Eve Online’s yearlong war ends with an epic retreat

Eve Online’s latest player-led war has come to an end, not with a bang but with a cavernous whimper. Those on the offense have turned tail, and the defenders are putting everything they have into running them down.

The massive coalition known as PAPI campaigned for 55 weeks in a quest to destroy The Imperium, led by Alex “The Mittani” Gianturco, before losing the will to fight. Along the way, Eve Online developer CCP Games told Polygon, combatants destroyed more than $3 million worth of in-game ships and virtual infrastructure in the conflict dubbed World War Bee 2.

“This is as real as real talk gets,” said Brave Collective’s Dunk Dinkle in a live address to his fleets, in what amounted to PAPI’s concession speech. “The war is over and we have lost.”

A starship explodes in Delve, The Imperium’s home territory in Eve Online.
Image: Razorien/CCP Games

Things kicked off in the summer of 2020 when, on July 5, war was officially declared. A fleet commander known in-game only as Vily told Polygon at the time that he led some 52,000 player accounts. By the end of the conflict, CCP says that more than 100,000 accounts were involved in one way or another.

“When we started this war, we knew that we were fighting this to the end,” Vily told Polygon at the time. “For us, this is a war of extermination. This is a war to the death. We are aiming for the removal of Mittani and The Imperium from Eve Online. […] We are here to purge them.”

The conflict raged for months before the first big engagement, which took place in October 2020. That’s when some 8,825 accounts logged in for the single largest player-versus-player battle in video game history. But the battle was inconclusive and, just a few months later in January 2021, players once again committed their ships in record numbers. Some 13,700 accounts were poised for battle when Eve itself buckled under the weight and spoiled their plans.

“These numbers are unrivaled,” wrote CCP in a post-mortem at the time, “and unrivaled numbers […] lead to uncharted territories when it comes to performance. Neither side of the war, or CCP, can, could or will be able to predict the server performance in these kinds of situations.”

Wreckage drifts around a jump gate in Delve.
Image: Razorien/CCP Games

That uncertainty continued to expand throughout 2020 and into 2021 as CCP tinkered with the economics of the game behind the scenes. Leaders on both sides say those changes made their work in prosecuting the war more complicated.

“We redid the industry system a little bit,” admitted Peter “CCP Swift” Farrell in an interview with Polygon. (He has previously gone by the handle Elise Randolph in Eve.) “There are more types of things that go into these larger [warships now], including resources in the game that weren’t really utilized that much, as well as others — like other components that have to be harvested from explorers.”


Eve Online is getting crushed by its own success

While players in distant corners of the game who rely on exploration for their fun benefited, replacing the ships that PAPI and The Imperium had brought to bear became increasingly difficult. For these and other reasons, PAPI fleet commanders and players themselves balked at the prospect of launching the final push into enemy space. As its fleets assembled for that offensive, word came that allies all along the front line were pulling out. With their flanks exposed, most of the assembled capsuleers chose to turn and run.

“As I have said before, the war would be decided over morale — not ship battles,” said Dinkle. “The will of our coalition is gone, and so the war is over. The Imperium held strong, did not waver, and outlasted the most ferocious assault ever seen in Eve. I offer an honest congratulations to all The Imperium pilots, and especially their leaders, who kept their community strong and intact over this long year of war. They have proved stronger than the entirety of Eve that pushed against them.”

The Imperium, for its part, refuses to mark the end of hostilities. CCP said it took Gianturco’s forces less than two weeks to regain the territory that they had lost over the last 13 months. Now they are out for revenge.

“You chose this path,” said Gianturco in a fiery livestream on Twitch shortly after PAPI began its withdrawal. “You were given every opportunity to choose a different way. […] My people hunger for vengeance. You have failed and you have failed ugly.”

CCP notes, however, that both sides retain the majority of their most powerful warships. With more daylight between them, expect many months of running, ad hoc battles all over the galaxy of New Eden.

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