There’s a war going on. Unlike the 20-minute conflicts that characterize other multiplayer games, this is a deathmatch that has taken place between fleets of hundreds in a continuous process that has lasted years. It’s one of the most bitterly contested conflicts imaginable, fought by an international cast of veteran space pilots. An entire galaxy is at stake. As a gamer, you probably even know someone who is caught up in it; as many as 20,000 people have fought in its constant battles. This war is the Great War of EVE Online; the largest virtual conflict ever waged.
This war is being fought right now, between two mighty factions, in the outer reaches of EVE space. On the one side we have the mighty Band of Brothers, elite pilots pumped up with power and success. On the other, we have a grand coalition: the Russian players of EVE Online, focused around the Red Alliance, have joined forces with the comic collection of Something Awful forumites known as the GoonSwarm. Something Awful forumites aren’t just there to play EVE. They’re there to maintain a reputation - as the gaming world’s premier jokers and griefers. They’re the lunatic geniuses behind the floating penises in Second Life, the same group that managed to kill their own faction leader in WoW. They’re not playing EVE to win. They are, as one forumite put it, “in it for the lulz”.
The Russians and the Goons created the RedSwarm Federation, an ultimate alliance of hardcore combat pilots and internet griefers. In the space of a year they would become unstoppable. Two years ago, however, Band of Brothers were in the ascendant. They ruled vast swathes of EVE’s 0.0 space. EVE is set up like a giant doughnut. In the centre is high-security space where players are free to go about their business trading, mining and ratting (killing the game’s AI pirate factions for loot) without too much threat from other players. You can shoot at a friend or an enemy, but the AI security forces (Concord) will almost immediately step in; you won’t last long under a sustained barrage from Concord’s lasers.
Player combat thus shifts to the outer ring of EVE, the 0.0 space. In 0.0 space, there are no AI police forces, and no chance of salvation if ambushed. Fights are brutal, and to the victor go the spoils. It’s a dangerous place to be: survival demands tactical planning, and many, many friends. Why venture into such a place? Out of the desire to become rich. 0.0 space is full of vast mineral deposits that can be mined and turned into hard cash. And such space can be owned and claimed; vast space stations deployed that project power, serve as home bases to player fleets and act as a refuge and point of defense. 0.0 space is dangerous, sure, but the risk is worth it.