Wednesday, August 26, 2009

War Stories: Eve Online - Days of Beta

It was 2003 and I had landed myself an Eve Online beta account. I had always dreamed of being able to play a space sim game with this kind of scope and ruthlessness. Playing Escape Velocity used to whittle away the hours, taking over every planet in the galaxy. Eve was my MMO evolution of this title and I was excited to cause some real havoc.

I was flying a frigate, Executioner class, and was saving up to buy a cruiser. Making money was a bit different back then. The player based economy was still in the works and ships were not cheap. Bear in mind, there were only around sixty different ships back then, so a cruiser was a very powerful ship.

After killing rats and trading goods between regions for god knows how long, I decided that I really needed to get some blood on my hands. I grabbed a couple of buddies, and we all set out to find ourselves someone to kill. None of us have ever used any electronic warfare equipment before, so we read the item descriptions and plugged in some warp scramblers on our flimsy frigates. The use of warp scramblers was all theoretical to us, and we were eager to see if they worked.

I can't remember if the scanner was a game feature in the beta, but we were so newb that we hunted by jumping to different asteroid belts looking for a kill. Eventually we come across a lone Bestower. The whale like cargo ship had parked itself next to some fat asteroids, and was using a single mining laser to slowly fill its cargo hold. I had jumped in by myself and not wanting to scare my target I flew away from him, pretend to be scouting asteroids.

You have to remember that this was beta, and it wasn't too farfetched to find players who had no idea what they were doing. I struck up a conversation with him in local, asking him about his ship and how much money he made mining out here. In the mean time I had another chat window up with my pirate buddies and I told them to warp in one at a time so that we didn't look too suspicious.

I realize that in today's Eve things would have been much different. Any pirate gang who knew what they were doing would have had a tackler pin down the target and then get their buddies to warp in on their location. Either Eve beta didn't support this yet or we just didn't know what we were doing (probably the latter).

As I continued to make small talk with the Bestower pilot, I instructed my buddies to make indirect approaches toward the ship. We all thought he would get spooked and fly out before we got within range of him, but he seemed to be pretty caught up in the conversation. As the range dwindled, my buddies and I started laughing hysterically. The combination of the adrenaline leading up to our first real engagement, and the fact that this guy had no idea what was coming to him was just a bit too much to handle.

Luckily I was able to calm myself enough to give the order to activate our warp jammers when we finally got in range. Sure enough the jamming field appeared, and we took that as a sign that it was working. Our frigates shifted into a tighter orbiting formation and we opened fire. My Executioner's lasers tore into the side of the Bestower. None of us even knew if we had enough fire power to take this thing down, but sure enough his shields started dropping. Not too fast, but fast enough. My heart was pounding, I had no idea if he had backup waiting for him or if the space police were going to pop up and blow me away.

I glanced back at the local chat and noticed that the Bestower pilot was screaming for help. When he realized it wasn't coming, he began throwing ever curse word in existence at us. This guys was pissed, and rightfully so. As I had learned in our little conversation leading up to the engagement, it had taken him two months of mining in a frigate to save up enough money to buy this ship. And our little ragtag group of frigates was about to turn all that work into space wreckage.

After enduring just about every curse word, and treat known to mankind, his Bestower's hull blew apart in an explosion bigger than anything I had seen. The whole screen turned a bluish white and then slowly faded back into the darkness of space. Only his wreckage remained.. and an escape pod witch quickly warped away. Whoops, we had completely forgot about destroying the escape pod. Oh well, at least we got the ship.

We loaded up ever module that had survived the explosion, along with some missiles and what we could carry from his ore. The payout was much larger that any rat kill I had ever gotten. My buddies and I parted ways, not wanting to stick around to find out if our Bestower friend was going to make good on his threats, and come to annihilate us in his cruiser.

When the session ended and I logged off, I reminisced about the fight and about the implications of a virtual universe where there was so much time and effort is at stake with each kill. We had just robbed someone of two months worth of work and had made him really pissed. The griefer in me was basking in these thoughts, while the gamer in me was contemplating how amazingly real the fight felt. Putting everything on the line just for a single kill was truly an eye opening experience.

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