More than $200,000 worth of virtual space ships have been destroyed in the largest space battle ever to take place inside a video game.

The space conquest simulation 'Eve Online' is known for its highly developed internal economy, political systems and large scale battles, often involving hundreds of players commanding fleets of star ships.

But occasionally these battles reach truly titanic proportions, as alliances of thousands of players combine to battle their hated rivals.

And the results are not just virtual - they have real life consequences. Digital ships inside the game are worth real money, taking many weeks to construct, and when they are blown to pieces in the crossfire they are lost, forever.

Which is why the battle on Tuesday was so devastating.


Above: while Eve produces dramatic screenshots, most players interact with the game via a spreadsheet-like interface

The Verge reports that the conflict involved more than 2,200 players (possibly thousands more) and resulted in the destruction of more than 70 'Titans' (the game's most valuable ship), which were worth as much as $5,500 each.

The war itself began back in October, when the alliance Nulli Secunda forgot to pay rent on a space station in the B-R5RB system, and important area of space. The lapse meant forces from the CFC and RUS alliance were able to take the station away, and the dispute then escalated to the point where both groups deployed their largest battle fleets, and unleashed their frightful laser weapons in all-out cyber war.

The eventual 14-hour battle was reportedly pretty even affair, at first, until the United States' players came online, at which point the CFC alliance was able to turn the tide.

This is how the battle really looked to players

One Eve Online news site said:

"At this point, the battle became less of a fight, more of a slaughter. The CFC continues to work their way through titan kills, and plans to do so until downtime, moving on to supercarriers if they run out. Both sides have lost an incredible number of dreadnaughts, and the price of Tritanium has been creeping upwards, anticipating the flurry of industrial production to come."

Interestingly, the battle involved so much complex maths that the final results are still being established. But the monstrous scale is unprecedented - the deadliest in-game battle prior to this (which, coincidentally, occurred almost exactly a year ago) saw just 12 titans destroyed, compared to at least 75.

Eve Online spokesperson Ned Coker told Eurogamer that the battle was the realisation of everything that Eve Online players enjoyed about the game:

"It dwarfs any other online PVP fight in terms of scale and sheer destruction. And while it was only one battle of a month's long war that's raged across the universe, it was as bloody as can be and oh so satisfying, even to some degree to the losing side.

"These 'butterfly effect' moments are why we make the game the way we do - where actions of players drive the experience from a humble, initial unpaid sovereignty bill through the frenzied first assault, upon waves of propaganda, beneath the burning touch of doomsday weapons, under marathon fleet commanding and back out again to a starfield littered with wrecks.

"It's a good day to be an Eve player."

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