The empires of EVE Online have long and bloody histories that, until now, have been played out largely through fictional chronicles and in-character news posts. This week saw conflict erupt in-game between two NPC empires in the Battle for Caldari Prime live event. The neutral CONCORD faction has managed to maintain order between the four main empires of New Eden for decades, but that doesn't stop the Gallente and Caldari factions occasionally violating the peace.
The Caldari were originally part of the Gallente Federation but gained independence in a war lasting almost a hundred years. Following an attack on a Gallente city, a right-wing faction in the Gallente government seized power and ordered the bombing of the Caldari homeworld. Millions of Caldari citizens were evacuated from the homeworld, a planet that has been under dispute ever since. Caldari Prime resides in the Luminaire system and is officially inside Gallente territory, but recent events have seen the tables turn.
In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at the story behind the recent Battle for Caldari Prime, accusations that the event was staged and scripted, and what the future may hold for live events in EVE.
Setting the scene
Decades of cold war began to heat up in the build-up to 2008's Empyrean Age expansion, with the four empires officially going to war through player-run militias in disputed faction warfare zones. As part of the military buildup, the Caldari State launched an offensive in Luminaire and recaptured their ancient homeworld of Caldari Prime. A Leviathan class titan named the Shiigeru was installed in orbit as a measure of mutually assured destruction; should Gallente forces ever try to retake the planet, the Shiigeru would be charged with bombarding Gallente cities on the planet below and killing millions of citizens.
The Battle for Caldari Prime
The Caldari Prime stalemate has lasted for four years despite several attempts by capsuleers to destroy the orbiting titan. Players just couldn't dish out enough damage to break through the titan's immense shield tank without capital ships, and CONCORD blocks capital ships from jumping into any high-security system. This week's event saw a surprise attack on the titan by Gallente Navy forces and capsuleer loyalists, including a fleet of 25 dreadnought class capital ships.
CONCORD representative Odo Koachi intervened in an attempt to keep the peace but was destroyed by the Shiigeru's doomsday weapon. In response, the DED essentially instituted marshal law by globally flagging everyone in the system as a suspect for the duration of the attack. With the added firepower of 25 sieged dreadnoughts and the Shiigeru's doomsday device cooling down, it was only a matter of time before the titan was destroyed and Caldari Prime once again fell under Gallente rule.
Except this time that's not where the story ended. A new tactical element has emerged with the addition of DUST marines to the empires' arsenals. Caldari and Gallente ground troops and mercenaries are fighting ongoing battles right now for control of the planet's surface in DUST 514. It was even reported last night that debris from the Shiigeru appeared to be raining down on the battlefields, and the ship's wreck could be seen smoking on the planet's surface.
Was the event staged?
While it's pretty awesome to see more live events n EVE, this one has actually left a bitter taste in the mouths of some EVE players. It's great to see storyline played out in-game rather than being confined to fictional news articles and forums, but players complained that the event was completely scripted and the outcome decided long before the fight started. Some DUST players reported seeing the burning titan on the planet's surface last week, an error that was quickly corrected but hinted at the upcoming story.
The main point of contention people have is that the event was advertised as something players could influence, but ultimately they couldn't. The odds were firmly stacked in the Gallente's favour, destroyed titan graphics had already been prepared, and large coordinated fleets were unable to get into the system to intervene. During the livestream, the announcers also revealed that the main players in the event were NPC factions and selected EVE alliances who had been pre-arranged to attend. There's definitely a valid argument for saying this event was staged.
What comes next for live events?
The system peaked at 2100 EVE players during the event, with an additional 1700 DUST marines fighting it out on the ground at the same time. CCP was actually forced to lock the stargates and limit event participation just to keep the servers happy. Over a thousand additional people were piled up on the stargates outside the system, annoyed that they couldn't take part in the event. Those who did manage to get through were given the suspect flag immediately, many being killed on sight by gatecamps.
This event probably shouldn't have been advertised as letting players shape EVE's history, but I'd cut the events team some slack as there should be more events on the way and this story really had to work out the way it did. The first Sansha events were equally controlled and experimental, and players quickly took that storyline out of CCP's hands and ran with it. Personally, I'm just happy to see more storylines played out in-game as live events rather than being restricted to news posts nobody reads.
Livestreams for the win!
CCP has been running live events for the past few weeks as part of its Uprising storyline tying EVE into DUST 514, but so far the story has remained fairly invisible to most EVE players. Putting an event inside the game and televising it through a livestream made a huge difference to visibility, and I hope the devs keep that up. My only gripes with the stream were that the commentators weren't briefed on the full backstory behind the event and that the action was viewed from afar rather than up close.
There were also no official DUST cameras showing action on the ground, but developers said they'll have those for future events once they figure out how to make it look good. If these events are to showcase EVE and DUST linking together, CCP really should show realtime bombardments side-by-side. On the livestream, CCP Falcon confirmed that more events will be streamed in future and suggested that live events might even be used to introduce new gameplay elements. Rather than logging in one day to find new ships and modules have been added to the game, the empires might finally have a realistic arms race, or there could be some discovery that prompts the new technology introduction.
Huge events in EVE like the recent 3000-man Battle of Akasai are probably the best marketing for the game you'll ever see, but there's no way to know when or how they'll happen. The Battle for Caldari Prime felt like an attempt to bottle lightning and artificially recreate the stage of a huge battle. Nevertheless, it was great to see events like these played out in-game where some players could attend, and the addition of a livestream was a great idea. Hopefully future events will be able to bring the NPC story to life in the same way but without taking the control out of the hands of players.
Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to email@example.com.