Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Molding Young Minds - The Summer of Gank

It’s Hulkageddon time again.

Hulkageddon III (Summer of Gank) is ramping up for July. For those of you unfamiliar with this unofficial EVE event, Hulkageddon is a celebration of unbridled griefing. The rules are fairly straight-forward. As the Hulkageddon website puts it:

During the event contestants vie with each other to see who can destroy the most mining vessels within a given timespan.

That’s pretty much it. Kill mails for exhumers – and pretty much any mining-related ship - are tallied. Winners are announced. Prizes are awarded.

The prizes are donated to Hulkageddon by veteran pirates, griefers and sundry fans of exploding exhumers. Some are tasty enough to tempt even the most retiring of miners to park his Hulk for the week, train up an alt and start ganking his fellow care-bears. For example the first place prize for exhumer kills by an individual is a capital ship of choice with skill books, plus 250 million isk.

In addition to prizes for sheer volume of kills, there are prizes for regional kills (the “Let My People Go” award for the most exhumer kills in Amarr space, for example) and “special achievement” prizes such as the “DISCO BONANZA!” prize of 500 million isk for the first pilot to kill 50 exhumers with smart bombs.

Now, for nullsec miners, every day is Hulkageddon. Miners keep their eye on the local and intel channels and know how to respond when hostiles enter system. Ganking miners in nullsec is not easy, much higher risk for the ganker, and certainly not the way to generate the number of exhumer kills one needs to compete in Hulkageddon.

For Hulkageddon, you need high-sec kills. Lots of high-sec kills.

Last year’s event claimed on the order of 12,000 exhumers, most of them in high-sec space. The classic attack gang is composed of a neutral scout and a strike team. The strike team flies cheap, insured t1 destroyers which, with their high dps to cost ratio, can take down an unwary exhumer before Concord can arrive and destroy them, and are cheap to insure/replace. Once Concord destroys their ships, the strike team saddles up a new flight of destroyers and hunts down their next victim.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Of course, what really interests me about this periodic orgy of industrial bloodletting is not the event itself, but the impact it has on the EVE universe.

I’d love to get my hands on some of the market data leading up to, during and following Hulkageddon. Though the Hulk is the most-flown ship in all New Eden, the loss of 12,000 of them in a week must make an impact. Some indy players mine heavily before Hulkageddon and leave their exhumers in dock during the event on the theory that, with all the bloodletting out in the belts, the price of minerals has to go up by the end of the week-long grief-a-thon. Traders tend to stock up on exhumers and mining mods, hoping to sell replacements to unlucky care-bears.

I’m not sure the dent in the mining community made by Hulkageddon is as large as some think. I would expect to see a slight uptick in the number of exhumers purchased, but given the number of them on the market, I don’t think there’s a lot of upward pressure on the price. There will be increased demand, but not so much that the existing supply of exhumers won’t comfortably meet the need for replacements.

By the same token, prices on most high-sec minerals have been depressed for some time. Unless the changes brought online for Tyrannis have had a significant impact, the loss of 12,000 exhumers across New Eden, most of them quickly replaced, shouldn’t cause much of an uptick in prices. 

However, the most interesting effect of Hulkageddon is on the pilots.

Seems once you’ve started ganking high-sec mining ships, it’s hard to stop. For well over a week after Hulkageddon II ended and prizes were awarded, the blood-letting continued. Was this particularly true of newer pilots who were getting their first taste of griefing? Is there an uptick in the number of new pirate/griefer corporations? Do existing pirate/griefer corporations see a surge in membership applications?

When Hulkageddon ends, how many care-bears leave mining altogether and hoist the Jolly Roger, never to return to asteroid belts except to gank their former comrades. 

That, I suspect, is where the true impact of Hulkageddon lies; not in the loss of property, or the price of minerals, but in the mind-set of the players.

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