If you love EVE Online, it’s hard to imagine an honour more prestigious than to have your own in-game statue floating amidst the cosmos. CCP has only ever bestowed the honour upon two players: Chribba ‘the most trusted man in EVE’, and Katia Sae.
Katia earned the monument, alongside a Guinness World Record, for her near-decade-long journey across all of EVE Online’s 7,805 systems. The journey began from Katia’s home system of Saisio on December 1, 2009. By November 2015, she had completed all of K-space. In 2016, she dove into Anoikis, and on March 9, 2019, with the help of her fellow Signal Cartel cartographers, Katia finally completed her journey - all without losing a single ship.
Having written about Katia’s achievements on multiple occasions, it was a delight to finally meet Ethan, the earnest, gentle, and full-hearted man behind one of EVE’s most famous characters.
We started our interview with a question from our community member @sysfs: what, of all the locations in EVE, was the one place Katia would recommend every pilot visit?
“Without hesitation, I can say the EVE Gate. It’s where we all came from; it’s the entry point into New Eden. And, of course, nobody knows what’s beyond the EVE Gate now. It’s a place of such mystery and intrigue.”
And how about the most unmissable nebula?
“The Cloud Ring Nebula. It’s a real beauty. I passed it near the end of my journey, so it was special to see that beautiful backdrop on my final leg.”
These moments of awe punctuated a journey riddled with dangers. EVE being what it is, many of these dangers were human, with attitudes towards Katia’s odyssey differing greatly between the security systems through which she passed:
“You definitely get a difference in flavour. In Highsec, I’d have people come up to me and say ‘Hello! I read about your journey on your blog. Good luck!’. As I entered Lowsec, things changed to ‘We run this area, but you’re free to pass - we’ll ensure no harm comes to you here.’ And then there was Nullsec, which was a different story entirely. It got real quiet. Nobody said a thing, but I knew I was being tracked by the various intel networks out there. I was subject to both friendliness and suspicion, and then there were the people out to catch me.”
There were plenty of pilots who would have been overjoyed to claim the (dis)honour of cutting Katia’s journey short. That included at least one bounty.
“I remember him saying in local chat ‘I’ve put a bounty on you, so I’ll know when you’ll die.’ Well, he’s still waiting.”
Patience isn’t a virtue shared by most of Katia’s would-be hunters. She repeatedly found herself in dead-end systems with gatecampers on her only exit, but she simply played the waiting game: “I just thought, hey, I’m in no hurry. I’ll wait them out. And always, eventually, they went away.”
And in all those years and all those systems, did Katia ever consider giving up? Once more, Ethan answered without hesitation. “Oh yeah! In fact, I did give up.” For several years, Katia stayed docked. With his parents in ill health, Ethan stepped away from the game to concentrate on family. He had no intention of returning to EVE, and even deleted his blog. After his parents’ passing, he once again had time, but that alone didn’t bring him back to Katia’s journey. The release of the Astero, however, did. When Ethan, and by extension Katia, saw the iconic ship for the first time, two thoughts crossed their mind:
“I like that. Let’s finish this.”
It must be surreal to achieve a feat so remarkable in the time and dedication it requires, but which only a relatively small group of people can fully understand. In EVE, Katia is a legend, a hero, a star among stars. Do Ethan’s real-life family and friends realise the scale of his accomplishment?
“It didn’t really click with my wife until CCP immortalised it with the monument. In fact, I don’t think it fully clicked with her until Fanfest World Tour’s stop in Toronto. That was when the story was still fresh. That’s when she got a sense of what a big deal it was. My son is a gamer too, and he loved it. He’s happy his dad plays games.”
That said, Ethan would prefer his son stays away from EVE until he turns 18. “It’s a rather mature game. It can be very dark and cut-throat, so I think I’ll shelter him from it for a little while longer. EVE Vanguard is probably more up his street anyway.”
It’s true that EVE is known for being hardcore, and its players ruthless, at least at one extreme. And yet Katia has shone a light on the often-overlooked opposing pole; that in a game that’s won notoriety for its wars and the Machiavellian ways in which they’re fought, other achievements can be recognised. Katia and the Signal Cartel are arguably EVE’s best-known pacifists, though as Ethan was keen to point out, that’s somewhat of a misconception - a misconception that can prove useful.
“We’re not actually pacifists. Some of us play that way. Towards the end of my run, I played that way. In fact, I had firework launchers on the back of my ship in case I ever got caught so I could go out in a blaze. But many hunters have been surprised when our explorers have defended themselves.”
The Signal Cartel see themselves as “neutral non-aggressors” who will not initiate combat. Indeed if a Signal Cartel member is seen to initiate aggression, they’re kicked out. But they’re free to defend themselves, and if they win, “good for them”, as Ethan puts it. The Signal Cartel chose this route out of a desire to offer a counterculture to the game’s standard aggression, but they certainly don’t go so far as to try to stop wars or preach the olive branch. If you’re about to fly through a camped gate, they probably won’t even warn you, “because we see that everyone is everyone else’s content. We’re for the hunter, and we’re for the hunted.”
Katia’s journey is well documented, both by the games media and by Katia, who took over 50,000 screenshots. But what’s less often reported is Ethan’s unique combination of heartfelt pride and humility. At the start of this article, we wrote that it was hard to imagine a higher honour than one’s own giant statue amid the cosmos, but while Ethan is immensely grateful for Katia’s, it isn’t the thing of which he’s most proud.
For our final question, we asked what it meant to him to be a part of EVE Online lore. With voice cracking and tears welling, he answered:
“From a roleplayer’s perspective - which is what I’ve always considered myself to be - writing Katia’s blog and telling her story, it’s the absolute pinnacle. Even more so than the monument, to be written into the lore of the game, it’s extremely humbling, you know? It still gets me.”
And what does one do in a game after having achieved the extraordinary? Having done what most thought was impossible?
“I’m now the EVE Scout Alliance leader, and I co-lead the Signal Cartel. But those responsibilities are really out-of-game. I do all the nitty gritty paperwork things behind the scenes. I rarely undock now. Honestly, I see Katia as retired. The running joke is that she’s working in the giftshop, selling snow globes and looking back at her life.”
One thing is certain: if there’s a single character that deserves to put their feet up and enjoy an early retirement, it’s Katia Sae.
Some quotes have been edited for brevity.
We’ll be talking more with Katia with the hope of setting up a ‘Katia Sae’s bounty’ wherein players recreate sections of their epic journey. Do you have any ideas for how we could verify the journey has taken place? Let us know in the comments!