EVE Online has always taken time to celebrate the players who help make its in-game universe, New Eden, feel like a living, breathing universe all its own. In the past decade-plus the interstellar MMORPG has gone on, players themselves have made their mark and entered the histories of New Eden. One of them, Katia Sae, took New Eden by storm when she completed a journey to every star system in EVE without a single ship lost. But how did Katia come to be? During EVE Vegas 2019, I was able to sit down with Ethan Richards, the player who pilots Katia Sae and find out more about the journey, but also Katia herself.
Starting the journey in 2009, Ethan started the journey as a way to role-play his character.
"I'm a role player," Richards told MMORPG at EVE Vegas 2019 this past weekend. "But EVE Online, there's this dichotomy that it's the only game I've never really RPed in the game. So the dichotomy is I love to role play, but I'v never role played in the game even though I've been playing it up to that point, like, six years. This was coming out of the new re-beautifying efforts of EVE Online and the Dominion expansion of December 2009.
"I thought, well, you know, I'd like to do something different in the game than I had been doing up to that point. Being a role player and with the beautifying efforts of EVE Online, now I have a reason to go exploring because I wanted to see."
When approaching Katia Sae's creation, Richards looked at the lore of EVE Online for his inspiration. Reading through all of the races and sub-races in EVE's lore, Richards chose Caldari due to the Achura bloodline. Stargazers are a prominent ancestry within the Achur people, which Katia Sae hailed from. Taking that inspiration to look to the stars and seek knowledge and understanding of the universe, Richards started Katia on her journey.
Other players had gone on journeys exploring and visiting known space at that point. When Sae started on her journey, Wormhole space hadn't been introduced either, Richards undocked Katia and stared on the task of visiting all of the systems within known space - documenting the undertaking along the way.
"There's been a few before that have flown, hit all the systems in known space. This was before Wormholes came online, so it was just known space. That had always been in the back of my mind that it would be kind of cool to try that someday. So between that being in the back of my mind, the re-beautifying efforts coming, I'm going to combine these two things. And to put the role-playing spin on it, I said "Well, I want to document this journey as I do it and this will give you the opportunity to role play on my blog." But for my blog I was able to write through the character's eyes in her experiences in this journey. So I was able to kind of tie that all together with this. I really just set out in the beginning to just see it all - no other long term goal other than to just do it."
This was something Richards did in his downtime after all, and as any EVE player knows - the minute you undock your ship you should be prepared to lose everything. Ethan never started this journey with the idea of doing full run without losing a single vessel - it was a way to unwind and create a story.
It wasn't a matter of just warping into a system, saying you did so to check it off a list, and move on either. Richards would often document this, but he would ensure he visited every planet in the system itself, spending five to ten minutes within each system before moving on to the next.
"What can I do to be different? Everyone that I heard about up to before my attempt and even people who follow me, they completed before I finished, had always taken the approach of Speedy Gonzalez. 'Just jump in there and keep on going, right?' That's great, I have nothing wrong with that at all.
"I want to spend time in these systems when I'm there. What can I do to prove that I'm spending time here? So I'm not in there for just 30 seconds. I'm in there for several minutes, or five, ten minutes you know. My spin on it was I took a picture of every planet of every planet and every system through known space."
Wormhole space was a bit different, as Richards had to scan for different connections in wormholes in order to continue exploring those pockets of space. So he had to give up taking pictures of every planet, but still managed to document by taking a picture of a nebula or station within that wormhole station.
Richards did his research as well when exploring space, especially in the wild reaches of nullsec. Checking kill boards and other resources, he would see what systems were busy and potentially full of ganking players and avoid them at that time. He'd log on early in the morning sometimes to avoid peak hours in some systems. Additionally, he avoided the busy boundary zones, instead taking the wormhole avenue in nullsec. But he always expected to lose a ship. In fact, he had a post written in advance, all he would need to do is fill in the details of what actually happened during the fateful encounter.
Thankfully he never needed the blog post.
He realized about two thirds of the way through nullsec that he might actually be able to accomplish this, exploring every system without losing a single ship. Then came wormhole space.
"After [nullsec] I decided for about two or three months I took a break and said, "Am I going to do wormhole space?" And so then it all started again: "Oh, God I'll lose it in wormhole space. There's no way I'm getting through wormhole space, and I did."
When this was all over, CCP invited Katia Sae to see Polaris, the one system she couldn't explore as it's the developer's system. While there, a thought that CCP might at that moment blow her out of the sky did cross his mind.
"Honestly, I would have laughed. I'm sure I would've laughed because to me that would've been hilarious. Because if that had happened, the thought had crossed my mind. It did because I'm like, "They're just going to blow me out when I get there." I was going to turn her into the Amelia Earhart of EVE, she would have completely disappeared."
Since completing the journey, Richards has undocked Sae twice - one of those times being when he visited the monument CCP created to honor Katia Sae's achievement in New Eden. Richards was never expecting any recognition from CCP, but he had hoped for an acknowledgment of the accomplishment. The idea that a monument would have been created to commemorate the journey was a huge deal.
As a result, Katia Sae, the Caldari Achur Explorer for Signal Cartel became part of EVE Online's history. And as a role-player, that's something you can't imagine becoming. Katia Sae is bigger than Richards himself now, he says.
"I have transcended my character, she has become something bigger than I, has gotten herself written into the lore of the game. That was more mind blowing than the monument. But the monument is her being written into the game, right? So they go hand in hand. Just that acknowledgement is...I don't know if it's true of all role players, but for me it was like the pinnacle of achievement for a role player."
Think about it - in 10 years when new players are finding out about EVE Online and starting their own journeys, these articles about Katia's journey and Ethan's accomplishments are going to be old news. A new generation of players will learn about Katia Sae through the game itself - something that isn't lost on Richards.
It's also one reason why Richards can't bring himself to undock her - he can't give another player eager to make a name for themselves the opportunity to kill Katia Sae.
Guinness has taken notice as well, with Ethan Richards being awarded a World Record for the achievement. The latest issue has a full spread of the accomplishment, making it not only EVE Online history, but also recorded as an accomplishment for all to see, regardless of gaming background.
While Sae is somewhat retired - Richards still logs in and does administrative duties within Signal Cartel and talks to players as they notice her in the chat, he does play plenty of other Capsuleers. He's got an industrialist, as well as another explorer in Signal Cartel, which does more the "game mechanic-driven" exploration in EVE Online.
"But I do always joked over the years, people say, "Do you do the data or the Relic sites?" Which are two different exploration sites, you can do the game. I jokingly would say, "You know, I don't do the sites." The S-I-T-E-S. Yes, I do the sights. S-I-G-H-T.
"But my other explorer character does do data and Relic sites and all that kind of stuff. So she is more the game mechanic explorer rather than the actual imaginative one."
However, nothing will ever take the place of Katia Sae, a character who has been in Ethan's head now for nine years. Katia Sae may have started as an explorer character to help Ethan Richards unwind after work and see a new graphical overhaul in EVE, but she ended up transcending the normal player more than anything Richards could have imagined.
She's now EVE history.
Images via Ethan Richards' blog "To Boldly Go | Sailing Forbidden Seas"