succession Trials

Immediately after the assassination of Empress Jamyl, the Imperial Navy enacted war plan “GRAVITY WELL.” The key aspect of this was the consolidation of the Imperial Navy to defend the core worlds and the heirs, who were at the Emperor Family station in Amarr Prime when Empress Jamyl was killed. The continuity of the Imperial government had to be safeguarded. When the Empress of Holy Amarr dies, there are five heirs that can potentially succeed her, one from each of the royal families. However, Empress Jamyl had brought the Khanid Kingdom and House Khanid back into the fold. To the chagrin of many conservative Amarr, Emprss Jamyl’s last will and testament gave Lord Khanid a second shot at the Sacred Throne. Like the Succession Trials after the death of Emperor Heideran VII, these Succession Trials would be of Fire and Blood. Capsuleers would fight in a tournament to decide the next ruler of Holy Amarr.

Each heir would choose four potential champions. Those champions would chose three pilots to be their retainers. Each of the four teams would battle in the first round to represent their house. In one of the best moves the lore team has ever done, they required potential champions to make their ‘bid’ in character on the Intergalactic Summit forums. Those vying to be champions not only had to provide a video of their PVP prowess, but write a post as to why the heir should choose them. Different houses had different priorities. House Sarum wanted militaristic champions. House Kador wanted a focus on True Amarr champions. A lot of players got their first major introduction down the rabbit hole of lore.

The first weekend of the Trials tossed conventional wisdom out the airlock. Though there were many big name tournament players, including Chessur, Elise Randolph, and four teams from Pandemic Legion. By the end of the first day, lesser known pilots, including tournament rookies had eliminated all the marquee name players. Part of the reason for this upset was that CCP only released the rules for the matches just a couple of days before, and the teams had almost no time to practice or theorycraft. In some cases, the fittings for ships were finalized just half an hour before the match.

The second weekend saw Kelon Darklight and Lysus emerge as the two finalists who would battle in Iceland live at Fanfest. Champions Mitara Newelle, Damassys Kadesh, SoulLess Zealot, and Ithica Hawk were all eliminated with the consolation prize for them and their retainers of a Silver Magnate. The Silver Magnate is the traditional prize ship for the Succession Trials, having been awarded before in YC105.

Lore wise, many things were happening behind the curtain. Empress Jamyl had asked the Order of Saint Tetrimon to help secure the heirs for the Trials. Since Lord Khanid had pulled a runner the last time he lost, it seemed a very prudent measure. Before the Trials began, the Order of Saint Tetrimon sequestered all six of the royal heirs. The Order of Saint Tetrimon was unusual in itself, as they were one of the groups that were involved in some of EVE’s earliest live events and suppressed by the Amarr Empire since YC108. Now, not only was that edict lifted, the Imperial Succession Committee gave the Order a starring role in what was to come.

No one knows exactly why things happened as they did, other than it was Empress Jamyl’s last will and testament that set things into motion. It is likely that she foresaw her death and strived to make sure that the Empire would not only survive her passing, but emerge stronger. With House Khanid once again an heir and a full part of the Amarr Empire and Saint Tetrimon ensuring that the ritual of Shathol’Syn—ritualistic suicide by the losers—would be carried out, a complete reunification of the Empire was possible.

Since there would be no ducking out on the suicide, each of the royal heirs picked their successor in accordance with the rules of their house. The volunteers of ISD Mercury (the lore team) did a fantastic job of giving each of them a background and a biography, in addition to fleshing out the royal houses. It’s an interesting bit to note that we almost know more about Tunir Tash-Murkon, Empress Catiz’s successor as the Tash-Murkon heir than we do of Empress Catiz herself. Once the heirs had named their successors and set their affairs in order, it was time for them to play the most high stakes game of Amarrian Roulette in the cluster.

Of course, by the second week, it was quite clear that only House Tash-Murkon and House Kor-Azor would have a chance at the throne and the orderly transfer of power from the heirs to their successors began. Their sequestered chambers, watched over by the Order of Saint Tetrimon, became one of the most well appointed death row cell blocks in the cluster. Catiz Tash-Murkon and Aricio Kor-Azor would pray; the rest would wait.

Fanfest would eventually come and CCP Fozzie would prove just how sadistic he is. The finals of the Trials would be a best out of 5 series. The rules required each team to form 11 different fleet compositions for the match in 2 hours. Once the 11 setups were finalized, the other team would be able to chose  of them and ban them from the series completely. House Kor-Azor under Lysus was not able to finish all their fittings in time, which meant that CCP would fit their ships—poorly. Even worse for the Kor-Azor team, two of the unbanned setups were deliberately trash. However, three victories would win it. In the event of a loss, a setup could be used again, but not in the case of a victory. In front of a live audience in the Harpa and streamed around the world, Lord Kelon Darklight and Lord Lysus fought for the Sacred Throne.

Lysus gave Kelon his first loss of the Trials in the first match. Both teams traded losses until the score was tied at 2-2. This is where Lysus’s team running out of time came into play. Their final setup included a Guardian logistics cruiser. Since they were confident that setup would have been banned—all logistics were banned in the second weekend’s round robin phase—they had not fitted it. CCP Fozzie had fitted it. Very Badly. House Tash-Murkon’s champion Kelon Darklight won the finals. In addition to getting a free trip to Iceland, the victors also received physical gold medals. Each team member also received a Golden Magnate, the traditional prize to the victor of the trials.

Empress Jamyl I is dead. Long live Empress Catiz I. (Someone wake me up.)

A Veteran of a Thousand Drifter Kills

Empress Jamyl died in the flash of one hundred Drifter doomsday weapons. Just a scant few days later, the Holy Amarr Empire declared war against the Drifter threat. Unlike the Emergency Militia War Powers Act that regulated the faction wars in low security space, the Empire engaged the Drifters in a full state of war. There was no framework, nor limitations. The Drifters invaded the Throne Worlds, and the Imperial Navy and capsuleers scrambled to defend it.

Drifter Incursions were some of the most interesting bit of PVE content CCP has ever done. It was always known that this feature would be limited in scope and time; Drifter Incursions would only happen in Amarr Space. More to the point, once capsuleers had beaten the Drifters, the incursions would go away. Lore wise, this fit much better than the current state of Sansha Incursions, which are routinely beaten back.

However, Drifters were still a new technology to CCP and it showed. The first Drifter Incursions nearly broke CCP’s hardware. Shortly after the invasion, CCP removed this feature from Tranquility. Clearly the spirit of Empress Jamyl was looking out for the Amarr.

This would not be the only problem with Drifters. CCP Affinity and her team were developing a new AI system for NPCs and a whole new type of NPC at the same time. The Drifter overshield, doomsday, and single hull type had to be combined with the new AI and all built up at once. From the earliest introduction of Drifters, CCP was constantly evolving and adjusting their code. Significantly, they actually adopted their AI to what players were doing to counter the Drifters.

The Drifter doomsday is the pièce de résistance. When the overshield is removed, the doomsday does 750 thousand damage spread across all four damage types. As this flat kills most subcapital ships, players spent most of their time trying to work around that. The simplest way, and the earliest method, was to just use expendable destroyers. A mass of Coercer destroyers would be able to kill a significant number of Drifters for relatively cheap. While they could not tank the focused damage from the normal Drifter weapons, Coercers were used to clear Safizon of Drifters in the weeks before the Empress’s death.

CCP countered some of the other methods used by capsuleers. When players found that Drifters would not be able to fire their doomsday at max lock range, Cerberus cruisers were used to kill Drifters from 250 kilometers away. CCP soon changed the doomsday range to max lock range. Later, CCP would introduce a tracking component to the doomsday. Pilots responded by using a signature radius doctrine to help dodge the doomsday. Even more interesting, the Drifters’s orbit would out track their own weapons systems. CCP adjusted the orbit speed and distance of the Drifters to account for that.

The Drifter Incursions would come back and players would try a variety of doctrines to kill them. Even as time progressed the AI would change and sometimes break. One week, Artemis and Apollo would shoot each other. All that was required to clear the site was sit back and watch until there was only one left. A lot of money was made. About half the Drifter sites were scenarios where capsuleers would fight the the Drifters with a group of Amarr Navy vessels. Sadly, the AI never made it to the point where the Navy and Drifters would fight each other in the incursion sites.

By the beginning of YC118, a group had found a way to consistently clear Drifter Incursions without a loss of a ship. A pilot named Ciniel devised fittings for advanced battleships that would allow them to absorb the doomsday strike and survive. After all the overshields were popped, the DPS ships would come in and clean up. Once Dogma/Phoenix Naval Systems Drifter Fight Club started to use the doctrine, Drifter Incursions were all closed by players, excepting a few in low security space. The war would continue on, but the Defense of the Throne Worlds Campaign was soundly won by capsuleers.

Once the Drifter Incursions were removed, Drifters would stick to their wormholes and the Jove Observatory systems.

“Give me the strength
O Empress Jamyl
That these enemies of God
I might kill
By His Light
By His Will.”
-Jamylite Prayer

Wading Through a Crimson Flood

Omir Has Come to Drink Your Blood.

The Drifters were not the only group shooting at the Empire in the aftermath of Empress Jamyl’s death. The Blood Raider Covenant, the worst of the Amarr’s heretical offspring, attacked the cluster at large in October in the Crimson Harvest event. CCP has hired actual economists to manage the player run economy, but as of yet they have not hired theologians to work on their lore team, so the Sani Sabik theology is still vague. For the Blood Raiders, it seems to be cleansing through blood sacrifice, and the purest blood—and the best sacrifice—comes from clones.

Still, non-cloned blood is acceptable, so the Blood Raiders sortied from their base in Delve to kill and drain the blood from the unbelievers. For Holy Amarr, coming after the initial Drifter attacks and the death of the Empress, the Blood Raiders ran rampant in the Bleak Lands. In one of CCPs better moves, the Scope ticker referenced an attack on the capsuleer owned Cerra Manor Cathedral on the holding of Lady Shalee Lianne. Blood Raider heretics executed fifty clergy members and desecrated the cathedral. The Seventh Fleet was ordered into the Bleak Lands to pacify the Blood Raiders, but it would take weeks of fighting and significant capsuleer effort before the Crimson Harvest was defeated.

In one of the stupidest moves since the Charge of the Light Brigade, Internal Security Commander Orri Jalet declared victory against the Blood Raiders and stood down the fleet. It was just after this stand down that the Drifter Incursions returned. None of these missteps would have happened if Empress Jamyl had still been running things.

New Technology

Nothing makes the military take note more than a massive loss. After getting beaten like a borrowed Brutor slave at the Battle of Kasserine Pass, the US Army scrambled to come up with a solution. After seeing Empress Jamyl murdered by a mere one hundred Drifters the Imperial Navy scrambled to come up with a solution. Under Empress Jamyl, the Amarr Empire had introduced new important technologies to the Cluster: the advanced shielding that necessitated the use of entosis links, the Templar implants, and the Tactical Destroyer-class vessels.

The Amarr sometimes have a reputation for being backwards facing, conservative, and generally resistant to change. However, when given cause to do so, the Amarr are capable of great innovations. The Empire was the first to come up with the Force Auxiliary: the Apostle-class. The Apostle was derived from the triage carrier, with a focus on supporting a friendly capital fleet.

“Her Imperial Majesty’s life will stand eternal as an example for all who live truly and rightly within the embrace of Holy Amarr. The martyrdom of Empress Jamyl I was inflicted with base treachery but its lasting effect will be the inspiration of a thousand generations down the ages.” – excerpt from the Funeral Oration on the Passing of Empress Jamyl I by High Chaplain Kalefa Sufrin an-Kador, YC117.09.20

The Apostle is the epitome of Imperial ship design. It has strong armor and an ornate hull mural. The sides of the hull depict the ascension of Empress Jamyl, noting that the Drifters could not defeat her, but only kill her. The mural depicts her arms outstretched, bathed in light above EF Seraph and a fleet of Drifter battleships below. It is the work of CCP Hilmarsson, and a fine tribute to one of EVE’s best characters.

The second major new technology the Empire designed was the new doomsday weapons based off Drifter technology. The ‘Divine Harvest’ Electromagnetic Reaper was the first of the new weapons designed. The other empires soon acquired the technology thanks to CONCORD Treaties and developed their own versions. However, it was the Gallente that modified the Reaper weapon into the Lance.

Though the Amarr might be closing the barn door after the animals are gone, or putting lifeboats on ships after the SS Titanic sank, there’s no question that the bulk of the technological improvement recently has come from the Amarr Empire. This is likely to continue in the future.

On the Offensive

By the summer of YC118 the Empire’s situation had stabilized. Lady Catiz Tash-Murkon was the Empress apparent and started to take her powers. With all the uncertainty gone, the Amarr Empire went on the offensive.

After the Drifters were pushed back from the Throne Worlds, a combination of the Sisters of EVE and capsuleers continued to push into the Drifter hive systems. When the Shadow of the Serpent event started, the Amarr Empire used it to focus capsuleers on a counter assault. Almost every Amarr objective was the destruction of some number of Drifter battleships “In Her Name.” The war was still very active for the Imperial Navy, despite the Drifters having retreated. Out of reach for the Navy, they focused on capsuleers to prosecute the war.

The varying tasks, including killing a Drifter in various ship classes from frigate to battleships, might have encouraged capsuleers to develop new tactics and doctrines. However, by the time the summer came around, all the pilots that cared to kill Drifters had developed a mature and sturdy doctrine that ultimately wasn’t changed. The Amarr’s incentives were not a failure, though: more Drifters were destroyed in the Shadow of the Serpent than might have happened otherwise.

Currently the war is still ongoing. Two groups continue to assault Drifter hives: the Arataka Research Consortium and an as of current unnamed group of Amarr loyalists. Whatever the effects of these groups are, it seems to be working. For Empress Catiz’s coronation, no Drifters made an appearance.

Purity of the Throne

Just a scant few weeks before Empress Catiz’s coronation date, a group called the Purity of the Throne popped up in the Amarr Empire and elsewhere. Their main objection to Empress Catiz is her Udorian blood, making her not pure True Amarr.

I wrote in a previous article:

The crux of the Purity of the Throne movement is that Lady Tash-Murkon is of Udorian blood and therefore unfit to rule the Holy Amarr Empire. To explain why requires a bit of background.

The Amarr—bless their heart—are racist as a culture. So much so that the people descended from Amarr Island call themselves True Amarr. Everyone else in the Amarr Empire is just Amarr, and depending on their race, they have their own place in society. The True Amarr are the leaders; it say so quite clearly in the Amarrian Scriptures.

However,

Like so many times, the issue is not the issue. The fact that Lady Tash-Murkon has some Udorian blood in her family thousands of years back is just window dressing for what’s actually wrong. The first issue is House Tash-Murkon itself. They are the newest royal house. . . . The stigma that the Tash-Murkon family brought their royal seat is prevalent and certainly doesn’t sit well with many True Amarr. . . . [T]hey do not act like a real noble house should. . . . House Tash-Murkon is also amazingly liberal by Amarrian standards.

Regardless of the complaint, in the end, it did not matter. Capsuleers slaughtered the Purity of the Throne heretics like dogs. By the time of the coronation, they were no longer a force of any significance.

The Coronation

At 2000 New Eden Standard time, the newly crowned Her Majesty Catiz I, Empress of Holy Amarr, First Apostle of the True Faith, and Sovereign Defender of the Imperial Rite appeared in space above Amarr Prime before an honor guard formation of Imperial ships.  She was in an Avatar-class titan named TES Purity, though unlike Empress Jamyl, Empress Catiz is not known to be a capsuleer.  To a local channel of over 2000 pilots—including the legendary Chribba in his Veldnaught, bedecked in Sarum colours—she gave the following speech:

Esteemed Officers of the Imperial Guard, defenders of the faith, protectors of the sovereignty of Holy Amarr. It is an honor that my first address as Head of State is made before servicemen and women from the Imperial Armed Forces who have served the Empire with such courage and devotion over the course of their careers.

Capsuleers, both loyalist and independent, who have served the Empire in a time of need, successfully thwart[ed] the attacks of a heretical enemy naming themselves ‘Purity of the Throne’. My Imperial Guard escort wears their colors in defiance, as a tribute to your tenacity on the field of battle. It is a privilege to address each and every one of you.

I find myself humbled to see the familiar colors of so many loyalist organizations I have come to know and respect during my short tenure as heiress to the estate of my family.

Today, I leave behind that legacy and my family name, humbled under the watchful gaze of the Lord, as his servant, chosen by divine rite. I see that my champion, Lord Kelon Darklight is present. May the Lord bless him for his prowess in combat.

Today, I step forward to lead the people of Amarr into a new era. An era of prosperity, an era of growth. An era of change, and progress.

For too long our course has been unsteady, our path uneven and unsure, rocky and infirm.

The loss of two great leaders in a little over a decade, the noble and wise Doriam II, the fierce and devoted Jamyl I, has left our people reeling in a storm of uncertainty, our future clouded and unclear.

Today, that lack of clarity ends. Today, our future is in our hands, and His light shines down upon us. Today, together, we stand firm at the beginning of a new path. A path that takes us on a journey paved with prosperity for loyal subjects of the faith. A journey, the first fleeting steps of which we take today, that marks a turning point for this great Empire and sets us on a course to stability, security and opportunity; to ensure an end to the atrocities we have borne witness to and experienced at the hands of those who would defy the word of God.

However, with great military power comes great responsibility. The might and the honor of the Imperial Armed Forces will be restored, and with it we will usher in a new generation of capsuleers to support the Golden Fleet. Tens of thousands more capsuleers will graduate from the Imperial Academy to join our already established and prized loyalist forces, in the largest expansion to our pod pilot training program ever conceived.

To support this growth, our administration will work to make the Imperial economy a powerhouse of activity, with new foreign policy and trade legislation that opens up our markets to the cluster like never before.

The future of this glorious Empire is in our hands. In your hands, and with the Empire’s might at your backs, this will be a defining moment in the history of Holy Amarr, and the legacy of the capsuleer.

This will be your Ascension!

Amarr Victor!

However, on this holy day, Her Majesty’s appearance was marked by unexpected visitors, heresy, blaspheme, and violence.  Though Empress Catiz is now the ruler of Holy Amarr, her ascension to the Sacred Throne is not fully complete and will not be until the losing heirs carry out the ritual of Shathol’Syn—ritual suicide—on Friday.  A more in-depth analysis of the events of the coronation is forthcoming.

This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by Sophia ‘Alizabeth’ S..

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