EVE Online factions have been at each others’ throats for ages, but they do occasionally do nice things for each other. Recently, one of these rare awwwww moments happened: the donation of a memorial to player Sean “Vile Rat” Smith, who lost his life in the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi.
The player-controlled factions involved, two of EVE’s largest, have been at war for a very long time. There’s “Goonswarm Federation” (the group that I play with), which is led by its charismatic former spymaster The Mittani, and a group called “DARKNESS.” led by Sort Dragon. Both of these players also serve as heads of state to coalitions of thousands of players: The Imperium and Guardians of the Galaxy, respectively.
For years the two groups have thrown insults at each other, infiltrated and sabotaged one another, and participated in some of the largest wars in the history of gaming. It is hard to imagine the two groups coming together to cooperate on almost anything, but remembering a fallen brother proves to be an exception to the rule
One of EVE’s lead developers announced recently that a permanent monument was being donated by GOTG, to Goonswarm. Sort Dragon had approached The Mittani and CCP Games with the offer of trading the monument, in the memory of Vile Rat. “Vile Rat was to me, a friend, an adversary, and probably the guy who most shaped EVE diplomatically in the entire lifetime of the game,” Sort Dragon told Kotaku.
The recent introduction of these “monuments” into EVE has a convoluted history. In 2005, player-constructed outposts were introduced to EVE Online, permanent space stations that could be built and deployed to forever change the game world. Players could change the names of the stations, although other player groups could capture them. But as the game evolved, the structures evolved with it, and a new type of player-controlled structure called a Citadel was introduced last year.
Originally, this meant that all the older structures would be removed from the game. But later, after players complained about the loss of their work, CCP Games said that the existing structures would instead be replaced with a unique type of Citadel. And furthermore, some important stations would be memorialized in the game with a monument, which would be a permanent fixture in the game and marked with the flag of the group that last owned the station.
Kotaku asked Sort Dragon why he would transfer one of these rare monuments to a group that was his enemy. “I knew that Goons were going to make a play for VFK,” the station in question, Sort Dragon said. In other words, he felt it was likely that Goonswarm Federation would attempt to attack GOTG to take control of the station before it became a monument. “VFK was their home, it was their Alamo, so to speak. One of the turning points in the war was fights that we had in VFK.”
The VFK-IV station and the monument being constructed to memorialize it, was, for a long time, the heart and soul of the Goonswarm Federation Empire. “The Siege of VFK in 2011 was a defining moment in Goonswarm’s history,” Goonswarm leader The Mittani told Kotaku, “a victory against impossible odds when a combined force of our bitter enemies invaded our capital and, for a moment, looked like they would defeat us. Instead, we held, Stalingrad-style.” At the time, Vile Rat was an active player and helped to hold the fort.
Years later, VFK-IV would come under the domain of the Guardians of the Galaxy. “Our relations right now are probably the worst they’ve ever been,” said Sort Dragon. “But, it wasn’t so much for Goons to have the station as it was to remember Vile Rat.”
The full story of Sean “Vile Rat” Smith has been told several times, by Kotaku, by the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and by one of his closest friends, The Mittani. An information management officer with the United States Foreign Service, who tragically lost his life while serving his country, he was also the chief diplomat of Goonswarm Federation, helping to chart the course that the faction has followed for the last six years.
“He had a really really silver tongue, not in a bad way, but he could really get what he wanted,” said Sort Dragon. “Sometimes he was a hard man to say no to.” Even now, years after his passing, the memory of Vile Rat continues affect the game world.
“This is also about an out-of-game memorial for a fallen comrade,” The Mittani said, “so whether we like each other in the game or not doesn’t matter.”