Thrice Hapus, CEO, Signal Cartel
What attracted you to EVE Online and how long have you played?
Editor’s Note: This answer was taken from Thrice’s introduction forum post when he had only been with Signal Cartel for one month. It’s a fun read!
I’ve enjoyed playing MMO games since they started becoming more popular a decade or so ago. My play time has always been fairly limited, so I’ve mostly stuck to the tried and true, like World of Warcraft, and it’s been a lot of fun. This past year, though, those games have started to lose my interest. After spending years completing quests, farming mobs, skilling up mostly meaningless professions, and seeing the online community slowly disintegrate, I realized it just wasn’t that much fun anymore. I still enjoyed the genre and still hoped for the promise of community that MMOs offered; I just wasn’t finding it in WoW and their ilk any more. And I really wished it would all be a bit more meaningful at the end of the day. Of course, it’s “just a game”, but even within an avocation, progress should mean something more than simply time put in, and that progress should be fun to attain. And, in an MMO, it should all be done within a great, supportive, challenging community. Otherwise, what’s the point?
I’d heard about EVE on and off over the years. Mostly about how awful everyone who plays it is to one another, how cutthroat it can be, how it’s mostly boring with a few brief moments of excitement here and there. Still, the science fiction setting appealed to me, and as I read about its almost entirely player-driven economy and industry, I realized this might be an MMO where “crafting” was worthwhile and “progress” was what you made of it, even if the community was a bit rough. Maybe a hostile community would be better than none at all?
So I decided to check it out in December of last year. The UI and premise of EVE are so completely different from what I was accustomed to, that it took me a bit just to get my bearings. As I started to read and learn, I was astounded by the general helpfulness and courtesy in rookie chat. This was not at all the sort of community I had expected to find based on what I had heard about EVE. Not only was everyone fairly respectful (in rookie chat, not so much in NPC corp chat!), but there were so many people online at the same time! It felt like I was part of a bustling society, and one where I might over time find a way to make my own small contribution.
I realized right away just how HUGE a game this is. I struggled to figure everything out. Once I undocked for the first time, I struggled to even know where to begin! Someone in rookie chat turned me on to the career agent missions, and those proved to be exactly what I needed to get better acclimated. After running all of the career agent missions and the Blood-Stained Stars SOE epic arc (occasionally thinking, “I’m right back to running quests again…”), I fell in love with exploration. I’ve never enjoyed PvP all that much, mostly because my reflexes are not as quick as most, so it is hard for me to keep up! But to be able to stealthily whisk around New Eden, avoiding PvP more often than not as my skills increased and my knowledge of game mechanics grew and not just based on my “twitch” — that appealed to me quite a bit. And to be able to make a potentially very large amount of ISK in the process; well, that just sealed the deal.
After the final mission of the SOE arc ended, I realized there was no clear “next step” I was being channeled into by the game. I thought, “I guess I’m NOT just back to running quests again!” And I knew right away what I wanted to do: Get out into null sec and start making some big money on relic sites. But first I wanted to dip my toe into low sec and see how I fared there.
Before my first foray into low sec, I had read something from a more experienced capsuleer about how he had never lost a ship while outside of high sec. I think now this must have been sheer braggadocio on his part, but at the time I thought I could probably achieve the same pristine loss ratio.
Despite everything I’d read about not flying ships you couldn’t afford to lose, and thinking I was prepared for it to happen, my first death to another player was rough. Even though it was a mostly stripped Velator and easily replaced, it rattled me to be so quickly snuffed out. I am extremely risk-averse, even when it’s only pixels on the line, and so I made it my goal to get smarter, fly safer, and not “lose” again.
I had good success for about a month. I learned more about fitting an Imicus and had some success in running sites in low sec. I got more comfortable in systems with other players. I learned about bookmarks and safespots and started placing them faithfully in every system I was in. I read the well-known exploration guide, Billions and Billions of ISK, and started having dreams of becoming space rich. And I had some pretty good luck. I didn’t lose a single ship all month long.
One of my very first treks into null sec was planned to be a quick ten-jump hop in and back from Gallente low sec. The stars aligned and I found some quiet systems with relic sites I could actually hack without them exploding on me. When I hit 200 million ISK in my hold, I figured I had better quit while I was ahead and scramble back to high sec to sell it all off. This was all going to go just like I had envisioned. Getting rich via exploration was going to be a cakewalk! All I had to do was rinse and repeat what I had just done and I would have it made in no time.
But, of course, that’s not how it works. My luck ran out, and I got blown up and podded in a bubble at a gate camp on MHC-R3, one jump away from my low sec connection system. I thought losing that Velator was rough, but losing my first Imicus, “Odyssey”, to another player was something different entirely. This ship was mine in a way the rookie Velator had never been. I had real time logged in it, real effort invested in its fit, and a hold containing the, for me, unbelievable sum of 200 million ISK. (zKillboard value is different now, but I’m sure it was 200 million+ at the time of the kill.)
I was devastated. Like sick-to-my-stomach-couldn’t-catch-my-breath CRUSHED. I was so dispirited by the image of my frozen corpse floating in the black void of uncaring space that I immediately quit the game and had to get up from the computer and walk away. Because of my “success” the prior month, I assumed I must be doing everything right and was well on my way to “winning” at EVE, or at least my version of it.
After three days of sulking, I finally got up enough courage to try to replace what I had lost. I fitted a new Imicus, headed back to the same area of Syndicate, and started over. This time I was ready for any contingency: I had a mobile depot stowed in my hold, and I would anchor it at a safespot and dump all my cargo in it if I felt uncomfortable at a gate.
Soon I had about 50 million ISK in loot, and I decided I would head back with that. I jumped from 8-JYPM to EZA-FM and found myself at a camped gate. (“Oh, no, not again!”) My heartbeat quickened. I quickly retreated back through the gate and warped to one of my safespots before I could be followed. Once there, I deployed my mobile depot, stashed all my hard-won loot in it — and then wasn’t sure what to do next.
I could log off in space and wait them out. I could try taking another route back to somewhere “safer”. But there was no way I could see to play the game and be as safe as I wanted to be. So, I figured, “What the heck?” and I jumped my now-empty ship back into EZA-FM, got trapped in a bubble, and saw my corpse floating in space once again.
Since my hold was empty, I didn’t think getting podded would bother me that much. But it really did. Because now I was back in Gallente high sec with no good options to gather up my loot from the mobile depot. I had 50 million ISK, and no way to get to it. And I could go scan down some more sites and find some more loot, but what was to prevent the exact same scenario unfolding each and every time I did so?
I was so proud of my little bit of progress in learning to scan, thinking to stow a mobile depot, making tactical and safespot bookmarks. But despite my very best efforts, EVE was beating me. EVE was just really, really hard. Too much for me, I guess. I uninstalled it from my computer and tried to forget about it.
A couple months went by. Although I didn’t really want to even login to EVE at all, I followed a few headlines about the game here and there. One of the things that initially fascinated me about EVE was how it would occasionally show up in the actual IRL news due to some especially egregious player behavior (either in-game or otherwise) or a huge battle the losses of which amounted to an astonishing sum even when tabulated in US dollars. One such headline caught my eye: the announcement of Andrew Groen’s history of EVE’s early wars, Empires of EVE, being released.
I think I bought it on my Kindle the day it came out. Even though I was lousy at the actual game, I still really loved the world CCP and the players had created, the depth of the lore, and, more importantly, the ridiculously intricate web of alliances and corporations (and the inevitable clashes between them) that the players had layered on top of it all. Maybe I couldn’t play in that world, but I would at least enjoy reading about the heroics and anti-heroics of those who could.
Empires of EVE reads like a history text aimed at a non-academic audience. In other words, it is a bloody page-turner. Even though the aspect of the game it details—huge wars between massive alliances—is one that I have little desire to participate in myself, it is incredibly engaging reading. I recommend it to anyone, both in-and outside of the EVE community. It is fun to learn more about some of these outsized characters and the real people behind them. It is fascinating to eavesdrop on back-room deals and to witness heart-breaking espionage. I almost could not put it down. And when I was finished I knew I had to re-engage with this magnificent, awful, wonderful, terrible universe in some capacity.
I also knew the main thing I would do differently. My best early experience in EVE was the rookie chat channel. When I got kicked out of it after my first 30 days in the game, I felt very much alone. Empires of EVE had convinced me that EVE was best experienced as part of an active corporation. The first thing I would do when I logged in again would be to apply to a corp. And that is just what I did.
I reinstalled the game. I re-upped my subscription. I logged back in. The last player who had podded me had belonged to EVE University, and I had relied heavily on their wiki during my first month of learning the ropes in the game. Since I am a teacher (among other things) at my day job, the idea of belonging to a corp that existed to help new players learn the game and improve their skills appealed to me.
The folks at E-UNI are terrific. Incredibly helpful, dedicated players who go out of their way to help you learn. Although their application and induction processes are a learning curve in their own right, once navigated successfully, a world of options opens up to you as a member. And I surveyed a lot of them, trying to figure out the best way to engage with this new group. Campuses in high sec, low sec, and null sec. Even a wormhole campus. (Wormholes, what’re those?) Courses on planetary interaction and skilling up an alt to try that out. Skilling up a hauling alt and trying that out for a bit. Joining the mentor program to see what I could learn from a more seasoned player. Learning about FleetUp and Mumble and higher-level mission running.
But something was missing. And it wasn’t hard at all to figure out what it was. I had fallen in love with exploration, and I could not find any group of folks pursuing this somewhat lonesome interest as a group. Not that such a thing doesn’t exist within the Uni—within their vast offerings, I am sure it must! But I could not find it, and so found myself in a corp at last, but with little to contribute.
And, for me, it all felt a little self-serving—chasing all these personal in-game interests just so I could make a little bit of ISK so I could chase those same interests some more. It conjured up memories of the “grind” I was trying to get away from in other MMOs. After experiencing the majestic, larger-than-life sweep of Empires of EVE, I wanted to be part of something larger within the game, to make a contribution that mattered in some way beyond just kicking in some ISK in taxes to the corporation’s coffers while I went about my own business.
That’s when I remembered seeing a departure mail from a Unista mentioning they were leaving the University to join up with a corp that was more exploration-centric, called “Signal Cartel”. I dug that mail up, and started following some links.
I’ve been with Signal Cartel for exactly one month as of today. I feel a little foolish saying it, because I don’t know any of you very well, but I think I’ve found the place where I can make my own small contribution to the grand world of New Eden, in a way that is both fun for me and still genuinely helpful. I believe I’ve found my home in EVE.
I’ve loved being involved with the Thera Wormhole Maintenance program, and I plan to continue on with that work as much as I am able. It was great fun to see my name show up on the EvE-Scout web site after I’d mapped my first Thera hole to Tripwire. And I’ve been able to do most of this mapping work in my humble, beloved Imicus (I think I’m on “Odyssey IV” now), so losing a ship isn’t too big a deal. And if I’m super-strapped for ISK, I am grateful to know the Ship Replacement contracts are just a click away.
It has been a great eye-opener to learn about wormholes in general, and to be more or less “living” in one now is not something I would have foreseen even one short month ago. As I learn more and continue to build up my piloting skills, I’m looking forward to participating in the Search and Rescue program and the Rescue Cache seeding. And I hear something about a dedicated “Anoikis” division of the corp; I might have to check that out, too.
And when I need a change of pace from all of that, there are still relic and data sites to be scanned down and hacked. I just made my first successful foray into Sansha space the other day, hacked about 50 million ISK from a single site, and made it back to Thera safe-and-sound, thanks to knowing a little bit more, being a bit more bold, and having a few more skillpoints accumulated. And I was piloting a Helios, if you can believe it! I’m really living on the edge these days.
They say that “EVE is real”, and while that’s mostly just marketing, there is, as with all the best hyperbole, a note of truth to it. I’m real. So are you! We’re building something together that’s made out of time and effort, and that’s real. Offering services to the entire community of New Eden at no cost is a good of measurable value. That’s real. And helping, by our participation, to manufacture the warp and weft of what Signal Cartel is all about, both as a refuge for the beleaguered and a tonic for the jaded, is perhaps of the most enduring worth. I can’t thank Mynxee and Mr. Splunk enough for envisioning and establishing this ideological “safe harbor” in the rough-and-tumble world of EVE.
I’ve got a skill queue almost two years long now, thanks to direction from the New Member Guide and some other reading I’ve been doing, so I guess I’ll be around for a while. My heart still races in a lot of situations, and I will inevitably lose another big haul at some point in the (not-too-distant) future. I’ll see my frozen corpse out in space yet again, I’m sure. But when I do, I won’t be staring into the void alone. I have a home to go back to now.
What attracted you to explore New Eden? What is your goal and have you achieved it? If not, are you still working towards your goal, do plan to continue, or what are you currently doing?
It’s beautiful. I actually cried the first time I flew in space after I upgraded my graphics card and could run the game in something other than pure potato mode. It’s the most gorgeous game I’ve ever seen, and I love space and sci-fi.
When I started playing, I wanted to become someone like Chribba in-game. A rare trusted person within the den of thieves. Then I found Signal Cartel and realized I was way more interested in doing that within a community than doing it solo as he had done. Running ESR for about 18 months was a step in that direction. COO of the corp was, too. Now I’ll try my hand at CEO for a while and see how it goes.
In 2018, I had a short-term goal of wanting to see Signal Cartel get some mainstream gaming press, and, much to my surprise, we had the interview in PC Gamer by March. A Talking in Stations appearance followed. And then all the cool stuff around your Katia Sae’s quest that recently wrapped up with the statue this April. It’s been a pretty awesome year for seeing Signal Cartel in the news!
What is the name of your favorite ship that you enjoy flying the most while exploring?
It’s embarrassing to say, but I do not. I so rarely undock any more. I have my Astero for wormholes and my Ares for null and a bunch of other random ships for the rare occasions I can make a SCFS fleet. Almost all of my game time these days is email, forums, Discord, etc. I guess on Bartle’s taxonomy, I am officially a Socializer these days.What is the name of your favorite ship that you enjoy flying the most while exploring?
During your travels, what has been the most interesting fact, amazing sight, or other aspect of New Eden that has surprised you?
The naming of systems is so interesting to me. I read that the nullsec names were generated from a database of expired Iceland automotive license plates. I do not know if this is true, but I hope that it is. The mystery of J-space names is still out there to be solved. I know they must mean something! I have spoken with AD Parrot about this at length, and I know he has some theories.
What have you learned or what advice would you give to someone interested in exploring New Eden?
If you want to see something or be something in New Eden, you can make it happen. So cool!
Do you have a favorite image from your explorations?
Go to Razorien’s flickr and choose a random image. That one is my favorite today. It will be a different one tomorrow.