The Build Up to Battle

I always find it really interesting when mainstream media covers major events in EVE. For the most part, the buzz for fights like the one that happened in Asakai is usually contained to the game’s community itself, but occasionally things spill over into real life. There once was a time when a monstrous battle was just CAOD fodder, or a talking point in a dev blog from CCP’s cluster jockeys.  Nowadays, its coffee break chatter at my office by people who don’t even play games.

No, really. And the simple prompt to shed some light on a morning article they caught on some non-gaming news site has folks looking at me like I go home to a second life as a starship pilot in another galaxy, for real. Sometimes though the background details can be just as interesting than the fight itself.

The statistics of what was blown to smithereens during the Asakai fight were staggering, even to those of us who’ve been playing EVE for a long time. One of the recent dev blogs on the subject tallies up the numbers of losses and costs quite well, but suffice to say it was in the neighborhood of around fifty hojillion ISK. What the media never notices is that while these battles are amazing in scope, so too is the effort to get everyone to that point.

I am, of course, talking about how all the stuff that went kapoof came into being in the first place.  Behind every colossal asskicking in EVE lies an enormous infrastructure designed to convert the game’s natural resources into stuff we can fly, shoot and loot. This infrastructure is simply monstrous in its ability to create things, and it’s all managed by a very interesting type of MMO creature: the builder.

It’s too simple to just say “oh all this stuff is built by others”, because EVE is never that simple. There are certainly simple construction tasks in EVE, for example it’s extremely inexpensive in terms of skill investment to have your character be able to construct tech 1 gear, ships, and ammo. I frequently will take reprocessed mission loot and run off a bunch of hybrid ammo; I guess it provides a personal touch to everything I blow up.

Once you progress up from there, things get really interesting.  Tech 2 production will probably involve the efforts of multiple people in the game, since it’s not very practical for a single person to acquire all the materials themselves without buying something from the market that someone else has put up for sale. Tech 3 production requires a hell of a lot more effort, necessitating exploration into the game’s treacherous wormholes. The resources you find there will augment construction of components that on their own have a construction complexity of Tech 2 gear.

Then you enter the realm of capital ships, where the amount of coordination required between players increases to an incredible level. I dare say, a level far beyond that required to coordinate combat with the ships themselves.

While the smaller capital ships can be constructed in a lowsec station, super capitals must be built at a player-owned starbase orbiting a moon in 0.0 space. These must be constructed by players as well.  In order to kick off production of one of the titans blown to pieces recently, a corporation (or alliance) has to not only collect the raw materials necessary to construct the components of the ship, they’ve had to conquer and hold space in 0.0 in order to build the necessary POS infrastructure. Construction takes effort for all the components as well, meaning that even if we ignore the actual military effort required to secure a place to build it there is a massive effort required on the part of many players to get everything ready for construction.

Assuming all the stars align and construction is started, the job of security is now paramount. Supercapital construction are juicy targets for attackers since blowing up capital construction infrastructure makes all those components go up in smoke. I’m not just talking about in-game security here, there is something to be said for making your capital ship building efforts aren’t leaked to other organizations in EVE that would love to kick your sand castle over.

For those in larger alliances that deal with capital ships of their own, they’re probably going “duh” right now at all of this.  However many EVE players will go their entire in-game careers without ever setting eyes on a capital ship, and people who do not play EVE at all likely do not consider the complexity of player interaction required to construct these things.

The end result of a large battle is quite spectacular, but there is something to be said for the mind bogglingly complex system of player interactions that lead up to firing the first shot. I find that it ends up leading to a more interesting discussion with non-EVE players, and says more for the game as a whole than just the final battle report.

Michael Lastucka

Also known as Winterblink in-game. Warp Drive Active's overlord.