For nine days of each year, the asteroid belts of high-security space lie fallow, eerily empty of dedicated mining vessels. During this time, mining ships are a rare sight, and the official EVE forums are filled with wailing and the gnashing of teeth. Welcome to Hulkageddon.
Hulkageddon is the brainchild of Helicity Boson. It is in essence a coordinated war against the miners in high-security space, with billions of ISK in prizes given to the participants that accomplish the most suicide ganks.
This year, Hulkageddon runs from February 19th to the 28th.
What Is Hulkageddon?
Hulkageddon is easily the most successful player-run event in EVE Online.
Originally, the event focused chiefly on killing hulks, because they are the most efficient mining vessel in EVE Online. Over time, it has sort of sprawled out to include all manner of non-combat ships, with billions of ISK in prizes and thousands of successful ganks.
Suicide Ganking And Criticism
The basic model of suicide ganking is this: it is quite possible to blow up ships with poor defenses before the inevitable CONCORD retribution. This is achieved by using ships with high "alpha-strike", that do most of their damage up front rather than over time. The ships used to suicide gank are insured, insulating against the ISK loss. Though there is a loss of security status, the effects of that are not usually felt until after many, many ganks.
Unfortunately for the quality of EVE Online's forums, many players do not understand or accept the existence of suicide ganking as a practice supported by game mechanics. Every Hulkageddon, there are dozens of posts from people complaining about CCP not banning people for the practice, despite ample precedent that the activity is an acceptable use of game mechanics. Some people just cannot accept that other players are capable affecting how they play their game, especially on such a massive scale.
This whole thing is compounded by the usual PvP/PvE divide than most MMO games have. The miners in EVE Online are usually very averse to direct competition, and the PvPers are often very ungracious in how they conduct themselves. There is some common ground, here, as there are many miners and generally PvE-oriented people that only PvP during hulkageddon, and do so in lieu of mining because of the danger. That's kind of neat, since those people would not be PvPing, otherwise. The whole event is generally very exciting, so it is fun to see as many people get involved as possible.
This Hulkageddon we can expect the usual impotent raging, demands for CCP to "fix this exploit", remarks about how there would not be any ships to buy if not for miners, and insubstantial threats to unsubscribe. Be forewarned, though: the Hulkageddon people post all of the hostile forum posts and hate mail on their web site, where participants can actually win prizes for receiving the best hatemail.
In Defense Of Hulkageddon
The thing about EVE Online in general and Hulkageddon in particular, is that all of this is player generated. Some guy decided that suicide ganking was fun, and coordinated an entire week of it to exaggerate the overall effect. It adds a baroqueness to EVE Online's yearly calendar, and makes mining much different during that time period.
It is also a lot of fun to cheer for the gankers or the miners, depending on where sympathies lie. Sometimes the gankers will miscalculate, and blow themselves up without getting their target, and those loss mails are often quite entertaining as well. Some players deliberately set up their mining ships for this purpose!
There is also a vocal anti-bot contingent, that strives to limit their suicide gank predations to targets that appear to be using bots to do their mining. This is probably not the bailiwick of most participants, though, and the methods of discerning whether a player is using a bot or not are not particularly effective.
The week also has some interesting effects on the overall EVE economy: mining ships and gear all increase in price (including the blueprints used to invent hulks and materials used to manufacture them), as do the ships and modules used to suicide gank, like tempests, thrashers, and so forth. The general cost of basic minerals increases, as well, though I think those effects are more due to market manipulation than to any actual lack of mining.
All of that because one player had an idea, and got all the other players onboard with it. If nothing else, Hulkageddon is a study in how a single player can make a huge difference in the world of EVE Online.