A brigade of pirates, a gambling kingpin, a temperamental fleet commander and the financier who brought them all together. How one very rich man and his cartel of allies dethroned the most notorious leader in EVE Online [official site] and scattered his once-unstoppable army of ‘Goons’.
As a companion piece to this report, you can peruse the cast of characters here. Read it before, read it afterwards or use it as a reference point throughout.
Space is at war. Thousands of people have died, risen, and died again. Thousands of ships have been destroyed in fierce battles, torn apart by lasers, or blown to pieces by missiles from stealth bombers. Pilots, new and old, are rushing to join comrades on the front line, seeking adventure, glory and fame. For one side of this conflict, the war is almost over. For the other, the true war is just beginning. EVE Online is once again exploding.
A sandbox MMO that is familiar even to mainstream media for its headline-generating battles, Eve is undergoing its first great war in years. On one side, a force of players calling themselves the Imperium but often called the ‘Goons’ because of their roots in the Something Awful forums. On the other side, a band known as Moneybadger Coalition – a conglomerate of mercenaries, militiamen, pirates, corporations and private armies.
The reasons for this war are many and the grudges held across Eve’s 13-year history have played their part. But behind the historical resentment, behind the missiles and the lasers, behind the Goons and the Badgers, lie a handful of men who have done more to fuel this war than anyone else.
This is Lenny. Full name: Lenny Kravitz2. It’s a strange name for an established investment banker and stockbroker. In real life, he is a defence contractor for the US Department of Defense. In Eve, he is a money man. He has been described as “obscenely rich” by some of his fellow players and although he has been trying to keep a low profile in recent weeks, he is now feeling very exposed. He has just been revealed as one of the masterminds of the new war. The ‘Goonswarm’ will soon be coming for him.
“They can’t really hurt me financially,” he says. “The worry was they would try to single me out, target me as an individual out-of-game, so we kind of kept everything under wraps.”
Lenny has shares and stocks that bring in huge sums of money on a monthly basis. He also gets a wage as a ‘banker’ for a high-profile casino called Iwantisk.com – a website where any Eve player can gamble their fictional currency on slot machines and raffles. His 8% shares in this casino alone get him 150-250 billion ISK a month, he says. He lives in ‘high-sec’ space, where an ultra-powerful computer-controlled police force watches over everything.
“I can’t really be harmed in-game,” he says.
From his home in high-sec, Lenny claims to have orchestrated one of the grandest and most ambitious moves in the game’s history. He has taken on The Mittani, an infamous spymaster and leader of the Imperium, and won. Six months ago if you told an average Eve player that Goonswarm could be defeated, they would have thought you were spewing nonsense. But six months ago Lenny knew something your average player didn’t. He knew The Mittani was slipping.
Back in October 2015, a player called Gobbins was leading a fleet of ships to a region of space called Cloud Ring. They were the Pandemic Horde – a group of relatively new players learning how to fight. Behind them every step of the way was a Goon fleet. It was a wild goose chase, one that ended in the Goons waiting 16 hours to capture a single unimportant system. Lenny kept watch from his perch in high-sec and began to think.
“It was a big old troll,” he says. “What that did for me was it identified that Mittens [The Mittani] didn’t have the information control that he used to years ago. He could be given misinformation and made to react to various things. Basically, he showed weakness. We didn’t expect them to be militarily weak but we expected Mittens not to have a full grasp of what was going on with the game.”
He approached a band called Mercenary Coalition and suggested “taking on the Goons”. One of their leaders, Sabre A – a man in a leather jacket with a small 100,000 ISK bounty on his head – told him it was “impossible.” The Goons had been a force of nature within New Eden for as long as anyone could remember. Lenny rephrased his question for the mercenary. How much would it take to go after the Goons?
Sabre plucked a made-up number out of the air, thinking it didn’t matter. Something like six or seven trillion ISK, he said.
“Okay,” said Lenny, “I have that.”
The kingpin’s joke
The casino Lenny was working for knew nothing about any of this. The man at its head is called Eep Eep, another “obscenely wealthy” individual. This gambling kingpin, pictured above, had set up his website in 2012 and it has since evolved into a hugely successful enterprise, allowing him to hire several financiers from within New Eden to spread his investments among the interstellar market.
In December 2015, one of his best bankers came to him and to his colleague (a mega-rich Twitch personality named 1RONBANK) and told them that he was planning a war against the biggest Empire in the game. That banker was Lenny. He was going to ask them for a promise.
You see, two years previously another group had the same idea – to take on the Goons. Their name was Pandemic Legion and their campaign ended in disaster, in a battle that is now known as “the Bloodbath of B-R5RB” – a furious fight involving over 7000 players and the destruction of ships worth up to $300,000 in “estimated real-world value”.
Huge battles in Eve undergo the “time dilation effect”. Time literally slows down during the fight, to 10% of normal time, simply to allow the game servers time to process everything that is happening. This means that battles last hours as gigantic capital ships cycle their weapons and hundreds of hulking spacecraft trundle slowly towards their targets. When the Pandemic Legion lost at the Bloodbath of B-R5RB, they had to watch themselves slowly die for 21 hours.
Lenny asked Eep Eep and 1RONBANK: if the worst came to the worst, and his forces suffered a similar catastrophic defeat, could he rely on them for support? They looked at his plans and said yes.
The money for a long war was therefore secured. But the casino was still not directly involved. Eep and 1RONBANK were only back-up financiers, an insurance policy. They were still busy with their own work – and their own problems.
The Zombie heist
For the kingpin Eep, the problem was a group called Space Monkeys Alliance. One of his bankers had just been ripped off by this group to the tune of 200 billion ISK, via an elaborate scam. Eep approached the the Space Monkeys and asked them to give his employee back his money. They laughed in his face. When he threatened that there would be consequences, they laughed even harder.
“They thought it was a joke,” says Lenny.
The relationship between the casino and the Space Monkeys was about to get even worse. A husband and wife duo that Eep considered friends and partners were part of the Monkey’s clan – they were called Binary Zombie and Widget Zombie. This pair weren’t just recent acquaintances – they had helped him build his gambling empire. She, Widget, had invested in the casino and now owned shares netting 40 billion ISK a month in dividends. The husband, Binary, had helped Eep set up the server for his website and even did some administrative duties. But the Zombies were loyal to their Monkey overlords and because of the tensions between the two groups they were ordered to betray their old friend.
By the time Eep looked at the machinery of his website and noticed the “irregular activity”, it was too late. The Zombies had hacked the casino. He banned Binary from his admin access but a ‘back door’ had already been installed. Eep found it and bricked it up, but hundreds of billions of ISK had already disappeared, transferred directly to the Zombies’ bank accounts, as well as the bank accounts of their fellow Monkeys.
This was a “separate event completely”, says Lenny. But it was hugely advantageous to him. Eep was now personally invested in punishing the alliance that had wronged him. He went straight to Lenny.
“He was pretty pissed off about the situation,” says Lenny. “He basically told me: ‘I know that you’re doing something. Can you hire mercs to kill Space Monkey Alliance?”
Lucky for him, Lenny already had someone in mind. He hired a mercenary group for 105 billion ISK a week to harass the Monkeys to death. The first shots of World War Bee were being fired and most of the citizens of EVE did not even know it.
On the next page, an old foe of the Goons rises from the grave