In 2014, an Eve Online player by the name of Vily was a fleet commander for one of the most powerful groups in the game. After helping to lead thousands of other players on successful campaigns across the virtual galaxy, he informed his in-game boss that he needed to step away for a real-world military deployment. When he returned just a few months later, Vily learned that he had effectively been laid off.
“When I came back,” Vily told Polygon during an interview last week, “they were like, ‘No, we don’t really need you anymore.’ So I said, ‘All right. If you’re going to ignore the contributions I’ve made over these four or five years, I’ll go do something else somewhere else. And I’ll enjoy tearing you down, if that’s the game you want to play.’”
Five years later, Vily is a fleet commander once more. This time he’s in charge of one of the most massive fleets in gaming history. Tens of thousands of player-owned accounts have rallied to his flag. The target of his virtual conquest? None other than his former employer, the notorious Alex “The Mittani” Gianturco.
Multiple sources inside and outside the conflict tell Polygon that the pieces are in place for an epic confrontation, one that could spell the end of Goonswarm — one of the most powerful factions in Eve Online.
The Casino War
Eve Online is a complex, massively multiplayer spacefaring game that first launched in 2003. Developed by Iceland-based CCP Games, it’s unusual for a number of reasons. Virtually everything in the game world — every bullet, every starship, and every industrial outpost — is created and owned by players. So when player-led factions go to war against each other, the destruction they cause has tangible consequences. Eve is also unique in that the entire world comes together on the same server (excluding some players in China). Eve regularly makes headlines for the size and scope of its battles.
New Eden, as the galaxy of Eve Online is known, has enjoyed a period of relative peace and prosperity since 2016. That’s when World War Bee, also referred to as The Casino War, came to a close. That conflict was fueled artificially by external gambling websites, which funneled massive amounts of in-game currency into a galaxy-spanning war. Once those websites — and many of the players who owned them — were banished from the game, things more or less calmed down.
As David “Matterall” Mora, host of the Talking in Stations podcast, puts it, the world of Eve fell into an uneasy peace. The Imperium, led by Gianturco’s Goonswarm, and two other powerful coalitions — Test Alliance Please Ignore and Pandemic Horde — sidelined their battle fleets and began to acquire wealth.
“It’s called ‘empire building,’” Mora said. “That means you build roads, you build industry, you accumulate resources... and you build war machines.”
But the time for building powerful new starships has come to a close. In late June, Vily — now a leader in Test Alliance — gave notice to his former employer, Gianturco, that their non-invasion pact had come to an end.
Two weeks later, on July 5, he attacked. And he brought Pandemic, as well as a third faction called Fraternity, along with him for the ride.
“He’s essentially Darth Vader looking at the Emperor,” Mora said. “Vily turned on him in order to, in his mind, save the game.”
World War Bee 2
The conflict that has been raging for more than two months is now known as World War Bee 2. On one side is The Imperium, with some 29,000 player accounts all in. On the other side is Vily’s Test Alliance, with his allies at Pandemic Horde and Fraternity, in a massive new coalition named PAPI. Theirs is a formidable force, with a reported 1,000 super capital starships and 52,000 player-owned accounts involved in the fight.
Vily tells Polygon that PAPI’s goal is nothing less than the complete destruction of The Imperium, and the potent group known as Goonswarm that sits at its core.
“When we started this war, we knew that we were fighting this to the end,” Vily told Polygon. “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.”
Of course, Vily knows he won’t be able to remove The Mittani from the game unless Gianturco literally deletes his account. But Vily says he is committed to permanently damaging Gianturco and his faction — potentially enough to cause its members to splinter and break apart into smaller groups.
Gianturco tells Polygon he’s taking the threat seriously.
“These guys have no excuse but to actually attack our real home region,” Gianturco said during an interview last week. Even as he cast aspersions on the attackers, calling them ill-prepared and slow to act, he admitted they represent a danger to The Imperium.
Geographically, Gianturco is being pressed up against the southwestern edge of the Eve galaxy. His fleets hold just a handful of sectors, including some that are hard to defend but which serve as a moat slowing down his enemies. On the other side of the moat is Delve, a region of space that his Goonswarm has held for roughly a decade. There are only a few narrow choke points available to enter the sector, and PAPI is slowly tightening its grip on all of them.
With a powerful enemy at the gates, Gianturco made the decision to call for reinforcements. On Sept. 8 he sent out an email to every player who has ever been a part of Goonswarm since its inception in the early 2000s.
“You knew this day would come; you knew that you would be called,” the email reads. “Only as a last resort; only when it matters most, when the fate of our tribe and the galaxy itself hangs in the balance. The Horn of Goondor, only to be sounded in our darkest hour, when the enemy is at the gates of Fortress Delve and it is time to win or die. [...] There has never been a bigger defensive war in the history of Eve Online, and we’re going win this thing — or lose every last Titan we own in the process.”
To hear Gianturco tell it, the missive is working. Hundreds of players are answering the call, reactivating their accounts and streaming in to bolster his lines. The plan is to hold firm, and force his enemies to commit their forces. The way he describes it, PAPI may as well be sailing into a trap.
“What we are looking to do here, as the defenders,” Gianturco said, “is specifically to force these guys to try to live up to what they told the galaxy they were doing.” The Mittani has been attacked before and lived to tell the tale, and he’s confident that he can do it again.
In fact, when we told him that Vily’s plan was extermination, he just laughed.
If you’re interested in joining the fray, both Vily and Gianturco tell Polygon that now is a great time to jump into Eve Online. If you want to join on with PAPI as an attacker, the best place to get started is by heading to the Pandemic Horde’s official website or their Reddit page. If you’d rather join the defenders in The Imperium, head to the recruitment page for an allied organization known as Karmafleet.