It is with deep regret that we mourn the loss of our friend and fellow EVE Online player, Jeff “BigCountry” Waltman. BigCountry, or BC as he was known to many of us, died suddenly, yet peacefully, on November 1, 2016 in his home at the age of 37.
BC started playing EVE in 2007, and was most recently a member of Sniggerdly in Pandemic Legion. I met him in 2008 when I first began playing and ended up in a nullsec corp known as Abh Empire, a member of Intrepid Crossing alliance. BC left the game for a bit, but returned in 2009 and we met crossed paths again in a small corp that was part of Circle of Two.
From that time until now, he and I were nearly inseparable, with many of those years spent together in the Specter Syndicate corporation where he was a director. We were renters together in Shadow of xXDeathXx, part Persona Non Gratis in the Drone Regions, then joined the CFC as part of Tactical Narcotics Team for three years, followed by short stints in Circle-of-Two and the Bastion. If we weren’t in the same corp together, we were in the same alliance from 2009 until today.
BC and I seemed not only inseparable in terms of where we played the game, but he is also the person that got me into podcasting. BC loved music and maintained quite the “free” collection of songs. So he decided to become a DJ for EVE Radio where he played tunes while offering his own brand of insight in between songs. However, inspired by the likes of fellow DJ FunkyBacon, and our countless hours talking about EVE while mining and ratting, BC thought it would be fun to try our hand at talk radio.
Podcasting was an option, but BC wanted the show to be live and interactive. It was extremely important to him that the show wasn’t just about us, and that real-time listener interaction made for a better conversation. It may seem the norm today, but believe me, in 2011 almost all EVE talk was a one-way street. So began the DJ BigCountry show in 2011, which later became The Open Comms Show in 2015. This weekly show was among the first, if not the first, talk show about EVE to use Twitch for video. At first we broadcast to both EVE Radio and Twitch until making the move to video exclusively when we moved the show to themittani.com in late 2015.
Open Comms is now over five years old, and during that time there were only a handful of weeks where the show didn’t go on. If EVE content was light or we couldn’t get a guest, the show went on. This was entirely the result of BC carrying the weight of hosting the show, not to mention his ability to fill dead air with something. You may not like what he (or we) had to say, but damned if he couldn’t fill the allotted airtime with something.
As I said, I owe being part of the EVE “media” entirely to him. If he didn’t take the initiative to start a show based ultimately on our TeamSpeak conversations about EVE, none of this happens. If he didn’t have the technical proficiency to handle all of the button pushing, none of this happens. I’m not saying that Open Comms set any kind of positive standard or would ever be nominated for a space Emmy, but it turned out far better than we ever expected when it all began. And for that I just want to say clearly: he gets the credit for making it happen in the first place.
Obviously, for those who have been listening long enough or caught wind of a certain bad night, not everything was roses. BC and I had our fair share of arguments, some of which got pretty damned hot. Years ago, before he and I started down this path of producing an EVE talk show, I told BC I’d never have an actual friend in EVE that I couldn’t just walk away from. EVE was just a game and if I ever stopped playing, my game connections would likely go along with it. Understand that I come from a generation before online gaming, before MMOs, before social media and TeamSpeak. The idea of “friends” was something more tangible than someone on the other end of a TeamSpeak connection. Little did I realize how wrong I was when I made that statement. EVE itself is such a social game to begin with, and that results in some close connections being made between the people behind the keyboard. However, in spite of the fact that we never met in person, BC and I spent more hours talking about the game, and just about everything and anything else, than I can possibly calculate. Despite our ups and downs, BC and I were friends. In fact, given the level of interaction over the years, we probably became closer to family than friends. And sometimes shit happens at Christmas dinner after the drinks come out.
Sadly, the last time I spoke to BC was the day of the Open Comms broadcast from EVE Vegas. As many of you know, his health has deteriorated over the last few months and he spent most of the last 2-3 months in bed. That is why he hasn’t been on screen. While we’ve joked about it during shows, there was real concern for him from those of us on the show, as well as a good many listeners. However, I was glad he was able to get himself onscreen for that show. Despite not being able to attend, BC loved the idea of us broadcasting live from Vegas. You don’t know how badly he wanted to go, but circumstances simply weren’t in his favor. In the end, that was not only the last time I spoke to him, but also the last time I was able to see him.
Tonight I received a Skype message from BC’s wife Megan informing me that he had passed away earlier that afternoon. I looked at my phone in shock before rushing to my computer to contact her. Even now, after giving you what is probably a stream of consciousness eulogy, I still can’t believe he’s gone. For a guy who once said I’d never find an actual friend through a video game, I feel like I’ve lost a brother. I’ll never forget him, podcasting won’t be the same for me without him, but more importantly I’ll miss just talking with him.
Fly safe, BigCountry.
Note: BC leaves behind his wife Megan and two young children: 8-year-old daughter Taylor and 6-year-old son Carson. I’ve setup a Gofundme in BC’s name which will pay directly to his wife once she has accepted it on her end. If you were familiar with BC from his time in EVE, or listened to the show, or simply want to help the family of a fallen capsuleer, I ask that you please find it within yourself to make a donation. https://www.gofundme.com/jeff-bigcountry-waltman-fund