RIP Sean Smith, aka Vile Rat

There was a lot to talk about in the world of Apple/Mac gaming today, but I’ve had a hard time getting around to posting about it. I’ve avoided the internet and TV since early this morning, when I learned of the death of Sean Smith, aka Vile Rat or Vilerat, from EVE Online and a couple of internet forums. He was killed yesterday in Libya, along with the US Ambassador and I believe two others. He leaves behind a wife, two children, and a helluva lot of friends.

One of the nice things about having your own little site on the internet is being able to write just about anything you want, but I’m finding it hard to write about this.

I knew him first from an online forum, but I better knew him as a player in EVE Online, having chatted with him online quite a bit while I was active in EVE. I even met him briefly in real life at gathering as well, and he was one of those rare types – somebody who was the same person online and offline – a really nice guy, really sharp. Surprisingly, or maybe not, the media outside of the gaming world is covering his link to the gaming world.

Many knew him through the Council of Stellar Management, which is an elected group of players who meet with the developers of EVE Online. He was best known for being a diplomat and spy in EVE Online, two things that many try, and most fail at – it requires a helluva lot of patience, nerve, and self-discipline, while at the same time being able to put things that you had invested a lot of time in behind you when they didn’t pan out. He was considered among the best, if not the best, of players, in those professions.

Due to the nature of his actions in EVE, a lot of things he did on behalf of the groups that he was a part of were never mentioned publicly. If you read the nearly 50-page tribute thread in EVE Online, you can get a glimpse of the kind of player he was – many players/groups who were on opposite sides to him still respected him, and more than a few developers/support at CCP/EVE Online talked about him as well.

CCP released this statement:

“I can tell you that CCP Games and its employees are overwhelmingly saddened by the news of Sean Smith’s passing….Many of us interacted with him professionally and personally and, honestly, it feels like our words are lost — adrift amongst such a tremendous, soul-affirming outpouring from the ‘EVE’ community.”

I’m not going to post an obituary – one of his best friends did a much better job than anybody else could.

If you play this stupid game, you may not realize it, but you play in a galaxy created in large part by Vile Rat’s talent as a diplomat. No one focused as relentlessly on using diplomacy as a strategic tool as VR…Jabberlon5? VR made it. You may not even know what Jabberlon5 is, but it’s the smoke-filled jabber room where every nullsec personage of note hangs out and makes deals. Goonswarm has succeeded over the years in large part because of VR’s emphasis on diplomacy, to the point of creating an entire section with a staff of 10+ called Corps Diplomatique, something no other alliance has. He had the vision and the understanding to see three steps ahead of everyone else – in the game, on the CSM, and when giving real-world advice.

I’m clearly in shock as I write this as everything is buzzing around my head funnily and I feel kind of dead inside. I’m not sure if this is how I’m supposed to react to my friend being killed by a mob in a post-revolutionary Libya, but it’s pretty awful and Sean was a great guy and he was a goddamned master at this game we all play, even though a lot of people may not realize how significant an influence he had. It seems kind of trivial to praise a husband, father, and overall badass for his skills in an internet spaceship game but that’s how most of us know him, so there you go.

EVE Online is probably the ultimate sandbox when it comes to MMORPGs, even more so than Ultima Online. It’s hard for me to even describe what it’s like without coming across like an advertisement for it – there is one bigass open world universe where ALL players are located – it’s not like in World of Warcraft where there are dozens upon dozens of different servers for people to choose from. If you play EVE Online, unless you are in China (which has its own server) you are playing with all other players in the world, and so your actions and the alliances you make can and do reverberate across the entire gameworld, which is why so many players knew who he was and were saddened at his death.

RIP Vile Rat.