One Weird Trick to Winning EVE—Bittervets Hate Him!Chance Ravinne
It was March 2014, and I was fidgeting nervously, breathing at a troubling rate. A rational onlooker would be baffled—how could the videogame EVE Online elicit such a physiological response? But it wasn’t a case of the (quite understandable) PVP shakes. Hell, it wasn’t even PVE shakes.
It was the game’s character creation screen.
You see, the trailers and player stories of EVE had already convinced me this was a game where reputation mattered; where actions had irrevocable consequences.
So I typed and deleted “WINGSPANTT”—my ubiquitous internet handle—about eight times before finally deciding against it. Who knew if I’d still be subscribed in two months’ time? Would I really want my online identity tied to this (admittedly dashing) avatar?
Much better to start as a nobody, I told myself. And what name could be less notable than Chance Ravinne?
Do As I Say, Not As I Do. But Really, Don’t Do As I Say, Either.
EVE is one of these games where everyone and their awkwardly young and immortal mother has advice on what you should do. There’s this idea that newbies should stick to highsec (or alliance nullsec), mining and running missions for ISK while training the skills that will unlock marginally better mining and ratting ships. Those same advisors will also tell you that mining is boring, ratting is boring, and being a carebear is—you guessed it—boring.
It wasn’t just the career advice that baffled me. Countless blogs pointed out that you can get 80% of a skill’s efficacy out of 20% of its training time, while also listing dozens of skills as “must train to V.” Even Reddit was full of posts telling young pilots “don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose,” and in the same breath, laughing at the lossmails of people who could certainly afford the blingy rides they were losing. Meanwhile, players sat spinning ships of value I could not yet fathom…because they didn’t have the permission of fictional space CEOs to undock virtual internet toys.
None of this made a lick of sense to Chance Ravinne: Professional Nobody. He wasn’t paying a monthly pilot’s license fee to take orders from strangers about when to log on or where he could and couldn’t go. So, with a few days of training and a series of decreasingly ill-fated Imicus frigates, he ventured into the heart of null security space for a career in exploration. Oh, yeah…the camera drones were rolling.
To Boldly Go Where Lots Of People Have Gone Before…
To my knowledge, there isn’t anything particularly special about flying around Geminate, Vale, and Cache while scanning down relic and data sites. Hundreds, if not tens of thousands of other capsuleers have also lost Imicuses, Asteros, and Stratioses running precisely the same gauntlets. But when my YouTube subscriber count skyrocketed from 11,000 to 24,000 and my Evemail inbox brimmed with billions in donations, I had to concede I was doing something of value—even if I had no idea what.
“Dude, your videos are amazing. My friends and I are disbanding our corp…we’re going into exploration!” said one message. “I’m tired of docking up and ship spinning,” said another, “you convinced me to buy a Stratios. Wish me luck.”
I was honestly baffled. Exploration wasn’t some kind of secret EVE niche—hell, there was a career agent dedicated to the profession; and certainly the likes of Star Trek provided enough inspiration to launch space nerds into spooky space, right? I wasn’t particularly good, either; half my videos began or ended with my catastrophic failures, often due to rookie mistakes that nobody over 3.1 million SP would ever make. The only things that separated my videos from anyone else’s, were real-time commentary and distinct lack of ear-shattering dubstep.
But the evidence was there. For reasons I could not understand, EVE players responded to the crazy idea that you could actually have fun jumping into the deep end and, yes, just playing the game. There was no way I could stop now—but with so much momentum, what should I actually do?
Confessions Of A Stealth Bomber Copycat
At a certain point in my EVE career (I believe it was 2 months into the game), I had enough PLEX via newbie referral links to cover my subscription for 10 years. Aside from directly disproving the bittervet assertion that EVE is dying and new players don’t happen, my small fortune emboldened me to put aside money-making to resume my lifelong gaming passion of backstabbing people from the safety of a cloak.
My corpmates and the greater EVE community assured me that Stealth Bombers were a waste of time outside of server-crushing nullsec fleets. “You can’t solo anything in a bomber,” I was told, “and even if you could, you’ll never find targets. Good fucking luck.”
But there was one person who believed in my Stealth Bomber dream—he just didn’t know it. The man was Chessur, and his nefarious blog Confessions of a Stealth Bomber Killer had somehow caught my interest. Over the course of many months, he chronicled how he and a few friends drove countless wormhole residents to tears, one torpedo at a time. He didn’t have a giant fleet; he didn’t even have expensive ships. He just had a whole lotta patience and a strong understanding of how badly a cloak can piss off someone with otherwise overwhelming power.
I really didn’t need any other convincing. Covert ops would be my calling in EVE, and I immediately steered my training into electronic warfare and torpedoes.
The Outcome Was Never Really In Doubt
To my existing YouTube subscribers, the stealth bastard vocation would be of no surprise. I had begun my online exploits as a Spy in Team Fortress 2 before moving on to similarly invisible murdering in Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell multiplayer. If there were any blood still pumping through my cold, murderous heart, it would certainly be invisible.
So while I wasn’t an expert in EVE—I was probably whatever the opposite of an expert was—I knew my way around a proper gank. There’s a certain, sacred approach to the matter, and a special satisfaction that comes from dropping your camouflage and betting everything on an impossibly short window of opportunity. Afterwards, your victim calls you a coward. Onlookers mock you. “Let’s see you win in a fair fight.”
But EVE isn’t about fair fights, is it? It’s about the alliance with the biggest blob. The “solo” PVPer with an off-grid booster alt. It’s about stealing secrets from your moles on the CSM, or pulling the plug on an enemy FC’s internet to win a fight. A covops cloak was just another advantage to leverage.
And leverage it I did. Shortly after manning my first stealth bomber, I had mustered the courage to fly it directly into wormhole space in search of content at the other end of my target painter. Luck was (mostly) on my side, and I quickly stumbled upon Iterons, Epithals, and mining ships in desperate need of explosive ordinance. Why let them down?
Putting The “RP” Back In “MMORPG”
As clumsy as I was during those early days, my followers urged me on. They lived vicariously through my stealth bomber shenanigans, but that was about it. There wasn’t really a way for anyone to join in on my misadventures.
Months prior, I famously told my wife I’d never run an EVE corporation. “It’s so much work,” I said. “And you have all these assets to track and mandatory events that nobody really likes—what’s the point?”
She’d be the first to tell you how excited I was when I came to my insane corporate revelation.
“What if….hold on…what if the corp didn’t have assets? Or events? What if everyone just did their own thing, and uh, they just kinda had stupid bomber fun? Is that crazy?” My eyes begged an answer of her.
“Um, isn’t that why people play games?” She asked. “I mean, do people actually enjoy having strangers tell them how to enjoy in their hobby?” What an innocent, beautiful lamb!
But she was right—games are supposed to be fun. And while the pew-pew element was already entertaining, I figured another layer of roleplaying shtick couldn’t hurt. If playing the role of a faux shipping professional was another tiny reason for someone in my corporation to undock and make our customers satisfied, all the better.
And so, WINGSPAN Delivery Services was born, and within weeks we were drowning in applications. “I just want to deliver torpedoes,” said one would-be bomber pilot. “Chance plz…my father was a milkman, and my mom worked for UPS…plz hire me,” said another. “WINGSPAN, you got me and my friends back into EVE. Now let’s blow shit up, dude!”
The Trick to Winning EVE
It’s been just over a year since Chance Ravinne and his stupid grin were haphazardly launched into the world of New Eden. At the time, he was told new players can’t make a difference, and they’d never catch up to EVE’s decade-old veterans. His future was already assumed: mine, rat, and wait your turn to be space-important. Train up perfect Ishtar skills and maybe, just maybe, he’d be allowed into a fleet.
Now he’s the CEO of one of EVE’s largest and fastest-growing independent corporations. He’s “earned” 300 kills, many of them performed while flying solo and/or whining incomprehensibly into his headset. His exploits have been featured in official EVE trailers and blogs. And, he was elected to the game’s Council of Stellar Management, something he was advised would never be possible for a 1-year character who’s not part of a major coalition voting bloc.
Don’t get me wrong—not everybody commands a preexisting, F-tier YouTube fanbase; not everyone has a wallet funded by the sheer optimism of thousands of new players. So it would make sense if you asked, “WINGSPAN, you can’t seriously think the average newbie can do anything like that?”
Well, I have a simple reply: Who gives a fuck what I think they can do?
My thoughts about their passion won’t stop them from dreaming. My thoughts about their motivations—good or evil—won’t stop them from driving content. My thoughts about a newbro’s ambitions or abilities won’t mean a damn thing when I’m uncloaking directly into an ingenious trap.
You don’t need my permission to get out there and have fun. And you certainly don’t need the permission of the game’s salty, sour bittervets to make your mark in EVE Online.
Your permission is your pilot’s license. The rest is up to you.