I went to EVE Fanfest, where I mostly walked around pretending to be a real journalist. A lot of my time was devoted to finding one person: a space captain called Chribba. Talking to various EVE players, I soon discovered that this man was something of a celebrity in New Eden. Not only is he one of the most well-known players, but he is also possibly the most well-liked. Which is a strange thing to be in an MMO for which all the advertising focuses on being a treacherous dog and where most of the in-game celebrities are not famous but infamous. What made Chribba different? Was he really a philanthropist, like everyone kept telling me? Or was he simply a cunning master of interstellar diplomacy? I talked to him to find out.
RPS: Hello, Chribba. How is the fanfest going for you? Is there a lot of backroom politics going on?
Chribba: I don’t know. I’m not very good at politics. I don’t really have that much knowledge of it, I just don’t keep up with the politics.
RPS: Yeah, I don’t really know much about it myself. I don’t play, so I don’t know any of the personalities in it.
Chribba: But then who told you my name?
RPS: Well, this is the thing. I was on the plane and this guy was talking to me about The Mittani [http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/04/07/eve-online-audience-with-the-king-of-space/], and some other people like that. And then he mentioned your name, and he told me that you were basically a… what were the words he used… a ‘space philanthropist’.
Chribba: Ha, yup.
RPS: How did you get a reputation like that?
Chribba: Well, that pretty much has evolved over time. It started off with me starting to create small hosting websites for me and my friends, where my friends would upload screenshots and videos and things like that. Then I pretty much made it public for everyone. That’s sort of how it started – how my name got out. Because back then YouTube was terribly new, it wasn’t a common place to put up videos and stuff like that. So, by creating websites like that I became a little bit more known over time, and then the thing I do right now – my third-party service – is friends ask me: ‘I’m going to buy this supercarrier, can you help me out? Just hold the money because I don’t want this guy to scam me when I’m giving him the money.’ So [I say] ‘sure, if they agree to me holding the money until you get the ship, then sure thing. I’ll do that for you.’
RPS: Okay, this is because you’re trusted to be a deal broker. I’m going to test this out. I want you to hold this 1000 króna note for me. [Passes banknote over]
Chribba: Fuck you! [Pretends to run away]
RPS: No, wait! We should wait and see.
Chribba: See if I’ll be stealing this?
RPS: Just humour me for now.
Chribba: Okay. [Sits back down]
RPS: I also heard that you are something of a mining baron.
Chribba: Yes, that is my ‘thing.’
RPS: So what’s the appeal of this Veldspar that I hear so much about?
Chribba: It started out with everyone back in the day kind of just trashing Veldspar, because they were like ‘Oh, it’s so useless. It’s worthless! You don’t mine that. You mine better ore and then you refine that and you just buy the Tritanium that you’d get from Veldspar instead because that’s so much more efficient.’ So, everyone hates this. I’m going to love it. Then it kind of became a thing. Like, ‘I’m only going to do that, I’m only going to do Veldspar.’ So I kind of built my empire on that, well, except, I built my empire not entirely thanks to the Veldspar. But yeah, that’s one of the main reasons I stockpile it – I’m not doing anything with it, it’s just…
RPS: It’s just Your Thing.
Chribba: Yes. It just became my thing, but, like, that’s EVE.
RPS: There’s one other thing somebody called you. A man in my hotel called you ‘The Dalai Lama of Space.’ Are you the Dalai Lama of Space?
Chribba: [laughs] No, I don’t think so. I think that must be some other person.
RPS: But you are quite peaceful.
Chribba: Well, I am. I mean, until Dust arrived, apparently. But I see that [character] as another person. But yeah, I don’t shoot people, I’m always friendly. I tried PvP a few times but when I was attacked I’d try to flee instead … I’ve never engaged in full PvP except on the test server. That’s not been my thing.
RPS: Haven’t you ever been tempted, during a deal, to just screw the other people over and take the money and run?
Chribba: No, actually not, which is sort of odd because you’d think in maybe the first few trades someone would be like: ‘Ah! I’m gonna steal that!’ but the idea never struck me, I wasn’t tempted. And nowadays, looking back on what I’ve earned compared to what I could have stolen – I’ve earned more. So there’s definitely not a reason for me to steal anything because to steal something would be very pointless for me.
RPS: When you’re brokering these deals, has it ever gone wrong? Has it ever gone sour with you stuck in the middle?
Chribba: There has been a few hiccups, yes. There’s been, like, two of them. The first one was really serious – that was my fourth or fifth deal – which was way way back.
RPS: What happened?
Chribba: It was: the seller gave the ship, I was holding the money, and the unfortunate thing that added to the confusion at the time was that the buyer got disconnected. So, of course the ship emergency warped away and the sellers were sitting there like, ‘Uh. What about our money?’ I was like, ‘Okay. Maybe he disconnected.’ So I sent them the money. Then the guy logs back on and the sellers had prepared a trap for him. They were waiting for him… [They had] the only ship that can hold down a supercarrier. So they had laid down a trap and it was very unfortunate that the guy got disconnected because if he hadn’t he probably would have been able to warp away and all would be fine. But since he got disconnected [I thought,] ‘hey, he’s happy with the trade now’ so I sent the money, he logged back and they just came in and held him down. And ransomed him actually. So they got, like, another four billion.
RPS: But you must get a cut of the proceeds when you do these deals right?
Chribba: Yes, I take a fee.
RPS: How much is the fee?
Chribba: When I do a trade in low-sec it’s 300 million. When I do it in null-sec it’s 500 million.
RPS: Are there any other people who are trusted in a similar way?
Chribba: There are a few that do similar services but for obvious reasons I can’t really vouch for them.
RPS: Because they’re your competition, right?
Chribba: Well, that, and the fact that even if I did vouch for them – like, the top two who do trades, they’ve done a lot of trades. It would seem like they are legit as well. But if I were to come out and say, ‘Yeah, they’re legit. Go with them’ and they did screw someone over, then that would be on me for saying ‘yeah, you can totally trust them.’ That’s partly the reason. Then, of course, they are my competition so I wouldn’t want to give it away right away.
RPS: You see, you say you’re not good at politics but what you’ve just said is actually very politically astute.
Chribba: [laughs] Or maybe I’m just agnostic, I dunno.
RPS: What do you think about The Mittani and Goonswarm? Because the only thing I hear is that they are bent on destruction and bad things.
Chribba: Yes, they pretty much are – at least in-game. Because out-of-game they are excellent people and I love them, I am having so much fun with them. But, yeah, in-game they are pretty much out to grief and cause problems which I think, well, it means business for me so that’s good, but I think in a way it’s pretty cool to see that they can actually do all these things, that they can affect everything. That’s what I’m excited about. I mean, some people build a castle – they build a fortress, just so they’re never outdone.
RPS: So, as a peaceful player, you don’t think ill of them for going around and raiding all the poor chumps in hi-sec space?
Chribba: Yeah, it’s definitely not my play style and I wouldn’t endorse it at all but at the same time I like to see it there and I like to see the events it creates and I like to see it happen. But at the same time, I’m always trying to remain neutral to everyone, regardless of what they do and just choose the people I deal with based on how I feel morally instead. So, I know they do scam and I know other people who scam but I’d still most likely help them because I’m neutral and I don’t really care what they did, unless it’s something that’s really, really morally wrong for me.
RPS: You have a lot of allies and respect in the game. But even the Dalai Lama has enemies. So you must have enemies, right?
Chribba: Yeah, I would think so. But I don’t really know who they are. I’m pretty sure that there are people out there who are annoyed with me, or just don’t like me, or think I’m too much of a stuck-up celebrity or something. I dunno, people think the weirdest things.
RPS: But you’ve never had any run-ins with a nemesis?
Chribba: I don’t think so, not any encounters where I’ve felt like, ‘these people are really out to destroy me.’ Or someone really out to destroy my reputation. Like, the average one pops up maybe and says something or tries something but I feel like I’m pretty good at weeding out the trolls and the people that don’t really have any genuine reason to be my enemy.
RPS: I also heard that you got permission to keep a Really Big Ship in a part of space where you’re not normally allowed to keep a Really Big Ship. Is that because you’re so nice? Why is that?
Chribba: No…well, some people would say it’s because I’m so nice, and maybe it’s a part of it. But if one looks at it for real, it’s not really breaking any of the rules because at the time when I got the ship, it was allowed in hi-sec space – where it was built. And then CCP changed the rules. So, if you look at it rules-wise, it never did break any rules – it was in before any of the rules were there.
Chribba: But I mean, yeah, if CCP did have something real against it, mine would have been moved away. To my knowledge no other owner of these kind of ships has had their ship removed.
RPS: So, CCP isn’t turning a blind eye to you breaking that rule just because you’re respected?
Chribba: In a way, yeah, but nowadays there are actually rules for the use of these ships. So if I was to put guns on it and go shoot people, they would instantly take it away from me. So there are some rules – or ‘restrictions’ – on it.
RPS: Have you ever considered – because you mostly operate in hi-sec space – have you ever considered starting a religion?
RPS: And then you could make everybody in EVE be really nice to each other?
Chribba: No, no. That has never crossed my mind.
RPS: It would be good, you could call them the ‘Chribbists.’
Chribba: Yeah… that would be creepy. Like I’m running some sort of sect or something!
RPS: No, it wouldn’t, it’d be a nice thing. It’d be like Buddhism. But more profitable.
Chribba: Yeah, I don’t see myself as that kind of leader actually. Like, it would be fun to maybe try to create a corporation, like run a big Alliance with lots of people underneath but that’s not really me. I don’t see myself as that type of leader, so it would be a bad choice if I tried to make something like that.
RPS: Fair enough. I think I might be out of questions.
Chribba: Oh damn!
RPS: But can I have my money back?
Chribba: Absolutely. [Hands 1000 Króna note back]
RPS: You ARE nice. You ARE trustworthy.
Chribba: I don’t want your money!
RPS: What!? You know how much ISK this could get! … How much ISK could this get?
Chribba: That’s, like, pfft! Nothing.
RPS: Ah. That’s why you didn’t take it.
Chribba: No, I wouldn’t run even if you give me, like, a million. I don’t have the reasons.
RPS: What about three million? What about FIVE MILLION? Not of this – of the in-game money.
Chribba: Five million in-game? No, that’s nothing.
RPS: What about five TRILLION in-game? Would you run with that?
Chribba: Like I say, I’ve come to the point where money means literally nothing.
RPS: TEN trillion.
Chribba: The thing is, too much money for me would destroy the game. Ruin my gameplay because I’d be: ‘Okay, I can pretty much buy anything I want. And I can do pretty much anything I want to do.’ And that’s just…
RPS: Yeah, someone said you had your own goal. What’s the goal? Or is it a secret?
Chribba: My own goal? I have small, tiny goals. All along the way. That’s been my way since the start. Like, CCP might say, ‘Yeah! You can create an Alliance but only for lots of people, only for the big picture.’ No, fuck that, I want an Alliance because, well, I want to show that even one person can make an Alliance and make it work sometime. And then there’s Titans – ‘Only the biggest Alliances will have Titans and play around with Titans!’ No, I want to have a Titan, even though I’m only me. Why? Because I can. And why do I want to put only mining lasers on it? Because I can.
RPS: You have a giant warship… and you’ve just got mining lasers on it?
Chribba: Yes. Actually I have all of them.
RPS: [dumb look]
Chribba: I collect ships. That’s what I’m saying.
RPS: So you’ve got them all –
RPS: And they’ve all got mining lasers on them –
RPS: What is the best mining ship called?
Chribba: The best mining ship? Good question. I prefer the Titans, I like them. But if there’s a ‘best’ it’s your own definition of ‘best’. For me, it’s the style. ‘Oh, a Titan. That’s pretty cool.’
RPS: I’ve heard you’ve got a special ship though, called ‘The Veldnaught’.
Chribba: Yes, that’s a dreadnaught, that’s the one in high security. I truly love that and it’s like an icon of EVE – so it’s part of history.
RPS: Do you think the Veldnaught could be an icon of Chribbism?
Chribba: It probably would be, yes. At least until destroyed.
RPS: Chribba, thanks for your time.