Tuesday, January 28, 2014

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One of the Biggest Battles in MMO History Cost Participants $300K in Real Money -- Here's How

EVEbattle
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Late last night, EVE Online experienced the largest and most spectacular battle in the game's history, and certainly one of the largest conflicts in the history of virtual worlds at large. It's hard to say precisely how many players participated in the conflict in the B-R5RB system, which apparently started because of a missed space-station maintenance payment, but by the looks of images and streams it was in the thousands. By the time the servers went down this morning, approximately 90 of the game's monstrous (and valuable) Titan-class ships had been destroyed, and total losses for those involved were in the neighbourhood of $300,000.

And no, I am not talking about in-game currency.

The scale of this battle and the losses incurred by those involved are hard to fathom if you don't have considerable experience with EVE Online. Ships can take months to build, can be too big for any available hangar, and can carry stockpiles of subscription time to the game itself, among other things. Losing one such ship can equate to losing thousands of U.S. dollars, not to mention the time that went into it.

Suffice it to say this was not your mother's player-versus-player showdown. Here's what I mean:

 

First of all, one of the most important things to know about EVE Online is that the game's economy revolves around both its currency (ISK) and PLEX, its primary commodity. ISK is earned by playing, whether you choose the path of a humble asteroid miner or a ruthless space pirate. PLEX on the other hand is game subscription time which can be purchased either with real-world money or with ISK and then either used, stored in your inventory, or traded with others who may use or store it themselves. It's nearly as good as exchanging cash for ISK directly, which isn't possible otherwise. Even though minerals and other stashable resources are just as vital, PLEX is almost a secondary currency between those looking to turn their real wallets into a source of ISK to fund their virtual ventures and those looking to pay for their game time without ever handing a penny over from outside of it.

However, the fact that PLEX is stored means that it can also be destroyed. Nothing is permanent in EVE, and nothing is sacred. Everything from your ship to your inventory to your skills can be completely wiped out if you happen to cross paths with the wrong person at the wrong time.

 

Second, it's important to get an idea of the scale and value of a Titan. In the game's lore, Titans are so large that they are known to disrupt the tides of nearby planets. There's no in-game effect reproducing this, but it's still pretty cool. Titans are currently the largest ships available in EVE, the crown jewels in the fleets the game's player alliances, and they cost billions of ISK in materials as well as a fair number of man-hours to produce. Even with a ship on hand, the skills required of yourself and your crew to pilot it are an entirely different (and equally expensive) matter.

Most players are unlikely to even set eyes on one, and if they do it's from a vastly different perspective than you'll see in images of this most recent battle. As an EVE-playing friend of mine watched the footage from B-R5RB embedded above, he explained, "It's strange to see so many titans at once, to the point that they change the scale of the entire scene. Normally you have a couple hovering over a ton of smaller ships which are still largely the focus of the action." It's the difference between seeing the world through the eyes of the elephant instead of the mouse.

Jump on Contact EVE Ship Losses

When you ask around, it's hard to get an exact figure for how much one of these behemoths will cost you because there are so many different kinds of cost that feed into it, but this 2010 infographic from academically-minded fansite Jump On Contact remains the best visualization of all of that info to date.

It all boils down to this: Last night more than 90 Titans and an unknown number of smaller ships, as well as the contents of their holds and the skills of their crew, were destroyed in a way that is far different than losing a round and some experience points in a normal PVP setting. To understand the true scope of what happened in EVE last night, imagine instead losing that same round... And then losing your car... And that unfinished manuscript you've been putting all your free time into for months.

... 90 times.

If you want to read more about last night's events, don't miss Polygon's coverage here, this incredibly informative thread on Reddit, and of course EVE Online's official Twitter account which has been sharing images and data parsed by the game's developers.

[Update: Eve Online's developers have decided that they will add a permanent ship graveyard at B-R5RB to commemorate the battle. Read more about it, along with more detail and figures from the battle itself, here.]

Mixed reality iris 2013Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times, and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.

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Wolf Baginski

A similar huge battle happened a few years ago.

I don't think it was this big. They said nobody would risk war because of the expense in 1914 Europe. Not a big war.

They were wrong.

Pussycat Catnap

I agree with a comment I saw on one the washingtonpost about this, that got removed:

"White people problems"

The context for which:
Many here pay tier into SL, so we get that video games can cost... but this just seems like a problem that you have to be in a certain world of privilege in order to have...

But basically, those collective masses paid their $300k - $500k (WP says it was $500k) as an entertainment fee over time and collectively - and now they've been served their entertainment piece.

(That's how I approach what I buy in SL too - a transitory fee to be entertained, as whether or not I think I own it, its all going away the day SL closes... so in fact I don't own a bit of it.)
- which is a problem to have, that a person from my roots having is very rare.

Iggy

You want to play a war game, you face the prospect of losing. Nice thing about the 40-year-old war games I play? After a good drubbing, both sides put up the Avalon-Hill counters, fold the map board, and plot our revenge for the next Operation Barbarossa or Battle of Midway, over beers.

But over $3K for a bunch of pixels that go up in a space battle?

Pussycat is right on in quoting the Times commenter about this being a "white people problem." I'll stick to rolling dice and pushing stacks of old cardboard around Guadalcanal.

Pussycat Catnap

Another more "Conservative-Correct" way of stating it is: First Worlder Problem.

These folks have all that wealth and the privilege to be able to throw it around in this manner - and that's not something most of humanity could even dream about caring about.

Kirstenlee

Epic stuff I predict some MASSIVE butthurt in the morning :D

Arcadia Codesmith

If you thought the recurring Second Life drama show was something, it's nothing compared to the drama queens of EVE. Same dynamic, galactic scale.

I enjoyed the game for the time I played, but the epic metagame is too rich for my blood. Even if you don't have real money in it, the amount of sweat equity some players put in is mind-boggling.

Pussycat Catnap

"If you thought the recurring Second Life drama show was something, it's nothing compared to the drama queens of EVE. Same dynamic, galactic scale."

Which is funny as from what I've read EVE is the most male-dominant online game out there. Though LOLs might be worse...

So the notion that 'drama' is 'women gossip / catfighting' slams into a hard wall of facts with things like EVE and LOL. :)

Ciaran Laval

@Pussycat Catnap "Many here pay tier into SL, so we get that video games can cost... but this just seems like a problem that you have to be in a certain world of privilege in order to have..."

If you want to make a comparison then be fair. Let's take that tier for a new Island and one year's worth of use. USD$1,000 setup and USD$295 a month.

The sim lasts, let's say, one year. That's USD$4,245 lost. Maybe this happens to 100 sims in a year, that's USD$424,500 gone.

That's without counting the costs incurred for the content on land and the monies spent by residents.

Your point about this being a whole different level of privilege really doesn't stand up to scrutiny when you bring Second Life into the discussion.

eve player

I was there!

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