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EVE Online's Fountain War - The largest battle in gaming history and its aftermath

The War So Far: In June 2013, the ClusterFuck Coalition invaded Fountain to gain control of the area’s natural resources. Fountain’s Residents, TEST Alliance, and Please Ignore mounted a two-month defense of the system, but despite significant assistance from N3 and Pandemic Legion, were unable to contain the CFC invasion force. Fearing Fountain all but lost, TEST leadership decides to mount a last stand at 6VDT-H. For the full story, check out the previous parts of GamesRadar's series on EVE Online's Fountain War.

At its core, the Battle of 6VDT-H centered around the defense of the system’s central station. Several days before the battle, GoonSwarm pilots had damaged the structure to the point that it entered “reinforced mode,” a temporary state of invulnerability. This mode allows the station’s owners time to assemble a defensive fleet and gives them some control over what time the station will become vulnerable again. The CFC commanders had not expected TEST to mount a defense and were surprised when TEST set the station to exit reinforcement mode during the US afternoon instead of very early in the American morning, when most Goons would be asleep and N3’s Australian Bloc would be active. The US-friendly exit-timer indicated that TEST was going to make a fight of it.

The CFC decided it would take no chances with the battle. For many hours before the station exited reinforced mode, CFC pilots prepared the battlefield to suit them rather than their foes. With minimal TEST interference, CFC fleets destroyed any structure that might provide TEST pilots with safe harbor during the battle. Then, when the day of the battle arrived, the CFC deployed its forces--over 2,200 pilots, mostly in baltecfleets--to 6VDT-H more than two hours before the station was scheduled to exit reinforced mode. When TEST and N3 forces arrived on the battlefield, they found the CFC deployed in a sphere surrounding the station, and the fighting began in earnest. Almost immediately, CFC bombers forced the Allied ships to warp to the center of the CFC’s sphere of battleships.

For the next five hours, more than 4,000 men and women duked it out for control of the station. Webs of logistical ships distributed energy to ships reporting low capacitor (EVE’s equivalent to mana) so other pilots could focus on repairing damaged hulls. Many players reported severe lag spikes despite EVE’s “time dilation” mechanic, which literally slows time so the servers could keep up. Players described the battle as a confusing mess of hostile, friendly, and neutral ships. Some explained that they needed to adjust their graphical and UI settings so they could simply find their designated targets amidst the chaos. Sometimes the strain on the player's PCs was great enough to crash the EVE client.

As the battle wore on, CFC Megathrons mauled Allied fleets until the CFC--sensing victory--brought their capital ship fleet into the system. With the appearance of the CFC carriers and dreadnoughts, N3 evacuated the system. TEST had other plans. Rallying its remaining forces, TEST flung itself into the mass of CFC battleships, dreadnoughts, and carriers. The charge was brave, but ineffectual--over 200 TEST, N3, and Tribal Band ships sacrificed themselves to destroy a single CFC dreadnought. It was a statement. If you’re curious regarding why TEST would launch this forlorn hope, remember that the Battle of 6VDT-H wasn’t really about winning for TEST. As Ingen Kerr said: “We needed a final note for Fountain. It didn't need to be a victory."

Aftermath 

With the Battle of 6VDT-H decided, major military activity in Fountain faded. As TEST and Tribal Band retreated south into Delve, the CFC captured what territory it did not already control. On August 5, 2013, the Mittani announced the end of the Fountain War and granted CFC forces a two-week vacation--though not without warning his followers to be ready to resume hostilities if another faction attempted to contest Fountain. Shortly after announcing victory in Fountain, the CFC introduced the very rental system it had invaded Fountain to avoid.

While N3 returned to the southeast for yet another attempt to pacify SOLAR FLEET, TEST found itself besieged in Delve. Constant attacks by Confederation of xXPizzaXx and Black Legion kept TEST’s finances under heavy strain, and after the Battle of 6VDT-H, many of TEST’s few remaining fleet commanders left for greener pastures--including Ingen Kerr, who followed Beffah into Pandemic Legion.

Faced with another defensive war against the CFC--for which TEST was even less prepared than it had been when the Fountain War began--BoodaBooda responded in his usual style: “fuuuuuuuunk that." TEST chose to abandon Delve, seeking relative safety nearer the galactic core instead of facing another grinding war. Following that decision, many of TEST’s member corporations left--some even defected to the CFC. While TEST probably won’t completely dissolve, it remains to be seen whether TEST will regain its former glory.

Analysis 

While there was never any guarantee of CFC victory, it would have required a great deal of luck and an incredible effort on the Allies’ part to maintain control of Fountain. The CFC stood as a unified group with a unified command structure and a huge war chest ready to resupply ships as soon as they were destroyed. CFC logisticians expertly arranged changes in fleet doctrines when their pre-war theories proved untenable, like Tengufleet.

In contrast, the Allies fought as three distinct factions, and of those three only TEST had a definite stake in the outcome of the war. N3 and Pandemic Legion joined the war for the chance to fight Goons, not to save TEST. N3 did its best to maintain the war effort but was constantly troubled by issues on the home front, and Pandemic Legion left TEST to its own devices as soon as better entertainment came along. It’s ironic, therefore, that it was Pandemic Legion and N3 who bore the brunt of the fighting. N3’s dominance of the Australian time zones helped stall the CFC advance, and it was N3 and PL fleet commanders who led the Allies’ most successful operations.

What doomed TEST in the end was spotty participation rates. Though it is significantly larger than N3 or Pandemic Legion, TEST rarely managed to bring many ships to a fight--and participation rates were especially poor during the crucial period after the CFC breakout in mid-July. During this time, sources reported to GamesRadar that full N3 fleets were supplemented by fewer than 100 TEST pilots--shockingly low figures for an alliance that claims nearly 12,000 members. In defense of the TEST line member, it must be remembered that many of the important defensive operations were scheduled for the Australian time zones--very early in the American and European morning. Perhaps Ingen Kerr--who left TEST for Pandemic Legion shortly after the war--put it best: “It became a simple question of numbers and commitment. In both cases they, the CFC, had more."

Acknowledgements 

The author would like to extend his gratitude to the Capsuleers willing to discuss the Fountain War, including: Hedliner, Elise Randolph, Vily, Ingen Kerr, Beffah, Just Fearless, and Belalol. Special thanks go to Wilhelm Arcturus for graciously providing many of the excellent images of the war.

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