Lowlife: You’ve Got Killmail

Killmails in EVE Online have been a matter of debate since Tranquility opened its doors. The opinions on killmails and killboards are as separated as you would expect from EVE’s dynamic and opinionated community. Some see little or no use for them, others value them above all else, and heated debate is never far behind when these two camps have words. Lowsec residents traditionally have a more positive disposition towards the tally of kills and today’s Lowlife attempts to define why that is.

Killing by the numbers

“It is not titles that honour men, but men that honour titles.” – Niccolo Machiavelli
The most recent public debate on the matter was sparked when SniggWaffe director Apothne brought up some killboard statistics as part of his presentation on the 2014 EVE Fanfest alliance panel (covered at length in Episode 42 of the CZ podcast). The resulting discussions and inevitable (it seems) mudslinging have brought killmails and their use to the forefront again. Killmails lie in somewhat of a gray area of responsibility, as even though the information is provided by CCP, the interpretation lies with the community. Sites such as EVE-kill, zKillboard and BattleClinic aggregate the data in ways they see fit, providing a myriad of ways to interpret the data. Given the competitive nature of EVE it should come as no surprise that players have been comparing each other using these metrics for years. This is where the discussion gets tricky. In themepark MMO’s the rules are often simple, the data ruled on by the game itself and the possible areas of debate controllably small. The sandbox nature of EVE means that the same figures mean one thing to one person, and something completely different to another. The crux lies in the interpretation of the data and the value of that interpretation as a means of comparison between individual players, fleets, corporations, alliances, coalitions and even areas of space. So are we killing by the numbers or are the numbers killing us? That depends on very much on who you ask.

Eye of the beholder

If lines are to be distinguished a few general trends can roughly be made out. In general the people who don’t really care one way or the other come from highsec. The relatively low rate of PvP there makes it less relevant. The majority of those that are in the “KM’s don’t really mean anything” – camp are nullsec residents belonging to large alliances and coalitions, the reason being that their individual efforts are close to irrelevant – success and failure are measured on a much larger scale. Meanwhile, amongst the small gang PvPers of lowsec – predominantly, but elsewhere as well – killboards are generally considered to be meaningful. The reason for this is that lowsec PvPers have a much closer and more personal tie to the information. Using me as a reference for instance, I remember a dozen of us managed to outmaneuver those Ishtars in destroyers and get them down, I know everyone on those killmail personally and I know what actions on an individual level led to that victory. Another kill might be a Firetail where I recall the three of us that were out that day pulling some insane tactics to separate it from a fleet and get it down. I sometimes like to fondly wander off to my solo killboard and remember the stories and the action that resulted in those pages. Lowlife---Youve-got-killmail_layout_art In the grand scheme of things these kills, and those like them, don’t matter until you add them up. So the only testament to their individual existence are the killmail and the killboard. Lowsec PvPers often take pride in their killboards because their individual decisions really mattered towards the victory or loss. Killboards have weight and meaning due to this personal connection and are often referenced as proof of one’s mettle.

Reckoning and being recognized

These pilots aren’t bricks in the walls of massive null fleets under the totalitarian command of an FC when ever in combat. They aren’t troops in coalition-level wars that make impressive headlines. Instead they have spent countless hours fine-tuning their fits down to the last point of power grid, understanding the nature of the mechanics that govern combat and most of all honing their capabilities to make individual and decisive calls on the spot. Killmails are singular proof of that dedication, understanding and creativity – it is their mark on the world. To look at it through a different lens; null alliances are nations that measure and place value in the building of empires. Lowsec entities are fighters first and foremost and value combat prowess and cunning above all else. Nullsec pilots take pride in their territory and political power. Lowsec pilots derive glory from their mastery of guerilla warfare and ad-hoc tactics. Both naturally yearn for recognition, and for lowsec that often comes from the killboard.

Killing is just a means of communication

In many ways killmails are the only lasting legacy of a true, dyed in the wool, PvPer. Notches in a stone wall with magnificent stories of boldness, cunning, adrenaline, victory and defeat behind them. A persistent component in the fabric of EVE that it may be tome to cast new eyes on. With Crest we have unprecedented access and I think it’s time we as a community thought of new ways to look at information that better represents the values we wish to promote.
Tags: killboard, killmail, lowlife, lowsec, niden, pvp

About the author


12 year EVE veteran, Snuffed Out scumbag, writer, graphic artist, producer, Editor-in-Chief of Crossing Zebras and the second most influential player in EVE, according to EVE Onion.