Being attacked by another player and losing your ship in EVE Online hurts, but few understand the pain a player named Lactose Intolerant is feeling right now. Yesterday, he was ambushed by other players while hauling a lifetime's worth of treasure, losing an astonishing 150 billion ISK, EVE Online's in-game currency. But that isn't even the full number: If you take a look at the the kill report, the damages are much higher, with players estimating the total loss to be closer to 500 billion ISK—which is the equivalent of nearly $5,000 USD when converted to EVE subscription time. It's easily one of the most expensive ship kills since EVE Online first launched 16 years ago.
Though we don't yet have the full picture, what we do know is that Lactose Intolerant was flying an Orca, an industrial command ship that's primarily used to support large-scale mining fleets in EVE Online's more resource-rich systems. Due to their enormous cargo bays, Orcas are also frequently seen hauling goods between EVE Online's various trade hubs.
Hauling anything in EVE Online is a risky endeavour. Players often camp along major trade routes scanning the cargo bays of players as they warp into and out of systems using stargates. If they find someone hauling something particularly expensive, they'll quickly rally an attack force to blow it up. Whether or not that expensive loot drops is random, but these pilots will risk it anyway just to punish other careless players.
Up in smoke
In high-sec space, where Lactose Intolerant was killed, players are protected by an omnipotent NPC police force called Concord. But, just like real police, it takes time for Concord to respond to a crime in progress. Assassins exploit the delay by coordinating a fleet of ships that deal extremely high damage in a single volley, destroying their target beforeConcord shows up. Because of that risk, players looking to haul particularly expensive cargo will typically use highly-specialized ships reinforced with mods to make them extremely fast and hard to target. But not Lactose Intolerant.
Though it's not clear exactly what this player was thinking, his Orca was filled with a treasure trove of blueprints that players need in order to craft ships, weapons, and modules. Some blueprints are relatively cheap, but others can be ludicrously expensive—so much so that their value is almost impossible to estimate because they aren't sold through EVE Online's in-game market but rather through special contracts. What's more, blueprints can be upgraded (called researching) to improve how efficiently they craft items, which any serious EVE industrialist will do in order to save money in the long run. This also vastly increases a blueprint's value.
That's why Lactose Intolerant's loss is hard to properly measure. Looking through the nearly 800 lost blueprints, there are dozens whose value isn't properly measured by zKillboard, the website most players rely on to track kills. zKillboard estimates that Lactose Intolerant lost 150 billion ISK (or roughly $1,500), but players on the EVE Online subreddit think the actual value is closer to 500 billion ISK.
Word of Lactose Intolerant's death spread yesterday morning as players struggled to comprehend what had happened—or, more specifically, why someone would haul 500 billion ISK worth of goods in a ship that isn't designed for high-value hauling. Speculation was running rampant, with many players assuming Lactose was a "credit card warrior" who had bought an enormous sum of goods using EVE Online's premium currency (which can be sold to other players for ISK) without properly understanding the risks of playing the game.
That's why a director named Tharvoil in Among Shadows, the corporation that Lactose Intolerant belonged to, created a thread to help shed some light on what happened. "We all agree that how those [blueprints] were hauled were not done safely," Tharvoil wrote. "Looking through Reddit though, I’m seeing multiple people accuse this pilot of being a credit card warrior, calling the pilot flat out dumb among other things. It’s because of that that I’m writing this."
Tharvoil goes on to explain that Lactose Intolerant has been an EVE player for 16 years and is "an older gentleman who can be stubborn and likes to stick to his guns." Lactose's stash of blueprints weren't bought through microtransactions, Tharvoil said, but slowly accrued over his 16 years of playing.
I reached out to Lactose, but he declined to speak about the incident. I'm not sure I'd want to relive that moment, either. But it also makes it hard to understand exactly why he'd taken so much risk. If I had to guess, I'd say that he'd made similarly dangerous trips in the past and made it out alive and wrongly assumed that no one would notice him.
But it's also hard to overstate just how careless this was. As if transporting a lifetime's worth of work in a mining freighter wasn't bad enough, I reached out to Tharvoil directly who explained that Lactose was using autopilot to haul his blueprint stash to its destination. Autopilot slows down certain maneuvers, making your ship much more vulnerable than it would be under direct control. Even more baffling, Lactose was autopiloting through one of the most notoriously dangerous systems in high-sec space—a system that players will happily take long detours just to avoid even while manually flying their ships.
What's tragic, though, is that Tharvoil said the whole reason Lactose was moving his blueprints was to take them to Jita, a major trade hub, so he could make and sell copies to financially support other players in Among Shadows. He was just trying to do something nice.
Tharvoil said that after his loss became public, Lactose resigned from the corporation and quit EVE Online. "At this point, what’s done is done, and there’s no use in complaining over spilled [blueprints]," Tharvoil wrote on Reddit. "We did not punish the pilot for this, as the loss alone is punishment enough. As a result of this though, he has decided to leave the corporation, and most likely EVE as well. We wish him the best of luck in whatever future endeavors he pursues."
If there's one twist of cruel irony in all of this, it's that of the 500 billion ISK that Lactose was hauling, only a paltry 2 billion ISK worth of items weren't destroyed—most of them being the Orca's equipped modules and some random junk. Every single one of those nearly 800 blueprints was destroyed, except for one. Just like that, 16 years of work is gone.