Internet spaceships are serious business. As a meme, EVE Online players have used this expression to explain the bizarre emotional attachment that people develop to their assets within the game. When everything you've spent months working on goes up in smoke, it can be easy to see why some players tend to have the reactions they do. Wingspan Delivery Services is no stranger to these types of exaggerated reactions. After all, they're in the business of making things go up in smoke.
"It started out really simple," Chance told me when I talked with him over Skype. He told me how some of the pilots in his quickly growing corporation had, in their enterprising way, blown up several ships in wormhole space belonging to White Rabbit, a rather large alliance with ownership over the wormhole system of J164921. The pilots had tried to extort a ransom out of White Rabbit, but the CEO only wanted to talk with Chance himself.
"He tells me," Chance said, "that our guys came in there and blew up some ships and they wanted 75 million ISK to leave. He said, is that right? Are you authorizing this?"
"I said no, I'm going to ask for 3.1 billion ISK."
The CEO, Taren Firestorm, was understandably not amused.
"To be fair, they were a large alliance," Chance was quick to add. "It was a pretty fair fight, we lost ships, they lost ships. But this guy was clearly so off-put by my request that he just wanted to see us demolished."
It was later that Chance and Wingspan Delivery had learned that Taren and White Rabbit had hired out a mercenary force in order to bring them down. Unwilling to engage with the mercenaries who were now running protection in White Rabbit's hole, Chance gave the order for pilots to cease hostilities, hoping to bore the mercenaries into moving on.
"The CEO of the mercenary corporation convo'd me," Chance said. "And he's like, listen, the guy who hired us doesn't know what he's doing. He paid us 2 billion ISK to get rid of you. How about you take half, we take half, and you just leave?"
"But see, here's the thing, I didn't want a billion ISK. I wanted 3 billion ISK."
Chance, partly offended by the mercenaries lack of honor, decided the only suitable consequence was to inform Taren of the attempt at striking a deal. The mercenaries were fired. At this point, Wingspan Delivery resumed operations with renewed conviction. Taren finally came to Chance, battered and demoralized.
"I just had this huge argument with him," Chance told me. "Finally he was said, fine, I get it. You're just an asshole. You just want 3.1 billion ISK, right?" Chance began to laugh, "I said, well, here's the thing. That was a one-time offer. Now it's 11.1 billion."
"He should have just paid the 3.1 billion," he said, laughing. "It's just a video game!"
But for Taren and White Rabbit, it apparently wasn't just a video game. As Wingspan continued its hostilities towards the alliance, Chance was approached by a another character in-game with seemingly no obvious connection to Taren.
On Skype, Chance Ravinne began to laugh to me, "I feel like every story I give you involves some weird, shady person."
This random character began to very delicately insinuate that, through some obscure means, had come into possession of personal information relating to Chance.
"He basically tells me that he has my Electronic Arts account information."
"I'm freaked out," Chance said. "Honestly, this had been going on a week. This wasn't some year long struggle between superpowers."
This character—who I was able to confirm but have decided to leave nameless—told Chance that in exchange for this information to be deleted from the source he recovered it from, Chance and Wingspan would need to give up their campaign against White Rabbit.
"He gave me a week to decide," Chance said. "I've definitely had people threaten to dox me or call me on my real-life phone or send me creepy messages to indicate they know things about me, just not to the extent that I thought someone potentially had access to a credit card, or something worse."
Operating a fairly large YouTube channel popular with several gaming communities, it should come as no surprise that Chance has had run-ins with the ugly side of the internet. Understandably rattled, he considered his options. His instinct was reporting the blackmailer, but since the character was likely a burner account made to contact him, he doubted it would lead anywhere. Ultimately, Chance decided that if this person was telling the truth and had his information, he likely couldn't trust him to keep his word. If the character was bluffing, Chance had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
After talking about it with his senior corporation members, he decided to act.
"We declared war on all of White Rabbit and decided to wipe them out of existence," Chance said. "We decided to absolutely hammer them and just see what happens."
"I was extremely nervous."
In a twist of fate, Chance was pulled from his duties in EVE for almost a week by the arrival of his newborn child. When he returned home he discovered that, in his absence, White Rabbit had been all but eliminated. They abandoned their stronghold in J164921, hemorrhaged members at an alarming rate, and finally folded under the brutal assault of Wingspan Delivery Services. Chance, anxious to see what would come of their move, waited for a response.
"That was it," he said before laughing. "No one came to my doorstep and put a bullet in my head."
White Rabbit, a rather well established wormhole alliance, was almost entirely wiped out. On December 21, 2014, a Wingspan pilot caught one of the final members out ratting in a Drake in high security space. With the declaration of war still active, he obliged him with a shipment of free torpedos. It was the final kill that White Rabbit would ever suffer. They disbanded shortly after. The character who had threatened Chance was never heard from again.
In many ways, EVE Online is a game where people play dirty, but few are stupid and cowardly enough to lose sight that, at the end of the day, it's just a game. While threats like this are always serious, Chance Ravinne doesn't exactly see himself as the type of person to let them dictate how he lives his life.
"It didn't have to go this way," he said while laughing.