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The victim of EVE Online's $5,000 gank says he's struggling with the aftermath

(Image credit: CCP Games)

A few days ago the EVE Online community witnessed a baffling event. A player by the name of Lactose Intolerant was killed in an Orca mining freighter while transporting a ridiculous number of blueprints to one of EVE Online's trade hubs. Almost everything was destroyed. Though no exact estimate of their value can be made, players I've spoken to guess Lactose Intolerant's total loss to be around 500 billion ISK. When converted to EVE Online subscription time it equals nearly $5,000 USD, making it one of the biggest kills in EVE history. In the last seven days alone, the most expensive single kill in EVE was only around 240 billion ISK—and that was for an entire Keepstar, the Death Stars of EVE Online.

What perplexed most players, though, was the situation in which Lactose Intolerant was killed. Transporting nearly 800 blueprints of that value is beyond risky and requires extremely specialized ships that can slip through undetected or are so slippery they're impossible for gankers to pin down. But Lactose was flying a sluggish, 150 million kg Orca, and he was doing it through a star system infamous for being a ganker's paradise.

In my initial report, actual details on what happened were scarce. But since publishing that story both Lactose Intolerant and one of his killers contacted me to help shed some light on a weird, tragic moment of EVE Online. 

A man of industry 

There is no amount of tank you can place on a target that will make you invulnerable. Groups like us will always find more people.

Lactose Intolerant's anonymous killer

Contrary to what some players assumed, Lactose Intolerant didn't use his credit card to buy into his obscene wealth. One of the unique aspects to EVE is the ability to buy subscription time as an in-game item and then trade it to other players for ISK, EVE's currency. But Lactose says that's not how he plays: "Those comments come mostly from younger players that have no idea how or what it takes to gather such a [massive number] of blueprints in the first place. I had been building and selling capital ships at the rate of 28 to 32 a month for a good while, and [I was] always reinvesting profits into more blueprints."

Blueprints are the backbone of industry in EVE Online. In order to craft anything, you first need a 'blueprint original' (or BPO) that specifies the type and volume of resources you need. BPOs can be researched to improve their efficiency and can also be used to make limited-use copies that are sold to other players. That's why his actual loss is way more expensive than what kill reports estimate. That kill report doesn't account for the fact that most (if not all) of Lactose's blueprints were fully researched, vastly increasing their value.

Any self-respecting industrialist in EVE has a treasure trove of blueprints they hoard like a dragon—and Lactose Intolerant's stash was easily one of the biggest. Gradually collected over his 16 years of playing, his little industry empire required three private starbases and four separate accounts to manage.

During the height of his industrial enterprise, Lactose Intolerant says he had around 120 different research jobs running across his three factories. The result was a near-complete set of maxed out blueprints for EVE's biggest and most-used ships, like capital-class carriers and dreadnoughts. Most of those blueprints can be replaced, but Lactose was also in possession of two extremely rare blueprints which are no longer available anywhere in the game. His Eos and Retribution blueprint are so rare that their value is more determined by what collectors are willing to pay, with similar blueprints typically fetching a hundred billion ISK each.

It's hard to imagine what it's like watching all of that disappear in an instant, but, according to one of Lactose's killers, he had it coming.

Third time's a charm 

Lactose Intolerant's reputation for flying carelessly is well known, says one of the pilots who helped kill him. He requested to remain anonymous, so as not to upset anyone in his fleet for potentially giving out sensitive information. "Lactose Intolerant was stubborn and did not care," this anonymous player says. "On at least two other occasions we stopped him in game and would have destroyed him with extremely high-value hauls, but as a practice I often will let someone go to see if they will continue to haul higher amounts."

(Image credit: CCP Games)

But Lactose Intolerant wouldn't stop. Eventually, Aggressively Average, the alliance that orchestrated the kill, decided enough was enough. Once, while hauling 5 billion worth of goods, members from Aggressively Average had set up a gank but called it off when a larger target showed up. "We stopped him another time and were in the process of grouping to destroy him when one of the group disconnected and we had to abort," the anonymous pilot says.

But this third time, however, Aggressively Average were prepared. As I explained in my previous report, ganking in high-security space is a risky endeavour. An NPC police force will show up within seconds to destroy players who attack others, so high-sec gankers field large numbers of ships fitted to deal obscene damage, hoping to destroy their target in one salvo before being destroyed themselves by the cops. Then, a second group of players will swoop in to salvage the wreckage of the kill and take any loot that might've dropped.

What makes a gank successful, then, is very precise math. In my email with Lactose Intolerant, he fired back at players who criticized him for being careless by flying a ship not suited for the job of transporting a lifetime's worth of blueprints. "[My Orca] was fitted for aligning as quickly as possible while still having a tank that lasted long enough to withstand an attack from 17 Tornadoes [the most common ship used for ganking], causing the destruction of most if not all of them by security forces," he says.

But my source within Aggressively Average disagrees: "Making a capital ship align fast isn't something that's feasible," he explains. "And there is no amount of tank you can place on a target that will make you invulnerable. Groups like us will always find more people. It will just take us longer."

To illustrate this, my source used one of EVE Online's third-party tools to run the math, taking into account the defensive modules fitted to Lactose Intolerant's Orca and his own crew's ability to dish out damage. It's complicated stuff, but what he showed me was that with just two pilots, Aggressively Average would've eventually killed the Orca (though likely not before the cops showed up). They had 17.

Third-party programs like this one let players do complex calculations on a ship's performance. (Image credit: CCP Games)

Ultimately, the anonymous pilot from Aggressively Average believes that Lactose was merely being careless. Contrary to initial reports, Lactose wasn't using his Orca's extremely slow autopilot to move between systems but was actually driving the ship, but the anonymous killer points out weird oddities in the Orca's fitting, like the choice to use two stasis webifiers that merely slow enemies down, as areas where Lactose could've vastly increased his chances of survival. 

"In this case," the anonymous pilot says, "the only smart thing to do would have been to be patient, break up the BPO's into smaller packages, place them in unscannable, instant warping ships and fly the route when you knew the pirates were offline."

Lactose himself admits it wasn't the smartest move. "It was a late Monday night and I had some ships I also wanted to move and made the bad decision to use the Orca [which can also haul entire ships] instead of other ships I had available to me," he says.

The silver lining in all of this is that Lactose was moving the blueprints to get rid of them anyway. He says that after being an industrial powerhouse for so long, he was burnt out on it and wanted to move onto something else. He was hauling everything to EVE Online's main trade hub, Jita, to sell it all off and distribute the wealth to his friends in his corporation. But not even Aggressively Average got to benefit from the once-in-a-lifetime kill. All but a few of the Orca's modules were destroyed—500 billion ISK evaporating in the resounding thud of a neutron blaster cannon.

"I would have preferred liquidating the BPOs in another fashion, but look at all the ISK I saved on contract fees," Lactose Intolerant jokes.

Uedama, where Lactose Intolerant was flying, is a notoriously dangerous system that most players avoid. (Image credit: CCP Games)

Life after loss 

I now find myself viewed as an undesirable recruitment prospect by short sighted recruiters who only look at my recent losses and not any of my past achievements.

Lactose Intolerant

In the days since Lactose was ganked, he's become the laughing stock of EVE Online. Multiple threads on the EVE subreddit turned his loss into memes, with players debating how someone could play for so long without adhering to such basic safety protocols. Lactose doesn't have a good answer to that. As someone that has also been destroyed in EVE while doing very stupid things, I can sympathize. But when you've been playing for 16 years ISK starts to become meaningless, Lactose says. "I don’t play to earn ISK anymore," he explains. "I value the social interactions above all."

That's what's hurt the most since his extremely public screw up. Though he wouldn't go into specifics, Lactose indicated he left his corp due to a "lack of support" from one of its directors, making him a pariah in EVE Online. "I now find myself viewed as an undesirable recruitment prospect by short sighted recruiters who only look at my recent losses and not any of my past achievements," he says. "This is the reason why I am now considering if I even want to continue playing anymore."

Though Lactose says some players have reached out to offer financial support or condolences, he's been struggling with the community's reaction to his loss. "I must admit, the next two nights [after the attack] I had a hard time getting any sleep," he says. "I want to continue playing and not give my attacker the satisfaction of running me off. It’s just that the backlash I’ve been getting is hard to take and I hope it subsides soon."

If there's a sliver of hope, it's that there's always some new drama in EVE Online for players to get wrapped up in, and soon most will probably forget and move on.

Steven enjoys nothing more than a long grind, which is precisely why his specialty is on investigative feature reporting on China's PC games scene, weird stories that upset his parents, and MMOs. He's Canadian but can't ice skate. Embarrassing.