It's being called "The Bloodbath of B-R5RB" - a huge 21-hour long battle that resulted in trillions-worth of damage, drawing in 7,548 people from across the globe and tipping the balance of power in an entire star system. This is the most destructive space battle in human history that laid waste to 70 of the largest behemoth battleships, plus countless thousands of smaller vessels.
But how was such a gargantuan conflict sparked? Somebody forgot to pay a bill.
No, this isn't the plot of the next Star Wars movie, it is an actual event that rumbled inside the virtual universe of EVE Online earlier this week.
ANALYSIS: Huge Space Battle Rumbles Virtual Universe
The massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) of EVE Online is based in the science fiction future of our species. Having been cut off from Earth after venturing into a wormhole that mysteriously opened up in the Solar System, our descendents are forced to eke out an existence in a far-flung and unexplored part of the Cosmos. Only a few survive, but through millennia of technological evolution, our descendents began to thrive, finding their way and exploring "New Eden" in an array of starships that harness warp drive capabilities and cloning technology to cut through vast interstellar distances.
Today, New Eden is filled with tens of thousands of real-world gamers (known in-game as "Capsuleers") who are finding their way in a universe filled with thousands of star systems and countless planets, moons, asteroids and space stations. To survive in New Eden you can follow any open-ended space life you please. From trading to manufacturing to mining to piracy, the universe is your oyster. But then there's the countless organizations, corporations, warring factions and the militia they inspire.
So what went down in B-R5RB, a dead-end star system located in the lawless ("Nullsec") Immensea region of New Eden?
ANALYSIS: Want a Starship? Think Big. Think Really Big
Like many conflicts in the real-world that spiral chaotically out of control after a seemingly innocuous event, "The Bloodbath of B-R5RB" kicked off with the (presumably) accidental non-payment of a bill to New Eden's automated "police force," CONCORD, that registered the sovereignty of B-R5RB. The system had recently been transferred to a player corporation, but, strangely, CONCORD couldn't extract the required funds from the corporation's account. CONCORD immediately dropped its sovereignty, leaving the system up for grabs for any other corporation to claim. This is the spark that started the fire.
Alliances were called in and corporation war machines were mobilized and the whole situation snowballed into the destruction that will go down in the gaming world's history books.
But why, I hear you ask, are we discussing a virtual event that is far more gaming and a lot less about science?
ANALYSIS: Virtual Goods That Cost Big, Real Money