Every few months, the men and women who play EVE Online conspire to achieve feats so incredible that the rest of the world is forced to take notice. The gaming press--sometimes even the general press--shine their spotlights on EVE's smoky halls for a few days and new players flood into the game. Then, when the next big story comes along, EVE sinks back into its shadowy obscurity, only to repeat the whole process six months later. The Battle of 6VDT-H was one of these moments--trumpeted around the Internet as “the largest battle in the history of gaming.”
Yet precious few of the thousands of words written about 6VDT-H attempt to explain the context in which the battle occurred. What is a battle outside of the war in which it was fought? What significance does Gettysburg hold if you don't know who Abraham Lincoln is? How can one discuss Market-Garden without knowledge of Overlord? The Battle of 6VDT-H was the climax of two months of constant warfare between the most powerful player-factions in EVE Online. Like any other war ever waged, the Fountain War had its share of victories, defeats, coups, and setbacks. Unlike other wars, everybody involved was in it “for the lulz.”
In the most general terms, the Fountain War was a large-scale invasion of the region of Fountain by the ClusterFuck Coalition (CFC). Located on the western edge of EVE Online’s fictional galaxy--called “New Eden” in game--Fountain is rich in natural resources, which the CFC planned to exploit. The owners of the system, TEST Alliance, Please Ignore, mounted a defense of their territory, with significant assistance from N3 Coalition and Pandemic Legion (PL). Hereafter, the combined forces of TEST, N3, and PL will be referred to as the “Allies.”
Every Ship Counts
Though the CFC has many member, the largest and most important is GoonSwarm Federation. Originally based out of the Something Awful forums, the Goons rose from humble beginnings to become one of New Eden's major players. The Mittani, GoonSwarm's symbolic head and self-styled “Emperor of Space,” is probably the most powerful player in New Eden--even though he rarely logs in to the game itself.
From its inception in 2006, GoonSwarm's aggression and deep love of trolling earned the ire of the largest, most powerful factions of the time. After waging two prolonged wars--appropriately named the First and Second Great War--GoonSwarm emerged holding the wealthy northern regions. GoonSwarm quickly made peace with its neighbors and allies, formalizing their cooperation by forming the ClusterFuck Coalition. Taken as a whole, the CFC was the single most powerful entity in New Eden, fielding more pilots, building more supercapitals, and holding more space than any other single group of players.
However, controlling so much territory requires a constant flow of money. While other large alliances pulled in revenue via “renting”--offering safe passage through their space in exchange for money--GoonSwarm didn't. For complex historical reasons, this concept was anathema to GoonSwarm and CFC leadership. Instead, they relied upon its monopoly of specific natural resources, especially technetium, to fund its operations. Recent updates to EVE Online disrupted the CFC's comfortable income by devaluing technetium.
After losing its cash cow, CFC leadership found itself facing a choice: begin a rental program or invade another wealthy region to control the flow of natural resources. The Mittani chose war.
The Best of the Worst
Though it was considered a powerful entity in its own right, TEST Alliance, Please Ignore owed much to GoonSwarm and the CFC. For reasons known only to Goonkind (perhaps the Goons saw TESTies as younger, less experienced versions of themselves), GoonSwarm allowed TEST to move into Goon space and fly in Goon combat operations. Later, when TEST became large enough to stand on its own, Goons helped TEST carve out their own territory in the Fountain and Delve regions.
However, once TEST was out from under the CFC’s thumb, TEST/CFC relations soured. Unwilling to be seen as GoonSwarm’s “pet,” TEST leadership began making diplomatic overtures to factions hostile to the CFC. TEST/GoonSwarm relations took another blow when TEST joined Northern Coalition and Pandemic Legion to form the Honey Badger Coalition. But hopes for a TEST/GoonSwarm rehabilitation survived, until TEST mobilized hundreds of ships to destroy a strategically valuable CFC fleet during the now-famous Battle of Asakai.
Though it won the battle, the Honey Badger Coalition was not long to survive Asakai. When Sort Dragon--the head of the HBC--demanded TEST abide by HBC guidelines or face punishment, TEST decided to strike out on its own. It was joined by its neighbor and ally Tribal Band, and the two became very tightly linked. And although Sort Dragon was able to arrange for diplomatic control of several systems within TEST space, the exodus left TEST under attack from its former allies. The decision to give Sort Dragon control of those systems would have unforeseen consequences.
The Enemy of My Enemy
The two months leading up to the Fountain War saw TEST embroiled in a conflict with its partners in the HBC: N3 and Pandemic Legion. The fighting was largely a result of boredom; none of the factions involved were on bad terms, but with no external force to fight, the ex-HBC members fought amongst themselves.
N3 is a large PvP-focused faction holding territory on Tranquilitiy's southern edge. Created by the formal alliance of Northern Coalition., Nulli Secunda, Nexus Fleet, and other smaller alliances, N3 fields one of the largest, most well-disciplined supercapital fleets in EVE Online. Traditionally on bad terms with the CFC and their Russian-speaking neighbors SOLAR FLEET, N3 put aside its conflict with TEST to join the defense of Fountain. When given the choice, N3 preferred to shoot Goons over TESTies (yes, EVE's community is a fan of puns).
In contrast to most other major powers in EVE Online, Pandemic Legion does not bother holding any sovereignty in New Eden, preferring to draw income through mercenary contracts and mining operations. Highly disciplined, well-equipped, and composed of some of the most skilled players in EVE Online, PL is a force to be reckoned with. For all its power, PL can be capricious--it goes where the fights are, and does not scruple to abandon would-be allies if its members can find more fun elsewhere.
The Fountain War began on June 06, 2013. In a “State of the Goonion” address, The Mittani announced that the war had already begun--CFC forces were engaging TEST forces in the eastern regions of Fountain. Dispensing with any moral casus belli, The Mittani explained the reasons for the war as a function of economics:
“Odyssey has come--and it has left us destitute...Who is right and who is wrong doesn’t really matter: if we do not invade Fountain, someone else will--and they will enjoy the kind of wealth that we once had, while we wallow in wrenching poverty.” -The Mittani
During the speech, The Mittani specified the tactics that CFC forces would be required to adhere to and described the logistical mechanics of moving the CFC military into its staging system of B-DBYQ. The Mittani closed his speech by warning his fellow Goons that the upcoming conflict “may be a long war. We have grown soft from too much peace.”
TEST's official response came later that same night. Beffah--TEST’s military director--kept her message on point: If you have valuables in Fountain, move them somewhere safer. She finished with a challenge to TEST's membership: “TEST isn't just a conglomerate of random pubbies...If the now horribly destitute goons want to take what's ours? We'll make them bleed every step of the way.”
Posting a response in the same forum thread, TEST leader BoodaBooda added “WE ARE GOING TO KILL THE FUCK OUT OF THESE NERDS IN FOUNTAIN, AND THEN WE'RE GOING TO KILL THE FUCK OUT OF THESE NERDS IN DEKLEIN.”
In other words, the war had begun.
Next Time: Missiles start flying, a traitor is discovered, and time zones become an issue.
The story continues in EVE Online's Fountain War - First shots fired!
EVE Online's massive Fountain War is one of the largest player-versus-player conflicts in gaming's history. In this six-part series we explain the conflict in full, detailing the amazing battles that made up the war with information from the players who participated.