EVE Online had its biggest battle ever last week and now an even bigger one is happening [updated]

In 15 years I’ve never seen anything like this.

Seleene, CEO of Mercenary Coalition

Update: Last week nearly 4,000 pilots fought over a space station in EVE Online. While it wasn't the biggest battle in terms of concurrent players, the fight over the X47L-Q Keepstar citadel saw the most supercapital 'titans' deployed at one time. And now, a week later, players have gathered for the final fight for X47L-Q Keepstar—and it is shaping up to be the biggest, bloodiest battle in EVE Online's entire history.

The above stream courtesy of EVE site Imperium News Network shows the fight as it unfolds—just don't expect much. EVE fights happen incredibly slowly and are prone to network issues. This fight could take upwards of 16 to 24 hours before it resolves completely. Right now, over 5,000 players have piled into the X47L-Q star system to attack or defend the Keepstar citadel owned the player-owned empire Northern Coalition. This is the same Keepstar that was under assault last week but this is now the final phase of a three-week-long operation that could see the Keepstar destroyed entirely. If that happens, defenders Northern Coalition, Pandemic Legion, and their allies will have no where to easily retreat to. That could be disastrous.

Right now, there are supposedly 752 titan ships on the battlefield from both sides. If all of these titans are destroyed, a conservative estimate would be roughly 45 trillion ISK (EVE's in-game currency) in total damages—and that's not counting the inevitable losses from fleets of smaller ships. For context, the most expensive battle in EVE Online's history cost 11 trillion ISK.

Whether damages actually reach that high only time will tell. If one side decides the battle is going poorly they might retreat and, like the now infamous "million dollar battle" from January, this battle will fall short of its devastating potential.

Continue reading the below for crucial details about why EVE players are embroiled in such a cataclysmic war and details about last week's battle.

Original story: EVE Online is in the midst of easily the biggest battle in its entire history right now. In the system of X47L-Q, some 3,500 players have amassed to either attack or defend a Keepstar citadel owned by Northern Coalition. So far, each side has committed a total of almost 400 Titans, the biggest and most expensive ships in EVE Online and the extremely valuable backbone of EVE's mighty armadas. For some perspective, the previous record-holding battle, The Bloodbath of B-R5RB, only saw a total of just over 200 titans. This battle might end up costing both sides a million real-world dollars (if you were to convert it to subscription time) if it doesn't end early. Simply put, this is the fight that EVE Online players have been wanting for years.

"Right now there's 35 titans destroyed, which exceeds any fight other than B-R5RB, and there's a real chance this fight has another 11 hours left in it," Arrendis, a supercarrier pilot and editor at Imperium News Network currently locked in the conflict told me. 

If you care to watch the action (slowly) unfold on Twitch, you can tune into the Imperium News Network's stream, which provides some commentary on what's happening. But battles in EVE Online make for notoriously poor spectating. Right now, the server is buckling under the extreme load of a thousand players fighting around the enormous Keepstar citadel. The action is playing out under Time Dilation (TiDi) which slows EVE Online down so the servers can keep up with the enormous amount of information it has to process. That means each second in EVE Online is actually taking ten seconds to play out. I've reached out to several of the parties involved and have also been told server stability has been a major issue with players disconnecting randomly and others stuck in permanent loading screens. For EVE Online's fabled fleet commanders, it's a logistical nightmare. That said, there's something mind-boggling about watching 3,500 players duke it out over virtual territory in a videogame. And that's exactly what's happening right now.

This battle is just one in several major clashes over the past few months as part of EVE's latest war. Through a complex series of strategic alliances and events, the various player-driven empires of EVE Online have slowly congregated on one of two sides, effectively dividing the entire galaxy between north and south. But, for the first time in years, both of these sides are of roughly equal power and both seem absolutely invested in kicking the shit out of one another—as evidenced by the exorbitant value of the ships committed to the battlefield.

Imperium titans unleash a volley. Credit: osinoots.

As of the time this story was published 35 titans from both sides had been destroyed with the defenders of Northern Coalition, Pandemic Legion, and allies (the North) losing 14 and The Imperium and their allies (the South) losing 21. That's a staggering loss easily in the range of 3 trillion ISK, EVE Online's in-game currency—and it's growing by the minute.

Right now, each side is trading volleys from their titans' ridiculously powerful 'doomsday weapons.' Jin'Taan, a member of EVE Online's democratically elected Council of Stellar Management (a kind of government body that lobbies developer CCP Games on behalf of players) describes it as "giant broadsides."

"This is unreal," Jin'Taan says. He explains that, right now, each side is taking turns slowly picking off titans one at a time. To win, The Imperium and its allies will need to keep trading for kills. While I was writing this story, The Imperium managed to deal enough damage to the Keepstar to "win the objective." But the Keepstar is not destroyed. Due to the complex nature of EVE Online's rules, the Keepstar won't be completely obliterated in this battle but will be put into a final reinforcement stage where, in nearly a week's time, it'll become vulnerable for a final assault. Northern Coalition and its allies don't want that, however, as this Keepstar serves as an incredibly valuable staging system.

Though the main objective of the battle is won, both sides are sticking around to try to deal as much damage as possible to the enemy fleet. I am told by sources on both sides of the conflict that The Imperium likely has an industrial advantage and can easily replace their losses, but neither side wants to suffer serious damage because the Battle of X47L-Q is just the beginning of this war.

Credit: osinoots. 

For the first time in years, both of these sides are of roughly equal power and both seem absolutely invested in kicking the shit out of one another.

"It’s glorious that both sides went all in. In 15 years I’ve never seen anything like this," Seleene, the leader of Mercenary Coalition fighting for the defenders tells me. "There have been fights and standoffs before, but I don't think two big sides have ever committed to battle on this scale in terms of the spaceship hardware put on the field.”

This battle will continue for many more hours and unstable servers mean it could still be anyone's victory even if The Imperium has already won the main objective. But the consequences of this conflict will be felt months into the future. Stay tuned this week as we're working on a comprehensive feature to help catch you up on why EVE Online is on the verge of all-out war.

Steven Messner

With over 7 years of experience with in-depth feature reporting, Steven's mission is to chronicle the fascinating ways that games intersect our lives. Whether it's colossal in-game wars in an MMO, or long-haul truckers who turn to games to protect them from the loneliness of the open road, Steven tries to unearth PC gaming's greatest untold stories. His love of PC gaming started extremely early. Without money to spend, he spent an entire day watching the progress bar on a 25mb download of the Heroes of Might and Magic 2 demo that he then played for at least a hundred hours. It was a good demo.