What is victory? A pertinent question I asked the webcam as twilight had come for my warmongering, insectoid empire. By the common sense definition, we were not among the victors in this 20+ player, interstellar brawl taking place at an array of computers in Old Windsor, England – the first of its kind involving players outside of Paradox. As with so many great empires, The Loreswarm had undergone a meteoric rise before collapsing into so much space dust. But as the overmind of the chittering masses, I chose to focus on other standards of victory. The mark we left on the galaxy would not soon be erased.
From the beginning, I intended to play the bad boy of our unfolding space opera. I’ve seen too many large multiplayer sessions tick away the years with giant, hugbox alliances providing for silly things like civic development and pan-national goodwill. I was going to stir the pot, hence my creation of a Fanatic Militarist, Collectivist empire of mantis-spider… things with a single-minded desire to cause chaos and destruction for whomever was unlucky enough to border them. That unlucky person turned out to be YouTuber and fellow grand strategy aficionado, Quill18.
The seeds of conflict were sown when Quill and I both tried to build frontier outposts – space stations that extend your border range without having to colonize a planet – in adjacent star systems. Quill’s finished first, claiming not only the system he was after, but also the one I had staked a claim on… when my station was 99 percent complete. Per the rules of Galactic Finders Keepers, I was forced to cancel my station and abandon my designs on the system. For the time being. The Swarm would not take this boorish treading upon our dagger-like leg parts lightly.
In order to make my displeasure known, I renamed the system bordering Quill’s territory “Space Belgium” (a long-running joke from his series of Let’s Plays – suffice to say it was the equivalent of naming it “I Fart In Your General Direction”) and began focusing all of my efforts into seizing unclaimed worlds by the pincer-full to grow our numbers and developing an effective military. Having only played a couple single-player games of Stellaris previously, I had a crazy idea about how to design my warships that I knew would either be ingenious or disastrous. In keeping with the theme of a relentless swarm, I used the in-depth ship designer to load every hardpoint on every vessel with autocannons – extremely short-range kinetic blasters with an absurdly high rate of fire. It was a joy to see my ships drifting ominously into battle, impudent to the oncoming long- and mid-range fire cast upon them, and then unleashing hell once they had closed in for the kill.
Unfortunately, this turned out to be tactically terrible. While my autocannons could eat through Quill’s shields in no time, he had focused his entire military on long-range missiles, allowing him to bombard and bloody my fleet at distance long before we could return fire. When we finally came to blows, with roughly equivalent forces, numbers-wise, the Loreswarm was utterly devastated. Having no back-up plan in the eventuality of such a total defeat, I was forced to eat several tons of space crow and accept vassalization to Quill’s allies… the Blorg. The friendship-loving, repulsive fungus creatures created by Paradox’s own Martin Anward now made us their attack dogs in a galaxy-wide war against an extremely ancient and powerful AI empire, the Caphevad Homeworlds.
Even against the combined might of nearly every player at the event, unfortunately, the Caphevads won a sweeping victory around the ringworld they called home and put all of us organics in our place. The rest of the event would see only further tragedy for the Loreswarm, as Quill-led coalitions forced us to cede more territory in the face of our inability to tech into other weapon groups quickly enough, and allies who were too far away to effectively render aid. By the end, my foreign policy agenda involved continually renaming my empire to pander to observant viewers on Twitch chat: “gg”, “Single Player is Better Anyway”, “The Salt is Real”, “Quill 1v1 Me In Real Life”, and eventually, “The Swarm Will Rise Again”.
And so they shall. But looking back, the Swarm did exactly what they were intended to do. They started some shit. They created a rivalry that was central to the story of the galaxy. They spawned memes that will survive long after all of our civilizations have succumbed to the ravages of time. I mean, I assume so anyway.
So what is victory? For the Loreswarm, victory is naked aggression enacted with impudent disregard for the consequences. Victory is being compared to some of the worst dictators in history by random chat room denizens on the Internet. Victory is still being the prettiest bug at the ball even when your ambitions have been amputated and cauterized. Victory is the Swarm. And #TheSwarmWillRiseAgain.
Also, Quill, we want a rematch. Any time, any channel. Consider this the official throwing of the space gauntlet.