I've been playing online games in some form for almost 20 years, which dates back to my pre-teen years. The internet was just starting to become mainstream, and like many other immature kids, I soon discovered that I could use my anonymity to act out on my pre-pubescent angst and grief other people in online games without any consequences. This included cheating at card games and chess (and talking smack), running hacks and townkilling people in Diablo, and teamkilling people in Rainbow Six, until I discovered a way to detonate door charges that would cause the server to crash every time (that was funnier).
I like to think that I've long since outgrown such juvenile behavior. On the other hand, I've been having loads of fun suicide ganking in EVE. The idea is simple. Unlike most MMORPGs, you're allowed to shoot anybody anywhere in EVE, no matter what region of space you are in. What varies are the consequences for the aggressor, which is a somewhat complicated function of the security status of the system, the security status of the player being attacked, aggression & suspect timers, and the exact location where combat is taking place. However, in high-sec space, it's real simple: if you attack someone, CONDORD will come and destroy your ship. This cannot be avoided, and this is what keeps most people safe in high-sec. The equation becomes different when a particularly expensive ship is being targeted. As an extreme example, if a freighter is hauling 10 billion isk worth of cargo, it becomes profitable to sacrifice a dozen Tornadoes in order to destroy it and run off with the loot. More often, a few simple destroyers (like Catalysts or Thrashers) worth less than 2 million isk can be used to gank mining barges worth more than 200 million isk.
The mechanics are unique to EVE. I've never experienced anything like this in other games. This would never be tolerated in WoW, but in EVE it's an accepted part of the culture. You may an image of suicide gankers which is not unlike that of the teenage douchebag that I was. On the contrary, we were very polite to our victims (aside from the act of blowing up their ship, obviously), and the victims mostly handled it well, sometimes even congratulating us on our success. I think the whole mechanic works very well in EVE for a few reasons:
1. Getting ganked is mostly avoidable. It's usually a result of several decisions that made the ship an attractive target. For example, if you're mining in an untanked Hulk in a 0.5 sec system that's adjacent to low sec, then you've made multiple decisions that put your ship at risk.
2. Ganking successfully (and profitably) usually requires a group. Very few ships can be reliably ganked with a single T1-fit destroyer (like untanked retreivers, hulks, and mackinaws). Even fewer can be profitably ganked with a single Talos or Tornado. If you're autopiloting in an untanked T1 industrial that's carrying 500m worth of cargo, then a single volley from one Tornado will destroy your ship, and you'll deserve it.
3. A suicide gank is really easy to screw up. It requires a lot of experienced scouts and probing alts and a high-degree of coordination between a lot of people. Your group ends up looking really stupid if it fails.
4. After a gank, the group must wait for 15 minutes for the criminal timer to run down before they can try again. To me, this seems very reasonable, and it makes each gank attempt much more important to execute correctly. Immediate re-attempts would make the whole thing feel more like griefing.
In the past three weeks, the Tuskers organized and ran several public suicide ganking fleets, and we destroyed well over 20 billion isk worth of ships. Aside from a couple warm-up runs against miners, we were mainly targeting Marauders, Faction Battleships, and T3 cruisers who were running missions. Most of these ships were valued at well over 1 billion isk each. In each case, we brought 15-20 destroyers along, which have a total value of about 30-35 million isk. A single deadspace or faction mod easily covers the cost. Here are some of the kill mails:
Mackinaw - 211m - http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=105585
Kronos - 1.2b - http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=105587
Vindicator - 1.0b - http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=105589
Kronos - 1.8b - http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=106069
Paladin - 1.0b - http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=106087
Noctis - 130m - http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=106096
Vargur - 1.7b - http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=106088
Kronos - 1.6b - http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=106095
Vargur - 1.6b - http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=106106
Kronos - 1.7b - http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=106137
Vargur - 1.8b - http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=106138
Armageddon Navy Issue - 648m - http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=106131
Proteus - 845m - http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=106443
Orchestrating a gank required having a few alts camping a station and scanning ships to look for expensive mods. The best targets were recorded. All of the adjacent systems had a couple probing alts, who would note the presence of our best targets in local, and start looking for them with combat probes. Once the target was scanned, the prober then warped to the target to determine whether a gank is viable. If the scout is able to provide a good warp-in, then it's on! There's very little that's more satisfying than setting up a nice kill for 20 people =). We were operating out of a major mission hub, so there was no shortage of good targets.
If you'd like to know what it's like to be on the other side of our gank squad, then read this blog post.
Remember, in EVE you're only safe if you're docked. Never fly what you can't afford to lose.
Also, if you're interested in trying suicide ganking, then check the public roams section of the Tuskers forum any upcoming events.