EVE Online has rolled out a challenging new computer-controlled enemy base that reacts to players' strategies with artificial intelligence. A great reward lies at its centre for players able to defeat it, although the first ones to do so weren't able to collect.
On May 17th, CCP introduced a new type of NPC-pirate space station to its spacefaring MMO. The twist is that it can analyse player fleets that attempt to attack it, and use this information to spawn its own fleets in response that are specifically geared to defend against what it sees. If players bring overwhelming firepower in the form of massive capital ships, the AI will spawn its own capital vessels in response. If players bring a fleet of relatively smaller battleships, the AI will spawn hundreds of cruisers to swarm and neutralise the threat.
In addition to this adaptability, the AI is said to react and reposition its fleet in a manner similar to the best human fleet commanders. Blood Raider attack vessels will manoeuvre around the battlefield to cut off logistics and boost vessels, cutting off valuable support to the fleets.
If any players can best this new space station, they will be rewarded with expensive, rare blueprints for the game's new Blood Raider capital class vessels. As only one such facility can ever be active on the live servers at a time, it becomes a hot ticket target, drawing attention from all over the galaxy.
The Red Alliance was the first group of players to attempt to destroy the space station, bringing to bear a fleet of powerful and expensive battleships. But the new AI proved too formidable, making short work of the fleet. News of the battle, along with the location of the hostile station, soon reached far and wide, drawing the attention of several major alliances who turned their focus on the new content.
Next up to bat, The Imperium launched their first assault against the Blood Raiders. Following in their allies' footsteps, they fielded another massive fleet of Battleships to assault the complex and, after a short battle, began to suffer heavy losses and were forced to again follow their allies' footsteps, this time in retreat.
Brains Over Brawn
Having seen two massively powerful and expensive fleets fail to take the station down, Imperium Fleet Commander Jay Amazingness decided the next attempt would employ a radical strategy: Punishers. The Punisher is one of the first ships that anyone playing EVE, even the Free to Play Alpha Clones, are able to fly, requiring little to no in-game experience or skill training. Jay was able to assemble a fleet of hundreds of Imperial pilots, each of them flying a hand-out frigate costing less than the ammunition expended by the previous battleship fleets.
Once arriving at the battlefield, the frigates set themselves into a wide orbit around the complex, each engaging their ship's afterburners and accelerating them to the point that the guns on the Blood Raider reaction vessels could not track them well enough to ever land a hit. The player vessels orbited the space station for well over an hour, completely impervious to its firepower.
Eventually, their low damage guns overwhelmed the shields on the massive structure, causing it to enter a 24 hour reinforcement window. The next day, more entry level frigates poured into the system from The Imperium, and once again, the Blood Raiders were powerless to stop them.
But things in EVE never go so smoothly. During the second battle, pilots from a cheekily-named rival group called Test Alliance Please Ignore were waiting to harass and delay the Imperial fleet's efforts. Flying ships that were superior in every way to the Imperial Punishers, they had no trouble unleashing massive destruction, causing pain and frustration to the Imperial pilots. But the costs of the Punishers being destroyed were so low that the Imperium just continually replaced them, bringing more and more ships to the field without any real concern for their lifespan.
Snatching Defeat From The Jaws of Victory
Test Alliance's interference wasn't purely for the laughs: In the final moments of the space station's life, as the explosions began rocking the structure and it came apart under the constant fire from the Imperium fleet, hot shot Test pilot Hudders warped his ship directly into the wreck of the exploding citadel.
In so doing, Hudders was able to steal the loot that dropped from the massive space station: a one-time use blueprint for making the Blood Raider Titan, the Molok.
It was the first ever of such a blueprint to drop, estimated at well over 100 billion ISK in value. Before he could escape the system, however, he was shot down by the enraged and somewhat embarrassed Imperium fleet. The prized blueprint was destroyed along with his ship.
Still, Hudders became an instant hero inside of the Test Alliance -- and to a lesser extent the rest of the EVE community -- for denying such a valuable prize to The Imperium. However, not all was lost from The Imperium's point of view -- they had outsmarted the new mechanic introduced into the game in under a week, succeeding where others had failed, and began readying their forces for when the second of such complexes spawn.
In addition, they proved that the content could be enjoyed by literally anyone who played EVE, even if they had only been playing for a few hours, as all players had been welcome into its massive Punisher fleet. CCP seemed pleased to see that the new content had caused such a massive reaction from their players. In an in-universe newsreel video they released (above), CCP even made a special nod to the fleet's composition.
The future of the Engineering Complexes is being hotly debated right now, with changes being proposed by players from all sides, hoping to bring further balance to the new system.