― Homer, The Iliad
For the frigate junkies whose names are now read out on that list of bandits and opportunists that graced the killboards and made up the entire culture of Heild solar system during that hazy summer in the middle of YC113, it was more than just a list of names, it was the greatest collection of pilots that had ever rubbed shoulders. A gang of colourful nutjobs, veterans and rookies, superheroes and villains, friends and enemies and everything else in between.
What was it that made this Molden Heath solar system and its plex fighting warriors so special? What was the appeal? One piece of the jigsaw that has to be considered an important factor in its draw and mystique was the actual location of the place. In an odd way it was so far away and yet so close. This may sound bizarre but it was on the edge of a nothingness, a black void of space that stretched south and into unknown dark and murky waters, and to the east somewhere even more distant and alien. In contrast, links to major hubs and the central cluster and the bustling population of New Eden were never more than ten jumps away. But a lot of people just saw Molden Heath as remote, desolate and unwelcoming, and that suited those who lived and visited the place regularly down to an absolute tee.
It's not always easy to appreciate the culture of a place unless you have really lived it, to have breathed it in. Some say you don't know what it is like until you have sucked up a lungful of heavy black smoke as your Rifter hull sits burning and popping in the hangar bay as the adrenaline is still kicking and pumping around your body, and your arms tingle as you take a deep pull of a cigarette, hands shaking from that ultimate of highs. And then it wears off as you ready yourself for your next dose of combat shakes. A drug so accessible and just a few clicks away. Undock. Warp to plex.
Heild could be quiet at times, sometimes you had to let the cleaners in or people would complain about the sticky floors and abandoned hulls all over the place. At these quiet times there was an awkward calm about the place, people would be out roaming, doing 'the loop' or wandering off closer to Amamake with Rifter exhaust ports hot, some would run the plex in the hope of a bit of a bump to their ISK balance. Looking back the ISK wasn't going to make you a rich man but it was always a nice bonus to see those shiny Gistii engines and boosters drop. To a new player just starting out it could be a much needed bank balance boost.
I think the point is Heild just ticked over. It was a home. A building. It had a working population. It had regulars. Special guests. Unwanted types. Chancers. Libertines. Everything really. It was a place with meaning. Farmers were the fox to the hounds of the frigate hull enthusiast. Sometimes a chase and a fight, sometimes cloaks and devious attempts to catch the prey with keys or a successful escape but often the fight over those rooms was an interesting one. It was content, stuff was always happening. It was a ghetto.
It was a great place to cut your teeth in the art of 1v1 dogfighting. You'd get a good picture of who flew what and who put up the good fights and who didn't just from living in and around the place for a while. If you saw that one guy pop up in local who you knew liked to fly his Assault Frigates in and around the plex, and it was just you and him in there then hell yes you knew you was getting a good fight in the next minute or so and one of you would be warping off in a pod soon. Or if there was a Rifter on scan at the plex, you'd undock a Rifter of your own, you'd engage in a Republic Fleet Ammo gunfight and perhaps after the fight you'd receive a killmail and some loot at the end of it, or maybe you'd be the one warping back to station in your pod. Either way I think you had won just by being in that moment.
But the culture really kicked into being on those crazy nights when the Heild boys and girls and the residents of nearby systems all came to the system and pointed their frigate hulls at one place, the beacon, and that was when things would get busy. People will one day sing songs about those nights I am sure, they will write poems and paint paintings about them.
Wild nights. Frigates. Noise. Wrecks. Killmails. Pandemonium. At the same time so beautiful and yet terrifying. Under the lights of the young night for hours sometimes the show would go on deep into the early hours until people collapsed through tiredness or had ran out of hulls. But then those logoffs were replaced with new blood and the cycle would continue and the party would roll on. For me those wild nights best resembled some kind of motorcycle gang meetup in spaceship form. Man, you just had to be there. The quickening of the heart as a grid loads and you're met with flashing red and a short amount of time to decipher what to do as bits of spacejunk hurtle one way and a smoking and broken hull is flung the other, pods escaping and hell-raising and autocannons cutting into the sky and lasers lighting up the black in a backdrop of shimmering colour, drones zipping across the field and just all-out war and thunder and trailblazing.
Yeah it could get good some nights.
It wasn't all perfume and roses though. Sometimes a dedicated gate camp could be the rain to the bonfire. The occasional roaming gang could also be a thorn in the side of a bunch of frigates who were only really prepared for the frenzied activity of blowing each other into little pieces. Or maybe not as some cases proved to be. These guys in their frigates were damned good pilots and a bunch of badly flown cruisers or battlecruisers were never going to be let out in one piece if the locals really got their act together. I guess it depended on the mood of the night.
Then there were the real must-win guys, who were something of a special breed on the Heild visitor scale. Real oddballs, they had a bit of farmer in them and a bit of the cloaky trickiness and ECM villainy in them. Without wanting to name names I think most people will remember those guys who flew racial jammer Thrashers, who would dock up to swap out to the correct racial jammer for your ship before coming back to 'fight' you. Then there were the cloaky Dramiel pilots. They were a strange breed, you could say real visionaries of a future champion prized frigate hull, or perhaps they were just the ultimate example of risk-aversion.
As bad as some of these people were it was a part of the nature of the place and deep down you couldn't really see Heild being what it was without them.
This culture that we tend to 'big up' just doesn't exist any more. It is a sad thought when you think that new players are thrown into essentially a world where they don't know about what the old guard got up to in Heild and similar systems. Now it is all loyalty points and links and enhanced risk-aversion, 'elite' pvp and batphones and hot drops and cloaks and stabs and blobs and wannabes and bad dreams and everything that went against what Heild and the 2/10 complex used to provide.
This is just the story of one system with a small plex and some cool people who lived in it. I am sure there are other groups and individuals still out there, whose eve lifes revolved around a plex system who can somewhat relate. With this in mind I decided to track down some of the players and the movers and shakers of that golden frigate age of almost four years ago and tap into some of their knowledge and memories.
Brink Albosa was a fresh-faced Minmatar pilot when he came straight to Heild from the comfort of high-sec space. Here he relives that first moment of arriving in Molden Heath.
"I wasn't even flashy red yet when I first got to Heild, even against all the advice of my former high-sec griefer friends, I still wanted to go to low-sec. Jumping through the seemingly impenetrable wall of Bosena for the first time was breathtaking."
Brink was a man with a plan.
"I just bought fifty Rifters hours before, and now all the little checkmarks on the fitting window were green I was raring to go."
After a while it seemed Brink was a fully paid up and settled in member of the Heild frigate youth.
"Heild was a crazy place, the 2/10 brought them from all over. Even the famous forum trolls would swing by. In R1FTA, we were always flying like a loose gang, not always even in fleet together. Those little wolfpacks would form up when necessary and if there was nothing else to shoot but each other; we would!
"Tuesday and Friday nights were the formal fleets. I say formal, they were anything but formal, that just meant we were all drinking at the same time. We'd get back to Heild X and stop by the Heild Salad Bar and Grill. Thukker Fire Whiskey and real Vherokior food. It has been a really long time since then."
Doctor Genocide, a veteran pilot of the early Black Rebel Rifter Club days and even long before that, has fond memories of his stint in and around Heild.
"I remember what sticks out about Heild for me was when Sard Caid called you a 'king among men' for bringing a bunch of fired up noobs to PvP right next door to his Gunpoint Diplomacy corp headquarters.
"Heild coincided with the exponential growth of the Black Rebel Rifter Club as a corp and at that time Heild represented a twilight of what for me was the golden age of low-sec frigate PvP, although the enthusiasm of R1FTA made it more of a crescendo!
"It was a time before the proliferation of off-grid links and pirate implants, a time when tech one frigs, dessies, well the Thrasher, faction frigs, 'ceptors and assault frigs could all mix it up 1v1 on the same grid."
Pausing to gather his thoughts, Doc closed with this final evaluation of the frigate scene of the time.
"The Dramiel was still over-powered to the nines, but everyone knew it. The Rifter was the king of tech one frigates but you could still do well in the Incursus and the Punisher.
"The Rifter was the Harley of low-sec and its beauty was its flexibility. Shield tank, 400 plate, cookie 200 and repper. And of all the Rifter fits, one at that time became flavour of the month that really sticks out for me, as I usually remember fits when it comes to timelines in eve, was Sobczynski's 280 arty beast.
"I think it was in Heild local where I saw one of the most memorable eve quotes for me when, CraftyCroc I think it was wrote, 'If it ain't 280, it ain't a lady.'"
Screaming Hayabusa pilot Nogusha admits that he was something of a lost soul before he discovered the wonders of Heild and its surroundings.
"After being accepted into R1FTA I remember making my way over to Heild and its environs and being astounded that there were so many likeminded players.
"I had drifted in and out of the game for years but finally found my place in the form of solo / super small gang frigate combat - I was instantly hooked."
Nogusha summed up what Heild meant to him as a pilot with this wonderful narrative.
"Heild to me was a crucible; a glorious battle arena where masters and aspirants spilled blood in the same mud, spat out their broken teeth, picked out the shrapnel and said with lopsided grins: 'Again?'
"It was the fabled land of the Good Fight.
"The vibe and the culture of that little corner of space is something I fear will never be seen in-game again."
The fabled land of the Good Fight was also a place to blow off some steam from time to time. Aliaksandre recalls a typical good-natured fight he had with the Rifter Drifter pilot Wensley.
"Rifter 1v1 with Wensley in Heild.
"He fit ECM. Still almost killed him."
Arianne Stone recalls more of the relaxed nature of the fights in Heild.
"Heild was a great place. I remember one time Sard was streaming and he took us all on one by one, it was great fun, and as a fairly inexperienced pilot I was bricking it.
"I fought him twice, the first time I would have won if I hadn't burnt out my guns and the second was very close as well, looking back on his side of the fight, had I dove in towards the end I would've won.
"Heild was a perfect place to learn how to solo PvP, the locals were looking for good fights not just easy victories and if any outsider came in and tried to change this then we all ganged up to take them down."
But for every night of streaming and for every novelty ECM Rifter fight there was also the serious side of PvP, as long-serving Black Rebel Rifter Club pilot Maelcum I remembers.
"Not sure who landed initial tackle but Zodiac Black, Angron Vail and myself had a Fleet Stabber next door in Bosena. It's double repped and taking forever to die, but we are breaking him.
"That puppy is almost down when Gunpoint show up with the overkill, they snag the killmail and then pop me for being too slow to leave grid."
On the relationship between R1FTA and Gunpoint Diplomacy, Maelcum added.
"For the newer R1FTA pilots it was definitely like living next door to a big brother; one day he'd buy you booze or let you tag along to a party and the next he'd punch you in the arm because you were there."
Maelcum's final thoughts on his days in Heild.
"The static plex was always a party, we suicided into it like mosquitoes to a zapper. Countless arranged duels, and some nights it'd be a rolling scrum with pilots dying then reshipping and hurrying back to die again.
"Good times, good times."
It is all well and good hearing about life in Heild from the little brother's viewpoint. And so I wanted to hear things from the other side of the fence, from big brother. Sard Caid, who at the time was the leader of Gunpoint Diplomacy, was more than kind enough to offer his thoughts on Heild and the relationship that developed between R1FTA and RANSM.
"Until their closure in late 2012, the static 2/10 DED sites in Molden Heath were a frigate and destroyer proving ground, with broke pilots looking to make a buck, the pirates that exploited the weak, and the gladiators who sought combat, glory and ship kills over the rest.
"While a regular source of content to the lowsec PvP corporations that lived nearby, the relationship that evolved between R1FTA and RANSM was noteworthy.
"Around the time R1FTA was getting situated in mid 2011, RANSM was an established piracy corporation, operating mostly higher SP BC, HAC and BS fleets around Molden Heath and abroad.
"When R1FTA moved to Heild, the most popular of the systems housing static 2/10s, combat between R1FTA and RANSM occurred on a daily, often hourly basis. Young R1FTA pilots would test their meddle against the more experienced RANSM regulars, whom often had a fair bit more ISK in their fits, head or off grid to boot. Engagements were usually sided one way or the other from numbers of pilots, ISK investment or challenges made, but special thing of it all was the ease of access to PvP, regular challenge and good nature of it all.
"A day wouldn't go by without the opportunity to pop into Heild and find one frigate or another idling about, either looking to score Gistii mods or waiting for the next victim. Regardless of the activity in the rest of the region, RANSM pilots would roam over to Heild in their favorite new frigate to do battle with the R1FTA lads.
"I personally had a hangar of dozens of assorted T1, T2, faction frigates and destroyers in Heild to keep things fresh and my opponents guessing."
Sard summed up his Heild memories perfectly by saying.
"To this day, the PvP had in that system with all involved marks a highpoint of my EVE experience."
And I am sure many will echo that sentiment. Like Duke Thunderhorse who at the time lived mostly outside of the region but would sometimes 'commute' into Heild for 'work' and then 'play'.
"Heild... the 2/10 plex... A dingy basement deep within the twisted mind of a madman. A place where social norms were set ablaze and deviants were celebrated with the greatest of fanfare. The poorest capsuleer could become King (or Queen) if they could fight. In Molden Heath friendships were forged in blood and pod goo.
"Although I did live in Illamur for a month or two, I didn't spend a lot of time in the Molden Heath region. I cut my lowsec teeth in Black Rise and found it difficult to leave that area. During the Heild heyday I spent most of my time in Ishomilken, however I did keep a stash of ships and a jump clone in Heild for an occasional vacation.
"I really regret not spending more time in Heild. The time I did spend there is full of great memories. Sometimes nostalgia clouds our minds and we forget the bad times but honestly, I can't think of a single bad time I had in Heild."
Duke ponders some of the fights he had while in Heild.
"Beating Wensley's Rifter with a Merlin was a highlight in my EVE life (Although he did come back and beat me in round two). Fighting Gunpoint at the plex day after day was a blast. There were times when it would get frustrating because it felt like they were "big-leaguing" us, knowing most of us didn't have the ability or the experience to match up with them, but it was always done with good fun in mind. When the big fleet fights ended, and by big I mean maybe 10 people a side, they would always come back looking for 1v1s and 2v2s, etc. I remember dunking Titus' Jag with a Wolf. I never forgot that fight because I looked up to those Gunpoint guys as pilots and Titus always flew blinged out Jags.
"I remember killing Peri Simone when he was a R1FTA applicant, then a few months later going on his first TESF roam. I remember probing down Tawa Suyo while he 1v1d Korvus Falek's blingy Vengeance. Korvus couldn't break Tawa's point and Tawa was out of ammo but trolling Korvus by not letting him go. Korvus kept asking people to help him but we didn't want to break the arranged 1v1. It was kind of funny. I can't forget all the times I died while stuck on the 2/10 acceleration gate before I learned to warp in at 10km.
"I could go on forever, which is saying something for a guy who was rarely around Heild."
That Korvus versus Tawa 'fight' became one of those stories that got passed around the chat channels. One of those that everybody got wind of. I spoke to Korvus about his time in Heild and that fight in particular.
"Once upon a time there was a beacon. Oh, yes a shining beacon in the middle of space. Now, this wasn't some special snowflake beacon; no, no, there were many of them spread throughout many different systems. One of the many similarities between them being that only smaller ships could be accommodated by the tiny acceleration gate that shot you into the deadspace pockets. This alone was the cause of what some would call 'arena fights'.
"These fights were memorable each and every time for those who participated. From small gangs jumping a solo farmer hiding in the 3rd pocket thinking himself safe, to the solo pirate poking in for a chance at some of the spare change that sometimes became available; even the duelists met inside this pocket of non-warpable-to space for honorable 1vs1's.
"The beacon of fights."
Korvus remembers his first real meaningful visit to Heild.
"One of the eventual famous systems is one many people I know have fond memories of performing in: Heild; home of the Black Rebel Rifter Club. My introduction to the Rebels of R1FTA was in a 1v3 where I was ambushed at the beacon. I ended up surviving, two running off after I killed one using nothing more than my assault frigate, the Vengeance. Because of the beacon."
Korvus had a reputation for flying incredibly blinged out Vengeances. He took some criticism for this lavish flying style but it never appeared to bother him. In fact I think Korvus enjoyed the reputation he had obtained. It got him fights, that is for certain, as people tried to crack open his shiny Vengeance.
"Two jumps over from Heild, down in the dead-end, single gate system of Hrober there was another beacon. Here is where I had several fights against a pilot whose name I have forgotten, but fights against their Daredevil has remained in tact. Several times, she ran away. Others, I ran away. Sometimes, I exploded her, sometimes she exploded me. Because of this beacon."
Back to that Korvus versus Tawa episode.
"There was this one time where a Hawk pilot couldn't break my armor repairing, but I couldn't hit him due to his range against my short range rockets. At the time, I was still a bit wet behind the ears, so I was trying to just run away, but he wouldn't let me, nor would he turn off his scram. What a dick, right? Well, it was this fight that I was forced to learn how to slingshot. Eventually, (and I mean a long time, a good 45 minutes to an hour!), I whittled down his shields to uncomfortable levels for him and he ran off, tail tucked between his legs. Because of the beacon.
"All of this, centered around the beacon of the 2/10 DED complex in Heild and the other systems and their beacons."
Crake Gaterau recalls the dwindling days of Heild and how he arrived late to the show and subsequently missed out on the glory days.
"I had read so much about Heild and it ended up being my first destination in my brand new Rifter as a noob. I got one glorious fight at the sun with Tyen when I arrived just to find out minutes later that I had arrived too late to the party. Heild was all but empty and all that I had read about and hoped for was no more."
I had hoped to grab some words from the residents and combatants of the other systems where these beacons of the good fight once shone brightly, but sadly no more. I could only think of one person that was the very definition of what these fighting beacons and the systems they were housed in represented. That man was Kane Rizzel.
I sent out some feelers. I had heard that Kane had gone underground recently.
Eventually a contact representing the murderous figure of Kane granted me access. I punched in my request and waited. I was informed that my request had been granted and I should wait for a response.
Thinking back, and I remember those very early days of roaming around Metropolis and Heimatar with Wensley and we'd always pop into Gusandall in our Rifters just to see Kane in local. Kind of like two kids on their BMX's visiting some haunted house as dusk settles in. Kane at that time was this legendary figure (he still is of course), everyone had read his tales and I imagined that little children had been warned into good behaviour with a threat of a Kane Rizzel under the bed - or similar. I imagined that people would travel from far to jump into Gusandall, take a peek at Kane Rizzel and then quickly jump out again.
A few days later my inbox flashed up. I had been denied a meeting with Kane in person but what I did have was this valuable snippet of what the beacons meant to Kane. Attached was a note.
"I was racking my brain about what to write, but this stood out about my life around the 2/10."
Those times were the best, never forget.