EVE Online players can choose to be many things. Fighter pilots, diplomats, corpse peddlers, even admirals of massive fleets. Most player engagements in EVE are led by players who use th…
Wait a minute. Corpse peddlers?!
Yes, it's true: There exists a small fraction of the EVE player base that chooses to take part in the trade of virtual human bodies. The frozen remains left behind in the wake of massive space battles is useless in the game, but can still fetch a pretty penny on the open market -- depending on whose body it is.
When a ship is destroyed in combat in EVE, the pilot's only hope for survival is their escape pod. The escape pods, or capsules, house one of the player's clone bodies, and allow the pilot or capsuleer to control the ship. Capsules are capable of travelling through space just like any other ship, but are the absolute weakest vessels in the game, leaving them very open to attack.
In addition to housing the pilot's consciousness, the clone bodies also provide a place to anchor expensive cybernetic implants that improve a player's abilities. Often, those that land the killing blow on a spaceship, destroy the pod that was inside it. This kills the player inside, destroys any implants they had, and sends them back to their spawn point.
When that happens, all that remains is a flash-frozen corpse, labelled with the name of the player who met their unfortunate end.
Other players can then pick these corpses up, and when they examine them in the game's menu, it displays the name of the player. They're gruesome victory trophies. Building a collection of corpses isn't a typical behaviour, but some players get really into it. Most corpse connoisseurs I spoke to weren't particularly introspective about their choice of hobby, saying they pack their ships with human cargo for "sport" or "the lulz." But some offered more compelling explanations.
"Well, besides collecting 'for fun', I grew up playing Diablo 2, with the ear system," said one. "Where when you killed a player in PVP, their named ear would drop, and I used to PVP all the time, so the ears would be my trophies in my stash." When this player picked up EVE, he carried that habit over. "Call it a reminder to myself to stay somewhat humble and calm in PVP, and to remind myself that everybody dies," he said.
Some players keep a few corpses around as reminders of major victories. Some just hoard all the bodies they can find. One such player is Cinomed Fostergut, who says that his obsession has caused him to come under scrutiny by the commanders of fleets he has been involved in. "Cinomed, why are you not anchored?" a fleet commander would call out to him. Anchoring is the term for flying one's ship in close proximity to the rest of the fleet so that everyone can move around in space as a single unit.
"Sorry FC, scooping corpses," would come Cinomed's reply. He'd be drifting away from his fleet grabbing errant bodies. His collecting habits would also cause other sorts of trouble for the fleet. "I have had situations where after a long fleet I might have 20+ corpses in cargo, and then for whatever reason I lose my ship in a fight, the corpses pop out of the wreck as individual items in space," he said.
This sudden flooding of the battlefield with dozens of corpses causes other player's overviews to be suddenly flooded with bodies, causing a bit of confusion (and quite a few laughs over voice comms).
The author's corpse.
Like many real-life collectors, Cinomed has had to haul his stash around from home to home. "During the invasion of Fountain to evict TEST Alliance, right as our coalition shattered, there was a lot of talk of saving the 6VDT system, but having been previously a member of the invading faction, I knew we were going to lose the station in the system," he said.
That meant his corpses had to be moved, which posed serious risks if he were to try to do it himself. "While my collection could fit into a smaller ship, I hired a carrier, a capital ship with a long distance jump drive, because I didn't want to lose my collection travelling through stargate!"
The carrier that Cinomed hired got the job done, but wasn't entirely happy about it. "I remember being on comms with the guy and he was bitching about how accepting a contract of over 2000 corpses and them moving them to his carrier's hangar bay was lagging his EVE client, but he got them out and moved them to TEST's home system in Delve," he said.
If you're into collecting mass quantities of bodies, EVE even has a special ship for you: the very expensive Molok has 200,000 cubic meters of space in its luxurious corpse bay, reserved exclusively for bodies. Doing the maths, that means you can stash 100,000 corpses before you run out of room.
A player named Macabre Devil says he's been collecting bodies since 2010. "I was making a lot of ISK," the in-game currency of EVE, "and was trying to think of something to spend it on. The thought crossed my mind that collecting corpses could be something unique. I just wish to keep collecting them as long as I have the ISK."
At the time, Macabre offered 500,000 ISK for a male corpse, and a million for a female, due to the relative rarity of female pilots in the world of EVE Seven years later, many more players continue in his footsteps, buying job lots of bulk bodies from traders in marketplaces, or harvesting them from the sites of massive battles. .
Just like shopping at the supermarket, you've got your store brands and then you have your premium items. Why should the frozen corpse market of EVE Online be any different? Be it the CEO of a massive alliance reviled for their power and influence, a very important NPC, or perhaps even the corpse of a CCP employee, some corpses are worth much more than others.
In-game advertisement for "holy" corpses.
Late in 2016, a major story event culminated in the coronation of a new Empress to the throne of one of the NPC Faction Empires. Normally when an NPC character is created by the Lore team, the character's name is reserved, and no player is able to create a character impersonating them. But in this case, the developers forgot to do this, and so one player was able to create a character with the newly crowned Empress' likeness and name -- and quickly set about to killing that character over and over again, scooping up corpses that looked like they belonged to the Empress herself.
The player stockpiled a considerable amount of corpses before CCP stepped in and shut down the operation. But the player was allowed to keep the corpses, with their names intact. Since then, he has submitted an advertisement that flashes on in-game billboards, advertising the sale of so-called "holy" corpses.
Some players, like one by the name of Nolak Ataru, go after another specific type of corpse -- ones belonging to CCP employees.
The developers of EVE rarely play the game using their official employee pilots, and it's even more rare that they manage to die in such a way that a player might recover their corpse. Even more rare is to see a CCP Gamemaster interacting with players outside of their typical invulnerable observation ships. Gamemasters are high-level customer support staff at CCP who observe player battles for exploits, watch for automated bots, and generally look out for any other rule violations in game.
Nolak claims to own seven corpses belonging to CCP developers and a single corpse belonging to a Gamemaster, which he believes to be the only example of a Gamemaster corpse to exist in the game world. "I bought the corpse off a friend of mine, who said the GM died after logging into a system to reinforce the node for a big fight, and leaving his ship floating in space," Nolak said.
"I used to collect bulk but the game was too laggy when opening my assets tab," Nolak says, by way of explaining his desire for a more curated collection. "For the special ones, I pay, depending on who it is, 2 billion ISK on average per corpse." That means each of the corpses cost him more than the price of an entire month of game time. He notes that the corpses of developer CCP Fozzie and the Gamemaster are worth much more, the GM's due to its rarity, and CCP Fozzie's due to his position as lead game designer.
Some of Nolak's special collection.
As to the source of such incredibly rare goods, Nolak credits a vast network of friends, informats and people simply looking to make a buck. To facilitate the construction of such a network, he leans on another of his rather unique career paths inside of the EVE sandbox. Those in dire financial straits look to him as a friendly but firm moneylender, offering privatised loans to individuals within his alliance. These bonds put him in a somewhat unique position of having a lot of people looking to get in his good graces, and more than a few players owing him a favour or two.
"I think my favourite corpse, besides Fozzie's, would be that of an old friend from an incursion group," Nolak says. Incursions are the EVE equivalent of high-level raiding in a traditional MMO. "I had brought my PVP battleship because it's always fun to mess around between fleets and have a laugh."
The friend was "pretty drunk," Nolak says, and decided to match his Vindicator ship against Nolak's Rokh. This was a dumb move, since the Vindicator is best for PvE while Rokh is a PvP ship. "One shiny Vindicator loss and one shiny pod later, I had a new corpse, a good story, and everybody was laughing."
The Organic Mass Granulator, or OMG.
But still, even with the Molok and its massive corpse bay, and its players amassing collections of bodies, EVE Online's developers still haven't added any way to actually get some utility out of them. But they did joke about it on this past April Fools' Day, announcing a (fake) new game item called the Organic Mass Granulator.
When launched from the cargo hold of a spaceship, after a small warmup period it would supposedly lock its tractor beams onto any nearby corpses and draw them into the machine. Once inside the machine, the corpses could then be broken down into their base elements and recombined into items that would temporarily boost a player's characteristics. But, again -- just a joke.
As for me, I don't collect corpses. Well, with one exception. If I die, I make sure to go out and pick up my own dead body. Wouldn't want it falling into the wrong hands.