Preface: This entry was written December 7, 2010. It was held until today for operational security and is now published as a combination of confession and aspiration toward zen-like enlightenment for New Eden residents familiar with the autopilot feature.
New Eden’s creators have a unique position on opportunistic slaughter. There is no safe zone in New Eden; there are only zones where swift retribution is guaranteed. With that in mind, some of New Eden’s darker denizens take advantage of high security space and the illusion of security it exudes to new or inexperienced residents traveling the space lanes.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about the opportunistic activity affectionately known as suicide ganking. The word ganking ranges in meaning from stealing to killing sometimes expressed with various artificial restrictions on how the stealing or killing happened; but, in EVE is generally accepted to mean destroying a ship that had little or no chance of fighting back (and usually taking the stuff that dropped). The suicide prefix indicates that the instigator has no chance to come out of the scenario with an intact ship.
I generally think of myself as a relatively clean player. That is, I try not to take advantage of pilots who either don’t have enough experience to know better or can’t afford to take the loss I would ordinarily do my best to give them. I spend most of my time in null-security or low-security space where every player has been given a clear warning about the danger of entry. This attitude has kept me from exploring some of the darker aspects. Until now.
With December and the accompanying holiday season as the harbinger of decreased activity across our alliance, members clamored for continuing to honor the Gankmas tradition; this is a celebration which only the blackest of hearts could cherish — and our members have some of the blackest hearts you can imagine. I was loathe to participate at first, but as this was my first Gankmas I was lured by the joyous banter on our comms channel and the words, “it’s one of those things everybody has to try once.”
Gankmas sees our members flocking to a mission hub with nearby pipe systems heading toward a market center. From these locales there are clear points at which to lay an ambush. You might generally think of an ambush as a bevy of cloaked ships waiting to snare the first target that comes along or perhaps a large warp disruption bubble with dozens of heavy assault ships amassed around a gate in null-security space. In high-security space, high-security is the camouflage used to obscure the trap.
There are two facets to the celebration. The first is suicide ganking unwary travelers on a jump gate. The second involves a mass battleship assault on officer-fit mission running pilots flying faction battleships or marauders. Being primarily a sub-battleship pilot, I could really only take part in the first festivity.
So it was with high-security as our cloak that we sat on various gates throughout The Citadel region. We flew well-insured Hurricanes, Brutixes or Thrashers all fit with tech 1 or low meta level modules (low meta level modules are often cheaper than standard tech 1). And we waited.
In general, we readied ourselves to catch ships on autopilot inbound to our gate; this allows between 10 to 30 seconds to scan the ship’s fit and cargo and make a determination as to whether or not the kill will be worthwhile and if our current crew could take it down. Slow ships jumping into the system were also potential targets, but often they were not conveniently located or moved into warp before a decision could be reached about whether to take them or not.
The experience is best described as a lot of chatter about the cargo contents of ships we could not kill (analogous to the ‘big one that got away’ for fishers) interspersed with brief, but adrenaline-filled, moments spotting a suitable target and engaging all weapon systems. These moments are brief because within 15 seconds CONCORD arrives to mete out retribution. I would say justice, but there is no justice in what CONCORD provides; a thrasher worth less than 2 million isk can swiftly ruin a good day for a frigate pilot traveling with valuable cargo.
The brief excitement is quickly followed by chatter about whether the valuable cargo actually dropped (because realistically it’s a fifty-fifty chance) and the drop was successfully scooped (because any passerby can scoop the loot). The experience is much like I imagine it would be to hold a lottery ticket in your hand with the announcer having listed the first 5 of your 6 number picks and waiting for the 6th to be announced.
For some (like me) there is remorse; I wonder if I should return the cargo. But those thoughts are all too quickly replaced with visions of what I might buy with my newly found wealth. Instead, I’ll put out this valuable public service announcement: don’t autopilot if you have valuable cargo; and if you fly a hauler, putting a tank on it may deter small-time operators but it won’t preclude you from being selected as a viable target.
My brief walk on the dark side left me with a much better understanding of how these types of operations function and how they can be avoided. I heartily recommend that any pilot who travels with valuable cargo spend some time flying a frigate with ship and cargo scanners in high-security space. Think about which ships you have enough time to scan and evaluate and examine what kind of ship it is and what it’s doing. The perspective you gain from spending some time in the hunter’s shoes will prevent your hard-earned goodies from appearing on a killboard next time Gankmas rolls around. Or don’t, and keep making my alliance mates rich.