New Eden is burning. Again. An alien invasion has severed the main trade route in EVE Online, forcing out players who operate as industrialists and haulers and leaving others in fear of the rising prices that may follow. It's the latest surprise event orchestrated by EVE developer CCP that shows no part of the galaxy is completely safe.
In Nullsec (lawless) space where the super alliances battle it out for supremacy, there is all-out war. The biggest player group, The Imperium, has grown so big that the rest of Nullsec have decided that it is time to do something about it. They are being attacked by TEST and PanFam, the second and third biggest groups in the game, as well as many smaller ones. High Security (High Sec) players live in relative safety a long way from Nullsec. Although Nullsec occasionally dabble in their affairs, it's usually only when the big kids are throwing a tantrum and want everyone else to suffer, like with the famous burning of Jita in 2012. In High Sec space, the players mine, trade, make things, and more recently, fight off alien invaders.
The alien Triglavian Collective has been attacking systems seemingly at random in High Sec, and players have been given the choice between helping the Triglavians conquer systems or helping EDENCOM to defend them. If a system falls to the Triglavians it effectively loses its security status, which means that players won’t be able to rely on CONCORD, the in-game AI police force, for protection. For a typical High Sec player, the system might as well have been deleted.
Until the recent attack on High Sec's major trade artery, the defending EDENCOM forces had been largely successful. The Triglavians had so far conquered only a few backwater systems that nobody really cares about. But regular PvE players knew something bigger was coming. The Triglavians had favoured systems with blue suns, and had also broadcast their interest in a system called Niarja many months ago. When the attack finally came last week, some players were ready—both to take advantage of a Triglavian victory in Niarja, and to help make it a reality.
The battle for Niarja
High Sec trade is dominated by the system of Jita. Roughly 90 percent of trade is done in Jita and surrounding systems. 9 jumps away is Amarr (for scale, you can loosely think of a jump as taking about 1 minute), by far the biggest of the other trade hubs. As such, an immense amount of traffic moves between the two systems. The route between the two is lined with industrialists constructing their goods, and also gankers who look to kill the haulers who deliver to the industrialists. It is an ecosystem that has been in place for more than 15 years. Between the two is Niarja.
If you want to travel from Amarr to Jita without going through Niarja, it is a whopping 45 jumps. Nobody wants to travel that far. High Sec needs to take Niarja back from the Triglavians to let trade continue as usual. But it's not that simple.
Everyone in EVE is looking for an angle, and the Invasion regulars had the most time to prepare for this. Their belief is that if the route from Amarr to Jita is severed, this will allow new trade hubs to form in the game which be good for everyone—particularly them.
I asked Ashterothi, a lore expert and prominent streamer who currently goes by the title of "CEO of the Kybernauts Clade and Executor of the Convocation of Empyreans"—that’s "leader of the CoE" to you and me—for an alliance opinion on what happened next.
"Niarja's fall was one of my top strategic goals for Invasions Chapter 3. With the fall of Niarja, other secondary trade hubs such as Dodixie can find a new lease of life," Ashterothi said.
As the Triglavians began their assault on Niarja, the early advantage went to the attackers. The players who had been waiting for this moment were largely on that side. But things took a strange turn when members from Nullsec alliance Brave, a group that mainly recruits newer players, turned up in Niarja and joined the defending EDENCOM forces. They helped to stem the Triglavian tide and even began a little pushback.
From that point it's hard to follow exactly what happened, and each side has its own propaganda. You can simulate being an EVE player by choosing who to believe.
According to Imperium News’ The Meta Show, The Imperium sent a small fleet to the system to make sure they understood the situation. Their argument goes that if High Sec thinks it is a big deal, then The Imperium should take a casual look around just in case it matters to them. Seeing that Brave were involved, they took the opposite side—because back in Nullsec space, the two alliances are at war. For several hours the battle over the system was deadlocked.
At this point Vily, the leader of TEST alliance—who work closely with Brave—put out the following message to his members.
This was enough to get some TEST members to fly to Niarja, and EDENCOM again began to gain back ground. Soon, though, rumours began to circulate that Brave needed Niarja not to fall because it would mess up their supply chain logistics. The above message, coupled with the fact that Brave seemed so desperate to defend, convinced the Imperium to send a larger fleet to support the attackers. With their help, the AI Triglavians conquered the system.
Within approximately 36 hours, The Imperium had gone from not caring about the system to changing the geography of EVE forever.
This still wasn't the end of the twists and turns. On stream the next day, RonUSMC—a founding member of TEST—explained that this was all a setup. TEST wanted to flip the system, as they knew that the majority of High Sec wanted it to fall, and he had asked Vily to make the call for help fully knowing that The Imperium would do the work if they thought they were thwarting Brave. He had used the greatest driving force in New Eden to get his work done: Spite.
It is too early to tell what impact the fall of Niarja will have, but for the time being the new geography is going to be a massive pain for players who choose to keep living in the part of High Sec space that's now cut off from Jita. But that's the old EVE motto: "Adapt or die." Southern High Sec players will have to adapt, and the sandbox will evolve as they do.
There is still one unanswered question, which will shape the next few weeks and months in High Sec: What are the Triglavians going to do with Niarja? This is the big payoff for several years of build up, and right now, only CCP knows the answer.
I contacted EVE lore aficionado Uriel Anteovnuecci for his input. "At their core, the Triglavian invasions are a campaign to re-establish a foothold in the cluster they were long ago forced to flee, claiming systems and transmuting entire stars in order to enact some very drastic changes to spacetime to facilitate their full return," he said. "It’s hard to describe how exciting it’s been to be a part of this, and it’s been amazing to see how eager both sides have been to take part."
The official CCP Twitch channel streamed a lot of the event, and this is how the system looks now. The Triglavians are, most definitely, up to something.