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April 27, 2012

Nowhere is safe in EVE Online as Goonswarm suicide-bombs galactic trade hub

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Jita is the most populated system in the entire galaxy of EVE Online. It is far from the dangers of null sec, an incredibly safe zone guarded by a deadly NPC police force with impeccable response time. Hundreds of billions of ISK move between players every day as the rich traders and industrial overlords manufacture the goods that fuel the entire game and trade them on the well-protected markets in Jita, the heart of the Empire.

That was before last night. Today, Jita is a chaotic mess, trapped in the middle of an anarchistic suicide bombardment months in the making. We talk to members of Goonswarm, the group behind the attack that’s continuing all weekend, to try to find out what the crazy players of EVE Online are up to this time.

I talked with Goonswarm pilot and former CSM member Zastrow to get the full picture of Goonswarm’s invasion (which the developers have said they will not interfere with). He starts off by telling me, “There’s just something special about building 15,000 spaceships and loading their guns with 1 round of ammo to shoot. And doing it right in front of the police.”

Goonswarm is an infamous alliance of corporations in EVE Online whose public purpose is to grief other players and generally try to break the game. For the past three months, they’ve been planning and building up a suicide squadron of fighters for their next campaig, called “Burn Jita.” Zastrow explains the concept, “These ships were built for the express purpose of getting one shot off and then dying to the police, but killing the target in the process. They’re fit with artillery that has a long reload time but does a lot of damage per shot.

It’s an extremely unconventional tactic for an unconventional military campaign: the Goonswarm’s goal is no less than invading the most protected and populated hub of industry in the galaxy and crushing it. Conquering the most populated system in the galaxy that’s also guarded by the richest players and over-protective NPC police is not a small job. Zastrow tried to explain the scope of the operation to me, “We have hundreds of dudes each with different jobs. Some are cargo-scanning Freighters, looking for the best targets. Others are in the Battlecruiser fleet to blow up the chosen targets. Other fleets include a couple dozen smaller destroyers looking for small but valuable ships to pop, and yet another fleet is in regular combat ships. Instead of suicide-ganking, those ships are fighting off the player-organized fleets trying to stop us.”

40 players just sacrificed their lives and their ships to destroy this freighter.

They launched that campaign last night with hundreds of suicide runs into the system. Their actions have brought complete chaos to the system, destroying millions and millions of ISK worth of ships and goods. “It’s a pretty massively coordinated event,” Zastrow tells me, “Literally thousands of people are involved and the single system [Jita] has like two and a half thousand people in it, with more in the neighboring systems.”

It sounds like chaos, but the Goonswarm is too organized to just be firing randomly. I reached out to Lazarus Telraven (in-game name), one of Goonswarm’s main Fleet Commanders who I met at the EVE Online Fanfest in Iceland last month. He’s in charge of coordinating tactics and movement of the fleet in the middle of combat, and I wanted to hear how things were going.

PCG: Last night, Goonswarm made a strong push into the heart of Empire space. Can you explain what that means and what the significance of that is for those not familiar with EVE?

Lazarus Telraven: In EVE there are 3 market hubs: Rens, Amarr, and Jita. Jita is the largest market/player meeting ground in the entire EVE universe, it typically has roughly 1,500 players in the system at any give time. And right now, [we've formed] a Coalition known as the Deklein Coalition that can field roughly 1,500 guys to cram into the Jita, the biggest market hub in the game to kill Freighters, JumpFreighters, Industrial Ships, Faction Battleships, and basically anything else they deem worthy of destroying.

[Our primary targets] are the people that stock the market with ships modules and other things. For them, it’s as if you just ran this awesome raid instance in Rift or WoW and looted an awesome Bind on Equip purple item. You take it back to town to put it on the auction house, but 100 guys jump you as you walk into the front door and take your item, your clothes (or in this case ship), and send you on your way.

PCG: That’s pretty brutal. So what prompted this attack, and what does Goonswarm hope to gain from it?

LT: The “Burn Jita” campaign has been in the works for roughly 4-5 months now. The idea originated with a member of Goonswarm directorate that goes by the name Aryth. Aryth is the guy that we in the Goons call a super-economist. His first major manipulation was the Oxygen Isotope collapse in which GSF (Goonswarm Federation) paid its members to kill anyone in EVE that was mining Oxygen isotopes (the most widely used isotope in the game), thereby cutting off the supply and causing the price to rise 5 times over, going from 450 a unit to 1500+ a unit.

Goonswarm’s missiles are filled with the tears of carebears.

Once we ended the Oxygen Isotope manipulation, our economists started looking at next viable targets and the “Burn Jita” Campaign is what came of that. The weekend of April the 28th was chosen as the official launch date for the campaign because it’s the first weekend after CCP launched the first part of its Inferno expansion. Inside this first implementation, they changed the Drone Regions where NPC spawns dropped Alloys. Before Alloys were added to the game, the price of minerals was much, much higher. They’ve deprecated significantly since then, but [the Drone Regions] change removed them from the game again, so the cost of ships, modules–practically everything–has just gone up.

With everything costing more to build and with Alloys out of the game, GSF has invaded Jita for the entire weekend to gank as many ships as possible to further drive the market into the ground. The members of GSF were told in advance about our plans and have all pre-purchased billions of ISK worth of minerals at the lower prices available before the patch and now the “Burn Jita” campaign. In other words, anyone that pre-bought minerals is going to make a lot of money off of the inflation caused by this invasion. Lastly, the locals or empire-dwellers [derrogatory term for players afraid of the PvP zones] are very, very frustrated with all of this which adds to the satisfaction

PCG: How many Goonswarm members showed up, and how did you sound the rallying call to get them all online and in system?

LT: Hundreds of people from Goonswarm Federation and the Deklein Coaltion will be in Jita for the entire weekend. We’ve also invited the other hostile entities in Null Sec to come take part in the burning of empire-dwellers. Fleets will be up 24 hours a day. In fact, at this very second we have three fleets up, each of which can hold up to 255 members. All of our allies are allowed onto the GSF Jabber voice-chat server, so we’re able to send out mass notifications for players to log in when more are needed or when anything happens.

All the coordination is worth it when this happens.

An example of the notifications we send out follows:
(3:17:02 PM) directorbot: We have some issues that need addressed now.
Op10 is currently for ganking of freighters
op9 is currently for ganking with thrashers
op8 is currently for ganking of shiny toys
Op7 is currently going to be for anyone that is -10 already and needs special help.

Also we need fleet commander types for op7 people please. If you know how -10 works (op10 does not) then help them gank everything.

SPECIAL RULES FOR THIS OP – If hostile alliances request to join you to jihad with you, they are allowed to join under Pax Conga rules. If a hostile joins a conga, you cannot blow him up. This rule for now applies to Burn Jita, so lets all burn empire together. Thanks :3:
*** This was a broadcast from dabigredboat to all-all, replies are not monitored ***

PCG: Who showed up to defend against you, and how strong of a fight did they put up?

LT: A number of empire entities have issued war declarations against us and have attempted to fight, but so far they’ve only really succeeded in losing their ships due to our sheer strength in numbers.

PCG: At the peak, how many ships were in the battle?

LT: Numbers vary depending on traffic control on the Jita node. So far we peaked at a little over 300 people ganking in Jita, and it’s only Friday. Numbers will pick up on Saturday and Sunday when people are off work.

PCG: Time dilation (which dynamically slows the pace of combat to reduce the impact of lag) was introduced in the last major expansion and has done a pretty good job of keeping lag from spoiling large battles like this. How do you feel it worked in this fight?

Before time dialation, this would not be possible. Before TiDi, as it’s called, these fights would’ve been black screens, where you can’t do anything and you look back an hour later to find that you’re dead. Now, everything works. TiDi is truly amazing and has changed EVE. At one point last night, we hit 10% TiDi—the lowest it is capable of going. Being at 10% TiDi in Jita causes pilots to take roughly 20 minutes to warp across the system, and generally manages the pace of the fight to give the servers time for all of the actions to process and go through.

A recent report shows 3851 ships have been destroyed in Jita in the last 24 hours.

PCG: How did the battle go, and is it still going on now?

LT: So far we’ve ganked roughly 100 billion ISK in freighters, haulers, and other ships. Today is just the first day. The guys attempting to stop us have lost quite a few ships totaling a few billion on its own. 100 billion ISK is roughly $3,600 US Dollars in PLEX, EVE’s 30-day subscription cards that can be sold in-game for 500 million ISK each.

PCG: How many ships were lost, and was it worth it?

LT: So far we’ve killed 8-10 frieghters, 1 Jump Freighter, and countless other ships. Every Freighter or neutral ship that we kill causes every ship that fired on it to be killed by the NPC police called Concord. To give a rough estimate, one Freighter costs us 20-40 ships and a JumpFreighter [worth 17 billion ISK] costs us 35-70 suicide ships.

This video shows [one of my favorite moments] hostiles trying to kill one of our bait battleships. They warp right onto it and our pilot had 8 large Smartbombs onboard, which do massive damage to anything within 7.5km. What you see in the video is all of them exploding as he fires the Smartbombs.

If you want to watch the madness continue to unfold, you can follow the action on any number of livestreams going on over the weekend, and you can watch the kill boards to see just how many ships are being destroyed. And of course, it wouldn’t be a big EVE Online event without someone threatening to stab someone in real life: [adult language in link].

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