How one mistake turned EVE Online’s deadliest hunters into corpses.
Titans are the most majestic things in EVE Online. These colossal spaceships span upwards of 18 kilometers in length and come equipped with devastating‘ doomsday’ weapons that can eviscerate entire fleet sin one fell swoop. They take almost a year of training to fly, cost nearly 100 billion ISK to build, and are the backbone of any major EVE alliance. And Rocket X kills them for a living.
meet Rocket in the media room at EVEOnline’s annual Fanfest in Iceland. For the average EVE player, nearly every minute of this week is spent reuniting with corpmates, drinking beer, and celebrating PC gaming’s dauntingly complex spaceship MMO. But my meeting with Rocket X has a different, more sombre tone. I’m here to talk about one of the most embarrassing moments in his 13-year career as a pilot.
At 26 years old, Rocket has been playing EVE for half of his entire life. He’s a director in one of the game’s most storied alliances, Pandemic Legion, and he personally heads up RekkingCrew, an infamous gang of tenacious and savage Titan killers. Composed of elite pilots from various alliances, RekkingCrew unites them for one purpose: The thrill of the hunt.
“We’re known being one of the most prolific hunting groups in the game,” Rocket says with a proud smile. “The way we look at the game, if we log out and we haven’t ruined someone’s day, then we’ve not had a good day. When you lose one of these ships, it hurts. It’s six or seven hundred pounds of ship. It’s not like you pay a bit of gold in WorldofWarcraft and you get it back. It’s like crashing a car.”
Rocket and his crew play EVE in a way that only a handful of people will ever experience. As Super Capital hunters, he and RekkingCrew don’t fight Titans and their smaller siblings, Supercarriers, head-on. Instead, they track them down, learn everything they can about the pilot in the captain’s chair, and orchestrate elaborate traps that spring so swiftly that, if it weren’t for the couple million tons of floating wreckage left behind, no one would know they were there. “It’s very intensive,” Rocket says. “A lot of it is research, figuring out who someone is, what times they log in, what they do and how they’re likely to react if you present them with a certain scenario.”
Like a virtual Captain Ahab, Rocket hunts EVE’s very own white whales. “It used to be something that hadn’t really been done,” he explains. “Titans and Supercarriers were always viewed as ships owned by large alliances, and you wouldn’t be able to kill them unless you fought that alliance directly. But we set out in 2010 to prove they were as vulnerable as anyone. We transformed it from something that happened occasionally and made it a science.”
He tells me he once tracked a Titan for three years before finally killing it. That dedication to the hunt is what made him one of EVE’s most deadly pilots. To date, Rocket has destroyed 5,482 ships and only lost 39. The value of those destroyed ships is nearly 8 trillion ISK — almost as much as EVE’s largest single battle. Despite this, these aren’t the first things I learn about Rocket. During Fanfest, a friend and fellow EVE player approached me. “I heard you were looking for stories of betrayal?” He said. “Well, I’ve got one that you have to hear.”
The nicked Nyx
It was in December last year when Rocket made a mistake that cost him. Over Christmas, RekkingCrew members scouted a Supercarrier-class ‘Nyx’ inside the shields of an undefended player-owned starbase. Called POSes, these tower-like structures emit a force field where players can camp out safe from the guns of their enemies.
Though cheaper than a Titan, Supercarriers are the second most powerful ships in EVE. Fielding squadrons of deadly automated fighters, they’re a worthy prey. The only problem was that this particular Nyx, which Rocket describes as “a green pancake with holes in it”, was untouchable behind the shields of the starbase. Given that most RekkingCrew members were enjoying the Christmas break, Rocket didn’t think he could muster the numbers needed to crack open the shields. “We just decided to shelf it for the time being,” he explains.
Then something serendipitous happened. One of Rocket’s crew was approached by a character named Boneless Steve, from the nearby Curatores Veritatis Alliance (CVA), requesting an audience. “We’re not particularly hostile to CVA, we’ll shoot them if we get the chance, but we have nothing against them, so I was like, ‘Okay fine, what’s the deal?’” Rocket explains. “So he says he had this Nyx, and it was stolen from him, and he doesn’t know where it is, but he knows which person took it.” It would be next to impossible to steal the Nyx back, so Boneless Steve wanted it and the thief dead. Just like that, RekkingCrew had all the ingredients they needed to set a trap. While they might lack the firepower to bring the POS shields down, Rocket had a hunch that they could bait the Nyx into leaving its protection with Boneless Steve’s help.
The plan was that Boneless Steve would fly out to the POS in a battleship and begin shooting the shields. A battleship is no threat to a Nyx, but it would appear like Boneless Steve was trying enact some kind of revenge. Rocket bet that the Nyx pilot would fly out beyond the shields to destroy the battleship, leaving RekkingCrew to pounce. It was a plan they had pulled off dozens of times.
But as Rocket should have known by this point, few things in EVE are ever serendipitous.
Bait and tackle
On December 29, RekkingCrew set its trap. One by one, a dozen RekkingCrew pilots logged into multiple characters they would control simultaneously. With just a Nyx on the menu, the team still needed five Nyx Supercarriers and a dozen smaller ships to ‘tackle’ the enemy Nyx using warp disruption modules. And then there was the most important ship of all, a single Battleship-class Vindicator.
Piloting this Vindicator, Rocket would exploit one of EVE’s most unusual gameplay quirks. While ramming an enemy ship does no damage, it can push them off course. It’s a tactic that players have turned into an art that requires masterful piloting. Rocket tells me he was the only one he could trust to get it right.
When you lose one of these ships, it hurts
My stomach dropped out and I froze for a moment
Using his Vindicator, he would repeatedly ram the Nyx, pushing it further from the safety of the POS’s shields each time. Then, when there was no hope of the Supercarrier making an escape, RekkingCrew would then call in the calvary.
But this was RekkingCrew; a little flair is always necessary. The shining gem of the RekkingCrew fleet was its Revenant—one of the rarest ships in the game. These bulbous, alien-like Supercarriers can only be constructed from a rare blueprint that drops from Sansha pirate Motherships that launch invasions on various star systems. Revenants are estimated to cost a whopping 100 billion ISK for the hull alone, and only five have ever been destroyed in EVE’s history.
With the RekkingCrew fleet formed, all it needed was their bait, Boneless Steve. Only he wasn’t ready. He said he needed some more time to prepare. For an hour, RekkingCrew waited.
When Boneless Steve finally arrived, it was without a ship. Frustrated, Rocket gave him one of his own Dominix battleships. Boneless Steve then journeyed out to the system of Hothomouh, where the Nyx was waiting, warped to the starbase, and unleashed hell upon its shields. A cloaked scout in the system spoke up on comms: “The Nyx is moving.”
On Rocket’s orders, the scout lit a cynosural beacon. Several systems away, a RekkingCrew Titan locked onto the beacon and opened a warp bridge through space that the fleet then entered. As the Nyx broke away from the shields and launched a squadron of fighters at Boneless Steve’s Dominix, a portal opened next to it. Led by Rocket in his Vindicator, a small force of cruisers and battleships flooded through. Rocket engaged his thrusters, charged the Nyx, and rammed it just as it began to turn back towards the shields. “Once he was safely off and couldn’t get anywhere, it seemed like an easy kill,” Rocket says, and shrugs.
Here comes the cavalry
A month after talking to Rocket, I manage to track Boneless Steve down. Unsurprisingly, Boneless Steve is a burner character—a decoy account. His real name is Catelyn Stoneheart. The thief who stole the Nyx, named Hy Wanto Destroyer, is a friend of his.
Both are members of Snuffed Out, another alliance that, in its spare time, hunts Supercapital ships. Only they play by a different set of rules. While RekkingCrew often relies on the kindness of strangers, Snuffed Out works from the inside.
“Rocket’s guys walked around EVE like they were untouchable,” Catelyn says. “They needed to be put in check.” So Snuffed Out’s leader, DonnieDarko, decided to hatch a plan.
When Rocket and his team sprung their trap, Boneless Steve and DonnieDarko sprung theirs.
Several hundred kilometers from the POS, the stolen Nyx was as good as dead. Rocket then gave the order, and a second cynosural beacon was lit. Again, the Titan locked onto the beacon and opened a bridge. A second wave of RekkingCrew Supercarriers warped through, led by the Revenant. They locked onto the Nyx, and just then, Rocket saw a third cynosural beacon.
“Is that ours?” Rocket said. And then he got his answer.
A wave of 22 Heavy Interdiction Cruisers exploded through the warp bridge and launched their warp disruption bubbles. In seconds, the RekkingCrew fleet was trapped. Then came the cavalry: 53 Dreadnoughts and 13 Carriers. “My stomach dropped out and I froze for a moment,” Rocket admits. “But as a fleet commander, the worst thing you can do is freeze. You have to keep giving instructions, and even if they’re the wrong ones you have to keep talking.”
But the enemy had brought nearly three times as many guns to the fight. As the Dreadnoughts’ first salvo slashed through each Supercarrier, Rocket spoke up on comms. “There’s nothing I can do, you’re all going to die,” he said. “Just try and kill what you can.”
Ten minutes later it was over. Being in a Vindicator, Rocket was one of the least threatening ships. “I had to sit and watch them die around me, and there was nothing I could do,” he says. “As a fleet commander, that’s horrible.”
Catelyn says that the team’s pilots began lashing out at him, thinking he was a spy. In an ironic twist, Rocket defended him, as he wasn’t convinced that Catelyn was at fault. “It was pretty hilarious,” Catelyn says with a laugh.
But there was more salt to the wound. On his overview window, where ships signatures are arranged so pilots can make better sense of the playing field, Rocket saw the fleet had members from CVA. “That was just another kick in the teeth right there. The alliance we thought we were helping was there to kill us.”
The stolen Nyx wasn’t the target, RekkingCrew was. Rocket tells me only then he realized why Boneless Steve took so long to meet them. He was stalling so Snuffed Out could form its fleet. By then, Boneless Steve had exited their comms and was long gone.
Snuffed Out did more than just deflate one person’s ego, . Rocket confesses that this was RekkingCrew’s “first loss in six years”, and the EVE community took notice. Once the battle was made public, Rocket says his inbox filled with people looking to gloat. More than just wounded pride, Snuffed Out’s trap cost Rocket and his crew a devastating 300 billion ISK. It took some RekkingCrew pilots weeks to rebuild and get back into the captain’s chair of new Supercarriers. The Revenant, which contributed to a third of the total damages, would likely never be replaced. One of RekkingCrew’s Nyx crafts was fitted with expensive ‘Officer’ modules, making it the most expensive Nyx kill in two years. “It’s a huge loss,” Rocket says. “To lose a Super Capital, you’re one of a very select group of people. A lot of my guys are still very bitter about it.”
I ask Rocket what went wrong, and he shrugs. “It’s my responsibility to always make sure the information I have is correct,” he says. In the aftermath, Rocket realized that his teammate, who Boneless Steve first contacted, never did a background check. It was a mistake that cost RekkingCrew billions of ISK and its ‘untouchable’ reputation. Despite that, Rocket takes the blame. “When I made that call to tell them to jump in, that’s on me.”
“You have to commend [Snuffed Out],” he adds diplomatically. “There’s no way I can have any animosity against them, because at the end of the day it’s a game and I got bested.”
Snuffed Out, however, isn’t nearly as kind. “The only thing I regret,” Hy Wanto says with a sneer, “Is that I didn’t get the killing blow on Rocket.”