Lessons Learned the Hardest Way

Savvy Kneel 2020-03-15

Art by Quendan Comari

In a sandbox environment – particularly one the size of EVE Online – content is what the players make it. There are the massive sov wars, the infamous heists, the political drama … and then, there are the tales that rise above the ordinary and create an entire category of news coverage: “Awful Loss of the Day.”

This past week, EVE saw one of the most awful losses in its history. It may not be the priciest loss ever posted on zKillboard (for example, this one – which we covered here at INN last year – was listed as more valuable). What makes this particular loss especially notable is how very preventable it was.

It all happened on the Uedama gate in Ikao, in the Citadel, six jumps out from Jita. It’s not at all uncommon to see hi-sec ganking occur here; just last week another pilot lost his Charon, and 17 billion in ISK, in precisely the same spot. That’s hardly insignificant, but it pales in comparison to an Orca, gating around in Caldari hi-sec, loaded to the brim with Blueprint originals.

zKillboard rated the scope of the loss at 150 billion ISK. Unofficial estimates note that several of the lost items appear undervalued, and place the true worth much higher. In one of those famous instances where New Eden breaks the fourth wall and attracts real-world gaming press coverage, PC Gamer estimated the Orca’s total value to be around 500 billion ISK, or approximately $5,000 in real-world U.S. Dollars.

The magnitude of this loss is quite simply staggering. A total of 619 BPOs were lost, along with an additional 783 BPCs.

Lost BPOs included blueprints for Rorquals, Obelisks, and various dreadnoughts and carriers, along with assorted capital construction components such as Jump Bridge Arrays, Doomsday weapon mounts, Maintenance Bays, Clone Vat Bays, and so very, very much more. The most expensive individual BPOs, as tabulated by zkillboard, were for the Rorquals. These were valued by zKillboard at just under 3.2 billion ISK each, and there were six of them in the Orca’s hold.

And of those 1,402 Blueprint originals and copies blown out into the void of space through the holes in the Orca’s bulkheads, only a single Anshar BPC was recovered – the rest vaporized in what could very well be the loot fairy’s biggest middle finger in New Eden history.

How Does This Happen?

Speculation on Reddit swirled around whether the pilot, Lactose Intolerant, was a so-called “credit card warrior” who had injected his way into an Orca without knowing how to operate it properly. But the pilot himself clarified to PCGamer in a follow-up article that “those comments come mostly from younger players that have no idea how or what it takes to gather such a [massive number] of blueprints in the first place.” PCGamer also reports that most of the blueprints were fully-researched, making the disparity between their zkillboard valuation and their actual, in-game value even more stark. Lactose Intolerant also noted that, while most of his blueprints are replaceable, Eos and Retribution blueprints are “so rare that their value is more determined by what collectors are willing to pay, with similar blueprints typically fetching a hundred billion ISK each.”

So how do those blueprints end up in the vacuum of space? According to sources in Aggressively Average , the group quoted by PCGamer, “Lactose Intolerant’s reputation for flying carelessly is well known,” says one of his gankers. “On at least two other occasions we stopped him in game and would have destroyed him with extremely high-vale hauls, but as a practice I often will let someone go to see if they will continue to haul higher amounts.”

In this case, that practice seems to have paid off, in spades. Tharviol, one of the corporate directors of Among Shadows (the pilot’s corp at the time of the gank), posted his own thread on Reddit providing some background.

“This pilot has been an off-and-on Eve lifer since 2004, and only recently returned amongst many breaks. The amount of PLEX involved in this was very low, most of the BPOs were just purchased over time through the 16 years he’s played.” Tharviol added, “We all agree that how those BPOs were hauled were not done safely.” However, “he’s an older gentleman, who can be stubborn and likes to stick to his guns.”

Reading between the lines, it sounds as though this pilot was acting against the advice of his corp, and paid very, very dearly for it. Tharviol’s initial draft also referred to the Orca “autopiloting to Uedama.” However, he has since clarified that Lactose Intolerant was not, in fact, on autopilot. Nevertheless, it’s clear that mistakes were made, and this single gank now makes up 3/4 of the negative value on Among Shadows’ all-time killboard.

Other Options

Hindsight being 20/20, it is easy to understand why hauling hundreds of billions of BPOs through hi-sec in a poorly-tanked industrial paints a target the size of a planet on one’s back. But what should one do instead?

Eve University’s Hauling wiki page lists the appropriate hull type for different sorts of hauling jobs in order to minimize risk:

  • Hauling cargo with near-negligible volume: Shuttle or fast frigate (high), Interceptor (low/null)
  • Hauling up to 10,000 m^3 (packaged cruiser) anywhere: Blockade Runner
  • Hauling up to 15,000 m^3 (packaged battlecruiser) in highsec or lowsec: Fast T1 transport
  • Hauling up to 30,000 m^3 (two packaged battlecruisers) in highsec: Bulk T1 transport
  • Hauling up to 50,000 m^3 (packaged battleship) in highsec or lowsec: Deep space transport
  • Large cargo of low value: T1 industrial, deep space transport or Orca
  • Large cargo of medium value: Deep space transport or Orca
  • Large cargo of high value: Blockade runner (even if you may get the job done faster with a DST, getting it there at all is better then not getting it there due to being ganked) or Orca
  • Huge cargo above ~50k m^3 below ~250k m^3 anywhere: Jump freighter (it aligns faster than a Freighter and has more tank)
  • Huge cargo above ~250k m^3: Freighter (requires escort in low and null)

Note that E-Uni does include Orca as a viable transport hull for “large cargo” of low, medium, or high value. However, BPOs are not particularly large cargo. It’s possible that Lactose Intolerant could have considered the 35,761 Crystalline Carbonide Armor Plates too important to leave behind for a second trip, but with the vast majority of his cargo in BPOs and BPCs, which take up miniscule amounts of space, a different hull would definitely have been advised (and, if we’re reading correctly between the lines of Tharviol’s reddit post, very likely was). As PCGamer’s source in Aggressively Average explains, “making a capital ship align fast isn’t something that’s feasible, and there is no amount of tank you can place on a target that will make you invulnerable. Groups like us will always find more people. It will just take us longer.”

Hire it Out

Though very little in EVE is truly “risk free,” the least risky option of all would have been liquefying some of that considerable collection of assets and paying someone else to take on the risk. Many corps have their own hauling services. The Imperium uses Imperial Transcontinental Logistics (ITL), PushX, and other independent haulers. E-Uni has their Campus Shipping Service in-corp, as well as their Out-of-Corp Student Hauling Program. Other corps have their own services, and for those without corporate hauling service available, there are independents services like Red Frog for hi-sec and Black Frog for low or null-sec shipping needs.

“When in doubt,” says ITL CEO Tiberius Xavier, “use professional hauling services and protect yourself with proper collateral.”

“Experience in shipping has taught us prudence when moving high-value cargo,” Xavier adds. “We strive to minimize our risk exposure by limiting our collateral and using the proper ship for the job.”

Ultimately, as anyone who has spent much time in New Eden knows all too well, the one irreplaceable commodity is time. This loss represents the work of 16 years in-game, grinding out the ISK for a literal fortune in blueprints. According to his corp leadership, Lactose Intolerant’s goal was noble – he was providing the blueprints for his corp mates to use. However, his hubris got the better of him.

Lactose Intolerant is now considering whether he even wants to continue in Eve. “I now find myself viewed as an undesirable recruitment prospect by short sighted recruiters who only look at my recent losses and not any of my past achievements,” he told PCGamer. He wants to continue playing, but, he says, “I don’t play to earn ISK anymore. I value the social interactions above all.” However, “the backlash I’ve been getting is hard to take and I hope it subsides soon.”

“Some lessons are learned the hard way,” ITL’s Xavier said. “This preventable loss should serve as a warning for others.” Unfortunately for Lactose Intolerant and his corp, as it so often does in New Eden, that warning comes too late.

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Comments

  • Susurrus Synaesthesia

    Let’s leave Lactose alone now. He’s been berated and punished enough and feels terrible – that much he’s made clear. Shit happens, mistakes were made, things fall apart.

    March 16, 2020 at 3:11 AM
  • Guilford Australis

    This guy has been windmill-dunked for a week over this, but I’m going to agree with a Talking in Stations panelist (Fonsui, I think) on this. Two reasons it’s appropriate to call this out:

    1. This person is a 16-year veteran who never learned how to play the game. Despite running what appears – from zkill evidence – to be a significant mining and industrial operation, which impacts the economic landscape of EVE in major ways, this player did not understand even the basics of the basics about how to manage his own resources. It is imperative that players like this either be weeded out or forced to amend their ways.

    2. We all learn the hard rules of EVE in one of two ways: by example or by experience. We’ve all made dumb mistakes, though few of us have made mistakes as expensive as this one. And most of us know newbros who have lost everything on poorly-conceived hauling ops or other stupid capers. I’d rather point them toward this example than see them quit the game over something they could have learned in their first month before the loss even began to approach this magnitude.

    March 19, 2020 at 12:42 AM