As I noted the other week, the once simmering war in Tribute came to something of a boil recently as Circle-of-Two saw themselves driven out of system after system as NCdot, Pandemic Legion, and assorted allies marched towards their capital in M-OEE8.
CO2 lost their capital on Friday, leaving them with only a couple of systems in the region, plus their holdings in Vale of the Silent, where they have the constellation DMXN-3.
There was some war news the week before last on the Meta Show when guests revealed that Pandemic Legion had decided they did not want to move to M-OEE8 any more, the ostensible reason for the whole conflict. Back in October they were saying how great M-OEE8 would be, now they are not interested.
However, despite that news, NCDot, Pandemic Legion, and their allies planned to continue to prosecute the war, including taking down the Keepstar that CO2 had raised in M-OEE8. CO2 moved their capitals to low sec, within jump range of their Keepstar and the fight for the massive citadel was on.
Killing a citadel takes three attempts. There is the shield timer, the armor timer, and then the final battle to kill the structure. If the attackers fail at any step, it is back to the start again. The attackers did the shield round successfully, and it was time for the armor timer yesterday.
The armor timer was nicely timed as it was set to come out around 19:00, putting it in the Sunday sweet spot between Euro and US time zones, allowing the maximum number of players to pile in on the fight. Of course the Imperium wanted to drop in on the action as well, so an op was set to form up at 17:00 to take the trip north to shoot all the things.
Asher had warned the jacket pals to have Cerberus fleet ships ready to go for the expedition, and when the ping for the fleet finally went out it filled up fast… so fast that a second frigate fleet had to go up to take the overflow. There was a bit of wrangling to get the right people into the fleet, but fleet formation has simplified somewhat since boosting was separated from the fleet hierarchy, rendering the roles of squad commander and wing commander superfluous. (But they are still there just to confuse people.)
Form up actually went smoothly. The Cerberus doctrine ships on contract ran out quickly, but the fleet was not lacking for number. There were a couple of special items we were asked to carry, and a few of us X’d up to fit remote sensor boosters to enhance the targeting abilities of Asher’s Loki FC ship, but nothing big got in our way and we were soon out and in range to the titan atop our own Keepstar and bridging out to the first leg of our journey north.
From the cyno, we had a free burn for a few jumps and then held to group back up again, at which point we were guided to a wormhole.
Boosters and logi went through first, then the ships of the line. But we need not have worried, as the hole was fresh and still looked good after we passed through.
The hole put us in Daras, a low sec system not too far from M-OEE8. We moved along together, then held up at the station in Taisy, the low sec connection to M-OEE8, and docked up for a final set of bio breaks and drink refills.
Once set there, we undocked and warped to the gate. From there we had only to jump to enter the fray. The fray and time dilation and lag and all the issues of a big fight. You could see the point at which you ceased to be in Taisy on the jump and were part of the load on M-OEE8. The warp tunnel itself slowed dramatically as we passed through into the maelstrom.
On the plus side, CCP had clearly been notified that the fight was pending and had reinforced the system. It appeared to be on its own node and not bringing down the surrounding systems. If you were in Taisy, for example, you might not know what was going on next door, aside from the high amount of traffic passing through the system.
On the other side however, the time dilation began.
It actually wasn’t so bad when we landed in the system, hovering in the teens. But the timer hadn’t run down yet, so the shooting had yet to begin, and there were still people piling into the system. Asher warped us to a perch on the Keepstar grid and we could see the forces arrayed about the citadel. And the time came and the universe went to hell. More people piled in. I saw Local go above 4,400, though I tried to keep that window closed as it was both full of the usual spam and processing that text was causing a noticeable drag on frame rate.
The thing with time dilation is that it can slow actions down to as low as 10% of normal speed, but sometimes that is not enough. This was one of those times. When you go beyond that, the system load manifests itself in other fun ways.
Modules fail to activate or deactivate. One of our problems was simply being able to get the fleet to activate missile launchers, launch a volley or two at a target, and then deactivate them in order to switch targets. The launcher modules would site there blinking red at us for ages.
Sometimes user input would just be missed or ignored. At one point I was trying to put missiles on a target but the launcher activated on Asher, who I had locked up in order to use the remote sensor booster on him. I turned them off after one volley, but this is why I ended up on his kill mail. (Along with a couple of other members of fleet running remote sensor boosters on him.)
At one point Asher asked on coms why I was broadcasting “Enemy Spotted!” That is one of the least useful fleet broadcasts, which I turned off ages ago. The default key for that is “Z” in the settings. I have the toggle UI option set to Alt-Z. However, the systems was losing my keyboard inputs (I had to make several attempts each time I toggled the UI) and it was sometimes just catching the “Z” causing me to broadcast. I went and turned that off, but for a bit I was “that guy” in fleet again.
Then there was the UI, which has a good chance of drawing incorrectly in such situations. I totally lost the Route view in the upper left of the screen, which I only noticed when we were leaving. My overview ended up with a couple of ships stuck on it at 0m that simply were not there. And when warping the UI didn’t always match up.
And sometimes the client would just give up. There was a moment when the point defense system on the Keepstar was activated and it was reported that a couple hundred people were knocked offline. I was knocked offline a few times during the fight, including at the point defense activation. The first time it took me 15 minutes to get back into the game. My ship had been warped off to a safe, so I had to wait while it slowly warped back. Fortunately our fleet hadn’t moved too far so I was close enough to catch Asher’s next warp, which got me back in the ball of Cerbs again.
The next time the client gave up, I was back into the game in about five minutes, as I was still in formation, targets still locked, and providing remote sensor booster support to Asher. Great! And then a bit later the ship did its disconnect routine and warped off the a safe and then back to the grid, leaving me off on my own again. Fortunately Asher would slow down every once in a while to let people catch up.
But for all of that, it was an epic battle with sights you do not see every day as multiple fleets of sub caps flew around the grid, dreadnoughts dropped on the citadel, and the defense batteries blazing away.
Somebody even grabbed some video of us swooping through the fight with the Keepstar in the background.
We were there for targets of opportunity, willing to shoot either side in the conflict as they came into range. The only thing we were not there to shoot was the Keepstar itself. Since it was just the armor timer, there would be no kill mail, so we were not inclined to waste missiles helping the attackers. They had plenty of firepower on hand, once they brought it to bear. There was a gap when the repair timer started its 15 minute count down and when the attackers got enough damage onto the citadel to halt it.
But at just shy of the four minutes left mark the damage stopped the clock and there it stayed until the armor was slowly stripped away.
There is a conspiracy theory going about that the Imperium was there to support CO2 and TEST, but it has no basis in reality. Apparently somebody in CO2 temp blued us, which makes sense, because we were not there to shoot the Keepstar, so why bother with us? And still, that didn’t keep them from killing Xenuria.
Our first target was a CO2 machariel, after which we took shots at a PL Typhoon fleet, various bombers that landed in the vicinity, and then a fleet of dreads that dropped on grid for the fight. As it happened, our targets tended to be the attackers, as the defenders were sticking close to the Keepstar while we were hunting out along the periphery.
Then, after the fight had dragged on, the defenders started pulling back, the armor layer looked to be well on its way destruction, Asher had been alpha’d off the field, and it looked like time for us to head home. Corbzilla took over the FC position and tried to get us to the Taisy gate. This ended up taking about half an hour, and not merely because the warp was 104 AU. Several of us had problems just getting the ourselves into warp. I ended up in the strange warping but not warping state which actually moved be about 30 AU and then stopped. Eventually I was disconnected and then had to warp away, then back to the Keepstar (at which point my overview was totally hosed, as it showed nobody on grid with me besides the citadel), and then off to the Taisy gate.
And still I was not the last fleet member through the gate. The fleet was holding on the far side and there was a rush of joy as the slow warp tunnel suddenly sped up and spat me out into low sec. In some ways it was like being able to breathe again.
Corbzilla moved us back to Daras and the wormhole back south. It was still there, so he had the boosters and logi move through first, then gave the word for the rest of jump, but the wormhole collapsed before the whole fleet got through, so some of us had to move through high sec while others had a much shorter ride home. I lucked out and got through the hole.
Of course, nothing is ever easy. An incursion had dropped in the constellation where our wormhole put us, so Plaid Rabbit shepherded us through that until we were clear to fly freely back to our staging.
Approximately six hours after we undocked to get on the titan I docked back up in our Keepstar. It was a long day, though I still had time to put the Christmas lights up on the house afterwards.
I don’t mind a long op like that for an epic fight, but it isn’t something I can do every day. Still, the draw of the fight helped boost the player count past the 50K mark again, though we didn’t pass the high water mark of two weeks ago.
And now we have a six day wait for the final timer on the Keepstar in M-OEE8, which comes out on Saturday. I suspect that the system will see even more people in local as they try to get in, shoot some people, and get on the Keepstar kill mail. We shall see if I can make that. Not sure I have another all day fleet op in me this week though.
For a timeline of events, there is a post up over at Imperium News that has you covered. I haven’t seen any battle reports yet, as zkillboard seems to still be digesting the battle and trying to handle all the people hitting it looking for a battle report. I’ll link whatever else shows up here later.
And, finally, I have a series of screen shots from the battle.