By the way, my apologies for a late posting; it seems like getting back into the school routine for the kids just threw off my schedule for the last week or so. I’ll try to be more punctual next time!
Gaming: I’m playing a lot of EVE Online these days. EVE has been around for a while, of course, but I wanted to take a few weeks and really explore some of the gameplay, since it’s the gold standard of “sandbox” style play for a lot of people, and I wanted to educate myself a bit. There is a ton of room for self-directed play that I find really intriguing, but of course the downside is that any player is free to misbehave toward other players in almost any way they want; EVE is not for the faint of heart. Naturally, I’ve been ganked a couple of times, once with such outright malice that I almost quit the game right there.In case you don’t know, to “gank” someone is to kill them in PvP combat. Because EVE is a sandbox, there’s nothing to stop stronger/better equipped players from blasting noobs into space-dust except for the fact that NPC guards may intervene in high-security areas. Anyway, in my really savage ganking, I’d been playing a few weeks, and I’d worked my way up to Cruiser size ships. I took a huge hunk of my money and bought myself a shiny new cruiser, lovingly outfitting it with everything I wanted. On my new ship’s maiden voyage, I set out to try it in an easy little NPC mission… but as I was on my way to the mission locale, I received a chat request from another player.
“Hey, can you help me out?” Zander Killer asks me.
Maybe the name should have been my first clue, but whatever.I hadn’t socialized with other players at all at that point, and I really wanted to see how it worked. Plus, I want to be a good citizen and help where I can. “Um, sure,” I reply. “What do you need?”
“I need some help testing out my new tanking fitting. Can you put some fire on me so I can see how it works?”Okay, that sounded just a wee bit dodgy; I really didn’t want to shoot at another player for any reason. But I was still pretty new to the game, and I could certainly understand the desire to test out a new ship design in a controlled environment where the provider of the firepower could stop and start at your request, or shoot at different ranges, or whatever. “Are you sure?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah, it’s no problem,” Zander Killer replied. “Just come on back to the station.”“Okay, if you say so,” I replied, and went back to the vicinity of the station. There were a surprising number of wrecks floating right by the station, which perhaps should have been another clue. But I hardly knew what a wreck was at that point in my Eve career.
“Now drop a can,” Zander Killer replied.“Drop a can?” I asked. Did I say I was pretty new to the game? It turns out that in order to exchange fire with another player in a high-security system, you have to have a reason to shoot at him, or vice versa. Stealing cargo is a casus belli that the game’s NPC peacekeepers recognize and stand back from, as is self-defense. So, get someone to pick up a cargo container you jettison, and you can shoot at that guy. And once you’re shot at, you can of course shoot back. Zander Killer patiently explained all this to me, and then instructed me in how I could jettison a bit of cargo, which I didn’t know how to do.
“Okay, I guess I’m ready,” I said.“Me too,” said Zander Killer. “Go ahead and shoot!”
So, I shot. I noticed my cruiser guns hardly scratched Zander Killer’s shields. And I noticed that Zander Killer was in a really big ship, too—a battlecruiser at least, maybe even a battleship. “All right,” I told him. “I don’t think I can make a dent in your shields. Your ship is pretty solid.”At that point, Zander Killer opened up on me. In about three seconds of firing he dropped my shields, peeled every ounce of armor off my brand new shiny cruiser, and whacked down through half of my structure points.
“Hey, be careful there!” I told him. “Your ship is REALLY solid.”“Give me 10 million credits or I’ll kill you,” Zander Killer replied.
“Wait, what?” I sputtered.“10 million credits. You’ve got 10 seconds.”
I stared at my screen in dismay. I only had 7 million credits to my name after building that brand new shiny cruiser. I tried to find the button on my screen that would let me warp out of there, or go back into the station, or at least die with my boots on, shooting back for all I was worth. But really, the betrayal was complete: I was so stunned that I couldn’t do anything but stare in dismay.“Asshat!” I finally managed to reply.
“3… 2… 1… bye!” And Zander Killer atomized my brand new shiny cruiser on its maiden voyage, before I’d done anything else with it but leave the damned station. I jumped up from my computer, stomped around the room, and swore like a sailor. My family was quite entertained.Fortunately, the cruiser was insured. But I lost about two-thirds of my wealth in one exchange of fire. Afterwards, I got to thinking about it, trying to figure out why I was so angry that I would’ve shot the man in the kneecap if he’d been in the room with me at that moment. I knew that EVE was an open PvP environment, and that you could be killed at any time by another player. In fact, I’d lost a couple of little ships that way already, with only minor irritation. My previous demises had been pretty impersonal, just players with bigger ships stepping on me when I was a long way out in the wilds, not even a word of greeting first. Tough, but that’s the environment; I knew I was in risky spots both times.
I realized the two things that really pissed me off about the Zander Killer incident were that, first, I’d lost a sexy new ship before I had a chance to do anything at all with it, and more importantly, Zander Killer had gone out of his way to betray and murder a noob who was trying to be a Good Samaritan. That’s not just playing hard—that is sociopathic. To do something like that, you have to enjoy asking for someone’s help, winning their trust, patiently explaining to them the steps they need to take, and then deliberately kneeing them in the balls when they think they’re helping you out. I don’t know who Zander Killer is, but wherever that dude is, he needs to be locked up. That is just vicious.Anyway, I got over my initial impulse to quit the game then and there, and I’ve been having fun playing it since. I’ve heard for years that the EVE community is filled with real charmers, and I received a nasty object lesson. I watch other players now like they’re rattlesnakes, and I check and see if someone’s a total outlaw or not when they’re in my vicinity. I don’t have any real impulse to pay Zander Killer back by going and ganking some other poor noob myself, but I hope that someday I might get good enough at the game to be a pretty serious hunter of outlaws like him.
Oh, and one more thing: I can’t offer anything like the nine-figure bounties that real reprobates in EVE seem to command, and I’m going to have to play the game for months and months to afford a ship that could beat Zander Killer. So, I’ll crowdsource this: If you send me a screen shot of Zander Killer’s capsule exploding or the smoking wreck of his ship, I will commend you as a hero to the worldwide gaming audience and celebrate your achievement here in my blog with a paean to your triumph.Chalk it down as a learning experience.
Politics/Current Events: Eh, I’ll leave this be this time around. I have a couple of axes to grind, but I’m already worked up about the Zander Killer thing and I don’t need to spin any more wheels today.
The Finer Things: Awesome saxophone solos. There is a short but incredible sax solo in Steely Dan’s “Dr. Wu” that I regard as the gold standard of sax solos; stop what you’re doing right now and go listen to it if you don’t know the song. The solo is played by a fellow named Phil Woods, who also played the great sax for Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are.” Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” has a beautiful sax through the whole darned song (the work of Raphael Ravenscroft). And of course many, many Bruce Springsteen songs feature the work of the Big Man, Clarence Clemons—I really like the solos in “She’s the One,” “Born to Run,” and “Rosalita” (not quite a solo, but still fantastic). Just thinking about ‘em makes my brain happy.