EVE Evolved: Suicide ganking investigated

EVE Online is a game where you're vulnerable to PvP in the safest of places. Even in high security systems where CONCORD will destroy any ship that attacks you, you're still vulnerable in the few seconds before the police arrive. Because of this, swarms of players in cheap ships are able to kill larger targets by synchronising their initial volleys. In recent years, suicide attacks have turned into a viable profession, with the primary targets being industrial ships and freighters carrying a high value of items.

Safety versus consequences:
A common misconception among newer players is that CONCORD are there to provide safety for players in high security space. Rather than provide direct safety to the player being attacked, they instead provide consequences for the attacker. While many other MMOs physically limit when and where you can attack someone, EVE starts with the assumption that PvP is possible everywhere and then adds punishments for engaging in safe areas. The attacking ships are destroyed and the security status of their pilots is lowered. If they lose too much security status, they won't be able to safely enter high security systems any more.

Suicide attacks are on the rise in New Eden and cries for CCP to step in and resolve the situation have reached new highs. So what's the problem and how can it be avoided? Read on as I delve into the world of suicide ganking.

The term "griefing" is thrown about a lot in PvP-based games like EVE-Online. While griefing is officially against the EVE terms of service, the actual definition used by CCP is extremely hard to apply to any in-game situation. According to the EVE knowledgebase, repeatedly suicide killing someone would only be considered griefing if the player doesn't profit from it in some way. As long as the player organising the effort can argue that he profits indirectly from it, GMs will not interfere.

In recent months, EVE's biggest alliance Goonswarm made a name for themselves with their suicide ganking escapades. Under the name JihadSwarm, they began indiscriminately killing every tech 2 mining barge they found in high security space. Many of their victims have petitioned the suicide attacks as griefing but so far GMs have decided not to step in.

Tools of the trade:
Ships typically used for suicide attacks are those which are cheap to lose and have a very high initial volley damage. Since CONCORD show up within a few seconds, attackers are lucky to get off more than a few volleys before they're target jammed by police ships. The ship of choice for killing industrial ships is the destroyer. With their fast target-locking speed and high volley damage, a pack of four or five destroyers can kill an industrial ship almost instantly.

For killing much larger ships like freighters, a gang of cheap battleships is most effective. A gang of 20 or more tier 1 battleships is capable of killing a freighter before concord arrives. In all cases, losses are minimised by fully insuring ships and using only tech 1 or cheap named modules. Faction ammo like Federation Navy antimatter charges can be used for their increased damage. Since you'll only fire a few volleys off, only three or four charges need to be loaded into each weapon. This nets a 15% increase in damage for very little extra cost.

In addition to the combat vessels, two other roles must be filled. One pilot must scan the cargo of passing ships for valuables and quickly estimate the value of the haul. If he thinks it will be profitable enough, he will order the combat ships to attack. Finally, someone needs to stand by with an industrial ship to scoop the loot from the kill. If the target is a freighter, another freighter can be used to loot the massive wreck in one load.

The primary motivation for suicide ganking is profit. If it's not profitable for a group of people to kill you in high security space, they probably won't bother. Because the attacking ships will be destroyed, the value of the loot has to be high enough to justify the loss of ships. A fully insured and fitted destroyer costs barely 100,000 isk to lose at current market prices, making the cost of losing a suicide pack less than a million isk. Destroyer packs are the most cost-effective tool for killing lone industrial ships but will require some teamwork to use effectively.

Cruisers may deal more than double the damage of a standard destroyer but they also cost over ten times more to lose, with the average cost of loss being over a million isk after insurance. Battleships are the most expensive to lose, costing upward of 10-20 million isk each to lose after insurance. For this reason, it's recommended to only use battleships against extremely high value targets such as freighters.

Each module fitted to the target ship and each stack of items in its cargo hold has a 50% chance of being destroyed when the ship explodes. This means that the value of whatever the target is carrying must be halved to give an idea of how much isk the loot will be worth. Having a good knowledge of EVE's market prices and keeping the rough value of their attacking fleet in mind, a suicide attack co-ordinator can choose only very profitable targets.

Security status:
Another important factor in determining whether a target is valuable enough is security status. Each kill your team makes will drop the security status of all participants by a significant amount. Twenty or thirty kills down the line, your security status will drop below -5.0 and you'll find yourself branded an outlaw. When that happens, the local police will start attacking you in high security space and put an abrupt end to your suicide-ganking career. Since you can only make a finite number of kills, you'll want to make sure they count by going after big hauls.

Some players evade the security status problem by abandoning characters when their security status gets too low and recreating a new one in their place. A new character can be trained to fly a combat-fitted destroyer with less than a day of training time invested. However, recycling characters to evade the security status system is an exploit and repeated abuse could land you in some serious bother. Likewise, abusing the 14 free day trial system to create disposable suicide accounts is not permitted.

When transporting valuable goods through high security systems, there are a number of simple steps you can take to ensure your safety:
  • Don't turn your autopilot on. Instead, add stargates to your overview and manually warp to the next stargate. This gives less time for someone to scan your cargo hold.
  • For valuable hauling trips, send a friend ahead in a frigate to scout. If he spots a pack of destroyers or battleships waiting on a stargate, chances are you'd be in danger going through the gate
  • Set alternative routes. Suicide attackers always target high-traffic spacelanes, so make an alternative path that avoids the default autopilot route.
  • If you're moving a valuable freighter-load through high security space, have a corpmate use a stasis webifier on your freighter each time it warps. This has the effect of causing the freighter to instantly enter warp, giving would-be attackers no time to scan your cargo hold.
Possibly the best piece of advice is to make sure you're not an easy or valuable target. Never carry over 20 million isk worth of goods in a standard tech 1 industrial and try not to carry a value of over 50 million isk in a tech 2 industrial. Likewise, having over a billion isk worth of goods in a freighter will make you a prime target for assault.

Despite complaints about suicide ganking, CCP is unlikely to change the mechanics which make it possible. EVE was always intended to be a harsh, dystopian world where absolute safety isn't possible. Whether you're planning to launch your own suicide gang or just trying to haul minerals to your factories, suicide attacks in one form or another seem to be here to stay.
This article was originally published on Massively.